October 23rd 2017
Daisy wasn't sure why it had started that morning. Things were normal. Everything was normal and fine. She and May were about to do some late training, Fitz and Jemma were bickering over their toast, both failing to hide their smiles. Mack and Elena were guarding their pot of coffee, Coulson was off on some milk run mission, all was well.
Daisy cocked her head when she saw May pop a couple of pills. "What are they for?"
May raised an eyebrow. "They help with joint pain." She said, swallowing two at once with her tea.
Daisy snorted. "God, those are for old people."
May rolled her eyes. "I hate to break it to you Daisy, but I am an old person."
Daisy laughed. She liked being one of the few people who could make fun of May. She could just about ignore the uneasy feeling it left in her stomach.
Over the next few days, Daisy started to notice things; the lines on May's face, how she was a little slower than Daisy remembered, compared to when she had started as her supervising officer, how May was no longer getting up for training at five am. Little things that started to paint a picture.
It was normal, Daisy reminded herself when that scared, little voice spoke up inside. It was just a part of life.
But if May was a little slower, and a little more tired than she used to be, Daisy couldn't be blamed for keeping an eye on her in the field. May had spent so long protecting them, it was only fair that Daisy protected her now. If May noticed, she didn't say anything. That was good. Daisy could keep protecting her, and May wouldn't ask her why. It was just that she cared. That wasn't a problem, was it?
It was worse when Coulson got back from his mission. He'd aged much like May had. Suddenly she could see how he too was slower, older. It scared Daisy more than she cared to admit.
And they were still in the field. For the first time, Daisy considered that maybe they shouldn't be. What if they got hurt? They weren't as agile as they used to be, they were weaker, they could die. They could die, and then she would have to live on without them. She hadn't thought of that before; that it would happen eventually, no matter what.
Daisy hadn't considered dying young a positive end until now. Faced with this alternative though...
She'd had so many families leave her, and all of them had chosen to. They hadn't wanted her. Until now, Daisy hadn't really considered that it mattered whether they wanted her or not.
No matter what, any family she ever had would die. Her parents, biological, foster, whatever, they would almost certainly die before her. She would have to go on without them. Maybe she'd forget them. She might forget the sound of May's voice, or the warmth in Coulson's eyes. She might forget everything they had done for her, and how much she loved them. Just the thought made her want to cry. She couldn't lose May and Coulson. There was still so much she hadn't told them. So much she needed them to know, so much that she wanted to do.
She had to keep them safe.
"What the hell?! You're sending them back out today?" Daisy's eyes were ablaze with unbridled rage as she faced off with Mace. "They just came back last night! Which was less than twelve hours ago! Coulson's shoulder is injured, and May was thrown through a freakin' window!"
Coulson frowned. Daisy's attitude was confusing him. He didn't know what had been going on with her recently, but her overprotective behaviour was starting to get on his nerves. "Daisy-"
She raised a dismissive hand in his direction, effectively silencing him. "Mack and I are more than capable of dealing with this. Let them rest for a day!"
"Agent Johnson, you are out-"
"Oh don't 'Agent Johnson' me! You're the one that's showing no regard for your agents' safety!" Daisy clenched her fists as she felt the quakes begin at her shoulders and work her down to her fingertips. She was mad, but she had no desire to break her bones again. "You can't work your people so hard! They aren't machines!"
May's jaw twitched as anger rose in her chest. Daisy didn't have to like Mace or his decisions, but she still had to respect him. The girl knew better than to pull a stunt like this one, especially when she was just finding her place in the agency again.
Mace gaped at her. Coulson had warned him that Daisy challenged authority on occasion and usually with good reason, but this was… definitely not that. "Agent Johnson, I assure you, if I thought I'd be putting May and Coulson in danger, I wouldn't be sending them-"
Daisy scoffed disbelievingly, narrowing her eyes menacingly as she stepped closer to Director Mace's desk. "Yeah, sure. Keep pretending you give a damn about us. We all know to you we're just expendable, nothing pawns in your game."
May suddenly saw red. Whatever had gotten into Daisy stopped right here. She reached out to take firm hold of Daisy's elbow, swiftly dragging her out of the room and into the hallway without so much as a glance in Mace's direction. She didn't want to know what she'd see on his face if she looked his way. If she weren't so mad at her, May would probably be a lot more worried about Daisy than she was- Daisy wasn't like that, she wasn't deliberately hurtful without cause.
"What the hell is wrong with you? What are you thinking, speaking to the Director like that?" When May turned Daisy to face her, all she saw on the girl's face was fear, almost like she was expecting a slap. In her fury she'd forgotten how sensitive Daisy could be to anger coming from people she loved.
She'd scared her.
This realisation socked May right in the gut, making her let go of Daisy's arm and take a step away from her, her anger dissipating somewhat as she took in a few breaths to help gather herself. Daisy was clearly worried about something, and being angry with her had only made it worse.
Coulson stepped forward. "Where's this coming from?" He asked softly, noting Daisy's downcast eyes and hunched shoulders. She was scared, upset. It hurt to realise he hadn't noticed until she exploded at Mace.
Daisy shuffled her feet. "Nowhere." She muttered.
"Bullshit." May said firmly. "You really think we're helpless because we don't have super powers? You have superpowers and I can kick your ass."
Daisy swallowed and said nothing. She could feel the truth clawing its way up her throat-the truth that May was getting slower, and that Coulson had managed to hurt his shoulder on a simple mission that shouldn't have been any trouble. She knew what they would think. They would think she was overreacting, that she was making fun of them. She couldn't admit that she was so scared over something like this. There was nothing either of them could do about it. Much as she liked to think otherwise, Coulson and May weren't all powerful.
May looked at Daisy, trying to recall anything that could have caused her behaviour. Despite her attempts not to be, Daisy could be quite fragile, especially when it came to the safety of team. She was desperately embarrassed by it, but Daisy was still terrified of losing them.
May remembered the conversation about the joint pills, how uneasy Daisy had seemed, how she'd tried to cover it up by making fun of her old age. She sighed. "Really?"
Daisy's head snapped up, eyes begging May not to have figured it out.
Melinda rolled her eyes. "All this because you think we're old?"
Daisy crossed her arms around her waist. She didn't say anything. She was scared that if she did she might burst into tears.
Coulson and May looked at each other. This was... unexpected. Phil tried for a smile. "Hey, I haven't exactly got one foot in the grave." He joked lightly.
Daisy sobbed, immediately stifling it with one hand and turning away. She couldn't help it. Maybe she wouldn't lose them today, tomorrow, or next week, but it would happen. And Daisy knew in her heart that she would never ever be ready for it.
She didn't want to be ready for it. And she certainly couldn't talk about it.
Daisy made for the door, hoping that she could just walk away before the tears really broke through, before her legs gave out from beneath her. A gentle hand closed around her arm and she turned back.
Coulson. She swallowed.
"Hey," He said softly, wiping away a stray tear from her cheek. "Are you okay?"
Daisy sniffled. She would miss them so much. She didn't know how she could keep going without them. Coulson's dumb jokes. May rolling her eyes at them. They couldn't just die. She tried desperately to hold herself together. She needed to. She would have to, once they were gone and she was alone.
Phil could see her crumbling from the inside. It broke his heart. He didn't mean to upset her, he was just joking. He had upset her though, and while he wasn't sure if a hug would fix anything... it couldn't hurt. "It's okay." He murmured, embracing her. "It's okay."
Daisy's breathing stalled. She shouldn't need this. One day Coulson would hug her and it would be the last time without her even knowing. That final thought finally broke her defences, and she buried her face in his uninjured shoulder, tears streaming from her eyes. When Daisy felt May's arms wrap around her as well, sandwiching her between the two of them, she trembled. "I'm sorry." She gasped. "I-I just... I can't lose you, I can't."
Melinda swallowed. She didn't know what to say. "We're not going anywhere."
Daisy hiccupped. "Not today. But some day. I-" She choked, stopping momentarily. "Even Fitzsimmons are older than me. I'm- I'll be... alone. Again." More tears blurred her eyes. "I don't wanna be alone. Not again."
May was pretty sure that those words broke her heart in two. She hugged Daisy tighter. She didn't know what else she could do, but she knew she had to say something. "Daisy, you have a lifetime ahead of you. Your family won't always be just the team we have today."
Coulson grinned. He knew exactly what May was thinking about as she said that. "She's right. One day, sooner than you expect, a little duckling you'll pick up off the street will worm her way into your heart without you even noticing. Next thing you'll know, you'll have some eight little ducklings and have added an entire branch to your family."
Daisy whimpered into Coulson's shoulder. It wouldn't be enough. Nobody would love her like she loved them and she'd never love someone as much as she loved the members of her team. She wouldn't replace them. "I-It w-won't be the same. It w-won't be e-enough."
May pressed her nose into Daisy's hair, desperately battling the tears that stung the backs of her eyes. She wished she could take Daisy's fear away, but she simply didn't know how. "It won't be the same, but it'll be more than enough. Trust me."
Coulson dropped a kiss to the top of Daisy's head. If only he could put it all into words. "It will be far more than you ever dreamed of." He murmured. He knew that she didn't think so, but one day he knew that she would understand. Maybe soon, maybe not. But some day.
Phil woke in the middle of the night to see that Melinda was also awake, her eyes fixed on the ceiling. He blinked away the sleep from his eyes and yawned. "Hey," he said softly, "you thinking about Daisy?"
She sighed. "Yeah."
"We're not that old."
The ghost of a smirk crossed her lips, but she ignored the comment. "I always thought I'd die in the field." She murmured. "It was almost comforting. I wouldn't have to say goodbye, wouldn't see it coming." May swallowed. "I didn't really think about what would happen after. I-" She paused. "I didn't think many people would miss me."
An arm wrapped around her shoulders, pulling her closer. "I would miss you."
Melinda relaxed, leaning against him with a smile. "I know." She said, "But I knew you'd be okay without me."
"Lies." Phil said, "Without you I was put on babysitting duty."
"For the Avengers."
He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "I missed you."
She snuggled closer. "I missed you too." Melinda chewed on her lip. "If I- would you be okay?"
"What, if you... died?" It hurt him to even think of such a thing.
Phil took her hand, kissing a line across her knuckles. "I would miss you every single day." He murmured. "But, I know you'd want me to look after the kids. So, I'd do that."
Melinda hesitated, trying to find the courage. She took a deep breath. "I love you."
She immediately felt Phil shift, surprised. "What's up?" He asked, trying to catch her eye. "You never say it." That was okay. May wasn't a talker. She showed that she loved people, it was in her eyes and her voice and her smile. He didn't need her to say it.
"I know." She murmured, "But- I was thinking, and I wouldn't forgive myself if I died without saying it. At least once."
Phil pulled her in for a gentle kiss. When they broke apart he was smiling. "I love you too."
She sighed. "Do you ever wonder why we wasted so much time?"
"What do you mean?"
May rolled her eyes. "Come on Phil. It took you almost thirty years to make a move."
He smiled. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realise it was the forties and only men could do the moving."
She couldn't help but smile. His teasing always got under her skin. "You know what I mean."
"Yeah." Phil said, "But we spent almost thirty years as partners. Friends. And I loved every minute we spent together. Working, training, studying... I don't think it was wasted."
"Dork." Melinda muttered. He was a dork. He was also unbelievably sweet sometimes.
Coulson smiled. "See, if I didn't know you for all those years I wouldn't know that you say that when you think I'm being sweet."
"Shut up Phil." She said, ducking her head.
He grinned. "And you duck your head like that 'cos you think you're blushing." He teased, "Even though you're not." Melinda rarely blushed, but her attempts to hide it betrayed her embarrassment.
She punched him in the shoulder half-heartedly. "Stop."
He laughed softly, peppering kisses over her face. "I love you so much."
May smiled, snuggling her head into the crook of his neck. She'd said it once. That was enough.
August 2nd 2024
Soleil was just seventeen years old when SHIELD picked her up off the streets of Las Vegas. She was covered in grime, malnourished, her hair matted, clothes in shambles from years of constant use. She'd gotten tangled up in some trouble, and become an unwitting witness to some Watchdog activity.
Once it became evident that Soleil had nobody to care for her, no one on their team had so much as considered putting her back on the streets. Their only option had been to take Soleil back to the base for a few days.
She'd fought them every step of the way, her countenance always simmering with palpable anger, clearly convinced that she was going to be interrogated or brainwashed, that the food she was offered was simply bribery to get her to talk.
The plan had never been for Soleil to stay with SHIELD indefinitely. They'd tried to find her a place to go. They really had. But there seemed to be no place suitable for her.
She was a result of circumstance, of hardships no one should experience; she the scarred remnant of a system that had failed her, and the years she'd spent living in the sewers, fending for herself, fighting for way to survive.
It had made her too angry, too feral, too complicated.
Nobody they tried to place her with could help her.
Daisy was the only one that seemed to come close to understanding what Soleil needed. She was the only one that knew how hard it was to be in Soleil's situation and see no way out.
So Coulson had let the kid stay, under the guise that she was a new recruit and the requirement that she receive some training. She wouldn't have to join SHIELD at the end of it, but he thought that training, learning to control her anger, would give her an opportunity at a real future.
His only other request was that Daisy be the one that trained her.
And that terrified Daisy, for reasons she couldn't quite understand, leading her to plead with him to let May be the one to do it, to let May take on this challenge. She didn't want to train Sol, she told him— she felt that if she did all they'd ever do was hurt each other and that wouldn't help anyone.
But he'd given her an ultimatum, steadfastly refusing to so much as contemplate having May train the girl. So, Daisy trained Soleil anyway, putting the fear aside, because this kid deserved someone that would fight for her.
Daisy showed her how to do tai chi, how to center herself, how to fight. Not that Sol was particularly lacking in that department, but she was scrappy. She fought with everything she had; teeth, nails, everything. She fought like her life was on the line, and that broke Daisy's heart a little.
She just hoped that what she was doing, what they were working on, would help Sol in the long run, but it was hard. Even now, months later, the girl's temper caused problems, and her mood still spun on a dime. But, she was learning to control herself. Slowly but surely. After months of constant struggle.
Today was a step forward. All their work had led here. To proving that she could go hand to hand with multiple people without losing control.
Daisy watched with bated breath as Soleil started to face up against Mack. She tried not to let it show, but her heart was in her throat. It didn't help that Clint, Natasha, and Sharon were there, the latter of which Sol had just finished sparring with. Daisy was proud that Sol had held her own against Sharon, not losing her temper in the slightest, but Mack was huge which meant that Sol losing control was the least of her concerns at the moment.
She swallowed. "What if she gets squashed?" Daisy asked May quietly.
Melinda rolled her eyes, and tugged at Daisy's arm until she sat down beside her on the mats. "Just watch." She said softly. "And calm down."
Daisy did as she was told, taking controlled breaths as Mack and Sol stretched. It would be fine, she told herself. Mack wouldn't hurt her.
It was just that Sol was so small, and she hadn't been training for very long. Daisy knew that she was good. Sol was great, maybe better than Daisy had been after training for as long. But she was allowed to worry. Sol was her kid.
Daisy shook herself as the two started to circle. Sol wasn't hers. She wasn't anyone's. She was just a teenage kid with no family who had found SHIELD. Daisy banished the thoughts as the fight began. It was all she could do not to bite her nails. She knew that Sol was worried too. It was one thing to be tested on hand to hand combat, it was quite another to be observed by half of the Avengers while she did it.
Daisy jumped when Sol ducked Mack's first swing, smiling tensely as the girl landed a solid hit to his shoulder in retribution. Her breath quickened when Sol was almost knocked down, only to smile when she almost immediately jumped back up, landing a solid kick.
Daisy knew that she should be worried about the others, and what they thought of how Sol performed. She fought differently to Daisy. She was scrappy and messy, with no finesse whatsoever, something Daisy hadn't quite been able to change, but she had managed to show Sol ways to channel it. The only reason she fought dirty was because she didn't know any other way.
Maybe Coulson had pushed for Daisy to be her SO because she knew Daisy would be the only one who could truly understand that.
Either way, she was proud when she felt the thump as Sol took Mack to the ground. Proud that she let go when he tapped out. She was excited, because Sol had done so well, and in front of so many people that Daisy knew she wanted to impress. But all that excitement came to a grinding halt when Sol's eyes found hers.
Daisy didn't know what it was. Maybe it was that Sol was waiting for her to approve, like she always did. Maybe it was that, with so many famed people in the room, Sol still looked to her. Maybe she was just so unbelievably proud of her, but something in her heart twanged. Tears burned behind her eyes, and she smiled, nodded, and stood. "Good job."
Daisy continued to smile as Sol's face lit up, as she helped Mack up and he swept her up into a big bear hug that she didn't fight, as Natasha and Sharon and the others went to congratulate her.
She sniffled when she felt May's hand on her shoulder and slowly turned to face her, keeping her eyes on the ground. She wouldn't cry over Sol. The kid barely accepted Daisy's presence in her life. Daisy didn't have any right to feel so much love towards her.
May smiled warmly, rolling her eyes at Daisy's avoidance. She'd always felt proud of Daisy, but watching her take care of Soleil had possibly been one of the most rewarding experiences of her life. "Now you know how I felt the first time you sparred with Trip and how I've felt every day since."
Daisy met her eyes, the surprise evident on her face. This was how May felt about her? It couldn't be. What she was feeling now… It was overwhelming like nothing she'd ever felt before. It was something she doubted anyone could ever feel for her. Still, she couldn't hold back the hopeful feeling that arose at May's words. "Like your heart is just walking outside your chest and you could lose it any minute?"
A myriad of emotions crossed May's face as she reached out to cup Daisy's cheek. The hopeful tone in Daisy's voice broke her heart. She hated that Daisy's childhood had made it so hard for her to trust their love, even after so many years. She'd tried hard to be more expressive with Daisy over the past few years, but she knew Daisy's doubt crept up on her the most unexpected of times, regardless of what anyone did. But with Soleil around… maybe Daisy would finally understand now.
"Yeah." She smiled again, running her thumb over Daisy's cheekbone before dropping her hand. "I didn't quite know how much I could love someone until I felt that."
"Huh." Daisy didn't know what else to say. The realization of just how much May loved her was too much. She felt overwhelmed. Her emotions were overflowing and if she thought about it too much she was going to burst into tears. And she really didn't want to cry in front of the Avengers. Much less in front of Sol; the girl was skittish enough as it was.
"Remember a few years ago when I told you that someday you'd find someone that would be more enough? That love you're feeling means she's that someone." May looked to where Sol was now surrounded by the Avengers, a fond smile appearing on her face before she turned to Daisy again. "Don't run from it, okay? Soleil is good for you, and you're good for her. Even if neither of you can see it right now. Hold on to her as much as she'll let you."
A tear slipped from Daisy's eye. The truth was that even on a good day Sol terrified her. For months now, Sol had held an immense amount of power over Daisy's heart. It was the kind of indecipherable power that Daisy was helpless to fight against. She was simply left at the mercy of a tiny, volatile, flighty seventeen-year-old whose mood shifted with the wind. There were some days where she wanted nothing more than to run as far from Sol as she could. But she didn't. Sol was all alone in the world and Daisy couldn't abandon her. Not when she'd experienced that same abandonment so many times herself.
So she stayed and she hoped for the best.
Still, her determination to stay and be there for Sol didn't erase how scared she was that Sol would one day disappear. Had she ever made May and Coulson feel like that? God she hoped not. "In the beginning… did you ever feel like I would just rip your heart to shreds any second? Because that's kind of what it feels like with her."
"With you? Not really." May smiled, shaking her head. Daisy was like Sol in many ways, but from she had never had the consuming anger that Sol had, and it had never felt like she had one foot out the door like Sol did. "I knew you had the potential to, but I never felt like you'd hurt us. Not purposefully, anyway. And I didn't think you'd ever run away, which is why it hurt so much when you did."
Daisy couldn't resist the urge to hug her, so she threw her arms around her and buried her face in May's shoulder. When she looked back on those days all she felt was regret for the pain she'd caused her team. "I'm sorry I did that to you."
May wrapped her arms around Daisy's back, squeezing her tightly. "Daisy. It's all water under the bridge now."
They clung to each other for a few moments, taking time to bask in each other's presence, before pulling away and heading in the group's direction. Today was Sol's day. Their sappy emotions could wait.
"So, Sol. It's time to celebrate." Daisy smiled at Sol, the tightness in her chest loosening as she took in the girl's happy demeanour. "What do you want to do today?"
Sol smiled widely, rocking back and forth on her heels. "Well… if you two are done being sappy, can we go get ice cream at that place that's shaped like an ice cream cone?"
"So how was it today?"
"You mean you didn't watch the surveillance feed?"
Coulson grimaced. Of course she'd known. "Guilty. She looked good."
May hummed in agreement. Soleil hadn't just looked good, she'd looked great. "She's better than Daisy was at that stage in her training. I didn't think she'd be able to take down Sharon."
"I'm just glad she didn't get squashed by Mack."
May smirked. "Careful, you're starting to sound like Daisy."
"I'll have you know, Daisy is a very bright girl."
May nodded, sobering slightly. "She is, and she's been a good SO to Soleil. She's attached already."
Noting the concerned look on May's face, Coulson frowned. "You're worried?"
"Yes. Soleil's a big wild card. She's flighty and combative, and I don't want Daisy to get hurt."
Coulson sighed. "You think she's worth the risk?"
Melinda nodded, "Yeah, she is. And I know she's good for Daisy. But she still worries me."
"How much of a mama bear you've turned into."
Her eyes narrowed. "Take it back."
Phil grinned "Nuh uh."
"I'll kick your ass."
"Go ahe- Ow! You pinched me!"
"I did warn you."
"No, you said you'd kick my ass. Pinching is substantially worse than ass kicking."
May rolled her eyes, smirking at his pout. "Dork."
"Your dork." He said affectionately.
She hummed. "Still a dork."
Coulson smiled, pulling her more snugly into his chest. "I love you."
"I love you too." She murmured, relaxing against him.
Melinda sighed, willing herself to sleep as she listened to Phil's breathing deepen, but her mind continued to race. There was one thing that she had been thinking about since Soleil's assessment that morning. "Phil?"
He shifted, clearly on the edge of sleep, "Hm?"
May swallowed. She didn't know why talking to him about this made her so nervous. "I think it's time we retire."
Phil opened his eyes, pulling back slightly so he could look at her in the darkness. "Really?"
May bit her lip, uncertain. "I don't know. I don't want to. But I think it's time."
"I… think you might be right." Coulson murmured, trying to wrap his mind around what she was saying. It was the first time May had ever brought up retirement. "What brought this on?"
"Watching Soleil's hand to hand assessment." May shrugged, moving closer to him again. "The kids have their own kids now, and we're getting old." She paused, shaking her head slightly as she thought of how the ache in her joints had increased in the past few months, of how her muscles weren't nearly as defined as they used to be. "That mission in Medellín? I had a hard time keeping up with Daisy and Mack. I don't think it's safe to be out there anymore. Not for me and not for the people that count on me as back up."
Phil sighed, his breath brushing her neck. "To be honest I've been using being the Director as an excuse to cut back on how many missions I go on for a year now." He admitted softly. "It hit me one day that I was having trouble keeping up with Mack, and that was that for me. I just didn't want to worry you or retire before you were ready, you know?" He sighed, hand brushing hers until May wove their fingers together. "It's always been the two of us against the world and I kind of wanted to start this chapter together. If you'll have me, of course."
May buried her face in his chest, attempting to hide the traitorous happy tears that were forming in her eyes. "Of course I will you moron."
Coulson smiled at her muffled response, rubbing her back soothingly. "When do you want to do it?"
Melinda paused. "Just before Christmas maybe? That would give us around four months to sort everything out and for you to get your replacement up to speed. I'll start tapering off on missions now but… I don't know. I want to make sure we get everything right before we go."
"You mean you want to make sure Sol won't skedaddle before we go."
He chuckled. "I'm just kidding. Kind of. That'll also be right around when Jemma's coming off of maternity leave, if she does keep her conviction to come back in three months rather than six so it works out well." He paused, mulling over his next words. "Speaking of Jemma, I think she and Elena are both good options to be Daisy's Deputy Director. Though you know Elena has no patience for bureaucrats, which might be an issue."
May huffed a laugh. While Elena might have the least patience for politics of the three, Daisy and Jemma didn't enjoy them either. It would be interesting no matter who ended up as the Deputy Director. "You think Daisy will want to be director?"
"I hope so." He murmured. "She's the best person for the job. Overqualified at this point, considering all the political gatherings she's gotten through in the last few years. And all the time she's spent helping us out with all the Director-related paperwork. Plus the public loves her to pieces. It's a win-win if I've ever seen one."
May nodded pensively against his chest, letting her eyes flutter shut. She could hardly believe how far Daisy had come from the girl they'd pulled from a van. It made her heart swell just thinking about it. "We'll have to tell her tomorrow. I'm not sure how she'll take it."
Phil pressed a kiss to her hair. "She might freak out a little, but I think she'll be happy for us. As long as we promise to see her often. Which we will. I mean, it's not like we won't come in to consult or won't have her over for dinner."
"I'd like that." May mumbled sleepily.
"Hey, are you falling asleep on me mid conversation? Wow, you are old- Ow! You pinched me again!"
"You deserved it. Calling me old. Bastard."
The second Melinda knocked on Daisy's open door holding two cups of tea, Daisy froze. "Oh no."
May looked affronted. "What?"
Daisy eyed the cups wearily from her seat at her bed. "You never bring me tea unless something's wrong. What happened? Is Sol okay?"
May sighed, handing Daisy her cup. "Soleil is fine." She said, taking a seat in the other chair. "Nothing's wrong."
Daisy eyed the steam swirling from her cup. "The tea leaves say differently." She muttered.
May rolled her eyes. "Just drink." She said, taking a sip herself. It did help her feel better. She was worried about Daisy. "Phil's making some grilled cheese, he'll be here in a minute."
Daisy choked on her tea. "Grilled cheese?! He's making grilled cheese?!" She exclaimed, setting her cup off to the side. After a moment of tense silence, she sighed. "Just hit me with it. Is the end of the world coming?"
May paused. She really shouldn't say anything without Phil here, but she was beginning to feel the particles in the air shifting as Daisy's nerves let themselves be known. "Coulson and I were just thinking..."
"Of adopting an adorable kid?" Daisy interrupted.
The hint of a smile tugged at Melinda's lips. "I'm pretty sure we did that a long time ago."
Daisy snorted. "Ha ha." She said sarcastically. "But seriously. Come on."
"We think it's about time we retired." May said quickly. Saying it made her feel wrong. Like she was giving up.
Daisy stared, trying to keep her emotions in check. "Oh." She took a sip of her tea. "I-is that all?"
Melinda could see her emotions written on every inch of her countenance. How Daisy was a spy, she would never know.
Daisy laughed hollowly, "You had me worried."
The gentle word made her look up, trying desperately to hide the fear in her eyes. "Yeah?"
Before May could reply, the door opened to reveal Coulson carrying a tray stacked with grilled cheese sandwiches. "Alright I have enough sandwiches for a small-" He cut off, noting the look on Daisy's face and turning to face May accusingly. "You told her without me? Melinda!"
May raised an eyebrow, smirking slightly. "She broke me."
"She broke y- Are you kidding me?"
She had to hold back a smile at the bewildered look on his face. "She's meaner and craftier than she looks."
"Oh my- You know what? I'm not talking to you right now." Coulson turned to Daisy, only to find her staring at her bedspread. So much for banter cheering her up slightly. "Daisy, what do you think?"
Daisy shrugged noncommittally, not raising her eyes from the bed.
May sighed softly. Even now, after everything, Daisy was still just as scared of losing them as she had been years before. "We're okay."
Daisy swallowed. "I know you are." She said. "I mean- nowhere safer than retirement, right?"
May looked to Phil for back up, only to find him staring sadly at Daisy. She didn't know how to reassure her. "This isn't walking the plank."
Truthfully, May wasn't entirely sure who she was trying to convince now.
After a beat, Coulson stood, moving to sit next to Daisy on the bed and putting a gentle hand on her back. "We're not going anywhere. Not any time soon."
Daisy looked up at him, her eyes suspiciously misty. "I- I know."
May frowned, sinking into the bed on Daisy's other side. She clearly didn't believe what Phil had said. "Daisy, we're not going to die. We're only in our sixties."
Coulson shot her a reproaching look. Reminding Daisy of their age probably wasn't the way to go.
Still Daisy launched at May, making her let out a soft 'oof' as she wrapped her arms around her SO. "You swear you're not gonna die yet?"
May sighed into Daisy's shoulder. "Daisy, that's whywe're retiring." She said softly. "So we won't have to leave you any time soon."
Coulson smiled in agreement. "You all have given us too much to live for and we don't want to risk it. We're not at death's door, but we're definitely not as young as we used to be. It's hard to keep up with you youngins now. And that's dangerous in the field. For us and for all of you."
"I- okay. If it's really so you stay safe." She said firmly, snuggling her head into May's shoulder. "I-I love you." Turning slightly, without letting go of May, she reached and took Coulson's hand. "Both of you. Even if Coulson's a giant nerd that says 'youngins.'"
Coulson sputtered in mock horror. "Nerd?! You wound me!"
Melinda chuckled quietly, pressing a kiss to Daisy's temple and smoothing her hair. "We love you too." She murmured. "And I know you'll be okay."
Daisy shook her head. "No, not without you."
Coulson snorted, ruffling Daisy's hair. "Please, if you can handle politicians like they're no more bothersome than mosquitoes, you can handle SHIELD without us."
May smiled, drawing away from Daisy with a mischievous look in her eye. "Don't tell anyone, but Coulson thinks you should be the new director."
Daisy choked on air, her eyes widening comically as she looked to Coulson. "What? No way! I couldn't do it!"
Coulson had to resist the urge to laugh at the look on her face. She was so blind to how good she was. "Daisy, you're the most overqualified candidate there's ever been for this job. You've led your own team for years, you're highly experienced in the field, you know all the comings and goings of being director, you've got buckets of experience working with the UN, Senate and Congress, and you're close enough with the President that you have her number in your favorites. You might not like politics, but you do a damn good job of managing them without compromising your duties to SHIELD."
Daisy bit her lip, seemingly unconvinced, and turned to May. "Do you think I could?" She asked shyly.
Melinda raised an eyebrow, making Daisy laugh softly. "Okay." She mumbled.
"It's just a thought." May reminded her. "You don't have to do it just because we think it's a good idea. I- we want you to do what makes you happy." She said, shooting Coulson a pointed look.
Taking the hint, he nodded. "You won't disappoint us if you say no. But if being in charge is what you want to do... well, you've got a few decent agents in your corner."
Daisy looked away as her eyes filled with tears again. She didn't know what to say. "I- thank you."
"Hey. We'll still be here for you. Always." Coulson murmured, putting a hand under her chin and making her look up. "And we'll call as often as you want us to."
"I- well, Phil wanted to do dinner, once a week if- if you want to. But only ifyou want to." May held her breath. Part of her didn't believe that Daisy, or any of them, would want to visit her that often.
Daisy stared, then embraced May again. "Twice a week." She bartered.
Melinda froze, then the tension she didn't even notice she was carrying vanished. She returned the hug, smiling into Daisy's shoulder. "We'd be happy to have you any time."
Coulson made an indignant noise, crossing his arms. "Well, you might be happy to have her over any time, but I haven't gotten a single hug today so I'm not quite sure how I feel about that."
Daisy scoffed, pulling away from May and hugging him instead. "This isn't a 'who's getting more hugs' competition, Coulson."
"Yeah, sure." Coulson snorted, returning the hug as tightly as he could. "You only say that because you don't share a bed with Ms. 'She likes me better' at night."
"That's Agent 'She likes me better' to you, Phillip."
"Is everything okay?" Jemma asked, walking into Coulson's office, followed closely by Fitz. "Soleil said you wanted to see us."
Seeing Coulson and May seated, waiting for them, only made her more worried. Jemma sank into a chair heavily, her heart feeling like it was climbing up her throat. "Have we done something wrong?"
Noting how her voice shook, Fitz took her hand, immediately relaxing her some.
"No, nothing like that." Coulson said, leaning back in his chair. "We just… well we had a favour to ask."
Fitz and Jemma looked at each other. "Anything, yeah." Fitz said.
Jemma nodded in agreement. "What is it?"
"We… well, we're not getting any younger." He smiled with a touch of sadness. "And we were thinking it's about time we retire."
Fitz nodded, a kind look on his face. "I suppose it's a good time." He said, clearing his throat. He'd always known this day was coming, he just didn't think it would be so soon. "We've got agents to spare."
Jemma bit her lip. "Y-you will call, right?"
May softened at Jemma's dejected look. "Of course."
"We were actually thinking we could do dinner every Friday, as long as you're not busy." Phil shrugged, attempting to look nonchalant about the suggestion.
Fitz and Jemma met each other's eyes, both clearly pleased by the idea. "That sounds perfect." Fitz murmured.
"Of course, I'll be the one cooking. We don't need any cases of food poisoning" Coulson said, smiling mischievously as he nudged May, who rolled her eyes.
Jemma smiled briefly, but was unable to stop herself from glancing nervously between them. Clearly there was something else. "What's the favour?"
Coulson and May shared a pensive look, communicating silently. After a long moment, May sighed, turning back to face them. "It's about Daisy." She said. "We're worried about her."
Jemma squeezed Fitz's hand harder, trying stave off the dread that had started bubbling the second they came in the room. "What about her?"
Coulson hesitated at the look on Jemma's face, making May roll her eyes again. "She thinks we're going to die."
Fitz choked on air. "Sorry- what?" He gasped.
Coulson shot May a reproaching look. "She's being dramatic."
"I'm being accurate."
Jemma couldn't help but grin at their playful bickering. They were kind of adorable when they got like this.
Coulson leaned back in his chair. "She's just- she's scared of being alone."
Fitz snorted. "Wait, you heard that and thought 'Daisy thinks we're gonna die?'" He asked May.
She shook her head. "That's how it started." Melinda said. "A few years ago. I think… you hurt your shoulder."
Coulson nodded. "On a mission. Daisy… didn't take it well, shouted at Mace for it."
Fitz and Jemma frowned. Daisy wasn't one for shouting at people- sure, she had no issue calling out those she thought were in the wrong, but she didn't usually yell.
Melinda continued. "I don't think she'd realised that… well, we'll probably die before she does." A morbid thing to say aloud, even now.
Jemma's heart suddenly felt like it had dropped to her stomach. "Oh."
"We tried to reassure her, but you know how Daisy is... We know you just adopted Lyra and that soon you'll be busy with the new baby-"
"Celeste." Jemma interjected, staring off to the side, her face blank as she ran a hand over her bump.
Coulson smiled. So the baby finally had a name. "-Celeste. And that she'll be busy with Soleil. But if you could just check in with her while you're at work every once in a while…"
Fitzsimmons were silent, not looking at either of them. May wouldn't be surprised if they were thinking about how she and Coulson would likely go before them as well.
When Jemma finally looked at them, it was with tears in her eyes. "W-we're older than her too." She said, as if only realising it for the first time.
Fitz squeezed Jemma's hand, feeling her distress. "We'll keep an eye on her." Fitz promised.
Jemma swallowed before nodding. Of course they'd be there for her, Daisy was their best friend. "We know how important you two are to her."
Some of the pressure that Melinda had felt pressing down on her eased. "Thank you." She sighed.
Phil smiled. "We knew you would."
"Yes, well," Jemma smiled, "We always did follow orders."
The two barely made it out of the room before Jemma flung her arms around Fitz, hugging him as tightly as she could with the bump in the way. "We can't let Daisy be the last of us." She murmured into his shoulder. "We just can't."
He held her. "You can't exactly stop death Jem."
"We've done that plenty of times." She said stubbornly. "We can do it again. For Daisy."
Fitz smiled at her. "Okay." He murmured, gently kissing her. "Let's make it a deal then. We won't let Daisy be the last to go. No matter what."
"Deal." Jemma mumbled, pulling away and taking his hand. "I love you."
Fitz smiled, weaving their fingers together. "Love you too."
April 13th 2047
Daisy's heart warmed when she saw the light emanating from May and Coulson's apartment, and heard the soft murmur of the chatter inside. There was something about this place, something that had always made it feel like a second home to her. It provided this feeling safety and warmth, the kind that promised her even if SHIELD burned to the ground, even if everything else was gone, she'd have a safe haven, a place where the people she loved would be waiting, ready to take care of her. It was something someone like Daisy never took for granted.
Aurora was chattering away at Sol, her hands swinging wildly as she told her mom an animated story about the drama that had occurred at her middle school that day. The look on Sol's face was warm, not because of the story, but because of the person telling it. It made Daisy smile. All those years ago, she would've never expected Sol to get to a point where raising her own family was a possibility. The only thing Daisy had wanted back then was to get Sol to a place where she could have a life. But Sol had exceeded all expectations. And when Aurora had found their way to them five years ago… it had just been meant to be.
Reaching the doorstep, Daisy rang the doorbell, bouncing on her toes to keep warm in the unusually chilly Spring night. "Hi!" She greeted when May opened the door, hugging her tightly. "Wow you're old," She teased, "Sure I can't get you that cane?"
May smirked. "You're the one who's gonna get the cane if you're not careful." She threatened, welcoming them in, hugging Sol and Aurora as they passed by her. Though Coulson had always been set on a house, she had eventually made him settle on a large apartment. It was warm and welcoming, despite Phil's lamentations at the lack of a fireplace.
Daisy looked around, "Fitzsimmons here yet?"
Sol grinned from behind her. "Of course they are, you know what sticklers they all are about being on time."
Daisy scoffed in mock offence, making Aurora let out a giggle. "We're not late!"
May grinned. "No, but you're pushing it."
Daisy shook her head. "Nothing's ever enough for you, is it?" She teased.
Sol and May rolled their eyes in tandem as they reached the kitchen.
Daisy grinned at Jemma, Fitz, Lyra and Celeste. "Hey, long time no see." She teased.
Lyra rolled her eyes with a smile, moving quickly to hug Daisy. "Oh it's been forever. It's too bad we don't work together so we could see each other more often."
Daisy snorted, squeezing her tightly. "Right? It's not at all like you have an office a floor down from mine." Lyra had always been the huggy one. Which meant that she and Daisy got on great.
Soleil shook her head at the exchange as Daisy moved on to greet Mack and Elena. "Need any help sir?" She asked, walking over to where Coulson was finishing prepping the salad and kissing his cheek.
Phil fixed her with a baleful look. "Really? You're still on that?"
Sol smiled unapologetically, a playful glint in her eye. "Hard habit to break sir."
Coulson rolled his eyes. "Sure," He said, "That habit that you didn't pick up until after I retired some twenty-three years ago."
Sol grinned and Phil ruffled her hair, making her splutter and dart away. Coulson simply laughed, turning away from Sol to give Aurora a big hug.
Daisy laughed watching them. She never could have imagined such a future for Soleil when they'd found her.
She had never imagined this kind of future for herself. Somehow, she'd gone from being a lonely orphan to having a whole family, made up of so manypeople that loved each other.
She now had two parents. Four siblings. Five nieces and nephews. Four children. And five, soon to be six, grandchildren.
Her future turned out a lot better than she'd ever thought it would.
"Daisy, can you help me out with this?" Coulson held out a bowl full of homemade sauce for her to carry to the table
Daisy grinned, taking the bowl from him and snuggling briefly into his side. "Hello to you too."
Coulson snorted, kissing her hair. "Hi, sweetheart. How was your day?"
"There aren't enough expletives in this world to describe it."
"Sounds like a typical day as director of SHIELD." Coulson smiled at her, placing a bowl of pasta down on the table. "But you're here now, so your day is ending on a high note, yeah?"
Daisy couldn't help but feel emotional at the sweet, loving tone behind the question. "Yeah. My day's always better when I end it with you guys."
"Good." He reached out, giving her shoulder a squeeze before turning to the rest of the people in the apartment. "Alright everyone, dinner is served!"
His words had everyone rushing forward, crowding around the food as if they'd never seen a good meal before.
May found herself observing everyone, contently hanging back and grinning at their banter as they served themselves some dinner. It was only when everyone had sat down with their meals and begun conversing that she picked up her own plate and piled on a decent sized portion.
She'd never admit it, but she'd always loved these weekly dinners to pieces. The dinners had been special since they'd begun the tradition, and they'd only gotten better through the years as their family had grown.
It just sucked that it was becoming increasingly difficult to have everyone over for dinner at the same time. She supposed that was a side effect of the grandkids growing up, and starting careers and families of their own.
She was really feeling the absences today though. "So I'm wondering-"
Daisy's fork stopped halfway up to her mouth, and she turned to look at her, a smile on her face. "Oh boy. That's never a good opener to a conversation."
May sent her a mock glare as the rest of the table chuckled. "Care to tell me where my six missing grandchildren are today?"
Elena snorted. "Where they always are. With SHIELD. Roberto and Andres are at the Academy. Apparently they have some big exam or some other idiotez happening next week that they have to study for."
Mack nodded as he wiped at his face with a napkin. "As for Luz, who knows where she is. We are no longer privy to that kind of information. And they-" He motioned towards Daisy and Jemma, a teasing smile on his face. "Refuse to tell us."
Daisy scoffed in mock offense. "Hey! You knew the drill when you retired!"
Jemma rolled her eyes. "Besides, you haven't asked where she is—this time, anyway—if you had, we would have told you. She's in Belfast, following up with the group of Inhumans that resides there. They've unfortunately been receiving some rather credible threats."
"You'd think that after three decades people would be more accepting." Coulson shook his head sadly. "I guess humanity never changes."
Daisy's shoulders dropped slightly. "I don't think they'll ever fully accept us, not in my lifetime anyway."
May swallowed, gripping her fork tightly as she fought the wave of sadness that overcame her. She hated that Daisy and Elena would likely never come to see a world in which they were fully accepted, but she held out hope that her grandkids would live to see it. "What about your kids, Daisy?"
As always, Daisy immediately brightened at the mention of her kids. "Micah is on mission in Athens with his team, and Alya is in Belfast with Luz and the rest of their team. Callista's still on maternity leave, but she was feeling a little under the weather today and baby Mellie is still recovering from that bronchiolitis episode, so she and Dev stayed home."
Lyra's eyes were full of concern as she looked to Daisy. "They're both alright though, right?"
Daisy gave Lyra a sad sort of half-smile, nodding slowly. "They're getting there. Mellie is officially on the mend, and Callista is…" She paused, hesitant to say anything about her youngest child's mental health when she wasn't around. "She's doing as well as she can. Postpartum depression is an ugly beast, but she's trying to find her way through it. She just needs time."
May sighed sadly. She so wished she could take her granddaughter's pain away, but life didn't work that way. All they could do was be there for her. "Remind her that if she needs anything, her grandparents are just a call away."
Daisy merely gave another nod, a sure sign that she wasn't willing to pursue the subject further without Callista there, so May took the opportunity to direct her attention to Soleil. "What about your husband? Should I be offended that he's missed two dinners in a row?"
Soleil rolled her eyes with a sigh. "I told him you'd ask that when he said he wouldn't be able to come. He's running tech support from base for the Belfast mission, and there were some… developments that meant he had to stay at work late today. He won't be here next weekend either, he's going out of town to visit his brother-"
"And I'm going with him!" Aurora interjected, her excitement evident in her tone. "I haven't seen Uncle Robbie in forever."
"Oh yeah?" Coulson ruffled Aurora's hair, making her squeal and duck away. "Well remind your Uncle Robbie that he still hasn't made good on that promise to come help me with Lola."
Aurora giggled. "I can tell him, but he'll probs just grunt at me."
"Well you can tell him to direct his grunts at us," Fitz said as he piled a second serving of pasta on his plate. "He also promised to help me with a project I've got going at home."
"And here we were under the impression that you'd retired, Dad." Celeste rolled her eyes. "You're meant to be playing golf with Uncle Mack or something."
Fitz scoffed, an indignant expression on his face. "Yes, I retired from SHIELD, not from inventing." He turned to Mack, shaking his head. "Can you believe that? My own daughter! How insulting!"
Mack laughed, reaching over to pat Fitz's back. "I can't believe she'd think there's any world in which I'd play golf. You sure you're getting enough sleep, Celeste? They working you too hard at that fancy-ass PhD program?"
Celeste narrowed her eyes and opened her mouth to retort, only to be cut off by her mother's hand covering her mouth. "Uh-uh, I know that look and I'd rather you didn't start a food fight today."
Laughter rang around the room at the expression on Celeste's face at Jemma's words. It wouldn't be the first time Celeste found herself starting a food fight. As far as the grandkids went, Celeste was definitely the wild child. The girl had had a penchant for mischief from the moment she was born- she managed to find trouble where there wasn't any trouble to find and took great delight in driving her parents up the wall whenever she got the chance.
But for all her mischief, she had a heart of gold, just as the others did.
Which, to May, was all that really mattered.
Fitzsimmons excused themselves not long after they had finished the meal, on account of Celeste having a big presentation for her PhD in a few days.
Daisy hugged Fitz and the kids, kissing Jemma on the cheek. "I'll see you guys next time."
"Definitely." Jemma said, smiling and hugging May in farewell now. "Thank you both so much for having us."
May smiled. "You know we're happy to."
Fitz rolled his eyes. "Yeah, well. Next time should be at our place, okay?"
Coulson shook his head. "So you two can ruin a perfectly good roast? I don't think so."
Lyra and Celeste sniggered, ignoring their parents' shocked looks. "We can cook!"
Mack patted Jemma on the back, while Daisy grinned at them. "Of course you can."
Jemma scowled at her as they left. "You're no better Daisy."
Daisy snorted. "Yeah, but at least I'm honest about it."
Melinda watched them all tease and joke. Her family. This moment felt special, while still remaining oddly normal. The teasing, the banter, it happened all the time, yet some voice inside told her to hold on to it. To savour every second of seeing them smile, hearing their voices lit up with laughter.
So she did. She hugged each of them tightly as they left, even Mack, who almost lifted her off the ground. She didn't care that they looked confused, or that they teased her for it. She just wanted to revel in how it felt to hug them. It was probably the old age making her sentimental, but Melinda couldn't help remembering exactly how much she loved each one of them.
Soon, the only ones remaining were Soleil, Daisy, and Aurora, who'd fallen asleep on the couch just minutes before.
"The rest of my ducklings send their love, by the way." Daisy said, "Alya and Micah were pretty sad they couldn't make it today. Callista didn't have much to say, but she was pretty upset that she didn't feel up to it."
"We missed them today, but they have to do what they have to do. That's the life of a SHIELD agent. And Callista just has to focus on herself and Mellie, right now. We'll see her soon enough." Coulson smiled, starting to collect the plates as May hummed in agreement.
"No, come on, let me." Daisy said, trying to take them from him.
Coulson held on stubbornly. "Not in my house young lady."
Daisy laughed. "I'm fifty-eight!"
"Younger than me."
Melinda smiled, watching them squabble. Sol popped up beside her. "You okay?"
May looked at her, raising an eyebrow. "Yes. Why?"
Sol shrugged. "I don't know, you just seem... different." She hesitated. "If there's anything you need..."
May softened. "Thank you Soleil." She murmured, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "But I'm fine."
Sol grinned, leaning into it. "You sure? I don't think I've ever seen you this huggy in twenty-three years."
Melinda laughed softly. "I must be turning sentimental in my old age."
Sol laughed, "Nah, you're not old, who told you that?"
May rolled her eyes. "Sol, I'm eighty-three."
"And look like you're a spry eighty-two."
May smirked. "I can still kick your ass you know."
"I don't doubt it for a second."
Melinda shook her head and pushed Soleil away. "Brat." She muttered teasingly.
Sol held back a grin. "You gonna start throwing your walker at me and telling me to get off your lawn?"
May glared, but was cut off from replying by a burst of laughter from across the kitchen. She turned her glare on Daisy, trying not to let on how amused she was. "A pity you never taught her to respect her elders."
Daisy snorted. "Yeah, as if I know how to do that." She muttered under her breath, watching as May turned back to Sol and struck up a conversation about Sol's most recent mission in Vienna.
"Twenty-three years she's been retired, and she still can't resist talking shop." Coulson shook his head with a smile. "Not that I'm any better, I guess."
Daisy chuckled, beginning to stack plates into the dishwasher. "I never expected anything else. You guys kept SHIELD running for years after it collapsed, you can't exactly leave something like that behind. Besides, it's good that the kids have some wise ears to talk t-" She cut off suddenly, hissing as her shoulder spasmed when she reached for a plate.
Coulson immediately grabbed the plate from her, his brow furrowing in concern. "Woah, hey, you okay?"
Daisy rubbed at her shoulder, glancing around to make sure May and Sol hadn't noticed. "Yeah, yeah. I'm fine. Just moved the wrong way."
Coulson looked at her knowingly and sighed. "It's getting worse isn't it? Have you been to the doctor?"
Daisy grit her teeth. She didn't want to have this conversation. "Not yet."
"Daisy, you can't just ignore it." He glanced toward May and Sol, and lowered his voice. "Your powers are hard on your body, even when you're not using them. You know that. They could be destroying your skeleton right now for all you know."
Daisy sighed, leaning into his side and tucking her head against his shoulder. "I know, I know. I just- I keep hoping it'll go away."
"It won't go away until you do something about it, kiddo." Coulson kissed the top of her head and smiled. "Trust me. I'm old and wise."
Daisy giggled, pulling away. "You might be old, but you're more silly than you are wise."
"You wound me, child."
"But I love you!"
Coulson snorted. "You can love me and still wound me. Who's the silly one now?"
Daisy burst into laughter, shoving lightly at his shoulder. "You're still the silliest." She paused, rubbing at her shoulder again. "Thanks for dinner, by the way. It was really great."
He smiled mischievously, noting that Sol and May were approaching them. "I should thank you. For arriving when you did. Melinda was getting far too close to the stove for comfort."
Sol laughed, only to let out a loud 'ow' when May punched her in the shoulder. "How in the world do you still punch so hard?!"
May rolled her eyes and scoffed. "I may be old, retired, and I may have arthritis, but I still do some training. Last thing I need is my muscles becoming jelly."
Coulson laughed, only for it to turn into a yawn halfway through, making Daisy straighten. "I think that's our cue to leave."
Sol nodded. "Yep. I'll wake Aurora up."
"Don't be silly, you can stay!" Phil covered, but Daisy shook her head as she watched Soleil kiss Aurora's forehead, rousing her as gently as she could.
"You need your rest, you silly, old man." She teased, "And we should be getting home." Surprising no one, she hugged May tightly. What was surprising was the force with which Melinda returned the hug. "I love you." Daisy whispered.
May smiled. "I love you too." She murmured, gently kissing Daisy's cheek.
Daisy held on for a few moments longer than were strictly necessary, snuggling her head into May's shoulder. When she drew away, she was smiling. "God May, you're such a sap."
Melinda sighed dramatically, now hugging a sleepy Aurora goodbye. "I'll see you next week."
Daisy smiled as May turned to hug Sol. "Count on it."
May felt Phil's hand on her shoulder as they waved them goodbye. She felt an unexpected pang of sadness watching them go into the night. Even though she couldn't see them from the other side of the dark street, she heard the three chorus, "We love you!" before they got into their respective cars. For some reason the sound of them driving away brought tears to her eyes.
Phil pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "Time for bed?"
Melinda swallowed. "Yeah."
Once they had settled into bed, May felt substantially better. It must have been all the nostalgia floating around during dinner. Stories of old missions, fun times together. She missed it, but it was over. She had made peace with that. They both had.
As if in response to her thoughts about him, Phil's hand brushed hers. Melinda had her back turned. "You okay?"
He had noticed. Of course he had. "I'm fine." May murmured, rolling over to kiss him. "Just- a bit sentimental."
Phil smiled that big dorky grin that she loved so much. "You?" He teased.
Melinda couldn't help but smile back. "Oh shut up." She grumbled, rolling back over.
Phil chuckled. "You know, I think I'm the only one tonight who didn't get a hug." He said, "I might feel neglected."
"I'm sure you'll cope."
"Come on, as my wife it's your job to give me a hug."
"We never married."
May didn't move, enjoying the game.
"Mel, come on, I need a hug."
Phil smirked. "I'll give you until the count of three." He threatened. "One,"
Melinda bit her lip.
She wrapped her arms around her waist.
Phil grinned. "Three!"
Melinda yelped when his fingers started tickling her ribs, batting him away and laughing, "Phil- hehey, come on!" She fought to stifle the laughter, squirming. "Aren't we kind of old for this?"
Phil laughed too. "I'm never too old to hear you laugh." He said, renewing his assault.
May jumped, falling back into a fit of laughing. She knew she could fight back, but she didn't really want to. She rarely had an excuse to laugh this much.
Phil smiled. He loved seeing Melinda smiling so much. He loved her laughter. He loved her. He smirked. "Surrender, Agent May."
She snorted, half-heartedly grabbing at his hands. "Phihihil, dohon't."
"Just gimme a hug." He teased, squeezing her hips.
A shriek escaped her throat, and May immediately grabbed his wrists, holding his hands away, giggling. "Okahahy." She grinned, burying her face in his chest. "You win."
Phil beamed. "Damn right." He said, wrapping her arms around her. He pulled away enough to kiss her. "I love you."
Melinda smiled. "I love you too." She said softly, letting the fatigue take her, making her limbs feel heavy.
She shook her head. "No."
"Good." He kissed the top of her head. "Cos I really want to tell you again that I love you."
May felt her cheeks grow warm. "You can't make me blush."
He hummed. "Maybe not, but I can make you feel like you are."
Melinda shook her head. "It was good to see the kids, and some of the grandkids… and the one great grandkid that showed up."
Phil grinned at her abrupt change of subject. "It was. Even if it always makes me feel old." He conceded. "I still can't believe Celeste is doing her PhD, let alone that some of the others have kids."
Melinda smiled sleepily. "Well with who Celeste's parents are..."
"Still. Do you think we should go see Callista in the morning? Maybe we can help her out with some stuff around the house…"
"I think we can call her and ask if it's alright to come over, before we think of anything else."
"Yeah, that might be best… Oh and what about Aurora's hair? Kids these days."
May chuckled, she knew he'd have something to say about it. "It's good that she's expressing herself, even if it is through her hair. I thought about dyeing mine blue, remember?"
"Yeah, but you didn't go through with it."
"Only because it would have been too difficult with my hair. All that bleaching and upkeep."
"More like you were sensible."
May laughed. "Yeah, that's me. Sensible."
Phil smiled. "One of the many reasons I love you." He said.
She snuggled closer, yawning. "I love you too." She murmured, taking the moment to commit it all to memory. The feeling of Phil's arms around her, how his breath felt against her skin. How much she loved him. "Now go to sleep."
"Okay." Phil whispered, pressing one last kiss to her forehead. "I'll see you in the morning."
Daisy wasn't sure how early it was when the phone rang that morning. All she knew was that it was too early for her liking. Especially on her day off.
If it was SHIELD, heads were going to roll. They were always calling her on her day off. She had a very capable Deputy Director that never took the same days off as her for a damn reason. Her agents just couldn't seem to bring themselves to understand that.
Deciding it was time to face the music, she rolled over, reaching blindly for her ringing phone and answering without bothering to look at her caller ID. "Director Johnson speaking."
Daisy immediately bolted up to a sitting position, wincing as her entire body protested at the sudden movement. Coulson never called this early. "Coulson, what's wrong? Is everything okay?"
"I'm-" Coulson cut off with a sob. Saying the words out loud was harder than he'd ever imagined. "S-she's gone."
Daisy froze. No. That couldn't be right. May couldn't be gone.
"Oh." Daisy let out a shaky breath. It felt as if her whole world had been torn to shreds. "I- Oh. Oh. Coulson. I'm so sorry."
"I'm sorry too. You- I know she meant the world to you."
Daisy couldn't help the sob that escaped then. "I-I just hope she knew." She felt oddly weightless. Like she was falling. This couldn't be real.
"She knew. And she loved you so much, Daisy. More than she could ever say."
"I k-know." Daisy said quietly, hiccupping as she wiped at the tears that were steadily running down her cheeks. She'd never doubted May's love after the day Sol passed her field assessment. "How did- Was it peaceful?"
A quiet sob burst from Coulson's throat. "Yeah. She just- she went to sleep in my arms and n-never woke up. I-I-" Coulson paused, trying to gather himself. "God, I didn't even realise she was gone until I was getting up. That's when I realised she wasn't b-breathing."
Listening as Coulson began sobbing in earnest, it was all Daisy could do not to break down right along with him. It felt like there was May-sized crater in her heart. "Coulson, listen to me. There was nothing you could've done."
"I don't- We spent so long s-saving each other, but when it really mattered I-" Coulson gasped, shaking. "I didn't even notice she was leaving until she was already gone. I failed her when she needed me most."
"You didn't. Please, believe me. She- May is-" Daisy shuddered. May didn't exist in the present anymore, and that was unimaginable. "M-May was old. She lived a long, hard life and she made her peace with it." She drew a trembling breath. "It was her t-time." Daisy smiled tearfully. "If she hadn't been ready to go, she would've kicked the Grim Reaper's bony ass. Sh-she wouldn't want you blaming yourself for this."
There was a rustle on the other side of the phone as Coulson blew his nose. "You're right. I-I just I wish I c-could've… t-told her I l-loved her one last time, t-tell her that e-everything would b-be alright, that we'd a-all be alright."
Daisy sobbed into her hand, trying desperately to muffle the sound. It wasn't the time to lose it. "I k-know. I so wish I-I could tell her I loved her one more time too. But she knew, Coulson. She was… May. May always knew everything."
"She d-did. God- I'm just- I don't even know w-what to do." Coulson inhaled sharply, desperately trying to catch his breath. "Do you think she was happy?"
"She was. I- You know she was. Her life was so full of love, Coulson. I-I don't think she ever expected to be as happy as she was. Life gave her more than she ever thought it would." Daisy stopped to wipe at her nose as she realized Coulson's sobs had died down to sniffles. She wished she could take his pain away. "It didn't hurt that you were around to help make her world even brighter."
Coulson sobbed a laugh. "I miss her so m-much already."
"I do too." Daisy sniffled. She already missed May more than she could comprehend. May had been beside her for almost thirty-four years, most of Daisy's life. A world where May wasn't alive just seemed… wrong.
"I need to go." Coulson sniffled and cleared his throat. "I have to call F-Fitzsimmons, and Mack and Elena. They should hear it from me, before it gets o-out."
"Ok." Daisy took a shaky breath. "I'll be over in 45 minutes, okay?" She didn't want to face their apartment, the emptiness that she knew she'd find there now that May was gone, but she needed to be there for Coulson. He was all alone now, and he was the only parent Daisy had left.
"Daisy, you don't have to-"
"I want to, okay?" Daisy interrupted. There was no way she was letting him be alone now. No matter how much she just wanted to curl up in bed and cry for the rest of the week. "I'm not just going to sit around all day. I need a hug and you're the best hugger around."
Coulson sighed, but Daisy could almost feel his sad half-smile through the phone. "If you're sure."
Daisy nodded absently, momentarily forgetting he couldn't see her. "I'm sure. I'll see you in a bit. I love you."
"I love you too."
Sniffling, she hit the end call button and dropped her phone onto the bed.
She didn't know how long she sat there, staring at her bedspread, trying to absorb the loss before the wave of grief truly pulled her under, making her bury her face in her hands and let go of the sobs she'd been holding back since Coulson had told her May was gone.
Daisy was vaguely aware of the room quaking as she sobbed, almost as if her powers were mimicking the feeling of her heart crumbling. It made her bones ache, but she couldn't bring herself to stop.
It didn't seem possible but somehow it was.
May was gone.
Daisy felt like she couldn't breathe. The world had lost its gravity and nothing made sense. A universe that May wasn't a part of felt wrong.
She'd just seen May the night before. She'd looked as old as was usual in the past few years, but she was just as lively and healthy as ever. Daisy had talked to her, laughed with her, hugged her, and now she was just gone. With no warning whatsoever.
She'd give anything to go back to the night before, see her smile and hear her voice one last time.
But she couldn't.
The universe didn't go backwards; it only went forward.
Days ended with sunsets that gave way to nights and nights gave way to sunrises that brought about new days.
It was a cruel cycle that went uninterrupted and didn't stop for anyone.
She'd never see, or hug, or talk to May again.
Sol entered the gym carefully. It was quiet. Unusually so. But the agents had told her her mom was here, that she needed her.
Part of her wanted to call out to her, but part of her knew not to. When she moved more fully into the room, it took her several seconds to see Daisy.
She was curled up in the corner, wrapped in an old black hoodie that Sol knew wasn't her own. Sol moved towards her, "Mom, what happened?" She asked, sitting beside her. "I-" Suddenly Soleil realised where she had seen that hoodie before. Oh God. She swallowed, feeling the denial, begging Daisy to tell her she was wrong. "Did May…"
Daisy nodded, tears falling steadily. "In her sleep." She said in a broken voice. "Th-the doctors said she was… peaceful, so I guess that's-" Her breath caught in her throat, "Good."
Soleil took her hand. "Mom, I-I'm so sorry."
Daisy took a deep breath. The hoodie still smelled like May. If she closed her eyes it was almost like she was there. But she wasn't. And she never would be again.
Sol took a breath. "I- know you might not wanna hear it," She said shakily, "And I know it doesn't feel like it right now, but… You- we are gonna miss her every day, but we have to keep going, because you know she'd want you to."
Daisy bit her lip. That was almost exactly what she had said to May when Lian had died. She turned to look at Soleil, and what she saw made her stop. She wasn't sure what it was exactly. The fiery warmth in her eyes, the way she held herself; strong, relaxed, or if Daisy was just looking for something that wasn't there. In that moment, though, Daisy could see the echo of May in Soleil. She trembled and immediately collapsed into her arms, sobbing.
Sol held her tightly, the tears finally breaking free. May. Sweet, funny, badass May. She was gone.
Daisy didn't know how long they held onto each other. All she knew was that when the tears finally abetted, her head ached and Sol's shoulder was soaked. As was hers. She still didn't let go. "I just wish I could see her one more time." She whispered.
Soleil wiped her eyes, pulling away enough that she could cuddle up to Daisy's side. "What would you say?" She asked softly.
Daisy thought about it. She imagined what she would do if May were here, right now. She would tell May how much she loved her, how much she appreciated everything she had done, how sorry she was for every time she had hurt her. Would hug her as tightly as she could and never ever let go.
Then she thought back. She remembered all the times she had told May that she loved her. That she was the best mother Daisy could have ever hoped for. The way May had always smiled when she watched her spar, and then later, when she was training Sol. Daisy knew that she was proud of her for that.
Daisy remembered all the times she had hurt May, leaving, turning on her, unwittingly upsetting her. She also remembered apologising, making it better. She remembered the times May had been having a bad day, and Daisy had been there. The times she had been having a bad day, and May had been there.
Daisy remembered how May had put on a fake protest for years every time she had hugged her, but had never pushed her away.
Daisy pulled Sol closer. "I- don't know." She said, then bit her lip. "I just miss her so much."
"I know." Sol sniffled. "So do I." She pounced on Daisy in another crushing hug. "I love you. So much."
Daisy pulled her close. "I love you too."
June 16th 2047
Looking back, Daisy felt like she should have known as soon as she woke up. Or she should have woken earlier, sensing something was wrong. Instead she woke at her normal time, knowing that Coulson had been sleeping in more in his old age.
She went into the kitchen, pulling out the flour, eggs, milk, sugar, and chocolate chips, intent on making them both some chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. Coulson had seemed to be missing May especially the night before. Maybe some pancakes could help him feel better. Daisy missed her too, like a hole in her heart, but it helped to keep going. Sometimes, when she was at work, she would forget that May was gone. Other days it hit her like it was the first time she'd heard about it.
But she was coping. They all were. Daisy refused to stop thinking about May, she refused to forget her, but she was coping.
Daisy swallowed. "I'm making pancakes!" She called, "Come and tell me how many you want!"
It wasn't until Daisy had plated up a couple that she started to worry. She turned off the stove. "Coulson?"
When Daisy pushed opened the door to her guest room, she instantly knew that something was wrong. It was too quiet. Too cold. "Coulson?" She called, though in her heart she knew what had happened.
Daisy moved slowly towards the form in the bed. "Please." She whispered, but got no reply.
Despite her brain screaming at her not to, she let her fingers brush his neck to feel for a pulse. Tears welled up in her eyes. "Okay." Daisy murmured, gently patting his arm. "Okay."
She left, pulling her phone from her pocket. She leaned against the wall as the number dialled. "Hi," Daisy said, her voice raw, "I- my... my dad," Her voice broke, "H-he- passed away in his sleep, I-I need someone to- come collect-" She couldn't finish the sentence, but thankfully the hospital understood. Daisy nodded, tears falling down her face. "Thank you."
Daisy hung up and moved to look through the door. It was so dark. She wished he hadn't died like that. Alone in the dark. "I-I love you," She whispered, "Dad." The tears fell full force now. Daisy clung to the doorframe and part of her expected Coulson to get right up and give her a hug. He'd never let her cry alone before. Why should this be any different? Why wouldn't he just get up?
Before she totally lost control, Daisy pressed the speed dial on her phone. They picked up after two rings. "Jemma." Daisy murmured, sniffling.
"Daisy? What is it, what happened?"
Of course she knew. She'd probably worked it out by now. Daisy chewed her lip, forcing herself to speak. "Coulson- he..." She couldn't say it. "Jemma, I- I know I shouldn't ask, but I really really need you here right now." The tears increased. "Th-the ambulance hasn't even come t-to take him yet- b-but, I-"
"We'll be right there." Jemma said, "Ten minutes, I promise, just hold on."
Daisy nodded. "Thank you." She said quickly, hanging up and finally letting herself collapse to the ground.
It shouldn't feel so terrible. She thought she was ready for it. After losing May, Daisy had told herself that she should be ready for Coulson to go too. That was partly why she had insisted he come stay with her. She thought she was ready. She was wrong.
Jemma arrived right as the ambulance was leaving. Daisy watched it pull away from her doorway, struggling to keep her breathing going. She didn't want this. She wanted them back. Why wouldn't they just come back? What did she do wrong?
Daisy didn't register the footsteps until Jemma had almost bowled her over. "It's okay." Jemma whispered, squeezing Daisy tightly as they both cried. "It'll be okay."
Daisy felt a second pair of arms join in the hug. Fitz. "We're here." He murmured. "We're still here."
And even though it wasn't the same, even though it hurt more than anything else she'd ever felt, that was still something. Fitz and Jemma were still there. They could help her through it. They would help each other.
"Hey mama. You okay? You kinda disappeared on us."
Daisy looked up at Sol from the picture in her hands, blinking as if coming out of a daze. "I- yeah. I just needed a minute."
Sol swallowed, approaching Daisy slowly, smoothing her hands over her black dress as she moved. She didn't know what to say. Her mom didn't look okay, or anywhere in the near vicinity of it. She looked… defeated in a way that Sol had never seen her look before. The weight of losing Coulson and May within two months of each other was written on every inch of her body.
It made Sol feel a bit helpless to see her like that. Her mom was vibrant, funny, and optimistic even in the darkest of days- it was what made her her mom. And Sol knew she should try to comfort her somehow, but she didn't know how, and that sucked. After all her mom had done for her in the twenty-three years they'd been together, she should know what to say, how to help her. But she didn't. Everything she came up with just felt wrong.
"Y-you know you can talk to me if you need to, right?" Sol silently cursed at herself for the way her voice wavered. She hated herself for feeling so vulnerable at a moment where she needed to be strong for her mom.
Daisy frowned, her eyes finding Sol's. "Of course I do, kiddo. I just- I don't feel like talking right now. I'm feeling kind of off balance right now and needed a minute." She sniffed, rubbing at her eyes as the tears began to form. "Coulson was- he was the first person that went to bat for me, you know? He fought so hard to get me on the Bus, only a day after we met, even though May was completely against it. She didn't even like me back then; I was just an unknown variable to her. But Coulson… he always saw the best in me. No one else had ever done that, nobody had ever believed I was worth fighting for." Daisy closed her eyes, holding back the sobs that were building in her throat. She missed him so much. "He never lost faith in me, no matter how many times I gave him a reason to. It was like- like he saw me as his daughter the second he laid eyes on me. And he just- he never wavered."
Sol inhaled sharply, trying desperately to keep it together. "Grampa loved you so much, mama." She wrung her hands, contemplating how to continue. "You know, whenever I'd start to doubt that you loved me, a kid with a ton of issues that wasn't biologically related to you, I'd just watch the way he looked at you. There was always so much love there that I'd be immediately reminded of how little biology matters when it comes to family."
Daisy gave a watery smile. "It took me so long to see it." She murmured. "I don't know why. I think... I was scared."
Sol nodded pensively as Daisy returned her eyes to the picture she still held. "Can I see that?" She asked, gesturing to the frame.
Daisy remained silent, simply handing the photo to Sol.
Seeing the picture, Sol chuckled tearfully. "God, I can't believe you all were ever that young."
"I know." Daisy whispered, wiping at her eyes. "That was thirty-one years ago. Last picture we took before-" She shuddered at the memories that washed over her. The events of that year still hurt so much. "Before Bobbi and Hunter were disavowed. Before Lincoln died."
Sol shifted, unsure of what to say. She knew that Daisy loved the three of them dearly, even after all these years, but she usually didn't usually talk about them- especially about Lincoln. "I- I'm sorry I never got to meet them. They seem like they were amazing."
Daisy nodded, smiling sadly. "I'm sorry too. I wish they'd gotten the chance to meet you. They would've loved you and the rest of the kids. So would've Trip."
Suddenly self-doubt gripped at Sol. "You think so? Do you- Do you think you would have taken us in if- if Lincoln were alive? Would he have wanted us?"
Daisy smiled tenderly. "Oh Soleil. He would've taken you in the second he laid eyes on you. No questions asked. When we-" She paused, clearing her throat. She hated that knot that always formed in her chest when she talked about him. "He wanted kids. He was very clear about it from the beginning, said he didn't want us to get hurt months down the line if we didn't want the same thing. He didn't care if he had biological children- he really just wanted to adopt, like I did. He didn't care if they were inhumans, humans, little kids, or surly teenagers; Lincoln just wanted to take in kids that needed a home."
Sol's shoulders dropped slightly. Knowing calmed some of her anxieties about her mom possibly not wanting her if things had gone differently, but it also made her heart hurt, not just for her mom, but for herself and her siblings. Their mom had been more than enough. She'd been mom, dad, best friend, mentor- whoever they needed her to be. But it would've been nice to have him around. Or at least she liked the idea of it.
"I- if he were still alive, you'd probably have a lot more siblings." Daisy murmured. "I always wanted to take in more kids, but it was hard with it being just me, especially with how often I was gone because of the job. I spent so much time worrying I was neglecting the four of you, thinking that I wasn't giving each of you the attention you needed. It just wasn't feasible to have more. Having him there…" She shrugged sadly. "I don't know, I think it would've been a bit easier on all of us."
Sol nodded, biting her lip as she gave the photo a last look and passed it back to Daisy. That picture was such a stark reminder of how quickly her mom was aging, as was the way she'd winced as she stretched to grab the frame from Sol's hand.
It scared her.
Daisy looked up at her, frowning at the worried expression on Sol's face. "What is it?"
"I- Do you-" Sol paused, taking a shaky breath. "Have you considered retiring soon?"
Daisy sputtered, more shocked than anything. "Excuse me?"
Sol raised her hands in a placating manner. "Please don't be mad. I just- I know you're a few years younger than Grams and Grampa were when they retired but… you can't tell me you're in better shape than them."
"Mom, please don't try to deny it. You won't say it, but I know you hurt a lot because of what your powers have done to your bones over the years. I can see it. So can Callista, Micah and Alya. And we're worried. Especially since Alya and Micah overheard you talking to Jemma about what Doctor Griffin said about your joints being compromised and your bones showing signs of osteoporosis. And you-" She covered her mouth with her hand, choking back a sob. "You keep going out in the field, even though you're not in any shape to do that. It scares us, mom-" Another sob escaped as the tears broke free from their dam. "It scares me."
"Oh Sol." Daisy whispered, standing and reaching for Sol, drawing her into her arms.
The action only made Sol's tears fall faster and her sobs grow louder as she wrapped her arms around Daisy, burying her face in the crook of her neck.
"Soleil, listen to me. I'm not going anywhere. I'm fine." Daisy stated, keeping her voice as steady as she could. "And even if something were to happen to me, you and your siblings would be fine. I've done my job, you're all… Incredible."
Sol pulled away, wiping at her eyes and shaking her head ardently. "No! We wouldn't be! I'm- Callista's popped out three kids in five years, and she's adopted one within the same time frame! Four kids in five years! Who's going to help her with them if you get hurt? Or if you die?"
Daisy raised an amused eyebrow. She hated seeing Sol like this, but the girl was reaching. "Oh, I don't know. Maybe their stay at home dad? You remember Dev, right?"
"Fine." Sol muttered with a huff. "Then who's going to walk me down the aisle when if I get married?"
This time Daisy snorted. "Soleil… You're already married. You have been for the last sixteen years."
"Ok, then who's going to walk Alya down the aisle, huh?"
"Honey… Your sister is asexual and aromantic. She's made it clear she has no interest in getting married. Ever. And don't even try with Micah, because he's been married for years."
Daisy sighed, rubbing Sol's arm. "See? You'll all be fine."
Sol growled, exasperated. "No we won't be! I mean- who's going to help me navigate the teen years with Aurora if you're gone? I didn't have a mom until I was seventeen, and Gabe only had Robbie. We know nothing about being parents to a teenage kid because we didn't have parents to learn from when we were that age!" Her voice now had a desperate edge to it. "What happens if she goes wild and starts using drugs or something? What if we screw up and mess her up? What if-"
Rolling her eyes, Daisy reached out and grabbed Sol's shoulders, giving her a shake to snap her out of her ramble. "Listen to me. Do you think I had any idea what I was getting into with you? Or with Callista, Micah and Alya? Hell no. But I figured it out. You and Gabriel Reyes are two of the most stubborn people I know. You'll figure it out too."
Sol sniffled, wringing her shaking hands. That was it, wasn't it? That was how easily the world would keep turning when her mom left it. They'd figure it out. Like they always did, like Daisy was having to do now that May and Coulson were gone. But it didn't mean the mere thought of losing her mom because of her Daisy's own recklessness didn't paralyse her.
"What about-" Sol swallowed, blinking rapidly as a new wave of tears rolled down her face. "Who will I talk to when a mission goes south? Who'll be my mom if you're not here? P-please- Just think about it. I-I don't want to be where you are. I d-don't want to lose you. Not now, not- not soon. Please, mom."
Suddenly it wasn't forty-year-old Agent Soleil Johnson that Daisy saw standing in front of her, it was the scrawny, angry, neglected teenager that would hide behind Daisy and grab at her shirt for comfort at the first sign of conflict. It kind of socked Daisy in the gut.
Most of all, it made her feel guilty.
She'd always thought staying in SHIELD, staying in the field, was the most selfless thing she could do. Despite her health issues, her skills, both in and out of the field, were still every bit as useful now as they'd been thirty years ago. And she'd always felt like she'd owed it to SHIELD to stay with it as long as she was walking this Earth- the agency had given her the only family she'd ever known, and that was a debt she felt she couldn't repay with anything less than lifelong service.
There'd never been any doubt in her mind that she'd die there, even if it meant she'd die early and miss out on her children and grandchildren's lives.
And she'd been okay with that.
But now... Now she realized how selfish it was to stay.
Deep down, she'd always known it was.
As much as she liked to pretend staying was a selfless decision, that was only true on the surface because staying with SHIELD meant she wouldn't lose the people she loved. The agency was what had brought them, her family, together and was what had kept them together through the years. Without SHIELD… there was a possibility she'd lose them all.
She'd never forgotten how easily family after family had tossed her aside as a kid, and she'd never stopped being scared that the team and their kids would do the same.
So, in the midst of attempting to keep her family close, she'd hurt and scared her children with her selfishness.
She'd broken the one vow she'd made the day she took on the role of 'mom'.
All because she was so messed up that she'd never stopped to think that her kids might want her to stay safe, like she'd wanted May and Coulson to stay safe.
It didn't just make her feel guilty, it made her feel sick to her stomach.
Her choice was made.
Daisy had finished giving SHIELD all she could give it years ago. It would go on without her, no matter what- she'd made sure of it.
It was time.
Daisy sighed, rubbing at her eyes. "Okay. I'll retire."
Sol stilled, gaping at Daisy. She hadn't expected Daisy to concede. "W- What? You will? Are you sure?"
Daisy nodded, smiling at the disbelief on Sol's face. "Yeah. I mean, I'm as sure as I can be. Retiring is… terrifying. But you're right, it's dangerous for me to be in the field. For me and for you guys." She paused, swallowing the knot in her throat. Those had been May's exact words to her when she'd retired, and it hurt to repeat them. "And if I'm being honest, I'm tired. I have been for a while. It just… Didn't seem like a good enough reason to leave this place behind." Daisy said, gesturing around before reaching out and gently cupped Sol's cheek. "Turns out I just needed a reminder that I've had a good reason to retire all along."
A beat passed before Sol let out another sob and gathered Daisy in hug again. "I love you. Thank you, mama."
Daisy simply returned the hug, squeezing Sol as tightly as she could and staying silent as she breathed in her scent. She'd never taken her ducklings' hugs for granted- hugging them had always felt like a privilege she didn't deserve- and she wasn't about to start now. Especially today, a day in which she was so aware of how easily life changed, of how suddenly a simple 'see you tomorrow' hug could turn into a 'goodbye forever' hug.
Today, that knowledge made her want to cling on to Soleil forever.
But she couldn't.
Before long Sol was pulling away, wiping at her face and sniffling. "So what now?"
Daisy shrugged a shoulder. "Now I have to pick my successor so I can start the process. Any suggestions?"
"Mom, come on." Sol rolled her eyes. "You've known who the next director was going to be the minute she decided to join SHIELD."
Daisy snorted. Sol was right, she'd had her successor picked out for years now. "Well, then I guess I just have to let her know." She paused, looking at the frame on her desk again, her eyes falling on Jemma's smiling face in the picture. "I bet Simmons will be glad I'm finally retiring. She's been stubborn as a bull on not retiring unless I do, but it's been hard on her, especially since Fitz retired."
Sol nodded thoughtfully. She'd noticed that too. "She's been a great deputy."
"Yeah. But she's been an even better friend." Daisy smiled sadly. As long as she'd been director, it had been her and Jemma up against the world. Sure, they'd been fighting alongside each other long before they took over for May and Coulson, but heading SHIELD had only brought them closer. Just thinking about not having Jemma by her side every day made her anxious, like she was losing part of herself.
Sol frowned, noting how Daisy's mood had suddenly dropped again. She couldn't imagine what kind of storm was going on in her mother's head at the moment, considering the major life decision she'd just taken, but she could try to take her mind off of it for the time being. "Hey, why don't we go down to the common room? I bet the rest of the gang is missing us by now."
Daisy regarded her thoughtfully for a moment, before shaking her head. "Why don't you go ahead? I'll catch up in a bit. There's somewhere I want to go before I head down there."
Sol stared for a second, before relenting with a sigh. "Just don't take too long, okay? This is for Grampa."
"I know. I'll be there in a bit. I promise." She swallowed at the pain that shot through her heart at the reminder. "Could you- Could you tell Jemma to meet me at the Wall of Valor in a few minutes?"
Sol's posture softened at her words. "Yeah, I'll tell her." She moved in for another hug, wrapping her arms around Daisy and burying her face in her shoulder. "I love you."
"I love you too, kiddo." Daisy dropped a kiss into her hair, and pulled away. "Now go. They're waiting."
Sol nodded, giving Daisy a last smile before turning and disappearing through the office door.
For a few moments, Daisy just stared at the door before heaving herself away from where she was leaning on her desk with a sigh and beginning to make her way down to the lobby.
It wasn't often she willingly visited the Wall of Valor. If she was being honest, she even avoided looking at it on her way into work most mornings.
It hurt too much to look at it, to be near it.
That wall held the names of twenty-seven agents she'd lost during her time as director. Just as it held Trip and Lincoln's names.
It was just a reminder of the twenty-seven people she'd failed, and of two people she'd loved who'd sacrificed their lives for her.
So she only visited twice a year- once on the anniversary of Trip's death, and once on the anniversary of Lincoln's. To pay her respects, to remind them that she carried them in her heart every day.
But today… It just felt right to visit them.
It wasn't long before she was standing before the wall, staring at Lincoln and Trip's names, both of which sat directly beneath the inscription that read 'The journey is not from beginning to end, but rather from star to star.'
She wished she knew what to say, as she always did when she came here. But there simply weren't any words for how much she loved them, for how thankful she was to them.
She'd gotten to meet her children, her beautiful, wonderful kids, because they'd been willing to sacrifice themselves for her.
She'd never forgive herself for their deaths, but she couldn't ignore that.
She just hoped that in giving her kids a home and leading SHIELD, she'd made their sacrifices worth it.
And she hoped, she prayed that her work with SHIELD was enough to atone for her sins.
Breathing a shaky sigh as tears filled her eyes, she ran a finger over Trip's name, then Lincoln's. "I made it to the other side, you guys." Sniffling, she let out a sad chuckle. "I didn't think I would, but I did. Thanks to Soleil." Laying her palm over Lincoln's name, she shut her eyes. "I just hope I've made you two proud."
Daisy startled, whirling around quickly to find Jemma staring at her with concern from a few feet away. She'd been so lost in thought that she hadn't even heard her approaching.
Jemma took that as her cue to close the distance between them, reaching out to put a hand on Daisy's shoulder once she was close enough. "Are you alright?"
Daisy swallowed, glancing at the Wall of Valor one last time before nodding. "Yeah. I just- There's something I have to tell you…"
Daisy could still remember the first time she had done this like it was yesterday. For Trip. It hurt to admit that she had forgotten the sound of his voice, but his smile remained in her mind. She hadn't understood the purpose of it then, not really. She hadn't understood the ritual. It wasn't just remembering those that they'd lost, it was reaffirming themselves as a team. It was saying that the people that were gone had always been part of that team. It was working out what the team was now, without them.
The common area was bigger and nicer, and most of the team that had been there for Daisy's first remembrance were gone. Only her, Fitzsimmons and Mack remained now. But Sol and Callista, and all the other kids plus all the grandkids were there. It was more than enough. With a jolt, Daisy realised that she and Jemma were the oldest ones present who were still SHIELD agents. But that would all change soon.
Soon Soleil and Gabe would be the oldest active members of this team.
Jemma smiled around her glass of scotch. "Remember, not long after we'd joined, someone got you with the cream?" She asked Fitz, smiling.
Fitz snorted. "Of course." He said. "Never got Coulson to admit it."
Daisy laughed, "Yeah, no, that wasn't Coulson. It was May."
Fitz's eyes widened and his jaw dropped. "May? You're pulling my leg right? No way it was May."
Elena chuckled, taking a swing of her beer. "You better believe it. She was also the one that put purple hair dye in everyone's shampoos back in 2020."
"She was also the one who took all the screws out of the chairs in the lab in 2023." Mack said, chuckling as he put an arm around Elena and drew her to his side.
"Oh my god, it was her?! I thought that was Daisy!"
Jemma tried and failed to suppress a laugh. "Oh, Fitz. Dear, you're so oblivious."
Daisy laughed, making Fitz shoot her a withering glare.
After a moment, Jemma stilled. "Oh my god, that's why Coulson never looked into any of that! He knew!"
The others dissolved into laughter, Sol imitated the sound of a whip through her giggles.
Daisy grinned. "He was always whipped though." She said, "Way before they got together. I thought it was normal for your SO to dump ice water on you."
Sol smiled. "I remember her teaching me some self-defence. She never did that." She shot Daisy a wink. "I guess she liked me better."
Daisy rolled her eyes. "A- She wasn't your SO. B- You're just lucky I didn't do it to you."
Elena chuckled around her drink. "Ademas, I'm sure the only reason she liked you was because you were the only person shorter than her around."
Sol spluttered in mock offence. "That isn't true!"
Callista made an indignant noise from her seat on the ground. "Oh please. Like that was the reason. You know who she did dump ice water on? Me. Every single time she woke me up when I had to stay with them because mom was out of town. And I'm shorter than Sol by two inches!"
The others laughed.
"Did you know she lied on her ID card?" Fitz said, smiling at the memory.
The younger ones gaped. "What?"
Daisy laughed, "Oh my god, yes. She said she was two inches taller than she was." She snorted. "I still don't know how she swung it."
Jemma rolled her eyes. "By glaring at them, Daisy. Like you do."
"I don't glare!"
Jemma snorted incredulously. "Daisy, the Human Resources employees refuse to be in the same room as you unless I'm in there to act as a buffer."
Luz nodded in agreement with Jemma's words. "Aunt Daisy, most of the older agents that knew Grams say you inherited her glare. Some even say you improved on it."
"Ok, so maybe I glare. But I'm sure it isn't that scary."
Gabe rolled his eyes and scoffed. "When Sol told you we were dating you glared at me so hard that I half expected you to quake me to death."
Mack burst into laughter. "Seriously? I remember she came to me squealing about it right after she found out. She and Coulson had been betting on when two would get your act together for months."
"Ugh, moooom. Really?" Sol whined, playfully glaring at Daisy.
"Coulson started it." Daisy paused, shrugging sheepishly. "He was always the one that started the 'when will they get together' betting pools. Which is hilarious considering how long he and May took to get together."
Jemma gave Daisy a smirk. "Well technically you began that whole tradition, considering you started the pool on them."
Elena crossed her arms. "The only reason they took that long to get together was because May had a talent for vanishing out of rooms whenever conversations got too emotional. Just poof y se desaparecia."
Sol snorted. "Oh my god, you're right!" She exclaimed. "I remember the first time I called her 'grams', she ran out. I thought she was mad."
Daisy smiled. "Nah. She just didn't wanna cry in front of you."
Sol stared. "Aw." She said, feeling oddly touched. "Really?"
Daisy nodded. "Mm-hm. Afterward I walked in on her sniffling and beating the crap out of a gym bag."
"She did the same thing when I asked her what she thought about me naming this little one 'Mellie'." Callista added, gesturing to the sleeping baby in her arms. "I was sure she was offended or something. Until she came back into the room looking all teary and holding the monogramed baby blanket that she'd had since she was born. Then she just handed it to me and left again."
Sad chuckles rang around the room before silence fell over them, the loss making itself known.
"Wait." Celeste piped up, narrowing her eyes. "If Grams avoided emotional conversations like the plague, how did she and Grampa end up getting together?"
Daisy, Jemma and Elena shared a look, before Elena shrugged. "Coulson used a bear trap to keep her in the room."
Micah scoffed. "Yeah, ok. But really, how'd they manage to have a conversation about it?"
"Oh the bear trap bit is true. I built it myself." Fitz said, grinning behind his beer bottle.
"Ugh, dad. You're such a dork." Lyra muttered, ducking away as Fitz turned to ruffle her hair.
Andres laughed, looking around the room. "Seriously? No one has an answer?"
Daisy stood to get another beer, wincing at the painful pull in her hips as she straightened. "The truth is none of us really know how or when they got together. Let alone how your grandfather managed to tell your grandmother he loved her without having her disappear to a tiny country where nobody would find her. They loved keeping us in the dark about the details."
"But Coulson did have a way with emotional conversations, so I'm not surprised he managed it." Jemma wiped at a tear that slipped from her eye. "Even if it took him thirty years."
Sensing the drop in the mood, Roberto smiled mischievously. "Not that you and Uncle Fitz are ones to talk. Didn't it take you like twelve years to get your shit together?"
"Roberto! Language!" Jemma exclaimed as Elena swatted at her son's arm. "There are little ears in the room!"
"Oh like they don't hear worse from their Aunt Alya."
Alya sputtered in disbelief. "Hey! I'm not that bad, you little twat!"
"Children, enough, please." Daisy muttered, dropping heavily into her chair with a new beer in hand. "Now's not really the time."
They immediately quietened. "Sorry Daisy." Alya muttered. She had noticed the cloud hanging over her. Part of her hoped against hope that she would never have to go through what Daisy was going through, but another part of her knew that she would. Some day. She'd noticed how Daisy was slowing, how there was pain constantly written in her movements these days. It scared her. She swallowed. "Remember grams teaching us 'the right way' to climb trees?" She asked Lyra and Micah.
They both grinned. "Yeah." Lyra said. "Never thought I'd see a seventy year old climbing trees."
Micah laughed. "And Grampa running around under the tree, he was so scared we'd fall."
"I dunno." Alya smiled. "You didn't see Grams' face when I almost slipped. I don't know if I'd ever seen her look that scared."
Daisy shook her head. "She would have been so upset if any of you had gotten hurt." She said. "He was just being the worry wart for her. He always let her be the cool one."
Elena laughed. "Even though they were both nerds."
"True." Jemma acknowledged.
Fitz chuckled. "Remember those suit pyjamas you got him?" He said to Daisy, not noticing how downcast she looked at the memory.
Jemma giggled. "It was meant to be a joke, but he wore them all the time. May was so annoyed."
Sol grinned. "She loved them really."
"No, she loved Coulson." Elena corrected.
Jemma noticed how Daisy's eyes were fixed on the floor, her shoulders hunched over. "Daisy is something wrong?"
Daisy felt all the eyes in the room turn to her, and she swallowed the lump in her throat. "No." She said softly. "It's fine."
Sol gently took her hand. "Mom?"
Daisy looked at Soleil. Just like when May had died, she saw the echoes of her in Sol. Echoes of Coulson. Of everyone they had lost. She bit her lip to keep from crying. "I-... when I- found him," She said quietly. "He was," She sniffled, "Wearing those dumb PJ's."
Sol smiled and squeezed her hand. Daisy tilted her face upwards towards the ceiling to keep the tears from spilling over. "God, I miss them so much." She muttered.
Sol wrapped her arms around her, quickly followed by Micah, Alya and Callista. "We love you." Callista murmured, trying not to cry. She couldn't imagine a world without those two. Coulson and May. Grampa and Grams. She couldn't believe they were both gone so quickly.
Daisy smiled tearfully. "I love you guys too." She murmured. "All of you."
It was hours before any of them left. First Mack and Elena went, excusing themselves as it was getting late. Daisy teased them for acting like old people, but it felt hollow. Jemma and Fitz hugged her in turn, and Daisy squeezed them tightly. She was so grateful that she still had her friends. She didn't know how she would get by without them.
Daisy wasn't sure how long she had been talking with the remaining people when she remembered how she had felt all those years ago. She had been so scared of losing May and Coulson, so scared that they would leave her all alone. Instead they had left her with this.
They were gone, and it hurt more than Daisy could have ever imagined. Yet she looked around and saw everything that they had helped build. She saw Soleil, Micah, Alya, Callista, Lyra and Celeste, Andres, Roberto, Luz, and all their children. She'd always wanted a family, but Daisy never expected to have one like this. A family that was big and loving and perfect and always had room for someone new, someone who needed them. The kind of family that Daisy had needed so desperately when she was a child. And even thought it hadn't been there then, Daisy was so happy that it was now. She was happy that they had helped Soleil, and that now Soleil and Gabe could help Aurora. Maybe one day Aurora would help someone else, Daisy thought, watching the girl snuggle into her mother's side.
"Hey." Micah moved closer to her, leaning against Daisy's shoulder. "You okay?"
Daisy thought of how she was never going to hear their voices again, and tears welled up in her eyes. "No." She murmured, wrapping an arm around him. "But I can keep going."
Micah kissed her cheek. "Love you mom."
Daisy sniffled and smiled. "Love you too. And I love this little guy." She tapped Wyatt's nose, resulting in a giggle from the toddler. "Have you and Tim been assigned a court date for the official adoption yet?"
Micah smiled at the interaction. The little boy adored his grandmother, even though he'd only known her a few weeks. "Yeah. July second. On your birthday." Noting how Daisy's eyes filled with tears again, he paused. "Oh hey, we can reschedule. I'm sorry, I thought-"
"Oh, Micah. Hush." Daisy interjected, wiping at the tears under her eyes before reaching to run her hand through Wyatt's short hair. "These are happy tears, you dummy. I can't imagine a better birthday gift than little Wyatt officially becoming a part of our family officially."
Micah breathed a sigh of relief, tugging Daisy closer into his side. "Okay, okay, good. I was going to freak out. And god knows Tim's already freaking out enough for the both of us."
Daisy chuckled, leaning her head against Micah's shoulder. She knew how nerve wracking the adoption process could be, especially in the days leading up to signing the official papers. "I know it's impossible not to worry, but try not to. You and that amazing husband of yours are that little boy's parents, no matter what a piece of paper says. The judge will recognize that."
"Thanks, mom." Micah's voice was thick with emotion. "I really do love you, you know?"
"So do I!" Callista chimed in, plopping onto the couch and snuggling into Daisy's side with a smiling Mellie in her arms. "I love you lots. I'm still 'meh' on Micah though, he's a liiiittle too annoying."
"Bite your tongue, little sis. You know you love me."
Fighting a smile, Callista hummed. "Nah."
"Lil bit?" Micah asked, making sure to give Callista his best pout.
"Lil bit." She admitted, rolling her eyes.
Daisy's heart suddenly squeezed painfully. She'd heard so many similar exchanges between May and Coulson. It hurt to hear it coming from her kids when she knew that she'd never hear that exchange happen between them again, but at the same time… It made her feel warm. It reminded her that they were still here. Not physically, not in any shape or form that Daisy would ever be able to hug or talk to again. But they lived on in all their hearts, and in all they'd taught their 'kids' and their grandkids. Their legacy was so much more than just what they'd left behind as agents- it was a family that they'd helped raise.
"Mama, you okay?" Callista nudged Daisy's arm gently. "Did we say something wrong?"
"No. I- I'm okay." Daisy sniffled, wiping at her nose with her sleeve. "I just- I was just thinking of how good you all are and how much your grandparents had to do with that."
"You had a lot to do with that too, Daisy." Alya said, looking up from where she'd been coloring with Jiya and Abigail. "If you hadn't been around… who knows where we'd all be. Especially those of us that were in the system."
"You kids would've found a way to come out on the other side. You always have, even long before we found you. Which is how I know you'll all be fine now that I'm retiring."
A collective gasp rang around the room, and the younger kids fell silent.
Alya took a sharp breath, shaking off the shock. "I'm sorry, what the hell? Mom, when did you decide this?!"
Soleil and Daisy shared a somber look. Just like that, the end of an era had come knocking.
"This morning, after the funeral. Soleil came to talk to me about it and I-I decided it's time. I've been with SHIELD for thirty-four years, and I've been director for almost twenty-three of those years. I just- I think I've given it all I can, you know?" Daisy paused. The next part wasn't as easy to admit. "And my body… all inhuman powers come with a price and I'm finally starting to pay it, I guess. I hurt all the time now. Everywhere, just constantly. It makes it impossible to train regularly, so I'm no longer able to keep up with you in the field, even when the pain takes a day off. I don't- I'm not that director, guys. The only reason I've stayed sane is by going out in the field regularly, I can't just sit at a desk pushing paper and red tape. I- It's time, that's all."
A brief silence lapsed, before Micah placed a hand on Daisy's forearm, a concerned look on his face. "You're sure about this, mom?
Daisy took his hand, smiling reassuringly. "Yeah. I- I'm done. It's been a long few decades and it's time to pass the baton."
Alya looked down, swallowing the lump in her throat. She'd met Daisy because of SHIELD, and part of her worried her and Daisy's relationship wouldn't last without it. She wasn't like Sol, Micah and Callista- she didn't call Daisy 'mom' all the time, she'd run away multiple times after Daisy'd taken her in, and she'd refused to be officially adopted. She couldn't help the sinking feeling that once SHIELD was out of the equation for Daisy, she'd lose her family. "I- we'll still see you though, right?"
Daisy softened. She knew exactly what Alya was getting at, and it broke her heart that after all these years her kid would still doubt how much Daisy loved her. But she understood it. Being shuffled around, told you didn't matter, the way they'd been… It didn't go away. Ever.
She'd talk to Alya about it later. Find some way to reassure her that she wouldn't leave her.
"Of course." She said, a soft, nervous smile on her face. Alya wasn't the only one that was afraid she'd lose her family once Daisy left SHIELD, she was too. "I-I was actually thinking I could pick up Grams and Grampa's dinners, i-if that's okay." She rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly. "I know I'm not that good a cook, but- I can order a mean take-out."
The others laughed. "I could cook." Callista offered. "Grampa taught me. He was always saying I needed to learn so I could survive you."
Daisy feigned offense. "I'm not that bad!"
Sol snorted. "Just because you're not as bad as Grams, doesn't mean you're not bad."
Daisy rolled her eyes good naturedly, throwing her hands up in defeat. "Fine, I'll admit that cooking isn't part of my skill set."
Andres frowned. "Wait… If you retire, doesn't that mean Aunt Jemma is retiring too? I mean, she's always been adamant about not leaving you to the wolves, but she's been ready to retire since Uncle Fitz did years ago… So who'll replace you? Soleil?"
Sol choked on the tea she'd been downing, coughing as the liquid went down the wrong pipe. "Are you kidding me?!" She wheezed. "No! Never in a million years!"
Lyra clapped Sol on the back, laughing as she did so. "Oh thank god. No offense, but you're not exactly the director type." Sol opened her mouth indignantly, but Lyra waved her off. "But if not you, then who?"
Dasiy smiled. "Luz."
Luz gasped. "What? Me estás jodiendo, right? There's no reason for you to pick me."
Daisy chuckled, rolling her eyes good naturedly. Of course she couldn't see it. For all the confidence Elena had, Luz constantly doubted her own abilities. But the truth was, even though she was eight years younger than Daisy had been when she had taken over as director, she was just as prepared. "There's plenty of reasons to pick you, kid. Trust me, I wouldn't have chosen you otherwise."
"I don't- Wow-" Luz swallowed, trying to bring her heart rate back down to normal levels. "I don't know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything. Not right now anyway. You don't have to take it, but the job is yours if you want it." Noting the still unsure look on Luz's face, she sighed. "Look, Luz, I've known you since you were born. Literally, considering I was in the delivery room when you came into this world. There's never been any doubt in my mind that you're destined to lead. Which is why as director I think you're the right choice for this, but as your Aunt Daisy I know you're perfect for the job. So just- think about it."
Luz nodded, her eyes suspiciously misty, before she launched at Daisy, nearly making her topple out of her seat as she wrapped her arms around her neck. "Thank you."
Daisy leaned into the hug, wrapping her arms around Luz as tightly as she could, only pulling away to wipe at her eyes. "You and Callista will make a formidable team."
"Wait, what?! Me?" Callista paused to smile at Mellie as the little girl giggled at her mother's loud voice, before looking back to Daisy. "I don't even know what to say… Except maybe 'do you think you can stop dropping bombshells for the rest of the year now?'"
"Oh please. There's nothing bombshell-y about you as the deputy director, Callista. Or about Luz as the director for that matter." Celeste chimed in. "You both spend as much time in mum and Aunt Daisy's offices as you do in the field. And you actually like the work that goes into being director." She shuddered at the thought. "Talk about weird."
Laughter rang around the room at that. Celeste, as always, was right. Luz and Callista had been interested in the comings and goings of running the agency long before they'd become agents. The only people that were shocked by them being offered the positions of director and deputy were themselves.
Luz and Callista looked at each other hesitantly, an unspoken communication passing between them.
"I- we'll think about it." Luz said.
Callista nodded. "Yeah, don't run off just yet."
Daisy smiled. "You've got time. I won't retire immediately. There's a… lengthy process that goes into transference of power in SHIELD. It'll last a few months, no matter who takes the job. But I think I'm officially retired from the field now." She said, trying to ignore the wave of grief that hit her. She didn't really know how to say goodbye to the agency that had helped her find a home, a family. "Please remember you don't have to take it. I think you'd be good for the job, but if you don't want it then don't take it. I won't think any less of either of you."
Callista smiled too. "Thanks mama." She murmured, then hugged her tightly. Luz quickly joined. "Yeah, thanks aunt Daisy."
Daisy felt the tears well up again and struggled not to cry. "You'll be great, no matter what you do." She said, "And... if you want to lead," Coulson's words echoed in her mind, "Well, you've got some good agents in your corner."
April 13th, 2061
Daisy liked to rise early. More often than not, she found herself waking at five, wide awake and ready for the day, so it had become a tradition in recent years to go and watch the sun rise. Initially, it had just been her and the sunrise, her moment of silence before the day truly began. But later on it had taken a nice turn when, one morning, Soleil had joined her. And every morning since.
The sunrise was beautiful, but it also held a familiarity that made Daisy feel safe and loved. She remembered training with May one morning, outside, shortly after SHIELD had fallen. It had been so cold she'd been sure that her toes would get frostbitten, but the sunrise was still magical. But the sunrise wasn't what had made the memory stick with her all these years, it hadn't been what had made the morning special. What had made that day, that sunrise, so special had been sharing tea with May as they warmed up afterward. It was the first time she'd really felt close to the woman she would come to see as her mother.
Daisy didn't train now, she hadn't in a number of years. Instead she shuffled stiffly onto the deck with her cane, sinking into one of the comfortable chairs Soleil had bought. She denied that they were for Daisy, but she knew that they were. She was grateful.
Daisy took a deep breath of the morning air. There was a sweetness to it, still. The light from the still hidden sun was slowly illuminating the trees, the dewdrops clinging to the grass. Daisy shifted when she heard the now familiar footsteps puttering around in the kitchen. A minute later, Sol sat down beside her, handing her a cup of tea and a blanket to drape over her legs. "It's pretty this morning." Sol murmured.
Daisy smiled. "It is." She said, voice a little weaker that she usually liked. She must be more tired than she thought.
The two sat in silence for a little while, watching the light crawl over the horizon. Daisy blew gently on her tea, the steam swirling in the morning air. She smiled at the patterns it formed and took a sip. It was just like the tea she had drank with May all those years ago.
May. Daisy wasn't sure how she could still miss her so much after so many years. Coulson. May. Dad. Mom.
As if she had read her mind, Sol spoke. "It's the anniversary." She said softly. "Of May…"
Daisy nodded taking another sip of tea. "I never forgot."
"Oh- no, I didn't mean that you had, I just-" Sol sighed. "It feels…" She trailed off.
"I know." Daisy murmured. "It's been so long. Mellie doesn't remember them. It's so strange to think."
Sol smiled. "Grampa would have loved her."
Daisy smiled. "He would have spoiled her rotten." She said. "And he did love her. They both did." She looked down. "They just didn't have that much time with her." She took a laboured breath, "I hate that your Grams never even got to meet Wyatt, but she knew he was coming… and I think was enough to make her love him."
Sol looked away. "Sometimes," She murmured, "I like to think that they're watching us. Wherever they are." She laughed softly. "Whenever I do something dumb on a mission I think of them shouting at me."
Daisy sighed. "It's a nice thought."
"You don't think they are."
"I don't know." Daisy said softly. "I'd like for them to be. I like to think they're not so far away. That- some day, I'll see them again. Hear their voices. But... I just don't know." Her eyes felt heavy. "There was this one nun when I was growing up... I can't remember her name. But she always said that God is love." Daisy swallowed weakly. "And- if that's true... I think they'd stay close by." A tear rolled down her cheek. "I think they'd want to stay with us." She hesitated. "I'd want to stay with you."
Sol put her hand on Daisy's, her heart feeling like it was swelling with emotion. "I know mama."
Daisy smiled weakly. She wanted to hold Sol's hand, but she felt suddenly faint. "I love you." She murmured, letting her eyes flicker shut for a moment.
What was that? The voice sounded familiar. Was it in the distance? In her mind? After a moment, Daisy recognised it. She had never realised that she had forgotten the sound of her voice. "Mom," She mumbled, "You're here."
Oh. So now was her time.
Surprisingly, she didn't want to fight it. She was tired, worn down by a long life full of happiness and sorrow. Trip and Lincoln. May and Coulson. And now Mack and Elena. All she had left of them now were memories. Some ancient, some more recent. But still, now they only remained in fleeting memories, some of which were starting to escape her.
After the universe had taken Mack and Elena… it had felt like an ending.
Like the sun had begun to set for her one last time.
Her life… Everything felt complete.
Now it was their grandkids' turn to save the world.
"Mama?" Sol's voice felt so far away. "Are you okay?"
Daisy forced her eyes open. "It's okay." She murmured weakly. "It'll be okay Sol."
Tears swam in Sol's eyes. "Mama?"
"It's okay." She whispered again. Fingers combed through her hair, and Daisy knew right away who that was. 'Dad.'
She didn't know when she closed her eyes again. She didn't know if she had. But they were here. She was warm, she was loved, and she would see Sol and all the others some day. And they were here now. Coulson, May. Dad, mom. She could see them. She could feel them. They looked exactly like they had the day they had met. And they were smiling, May in her flight vest, Coulson in the same old suit he had worn until the day he died.
Something stopped her though. The thought of all her kids, alone, with no parents to speak of if she was gone. Sol, raising her own kid and grandchildren, Callista running SHIELD and juggling her family, Micah and Alya going on missions alone. She couldn't just leave them.
But something stopped her from letting go immediately, from running into their arms. The thought of her kids, alone, with no parents to speak of if she was gone.
Sol, Micah, Alya and Callista.
She couldn't just leave them.
Then, barely there, a voice in the distance. Familiar and tearful and brave. Soleil. "It's okay mama." She said. "If you need to go- we'll be okay. Me, Callista, Micah and Alya... We all love you and- we always will. You can go, w-we'll be okay."
Daisy smiled. Sol was right. They would be fine.
The house phone rang early that morning, the loud sound startling Fitz as he poured his and Jemma's breakfast tea. "Jemma, do you mind getting that? I don't want to leave the stove unattended."
There was a rustle as Jemma moved down the stairs and grabbed the phone, checking the caller ID. "Oh, it's Soleil. I wonder why she's calling so early." She hit the answer button and put the phone up to her ear. "Soleil, how are you, dear?"
Fitz couldn't help the sudden chill that ran through his heart. Soleil never called in the morning unless something had happened to Celeste or Lyra on a mission.
Jemma's face suddenly fell as she listened to whatever Sol was saying, only increasing the dread Fitz was feeling, making his hands shake as he continued making breakfast in an attempt to keep calm.
"Oh, no. Soleil… I don't know what to say. Did they already-" Jemma cut off, remaining quiet for a few moments as Sol spoke on the other end of the line. "Alright… Are you sure you don't want to come over? Or that you don't want us to come to you?" Once again, Jemma paused. "Only if you're sure. But please, Soleil, call us if you need anything. Day or night. It doesn't matter. We love you."
Then it hit him. It couldn't be.
Jemma ended the call and slowly turned towards him, still gripping the phone tightly in her hand, tears in her eyes and a stricken expression colouring her features. She opened her mouth to speak, only to snap it shut as the words wouldn't form.
Fitz swallowed. "She- Daisy- She's gone isn't she?"
A sob broke free from Jemma's throat, a hand coming up to cover her mouth as she nodded.
"Oh, Jemma. Come here." He extended his arms to her, inviting her into his embrace as his own tears began to run down his face.
Jemma fell into his arms easily, burying her face in his chest, sobbing in earnest. "S-she's g-gone, Fitz. S-she can finally rest now." She gasped, nearly choking on the grief. "Oh god. I-I don't know how to- I d-don't remember how to live without her." She pulled back, only enough to be able to look up at him. "W-what do we do now, Fitz? H-how do w-we live without h-her?"
Fitz's bottom lip trembled. "I-I don't know, Jemma. I g-guess we try to look forward, while keeping h-her in our hearts."
Jemma nodded and snuggled her head into the crook of his neck, sniffling. "We did it, Fitz."
Fitz frowned, confused by her words. "Did what?"
"We never left her." Jemma let out a shaky breath. "She- she never had to lose us. J-just like we promised all those years ago."
Fitz let out a sob against Jemma's hair. Trust the love of his life to find the light where there seemingly was none. "What did Soleil say? How are her and the others doing?"
Jemma hiccupped. "I didn't get to ask about the others, but Soleil said she'd be okay, that she had Aurora."
Fitz managed a smile amongst the tears, hugging Jemma tighter.
In that moment, the meaning of Aurora's name wasn't lost on him.
A new dawn.
The universal sign that the sun would rise in the sky again.