Physical therapy was officially the worst. May would rather fight another legion of robots that have to deal with this for one more second. She was tired. She was cranky. And she was bored of doing this alone. May didn't think she had yet recovered from the Framework. From the loneliness that had followed her for every step she had taken in there. She'd been so alone. No friends, no family. No Daisy, Jemma, Elena, no kindhearted Fitz. No Phil.
"Hey." Coulson said softly, standing in the doorway to the gym. "How's it going?"
May looked up from the parallel bars she was walking between. "Frustrating." She muttered, but there was no venom in her eyes.
Phil approached. "Do you need those? I didn't think it was that bad."
She shrugged. "Simmons insisted. I didn't bother arguing."
Phil cocked his head. "You?" He smiled. "Wow, you must be worse than I thought."
May shot him a half-hearted glare, but relented. "This is harder than I expected." She said softly, continuing to slowly step. "I was running on adrenaline on the sub. This is... different."
Feeling bold, Phil put his hand over hers on the bar. "I'm here to help."
To his surprise, Melinda smiled. "Thank you."
He smiled back and moved with her. "You don't seem as annoyed at this as you'd usually be." Phil noted. "Remember that time you broke your leg?"
"Yeah." Phil grinned. "You were so mad."
She glared again. "It was your fault."
He held up his hands. "I take full responsibility." Melinda shook her head, but she still didn't seem as mad as she normally would be. "Seriously, you're allowed to be frustrated about this."
May shrugged. "I'm not though." She murmured, reaching the end of the bars where Phil was waiting. "I'm home."
She smiled at him and took his hands for support and Phil wanted to kiss her. He swallowed. "Yeah." He said softly. "You are."
Phil's eyes were so warm that a weak part of her wanted to fake a fall and collapse into his arms. She didn't though. Instead May started to turn. "Little help?"
Phil gently guided her around. "I'm right behind you." Ready to catch her if she fell.
Melinda was glad that her back was to him. It hid the dopey grin that kept breaking through her defences. She'd always liked being close to Phil, but things felt different now. He still hadn't told her what her LMD duplicate had done, but she was pretty sure that it was more than attempt to kill him.
Maybe that thought should make her nervous. Scared. But the way Phil had been acting around her didn't exactly make her think that he didn't feel the same. It looked like it was the opposite actually, but she hadn't broached the topic. It was way more fun to watch him squirm.
Phil swallowed, watching the back of Melinda's head. She was back. She was real, and Phil had never been so happy to have her there with him. He followed as she stiffly moved along the bars, taking in her movements, her arms, the way her hair got wavy when she let it grow this long.
"You're staring." There was a playful note in her voice and Phil grinned.
"No I'm not."
"You're going to burn a hole in my head if you stare any more."
"You're right in front of me, what do you want me to do?"
"So you are staring."
"Sure." Phil could see the slight quaking of her shoulders and realised she was silently laughing. At him.
He smiled. "I'm glad you're back."
The grin came back full force. "Me too." Melinda said softly, pausing in her walking.
Phil's hands came up to catch her in case she fell. "Are you okay? Do you need to stop?"
May took a breath, rotating her shoulders. "I'm okay Phil." She said, "Just need a second."
"Right." He muttered, looking away. "Sorry for being a worry wart."
"It's okay." Melinda murmured, starting to move again. "It's... sweet." She'd always thought so. And even if the thought of them becoming... them still frightened her a little, she should drop him a couple of hints. Sure, she was scared, but that didn't mean it wouldn't be worth it.
Phil smiled, following. "You always said I was being stupid." He teased gently. "Now I'm sweet?"
May was glad that he couldn't see her face. The embarrassment. She bit her lip. "I never said you couldn't be both."
Phil laughed softly. "Wow, thanks." He said, playfully poking her in the side. "That's almost a compliment."
Melinda grinned, and continued to smile slightly as she reached the end of the bars and turned again. "One more?"
Phil nodded. "Sounds good." He tried not to openly stare, but she looked so beautiful. Her eyes shining with something that Phil could almost identify, the way she smiled with her whole face, how she blew a strand of hair out of her face. He mentally shook himself before Melinda noticed.
After a moment it started to feel uncomfortable, and he chuckled awkwardly. "Hi."
Melinda smiled. "Hi." She said, letting her eyes skim over him. Everything was so familiar. Phil. Her best friend. He was... everything.
Suddenly May hissed in pain, letting go of the bars. Phil caught her, holding her up. "Woah, you okay?"
She nodded, grimacing and rolling her shoulders. "Shoulder cramp, it's fine."
"You should take a break."
"After this one." She promised.
Phil sighed. "At least let me help." He said, moving to grasp her forearms. "The bars are a little wide."
May rolled her eyes. "Mother hen." She muttered, but she wrapped her hands around his nonetheless.
"Some people think it's sweet."
She snorted and he grinned, walking backwards again and letting Melinda's grip on his hands get tighter. Even though her movements were stiff, there was a grace there. The echoes of a lifetime of martial arts, ice skating and tai chi. That elegance never really went away.
Phil didn't notice how deeply he was looking into her eyes, nor did he notice that she was looking back just as intensely. The first thing he was aware of was his foot catching on one of the bars, causing him to lose his balance and topple over backwards, taking them both to the ground.
Phil grunted as the air was forced from his lungs, then panicked when he realised that he had taken Melinda down with him. "May? Oh God, are you okay?! I'm so sorry, I didn't- it was an accident, I-"
His questions came to a sudden stop when Coulson became aware of a sound. A familiar, but rare sound to hear from Melinda. Laughter. Phil stared in a stunned silence as she lay beside him, trying to muffle her laughter behind one hand. She was so beautiful.
May gasped for air. "I-I'm the one who's meant to need physical therapy." She managed to say in between giggles. "Sure you don't need to join me?"
When she looked up and saw the way Phil was looking at her, Melinda suddenly felt self-conscious. "What?"
He shrugged, not losing the lovesick half grin. "I can't remember the last time I saw you laugh."
May smiled softly and shrugged, letting her head rest in the crook of his neck. "I'm just glad I'm back. With you." It was true. She felt... lighter.
Phil pressed a kiss to her cheek. "Me too." He murmured, then shifted. "Do you want to get up?"
May bit the inside of her lip. This was it. "No." She said softly, shifting closer to him. "I'm good."
She hesitated. "Yeah." She murmured, then looked up at him.
Phil smiled and cocked his head. "Can I try something?" He asked quietly, eyes glimmering. "Just for a second."
May smiled in that knowing way and beat him to it, bracing one hand against the floor in order to move enough to press her lips against his.
She felt Phil smile and did too, let one of his hands wrap around her back and the other bury itself in her hair to deepen the kiss, eventually giving up on any pretence of holding herself up and falling onto his chest, forcing the air from both their lungs.
They broke apart, foreheads gently touching. Coulson laughed. "Okay." He said softly. "I can work with that."
Melinda raised and eyebrow, then smirked. "You kissed the robot, didn't you?"