a.n. So I didn't do Mack because I really don't feel confident writing him. I'll definitely give him a go at some point, but lately I've been feeling like I've lost my motivation to write, so this was kind of an exercise in getting that going.

Even after so many years in the field, so many missions gone wrong and injuries suffered, Melinda May hated blood loss with a vengeance. Even as a cadet and even now she suffered far more than most specialists would after taking a bullet or a knife and bleeding for a while. She knew why. She didn't like it though.

Her size didn't hold her back in a fight, nor in any other aspect of her job, but when it came to blood loss it didn't take a lot to lay her low.

That said, it didn't mean that any time she lost any blood she needed to be put under house arrest for three days.

The only thing which was keeping her in bed at that moment was the steely look in Jemma's eyes. And the knowledge that Jemma wouldn't be there all day. "I'm fine." May muttered, crossing her arms.

Jemma raised an eyebrow. "You are not fine, you fell unconscious from blood loss."

"Only for a second."

Jemma tisked in displeasure. "You're lucky you don't need a transfusion. As it is you just need to keep your fluids up and stay in bed."

May said nothing, but she was pretty sure her defiance came across loud and clear.

Jemma's eyes narrowed. "And to make sure you stay there, the others have agreed to sit with you in shifts over the next few days."

May sat up, annoyed. "I don't need a babysitter." She growled.

"No," Jemma agreed. "You need several, apparently."

She huffed. "Daisy will let me out."

Now Jemma smiled in a sweet, somewhat terrifying manner. "Of course, she could." She said, "But if she did, she'd be in a lot of trouble for putting you in danger. I wouldn't be surprised if she were kept from going out on missions for a month."

May stared at her, processing what Jemma had done. "You're diabolical."

Jemma's smile changed to be a touch more genuine. "Well, you were a good teacher." She said. "Now drink your juice."

-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-

She wasn't sulking. Melinda May did not sulk. She was just annoyed, and ever so slightly impressed. Jemma had played her.

Daisy kept giving her a bemused smile, lounging in the chair across the room. "We can go out, seriously." She said. "I can make sure Jemma's not around if you wanna go for a walk."

Daisy either didn't know about Jemma's threat or was being incredibly blasé about it. "It's fine." May muttered. She wouldn't have the others get in trouble because of her.

Daisy laughed softly. "Come on, you never stay in bed, especially over something like this."

"I don't want a chauffeur."

Daisy rolled her eyes. "Friend May, I'm your friend." She joked. "But suit yourself, I'll do my paperwork if it makes you happy."

May said nothing and went back to the book that Fitz had given her for her birthday. It wasn't bad, but reading was never one of her favourite things to do.

It had to have been at least an hour when she noticed the slowing of Daisy's breathing. She looked up to confirm what she already knew to be true and saw Daisy asleep in the chair, her paperwork loosely gripped in one hand.

Melinda sighed, caught between frustration and concern. Daisy had seemed tired lately. She deserved some rest.

But her taking a nap right now was just plain annoying. There was nothing stopping her from walking right out the door. Nothing but the knowledge that Daisy would suffer if she did and when did Jemma become so evil?

She almost wanted to throw her book at Daisy in her anger, but didn't. Instead the book remained in her hands as May watched her sleep. Daisy looked so young and innocent and... tired. She needed rest, and if she had to sit there in total silence in order for her to get it, May would.

Grudgingly.

At least her room was warm and Daisy rarely had trouble getting comfortable. All May could do now was sit in bed and rest.

How had she been reduced to this? Laid low by a snoozing hacker and a biochemist? She really was going soft, but it was too late to resist it now. Instead she just went back to her book, hating the open door more and more with every passing second.

Eventually she hit her limit on reading and, after dog-earing the page, put the book down none too gently.

Unfortunately it didn't seem like Daisy was in a very deep sleep, and even that noise caused her to jerk awake in the chair. "Crap!" She said stuffily, looking around. "I shouldn't have... you're still here."

May shrugged.

Daisy frowned. "Uuh... why are you still here?"

"You want me to go?" May asked, going for annoyance but missing the mark and hitting defensive instead.

Daisy cocked her head. "No." She said curiously. "But you never just do what Simmons says when she wants you to stay in bed. What gives?"

May crossed her arms. "Nothing."

Daisy laughed. "Please. If you broke your legs I'd still catch you trying to crawl to the gym."

May had to acknowledge that she had a point, but she didn't say anything. Daisy would only laugh at her.

Daisy scooted the chair closer so that she could tug at her arm. "Come on, what's going on? I've got hours to bug you about it so you might as well tell me now."

She huffed. Daisy had proven many times that she would definitely annoy her until May gave her an answer. "Simmons... threatened me." May muttered, not sure if that would be enough.

Daisy coughed a surprised laugh. "Right, Simmons scared you enough to make you stay in bed."

"She can be intimidating."

"Not to you." Daisy's eyes narrowed as she looked at May's stubborn form. She was still hiding something, that much was clear. And threats had never worked on May before. A grin tugged at Daisy's lips as a thought occurred to her. "Did Jemma threaten you?" She asked, "Or was it more of a hostage kind of thing?"

When May said nothing, Daisy's smile grew. "Would I get in trouble if you snuck out on my watch?" She asked, and knew she had hit gold when May shrugged and refused to look at her.

Daisy bit her lip to keep from laughing. "Wow," She grinned, feeling a rush of affection for May. "Jemma got you good, huh?"

"Shut up." May muttered, the humiliation creeping up her neck. She hated this. Being reduced to this.

Daisy fiddled with her hands, weighing the decision to speak. "It's really sweet of you to stay though. Especially when I dozed off like that." She wet her lips. "I guess I'm trying to say... thanks."

May looked at her out of the corner of her eye, trying to figure out whether Daisy was still teasing her or not. When she found only a hint of amusement in Daisy's eyes, she sagged and smiled a little. It was kind of funny that Jemma had played her like that. "You're welcome."

Daisy smiled. "I'm- glad you're okay." She murmured. "When you were out... you kind of scared us."

"I'm okay now."

"I know." Daisy said. She smirked. "But it's not like you've got that much blood to lose, huh?"

May narrowed her eyes playfully. "What are you trying to say?"

Daisy giggled. "I think you know, tiny." She grinned, then scooted away with a laugh when May grabbed at her. "Aww, can't you reach me?" She said, loving the way May glared at her. Yeah, she was gonna pay for this eventually, but for now it was fun to just spend time with her.

-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-

Fitz didn't talk as much as Daisy, and May was grateful for that. She loved Daisy, but she had to admit that the blood loss made it hard to concentrate on what she was saying. Fitz was good, and he was quiet. May had noticed his proud little smile when he saw the book on her nightstand. Fitz was unobtrusive, and she appreciated that.

May spent a few hours floating in and out of consciousness, fighting sleep mostly from habit. When she woke it was to see Fitz tinkering with one of his projects, biting his tongue in concentration. It made him look so young. He was still so young. It was easy to forget sometimes.

She wasn't sure if Fitz noticed her watching him once she woke up in a daze. If he did he didn't say anything, and May was grateful for that.

A few minutes later she started to squirm a little under the duvet, trying to push herself into a sitting position and swinging her legs around, socked feet just brushing the floor.

Fitz did look up then, immediately putting his project aside. "No, what are you doing?!" He exclaimed, hurrying over to the bed and trying to keep her from removing the heart rate monitor. "You can't get up, Jemma will kill me!"

May nudged his hand aside but didn't get up yet. She rolled her eyes. "Fitz, I need the bathroom."

Fitz flushed. "Oh- yeah, of course." He hesitated, reaching for her. "Let me help you."

May pushed him aside gently. "I've got it." She said, pushing herself to her feet.

Unfortunately it was made immediately clear that she had not actually got it, and it only took a few steps for her knees to buckle.

"Woah, hey-" Fitz caught her before she hit the ground and May hated that he was the only thing stopping her from collapsing. "Gotcha."

May didn't say anything as Fitz helped guide her to the bathroom, but she knew he saw the look on her face. The humiliation that she couldn't really hide. Fitz sighed softly. "It's okay to need help you know."

"I know." May murmured, "But this is a little much." She pulled her arm free from around his shoulders to grip the towel rail. "I think I've got it from here." She said, and was amused despite herself at the relieved sigh Fitz gave in response.

Fitz took a step outside, ready to close the door. "Shout when you need me."

Even standing back up was a struggle, but May was determined to make it to the door. Fitz jumped when she opened it and immediately moved to help her, wrapping one arm around her side and letting May drape hers around his shoulders. "I won't tell anyone." He said quietly.

"Thank you." May murmured.

Fitz hesitated, trying to figure out what to say. If he even should say anything. "I know this sucks." He finally said. "But- you helped me when I couldn't do... anything. I couldn't even think straight."

"It wasn't an I owe you Fitz."

"I know." He said. "But- you know I don't think less of you for needing help."

May hummed in response, but didn't say anything else. When they reached the bed she let Fitz help her swing her legs up, and he didn't say anything when she let her arm around his shoulders tighten in the closest thing she could get to a hug right now.

Sometimes it was too hard to ask, but it was nice to know that her team was there, no matter what.

-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-

May was a lot more awake by the time Elena showed up, and she was glad for that. Elena wasn't as chatty as Daisy or as quiet as Fitz, but she had a good sense of humour and never pushed too hard.

That said, it seemed like she'd gotten Daisy or Jemma to spill the beans on her situation, and May could see in her eyes that she was laughing at her. "Simmons really wants you to stay in bed?"

May rolled her eyes. "She's a mother hen."

Elena snickered. "If it were me I could go wherever I wanted, she would not know."

"I wouldn't put it past her to lock you inside your room."

"Or tie me down."

"I don't know if she'd go that far."

Elena shrugged. "Do not underestimate her." She said. "Everyone was very afraid when you collapsed."

"I was only out for a second."

"It doesn't take much." Elena said softly. "Not when it is someone as strong as you."

May shrugged. "I've taken plenty of hits."

Elena leaned back in the chair. "And you have seen others take many hits as well." She said. "That does not make it easier."

May had to admit that she had a point. Still. "I don't need everyone worrying about me."

"They love you." Elena said. "They cannot help it." When May gave her a tired look, she smiled. "What, you thought that they would not? You cannot love them as you do without them doing the same."

May shook her head with a soft smile. She had accepted a long time ago that she couldn't stop people from caring about her, not really. "If I'm the strong one then they shouldn't get so worried."

Elena laughed. "You are strong, but still human." She said. "No superpowers except that glare." When May narrowed her eyes, she laughed again. "Yes, that one."

May reached for her drink bottle, just for something to do, but found it empty. A moment later there was the feeling of rushing air and she found it filled with juice. She rolled her eyes. "You could have just filled it normally."

"Where's the fun in that?" Elena grinned. "Do you need anything else? Food? Medicine?"

"You just want to show off."

"Eh, it's true." She said. "And I want to make sure you have everything you need."

May shook her head. "I'm fine." A rush of air later and there was a sandwich on her nightstand. "I said I'm fine."

"Eat anyway." Elena said, for the first time with a little steel in her voice. "You need your strength."

May grumbled, but took a bite. "I guess Jemma's not the only mother hen." She muttered.

Elena crossed her arms. "Your team is your family." She said firmly. "Do not worry them more by not looking after yourself."

Something about how she said it gave May pause, but it took until she had finished half of the sandwich to figure out why. She swallowed the last piece of crust. "They're your team too."

Elena hesitated, then shrugged. "It is not the same." She muttered. "I do not have the same history with them as you do."

"That's not always a bad thing." May said softly, thinking back. "I've got twice the history with Coulson than I do with any of the rest of the team."

"I have no history."

"You're building it." May murmured, looking down and thinking about her early days with Fitzsimmons and Daisy. How careful and afraid Fitzsimmons had been of her. How openly resentful Daisy had been. "That's the point of being in a team like this. You're choosing to be a part of it."

Elena sighed. "It has never been like that for me. Family is not... built. It is there."

May smirked. "Well you can say you married in if that makes you feel better."

Elena laughed at that. "We are not married."

May shrugged. "Close enough. Jemma would strap you down, that's all you can ask for."

X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-

At least Jemma had lost the smug grin, May mused. But she did still glare at her every time she so much as rolled over, as if May's inability to get comfortable was a deliberate attempt to annoy her.

Maybe one of two of May's movements were just to annoy Jemma. Sue her, she hated being stuck like this and it was entirely Jemma's fault. May chose to ignore the fact that she still couldn't make it to the bathroom without help.

When May shifted in place for the dozenth time, Jemma sighed loudly. "Will you please stop that?!" She snapped.

May raised an eyebrow. "Just trying to get comfortable."

Jemma scowled. "I know exactly what you're trying to do." She said. "And it's childish. I'm just trying to help you recover."

May bristled. "Maybe I don't want your help."

Jemma caught herself before she snapped back and took a deep breath. "I've already watched you die once." She murmured, remembering that feeling. The knowledge that the last conversation she'd had with May before that was a fight. "I'd rather not do it again."

May groaned internally as she felt her frustration melt away. She couldn't be angry at Jemma for caring, not really. If their situations were reversed she couldn't say she wouldn't be doing exactly the same thing.

She grimaced. "Sorry."

Jemma looked up, surprised, then smiled. "It's quite alright." She said softly. "I just- it's my job to keep the team safe, so I feel like it's my fault if anyone gets hurt."

"Nuh uh." May tutted. "It's my job to keep the team safe. It's your job to patch up the holes."

Jemma laughed. "Well, either way." She hesitated. "You- May, I know you don't think so, but this was serious. I- I was counting the seconds, trying to feel the difference in your pulse... It wouldn't have taken a lot to..."

Even knowing Jemma would be annoyed at her moving didn't stop May from putting a hand on her shoulder to get her attention. "I have a pretty good doctor."

Jemma scoffed but didn't push her away. "I'm not that kind of doctor."

"Better than most medics I've met."

Jemma managed a small smile. "You know, sucking up won't get you out of here any sooner."

May snapped her fingers. "You got me." She muttered.

Jemma snorted, covering her mouth with one hand, and May smiled. It was always good to see Jemma happy, after everything.

The two fell into a companionable silence, Jemma reaching for her tablet and May for her book. They sat for a while until May felt a heaviness behind her eyes. She marked her page in the book. "Can you turn the light down?" She asked. "I want to sleep for a bit."

Jemma looked up, surprised. "Oh, yes, of course." She said, quickly adjusting the ceiling light. She lingered where she stood for a moment. "I can go, if you'd rather..."

May shook her head. "It's okay." She murmured, readjusting her pillow and shifting into a more comfortable position lying down.

Jemma stayed as quiet as she could and tried not to constantly check whether May was asleep or not. Either way she was resting, and she was glad of that. It had been half an hour of sitting in the dim light and filling out her lab report, when a slight sound caught Jemma's ears.

She frowned and looked around, trying to figure out where it was coming from. Her eyes quickly found the heart rate monitor by the bed, which was increasing its speed. A moment later May shifted and drew Jemma's eyes back to her.

Her lips parted in surprise at what she saw. May's brow was furrowed, her breathing becoming more rapid and her muscles tense. She was having a nightmare.

Jemma was somewhat surprised to find that she didn't know what to do. No, she knew what she should do. She needed to wake May up. What she didn't know was what to do after that. What to say.

May made a small noise in the back of her throat and Jemma shook herself. It didn't matter if she knew what to say, she had to wake her. Pull her out of whatever horror she was living.

It barely took May a second to figure out what was happening, but it felt like an eternity. The feeling of paralysing fear, a hand on her arm. Jemma's empathetic eyes.

She pulled away, looking down. She didn't know what to say. What she could say.

Jemma drew her hand back. She bit her lip. "This is why you didn't want to rest," She murmured. "Isn't it?"

May cleared her throat so that her voice didn't crack. "I don't wanna talk about it."

Jemma nodded. "I understand." She said softly, and she really did. She wished that she didn't.

May must have gotten the message, because she put one hand awkwardly over Jemma's. Jemma squeezed her hand. "I'm here." She said softly. "If you ever change your mind about wanting to talk about it."

"You too." May murmured, finally looking up. Their eyes met and there was an understanding there, silent but solid as stone.

Jemma smiled a little. "If you want to sleep some more you can." She said quietly. "I promise I'll wake you if anything happens."

She nodded. "Thank you Jemma." They may disagree from time to time, but May knew that everything Jemma did, she did because she cared.

They had that much in common.

-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-

When she woke up, Phil was there. Sitting in the same chair that Jemma had been in, watching her. The moment he saw she was awake he tried to look away and pretend he hadn't been staring, but May knew that he was. She let it slide for now and squirmed a little, stretching. "What time is it?"

"About seven." Phil said, trying to hide his fond smile. Melinda looked kind of cute like this. Unguarded. "I brought..." He reached for a tray, on which there was a plate of pasta covered with plastic. "It's still warm."

He really was sweet. "Thank you." May said, taking it. Just from the smell she knew that Phil had made it himself. He'd learned years ago that while May hated pity, she loved his cooking.

Melinda had eaten a few mouthfuls when she felt his eyes on her. She looked up. "What?"

Phil shrugged, smiling. "I just can't believe Jemma got you to stay in bed for so long." He gently poked at her leg. "Did she put a clamp on you?"

She scoffed. "We both know that wouldn't stop me."

"True." He said, but the question remained, floating between them.

May took another bite of pasta to buy herself some time. "She was just worried." She eventually said. "Trying to help. Besides, there are worse things than being stuck in bed."

Phil sighed. "You've got that right." He murmured. "And you did say you wanted a night in your own bed." He smirked. "Maybe you should be careful what you wish for."

May rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "I said a night, not three days."

"Too much of a good thing?"

May hesitated, then shook her head. "No such thing." She murmured.

Phil cocked his head. She looked different. Had looked different for a while now, but they hadn't really had a moment to talk about it. About anything. "Are you okay?" He asked. "Since the Framework you've seemed..."

Melinda finished her pasta, putting the tray aside. Phil got the impression that she only busied herself with it to buy some time. "I'm okay." She said, eventually. "But I do feel different."

Phil bit the inside of his lip. "Do you want to talk about it?" He asked, thinking he already knew the answer.

May's brown eyes fixed on him, and he was surprised when she sighed and spoke. "I've never been more alone than I was in the Framework." She confessed, feeling almost weak for saying so. "There was... no one." No one she could even pretend she was close to. No Phil, no Daisy, no Fitz or Jemma or Elena or Mack. Just her and her own self-loathing.

"I get it." Phil said softly. "and I was barely there for a few days. Let alone weeks."

It was hard to say, but May knew she had to say it. "I didn't miss it when I was there." She said. "I didn't miss you. I just felt..." She shuddered involuntarily. "Empty."

Even knowing her aversion to touch, Phil knew he had to reach out. He took her hand and was pleasantly surprised that she didn't pull away. "I'm here now. We all are."

"I know." She murmured, weaving their fingers together. "But I can still feel it. Like that feeling will come back."

"Hey." Phil wanted to brush that strand of hair out of her face and hold her close, but he didn't. "You don't need to be reckless to keep us safe. None of us want to lose you either."

When Melinda didn't say anything and wouldn't meet his eyes, Phil knew he was right. She had been so scared of losing them, of becoming that empty, cold person that the Framework had turned her into, that she had been risking her safety to avoid it. He hesitated. "Move over." Phil said, gently nudging her.

May looked up, surprised. "What?"

Phil smiled and shuffled his feet out of his shoes. "Move over. You need a hug."

She scoffed, but the lack of any further response spoke volumes, as did the speed with which she made room for him on the bed.

It was easy to wrap his arms around her. Almost frighteningly so. Phil tried to stay still so as not to disrupt the monitor attached to May's chest, but he couldn't stop himself from squeezing her tightly and pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "I'm here." He murmured.

Part of May wished that she could keep herself from melting against him in that moment. A small, proud part of her. The rest of her didn't care, didn't realise how long she'd needed this. It was just Phil anyway. Her Phil. "I know." She whispered. "I missed you."

"I missed you more." He said, and they both laughed quietly. The other words were there, unsaid, but hung in the air between them. Phil opened his mouth to say them but found his voice stopped by the look in her eyes. He smiled. She already knew.

He did too.

Instead of saying it, he looked at her. Remembered all the times he'd thought he had lost her recently. Thought about all of the things he'd wanted to see again. Her eyes, her hair, her hands. Everything. It wasn't until May shifted under his gaze that he realised he was staring, and Phil smiled crookedly, pressing a kiss to her cheek, then her other. "I'm not losing you." He said, gently kissing her nose now. "You're not losing me."

Melinda managed the tiniest of nods and leaned ever so slightly closer. Phil let his real hand come up to cradle the back of her head, fingers sinking into her hair, but before he could do anything else a noise caught his attention.

The heart rate monitor. He could see that May noticed it in the same moment as he did, but before he could react she had yanked him closer, crashing their lips together.

Phil jumped, surprised, but quickly melted into it. What started fast and violent quickly became slow and passionate. He was dimly aware of the monitor beeping like crazy and smiled against Melinda's lips, loving how she smiled in response.

The beeping was just as fast when they broke apart. Phil was grinning at her in that way that seemed to go right through her and Melinda felt oddly vulnerable. "Shut up." She muttered, not sure how she had enough blood in her system to feel the flush climbing her neck.

Phil chuckled, kissing her again. "I didn't say anything." He grinned.

"You were thinking."

"Oh, I'm sorry about that." He teased.

May couldn't have stopped smiling even if she'd wanted to. And she didn't want to. She hadn't felt this giddy kind of happiness in a very long time. It was a feeling she wanted to bottle up inside and keep forever.

That feeling was derailed when she heard the hurrying footsteps a moment too late and Jemma entered, out of breath. "I saw the spikes on the monitor-" She gasped, then froze. "I-I'll just... go then. Um- sorry!"

Jemma hurried back out and May bowed her head with a long sigh.

Phil laughed softly. "How much do you want to bet she's going to tell Daisy?"

May rolled her eyes but before she could reply, Daisy's voice echoed through the base.

"WHAT?!"

"Run Phil." She said flatly. "Save yourself."

He laughed and shook his head. "I won't leave you behind."

"Then we'll go down together."

Phil smiled and squeezed her tightly. "Always."