February 2008

Daisy wasn't sure when she decided that she wanted to join SHIELD. She had seen the lives her parents led, and knew that they'd come horrifyingly close to dying on more than one occasion. They worked for days on end, came home with injuries that Daisy knew they tried to brush off to keep her from worrying, had haunted looks in their eyes sometimes.

But she wanted to do it. She wanted to be a part of that world. Daisy had spent so many years all alone, needing someone to help her. In the end it was Phil. A SHIELD agent and a good man. Her dad.

SHIELD had given her her mom too. May. Who was strong and sometimes quiet but always there when Daisy needed her, ready to show her how to be strong too, and to catch her when she couldn't be.

She loved them. Loved what they did every day. It wasn't a bad thing that she wanted to be part of it.

Right?

She had done her research, looked into the different academies and the different jobs she could potentially have. Thought about what she could be good at, what classes she could take and what would get her extra credit.

Armed with this knowledge, Daisy sat down one night to talk to her parents about it. She knew that she didn't need their permission. In a few months she would be eighteen and she could do whatever she wanted.

But she needed them to be happy with this decision deep down, even knowing that they would love her no matter what.

Daisy sat down at the dining table with a sigh, clasping her hands together in front of her. "I want to join SHIELD." She said. "I-I'm old enough that I can go to Communications or Operations Academy, I've done my research and I know I can hack it."

Phil and Melinda looked at one another and then back to her. Phil took a breath. "Daisy-"

"No, please, I need to say this." Daisy interrupted, not speaking again until she saw him nod and gesture for her to continue. "I've seen what you guys do every day, I know it's hard and- sometimes it can be hell, but you help people. People who don't have anyone else, and... I wanna be a part of that."

Her parents waited to see if she was done speaking, then Phil tried again. "Daisy, you're only seventeen."

"A lot of cadets are my age." She muttered, looking down. "You think it's a bad idea."

May shook her head, "No." She said. "We thought you might want to join up, and we'd be proud if you did."

"So?"

"It's not that we think you're not ready." Phil said. "Or can't handle it. It's just that you can do so many things now. You're almost out of high school and you've never had the chance to just be a kid. You could go to college or travel or anything. We just want you to... take six months. Backpack in Europe, take a short course on something you've always wanted to learn." He smiled. "SHIELD isn't going anywhere, and neither are we."

Daisy looked down, thinking about it. "I don't know."

May put a hand over hers. "You'd be a great agent." She said. "We just want you to have the chance to explore the world. Learn more about yourself."

Daisy laughed shakily. "Backpacking by myself just feels... scary."

May's eyes were warm. "You're more scared of backpacking than you are of joining a spy organisation." She said. "That means that you should try backpacking."

Daisy swallowed. "You promise you're not just trying to get rid of me?"

"Promise." Phil murmured. "We've got some vacation time saved up, if you want we could start it off together for a week? Go to Spain?"

"I'll think about it."

"Good idea." Phil said. "Look, if you want to be an agent we're behind you one hundred percent. This is just a vacation before you do that."

Daisy shrugged, disappointed that they didn't want her to do this now. "Forced vacation." She muttered.

"You don't have to do it." May said, a frown colouring her features. "If you want to go straight to the academy, you can."

"But you'd be disappointed if I did."

Melinda shook her head. "We'd be disappointed because we'd feel like you missed out, not disappointed in you."

Daisy fiddled with her hands for a moment. "I have always wanted to visit China." She admitted. "Especially now that I know the language."

May nodded with a smile. "Then go. We can sort out the paperwork so you can apply when you get back."

"I- okay." Daisy said softly. "As long as you're okay with it."

Phil grinned. "Well we didn't suggest it because we hated the idea." He joked. "Thank you for listening."

Daisy nodded. "You too." She said softly. "I love you."

"We love you too."

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

May 2008

Daisy's SAT scores were coming in the mail, but there was one other piece of paperwork that Melinda and Phil were waiting for. For months, May had been thinking about it. She was back in the field completely now, and while she wasn't the same person that she was, she knew she could take it.

She missed working with Phil.

It was strange to admit, even to herself. She saw her husband every evening and every morning, as well as frequent lunch dates at the Triskellion. But she still missed them being together on missions.

She knew that Phil missed it too. Several months ago they were paired together coincidentally and it was the best mission either had been on in a very long time.

Even if it was undercover.

Daisy was still at school when Phil came up the stairs, letter in hand. "I think we got approved."

Melinda cocked her head. "Did you read it?"

He frowned, almost offended. As if he would read this news without his wife. "No, but you know Fury would have had us in for a lecture if we were denied." He snorted. "Remember all the warnings about misconduct?"

May grinned, patting the couch beside her until he joined her. "Haven't had one of those in a while." She mused. "I guess we're just not getting caught anymore."

"Such a shame." Phil grinned, letter in hand. He held it out. "Do you want to do it?"

She shook her head. "All yours."

Phil ripped the envelope and beamed. "Approved." When he looked to his wife he was surprised to see her smiling just as wide.

"Good." May said, quickly kissing him. "They'd be stupid not to want us together in the field."

"Damn right." He muttered, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.

A moment later the door opened and Daisy entered. When she caught sight of them on the couch she groaned. "Ugh, can't you guys keep it in your pants?" She whined, trying to hide her smile.

May rolled her eyes and Phil grinned. "You going out?" He called as Daisy dumped her bag in her room.

"Yeah!" She called back. "Me and Felicity were gonna see a movie."

"I think you mean 'Felicity and I'"

Daisy snorted. "Whatever old man."

"Need any cash young lady?"

"No thanks!" She said, briefly closing the door to change.

Neither of her parents had moved from their position on the couch when she came back out. "How do I look?"

They both smiled. "Beautiful." Phil said softly. "But be careful, okay?"

Daisy nodded. "I will."

"Call us if you need anything."

"Okay."

May raised an eyebrow. "Home by seven-thirty?"

Daisy rolled her eyes. "Eleven." She bartered.

"It is a Friday." Phil pointed out.

May narrowed her eyes. "Nine."

"Ten-thirty."

"Done."

Daisy beamed. "Okay, I've gotta go, she's waiting downstairs." She darted over to give each of them a quick hug. "I love you!"

They smiled. "We love you too." Phil said. "Have fun."

"We will!"

Watching Daisy go left a strange feeling of unease in the pit of Melinda's stomach, though she wasn't entirely sure why.

It wasn't until the two of them had sat down for dinner that she figured it out. "What if something happens?"

Phil swallowed a piece of chicken. "What do you mean?"

May looked down. "Remember those games we used to play at the academy? Thought experiments I guess. 'If the world went to hell right now, what's your plan?' and we'd run with it. See how far we could make it."

"What are you getting at?"

"What if the world goes to hell and we're in the field? What about Daisy?"

Phil put a hand on her shoulder. "We talked about this." He said. "That's why we made Maria godmother."

May swallowed. "She needs us. You know she does."

He sighed. "I know."

"She needs you."

Phil stiffened. "Melinda..."

"I'm not going to do something stupid." She said, turning to face him. "I'm not trying to get myself killed, I just mean... if it's just us on a mission and something goes wrong, you get out. I give you an opening and you get out and come home to Daisy."

"It won't come to that."

"If it does." May pressed. "You have to promise."

Phil took her hand, weaving their fingers together. "Only if you promise," He said, meeting her eyes, "That it's only as a last resort. And that you'll trust me if I say I can see a way out."

She nodded. "Okay."

Phil smiled, pulling her closer and pressing a kiss to her hair. "I love you."

"I know."

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

May 2010

Daisy stared at the two options for the millionth time, cursing herself for her indecision. She wished she could choose easily. She wished she knew what she wanted to do, but even after travelling half the world she still had no idea.

Operations or Communications.

May or Coulson.

Her mom or her dad.

How was she supposed to choose between them? Either choice would let one of them down. Her decision told them which of them she wanted to be like. And she couldn't do that.

She loved them. May being so quiet and kick-ass and kind. Phil, funny and understanding.

They were her family.

Phil grinned when he saw her looking at the brochure. "Going with the biggest academy I see." He teased gently. "Most to learn."

Melinda rolled her eyes. "Phil." A reminder. They could be competitive about this, but not in front of Daisy. She knew that this was a hard decision. She remembered when her mother was pushing her to join the CIA. Remembered how much she had hated it.

Phil held up his hands. "Okay, okay." He relented. "You do whatever feels right honey."

Melinda noticed the way Daisy's face twitched when he said that. The indecision, the guilt. She remembered that feeling.

She wouldn't have her daughter going through what she had.

Later that night, after Phil had gone to sleep, she crept out of their room, silently closing the door behind her. As she had expected, Daisy was still awake.

Melinda knocked gently on her open door. "Hey."

Daisy looked up with a start. She didn't know how May could still sneak up on her. "Hey." She sighed, throwing the application forms down. "I couldn't sleep."

May cocked her head. Daisy looked harried and stressed and totally indecisive. "I'm not surprised." She said softly, nodding to the papers. "Big decision."

"Yeah." Daisy murmured, waving her in. May sat at the end of her bed, looking at the forms. Even now, Daisy struggled to read her expressions sometimes. "If- if you're here to tell me why Ops is the best I'd rather not." She joked, half-serious.

May leaned back against the wall with a sigh, her socked feet hanging off the edge of the bed. "You should go to Communications." She said softly.

Daisy froze, staring at her for a long moment. "I- what do you mean?" She asked. "Have you forgotten which one you went to?"

She shook her head. "No. You belong at Comms. You're a field agent at heart, you don't want to be a specialist."

The undertones came across loud and clear. Daisy shifted closer to her, leaned against the wall beside her. "But... I wanna be like you. I thought- I thought you wanted that too. You've been training me since I got here."

May wrapped a lazy arm around her shoulders. "I never wanted you to be like me." She said softly. "You're better than that."

Daisy laughed. "Impossible." She said, resting her head on May's shoulder. "You're amazing."

"So are you." Melinda murmured. "Finishing a double major in Computer Science and Cyber Security in two years? That's pretty impressive."

Daisy shrugged bashfully. "Maybe I just wanted to get home faster."

"That degree won't get any use at Ops. Neither will your hacking skills." She paused. "You worked too hard to give that up."

"But I wanna fight." Daisy whispered. "I can't just sit around programming all day, that's not me."

May smiled. "Are you saying that Phil sits around at a desk all day?"

Daisy laughed. "I guess not." She admitted. "I just don't want... this feels like I'm choosing between you guys."

Melinda let her fingers card through Daisy's hair. "No one expects you to do that." She murmured. "Is this just about us?"

Daisy sighed heavily. "I- I'm glad Felicity got such a great offer." She said, looking down. "I'm happy for her."

"But..."

"I just miss her." Daisy mumbled. "I know long distance wouldn't have worked for that long, and I guess this is the best way, but... I miss her."

"I know honey. I'm sorry."

"I don't wanna lose you too."

"You won't." Melinda whispered into her hair. "Not over something like this."

Giving up any pretence, Daisy wrapped her arms around May's waist, hugging her tightly. "I love you."

"Love you too." May murmured, "And going to Communications won't change that."

"Promise?"

"Promise."

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

Phil leaned against her desk a few days later with a smug grin. "So." He said. "Academy applications closed last night."

May raised an eyebrow. "So they did."

"Oh come on Mel, you can't tell me you don't want to know where she applied."

She shrugged. "Maybe she applied at both. You know how thorough she can be when she wants something."

"You can't apply to more than one academy and you know it."

May shook her head. "I'm sure she made the right choice."

Phil cocked his head. "You already know, don't you?" He said, realising. She wasn't getting half as mischievous as she had in the weeks leading up to Daisy's decision.

Melinda sighed. There really wasn't any point in denying it. Their playful battle had been fun, but she didn't really care as long as Daisy was happy. "We talked." She admitted. "The other night."

"And?"

"I told her to go to Communications." May shrugged. "It's the obvious choice for her with her degree. She's not a specialist and we both know it. She was really worried, Phil."

He frowned. "She knows we were just teasing, right?"

Melinda nodded, leaning back in her chair. "She's still a bit shaken up about Felicity, that's all. I think she felt like she'd be losing one of us by choosing."

"That would never happen."

"I told her that. Just- maybe let up on the academy jokes for a little while."

"Done." Phil smiled. "You're a great mom, you know that?"

May scoffed. "I noticed that she was worried, it's not exactly rocket science."

He shrugged. "I didn't notice. I knew she was nervous about her application, I didn't think it was about us. That makes you a good mom."

"If you say so."

Phil groaned. "Melinda."

She finally cracked a smile and he pulled her up into a kiss. "You're an amazing mom." He said again. "I love you."

"I know."

Phil grinned. That was his wife. His best friend. He loved seeing her so alive. "Come on, Garrett wanted us to brief him on the new Triskellion layout."

"Us?"

"Okay, me, but he doesn't get as... Garrett when you're around."

"This isn't happening unless you let me throw you against a wall the next time Blake tries hitting on me."

"Deal."