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Hold Tight To Me

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Daisy stretches, throwing one arm behind her head, pushing down on her elbow. The muscle burns as she adds pressure. The good kind of burn though. The kind that tells her she’s real, in the real world, nothing’s muted like it had been. It helps her gain her bearings when she jerks awake in the middle of the night.

Sleep is troubling since they got out, got back; since Fitz beat the everloving shit out of her and May let it happen. She’s not bitter, she isn’t. At least, not any more. She’s forgiven them for what they did, for what they didn’t do. It wasn’t really them after all, but the memories still find her in the dark sometimes.

She'd prefer those were the dreams that haunted her tonight. They were a walk in the park in comparison.

And if that’s the worse they suffered from their stint, she’d take it for the team in a heartbeat. But the Framework was a shit show from start to finish, and she wishes nightmares where the worst of it. That she was the only one to bear those mental scars. They all have nightmares though, but they’re mostly unscathed, bonded closer for the horrors they endured together.

She’s learned over the weeks that weak muscles, dull headaches, and slight slips in memory where nothing to complain about. Mild irritations really, when she’s seen how it could have turned out for them, if they hadn’t gotten out when they had.

Letting her arm fall, she leaves what’s left of the gym. She has to sleep at some point, and now that she’s hours closer to dawn, it seems easier to do.

She’ll give May props where she can. She does her best to hide the complying list of problems her term in the Framework gifted her with. Daisy’s seen the way she struggles through though. All of them have.

The gaps in her memory are longer, more frequent. Headaches that border past severe leave her shut in her bunk for hours, days, lights off. Daisy swears she can hear cries through the damaged walls, but Coulson tells her not to worry when her nerves are finally shot from the faint sounds, and she goes to see what she can do, how she can help. But he always waves her off, tells her he has a handle on it as he slips past the makeshift door whenever she goes to investigate. She can’t help the anxiety this all brings on. This is her family, and it’s injured, wounds boring deep.

The headaches are the least of it, and Daisy just wants to help in some way, be a shoulder to lean on. She feels as bad as the rest of them, she hadn’t noticed any earlier either. But May’s more protective of herself than before, those walls they’d broken down back up, and fortified. She only allows Coulson or Simmons to help if she has the choice. Mostly she tries to stay to herself. And Daisy understands for the most part, Coulson is the closest person to her, and Simmons is the doctor. That doesn’t stop the twinge of hurt at the rejection though.

Walking back to her bunk, she passes the commons with it’s blown out windows and charred posts. The lights are off, but there’s a strange glow softening the sharp shadows of the hall. Eyelids finally drooping, her interest in the mystery wanes until she hears it: sullen murmurs. Stopping, she backs up a few steps, and looks in. She shouldn’t be surprised, but she is. Coulson stands in front of the fridge, both doors open wide. That in itself isn’t strange, only the timing is odd, but there’s another outline in the light, sitting at their refurbished table. Smaller, frailer. That’s the surprising part. May generally refuses to go anywhere in the base except her own bunk and Simmons substitute medical room. But here she is, out in the open in the middle of the night.

Whatever she’s missed, Coulson’s shoulders are tense, defensive. But May’s are defeated almost, sloped low. And whatever is happening she doubts it’ll stay quiet, their fights have grown louder by the day. They’re always about the same thing. But for now she strains to hear.

“You can pick what kind of sandwich you’ll have or I can pick it for you.”

There’s a pause, long and uncomfortable. A reluctant sigh. Daisy doesn’t move to hide, only stares in.

“Phil, s-s-stop.”

“No, you stop. I’m not having this conversation with you again.”

“We can’t stay here forever. I’m a liability to the team like this...”

He rolls his shoulders to release the strain. “Will you just pick out a damn sandwich?”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Well, you didn’t eat dinner, so you’re eating something.”

That strange quiet creeps in again as he shifts containers around, pulling things out of the fridge.

“You have to let me go, Phil.”

May’s voice is low, but her statement comes through loud and clear, and Daisy feels her heart thump harder.

“I don’t have to do shit.”

He snarls, and Daisy’s a little taken aback at the way he slams the mayonnaise jar down, the force behind his words. 

“I can buy you and the team enough time to find somewhere safe to settle.”

Coulson sags, rubs at his eyes. “We’ve been over this. We’re not going anywhere without you, so stop bringing this up.”

“Ph-Phil, it will be better this way. I’m use-useles–”

Daisy winces at the way she abruptly stops. It isn’t an uncommon occurrence. She stutters, tripping over her tongue, train of thought drifting away like it was never there. Blinking, she’s gone. Each episode leaving her lost in space, eyes fogged over by a thick haze.

How could she think she meant so little to them? That her place in this family was conditional on her usefulness. That they'd ever let her go because a lack thereof.

The ticking of the clock is loud in the silence, and Daisy’s tempted to intrude further, to help steer this conversation back into safer waters, but May blinks herself back the next second. And she doesn’t have to see her face to know the toll of these trips, she’s been around enough. Eyes hooded, that dazed look is still there, holding tight. There’s only a smattering of minutes before she reaches to rub at her head with a pained groan.

“What- what was I saying?”

Coulson misses no beat as he adds turkey onto the growing sandwich. “You were saying not too much mayo.”

He smiles then, glancing up at her, adding another slice of meat, and his expression is lighter than Daisy’s seen it in...weeks. It’s nice to see, very different from what is the usual day to day.

“You also said something else.”

Putting the top piece of bread in place, grin growing wider, Daisy notes a subtle stiffness fall over May as she tried to rack her brain for a memory that isn’t there. He slides the plate across the table then rounds the counter.

She’ll bring it up again. In a day, two, when she remembers what they were talking about, she always remembers eventually. And she’ll insist again. Plead with him, them, anyone that will listen, to see reason, that it’s the right thing to do. So, if even for a moment he can lighten her spirits, give her reasons to reconsider, he’ll do it. They all will. They’re not whole if they’re not together.

“You said you wanted a dance.”

The tension leaves her as she slaps at his offered hand with a huff, now aware of what he’s doing, the words he’s putting in her mouth. “I did not.”

It’s not abnormal when she loses her place for Coulson to take a hard turn, to hurry down this route or one like it. Whether May sees the pattern or not is up in the air, no one’s a hundred percent how much she remembers about the hours after an event takes place.

“You did, I swear. Heard it with my own ears. I wouldn’t lie to you.” He waves her up, beckoning. “Come on.”

She stands, slow, jerking movements from sitting too long, and even from this distance Daisy knows she’ll make it three steps, four tops, before she’s down for the count. But the white-knuckled grip she has on the on the table seems to be all Coulson needs before she’s wrapped up in sturdy arms.

“Come on. Up, on my feet.”

“What?”

“Step onto my feet.” The command is soft, promising, said with tender eyes and kind hands.

“Phil.”

His grip tightens as he pulls her closer, sweetening the offer. “I’ll help you hide from Simmons later.”

May rolls her eyes, but places herself on top of his feet. She may be standing, but Daisy’s certain he’s supporting most of her weight by the way he grips her waist. Despite that, it’s cute, and Daisy isn’t sure how she manages to stumble upon these moments. There’s something reassuring about them though: that May’s not really so far gone from them, just hiding, and that he can still get her to smile when there are so few reasons to.

“Why are we doing this?”

“It’s tradition. I don't make the rules, just follow them.”

Daisy’s over it then. She’s over pretending she doesn’t want to be a part of these quiet kinds of moments, over them pretending nothing is happening between them when others are in the room. The last time she’s been hiding behind this wall, watching them sway feels like a lifetime ago. May had caught her then, but this time Coulson catches her gaze, and she twitches to go, eyes misty. She’s won’t let herself leave though. Can't. Digs her feet in. They all keep trying to lose each other, and no one says anything. It’s all just bottled, left to fester under the weight on them.

The busted door creaks as she shuffles through it. Coulson keeps his eyes on her as he slowly comes to a halt, but May doesn’t even lift her head from where it's resting on his chest. Briefly, Daisy wonders if she’s fallen asleep standing, it’s happened a few times recently, and she wouldn’t fault her if she did. She knows how exhausting all of this is, and she doesn’t even have an injury.

Once she’s across the room, once they’re in arms reach, she doesn’t delay. She nearly throws herself at them, but holds back, no one’s going to catch them if they all tip over, and she won’t be responsible for any more injuries. She does fling her arms around them though, and anchors herself there.

“What’s this about?”

His breath ruffles her hair. “I’m just really glad you guys are here and okay.” She doesn’t expect Coulson to hug her back, she doesn’t expect either of them to hug her back really, she has pushed her way into their personal time. She’s glad enough when Coulson’s arms stay where they are. She’s seen what it’s like on worse days, and she hasn’t been around enough today to know what kind of day it is.

The bad ones are excruciating for all of them. May’s in pain, and vocal about it. Which is strange enough. The days she actually complains, close to weeping, are rare, few and far between, but are awful. She bites out through clenched teeth of body aches, of stiff joints, and uncooperative, cramping muscles. Nothing seems to take the edge off, and being helpless while she’s curled, groaning is as heartbreaking as it gets. Hell, one day she’d watched as May’s legs buckled out from under her for no apparent reason, and Daisy’s gut had gripped when her SO been unable to get herself back up. So, she’s grateful when Coulson keeps his arms locked around May, watching a repeat of that would break her in ways she can’t even begin to explain.

An arm does snake around her though, and May pulls her in as tight as her state will let her.

“We’re glad you’re here too.”

She sniffles despite herself at the contact especially since May’s never been much for touch, but also because, right now, she definitely isn’t one for it. Giving or receiving.

“Daisy, what’s wrong?” The concern in how he says it is palpable.

“Nothing. It’s dumb.” Daisy shakes her head, squeezing them a little tighter, and tilts her head up to look Coulson in the eye. It’s weird almost, she feels a little like a child. She’s always had to comfort herself, so to seek out, want, reassures from another is odd. But not that odd, she guesses, children want their parents to console them, to make it better, and they’re the closest she’s got, will ever get. “But-but you’re not dying, are you?”

His brows pinch together, a frown forming on his face. “What’s brought this on?”

“It’s nothing. I just...it’s stupid. I had a bad dream, and you were dying, and didn’t tell us, and you wouldn’t let us save you...”

“That doesn’t sound like nothing.”

“It was just a lot. But you aren’t, right?”

Coulson shakes his head slowly, still frowning. “Not any faster than anyone else.”

“You wouldn’t lie about something like that, would you?”

“I wouldn’t.”

“You swear?”

“Cross my heart.”

He grins after that, in that way that says he knows exactly what he's done. Holding in a groan, she turns her gaze to May, whose drooping eyes blink slowly, grip becoming lax.

Daisy pushes away, ready to stand on her own again, and only slightly embarrassed. “I think it’s time to get someone to bed.”

Coulson chuckles as he looks down them. “Yep. You ready?”

May nods against him, but doesn’t make a move to detach herself.

“Are you walking or am I carrying you?”

She goes to step off then, lagging and timid. Coulson doesn’t even let her out of reach before he pulls her back and scoops her up. Daisy expects some kind of protest, but none comes. Maybe it’s the lateness of it all, the unguarded-ness of night that leaves her so careless, that allows her to be ushered like this. Whatever it is, it blooms warm in her chest.

Daisy trails a step behind them, and waits patiently outside as Coulson walks in, leaving the door ajar. They’re talking, she can hear, but all that reaches her is soft mumbles. She wrings her fingers as she waits, pacing a short way up the hall then back. She doesn’t really know why she’s waiting, she has no reason to, and she’s just assuming Coulson’s coming back out because he left the door open. There’s a few more minutes of quiet muttering and delicate silences.

It’s then she decides to go, she’s taken up enough of their time tonight. But just as she’s backing away, going for her own door, Coulson returns, pulling May’s door shut until there’s just a small crack.

They meet in the middle, between the two rooms. And he does nothing but watch her, calmly waiting her out. For her to do something, move on or say whatever it is she has to say. The problem is she doesn’t know what she’s even trying to do.

“Why were you guys up anyway?”

“She’s having trouble sleeping. Or just won’t. I don't know which sometimes.”

“Oh.” Daisy pauses, looking past him, and stares at the still cracked door. He says it like it’s nothing, but she knows it’s still an invasion of May’s privacy. She still can’t stop herself from asking though, but thankfully Coulson will tell her flat out if it’s too much for her to know. “Why?”

“She’s, uh… She’s having nightmares again, and I can’t get her to take anything to help, so I’ve got to wear her out somehow.”

He keeps his voice quiet, but there’s a mischievous glint in his eyes, and Daisy shakes her head, shoulders raising. “Ew.”

Coulson smiles, quite pleased with himself, and turns, starting down the hall without another word, but Daisy's plenty aware he almost always stays in May’s room in case she needs something. Also because they’re together, whether they admit it or not, but mostly if she needs help. It’s how he always beats her there when things start spiraling downward.

Her brow crinkles. “Wait, where are you going?”

“I still have some things to do. Get some sleep.” He waves as he continues on, towards his office no doubt.

"But you left the door..." She slinks forward, intent on closing May’s door the rest of the way, but she hesitates in the doorway, not sure if she should. If May had wanted it shut, Coulson would have done it. She steps back then, slightly startled when a sound comes from the darkened room. It’s hardly a sound at all. Barely a whisper, so soft she’s not even sure she’s heard anything at all or if she’s imagining things. She stills, waiting to see if it comes again or if she is in need of more sleep then she thinks.

“Daisy?”

Stepping back up to May’s door, she pushes it open slowly, and steps in. The dim light of the hall barely makes in dent in the dark, but if she squints hard enough she can make out May’s outline in the blackness.

“Are you coming in?”

“What?”

She pats the empty side of her bed.

Daisy goes to shut the door, but fumbles. Hand reaching, but falling short. If she hadn’t already felt like a child earlier, she definitely does now.

“Shut the door, Daisy,” she sighs, outline lowering the rest of the way down to the bed.

Doing as asked, Daisy scoots further into the room. The going is slow, she hasn’t seen the layout since they returned. She’s walking blind. Literally. 

Foot catching on something, she trips, but rights herself before any damage is done. There can’t be much more in there though, and she thinks she’s in the clear, a straight shot. But her shin smashes into the edge of the bed frame, and she hisses. That’s absolutely gonna leave a mark.

Rubbing at her leg, she half thinks May’s fallen asleep in the time it’s taken her to get this far, there's no protest at the sudden disturbance. She almost leaves then, but doesn’t want the earful that might accompany the action, and if she’s honest, she doesn’t really want to sleep alone either. Shuffling around the side, she sits. Pulling her shoes off, she lifts the blanket, and slides under.

Once she’s situated, and her eyes have fully adjusted, she sees she’s much closer to May than she’d thought. And her eyes are open, staring right at her. They’re nearly forehead to forehead, and Daisy considers squirming away, backing up, but holds still. May watches her just a second longer before closing her eyes, and relaxing into the mattress. As she does, it allows Daisy to settle also, only wriggling a little until she’s found a comfortable position. Closing her eyes, she breathes out, clearing her mind.

Time ticks by unnoticed. This bed is nicer than hers, and softer, and it's easier to melt into then she wanted it to be. She'd meant to slip away once May was well and truly asleep, but it's so hard to tell, and her head has grown heavy. A fleeting thought passes through her dozing mind: maybe May had missed her too, wanted her close. The small insight is as far as she gets on the edge of sleep. She's so close to dropping off when she feels it. A warmth snakes over her hand, wrapping around with a gentle squeeze.

Smiling at the contact, Daisy scooches in just a little closer.