Even with his misgivings, Phil could admit it. Tahiti truly was a magical place.
With no cure and no idea just how long he’d get to spend with Melinda, Phil let every barrier slip away. They walked along the beach holding hands and just talking. He was in love with his best friend. What could be better than this?
He kept expecting the other shoe to drop. For him to start getting worse.
And yet… It didn’t happen.
Perhaps it was how careful they were being. Everything was perfect, except that Melinda refused to let him have a drink (not that he wanted one, he wanted to remember every moment of the time he had left, but it still felt like their ‘thing’) and he was eating the healthiest foods possible - so, not her cooking. They had a kid from the nearby village running them groceries and precooked meals, and he did the cooking while she watched and enjoyed it, sometimes slipping her arms around his waist and hugging him from behind.
This was a Melinda who forgot what it was like to hide herself. Not the same one he’d known before Bahrain, but not the same one he’d gotten to know after. This was someone in between, who was still quiet and still struggled to show her emotions easily, but who felt safe enough to laugh with him, who still cried at night sometimes at the thought of losing him, who could wrap him up in her arms and hold him at night as they lay together.
The cottage had only been rented for two weeks, so Melinda upped the rental time. That was the first time either of them had left the beach since they came - he wasn’t in a great state, and she was terrified of leaving the cottage and coming back to find him getting bad again. She’d confessed that to him late one night, when he’d suggested she go out and pick up a movie from the rental store and she’d dropped a plate, shattering it, at the mere suggestion of leaving him alone.
Phil was sure with anyone else this might’ve bothered him. This amount she clung to him. Instead it just made him feel safe and loved.
So, they left the cottage together to renew the rental. A car came to meet them and a driver who never spoke to them picked them up, driving them into town. Phil got a cane, and used it a little. He was mostly alright to walk, but got a little winded, causing Melinda concern. But they were alright, they renewed the rental for another two weeks, and had lunch in the middle of town, holding hands all the while.
Two months in and Phil accidentally cut his hand while cooking.
It was a miniscule cut - nothing that a bandage couldn’t fix. But Melinda nearly broke down in his arms from fear - she held it in well, but he knew she was still terrified of losing him. He understood why - even though he felt good, he still got winded and had to sit down after pushing himself. But she was always there to help him back up.
After a third month, Phil woke up to the bed empty and his heart racing in fear. It hurt. He used the breathing exercises she always used to calm herself in order to keep calm, and felt the pain ease. Getting up, he went to look around the house for her and found her talking outside. Not wanting to intrude on any conversation she was having, he went back to sleep, leaving the covers open for her to join him again.
Melinda had gotten up late at night. Her head always laid on his chest now, hearing his heartbeat, feeling his breathing. The first three nights there she hadn’t even slept, for fear of it stopping. But it never did.
She kissed his forehead before slipping out of the cottage, wearing just a nightgown, with the phone that she kept tucked away. Daisy had ordered her to call with anything, whether it was bad news or anything else going on. She dialed, and got an answer on the first ring.
“May?” She heard Daisy’s soft voice. “May, is… Is he…?” Her voice already trembled, and Melinda wrapped an arm around herself. She knew the feeling, that feeling of panic.
“No.” She said. “He’s okay right now. I need to talk to Simmons.”
Melinda could tell Daisy desperately wanted to know what was going on, because as far as they knew, when he and Melinda left he’d only had days or weeks. But Daisy seemed to understand, and there was a bit of noise in the background before Jemma picked up.
“Hello?” She asked in that familiar, clipped British accent, sounding slightly out of breath. Melinda presumed they were still searching for Fitz, but she couldn’t know details. “What’s happening?”
“It’s…” Melinda pressed her palm to her knee, feeling her stomach flip. She kept trying not to get her hopes up. “It’s what’s not happening. It’s been three months and Coulson is alright.” She said. It felt strange calling her Coulson - after this time, they’d both adapted to Phil and Melinda, rather than the names they used for SHIELD work. It was… Nice.
Jemma swallowed audibly on the other line. “May… Don’t get your hopes up.” She began softly. “I might’ve gotten my estimate wrong, he still could -”
“The lines are fading, Jemma. I’m trying not to get my hopes up, I swear, but he is improving.”
Silence on the phone could mean good or bad. She hoped the former.
“That… is strange.” Jemma finally said. “I can’t come take a look at him. But I know a good doctor in the area - former SHIELD doctor, left after the Hydra mess. He won’t ask any questions. Can I give you his contact information?”
Melinda winced. She didn’t want anyone to intrude on the two of them, but… “Alright.” She finally agreed. She said goodbye to Jemma and hung up, before the phone gave a little buzz and she saw that Jemma had texted the details. Melinda called the other doctor - who sounded very tired and very grumpy, but after hearing they were with SHIELD, agreed that he would come to see them the next morning.
Going back into the cottage, Melinda went back to join Phil in bed, giving a little sigh of relief when she saw his chest rising and falling in sleep. She joined him back in bed, laying her head once again on his chest, and feeling his arm wrap around her body.
“Well, everything seems… Normal.” The doctor said. Doctor Rush was an older man, his hair greying at the temples, and didn’t seem to like Phil or Melinda very much. He had ranted about being retired all while carrying in his work, and commented on how Melinda looked like an old colleague of his before checking Phil. “Relatively speaking. The tissue is dead, but you’re not in bad shape all the same.”
“I don’t understand.” Phil said. “I’m dying. Three months ago I could barely stand.”
Rush shrugged, shutting his briefcase. “Sometimes these things happen. You were with SHIELD, and something tells me you weren’t exactly a desk jockey.” He said. “You’re getting sun and freedom here by the ocean. Mild to moderate exercise. And a stress free life. That’s the best cure you could get.” He said. Phil stared at Melinda with wide eyes as his stomach flipped eagerly. He felt good. “Take it easy on the physical stress but make sure you get some exercise. Walk around town or on the beach.” He said looking between the two of them. “Or other activities.” He remarked with a smirk. “I can’t guarantee how long you’ve got. Really depends on you.”
Melinda came up to him and took his hands in hers. “Are you going to do something stupid and go back to a stressful life?” She asked, slightly concerned.
Phil smiled and brushed his lips to hers. “I’ve got everything I want right here.”
Three more weeks passed and Melinda called up Daisy, who panicked once again before being reassured that everything was fine, and Melinda tentatively suggesting that Daisy could visit, with the caveat that nothing about SHIELD would be discussed, and that she try not to worry him. Daisy agreed excitedly, and Phil was happy when Melinda mentioned it.
A week later and Daisy was there for tea, calm but very happy that he was safe and the two of them were together. Melinda didn’t miss how her eyes zeroed in on their clasped hands. She tastefully avoided mentioning anything about SHIELD - instead, they talked about the little town, and how Daisy would have loved the pet shop they visited, and the movies they watched. They touched a little on her childhood, as well - the happy moments, the pranks, the good times.
Daisy left after hugging him, and Melinda was sure she saw tears in the girl’s eyes.
It was six months in when Phil suggested sex.
Technically, he’d suggested it right when they got there. ‘Parasailing’, really. And they kissed, they made out, had already seen each other naked at that point, but before, Melinda had insisted they didn’t have sex. She would go on long rants that made him feel like an old man, about how he’d hurt himself, until he finally - reluctantly - agreed with her.
This time, she said yes.
Phil was excited, and nervous. He wanted it to be good. He snuck out one day while she was taking a nap and went out to the village, getting a few candles and even a bottle of massage oil, and returned to find her panicking, furious, and sobbing as she threw himself into his arms.
Instead of the romantic night he had intended, they had sex right there on the faux fur rug in their living room.
It wasn’t loud or passionate. Melinda had been sobbing when he found her, which led to Phil himself crying as they kissed and clung to each other, candles long forgotten, and he apologized for scaring her, stroking her hair. Soft kisses of reassurance led to long, loving ones. Stroking her hair led to caressing her body, and slowly she was taking off his shirt, feeling his skin with her small, soft hands. They traced the faded lines that still remained, and he kissed her neck, nuzzling her with loving attention as he gently laid her down and pulled off her shirt, pressing kiss after kiss to her neck and breasts, whispering words of love as he lavished attention first over her torso and then further down, echoing every lick to her folds with devotion.
Her climax was soft and quiet, but no less intense than the loudest scream. The way she arched her back could be described with only one word - ecstasy.
He crawled back up her body as Melinda desperately dragged her lips over his own, sobbing into his mouth and holding onto him as she helped him discard his pants and guide his cock into her, making them both gasp together. Their foreheads met as they shared the same breath and he gently raised his hips before pushing back down, making her moan softly.
“Are you in any pain?” She asked, her eyes blown wide with a mix of concern and pleasure.
He flicked her clit with his fingers while returning to her warmth, smirking when she let out a groan. “Thought that might shut you up.” He said smirking. She rolled her eyes and, carefully, flipped them so she was on top, rocking her hips.
She rose up slowly, a crowning queen as she rode him, the sight of her leaving him utterly speechless at her elegance and beauty. He held onto her hip to help her move, all while gazing up at her in love and adoration, watching her bite her lip as she came to a second peak around him.
Pushing him over the edge or into orgasm would be the wrong description. Because this wasn’t a rush of pleasure that dissipated. She wrapped her soul around him and held him close, enveloping herself with him, sharing every part of her as he did the same. It was like nothing else had ever mattered besides looking into her eyes.
They laid on the rug for what felt like hours, just kissing lazily and smiling together. Falling asleep on the rug. Phil woke up a few hours later - his back hurt a bit from the hard floor, but he didn’t care, grabbing a nearby blanket and wrapping it around their nude forms before falling back asleep.
This time, the team contacted them. Daisy was crying on the phone and Melinda was terrified, afraid someone had been lost, until she told them that Jemma was pregnant.
Phil had been elated when Melinda told him, and got on the phone, insisting that they bring the baby to meet him. They agreed, but there was still the fear lingering that he might not be around then.
Once a year had gone up, they chose to buy the cottage and Phil and Melinda began to decorate. Melinda insisted on taking photos of them, so the place was covered in photographs of the two of them, and some of them with the team, and a small memorial of all the people they’d lost - photos of Andrew, of Rosalind, of Lincoln, of Trip, of Jeffrey, all of them laid out in memory of the people who had given their lives for them.
Daisy brought some of Phil’s memorabilia, and Melinda had her mother come to visit. Lian May brought along a few of Melinda’s things that had been left at her home, and didn’t ask any questions as to their status or Phil’s condition - she didn’t even seem as disapproving as she once was.
She was about to leave and Melinda walked her out to her car when Lian turned to her. “I’m surprised you’re so happy, Qiaolian.”
Melinda winced, knowing this was coming. “I want to be with him, mother.” She said gently.
“Not what I meant.” Her mother said. “I’m surprised that this life without being in the job makes you so happy. But it suits you.”
Melinda smiled and hugged her mother. “It isn’t being away from the job that suits me, mother. It’s being with him.” She said. Her mother hugged her back happily and kissed her daughter’s hair before saying goodbye and driving away.
After a year and a half of staying at the cottage, Jemma called and came by, with a tiny baby girl in a carriage.
“Hello, little angel.” Phil said, immediately forgetting about Jemma and Fitz in the presence of the baby. Melinda rolled her eyes and hugged the two of them, snapping Phil away from the baby to hug them. No one mentioned the fact that Phil last remembered Fitz being dead - he didn’t need to know about how they’d gotten him back, just knowing he was safe was enough.
They talked a little before Phil got the little girl in his arms, cooing happily and tickling her belly. “Andrea Lily Fitz-Simmons.” Fitz said proudly.
“Long name for such a little thing.” Melinda said. She was absolutely in love with the baby, but not as obvious as Phil was about it - she still loved children, though.
“We have lost a lot of people.” Jemma said glancing at Phil before looking away quickly. He wasn’t one of them, not yet, and they were all so grateful for that. “Andrea after Trip and Andrew. Lily after Lincoln. Daisy is her godmother.” She said.
Phil smiled at that. “She’ll spoil her rotten. Make sure you bring her here so we can do the same.” Phil said, helping Melinda take the little girl into her arms and cradle her there. She took to children with such ease that Phil would almost believe she was a mother in the past - until he thought about how, really, she was one, to multiple people. Just not to an infant.
Fitzsimmons left with the little girl and Phil and Melinda sat together on the couch, holding each other. “Do you regret not having children?” Melinda asked him softly, resting her hand over his on his knee.
Phil glanced at her. “Silly Mel. We have children. They’re off saving the world.”
Years began to pass by in a blur, but a happy one. The team stopped by to see them. Daisy brought home a girlfriend who became a wife. Mack and Yoyo got married, they chose not to leave the cottage for the wedding but Daisy sent them videos of it and they sent a gift. Both of them missed the team, but… Didn’t want to lose the peace that came with staying here.
Daisy stopped by more and more, until she told them that she’d decided to step back from field ops and simply work on building up SHIELD and be on the sidelines, citing her age and her personal life, and the hope that she and her wife might adopt a child - that she remembered her days without parents and wanted to give another kid the chance to not have that. They were happy for her, especially since it met her visiting more often, and bringing home a little girl who adored them immediately and called them Grandma and Grandpa after her third trip. After she left, the two of them cried together, because they never thought they’d have that.
Melinda didn’t take aging as well as Phil had. He was losing more of his hair and she was gaining wrinkles, and didn’t have as much energy as she used to. Her hair was starting to go mostly grey, too, but Phil assured her every day that she was still just as beautiful then as the day they had met.
Less and less time was spent on the beaches now, or doing things meant for people with more energy. They were content to sit and read together, to watch a movie or two, to ignore the outside world except for when their kids and grandkids came to visit. They cherished every moment together, spending all of it holding hands like that first moment on the beach.
Daisy began to worry as Phil leaned heavier on his cane and Melinda finally agreed to stop pushing herself, and began stopping by once a week, minimum, to check on them. Even if they didn’t have the energy they once had, they still spoke to her, still were happy, and still were as in love as they had been when they came. Time hadn’t worn down their love anymore than it had worn down his heart.
It was late on a rainy evening, holding hands and laying together, that Phil and Melinda passed away peacefully in their sleep at the age of 91 and 89, her head pillowed on his chest.
It nearly broke Daisy to plan their funeral, but with her child and her wife’s help, she honored their wishes and gave a memorial service and had them buried on the very beach they’d spent the rest of their lives together at. Not a dry eye remained as everyone mourned the loss of them and celebrated their lives.
It was Daisy’s idea and Mack’s as well, to honor them. The new SHIELD academy was rebuilt, but instead of having three separate academies, they were merged into one school, a school called: The Phillip J. Coulson and Melinda Q. May SHIELD Academy.