Phil sat at the table in this little restaurant that he and Audrey used to go to. He was looking out the window as he thought.
It had all happened so fast. Once he became Director, it didn’t take long before Tony, that nosy lovable son of a bitch, found out. And then, he told Bruce, so that they could analyze what this means for modern Medicine together. Pepper was very excited at the news. And then they called Clint, so that he could somehow contact Natasha, who was off in hiding because of losing all her covers, so that she could track down and tell Steve, who was off trying to find Bucky. Because let’s face it, if anyone needed to know about this, it was Cap, so that he could finally sign those damn cards. Phil was pretty happy about that. Finding Thor was a bit trickier, but they had to tell him, because he was feeling incredibly guilty that his (adopted) brother killed Phil. They managed to contact him eventually, and he had been so happy that he had came to Earth just to see him.
But after having all the Avengers celebrating his second life, Skye and Simmons freaking out over Thor, Tony and Steve, and Fitz and Trip over Natasha, Coulson realized that if they were all aware of his resurrection, then there was no reason to hide it from Audrey anymore.
So that was why he was sitting in this little restaurant in Portland, waiting for her to show up.
He was nervous. That was a weird feeling. He had been nervous before, but not with Audrey. With Audrey he had never needed to feel nervous. Things were always so easy. Not the same type of easy as things were with Melinda, though. With Audrey it was easy in a way that he could pretend he was just a normal guy. With Melinda, it was easy in a way that they could have the hardest day ever, have nearly dies, be not talking to each other, and yet they would still have each othe’s backs, no matter what. Ah, Melinda. It was nice to know that even after Bahrain, she had continued to be his best friend. Sure, there were rough patches, and she tried to pull away from him, but in the end they always found a way back to each other. There was never any doubt they would. They knew each other best than anyone, and they always put each other’s needs ahead of their own. They could talk for hours, or at the contrary spend hours next to each other without either saying a word. Either way, it was never awkward, always comfortable. And—
And why was he thinking about Melinda? Sure, his mind almost always wandered to her for some reason or an other, strangely enough, but now really wasn’t the moment.
Eh, it was probably just his brain trying to find something to distract him from the nerves.
“Phil,” he heard someone say behind him. He turned around, and saw Audrey standing there, looking as stunning as ever.
“Audrey,” he said, as he stood up and pulled her chair out for her. Melinda often teased him about his gentleman-manners when she was in a good mood. He never minded.
“You’re really alive,” she said, inspecting him with her eyes, as if to see if he was really real.
“Apparently so,” he joked. She smiled, but didn’t look up.
“I can’s believe it,” she said.
“Yeah, you’ll get used to it eventually. It took me a while, too,” he said.
This time she looked up at him. But she wasn’t smiling anymore. She looked like a mixture in between happy and sad.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Nothing. I just—” she said “I thought you were dead.”
He smiled comfortingly at her.
“I couldn’t believe it. I kept denying it, and then your funeral came around, and it finally sank in,” she said “I had dreams about you, you know? And then you called, and told me you were alive, and I couldn’t believe my ears, I thought it was another dream. And now you’re here.” She gestured at him, smiling, though her eyes were slightly teary.
“I’m here,” he confirmed.
The waiter came, and they ordered their food. The dinner went well. They talked, laughed, and scheduled another date a few days later. It was nice. Easy.
But for some reason, the idea of being a normal, average guy didn’t leave him the joy it used to. Maybe it was the resurrection, or the team, or the fact that he was now director. Either way, he was sure he’d feel happy about it again soon enough.
“So how’d the date go?” Melinda asked, making conversation as they drove to the site where an 0-8-4 was found.
“Good.” he answered.
There was a silence.
“But?” Melinda finally said.
“Why do you think there’s a but?” he asked.
“I know you,” she said, smirking, “and last time you were with Audrey, you talked my ear off about her. So what changed? Is it the new job? Her? Or me?”
“What?” he asked. “No, it’s not you! Of course not!” he said.
“Then what?” she asked.
He sighed. “It’s just that, before, I found this magical girl, and with her I had this magical life where I wasn’t Agent Coulson, I was Phil, and I was a normal guy, who went out on dates, and went grocery shopping, and didn’t save the world. I could be the guy next door when I wanted and in the same time be a hero, someone who saved the world. And now I saw her, and she was beautiful, and funny, and it was as if nothing had changed… except that I was kind of looking forward to being back to the hero part, saving the Earth with you. That never happened to me! It was always the other way around! I’d be off trying to handle a millionaire playboy who managed to build a super-suit, or a Asgardian Prince with a giant hammer, and as much as I loves it, I looked forward to the end of the day, when I could see her, and tell her about my day, and just watch a movie with her! But during the last year, sure, I missed her, but each time it was time to go to bed, even with Hydra and the whole TAHITY thing, instead of thinking of her, I’d thank God that I get to save the world and be a SHIELD agent!” he ranted.
She looked at him, and something told him she got it. Because he knew that her too, she had thought of leaving it all behind, and starting over, but since she joined the Bus, for some reason, she had gone back to the field, and had started to let down her walls.
She stopped the car, and they got out, without saying a word. And he almost laughed at how it was so easy with her, even though she was one of the most damaged people he had ever met, and they were in the middle of rebuilding an organization which had been labeled as terrorism. It was absurd.
And suddenly he realized, that she was the reason why he looked forward to being back in the field everyday. Because when she left and transferred to administration, sure, the field work had been the same, maybe a tiny bit harder, but when he came back from it, there was no one to talk to about it. No one to stitch up his wounds. No one who, in the middle of all the insanity of the battle, he could just be with, and it would make it so much easier. And sure, Audrey was great, but he couldn’t talk to her about SHIELD. That’s why even when Melinda was in administration, he still called her everyday to tell her every detail of his day. Because the truth was, anything he did that involved Melinda May was the only thing he wanted to do.
He and Audrey had dinner at his apartment in Washington in the following week. He cooked.
He had decided to ignore his recent discovery about Melinda. He didn’t really know what he felt, but he knew it couldn’t be good. And things with Audrey were good. Less so than before, but they were getting there. Things were already complicated enough in his life right away, he’d rather keep things as simple as possible by having Melinda simply be his best friend and second in command.
He had cooked grilled fish with rice, and for desert they had chocolate soufflé. Melinda thought him to make the soufflé. He always loved the smirk on her face when he failed miserably (of course, he pretended not to be happy about it, but it was always nice to see her smile).
Dammit, he needed to stop thinking about her!
They were now cleaning up, and she was telling him about the stuff he missed in the last year. Suddenly his phone rang.
“Uh, sorry,” he said as he checked the caller: Melinda. “It’s work,” he said quickly.
“Hello, Melinda?” he asked into the phone.
“Uh, no, it’s Skye, sorry. My phone’s out of battery and I found hers and I hacked into it and—she’s going to kill me when she finds out, isn’t she?” Skye asked.
“Can you just tell me why you called?” he asked.
“Oh, well, you know the O-8-4 we found the other day? Well, she’s homesick, and you know how her powers can act up when’s she’s upset, so we decided we’re going to fly back to Peru in a few hours. Just thought I’d give you a heads up! But don’t worry, you can finish up over there, you have time,” she said.
“Uh, yeah, okay, I’ll be there soon.” he said, hanging up, cursing himself for being happy about it. And cursing himself for being disappointed it was Skye instead of Melinda.
“Sorry,” he said, turning to Audrey, “I’m going to have to leave soon, there’s—”
“This isn’t working, is it?” Audrey asked, cutting him off.
“What?” he asked.
“I mean, it’s nice, but there’s something different about it than before,” she explained.
He stared at her.
“Oh God, please tell me it isn’t just me! That’d be embarrassing!” she said.
“Uh, no!” he said. He sat next to her. “I guess we just both moved on,” he said sadly.
She nodded. “So, uh, I guess we probably shouldn’t see each other anymore, huh?” she said.
“Yeah... we can still be friends, though, right?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’d like that,” she said.
They sat in silence for a moment. “So, who’s Melinda?” she asked.
“Huh?” he asked.
“You seemed very happy when she called,” Audrey answered.
“Wha—no, we’re not—uh...” he said. She smiled, arching an eyebrow.
“She’s a friend at work,” Coulson finally said.
“You should go for it,” she said.
“What?” he asked.
“What, we’re friends now, aren’t we? I’m allowed to give you romantic advice,” she said.
“Uh...” he said. He was very uncomfortable about this.
“Oh, Phil, don’t make her wait like you made me. This time, kiss her first,” she said. And with that, she got up and started putting her coat on.
“Wait, what are you doing?” he asked.
“Getting ready to leave. You need to go to work and quite frankly this is getting awkward.” she said.
“But...” he said.
“But what?” she asked.
“Uh... nothing.” he said, and smiled. She smiled back.
They said goodbye and she left. Now Coulson was alone in his living room, trying to think about what just happened. suddenly, someone knocked at the door. He frowned. Surely it wasn’t Audrey. She wouldn’t change her mind so quickly.
He opened the door, and there stood Melinda, soaking wet from the rain. He was momentarily stunned by how good she looked.
“Hey,” she said, as she entered the hall.
“Melinda? But—what are you doing here?” he asked.
“Well, we’re going to have to leave for Peru in a few hours, and I thought I’d tell you in person, so that I could, um, meet Audrey in person.” she said.
“So you walked in the rain?” he asked.
“No, I, uh, the—I crashed the car...” she said.
“You WHAT?” he asked.
“It’s a long story. I tried to call someone, but I seem to have left my phone back at the bus. I figured I wasn’t injured and I was already nearly there, I might as well walk. Anyway, where’s Audrey?” she asked, looking around.
“Uh, she left,” said Coulson.
“What?” she asked. “Oh, Phil. I know you’re trying to be a gentleman and all, but the poor girl is probably incredibly horny after the last year,” she said.
He had to smile. “No, it’s not that. We, uh, we’re not seeing each other anymore,” he explained.
“What?” she asked. “But, why? You love her!”
Actually, I love you, he thought.
“Um,” he said.
“No, you have to go after her!” she said.
“What?” he asked.
“Phil, you can’t just keep running away from happiness. If you have someone to make you happy, you have to be with them. You deserve that!” she said.
He grabbed her neck, and kissed her. She kissed back. The kiss was nice. Soft. Then it intensified.
When they ran out of breath, they parted.
“What the hell was that?” she asked, her eyes wide.
“I love you,” he said.
She stared at him. “You what?” she said, barely over a whisper.
“I, uh, I love you. Didn’t really know it, but, well, um, I guess I should of suspected it, considering the fact that seeing you everyday is my favorite part of the day,” he said with a shrug.
She continued to stare at him.
“I, uh, you don’t have to feel the same way. I mean, if you want to stay friends and forget all about this, we can, I, uh....” he said.
She grinned. It was a grin he hadn’t seen on her in a long time.
She grabbed his neck, and gave him a soft kiss. When they parted a few moments later, she was still smiling.
“I love you too,” she whispered.
“You do?” he asked.
“Of course,” she said. He smiled.
“We, uh, probably should get back to the bus,” she said.
“Nah, they aren’t leaving for another few hours. We have time,” he assured her.
He kissed her a third time, and he felt her grin against his lips.