When Jemma and Fitz returned to the Lighthouse with Piper, Flint, and Alya in tow, the scene they were greeted with was much different than the one they expected. Theoretically, sticking a bunch of people who just narrowly escaped death and saved the world onto a couple of couches with some beers should lead to a mellow evening of relishing the fact that they were alive, but that’s not how this team worked. Despite being exhausted, they still had a large capacity for chaos. And despite having been left alone for only about a half an hour, they already seem well on their way to being drunk.
Daisy had apparently been introducing Daniel and Kora to the joys of beer pong, and neither of them seemed to be particularly good at it. They were teamed up against Daisy, who was blatantly using her powers to cheat and keep her throws on track. The fact that neither Daniel nor Kora had ever consumed this much alcohol at once, given that most of his life had lacked bad influences and hers had been sheltered by her mother, was certainly not helping their coordination either. Daisy was apparently taking it upon herself to be a bad influence on them both and teach them about modern drinking games. Some random pop song was blasting from a Bluetooth speaker, and Daisy was doing a victory dance to the thumping beat as she sunk another shot.
Mack and Elena seemed to be hooking up in a corner, their pool cues and beer bottles lying abandoned on the table amongst the haphazardly scattered balls. She was balanced on the edge of the table, her arms wrapped around his neck and his hands roaming low enough that Jemma was tempted to cover her daughter’s eyes.
In the middle of all the chaos, Coulson and May were seated on a couch, passing an expensive-looking bottle of scotch back and forth. Despite how much as May had changed over the past few years, Jemma was still a bit shocked to hear her laughing with her old friend, her feet up on the table. His arms were stretched over the back of the couch, and she was comfortably settled underneath one of them like it was the most natural thing in the world.
Daisy was the first one to spot them, her dramatic gasp and excited shout drawing the attention of everyone else. Elena jumped off the pool table to go hug Piper, and Mack crushed Flint in a hug of his own. Daniel and Kora hung back, feeling a little awkward, but Coulson and May got up to go join Daisy, where she was still standing in shock. FitzSimmons had said there was one more thing they needed to take care of, but they had been elusive about what exactly that was, opting for the dramatic reveal. Alya, for her part, was in her mother’s arms, shyly hiding her face against her mother’s neck, but still peaking out a little at the people before her in curiosity. It was a look so reminiscent of both Jemma and Fitz, particularly from the Bus days, that there was no doubt who this kid was.
“Everyone, we want you to meet Alya Fitzsimmons.”
“She’s what we were fighting for.”
Daisy was the first one to come forwards, and at her greeting, Alya squirmed in her mother’s arms in a silent request to be put down. As Daisy crouched down to be at eye level with the little girl, off to the side, Coulson helped Fitz unpack some of Alya’s things from the bag he was carrying and May went to greet Piper and Flint, giving them some space. Jemma stood behind her daughter with a supportive hand on her shoulder, but let her talk to Daisy on her own.
“You’re Aunt Daisy, and you’re a superhero,” Alya stated confidently, but with a bit of awe in her voice. Daisy’s eyes jumped up to Jemma in surprise, but she just smiled back at her friend.
“Did your mommy and daddy tell you about me?”
“Mhm, and they showed me pictures too.” Leaning in closer to whisper, she then said, “The stories about you are my favorites and I wanna be like you when I grow up, but don’t tell anyone else, ‘cause I don’t wanna make them feel bad.”
“It can be our little secret.” Daisy couldn’t even begin to process that this tiny little kid saw her as a role model, so she tried to change the subject to something she was more confident about. “Do you want to see me quake something?”
At Alya’s enthusiastic nod, Daisy took the ping pong ball she’d pocketed earlier when their arrival had interrupted her game of beer pong, balancing it on her palm and quaking the air just enough to get the ball to float. The little girl’s jaw dropped, and Daisy felt something warm settle in her chest as her hand flitted around, making the ball do looping patterns in the air. She had barely met Alya, and she already loved her. A glance up at Jemma saw her smiling down at them, looking so much calmer and happier than Daisy had seen her be in years. She’d looked happy at her wedding and at being reunited with Fitz in space, but there was no edge of desperation to her joy now. She looked content in it, no longer fearing that she would be losing it anytime soon. That was a look that none of them had had probably since carefree game nights on The Bus, and Daisy knew it was mirrored in her own eyes when she looked around the room right now at her family.
“Can I tell you another secret?” Daisy smiled and nodded as Alya looked up at her seriously, her wide eyes betraying a bit of her nerves. “Mum says I’m named for you, ‘cause my middle name is Skye, and that used to be your name, right?"
“Yes, baby, you’re our star in the sky.” Jemma smiled down at her daughter, who was looking up at her expectantly. She said the words with a calmness that indicated they were a familiar refrain.
“That did used to be my name, and I think it’s a pretty cool name too,” Daisy assured her.
“So it’s okay if I keep it?” Alya asked, her nerves more obvious now.
“I’d love for you to have it. You seem like a pretty cool little girl, so I think it’s fitting.” Without warning, Alya barreled into Daisy and wrapped her arms around her rather than trying to find the words to show her gratitude. Daisy let the ball fall to the ground and roll away, hugging her back without hesitation. While she’d been looking at Alya, Fitz had come over and wrapped her arm around his wife’s waist without Daisy noticing, so she was surprised to hear his voice when Alya released her.
“Hey little monkey, do you want to come meet Grandpa Coulson and Uncle Mack? They helped me unpack, so you can show them some of your toys.”
“Okay!” And with that, she skipped off with her dad to go meet more people, her earlier nerves apparently forgotten after meeting Daisy had gone so well.
Daisy stood up and immediately hugged her best friend tightly, unable to put into words all the emotions that were swirling around inside her. Everytime she thought she loved her family as strongly as she possibly could, something like this would happen. She had started out all those years ago alone in her van, then forming a tentative friendship with the other two people on the Bus who were as young and innocent as she was. If someone told that version of herself that her new friends would one day name their kid after her, she would feel vindicated by the confirmation that FitzSimmons would finally get together, but shocked that she’d ever have people close enough for her to deserve that honor. She’d probably sooner believe that she’d have superpowers one day than that.
“Thank you,” she finally whispered. That was the only way she could think to express it all. She was grateful that they thought she was worthy of this, grateful they trusted her to be a role model for their daughter, grateful they were her friends and loved her as much as she loved them. When Daisy finally released her, Jemma smiled and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear a little nervously.
“We weren’t sure if we were overstepping, since we couldn’t ask you—”
“You most definitely were not,” Daisy interjected reassuringly.
“I’m glad, then. We thought it would be fitting, since she was quite literally born in the sky, but also because it felt like a good reminder of where we were and how far we’ve all come. We aren’t those same kids anymore, but we still love you and want you to be part of our lives and our daughter’s life, even though things are different now.”
“I love you guys too, and I’d be happy to babysit your kid whenever you need a date night, if you know what I mean,” Daisy said with a suggestive eyebrow waggle. Jemma just rolled her eyes affectionately, more than used to her friend’s teasing by now. “C’mon, you can help me beat Daniel and Kora to beer pong.”
Jemma let herself be pulled along, accepting a beer from a clearly very drunk Daniel Sousa. There was another conversation she really needed to have, but it could wait till the morning. Tonight, she was happy to celebrate being alive with her family. Fitz had taken Elena’s place at the pool table, easily beating Mack with the combination of geometry skills and ability to keep his attention of the game instead of spending half of it making eyes at his girlfriend across the room. Elena, for her part, was teasingly ignoring Mack’s looks and sitting with Piper, catching her up on their recent adventures.
Jemma kept checking to make sure Alya was okay, not ready to let her out of her sight after being separated for so long and feeling the guilt of it for weeks, although she hadn’t known why at the time and her daughter had stayed safe. The only reason she was even okay letting Alya out of arm’s reach was because she was seated on the floor with Coulson, May and Flint, the latter two being recruited by Coulson after Mack and Fitz went to go play pool. After all the jokes they’d made about May and Coulson being like parents to the team, it wasn’t surprising in the least to see how good they were with actual kids. Jemma wasn’t exactly sure what they were doing — was that a tea party with cups of water and the monkeys Enoch made? — but Alya looked happy, sitting on May’s lap and giggling at whatever Coulson had just said, and that’s all that mattered. Even Flint seemed to be getting into it, using rock fragments that were lying around from the Chronicoms' recent attack to construct what appeared to be a little banana.
Eventually, though, the little girl did start yawning. It had been a very long day and by now, the adrenaline had worn off, leaving everyone else feeling a bit sleepy too. One by one, they all cleaned up their empty drinks and headed off to the rooms that had been theirs what felt like a lifetime ago now. Kora and Daniel looked like they were about to pass out (“they’re such lightweights,” Daisy joked affectionately, as if she hadn’t cheated at beer pong and tricked them into consuming more alcohol than they’d probably ever had in their lives), so Daisy helped them to their new rooms as they sang an impromptu duet to the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe,” which had been playing earlier. Daniel had a surprisingly good voice.
The next morning, Jemma got up early with Alya, letting Fitz have a bit of a lie in. Kids were notoriously early risers, and Alya was no exception, but luckily Jemma was too. She was in the middle of making scrambled eggs with Alya sitting at the kitchen table eating a peach when Kora stumbled into the kitchen, looking extremely hungover.
“Good morning!” Jemma said brightly. “Isn’t it a bit early for you to be awake?”
“G’mornin,” she mumbled sleepily. “I heard May get up this morning, ‘cause her room is next to mine and I’m a light sleeper, and I couldn’t get back to sleep again.” May seemed to be immune to hangovers and sleep deprivation, getting up at 5am every morning without fail for tai chi. It was a long established routine that Jemma would boil extra water and leave the kettle on for May, the two of them spending many quiet mornings together with a cup of tea. Fitz had gotten quite good at convincing her to stay in bed past 6am, but Jemma was always fond of watching the sunrise and drinking tea with May, long before anyone else woke up. There hadn’t been any sunrises in space, but Jemma had been getting up early almost every single morning again, now that they had Alya. Some mornings she was a little ball of energy, running around and begging to play games, but some mornings, like this one, she was content to just sit quietly and watch her mother cook.
“Ah, yes, she always gets up early for tai chi. Did Daisy leave out aspirin for you? I always do that for Fitz, and I used to do it for her sometimes too. If not, go back down the hallway and the second door on the right has a medicine cabinet with some painkillers, which will help.” After spending over a decade with him, Jemma was very experienced with dealing with a hungover Fitz — the key was to let him sleep in and make sure the windows were covered, leaving a glass of water with painkillers sitting next to his bed. If he took them right away and got the proper amount of sleep, the chances of him being twice as grouchy as usual were significantly lower. Jemma didn’t tend to drink enough to get hungover and she mostly just powered through it when she did, preferring not to complain dramatically like certain people she knew. She’d gotten in the habit of caring for Daisy’s hangovers too once she’d realized that Daisy’s moping would only make Fitz’s worse, the two of them in some sort of positive feedback loop of misery that drove everyone else mad with the combined force of their complaints.
“She, uh, didn’t. So I’ll just—” Kora pointed awkwardly over her shoulder, shuffling out of the room. Jemma added some more eggs to her pan. By the time Kora came back into the room, Jemma was serving up four plates of scrambled eggs, May having come in while Kora was gone, leaving an empty place at the table for her. Jemma gestured for her to sit down and she did, looking a bit surprised, but still quite hungover.
“Would you like coffee or tea?” Jemma asked, as the kettle started whistling cheerfully. “I personally like lemon tea for a hangover, but I know Daisy and Fitz love coffee.” She was, in fact, having a cup of lemon ginger tea this morning, although she was barely hungover. It was still a good morning tea when she wasn’t in the mood for anything with caffeine, even without getting overly drunk the night before. Jemma started making May’s traditional cup of chai tea without even having to ask.
“My...my mom always used to make us tea for breakfast. Oolong was her favorite, I think.” Kora’s voice got quieter at the end and she looked down at her plate, pushing the eggs around with her fork instead of eating them. “D-do you have any of that?”
“Of course,” Jemma said with a smile, digging through a cabinet until she found their stash of tie guan yin leaves. ‘Iron Goddess of Mercy’ felt oddly fitting for Kora. A strong woman, learning how to forgive others as well as herself.
Kora was feeling simultaneously overwhelmed and touched by the care Jemma was showing for her. She wasn’t quite sure what she’d done to deserve any of this, but she could see why Daisy clearly loved her. Jemma was a better sister for Daisy than Kora could ever be. She didn’t know how to make someone breakfast, or to be thoughtful enough to leave out a hangover cure for them. She knew how to fight, but that wasn’t all she wanted her life to be anymore. She was tired of being angry, tired of running. This felt like a place that could be a home for her, but she just wasn’t sure if she deserved it.
As they ate their breakfast, Jemma and May chatted about their plans for the day. She and Fitz wanted to bring Alya out to River’s End and show her what Earth was like, and the little girl was very excited. May asked her about what she was looking forward to seeing the most, and the little girl talked about bugs for two minutes straight. They tried to include Kora in the conversation too, but she didn’t have much to add, so she stayed mostly silent. The memories that came with each sip of tea were enough to keep her occupied anyways. When they were done, Kora offered to help with dishes, but May waved her off. Jemma called for her to come into the living room (game room? common area? what do you call a place with couches, a pool table, and a TV that’s in the middle of your top-secret base?), so she followed dutifully. When they got there, Kora sat down awkwardly next to Jemma on the couch while Alya settled down on her stomach on the floor with some paper and colored pencils that Jemma had brought for her. She wasn’t quite sure what she was doing here — what she was doing at this top-secret base in general, but more pressingly, what she was doing sharing a moth-eaten sofa with a genius biochemist whom she was a little bit afraid of.
“I wanted to talk to you about Daisy,” Jemma started, and Kora’s eyes were already widening in panic. She wondered if you could get a ‘shovel talk,’ as she’d learned they were called from Daisy as Daniel drunkenly recalled being threatened by Mack, just for being someone’s sister. “She loves you.”
“What?!” This was not how Kora had expected this conversation to go.
“Daisy has always wanted a family, you know. And yes, she does have us now, but you’re her actual, blood related family. When you want something for so long, you can’t help but love it once you finally find it. Her parents did some pretty messed up things, but she still loved them.”
“But what if I don’t measure up to what she expects from a sister?” Kora asked, biting her lip nervously. She wanted to believe Daisy loved her, more than anything, but she didn’t understand why she would. Jemma had been here for years, caring for Daisy, while Kora had fought against her friends and tried to kill her in the week or so that they’d known each other.
“If Daisy has ever had any expectations for what a family should be, I think she let go of those a long time ago. Maybe there was a time where she wanted the white picket fence and businessman-dad and stay-at-home-mom with two-and-a-half kids, but now all she wants is people who understand and love her.” Kora wasn’t exactly sure how someone could have two-and-a-half kids or why a white picket fence was at all relevant. But, cultural reference she missed due to growing up in China four decades ago notwithstanding, she got the point.
“She already has plenty of people who love and understand her, though, who also haven’t tried to kill her. Why would she need me too?” At this, Jemma glanced down at Alya with a fond smile.
“There’s something about the bonds of blood that makes them difficult to shake off. You can choose your family, yes, but it is still no small feat to break away from the one you were born into, no matter what they do to you. A blessing and the curse of the human race, perhaps. Fitz and I love Alya more than we ever thought we could, and we have from the moment she was born. We always have room in our hearts for more people, and certainly for family. Blood doesn’t have to define you, but it certainly tries its best to bind you to others.”
“I don’t want her to love me just out of obligation, though.” The last thing Kora wanted was to be a burden to anyone, especially not to the person who had saved her, even though she hadn’t really done anything to deserve it.
“Familial love is never an obligation. It might be an innate tug within us all, but we can ignore it if we want to, despite its natural strength. Daisy might be drawn to love you, so it’s not a thing you really have to earn, but she’s also choosing to accept the feeling.” Jemma felt her heart break a little bit at the vulnerability in the other woman’s eyes. She just hoped she was getting through to her, convincing her that she didn’t need to redeem herself in any way to get Daisy to love her. Last night, Jemma had seen the same look in her friend’s eyes as she watched Kora miss another beer pong shot that she often directed at Coulson, or May, or anyone else on the team.
“H-how do you know?” She wanted to believe her so badly.
“I’ve known Daisy for a very long time, and she’s never been shy about her emotions. I don’t think she could even if she tried. If she’s upset, everyone in a 5 mile radius is going to know — and that’s been true since even before she got her powers. One time, when we were enjoying a night off in a bar, she got us all kicked out after accidentally hitting a bartender in the face with a carelessly flung pool cue in celebration of her victory over an incredibly drunk Fitz.” Jemma chuckled lightly. “She’s not quiet in her anger or her love, no matter who it’s directed at. She quaked Fitz into a wall once — well, actually twice if you count the time we played Monopoly. The point is, she wouldn’t be teaching you beer pong and letting you into her home if she didn’t care about you. She chose to bring you here and to try and make you feel included. She wouldn’t do that if she didn’t care about you; she doesn’t fake affection.”
“She didn’t leave out aspirin for me, though,” Kora responded, a little disbelievingly, a little petulantly, a little brokenly. Jemma couldn’t help but laugh a little bit.
“That’s not a measure of how much she loves you; that’s a measure of her memory. I only asked becauseI like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I’ve known Daisy for 7 years now, and I can say with certainty that memory is not one of her main talents. I don’t think she’s ever finished a mission report on time without a minimum of three reminders from Coulson or Mack.” The girl memorized books on coding when she was 13, though, so it was really more of a lack of memory when it came to more mundane details, but that was besides the point. Kora nodded cautiously, seeming to accept her explanation, before asking the question that had been bouncing around her mind since the beginning of the conversation.
“Why are you telling me this, though?”
“Fitz and I spent years being afraid of our feelings for each other because we were too blind to see how the other felt, and I don’t want you to have the same fear. You’re safe now, Kora. You’re with good people, and you have family who love you here. It’s alright to be happy.”
“Hey guys, whatcha talking about?” A yawning Daisy interrupted them before Kora could respond or even try to refute Jemma’s statement, draping herself over the back of the couch, eyes half-lidded but looking at her sisters.
“Isn’t it a bit early for you to be up, Daisy?” Jemma responded, smoothly dodging her actual question. “Usually you sleep until at least noon when you’re hungover.”
“I didn’t actually drink that much last night, because I’m so skilled at beer pong. And Daniel is a morning person,” she added, blushing a bit.
Twin cries of “awww” and “ewww” erupted from her audience. Jemma was just happy that she’d found a guy like Sousa to be there for her. After everything, she deserved it. Kora supposed she was taking on more of the role of the younger sister here, even though she was technically born first, but she didn’t particularly want any knowledge of her sister’s sex life. All that mattered was that she was happy, really.
Daisy vaulted herself onto the couch with a grunt, landing heavily and slightly on top of its other occupants, but slid to the floor before they could complain.
“Alright Miss Alya, what are we drawing this morning? I can draw a pretty great ghost, but that’s pretty much where my skills end.”
“This is a tree,” Alya responded, showing her paper to her aunt. “Or at least I think it is, ‘cause I’ve only really seen pictures of them so far.”
“I always liked drawing,” Kora volunteered cautiously. “I think I can draw some cool flowers, if you’d like.”
Jemma smiled and sipped her tea, just sitting quietly and watching her daughter hang out with her aunts. She knew it would probably be a little while before she was okay with letting her daughter out of her sight with anyone, but she thought she might not mind letting Daisy and Kora watch her. They hadn’t known Kora for long, but Jemma was certain she was going to be a permanent part of their little family. If there was anything Jemma had learned from these past couple of years, it was to take whatever time you were given and spend it with the people you love. Perhaps with enough time, Kora would even call Jemma her sister, and not just because of Daisy. Alya already seemed to like Kora, despite not hearing bedtime stories about her for years like she did about Daisy.
“Mama, look at what Auntie Kora drew for me! Do you think we could go out and look for real flowers today too?” Her little girl smiled up at her, and Jemma felt her heart melt as it always did.
“Of course, sweetie.” Jemma glanced over at Kora, who was shading an intricate drawing of a daisy, while Daisy herself had abandoned her lackluster attempt at a drawing of a pumpkin to accompany her legion of ghosts to stare at her sister with so much love in her eyes. Kora had nothing to worry about with Daisy. “How about we have a family outing to River’s End, and we can all get some tacos? Alya has never had any before, because, much to Fitz’s dismay, we forgot to put tortillas on our space trip packing list.”
“I’ve actually never had any tacos. Gordon did takeout sometimes, but my mom liked to cook for us, and I preferred that anyways.” There was an awkward moment of silence as they all thought about Jiaying, and how she really did try her best to be a good mom, but Daisy broke it with her usual enthusiasm.
“Well, prepared to be amazed, because we are going on an adventure to Chipotle! It’s taco— what day is it, actually?”
“Sunday,” Jemma supplied helpfully.
“It’s Taco Sunday, y’all!”