Daisy had been hoping to put this day off as long as possible.
There was plenty happening around them for a while, plenty of “more important things” to focus on since her team had first gotten back to earth and their own timeline. But with an army of Chronicoms on their side, all of those things had taken much less time than Daisy had been expecting. Re-securing the Lighthouse, rebuilding the SHIELD fleet, smoothing over their public image and getting the ball rolling again on a new SHIELD Academy …
When things quieted down long enough for the moment to become unavoidable, Daisy had been unable to think of a good enough reason to turn May down when she invited Daisy to come see the house she’d just bought, not far from where the Academy was still under construction. Months down road from Malick and Sybil and all that mess, Daisy now felt okay about leaving Kora with Mack and Elena, so it was just her and May in the car now. May is driving, as always, and Daisy is trying hard to enjoy this chance to be alone with her.
Trying harder not to think about how there may not be many chances left.
“How many places did you look at before you found this one?” Daisy asks, attempting small talk as May steers them through a suburban area on the fringe of the Academy’s new site.
“A few. It took seeing a few wrong houses before I had an idea of what I was looking for.”
“Which was?” Daisy prompts, and May smiles as she answers.
“Big windows. Wood floors. Nice bathtub in the master bathroom.”
Daisy tries to put on a smile too. “When was the last time you lived somewhere with a bathtub?”
“When I was married,” May answers, and Daisy goes quiet, unsure what to say next. Those years of May’s life are still one of many things that remain a mystery to her and, despite their history, still fell like none of Daisy’s business.
Thankfully, May keeps talking, even though her next question is hardly easier to talk about.
“How are you feeling about the future these days? Any thoughts about what you might want to do next?”
Daisy bites this inside of her lip, turning away under the pretense of checking the last street sign they just passed.
This is what she’s really been avoiding since they got back from their last mission—the burning question of what’s next.
“Not really,” she eventually answers. “Still feels like I’m hitting a wall every time I try to make my own plans. It’s been a long time since I could think like that.”
Her life since joining SHIELD had been mostly directed by things that happened to them—SHIELD falling, Hydra rising, an Inhuman outbreak, a time jump… Taking her brief hiatus from SHIELD had been the closest Daisy had come throughout that time to steering her own ship—otherwise, the past six years had been directed by the threats that rose up against the team or the world at large. It wasn’t like Daisy would have sat those out while others fought her battles, but at the same time, getting to carve her own path was something so distant that Daisy had long since quit longing for the opportunity to do it again.
“We spent a long time just trying to stay alive, save the world…” May agrees, as if reading Daisy’s thoughts. “It’s almost disorienting to suddenly be able to do anything more than that.”
Daisy nods, relieved that May understands.
“Yeah. Still trying to fit my head around the thought of SHIELD without Fitz and Simmons, or a team without you or Coulson…”
May lets her trail off, doesn’t try to deflect, and this makes Daisy keep going.
“I keep trying to let my imagination run wild, try to think of what I could do now, but those thoughts never go anywhere. I keep trying to think back to where I was before SHIELD—when I was just some hacker, looking for my family—but I found those answers. I found a different family. I’m not just good for hacking anymore. So that train of thought doesn’t get me anywhere. And then I try to think of what I’ve loved the most about being with SHIELD, what I’d be happy to keep doing, and the closest thing I’ve ever felt to fulfilled was when we had just started up the Inhuman Response Team, when we picked up Joey, when we were helping him adapt to being something new and different…”
And we all remember why that ended…
Daisy sighs. “But then there was Hive, and Lincoln died, and then there was the Ghost Rider, and then AIDA, and then the Framework, and then space and the future, and then, and then…” Daisy trails off with another sigh. “And I guess the world doesn’t need an Inhuman Response team the way it used to, but it also kind of feels like SHIELD doesn’t really need me anymore…”
“You know that’s not true,” May interrupts softly, shaking her head. “But you also don’t need to be deciding your future around whether SHIELD needs you or not.”
Daisy goes quiet, swallowing hard and deciding that she doesn’t really need to remind May that the woman did her fair share of that too, in the beginning. May has turned the car into a neighborhood now, and Daisy tries to distract herself by trying to pick out which house might be May’s.
“You know,” May says after the pause grows long, “it’s not like SHIELD has a thriving department of Inhuman training now anyway. Or even a decent procedure in place. You could be a part of creating or running something like that. And there’s Kora to think about.”
Daisy closes her eyes.
“I know. I think about her future a lot.”
Things with Kora have been…strange, to say the least. Daisy had already felt that it was easiest to treat the young woman as a stranger with two exceptional circumstances going for her: inhuman powers, and displacement from her own time and timeline. There was so much to catch her up on, so much she needed someone to lead her through…
To Daisy, it less like gaining a sibling (aka an ally), and more like suddenly having a child.
“I don’t really know what’s best for Kora right now,” Daisy admits. “She needs a crash course on the last forty years, on the weirder world that we know about…she doesn’t even exist on paper yet—it’s not like I can help her enroll in school. And before you suggest the Academy, I’m not letting her near other young adults until she’s gotten better at interacting with strangers and judging peoples’ character.”
“Could be something for the future,” May acknowledges. “But maybe what she needs first is space.”
Daisy looks over at May again. “Do you mean the metaphorical kind, or the interstellar kind?”
May shrugs. “Well, the first will give her the opportunity to process all her changes and get ready for a different life. The second might not be a bad place to get the first.”
May suddenly slows the car and turns it into a driveway. Startled, Daisy peers out the window and sees a multistory wooden gray house.
“Here we are,” May says, turning off the engine and climbing out of the car, and Daisy hurries to follow.
So this is it—the end of the road.
The house isn’t ostentatious, but it’s bigger than Daisy was expecting. She’d been picturing May in something like a cottage—a simple, one-car garage kind of house—but this neighborhood has a little more space between houses and some well-established trees lending the appearance of privacy between the homes, and none of the houses Daisy can see are single-story. May leads her up the front walk flanked with bare flower beds to a black front door. She has the key in her pocket.
“Looks nice,” Daisy says immediately as the door swings open and they walk in together, in case May is waiting for her reaction.
May turns to her with a smile, and Daisy is a little startled by how proud she looks.
“Let me show you around.”
Before joining SHIELD, Daisy had never been at an income level where she could have afforded a house, and though she’s been financially set up for a while now (Coulson had put hazard pay on all their salaries years ago), she’s still never had the experience of buying a house, or even shopping for one, really.
So she doesn’t really know what to say, compliment, or acknowledge as May leads her around the first floor through a series of wide, empty rooms lain with wood floors and walled with the big windows that May had described earlier.
“This room right here would be the living room, and back there is the sun porch. Dining room is over there, kitchen, laundry room, garage through there…there’s a half-bath under the stairs…”
Daisy follows May around and tries not to disappoint, even though she can feel inconvenient tears trying to sneak up behind her eyes.
Upstairs, a landing becomes a short hallway with five doorways leading off it.
“This one’s the master bedroom,” May says, leading Daisy into a room with French doors and a backyard balcony on one wall and a bathroom on the other. “And you can peek at the bathtub if you want to tease me about it.”
Daisy does, just to humor her. “Looks nice,” she says diplomatically again.
Back on the landing, May walks around opening the other doors, and Daisy tries to laugh, mostly to help herself.
“Four bedrooms? Are you planning to rent out to students?”
May smiles at her though and gestures around at the open doors.
“Which one do you like best?”
Wishing for May’s question to be what it sounds like but knowing it’s not, Daisy takes a deep breath and walks around, inspecting the empty rooms.
“I like the windows in there,” she finally says, pointing to the room beside May’s.
“That one shares the balcony,” May said, slipping a hand into her jacket pocket and pulling out, surprisingly, a small pad of post-it notes. “Good choice.”
She scribbles something on the pad and then presses the sticky-note against the bedroom door. Daisy squints at it finds her name staring back at her.
Breath catching, she looks over at May, who smiles softly.
“You didn’t think I was just going to leave you, right?”
Daisy opens her mouth to answer, but no words come. Because yes, god, she did think that. Assumed that May had more than earned the right to leave SHIELD and her team without looking back—she’d done it once before, after all. It was exactly what Daisy had feared was about to happen again, and she’d known she had no right to protest.
But now, staring at May’s sincere expression, all Daisy can do is purse her lips and look away, back at her name on the door, before she breaks down completely. And before she turns around again, May has closed the distance and pulled Daisy into her arms.
Disbelievingly, Daisy returns the embrace, loosely holding onto May while the woman speaks over her shoulder.
“You don’t have to have all the answers now, and you don’t have to decide now what the rest of your life, or even the rest of this year, is going to be. And if you want space from all this, I would understand that too. But if you need a landing place, a place to get your feet under you and give you space to dream, I want to offer you that here.”
Over her shoulder, Daisy tries and fails to muscle down her tears. “Thank you,” is all she can manage in response, barely more than a whimper.
When May finally pulls back, Daisy ducks her head, her sniffles echoing in the empty space around them, but May doesn’t seem disturbed as she reaches into her pocket again.
“You found your wings in SHIELD, but you were looking for your roots, and you never really got to plant those. What if you plant at least a few of them right here?”
May opens her hand between them. Lying on her palm is a key.
Hesitantly, Daisy reaches for it, but an important question makes her draw back before she accepts the gift.
“What about Kora?” she rasps, looking up at May concernedly.
The woman just smiles and gestures to the doorways around them, a space that suddenly looks totally different to Daisy.
Not the end of the road…just a crossroads.
“Well, Daisy, there are two other bedrooms.”