Coulson thought she was bulletproof. Not on a rational level. Of course he knew that even Melinda May wasn't invincible. But she got so very close to it, he sometimes forgot she was mortal too. His super human friend from earth, so much more dear to him than Captain America.
How quickly things could change. He was grateful for the steady beep of the ECG that monitored her heartbeat and at the same time, he hated seeing her surrounded by all this machinery. Fitzsimmons had sat up equipment to monitor her vital functions and keep her nourished through a tube that was attached to a vein in her arm.
He would've been able to bear it, if she'd just roll her eyes about all the fuzz. But her eyes had stayed shut for two days now. Two days. Two horribly long days.
Fitzsimmons weren't sure, if she'd wake up. They told him again and again how very confident and positive they were about Melinda's stage of being, but they used the same phrases too often and he started to lose faith.
He was so mad at May. Not because of the secrets she had kept from him, not for that. He was mad at her for taking that bullet for him. For risking her own life just to save his. He already lived his second chance, he didn't want her to pay for his third. He could forgive her for everything, except for dying.
Why wasn't she waking up?
He leaned forward in his chair and reached out his hand to place it over May's, that lay above the white covers on the medical bed. Her hand was warm. The situation was so unreal. The room was only dim lid, but he could see enough. She looked pale, yes, but her face was without bruises and her features were relaxed. She looked like she was sleeping. But coma wasn't sleep. And the sheets and bandages might cover up the shot wound on her left side below her rip cage, but they didn't make it or the trauma it caused disappear. She had lost a lot of blood. Fitzsimmons could deal with the internal damages, but she still wouldn't wake up.
He squeezed her hand. Fitzsimmons recommended talking to her. It might stimulate her brain and make her wake up, they said.
Skye talked to her about programming, arguing that if May would be annoyed by that she should just wake up and make her shut up.
Simmons read her poetry, while Fitz tried to make light one sided conversation and failed in hilarious ways. It was sad.
Coulson ran his thumb over May's hand.
"I forgive you," he said. His voice sounded hollow. "Just please wake up. Please." He told her that last night. Until now it still had to prove any sort of affect.
By day, Coulson managed to keep busy. He knew his team wouldn't leave her alone. By night, he took over.
The last night he had spent right here in this chair, holding her hand, talking about forgiveness. But mostly just begging her to wake up. He felt like a broken record. He wished he could change their last interaction.
Two days ago, she had been fighting with him. No, not fighting. Playing some stupid game of silence. Because he hadn't been willing to forgive her. Her betrayal. He had been hurt and confused and his ego had probably the most bruises, so he had iced her out. For what? She hadn't been willing to break protocol for him, so what? In every other way she had always been loyal to him.
That day they had gone to a bank to cash in on some secret money Fury had hidden for emergencies. And he had been so very cold to her. So childish. Stupid. On their way out of the bank a Hydra assassin had attacked them. He hadn't even noticed the woman in the black coat, before it was to late. He had been too busy dwelling in that feeling of betrayal. Of course Melinda hadn't been distracted. She pushed him aside and fired a bullet, before taking one herself. The one she fired had been deadly. The one she took … She would survive this. She must!
He needed her. He loved her. He was selfish in that. Or maybe just a coward.
It had taken him less than two weeks to fall in love with her, after they had first met. And now he was in love with her again. Too be honest, he wasn't sure if he ever stopped loving her. He had always been good at burying the dreams he knew wouldn't come true.
He pressed his lips together.
She had said, she cared about him. She had lied for him. - also to him, but mostly for him. To protect him. Because she cared about him. A lot. And he had never seen her look at somebody like she had then.
He hoped they were both fools. He hoped she'd been talking about love but had been too scared to say it.
If - when, because she would wake up eventually, he would give her no other choice. - when she'd wake up, he'd tell her.
He understood her now. If someone would come to him now and promise to magically heal Melinda, given that Coulson would never, ever be allowed to talk to her about it, he would take that deal. He'd take that deal in a heartbeat.
"I'm so sorry," he said, "just come back to me." He picked up her hand and kissed her palm. "Please, Melinda, please …" He choked up. Damn it. She needed to wake up! He held her hand in both of his. He wasn't sure how'd she react to this, if she'd be awake, but he needed this little connection to her. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. This wasn't helping. He wasn't helping.
"You saved me," he said then, "I don't mean taking that bullet for me, that was stupid and you shouldn't have-" He stopped himself. "After I died, it wasn't Tahiti that saved me, it was you." He squeezed her hand. "That speech you gave me … You saved me, Melinda. So don't you dare die on me, you hear me?"
He should've told her that weeks ago.
Her index finger flinched.
Coulson straightened up. "Melinda?"
Her eyelids fluttered.
He stood up and leaned forward.
"Phil …" Her voice was barely audible and raspy, but he heard her perfectly.
Her eyes opened and he smiled.
"Hey," he said. All his tension just disappeared.
Seeing her looking back at him made his heart skip a beat. She blinked and licked her lips.
"How are you feeling?" he asked gently. Holding her hand with his left, he reached out his right and cradled her face. He probably shouldn't touch her so much.
Leaning into his palm, she smiled. "Fine."
Oh, he loved her.
"Liar," he said. "I'll get Fitzsimmons to check up on you, okay?"
"Wait." Her fingers wrapped around his hand and her eyes fell shut.
He caressed her forehead. "You need to rest."
She sighed and opened her eyes again. "Thank you," she whispered. "For forgiving me."
He saw how much strength it took for her to say those words. He swallowed.
"Melinda, I …" He swallowed again. "I get Fitzsimmons."
He was such a coward.
He didn't tell her.
Ten hours later, May walked into his office and almost fell, if he hadn't caught her.
"Damn it, May!" he said, his arms wrapped tightly around her waist. She winched because of the pressure he applied to her wound and he cursed again. Quickly, he adjusted his hold on her. Their bodies were pressed together and her hands lay on his shoulders. She had a surprised expression that almost made him giggle. The invincible Melinda May wasn't used to having weak knees.
"You've been shot, you've been in a coma, what are you doing walking around like this?" he asked, pulling his brows together. He steadied her, but didn't dare to let go. Her hands stayed on his shoulders.
She lifted her chin. "Fitzsimmons said, I could."
"Did you threaten them?"
Her mouth twitched. Of course she had threatened them.
He sighed. "I should just carry you to the couch." He should tell her he loved her. He wanted to kiss her. He was such a fool.
"I heard you last night," she said.
Such. A. Fool.
He should tell her right now. Just open his mouth and say those three words. But all that came out was, "Oh."
"I …" She nibbled on her bottom lip. - Gosh, he wanted to kiss her badly.
"And I wanted to …" She hesitated again. "You saved me too, Phil."
He loved her, he loved her, he loved her, but he couldn't form a word.
She looked at his tie. Her right hand moved to the collar of his shirt and her fingers ran over the edge, their tips touched his skin. He shivered.
He was also her boss. She was also his best friend. His closest, most trusted friend. What if by saying it, he would lose her?
"I love you," he said. Because she wasn't bulletproof and one day he might lose her. At least now, she would know.
Her gaze shot back to his. Her eyes widened.
"I don't expect anything," he added quickly. He tried to smile, but it was shaky. "I just wanted you to know because I care a lot about you and I know we're friends and I'm sorry I was so mad and you're so much more to me than an ally and I love you." He took a breath. "I love you."
She stared at him.
He swallowed. "So now you know."
And then she smiled.
She cradled his face and pulled him down. She gently pressed her lips against his, before she nibbled on his bottom lip. It was heaven.
When she opened his mouth to his, he groaned. He could kiss her like this forever. But she just escaped death and was literally too weak to stand, so he pulled away, before the temptation to simply carry her to the couch and kiss every single inch of her got overwhelming.
Her fingers caressed his cheeks, his ear shells, his throat.
"I love you," she said.
And he felt peaceful.