Today she had been beaten. She had been kicked. She had been shot at. She nearly had died. And yet she would go through all of it again just to avoid this situation right here. Melinda leaned against the door frame to Coulson's office.

"Don't you have a date?" she asked.

He looked up from his computer. "I've got work to do."

She sighed. She really, really didn't want to have this conversation. But here they went anyway: "You deserve a life outside the job, Phil. You should go. It's not too late yet."

He raised a brow. "Are you giving me dating advice?"

"There's more in life than work."

"Not for you."

She stepped into his office and closed the door. "I had Ward."

"He doesn't count."

"Because you say so?"

"Because I've seen you more emotional attached to a sword than to Ward. He doesn't count."

Damn him for knowing her so well. Of course he was right. Ward didn't count. He had been a distraction. But this wasn't about her, this was about him. And his perfect cellist. She just wished she wouldn't have to play cupid. Her heart ached enough as it was.

"You're not me," she said, "You need people, you love people." He loved this Audrey person. And she wanted him to be happy.

"Audrey and I …" Phil hesitated. "I'm not sure if it'd work."

"If you don't give it a try, you'll never know." Maybe if he'd be happy, he'd forgive her. Maybe they could be friends again, eventually.

He stood up and walked around his desk. "So you think I should go out with her?"

"Yes." If she'd reach out, she could touch him. Maybe she should just leave him after they fixed this mess. Leave the bus. Being his ally wasn't enough. And desk work hadn't been that bad …

"Why do you look like somebody stole your favorite gun?"

"I've kept things from you but I never lied to you. Not once." She swallowed. "I care about you." She loved him. "I want you to be happy and you're being a coward."

He had the audacity to grin. "You have some nerve," he said.

She nodded shortly. "I should go." When she turned around, he took her arm.


She faced him again and pressed her lips together.

"It was good seeing Audrey and I still care for her very much …"

She didn't want to hear this! He continued anyway, "But I don't love her."


He squeezed her arm gently. "I'm sorry for dying on you."

What? Tears dwelled up but she held them back. She took a shaky breath. He gently pulled her against him and embraced her. This was the closest they had been in years without having anybody shooting at them. She wrapped her arms around his waist and inhaled his scent. She had needed this hug so badly.

"You almost died today," he whispered. "I almost lost you." His hands ran over her back, her arms, her shoulders. "And I understand now, I -" He stopped himself. "Melinda …"

She loved how he said her name.

He cradled her face in his hands. "I'm making wild assumptions here and if you didn't mean it like that I understand and we'll forget about it and we'll be friends and … but …" He took a deep breath. The way he looked at her made her knees weak. She wasn't entirely sure if this was really happening. Maybe this was her Tahiti.

Her heart was pounding.

"I love you," he said.

She could just stare at him. Fortunately he could read her well enough and kissed her. His lips were gentle and firm. Just like everything about him. It was perfect. Eventually she broke away from his mouth and leaned her forehead against his.

"I love you," she said.

They both smiled when they continued their kiss.