Blankets were bundled in Jemma’s arms, Alya in Fitz’s. Daisy bobbed along behind them, enjoying the slight burn in her legs as they trekked up the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse overlooking the cliffs and the sea that the Lighthouse bunker below had been named for. The sky opened up above them as they reached the top, glittering with tiny specks of light, and Daisy breathed in deep of the cold night air. She crossed her arms, suddenly glad that Jemma had taken one look at her on the way out and decided to mother her into grabbing a jacket. Alya herself was ensconced in at least three sweaters, arms slung tight around Fitz’s neck.
Right, because Jemma was a mother now, and Fitz a father. They’d told the whole team two days ago, and yet still Daisy wondered when it would really sink in, that her two oldest friends were parents. They’d grown up together, hadn’t they? Movie nights and popcorn and bad girl shenanigans on the Bus. She’d seen them grow from awkward, adorable scientists to the seasoned, capable ones they were now, and they had watched her transform from the disillusioned hacker who had nothing to the agent who had everything, and something to believe in besides. They had done that together, the three of them, and yet what Daisy remembered most were the games of Scrabble and the pranks in the Playground corridors and passing out in a jumble on the couch in matching drunk-purchased snuggies trying to marathon The Lord of the Rings.
“Grab a side?” Jemma asked, and Daisy did so, stretching the blanket out between them before laying it flat on the deck. Fitz sat down first, Alya quiet in his arms unlike most kids Daisy had seen at that age who would have been kicking their legs to be put down already. But she was a quiet child, from what Daisy had gleaned from the first two days of interaction, holding tight to one of their hands at all times and gazing at the rest of their faces like she couldn’t quite believe they were real.
“She’ll adjust with time,” Jemma had said quietly as they both stood watching Alya help Fitz flip pancakes on the griddle.
“You and Fitz and Enoch and six hundred square feet of Zephyr were all she’d ever known for the first four years of her life,” Daisy replied. “I understand.”
“And space,” she said, smiling. “So much of it out there, for how little we had on the ship. But you’ll see—soon she’ll be a little chatterbox again, telling you about anything and everything she can think of.”
“Bet that’s a lot,” Daisy replied, “with your genes.”
Jemma touched her shoulder. “You should come with us tonight. I want her to know you, Dais.”
She settled down on one side of Fitz, Jemma next to her, throwing the second blanket over the three of them. “Mama!” Alya said immediately, reaching her little arms out toward her. “Mama’s turn.”
“All right, sweet girl, come here,” Jemma said, reaching across Daisy to, lift her from Fitz’s arms. Alya happily settled down in her lap, face tilted upward.
“We were trying to teach her sharing,” Fitz told Daisy out of the corner of his mouth with false grump. “Now I have to share.”
“That’s Polaris,” Alya said, pointing upward. “The North Star.”
Daisy followed her gaze, but her little finger could have been pointing anywhere in the sea of stars above them. She felt Fitz’s elbow in her side. “Nice,” she complimented her, not having needed the elbow. “Can you find the Big Dipper?”
“That’s easy, Daisy,” Alya informed her with a giggle. “Mama and I studied the star charts ev’ry night. It’s right there.”
“We spent a lot of time looking out at the stars,” Fitz said quietly. “Jemma wanted her to still recognize them once we got back to earth.”
“Why don’t you show Daisy where we were living?” Jemma suggested, bouncing her a little.
“Alya!” the girl said excitedly, pointing at a different section of the sky this time. “Like me! It’s Mama’s favorite star and it’s part of Theta Serpents and it’s one-point-five zillion majillion kil’meters away.”
“Zillion majillion, huh?” Daisy asked with a smile even as Fitz chuckled beside her.
Alya frowned adorably, puckered lips and her little blonde eyebrows meeting in the middle of her forehead. “Maybe a little less.” She looked back upward, her fingers tangling in a loose lock of her mother’s hair. “It’s so big, Mama.”
“Yeah?” Jemma asked. Daisy thought Alya was right; the sky opened up like a huge dome before them, especially from up so high. On a cloudless night, the stars surrounded them so completely that it was almost the same as floating among them as she supposed they used to, even more than what one could see through the Zephyr’s windshield. “What do you think, love? Is it the same?”
“Feels like home,” Alya said after a moment.
Jemma cuddled her close. “Soon, the rest’ll feel like home too.”
“You’re back now, and we have Auntie Daisy and Aunt Melinda and Uncle Phil and Uncle Mack and Aunt Elena,” Alya chirped, and Daisy felt a warm glow kindle in her stomach as she listed them all with warm familiarity. Maybe they hadn’t missed out on four years of Alya’s life after all. Maybe they’d been a part of it already, without even realizing it, with so much more to come—birthdays and recitals and science fairs and everything in between. “It already is.” Alya considered Daisy for a few moments, bright blue eyes on hers with the stars reflected in them, and she held her gaze, wondering what was going on in the mind of this tiny human. Alya tapped her mother’s shoulder. “Daisy’s turn now, Mama.”
Jemma’s eyes found Daisy’s, misty with a little bit of I told you so within their brown depths, and then Alya was wriggling into her lap instead, little socked feet jabbing into her thighs until the girl snuggled against her. Evidently similar affected, Fitz made a gruff, throat-clearing sound beside her.
“Don’t worry, Da, you’re next,” Alya assured him.
“No, monkey, I’m…I’m just happy.”
“Oh.” Alya considered that. “I’m happy too. Mama?”
“Yes, sweet girl,” Jemma said.
“Yeah, Alya,” Daisy said, hugging her close. “Me too.” More than I ever thought I’d be.