Like the days before he became a field agent, Mack was in the garage of his family's home, fixing up the car. He may be the director of SHIELD, but he was, and will forever be, a mechanic at heart. Also, just because he was director didn't mean he couldn't have off-days where he could stay home and relax. Thankfully, he had people he trusted to run the agency when he was unavailable.
Mack's arms were deep within the hood of the car, oil splotches finding their way onto his muscular arms. "Come on, now," he said as if he was talking to the vehicle. "Don't give up on me now." Eventually, the engine started up again. "There we go." Mack picked up the cloth he had on the side and wiped his hands down.
As he was doing that, he heard the sound of a smaller engine coming towards him. It sounded almost as if it was battery operated. Suddenly, he felt something run into his foot. When he looked down, he saw a toy car. Mack looked towards the door from the garage to the house, and standing there was his nine-year-old daughter, Penelope. She giggled as her father looked at her with a knowing smile. The young girl then used the remote in her hand to drive the car around the garage.
"Wow, Tinker. You fixed up Francisco's old toy car really good," Mack told his daughter, using the nickname he came up for her. She was literally quite the tinker. Also, Penelope had watched the TinkerBell movies for the first time when she was three and became obsessed with them, so it just felt right.
"It wasn't that hard, Papá," Penelope admitted.
"Oh, is that so?" Sure Penelope had his mechanic skills as well as his big heart, but she definitely had Elena's spunk, which surprised both parents given that for the first two years of her life, she was actually a little shy.
"I just used that new, tiny engine that Uncle Fitz gave me for Christmas."
"You should show him during the reunion coming up in about a few months" Mack continued to inspect the toy car, taking in his daughter's work. "And you even gave it a new paint job."
Penelope nodded. "Mamá helped me with that part since I'm not the best artist. It was also Francisco's idea to add the flames on the side."
Mack chuckled. "I think our old friend Robbie would like that." Penelope beamed as her father continued to compliment her handy work. "Hey Tinker, how would you like to work on the real thing?" Mack motioned to the car beside them.
"¡Espere! ¿De verdad?" the girl exclaimed.
Mack laughed. Both their kids were pretty fluent in Spanish, and Penelope had a habit of slipping into it whenever she got excited. "Come on. I'll show you some basics." Penelope grabbed the step stool that leaned against the wall and placed it next to the car so she could see. Mack then began explaining to her each part of the car. She listened to her father intently, eyes wide as she examined each part he showed her. Mack smiled softly, watching his daughter become entirely captivated.
The two were at it for hours, fixing things up together as Mack taught her anything he felt she could understand at her young age. The sun began to set, leaving a warm light on the two as they worked. Suddenly, there was a knock on the garage door, capturing both mechanics' attention.
Standing in the doorway was Francisco, Mack and Elena's twelve-year-old son. "Dinner's ready. Mamá says she doesn't want your oil-covered hands at the dinner table, so you better wash up."
"Alright. We'll be right there." Mack wiped his hands down. "Come on, Tinker."
"Just a little bit longer." Penelope gave her father a pouty face.
He sighed. "That might work with Papa Coulson and me sometimes, but I don't think it'll work on your mother."
Penelope huffed with a smile as she stepped down from the step stool. Like her father, she wiped down her hands before heading inside to thoroughly wash her hands.
Together, the family of four sat at the dinner table, enjoying their meal together. "I wish Flint could be home," Fransisco said, picking at his food. Flint had left for a mission just recently, and Fransisco was missing his older brother, who he and Penelope were very close with.
"He'll be home soon," Mack assured him. "Don't worry. We'll be a family of five once again."
"And you know your brother," Elena added. "He can take care of himself, and if he doesn't, I'm sure Piper is looking after him."
"I'm just really happy Papá let me work on an actual car today," Penelope said.
"So I've heard," Elena said, turning to Mack. "I wonder if one day you'll be good enough to work on Papa Coulson's car."
"He barely lets anyone touch Lola," Francisco added. "The only time I saw anyone touch Lola was when he took Mikey and Lilly flying in it when they were like five or six."
"Y a tu Tía Daisy eso no le gusta ni un poquito," Elena muttered under her breath.
"Y el Tío Daniel casi se orino en los pantalones," Mack added.
The family laughed together, taking in the memory of Daisy and Daniel freaking out over Coulson taking their kids on a joyride in Lola.
"Papá, can we work on the car again tomorrow?" Penelope asked.
Mack sighed sadly, which seemed unusual to the young girl. "Not tomorrow, Tinker."
"But I thought you had tomorrow and Wednesday off too."
"I do, but I have something I need to attend to tomorrow. Maybe Wednesday. Alright, sweetie?"
"Fine," Penelope grumbled as she continued to eat her food. The rest of dinner was a little silent.
Together, Mack and Elena washed the dishes while the kids were in their rooms. "You know you've got to tell her pretty soon," Elena said. "She's getting older and will start to wonder why her dad always leaves on a specific date once a year."
"I know," Mack said. "It's just... she's nine."
"Francisco was around her age when you told him. Maybe even younger than she is now."
"With Francisco, it seemed a little easier. With Penelope, she'll be ten in June, which was the same age as... in the Framework..." Mack said. "The real her would've been twenty-eight tomorrow."
Elena looked to her husband and saw the hurt in his eyes. She knew what tomorrow's date meant to him, and she also knew that he hadn't fully recovered from the Framework, even after all these years. To be honest, no one on the team had fully recovered from that point in their lives, but it was a little easier to move on from it nowadays.
"I know," Elena said. "It's just, I don't want you to forget what we discussed when she was born. When hope is lost..."
"... have faith," Mack finished.
"She is our reminder to have faith that everything will be alright, especially after everything we've been through."
"I know." The two stared lovingly into each other's eyes before continuing the dishes. "Yoyo, I think you missed a spot," Mack said, motioning to the plate.
"Where?" Elena said, examing the dish in her hand. "I don't see-"
"Right there." Mack splashed the water that was on his hand onto her face.
Elena had a face of shock and disbelief on her face. She smiled slyly. "Is that how you want to play, Turtleman?
The next day, the kids went to school like any other day. Penelope was pretty silent, still a little upset about not being able to fix the car with her dad. She sat at the table as she did her homework. However, she seemed a little distracted. She tapped the toy car she fixed up with her pencil as she rested her head in her hand.
Mack had already left for the day, saying goodbye to his family before heading out. He had placed a kiss on Penelope's head before going to Elena then out the door.
Elena watched her daughter as she did her own work in the kitchen. "Need any help? I'm not too good at math, but if you really need it, I can-"
"I know you're upset, mija," Elena said, taking a seat next to her. "But this is something your father does every year."
"What's so special about April 18? Why can't you tell me?"
Elena sighed. "This day is a very difficult day for Papá. He just needs some space."
"Will he ever tell me? Because Francisco said he knows why too, but he can't tell me either."
"I promise your father will tell you when he's ready," Elena said. "You know he loves you very much."
"Of course I know that, Mamá," Penelope said, a smile finally showing through.
"Y te amo."
"Yo también te quiero."
Elena smiled. "Come on. Why don't you help me get started with dinner? Let's just pray that you don't have Abuelita May's cooking skills."
"Papa Coulson said she almost set the kitchen at the Operations Academy on fire," Penelope added. "But I still have homework to do."
"You're in the fourth grade," Elena said. "Grades don't really matter until you're in high school."
Penelope laughed as she followed her mother into the kitchen.
Mack returned home later that night. Penelope was already in her pajamas and lied on her bed while playing with the newest hand-held gaming device. Mack knocked on her door before entering. "Can I come in?"
Mack sat on the edge of her bed as she sat up. "I've been wanting to talk to you about this for a long time, but it was just a little hard."
"I know. Mamá said this day is very difficult for you. I'm sorry I had an attitude about it."
Mack sighed. "You shouldn't have to feel sorry for something you didn't understand. Anyway, I just want you to know that I love your mother, Flint, Francisco, and you very much, but I went to see my ex-wife today."
"Ex-wife?" Penelope tilted her head in confusion. "You were married before Mamá?"
Mack nodded. "Nicole and I got married in 2003. We had it pretty good, and then she got pregnant. We had a whole life planned out together. Just us two and our little girl."
"You have another daughter?"
Mack nodded again. "However, when she was born, she had complications."
"Like Ellie when she was born?" Penelope asked. When Eleanor was first born and had complications, Mack was Daisy and Daniel's biggest support, both physically and emotionally. He understood what they were going through and was their rock through it all.
"Yeah, only Hope didn't make it."
"Yes, she did. She only lived for four days. Today is her birthday. She was born in 2006, so she would have been twenty-eight years old."
"Wow, I didn't know that," Penelope said sadly.
"Well, I obviously didn't help in that department." Mack wrapped his arm around his daughter. "However, if she was alive, I think Hope would be a lot like you."
"Mmhm. Cute, curious girl with a love for fixing things like her old man." Penelope laughed as she leaned into her father. "And my ex-wife, Nicole, has a hard time during this time, so I always go over to her just to make sure she's doing okay."
"And is she?"
"Yeah. She's doing perfectly fine. She even remarried herself. Had a couple of kids too."
"I wish I could meet her."
"Who knows. Maybe someday, you will."
"If Hope was still alive, but you and Nicole still split, and you and Mamá got married, do you think Hope would like me as a sister?"
Mack smiled softly at the little girl in his arms and brought her in closer. "Of course."
"Also, Hope is almost similar to my middle name."
Mack smiled once again. "It sure is." Mack looked at the alarm clock on the nightstand next to Penelope's bed. "You should start going to bed. It's getting a little late, and you've got school tomorrow."
"Mamá said that grades don't matter until high school," she said as she got under the covers.
"Did she now? Well, I know you want to be a SHIELD asset when you grow up, and SHIELD assets are smart, so if you want to be one, you better go to sleep soon."
"Okay. Buenos noches."
A couple of days later during the weekend, the Mackenzie household had a few guests coming for dinner. Francisco and Penelope were already super happy to have Flint home, but to have a couple and their daughter and son over made it ten times better.
"Penelope, come over please," Mack called for his daughter.
Penelope made her way to the kitchen where her parents were talking with the couple. "Yes, Papá?"
"Nicole," Mack said to the woman, "this is mine and Elena's daughter, Penelope Faith."
Nicole smiled softly at the nine-year-old. She held out her hand. "It's nice to meet you, Penelope."
Penelope shook her hand. "It's really nice to meet you too."
About an hour later, they all ate dinner at the table together as one, big, happy family filled with hope and faith.