He remembers that when he found his way to consciousness, her hands were wrapped around one of his. Then he'd twitched or breathed too loud or done something to alert her to his awakened state, she went to fetch a nurse, and he hadn't seen her again.
Grant tries not to take it personally that Jemma decided the way to handle this... situation, his feelings for her, is to disappear.
"Unrequited" doesn't feel half as romantic as it sounds.
It takes too long in Grant's opinion to be cleared for duty again. Even after he was released from the SHIELD medical facility, he had weeks of mandatory physiotherapy before they would even contemplate letting him prove that he was ready for fieldwork.
All in all, it takes over three months to get back on the bus.
When it comes, Grant is sure that he's ready to face whatever is waiting for him.
After the second day of Jemma refusing to look at him directly, he knows he was wrong.
It comes to a head after his first run-in with an enemy combatant's knife. At first, he's reluctant to seek medical treatment. He can stitch himself up - before this team, he'd always been his own medic - but (a) it's too high up on his left arm for him to stitch without contorting himself into a pretzel and (b) Skye finds him out before he can even attempt it.
He's all but frog-marched to the lab and then abandoned there to squirm until Jemma pulls herself away from whatever she's reading.
"Oh!" she squeaks, having apparently not heard Skye's insubordination, and claps a hand over her heart. "Oh, Gr- Ward. I didn't hear you come in." Her face goes pink and she averts her gaze to the left of him, as she's been doing since his return. "Did you need something?"
He gestures to his arm. "I've come to make sure your stitching hasn't gotten too rusty without me around to practice on," he says, suppressing a wince. Why did he have to try to be clever?
The corners of her mouth turn down a bit, lips thinning. "Very well." She turns to prep and then says, "Shirt off," in a manner Grant will later realize was breathier than he'd thought.
In the moment, however, Grant is struggling not to behave like a dog with its tail tucked between its legs as he obeys her order. "I'm sorry to inconvenience you," he says, cursing himself internally for his stiff manner.
He sees her shoulders tense before she turns to his wound and cleans the affected area. "No inconvenience; it's all part of the job description."
He lets the wince come this time, telling himself it's from the needle's prick and not the thought of being relegated to Jemma Simmons' duty.
Grant avoids looking at her through the entire ordeal, which doesn't take that long. Obviously Simmons is not out of practice and he tells himself it's stupid to be jealous at the thought of someone else being on the receiving end of her efficiently professional hands.
He feels a slight tug at the thread and then she's stripping off her gloves and turning away from him. "All done!" she announces cheerily. "You know the drill by now, I assume, Agent Ward."
He rolls his left shoulder a bit to test the strength of her stitching, mostly out of habit, and shrugs back into his shirt. "Thanks," he says, moving past her towards the door, before he stops. "And I'm sorry that I've made you so uncomfortable. If you want me to talk to Coulson about a transfer, I-"
"Stop," she says, her voice firm. He turns to look at her and she is finally meeting his gaze head-on. He can't decode her face, which is new for him. Jemma, Fitz, Skye: they're always so easy to read. But now when he needs it most, the ability eludes him. "Stop," she says again, her voice quieter this time, stepping towards him.
"When you- when you were injured," she begins hesitantly, "and we were waiting for extraction, you... How much do you remember?"
Grant crosses his arms in front of him, ignoring the pull of his wound. "All of it. I remember you leaning over me and your hair was in my face and you looked so upset. I thought I was going to die, but then you saved my life."
Jemma nods to herself, as if he just proved a point. "Exactly! You thought you were going to die. It's just as I thought. And I was just... there. Doing my job.
Suddenly, the situation becomes a little clearer. He takes a step towards her. "You were doing your job. Saving lives. And while I was lying there, I thought about you," he admits, hearing her breath catch. "How amazing you are. How beautiful. How much I wished I had-" He pauses, swallows hard, and resolves himself. "How much I wish I had been able to tell you all that, to tell you that you make my every day brighter, just by existing."
Closing the remaining distance between them, he runs his thumb over the line of her jaw, watching as her eyes dropped closed. "How I wish I'd been able to touch you, like this, just once." He opens his palm to cup her cheek and lets his thumb touch her bottom lip. "To kiss you."
Her hands come up to circle his wrist and she turns her face into his touch, pouting her lips slightly to kiss the pad of his thumb. Her lashes sweep up and her eyes are dewy. "Grant," she says so lowly that he can barely hear it over the drumming of his own heart.
"I thought you knew. Not before," he corrects himself, "but at that moment. You said..."
"I did, too," she says, her right hand moving up his arm and finally landing on his chest, hand curling into the fabric of his shirt. "I thought... well, I thought that in that moment, you were trying to tell me that you had... Well, but then after the extraction and you pulling through, I started to think." Her nose wrinkles and he smiles a little, lifting a finger from her face to flick over the tip. "One of the downsides of being so cerebral. And I realized that I couldn't hold you to anything I thought I'd saw, because really it was under duress. And then I had three months to convince myself that I had read too much into it and I was mortified that I had kissed you! I basically molested you while you were dying! And so when you came back... I didn't want to be presumptuous."
Grant suppresses a grin and pulls back a little bit, taking her shoulders in his hands and squaring her in front of him. He tries to squelch the disappointment when her hand drops from his chest. "Jemma Simmons," he says as gravely as possible, "I want to make this as clear as possible: I have feelings for you. Romantic ones."
She smiles brightly and tries to mimic his hold, but settles for placing her hands on his arms. "Grant Ward, I reciprocate your romantic feelings."
He allows the smile to come through this time, although he hopes it isn't half as dopey as it feels. "Now that we've gotten that squared away," he murmurs, sliding his hands away from her shoulders to rest on her hips. He tries to keep them still, but finds one moving up the curve of her back and the other palming her hip.
Jemma seems to be feeling the same way, as her hands travel further up his arms, causing her to move until her body is pressed against his. One hand wraps around the side of his neck as the fingers of the other trace his clavicle.
He wants to kiss her, aches for it, but as she tucks her head under his chin, ear pressed to his heart, he feels content. They have more to discuss and hash out and plan, but he puts it aside.
For right now, Jemma is in his arms.
They can deal with the world tomorrow.