A/N: Here we are: at the end! It's been a long journey and I thank you all for reading and supporting me throughout, I really appreciate it. It's probably unusual for the epilogue to be longer than the average chapter (this is double the normal size!) but there was a lot to address. All along I wanted to make this story fit into the MCU and I'm hopeful that it all works and that Season 2 and the next Marvel film don't blow it out of the water (haha).
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this final chapter. If inspiration strikes, I may return to this little universe again!
EPILOGUE: WITH YOU
Agent Weaver rises from her seat and replaces a file into her cabinet and turns to the screen that hovers next to her desk. "You're sure about this? You have a lot of faith in two people who are barely out of their teens."
Director Fury flashes his teeth and she thinks that even his smiles seem slightly menacing. "There's a saying that if you're loved by someone it gives you strength, but if you love someone it gives you courage."
She jerks her head to the side and frowns. "I never figured you were the romantic type."
"I'm not," he shakes his head. "Blame Coulson; he's dating again. But my point stands."
"Why do you care about these kids in particular? Why so much effort?" She crosses her arms at her waist and leans against her desk. "It's an awful lot of trouble to go through."
He chuckles. "I hope you didn't think that those entry exams and psych assessments were just to place them in the Academy."
She smiles. "Of course not. But really, of all the students we have here... Certainly they're bright but-"
"Let's just say it's in my- and your- best interest that those two stay together. You know me and my back up plans-"
"- to your back up plans," she finishes rolling her eyes, a grin upon her lips. "Right. Always Mister Mysterious. One last question then?"
He nods. "Sure."
"Did you still want me to track Dr. Simmons. I mean, considering that she's at SciOps now. Did you have someone there you'd prefer instead?"
Fury shakes his head. "No. Keep up with what you've been doing. She trusts you."
"And you still want her to monitor Leo Fitz?"
"Yes. I think so. He has the ring, it's safe with him for now. Brand's latest intel suggests that there's movement in the Quadrants that we'll need to keep an eye out for. Besides, she promised his father that we'd keep his kid and Simmons safe. It's the least we can do."
For both, their first year as partners at SciOps is challenging. They tend to fight more times than either can bother to count and Jemma wonders what she's again gotten herself into. She will admit, however, that they are quite a team. Smart individually, but certainly smarter together.
Sometime in that year Marcus is transferred to the Sandbox as a supervising agent. They try to sustain their relationship through video conferencing and text messages, but it's of no use. The distance is too great and his heightened security clearance eliminates any discussion of his experiences. If she's being honest, he's beginning to bore her and she finds it a chore listening to him prattle on about golf in the Chihuahuan Desert.
Their eventual breakup is uneventful and she can't help but wonder if she should feel more heartbreak over it all. When she says as much to Leo in a valiant attempt at fostering their friendship, he tells her she's better off without him and that he was holding her back. She's horrified by his candor and decides to give him the silent treatment until a week later when he sheepishly apologizes.
There are moments in their third year that make Jemma believe that maybe they really are friends. Certainly, they are undoubtedly the best biochemist and weapons engineer at SciOps and they are duly awarded for their achievements. Their respective scientific communities and S.H.I.E.L.D honour their accomplishments, endowing them each with numerous grants and bursaries.
It's after one particular awards ceremony where, in their formal wear, they decide to splurge and spend some of their earnings on import beer at the hotel bar. At some point in the early hours of the morning, Jemma loses count of how many glasses she's consumed. She'd promised herself only two, but there was a lot to celebrate. She suspects she must be several glasses in as Leo is infinitely more tolerable.
She's in the middle of telling him a rather terrible joke involving carbon dating when he interrupts and challenges her to a game of truth or dare.
When she looks up at him and meets his eyes, she notes that his mouth is pulled into a wicked smile. She narrows her eyes and with laughter upon her own lips, accepts; she knows she could never fulfill a dare even while drunk and so she instead chooses truth.
"Was Marcus your first kiss?" Leo asks, red faced and likely tipsier than he'd ever admit.
She shakes her head and brings her drink to her mouth.
He looks at her, puzzled. "Who was then?"
Her admittance hangs thickly in the air between them. For a moment Leo is unsure of what she means. His eyebrows furrow, considering her reply; he has an eidetic memory and is fairly certain he would've remembered such a moment. As suddenly as her response came, the truth hits him, temporarily sobering him.
"What about you?" She asks in an attempt to alleviate the awkwardness between them. Jemma had always figured that he'd never kissed anyone, ever. She couldn't imagine any girl would bother with his moodiness and penchant for arguments over Faraday's law of induction. He could be such a pill.
"You, as well."
"Oh," she says, realization dawning on her.
The game comes to an abrupt end and they're both quick to pay their respective tabs, their fingers fumbling for the correct change and bills. The next morning, in the fog of alcohol consumption, each feigns ignorance to the events of the previous night. Neither broaches the subject and upon their return to SciOps they transition almost fluidly into their roles within the lab, their next scientific objective at the front of their minds.
Neither dares to admit the twist that they feel in their chests at the very memory of their respective experiences. Both, to no avail, attempt to channel their separate- yet similar- desires for any other future.
In their fifth year Leo receives a letter inviting him to the opening of a memorial honouring the fallen heroes of the Kree attack on Spartax. He almost immediately crumples the letter into a ball and tosses it in the trash.
Jemma has been trying to be more ecologically friendly and when she attempts to separate the trash from recyclables, she stumbles upon his letter. She encourages him to attend, says that it's a great honour, but he's unyielding; he will not honour a man that abandoned his family.
His reaction confuses her as she'd understood his familial history differently, but she abides by his request and doesn't mention it again.
On the day of the opening, Jemma leaves a note for Leo explaining her absence and heads to the staff cafeteria to watch the services. At some point during the reciting of Terran names, she feels him take a seat next to her. Throughout he says nothing, but she can feel his body tense the closer the speaker gets to the letter F. When Andrew Fitz's name is finally called, she reaches for his hand and weaves her fingers into his, silently comforting him as she'd done so many years ago.
When his hand squeezes hers in return, it's as if something shifts between them.
Later, when Jemma walks Leo home, he's the first to break their comfortable silence when he asks with trepidation, "Are we friends?"
She nods and replies honestly and without hesitation. "Yes. I think so."
He is disbelieving and she can see it written across his face. She smiles. "Nothing is too wonderful to be true-"
"-if it be consistent with the laws of nature," he finishes, laughter upon his exhausted face. "Michael Faraday?"
Her grin widens. "Quite fitting, I think. In light of… well, everything."
Leo pauses, considering her words. At long last he nods. "Thank you for… staying with me. I mean, this afternoon." His hand rubs at the back of his neck nervously. "And before."
Jemma's smile softens and she leans up and presses her lips to his cheek. "It's the very the least I could do."
He blushes. "Just the same-"
She pats his arm with her hand, reassuring him. "Good night, Fitz."
It's not until Jemma arrives at her own home that it dawns on her: it's the first time since the night she'd time travelled that she's heard him use her proper name. A renewed smile creeps upon her lips; they really are friends.
Anne Weaver knew it was only a matter of time before the Academy would fall. With the collapse of Triskelion and the death of Director Fury, she figured the place she'd called home would be next. She can hear the gunfire in the distance as she hurriedly tells Jemma Simmons to trust no one, that anyone among them could be Hydra. When the door to her office flies open, she practically jumps from her skin as her security detail thunders in and bolts the door behind them.
"What's happening?" She asks as calmly as she can muster.
The guards turn away from her, their guns drawn and pointed toward the door. "It's every man for himself. We have standing orders from Director Fury to move you to Bunker 17 should it come to this. Directive 66-A. Whenever you're ready ma'am."
She stifles a gasp. She recognizes the directive, it was one she figured she'd never have the occasion to hear ordered. She'd worried this moment would come; they really were at war.
Weaver turns and with deft strength, she pulls the filing cabinet away from the wall, exposing a hidden safe. She presses her hand against the security scanner, allowing it to register her DNA signature. Time seems to pass painfully slow and she can hear the dim sound of panicked screams from beyond her steel encased, bulletproof door. When the latch finally releases she opens the door and grabs a stack of files, tucking them against her chest.
"I need to get to the incinerators," she says. "Then we'll take care of Directive 66-A."
The guard nods and turns to the men that flank him, signalling the count. When they open the door, Weaver ensures that she follows tightly behind them as they escort her to the lowest levels of the Academy building.
They creep methodically toward the basement, every corner taken with caution, every door opened as though the enemy lurks behind it. The gunfire seems to have subsided and Weaver wonders if the infiltrators have moved on to the Tech labs in the building next door.
"All clear," the guard calls as he waves them in over the threshold and into the incinerator room. Weaver moves quickly, her hand pushing up the lever that ignites the gas. She begins to toss the files one by one into the large canister, watching carefully as the flames swallow each wholly. The last two files in her hands- the ones belonging to Jemma Simmons and Leo Fitz- are tossed in simultaneously. Their names curl under the heat and crackle to ash; the last of the evidence proving the existence of Project Watchdog incinerated before her very eyes.
She closes the hatch and turns to face the guards. "Are we ready then?"
They don't respond, instead they raise their guns and take aim. When she looks down, she sees the red laser dots marking her chest. She takes a deep breath and nods, authorizing her final command.
They're in their eighth year as partners when Jemma is approached by the previously-thought-dead Agent Coulson. She's so stunned by his offer that she forgets to mention her responsibilities to Project Watchdog. She doesn't have to though, because Coulson tells her that the offer has been approved by the highest levels and that she and Leo were specially requested.
She knows they can't refuse. She thinks it might be the highest honour they'll ever receive, but they are a team and they should accept the offer as one.
Leo begrudgingly agrees. He has a bad feeling about the entire mission, but he sees the excitement written across her face and if he's honest, he's a bit curious about the tech on board the Globemaster.
In their ninth month aboard the Bus, everything goes to hell and they discover that no one can be trusted; not even their closest friends.
Leo has been purposefully silent for days, his usual banter muted and when he and Jemma sit on the edge of a pool in the yard of a seedy motel, he asks the question that's been weighing on his mind.
"Tell me that you're no' Hydra." His heart beats quickly against his chest. He knows she's working for someone and he doesn't think he could bear it if it was Hydra.
"I'm not Hydra," she says, a faint reassuring smile upon her lips. He releases the breath that he'd been holding and it's all the confirmation he needs; he trusts her above all others.
Jemma knows that regardless of the secrets she guards in her heart, she trusts him more than anyone. She's not sure when it first happened and thinks that if she'd noticed she probably would have guarded her heart more. But somewhere along the line she'd stopped caring about the details and had forgotten the promises she'd made to herself years ago. She only knows one important truth: no matter what, she will do whatever she can to protect Leo Fitz.
She would even dig her fingers into the collar of his shirt and drag him to the surface of the ocean if it meant that there was a fraction of a chance that she could save him.
She suspects that somewhere along the way he became more than that for her as well.
Jemma awakes with a start, the muscles in her face burning from sleeping awkwardly against Leo's hospital bed. As she stretches the kinks from her body she sees something out of the corner of her eye flutter to the floor. She leans down to pick the envelope up and turns it over in her hands. She finds her name staring back at her. Confused and equally curious, she tears into it and pulls the letter from within.
Dear Jemma Simmons,
We've never met, as least not yet anyway. But somehow I feel like I know you. My name is Andrew Fitz and I am Leo's father. From what I'm told, you know everything about the Infinity Stone that I (and now my son) care for. Days ago, I managed to steal it from A.I.M. You can appreciate how dangerous it would be if they were to have it in their possession; I am certain their status as a terrorist organization remains unchanged even in your time.
Unfortunately because of that, I am a wanted man. In order to keep my family safe, I have made the decision to fake my own death and by extension, the destruction of the Infinity Stone. In reality, my friend- whom, I believe you know- Abigail Brand has offered me refuge off of Earth. I will become a member of S.W.O.R.D's Defence and Engineering team and will hopefully be able to protect the planet I once called home. Abigail has generously agreed to protect my son and it is the reason why in two days time I will make the decision to leave the ring with him.
You may wonder why I will entrust an 8 year old with something so powerful. The truth is that I knew everything will be okay. You see, Jemma Simmons, my son has been visiting me from the future for many years and I have been blessed to witness him grow up into a young man. At first he'd used the ring to try and stop me from leaving, but then something changed. He started to tell me about you, Jemma Simmons. And that's when it dawned on me; my son has fallen in love.
I know my future; it is not one of happiness as I will have to give up everything for a greater cause. But I wish more for my son. You, Jemma Simmons, bring my son happiness. You are that "more." Whether you love him in return is up to you, but it is enough for me to know that even with my inevitable death someone is there for him, protecting him and watching out for him. Being his friend. With you at his side he is stronger and together you have unparalleled courage to protect what is right.
In gratitude, I will ask S.W.O.R.D and their friends at S.H.I.E.L.D to care after you as well. It is the least I can do in exchange for everything you have done for my son.
I write all this as someone who lives 18 years in the past, but I think that in your time this letter will bring you and Leo some answers. I wish I could have met you properly, but you looked so peaceful sleeping and I didn't want to wake you. By all accounts, however, I couldn't have met nor wished to meet anyone better.
Many blessings from the past,
When Jemma refolds the letter, she accidentally stains the ink with her tears, blurring some of the words. They fall freely and she has to press her hands to her face in order to stem the flow. She wants nothing more than her friend to return to her so they can face the world together again.
She reaches for his hand and holds it within her own, vowing to make their ninth year infinitely better.
It takes days, but Leo does eventually awaken from his coma and the first thing he sees is Jemma's relieved smile and the first thing he feels is her strong arms pulling him against her. It's familiar and relief fills them both. She waits a few more days before she decides to press the now creased letter into his palm.
"It'll explain everything, I think," she says, her lips soft against his forehead. "We'll talk later. When you're ready. When we're ready."
It's a month later, early in their ninth year, when she passes Leo's room and sees him struggling to tie his tie. His fingers still shake and he can't hold them still enough to knot the fabric properly. Wordlessly she crosses the threshold and allows her own hands to do the work for him. When she finishes, her fingers press against his chest, lightly mimicking the patterns of his tie.
She hears him draw a deep breath and she looks up and meets his eyes. He smiles and it's at that moment that she notices for the first time the long forgotten, yet familiar, crinkles at the corners of his eyes.
"Damn it," she whispers laughingly, her heart thudding nervously in her chest.
He tilts his head, his face questioning.
Jemma's tongue pokes out of the corner of her mouth and she smiles. "Y'know I swore to myself years ago that I would do everything in my power to avoid the future I thought I was going to get."
"And-?" He prompts, swallowing hard. His hand covers hers, pressing it flush to his chest.
She steps toward him, closing the space between them. "And somehow it happened anyway."
"I fell in love with you."
"Yeah?" Leo's face breaks and his cheeks flush.
She allows her body to press against his, her fingers dragging along the length of his sleeves up to his shoulders. Her hands cup at his jaw and she nods. "Yeah."
Jemma bridges the distance between them and kisses him full on the mouth. She relishes in the familiar taste of him and when he deepens the kiss and steadies his fingers along the small of her back, her body arcs toward him.
It feels right. She doesn't even care about the promises she'd made herself years earlier. None of that even matters because she's choosing to let it happen; she wants it to happen.
When they break, breathless and sated, it's Leo that speaks first. "I always knew you wouldn't be able to resist m'charms."
She manages to get in a swift punch to his arm before, with his hands tilting her head toward him, he kisses her for a second time.
It was meant to be their first time together; Leo had begged Coulson for some time off while they were grounded at the Boston SSR base and the older agent had surprised him by agreeing. He could've sworn that there was a flash of a smile somewhere behind his tight lips, but he didn't dare question it. There was no time to waste.
He'd grabbed Jemma's hand and without saying a word, led her out into the gardens for a proper dose of sunshine and fresh air. He'd even planned out exactly what he was going to say to invite her over to his old apartment that he still paid rent on.
As always, she reads his mind and he can't resist her magnetic pull when he sees her soft features framed by the greens of the garden. His hands are pulling her closer and inching up her back when a noise from the shrubbery startles them apart.
The ever inquisitive Jemma is immediately nosing her way through the bushes in search of the source, when he hears her gasp in surprise.
"Do you see anything?" He asks.
"Nope. Nothing," she replies and he immediately hears the rise in her voice and knows that she's lying. He loses his chance to question her when she takes his hand and practically forces him out of the garden and back into the SSR bunker.
"What's going on?" Leo asks when she secures the door behind them. Her eyes are wide and he can tell that she's excited.
"It was you. In the bushes." She bites at her lip in a spirited attempt at controlling her smile. "It's starting."
His mouth falls open. He knows exactly what she means, the chain of events is in progress; the very same that brought them to this point.
"We should tell Coulson."
She nods eagerly and squeezes his hand. "We need to right the course."
It's not often that Nick Fury is visited from the future; the last time it had happened, it was an Avenger warning him to prepare for Thanos by locating and securing each of the Infinity Stones. Truth be told, he thinks it's rather strange knowing ones future and the future of his planet. He's no fool though; he guards the revelations and strategizes, trusting no one beyond a small circle of people who've specifically earned his trust.
Admittedly he's surprised when a young Scotsman appears before him, speaking so rapidly that he can hardly make anything out of it. He recognizes the boy's flashing blue eyes, he's certain he's seen the same pair among the photos of those on S.H.I.E.L.D's watch list.
"You're Andrew Fitz's kid aren't you?"
The man throws his hands up and plants them on his hips. "Yes, for godssakes! Will you listen to me, I don' have time!"
"Well then, slow down!" Fury declares, measuring the frustration in his voice.
"It's attacked Coulson's brain!" Leo repeats, his hand running through his hair.
"Tha' alien plasma of course!"
Fury shakes his head and leans forward in his chair. "Do you mean GH-325?"
"Yes! Bloody hell, I don' have time for this. Simmons is repairin' it as I speak. When she's done, I'm meant to reprogram it as soon as I return."
He narrows his eyes. "What do you want from me?"
"Let Coulson die! Do no' initiate T.A.H.I.T.I. It's too much for 'im. Understand?" Leo doesn't wait for Fury's response. Instead he flicks his wrist and turns the ring at his finger, disappearing almost as quickly as he arrived.
Fury sits in stunned silence, he's not entirely certain of all that has happened and what the younger man is referencing. Coulson is very much alive and the Guest House is barely in its early stages; it houses only a select few of the critically injured Krees from the Xandarian attack on Hala.
He shuffles through the papers at his desk and unfolds a copy of the Glasgow Times newspaper and presses the creases from it. It's the first indication he's had that Andrew Fitz is indeed in possession of one of the Infinity Stones.
Young engineer killed in A.I.M lab explosion. Family and neighbours mourn.
He taps his finger twice against the headline before reaching for his phone.
"Get Abigail Brand on the line," he says when the receptionist answers.
"Yes sir. Would you prefer a secured inter-quadrant comm?"
He pauses. "Yeah. Also get me a rundown of anyone of interest to S.H.I.E.L.D named Simmons. Female. And while you're at it, call Phil Coulson in."
"The junior agent?" She replies, surprised.
"Yes. We're sending him to Scotland."
Thank you for reading! If you've enjoyed the story and would like to leave a review, I'd love it if you would.