The Latin Series: Pollicitus by AndromedaMarine
A/N: Tag to 1x20, "Nothing Personal."
"There must be some reason why Ward did it," Fitz says quietly, his arms crossed as he hunches over the pool. "Maybe they brainwashed him."
"I don't know. Some people are just evil."
Fitz uncrosses his arms and leans back on his hands. "Well, I'd rather not believe that."
"It's true," Jemma replies. "We just assumed we'd be better at spotting it."
Fitz takes in a breath, like he's afraid to speak. But he does. "Tell me that you're not Hydra," he says, his voice shaky.
Jemma turns to look at him, confused. "What?"
"I know that it's ridiculous, but I just need to hear you say it."
Her confusion turns to sympathy and she leans forward to look at him more directly. "I'm not Hydra."
Fitz nods, saying, "Yeah, good. Good, and I—'cause I'm not either."
"Of course not," she sighs, pulling her hands close to her body.
"Yeah. Because if—if you ever did—"
"I don't know what I would do." And he just looks at her, hoping that she can read his eyes as well as he thinks he can read hers. It's the closest he's come to actually telling her how he feels, since he didn't mention that his answer to Eric's question about the box on the beach had been her.
"You'll never have to find out." She smiles at him, and he looks back down at the water, his thoughts raging in his head like they did when Jemma confirmed that Ward had killed Eric.
He's startled but hides it well when Jemma rests her hand on his knee, and he feels warmth spread from the contact like fire. He turns to look at her, but she's got her chin cupped with her other hand and she's looking out across the pool, her eyes unfocused. It's then that he makes the decision he's been waffling around for the better part of a year, and Leo gently rests his hand on top of hers.
Jemma doesn't react at first, but after a beat she looks over at their hands. "Leo?" she asks.
Suddenly his confidence is gone and he withdraws, curling up again like he'd been near the start of their conversation. He casts his gaze away, embarrassed and angry and hurting. He's aware that Jemma's hand is still on his knee, and the warmth is still there, a steady pulse against the chill in his head signifying Grant's betrayal. "Sorry," he mutters.
She's silent to his apology, but instead she shifts her whole body closer to him, the water gently lapping at their ankles as she moves. Their sides now pressed together, she leans her head down to his shoulder, and takes in a deep breath. The chlorine burns her nostrils but beneath it is the familiar smell of her best friend. Fitz tentatively puts his arm around her, and when she doesn't object he squeezes softly, the pressure a comfort. He absently rubs his thumb across her arm.
"Don't be sorry," Jemma says.
Leo rests his cheek against the top of her head and shuts his eyes against the swell of emotion rising within him. He counts through the times Jemma's almost died, he replays their reunion after Hydra's coming-out at the Hub—the hug infused with intense relief that she had survived—he feels the choke in his throat, and realizes that he can't stop himself from crying.
Jemma feels the tense trembling and lifts her head to look at him. "Oh, Leo—"
"Stop," he manages to say. "I can't lose you. I just—I can't."
"You won't," she tries to reassure him, but she stops when he opens his eyes and stares at her, tear tracks marking his cheeks.
"Promise," he whispers, his unoccupied hand clenching into a fist so tight his nails cut into his palm. "Promise that I won't ever lose you."
"Fitz…" she reaches over to his now-white fist and takes it between both of her hands, coaxing him to open up his palm. When he does, she puts hers up to mirror his and gently laces their fingers together. "I promise that no matter what happens, you and I will always have each other. Even if Hydra kills—"
He can't hear her say it—he won't, and so to stop her from finishing that sentence he leans forward and kisses her.
It's so natural that she kisses him back, and then Leo has his hands framing her face and he pulls back just enough to take in oxygen and rest his forehead against hers. "Jemma," he breathes, "I can't lose you."
Her eyes are closed but she can feel every point of contact, especially the skin of his hands on her cheeks and the tips of the fingers brushing against her neck. When she opens her eyes to look at him she can see the uncertainty and the pain of recent events in his. "You won't." This time she kisses him, but only briefly.
"Come with me," Leo says, and he stands. He doesn't give her an explanation, and she doesn't ask for one. She's known him for so long that she understands what he wants, and why he needs it. She realizes that she needs it too. She slips her hand into his and fleetingly glances across the pool to where Skye sits with Coulson. Coulson sees them and subtly nods, giving his silent approval. Skye doesn't notice.
Since Jemma and Skye are sharing a room, and with Coulson needing his space, Fitz and Agent Triplett each have their own rooms. So he walks them back to his, tired but more content than he'd been before. Ward's betrayal still stings, but with Jemma by his side Leo doesn't feel it as much anymore. He's been numbed, and at the moment, he doesn't know if that's a good thing.
Leo retrieves his key card with one hand and unlocks the door. The lights are off but he doesn't turn them on—he feels exhaustion prickling through his body as if he hasn't slept in a week. He needs to lie down, and he doesn't know how to ask Jemma to lie down with him.
She knows what he wants, but before he moves towards the bed she clicks the door shut and pulls Leo into a warm embrace. He needs this—he needs this contact, the interaction, the affection that keeps his sanity from slipping away. He clings to her, savoring the realness of the moment. They have been through so much, so quickly, and they still need to come to terms with the brokenness of their team. Jemma holds him tight for a few more seconds before releasing him. "Take off your shoes and your jacket."
He doesn't bother to reply, and follows her instructions. When he's finished she's already done the same and has the quilt of the bed pulled down. She's sitting on the mattress, watching him. Leo walks over and sits beside her, his hands in his lap and his eyes on the floor. He feels the bed shift and by the time he looks over at Jemma she's crawled to the opposite side and laid down, one arm under her head.
"Come here," she murmurs, reaching out to him with her other hand. Fitz goes to her, but leaves a foot of space between them, which Jemma quickly shortens by snuggling into his side.
Fitz doesn't move from where he is on his back, but when Jemma rests her palm on his chest, over his heart, his hand goes to cover hers. The blankets are still towards the bottom of the bed, just covering their feet.
"What happens now?" Leo asks, and the only thing keeping his brain from running through all the bad stuff he doesn't want to happen is the feeling of Jemma against him.
"Here, lift your arm," she says, shifting a bit until his arm is curled around her shoulders and her front is facing his left side. She buries her face in the crook of his neck. "What happens now is we're going to sleep."
"Together?" he asks, and a moment later realizes how stupid his question is. "Of course, never mind." With one foot he kicks the blankets up to his hips, where he can reach them and pull them over Jemma and himself. Their breathing synchronizes and they're just moments away from sleep when Leo rolls and encases Jemma in his arms. They settle, and drift off.
The morning comes far too quickly. Sunlight filters through the drapes and Fitz shies away from it, turning his back to the window. He encounters resistance and is immediately awake, thinking that somehow Hydra has captured him and strapped him down, and he sits up with a shout followed by the beginnings of hyperventilation.
He looks around wildly, finally remembering that they are at a motel, that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been dismantled, and that Grant Ward is a fucking Hydra spy. And then he glances down to where Jemma lies. His shout woke her, and he feels a tendril of guilt wind into his chest. Looking away, he rubs his palms into his eyes. "Sorry."
"Don't be sorry," Jemma replies softly, echoing her words from the previous night. "It's perfectly natural to have that reaction after what we've gone through."
"I didn't mean to wake you," Fitz mutters. He feels her rub his back, the motion soothing him.
"Leo, please look at me." He does, and when their eyes meet she sadly smiles at him. "Tell me what's on your mind."
He falls back onto the mattress, letting out a sigh. Jemma props herself up so she can see his face. "What's on my mind? I'm scared stupid that we're not going to survive this—this hell storm. And—and I keep thinking that after what happened at the Hub that it's just not worth it to keep all these stupid secrets from each other. You saw what it did to Coulson and May…the point is I'm sick of it. On top of it all is that moment you jumped from the bus and Ward jumped after you. Now that we know the truth about him it's making my brain hurt trying to work out why he bothered saving you if he was just going to try and kill us all later anyways." He rubs his eyes again. "Remember the lie detector Agent Koenig put us through? That question about waking up on a deserted island and telling him what was in the box that washed up?"
Jemma nods, remembering her own answer.
"I said you."
"You would have been in my box. I couldn't fathom being stranded like that without you. He asked me to say the first thing that came to mind…and the first thing that came to mind was 'Simmons.'"
She places her hand over his heart again, and can feel its fast beat.
"So—yeah. That's what's on my mind. What's—" he coughs, "—what's on yours?"
Jemma looks away from him. "When Triplett and I were at the Hub and Agent Hand captured us…I thought we were going to die. I knew we'd go out fighting if they actually had been Hydra, but until that moment I really thought that was the end. And when we listened in as Garrett confessed to being the Clairvoyant with all of you at gunpoint, I thought you were going to die. And the thought almost made me throw up." She clenches her fingers over his chest. "I can't think of a moment when I felt more relief than when I walked into that room and saw you standing there—terrified, but alive."
Leo has been staring at her throughout her words, and when she finishes, he breathes, "Oh, Jemma…" and he gently pulls her back down, hugging her close.
Now she is sobbing into his chest, clinging to him because it has just hit her how incredibly lucky they all are to be alive—S.H.I.E.L.D. agents or not. Leo kisses her forehead and strokes her hair, his other hand running soothing circular patterns on the skin of her arm.
She doesn't know why she says it or what they're going to face in the future, but somehow it feels right when she murmurs against his chest, "I love you, Leo."
"I love you too, Jemma," he whispers back automatically, like he's said it every day of his life, like it's the most natural thing he's ever said to someone before. In the wake of his response Leo wraps both arms around her and holds tight. Tears stream down his temples.
In time she calms down, and when Leo next looks at her she is asleep again. It is still early; Leo knows Coulson will come to get them up soon, so he savors what time he has had with Jemma. It does not occur to him that Coulson will give them his approval. After all, he didn't see the silent exchange between his best friend and his superior the previous night. Along with the relief of confessing his feelings to her is the weight that his father figure will stand in their way. Coulson is like a father to all of them, and the sting bites his heart again when he thinks of Ward. Could he have been brainwashed? Jemma doesn't think so. He knows that some people are just evil, but they'd known Ward for almost a year. Leo wants to kick himself. I should have known.
He hears a light knock on the door. He tenses for a moment, but Coulson's voice drifts through the wood. "Fitz? We're going for breakfast if half an hour if you and Simmons want to tag along."
Leo's voice gets stuck in his throat.
Jemma stretches and calls out, "We'll be there, sir," before yawning and resting her cheek on Leo's collarbone.
"How did he—"
"He saw us leave the pool last night." She sighs and leans up slightly, kissing his jaw. "It's all right, he doesn't mind."
"How do you know? What if—"
Jemma cuts him off with another kiss. "Because he loves us and he understands what we're going through, and what we need right now. He's a smart man, Leo. He trusts us."
Leo is silent. After a few moments they decide that Jemma will return to her and Skye's room to shower while he takes his here, and to meet between their rooms in twenty minutes to join Coulson, May, Triplett, and Skye for breakfast. He walks her to the door, and just before she reaches for the handle, he pulls her back around and engulfs her in his arms.
"Thank you for staying with me," he murmurs. He pulls back slightly so he can see into her eyes. "Promise that we won't forget this. That no matter what happens we won't go back to before…"
"We've been FitzSimmons for nearly ten years, Leo. We will always have each other. And besides," she smiles, "I don't think I'll ever forget that you love me."
Leo captures her lips in a searing kiss, his hands in her hair and hers clutching at his back.