Jemma blinked her eyes open, cursing the world. It felt like someone had taken a jackhammer to her prefrontal cortex, and then kicked her several times in the lower spine for good measure. She was not in bed, she noticed. She was on the sofa in Fitz's living room, leaned against him. The TV was off, his parents must have done that- oh god Fitz's parents. They'd seen them kiss, seen her run off to vomit, and then they must have come in to see her passed out on the couch. On their son. Who they thought she was dating. Who she'd just been drooling on. Fantastic.
She checked the clock, it was just past six in the morning. She dragged herself upright with an audible groan and shuffled into the kitchen, intent on a strong coffee and a banana- she needed to replace all the potassium she lost last night. And the salts. And the vasopressin. And the self-respect.
She returned with her coffee and banana and sat this time in the armchair across the coffee table. In between sips, she studied her partner. He was slumped on the sofa, head resting on his forearm on the arm. He was still wearing his kilt. Her head pulsed, and a memory flashed before her eyes: an image of that tartan between her thighs and its owner moved over her. She had to set her mug down before she dropped it.
Her and Fitz- last night, they'd… She shook her head, desperately trying to remember what had happened next, how far it had gone. They… they hadn't had they? She didn't think so, surely she'd be able to feel if they had. Besides, they were both still fully clothed. In last night's dress. Classy.
She remembered the taxi ride home. He'd been crying, terrified that their friendship was over, that his family had lost their apparent affection for her. She half remembered his angry rant, his eyes brimming with tears. She'd tried to comfort him. Then he'd started kissing her. She tried to skip over that, but her mind seemed to want to play it back in excruciatingly minute detail. She remembered the slight scratch of his stubble on her face, the insistence of his hands, the weight of him on her. Sally had interrupted them- the dog was nowhere to be seen now, though she'd curled up next to them while they were watching It's a Wonderful Life. They'd talked- she focused, trying to recall exactly what had been said- about the kisses.
They'd agreed to move on.
She wasn't sure how she felt. Grateful that they could go back to the way things had been two days ago, definitely. And yet, part of her was a little disappointed. She shook herself both physically and mentally. It's nothing, Jemma. You were drunk, he was drunk. The kiss was just biology, as was her reaction to it. There were no deeper feelings there. Fitz was her partner, her best friend, the other half of her, but he wasn't her lover. He couldn't be, feelings would only get in the way of the dynamic they shared. Brother and sister, that was all- that was perfect. He wanted to excel, to prove his family wrong, though she doubted they were as resistant to his choices as he seemed to believe. He couldn't do that if she held him back, if her head wasn't in the game.
Simmons squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, and went upstairs to shower and change, leaving every non-friendship thought she'd ever had for him behind her.
Leo was woken by a large weight landing on his lap. He startled awake, looking down to find Sally gazing up at him with big, brown eyes- he got a flash of another pair of brown eyes, infinitely more beautiful- and a lead in her mouth. He groaned, not feeling remotely human enough for walkies. The clock on the mantelpiece told him it was around half seven, and dawn was just about breaking. He pushed Sally off him, muttering "no' now, girl" and righted himself.
Where was Jemma? She must have gone to bed. They'd fallen asleep watching TV, and she always rose before him, regardless of the situation. Now he was thinking about it, he had to admit the situation had looked pretty dire for a moment there. He'd practically molested her, and god knows what would have happened if Sally hadn't interrupted them. He scratched her ear absent-mindedly, her tail thumping against the ground. They'd agreed to stay friends, not let it affect them. He let out a harsh bark of laughter, it was a little late for that. He was already half in love with her, last night had proven that to him beyond any shadow of a doubt. But there was no way it would ever work. He was too insecure, too paranoid when it came to relationships, and the amount of time they spent together already wouldn't be healthy. They'd made the right decision, regardless of how much his chest hurt. All of him hurt, actually. He needed a black coffee and a paracetemol, and possibly half a pack of bacon.
He knocked quietly on his door, hoping he hadn't woke her. After a second, she opened the door. She was showered and dressed, and greeted him with a smile. Now, that was just unfair. He took a kind of perverse comfort in the bags still under her eyes and the slight slope of her shoulders, the signs that she wasn't running at a hundred percent either. He muttered a good morning and gathered some clothes for after his shower- he wasn't making that mistake again.
"Leo." He froze at the sound of his name- his first name- coming from her mouth. He turned to face her, back tense. "You should have a banana. I know you'll have had salt and sugar by now, and something to drink, but you need to replace some potassium. It'll help."
He relaxed with a sigh. This was so like her, to worry about him and try and explain the biology of hangovers to him and tell him to eat a bloody banana at eight in the morning with a killer headache. He smiled at her, genuinely happy that things were back to normal. "I will, after my shower."
She looked relieved, then turned away to start fiddling with her luggage, pulling out her laptop. He left the room, feeling lighter than when he'd gone in.
They set her laptop on the kitchen table, and Jemma signed on to the webcam chat for her scheduled call with her parents. Fitz was next to her, as always, he'd been present for many of these throughout the last few years. His mother was bustling away in the kitchen, door propped open, and came to stand in the doorway and watch them.
"Wha's that yer doin' then?"
"We're settin' up a webchat, Mum. Y'know, tha' thing I keep tryin' to get ye to do, but whenever I do ye say 'och, I dunna understand all that nonsense' and then complain at me for no' sending you postcards?"
"Oh. Well, ye don'"
"I wouldn' need tae if ye'd jus-" Jemma nudged him, not wanting him to get into an argument with his mother already, it was barely ten. He stopped talking obediently, and refocused on the screen, which was dialling her parents.
They answered with a chorus of 'Merry Christmas!' that Fitz and her repeated back.
"You too alright? Not too cold up in Scotland, I hope?"
"Oh, freezin', but ye get used tae it." Jemma grinned at how well Leo got on with her parents. They were intellectual, very eager to chat about complicated issues and subjects. She wondered for a second what it must have been like for him to not have that growing up, and felt a short stab of pity. Then she looked up and saw Mary in the kitchen, humming a Christmas tune to herself, and remembered that he'd been brought up with so much love, too.
"Jemma?" Her mother asked, and Fitz nudged her this time.
"Sorry, Mum. Just thinking. How's Aunt Marie?"
After her parents had hung up, Jemma noticed a friend from university online, a fellow PhD student who was president of the Doctor Who society. She looked at Leo who, reading her mind as usual, hit dial.
"Heeeeey!" Elizabeth cheered when she answered. "If it isn't Fitzsimmons! What up, guys? Excited for the spesh tomorrow?"
"You bet we are, pres! We were just talking about the promos, d'you reckon it's going to be a funny one, or a sad one?"
"Now, I reckon funny, bu' Simmons here's gettin' her tissues ready."
"Well, with the Doctor, I think both is a safe bet, but I'm leaning towards it being sadder than last year." She answered, and the two of them nodded sagely, like she was giving them profound, life-changing advice.
When Elizabeth hung up, they closed the laptop to see Fitz's mother glaring down at them with a face like thunder.
"Leo. A word."
She dragged her protesting son upstairs, leaving a very confused biochemist sitting at the table behind them.