A/N: I haven't written/published fanfiction in over seven fucking months, but I just love this pairing so much. Written for the incomparable DemigodGleek - aka my supermegafoxyawesome soulmate who forced me to publish this up here (with love) - while it was initially posted on Tumblr.
Note that I am not in college and I just googled a bunch of scientific details and whatnot. Also, I have never celebrated Christmas, so apologies for any inconsistencies.
Sorry for any errors! I'm still recovering from the bitch known as writer's block. Happy reading and Merry Christmas!
(fandom references galore!)
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
- somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond, e.e cummings (the god of unconventional formatting)
Night had never felt so frantic.
Jemma Simmons paced back and forth across the room: her pale fists clenching a crumpled bundle of papers, her wispy brown hair tied in a half-undone bun, and her forehead scrunched in what could've been either frustration or determination. Nearly in a state of catatonia, it would've seemed to any innocent bystander, but to Leo Fitz, it was merely what he collectively referred to as Pre-Finals Mental Deterioration Syndrome. Or a rabid state of panic, give or take.
The dorm was dimly lit, with pallid lights bolted in every corner, faintly illuminating the pastel colors of the walls. Adorning them were various hastily taped posters of famed scientists and Nobel laureates, framed quotes, scribbled formulae, and several plaques commemorating exceptionality in certain fields of science. There was a bed, a couch, and other customary sights one might find in an average college dorm. Apart from the fact that this wasn't college, of course. It was anything but.
It certainly wasn't extravagant by any measure, apart from the fact that it was housed in one of the country's most famed and advanced institutions dedicated to the training and study of both dealing, preventing, and understanding extraterrestrial threats.
There were things one might not have found elsewhere – including a state-of-the-art holographic board, experimental prototypes of weapons that could disintegrate any human in a fraction of a second, and – of course – an endless collection of scifi television shows on demand among other things. This was an academy specializing in otherworldly life forms, after all.
Leo Fitz lay slumped on the pinstriped couch, his curly hair a mess after hours of being raked through, and his blue eyes tinged with red under the influence of caffeine. His line of sight followed Jemma's pacing figure.
"Alright, Fitz – one more time: what is unique to the de novo triacylglycerol synthesis pathway as compared to the de novo glycerophospholipid synthesis pathway?"
Leo sighed in exasperation. "Phosphatidate cytidylyl transferase. Jem—"
She plowed on, seemingly disregarding him: "Patients with deficiencies in enzyme Wcan have which pathologies?"
"Hepatomegaly and extended abdomen. Jemma, it's nearly—"
"Arsenic is capable of inhib—"
"What?!" she snapped indignantly, eyes boring into him, her fingers gripping the paper tightly. Leo's stance momentarily faltered at the sight of her fuming.
"It's nearly midnight," he carefully ventured. "We've been goin' at this for over four hours now."
"So?" she replied, her accent slightly lilting – as if in disbelief. "Fitz, we've got to study for our biochem finals; you know how harsh Professor Valdez can be. The last thing either of us wants is to end up with a 2.1 or – gods forbid – a 2.2." She punctuated the last digit with so much force, it appeared as though she was talking about raking a bullet rather than a grade.
Leo shot her a glance that drifted halfway between seriously? and you've got a point. "But Jem, finals are after winter break, which – to my knowledge – ends two weeks from now. Bit overkill, don't you think?"
A small gasp escaped her and Leo winced. "Fitz, I can't believe that you of all people would say something like that. I mean— what are you smiling about?"
Leo dropped his gaze to the floor, trying to conceal the smile plastered on his face. "Sorry," he began hastily, "it's just . . . you only call me Fitz when you're tired as hell."
Silence greeted him, and blue eyes locked with brown. At long last, he saw the sides of lips curl into a weak, nearly dismissive smile. Jemma threw down the papers, exhaled noisily, and combed her hands through her caramel-colored locks.
"Oh, you're right," she groaned before walking over and plopping down next to Leo on the couch. "I should've just gone to visit my parents instead of staying here." Subconsciously, she dropped her head down on Leo's shoulder, the warm flannel caressing her cheek.
Showing no signs of acknowledging their physical contact, Leo sighed. "Which I've been telling you repeatedly was a bloody stupid decision, but did you listen? 'Course not. After all, when is Fitz ever right?" The last sentence was delivered in a pitchy British voice reminiscent of the biochemist on his shoulder.
A noise of annoyance escaped Jemma. "I know." A moment later, she sullenly added: "And I do not sound like that."
Disregarding her retort, he plowed on: "In fact, have you called them yet?" He turned to look down at her. "You said you'd call them—"
"— two weeks ago, yes," Jemma finished for him. She lifted her head off his shoulder, before bringing her knees up to her chin. "And well …"
"Jemma," Leo admonished, her name perfectly punctuated by his accent. "It's Christmas Eve, for god's sake. The least you could've done was given them a bloody call."
The vociferous yet brusque beeps of the academy-issues digitized clock cut her off. Both of their heads immediately snapped towards the direction of the noise. An impassive female voice cut through the silence, announcing in a robotic tone: "It is 12 a.m, December 25th, 2011. Merry Christmas, S.H.I.E.L.D Academy students."
And just like that, the room was plunged into silence again.
The two stayed in their positions, mulling in the emptiness; Jemma absent-mindedly playing with a strand of her hair, and Leo tugging at his collar.
Suddenly, the engineer cleared his throat, rising from the couch. Jemma eyed him warily.
"Um, that reminds me …" he softly muttered – more to himself than to her, the biochemist noted.
He strode over to the corner of the room lined with bookshelves. His fingers lightly traced the spine of several books before coming to a stop at the very top of the shelf. Leo pulled out a bulky-looking rectangular package seemingly covered in glossy images.
Leo walked over to her, his hands clutching the package. Awkwardly, he held it out to Jemma. "Uh, for you," he stated in a soft voice. Slightly taken aback, she reached forward and took it from him, their fingers lightly brushing. Intensely aware of the brief physical contact, Leo gingerly rubbed the back of his neck and took a seat beside her.
The package wasn't of much grandeur – in fact, it seemed to have been hastily wrapped in what appeared to be stray magazine pages. Jemma held back a smile at the sight of it.
"Go on, open it," Leo prodded, perhaps a bit too excitedly. She shot him an earnest grin and carefully undid the wrapping.
"Oh, Leo …"
It wasn't in the greatest condition, but the faded cover proudly proclaimed it The Complete Sherlock Homes: All 4 Novels and 56 Stories. It was thick and rather heavy, but as Jemma thumbed through the yellowed pages, that was the least of her concerns.
"I, uh, know how much you like the one on BBC," Leo explained, slightly flustered, "so I thought that I'd give you the actual books. I couldn't find any copies at the local bookstore so I had to delve into my personal collection— it's pretty old, but … it's still readable. Unless you've already read it, in that case, I'd gladly take it back f-for something el—"
Jemma's arms were around him faster than he could finish the sentence. Leo froze, in shock of both the contact and her reaction. The only things he registered were how warm her skin was, how good her hair smelled (jasmine, he faintly thought, and something very Jemma), and how nice her arms felt around his neck. He tentatively placed the flat of his palms on her back.
When she finally detached herself from him, Leo felt colder than he had before.
"Thank you so much Leo," Jemma said, her face alight with glee. "This is … wow."
"It's nothing, really," he assured her sheepishly, fingering his collar. "It is Christmas, after all."
A disconcerted look washed over her. "I didn't get anything for you," she guiltily admitted. "I mean – I've been so busy with the studying and—"
"It's alright," Leo replied, appalled at the thought."Maybe next year."
"Without a doubt," she agreed. "A TARDIS, perhaps. You've always wanted one of those cute little models."
He shot her a grateful smile. Sometimes he was stunned by how well he knew her; he had only mentioned his love for a particular British scifi/fantasy only once thus far ("The Academy's just like a TARDIS! Bigger on the inside! Fantastic!) and yet she still remembered. The thought warmed his insides a bit.
"Merry Christmas, Jemma."
"Merry Christmas, Leo."
He turned slightly to glance out the window. The night was a sheet of white with colorful streetlights illuminating a pathway that seemed to welcome onlookers. It reminded him of home.
This is my home now.
"You know . . ." Jemma started, following his gaze. "As much as I'd love to continue studying for finals— it does seem awfully nice outside."
"But equally freezing," Leo added. Winter never seemed to agree with him, even the slightest snowfall leaving him curled up in a ball, fighting away frostbite.
"Fair point. What do you say we just stay inside, turn up the heater, and rewatch some old Doctor Who Christmas specials?"
Leo hesitated for a moment, briefly wondering about the implications this little holiday activity could invoke. He shook them off; Jemma was his best friend, and truth be told, he didn't know what else she could possibly be. He gave her a quick smile.
"Only if you promise to call your parents and wish them after."
"You've got yourself a deal."
And as the two sat shoulder-to-shoulder against the couch, the heat of the laptop scalding their legs, and a familiar melody filling the room, Leo mused that he truly wouldn't have spent Christmas day (night, whatever) any other way.
A/N: Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed this! These two are just too much. :'D Please leave a review with your thoughts! Nothing would make this uninspired writer happier. :) Much love! Stay fabulous. x