On the other hand, not only was there that bit about their being the mercenaries holding them captive in the first place, but also they apparently didn’t care that their ship’s lighting was starting to fail regularly. They had seen just enough of the ship’s electronics for Fitz to be pretty confident that was a problem they likely could fix by docking somewhere, but it looked like they didn’t want to risk their pair of prisoners escaping.
Eight sleeps into that, and Jemma awoke to pitch darkness. Her first thought was to be glad Fitz was pressed against her, so she could know he was there. The next was that he was awake, and all too rigid. “Fitz?” she whispered, soft as she could, relieved when he didn’t flinch away. “How much have you slept?”
“I’ve been awake…I don’t know,” he said. “I slept a bit before that, but…if I stay exactly like this, I know it’s you.”
He’d hinted at that even before the blackouts started, that sometimes when he was waking up was afraid he would open his eyes and find Aida lying next to him instead, but this was the most direct he’d been about it. In the dark, that fear probably lasted a lot longer. “Would it help if I talked?” she asked.
“In theory,” he said. “Probably worth…” He tailed off. An experiment, he would’ve once finished that sentence with. But this wasn’t the first time up here he’d quailed away even from the language of science that had once been both their native tongues, even that perverted for him in the Framework.
Jemma’s first thought was to talk about something other than that, anything else. Even if maybe they did have to talk about what thoughts that put in her head, now didn’t exactly seem like the best time for it. But then Fitz asked, “Do I sound like…”
“You didn’t there,” said Jemma, because he certainly didn’t when he sounding so frightened like that. But then the memory came to her, two sleeps ago, hearing the hard, angry comments he’d made about their alien captors and suddenly finding it hard to forget when he had addressed her with that exact same cold, deep fury. Still she tried, “He would never let himself be vulnerable, remember.”
“He didn’t even like to admit to himself he was scared,” Fitz said, and that was something, referring to who he’d been in the Framework in the third person. Even if he then said, “I found it easier just to be angry. All the time. There was always something.
The atmosphere at Hydra was like that,” he continued. “Always enemies around. Always reasons to be paranoid.”
“Well, that was true in the real world, too,” said Jemma. “Though of course when I was working for them, they were firmly in hiding. Bobbi told me once that though they’d known S.H.I.E.L.D. was secretly around and worried about that, their main fear had been the government finding them. During my first days there, two different people said to me to be careful, because anyone could be a traitor.”
Bobbi and Lance’s names had both been on the Playground’s makeshift Wall of Valor. Jemma had never gotten around to finding out what happened to them in the Framework. She was aware Fitz might know, and if Bobbi had been caught as a mole, he definitely would. But she wasn’t asking, not now.
It was the first time in a very long time that they talked about that time period either. Now Fitz said, “I was angry then, too. It wasn’t all I was, but…I have stronger memories of that feeling now.”
“Would it help if I said I was sorry?” Jemma asked. “Because I am. I’ll never stop being sorry I caused you that pain.”
“I’m not…” Fitz paused, then, “It wasn’t you I was angry at the most, I think. Not even when I thought you’d left because I’d confessed I was in love with you. It was like it was later, when you got grabbed by the portal and all that happened. I know the universe isn’t supposed to be an entity, that it’s just a chaotic set of happenings, and we should probably think ourselves damn lucky just for getting constructed right by evolution.”
“I’m finding that hard to believe myself some days,” said Jemma, saying it out loud for the first time. “Especially now, when we’ve run up into so many crazy things. There are forces so powerful in the universe, one’s we’ve never been able to map out or even identify properly. Maybe…maybe we never could.”
It’s a scary thought. Jemma has now on multiple occasions had her world shaken and cracked at its very foundations, but what she’s seen on that front just might do it more than everything else that has happened to her put together.
“Maybe there are supersmart aliens who have done it?” Fitz suggested. “Of course, those aren’t the ones we keeping running into, are they? Unless they’ve done it on Asgard. Think we could ask Professor Randolph? Or Lady Sif, if we ever see her again? We should’ve appreciated her showing up on our doorstep more. The all-powerful Asgardians seem to be the only aliens that see humans and want to help. And not even all of them…”
He drifted off, and Jemma knew he was thinking about Lorelai. That had disturbed her a lot at the time, the thought that Fitz might choose another woman over her. She’d told herself then that she wouldn’t care if he was just in love with someone else, because that had always been something that might happen someday, but she still didn’t want that person to be more important to him than her. But that ultimately had all been easy to dismiss, since he’d been outright mind-controlled into it. Really, it had been far less traumatic, especially since Lorelai hadn’t changed him otherwise, so he’d still been Fitz, still displayed none of the ugliness Aida and a virtual version of his father had found in him.
“The thing is,” Fitz said, “is that I’ve always known people are terrible. I knew it even before my father left. Being bullied makes you aware of that quickly. But, well, my mum’s a big believer in turning the other cheek anyway, and even if I didn’t agree with her entirely there, I didn’t want to…I knew there were good people in the world. Like her. Like the bloke who came to Glasgow, helped me through everything, made sure I was all right when I got to the Academy. Like you. You most of all, Jemma.”
She remembered Daisy’s words then, about the Framework version of Fitz being so horrible because he hadn’t had her. She’d never been able to believe that, and didn’t know what to do with the realization that Fitz obviously did.
But Fitz kept on talking. “I’m starting to think better now, less like I did in the Framework, about most things. About you especially. But when I consider these aliens, and whoever wanted us all kidnapped, for whatever reasons, well, all I can think is that people all over the universe and all its crazy unknown dimensions are just…I think I really believe that now, and I’m always going to.”
“I’m sorry for that,” Jemma said softly, then thought she’d better tell him more: “I’m sorry that happened to you. I’m sorry all of this did.”
“And you want the man you love back,” he said, and when she didn’t deny it, he said, “You know, you’re really not the woman I originally fell in love with either. It’s all right; I’m still in love with you anyway.”
“As am I,” she said, maybe too quickly, but she truly did mean it. “I’ll keep on saying it if you need me to.”
“Oh, Jemma,” Fitz sighed, then pulled himself out, found her face with his hands, and kissed her with the ease of someone who’d done it in the dark before, in the morning when he couldn’t be bothered turning on the lights first. Jemma, glad for it, kissed back with a fervor she hadn’t gotten to since the Framework.
Fitz was going further, his hands ghosting down her sides, stroking a spot on her stomach where she was sensitive. Her gasps made his breath quicken; she loved that sound. When he reached her hips he reversed and started going back up; this was as far as they were going right now. Even so Jemma was rising into his touch, running his hands through his hair and scratching his scalp the way they’d only just discovered he liked before all this. He let out of a little moan; there was one forming in Jemma’s throat.
The lights came back on.
The first thing Jemma saw was Fitz’s face. Before this, Jemma had once debated with herself whether or not the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen was Fitz in the middle of passion. She’d known, of course, that no objective person would reach that conclusion, and so, ultimately, she’d had to say the answer was no. But looking at him now, her mind was changed and her opinion settled forever, scientific objectivity be damned.
It didn’t last, of course. Only a moment later that was all gone from him, replaced by sadness, guilt, uncertainty. She wanted to kiss him again, but she feared he wouldn’t react well if she did. So she was silent and still as Fitz moved down, placed his head on her chest, where it was now easy for them both to keep it. That itself was progress, but right now it didn’t feel like it at all.
And Jemma found herself talking. “When I don’t have nightmares, I have dreams of us being back on the plane.” It might have been dangerous to confess to this, and it would be painful for both of them to hear for sure, but she’d been feeling more and more like she’d been bottling everything up inside, and maybe she needed to say some things. “With some differences, like Daisy is still Daisy with the name and the powers, and Mack’s there instead of Ward. But the two of us are…well, I don’t know if we’re really the way we were. More like a romanticized version of it.”
“Does it not being what we really were make it hurt less?” Fitz asked, in a sympathetic tone that broke her heart.
“No,” she said. “Well, I suppose I don’t know for sure, but it hurts so much when I wake up, I just…”
The lights went out again; they had known them to go on and off multiple times like this for extended periods of time.
Maybe that was what gave Fitz the courage to venture, “If…if you weren’t waking up here?”
They hadn’t really talked about potentially escaping. It was hard to do so when they were being watched and listened to every moment, after all. Jemma even knew how she had to respond; wistfully, expressing a wish for them to be somewhere else, perfectly explainable when they’d never hid how much they didn’t want to be there. But if Jemma Simmons knew anything about Leo Fitz, she knew that tone of voice, and what he was really asking.
She carefully considered her response, before going with the completely non-suspicious answer, and also an important one, “If you were still waking up with me, I think that would be better.”
He did sigh a little, then, maybe still not quite ready to put faith in that. But he said, “We’ll never again be what we were, you know. If we ever get out of here, I think things will get better. But we’re going to be working on recovering for the rest of our lives. It’s going to be a long process, neither of us really know what to do yet, and we can only get so much control over things. But we need to find all the control we can.”
He maybe spoke those last words with too much meaningfulness, though he voice had dropped a little anyway. But Jemma was glad anyway, because she knew the surface meaning to those words was sincere.
“We’d both have to do that anyway,” she said. “Me too. But work is always easier when it’s shared.” And she fumbled to find his hand in the dark, and grasped it tight. She remembered a planet, and a dust storm, and a monster behind her, and shock and grief and fear, and holding on to him.
“You really think this is a case of that?” he asked. But he didn’t sound doubtful. He sounded hopeful.
“I know it is,” she said. “Fitz, all the time on this ship I’ve had to think, and obviously I’ve had a lot. I’ve thought of the future both with you and without. And yes, with you, it’s going to be hard, and in ways caused by your being here, but without you? I’ve been through that twice before, remember. I wasn’t in the happiest of situations either times, of course. But I’ll take the rest of our lives with you, because that way? At least I can now hope we’ll someday both be truly happy again. I know neither of us will be if we chose the alternative.”
“Hope,” said Fitz softly. “Rebellions are built on hope.”
“Remember going to see that movie?” she asked, although she did so mostly to establish to their captors that this was a movie quote, and to make it sound more harmless. “And we held hands like this, so shameless in the dark.” They hadn’t, exactly; they’d only just grasped each other’s hands at certain moments. “That’s worth fighting for, Fitz. We’re worth fighting for.”
“Then we will,” said Fitz, and she knew he meant it, and in both respects. “Because you’re right. It’s worth having it back.”