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and start again (future's not that far away)

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Later, after Jemma's watched Fitz bully Ward into acting as guinea pig for some of the 0-8-4s--the more harmless ones, or else she would have called a stop to it, obviously, or so she tells herself--she bumps into Antoine as he's trying to enter the lab as she's trying to exit.

"Oh!" she says. "Hello!"

"Jemma," he says, "I--"

"Oh!" she repeats, and her face falls. "I drank your coffee already."

"My coffee?"

"Because you were gone when I got back," she explains, "And Fitz didn't need my help testing the Anatoubli, if that is in fact what it is, and when have I ever had the chance to engage in some probably harmless schadenfreude whilst drinking two cups of coffee, not since Professor Montgomery's lectures, that's when, and--"

"What's an Anatoubli?" Antoine asks, thankfully halting her flow of words. She tends to babble more than usual around Antoine. She would have thought all the sex they've been having would have made her less anxious around him instead of more, but no. Her luck isn't running that way. She blames Fitz.

"Oh, you don't want to know," she tells him brightly. "Not if that's what it actually is, but it doesn't seem to be working anyway, so we don't have to worry."

"I'm going to get it working," Fitz calls irritably from behind her. "Just needs a bit more--" He trails off into dissatisfied mutters.

"I am worrying," Antoine says. "What exactly is it I'm worried about?"

Oh, dear. "Nothing," she reassures him easily. This isn't going exactly as she would have hoped. Antoine is peering over her shoulder, trying to make out what Fitz is working on. "Why did you come back here?"

"Ah--" Antoine says, and she'd wanted his attention to swing back to her, but she hadn't intended to fill him with this surprised awkwardness.

"Not that we don't want you here," she hastens to inform him. "You're quite welcome. It's really rather nice to have you here, in fact. Really rather lovely. You're quite--lovely."

When she realizes what she's said, all she can do is hope the resulting blush isn't too obvious, but her skin is unfortunately fair. Fitz sniggers behind her, and when she shoots him a glare she sees that Ward is smiling at her, which is not on. She's going to make Fitz test out that Asgardian hangover cure on him next, because that seems harmless too, but the warnings on that one had been particularly dire, and Ward never likes that.

"Oh, dear," she says, and her plans for Ward make the words come out with a mingled sadness and triumph that is much to weird to attempt to explain. If she keeps talking they'll all forget about it. "I shouldn't have said that."

Jemma thinks it would surprise people to know that she's never been particularly skilled with personal relationships, since so many other difficult areas of study have come so naturally to her. At first it hadn't seemed worth the trouble, and then she hadn't known how to begin. Other things have always felt more important, so she's never really minded, but she doesn't feel that way now. But regardless of her sudden wish for a more developed social ability, she is what she is: a scientist who has more trouble reading a face than a DNA sequence.

Which makes Antoine's sudden smile unexpected and delightful.

"Oh," she says fatuously, and doesn't even feel bad about it.

"You should say whatever you feel like," he tells her, as she watches the amused curve of his cheek. He has a dimple she wants to touch. "Seems to be working out for me."

"Yes, well," she says, because there'll be time for that later, assuming Fitz ever lets her leave the lab. Her bedroom is twenty meters away, but she's slept under her workstation twice so far this week, and it's only Thursday. "Me too."

"Glad you agree," he says easily. "I just came to see if you wanted to come have dinner."

Fitz drops Ward's arm and the Anatoubli, but he scrambles to retrieve the tech, so Jemma doesn't bother giving out.

"Love to," she says.

"She can't," Fitz interjects grumpily. "She has to help me recalibrate this thing's system."

"Do I?"

"Well, you said," Fitz reminds her. "So yes."

"I did," she admits. "I do."

"You already spent forever getting coffee this afternoon," Fitz complains. "What do you even have to talk to Skye about for so long, she doesn't even--"

"Oh, that reminds me," Jemma interrupts. "I was about to go and get more coffee. Come on, Ant. Try not to break anything while I'm gone, Fitz."

She ignores Fitz's outraged protest of, "That was one time, and Ward can walk on a broken toe, you could barely even tell!" as she drags Antoine out into the corridor.

"Sorry," she says, smiling, and goes up on her toes to steal a kiss that lasts rather longer than she had meant.

"I believe I was promised coffee," Antoine says, dipping his head so that he can nuzzle against her mouth. "Twice, in fact. Didn't take you for a tease."

"Oh, that reminds me." She steps away from him unexpectedly, but he is operations, so he manages to turn his swooping attempt at another kiss into a cat-casual slink closer. "I know Fitz is being a bit of a pain, but I came up with a great plan to take care of that."

"Hmm?" he asks, moving his lips delicately over her jaw.

"I'm going to set May up with Coulson and Skye up with Ward, and then everybody will be happy and leave us alone."

His persuasive movements pause. "Wait," he says, straightening up with a frown. "I think you have that--wait, how does that help us with Fitz?"

"Well it isn't perfect," she allows, "but it's the best we can manage with what we've got."

"I'm not sure it--"

"We've only got five minutes, Ant," she says impatiently. "Do you really want to spend it on Fitz?"

He looks disturbingly conflicted about that, but he comes willingly when she reels him back in, and soon enough they've both forgotten about Fitz.

Which is only a good thing until he opens the door behind them and they land on the floor at his feet.

"You forget these walls are glass?" he asks. "And I think that's tea break over."

"He broke my finger," Ward pipes up.

"I didn't," Fitz objects. "I just pulled it really hard."

"You were trying to pull it off."

"I was just trying to see if the Anatoubli could make that possible!" he says heatedly. "I would've put it back!"

Jemma smiles wryly and waves at Antoine as he walks away. When she turns around, Fitz and Ward are both staring at her.

"What?" she asks, register sliding the word into an objection.

"He hates when you call him Ant," Fitz tells her.

"He does not."

"Is it sweet that he lets you do it anyway?" Fitz asks. "Or is it unhealthy that he won't admit it?" His tone turns surly. "I can't tell."

"It's neither!" she insists. "Because he doesn't hate it!"

"You really don't get men," Fitz says.

"Apart from you," Jemma says, and Fitz smiles reluctantly.

"Because he's gay?" Ward asks.

"No, because I don't get anybody," Jemma snaps, thinking uncomfortably of Skye's rush from May and May's retreat from her and Antoine's refusal to acknowledge the excellence of her plan, and most of all everything Ward has ever done or been and her inability to see it before it happens, and she adds, "Because he's Fitz."

"Well, that's definitely unhealthy," Ward says. "No question about that one."

Jemma suspects he may be right, and she also kind of hopes Fitz did break his finger.

She prods at it until she discovers her luck isn't running that way either, and says, "You're do realize you're staying here tonight until I leave."

"That's fine," Ward says, and doesn't even look miserable about it. He's been showing lots more emotion since he stopped working for HYDRA, too, so he absolutely should look miserable.

Jemma really doesn't understand any of them.

"I'm going to find Skye," she announces, and leaves the lab with something that is definitely not a flounce.

"You still can't leave," Fitz says unhappily, but he isn't speaking to her, so she keeps walking.

"I know," Ward says patiently.

She'll figure them out, though, same way she will the Anatoubli and the Asgardian hangover cure. Jemma figures everything out eventually.