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

Chapter Text

After their world has exploded and ended and somehow managed to endure, perhaps because it wasn't quite clear on what other options were available to it, Jemma finds herself standing in the kitchen with May, Skye, and a three-hour-old cup of cold coffee.

"Well!" she says brightly. "This is awkward." She isn't quite clear on what went on with May and Ward, or Skye and Ward, or how the two intersected, but she's clear that they did. "You're standing in front of the machine," she concludes, in a hopeful bit of distraction. "Could you move?"

"Sure," Skye says, but the kitchen is small with three of them in there, and she has to step quite close to May to allow Jemma room to empty her cup in the sink and punch the buttons on the coffee machine in the correct sequence. The atmosphere changes, but not in the way Jemma had been aiming for. "May--" Skye starts on a rising breath, and Jemma's shoulders tense in horrified anticipation.

"Yes?" May asks blandly.

"Would you like some coffee?" Jemma asks. "I'm making some for Ant and maybe Fitz if he can stop talking long enough to drink it this time."

They're still working their way through the tech Ward had managed to salvage. She isn't sure they ever won't still be working their way through it, but as with most things nowadays, she lives on hope and caffeine.

"Oh, coffee's done!" she realizes, and forgets about her companions until May says, "Yes, I'll have some, please," as Sky rushes out, "May, I hope you don't think I--"

"I really don't think about you at all," May says into the gap left by Skye's lack of coherent thought.

Jemma thinks May means that to be reassuring, because Jemma would be reassured to discover she wasn't a blip on May's radar, but by the time she turns around with May's coffee Skye is vanishing towards her bedroom.

"Oh, dear," Jemma says, and when May's eyes turn from watching Skye's retreat, "Strong, black, and sweet, just how you like it."

"Thank you," May says.

"So," Jemma starts, because it would be remiss in her not to make the attempt, doomed as it ever is to fail, "Not to make things worse--"

"Oh, good," May says dryly, but Jemma forges on.

"--but what exactly did happen with you and Ward and Skye?"

"Nothing," May says.

"Oh," Jemma says sadly. "I was afraid of that."

May pauses, halfway out the door. "You were what?"

"I was afraid that you and Ward had broken up and Skye and Ward had never quite gotten together," she explains.

"Ward and I--"

"Because everybody is so awkward and sad," she concludes, sadly.

May turns around slowly. "That might have more to do with SHIELD's fall and Ward's betrayal and how terrifyingly close Hydra came to usurping our country and destroying the world without any of us being aware of it," she suggests.

"Close but no cigar!" Jemma reminds her cheerfully, and ignores the rest of it because it doesn't matter, and also she can't bear to think about it now that she can allow herself the weakness of flinching away. "And I think you're all too distracted by your own unhappiness to be unhappy about any of that, because if you were thinking about that at all, you'd be far too focussed to be so awkward with each other."

May tries and fails to come up with a rebuttal, and instead says, "Ward and I didn't break up."

"That might explain Skye's misery-gutsiness, but--"

"We were never together," May continues, and Jemma laughs.

"Yes, you were," she says, and then takes a sharp step backwards, because May is still May.

"Not in any way I noticed or cared about," May says, and that's probably true.

"Still counts," Jemma says sadly. "I'm just saying, if people besides Ant and me had themselves together, then everyone would be a lot happier and more productive, and maybe Ant and I could get half an hour alone together with Fitz interrupting to try and get Ant to touch an 0-8-4 without the proper protective gear. It isn't as if I don't know what he's doing."

"Jealous," May says, apparently thinking herself in agreement.

"Fitz?" Jemma squeaks. "Oh, good heavens no."

"No?" May asks dubiously.

"I'm not his type."

May looks her up and down.

"I'm really not his type," Jemma insists. "But I'm just saying, he's lonely, and if other people paired off, things would be a lot better for me." She sips at the dregs of her coffee and adds, "And Ant," the afterthought warm and welcome. "I'm his type."

"We've noticed," May says.

"Agent Triplett has not been on board long enough for anybody to notice anything even if there were anything to notice," Jemma says with dignity, and ignores May's secret smirk. May has definitely been on board long enough for Jemma to know when her face wants to make an expression but her mind won't let it. "Anyway, why did you and Ward have to break up? It wasn't just because of the whole Agent of Hydra thing, was it? Because--"

Jemma doesn't really know how she's going to argue May out of that objection, so she's rather glad when May interrupts her. "Lorelei saw inside his mind and told me he had feelings for another member of the team."

"Huh," Jemma says, and shuts her mouth.

"No skin off my nose," May reassures her, and Jemma lets the grin break across her face.

"Skye!" she announces triumphantly. "I knew it! They would be such a good couple. We have to get them together, we have to make this happen! Somebody besides me should be getting some out of the fall of civilisation, and--"

"SHIELD is not civilisation," May says, "And that is more than I needed to know."

"We're doing this," Jemma tells her. "Nobody would ever suspect me of scheming and nobody would ever suspect you of giving a monkey's about your colleagues' personal lives--"

"Because I don't--"

"--we're the perfect team."

"We're not a team," May says. "And how is getting Skye and Ward together going to make Fitz less lonely? Shouldn't you be focussing your efforts on finding someone for him?"

"...Huh," Jemma says. "But then where am I going to find someone for you?"

"What?" May says blankly.

"And I don't even know if Agent--where are you going? Come back!"

But May is already out the door, making tracks for the cockpit. There's nowhere to hide, though. The bus is far too small.

"Needs more people," Jemma tells herself thoughtfully.

Though really, she thinks she can work with what she's got.

She hums happily, and starts the coffee brewing.

Chapter Text

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.