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The Weight of Living

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“Oh, Fitz, could you--.” Jemma turns from her lab bench and the words stick in her throat when she remembers why Fitz isn't going to answer. The lab is quiet and she feels Fitz’s absence like a hole in her chest. The empty space where Fitz should be is a void in the vacuum of space that sucks the air from the room until she can’t breath. She feels like she’s perpetually balancing on one leg these days, wavering and uneven without her other half.

She leans back against the bench and presses her palms to her eyes, trying to hold back the sharp sting of tears. FitzSimmons. Everyone called them that since their days at the Academy, and she’d never given it much thought. She never realized how entwined they were. Fitz has been in a coma for three weeks now and she’s still turning around and expecting him to be there. The silence of the lab without his chatter and tinkering is still jarring and wrongwrongwrong.

“Dr. Simmons?”

She glances up at the door where Triplett is watching her, his brows furrowed in concern. She hastily wipes her cheeks and tries to smile, though she doesn’t think she succeeds.

“You okay?” he asks, coming to stand beside her.

She means to say “Yes, of course” but what comes out of her mouth instead is “No, not really.” She hugs herself, as though she can keep the hole in her chest from expanding if she crosses her arms tight enough. She tilts her head down and can’t see the floor for the blur of tears in her eyes.

Trip hesitates for a long moment before he puts his hand on her shoulder. She’s shaking with the effort of keeping her tears to herself but his touch the delicate straw that breaks the camel’s back. She’s turning and burying her face in his chest as she sobs. Three weeks of stress and grief and the weight of missing Fitz and not knowing if he’ll ever come back burst forth like a breaking dam and Trip holds her close and lets her grieve, lowering them to the floor when she can’t seem to hold herself up any longer.

Trip closes his eyes and buries his face in her hair, hoping she won’t notice that he’s crying too. That he’s clinging to her just as much as she’s clinging to him because his world has been shaken off its axis just as much. His grandparents’ legacy in shambles, his S.O. a traitor, and she’s the closest thing he has to a friend on this plane.

He doesn’t know how long they sit there, long enough for his legs to go numb at any rate, before she pulls away. He furtively wipes the wetness from his cheeks and pretends not to see her do the same.

She shifts to sit beside him, leaning back against the lab bench and drawing her knees up to her chest. Her hand wraps around his, her fingers slim and cold against his palm as he returns the grip. They sit in silence for a time, wrestling their emotions back under control now that the worst of the pressure has been bled off.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Jemma says quietly. He glances at her from the corner of his eye. She’s not looking at him, but she leans her head against his shoulder. “I don’t know if anyone else has said it yet, but thank you.”

“Just doin’ my job, ma’am,” he says. She giggles weakly; the sound and the tiny smile that accompanies it makes him feel a little less awful about everything. “But seriously, I’m glad I’m here too.”

She tilts her head up to look at him and he’s looking down at her. He doesn’t know who moves first, if he leans down or she leans up, but their lips touch in a soft, tear-flavored kiss that’s over in a blink of an eye because she jerks back, her red eyes wide and her face a mess of emotions, wanting and uncertain.

“I can’t,” she says. “We can’t. I want to, but Fitz and I…I don’t--.” She trips over the words, her voice low and rushed as she tries to make sense of the thoughts swirling in her head.

“Hey, hey, hey.” Trip turns to face her, their hands still joined, neither of them willing to let go. “It’s okay.”

“It’s not,” she says miserably. “Nothing is okay and I want to have sex with you because I think the endorphins and prolactin would make us both feel better for a while but I don’t know if that makes it the right thing to do because emotionally I’m a bloody mess and Fitz is in a coma and he said he loves me but I don’t know if I love him and I don’t know what to do.”

Trip blinks, stunned, because it hadn’t actually occurred to him that sex was on the table at all. Except it really wasn’t. She was right that it might make them feel better for a little while, but afterwards? It would just be a mess where he would get attached and she might or might not return the sentiment but there was Fitz to consider and it was just better to stop thinking about it for now.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he says. “Let’s just…wait and see, yeah? See what happens when Fitz wakes up, when things aren’t so messed up.”

Jemma could kiss him again for that, for saying when Fitz woke up. As though there was no question at all that he would do so, and things would work out for the best. She nods her agreement and leans in on an impulse to kiss his cheek.

“Thank you, Antoine.”

He returns the kiss, a light peck on her cheek and smiles, small and rueful. “You’re welcome, Jemma.”

She clambers to her feet and gives him a hand up. She does back to her inventory and he heads out to the cargo bay.