Time passes strangely their first few weeks on the Zephyr, orbiting the distant Alya star 154.65 light-years from the earth. On the one hand, Jemma, Fitz, and Enoch are so busy and so focused on their tasks that days and then weeks fly by.
But Jemma once kept track of the exact number of hours she spent on a planet with a sunrise only once every eighteen years, and Fitz once drew a daily calendar of monkey faces on a prison cell wall. Even without the Zephyr’s simulated 24-hour days, Jemma knows they would both be keenly aware of how many days—weeks—now a month bleeding into two—that have passed since they left their friends (one dying, possibly dead before they even raced off in the Zephyr) in that nightmare temple.
They’ve been on the Zephyr for four weeks and five days (thirty-three artificial sunsets and sunrises since they watched that horrible creature with Coulson’s face stab Melinda May and toss her into a swirling portal) when Jemma wakes up to a spinning head and a roiling stomach. She presses a hand to her mouth as Fitz bolts upright next to her.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” she manages to choke out before throwing off the blanket and rushing to the tiny bathroom near their bunk. Somehow Fitz reaches the bathroom at the same time, and he holds her hair back as she throws up. When she’s finished, she glances back at him, and to his credit he’s grimacing only a little. His face smooths out as soon as she flushes the toilet.
Jemma shuts her eyes and focuses on breathing slowly, inhaling through her nose and exhaling through her mouth. She hasn’t thrown up since right after Deke told her they’re his grandparents. (And that’s all she lets herself think about regarding that moment.)
Fitz squeezes her shoulder, and then she senses him standing up and hears the tap running. When she opens her eyes, he’s offering her a damp washcloth. Taking it, she presses the blessedly cool cloth to her flushed cheeks.
“Are you all right now?”
She nods, not yet trusting herself to speak.
Fitz sits back down next to her and wraps his arm around her shoulders. “Let’s just sit for a minute, yeah?”
He rubs a light hand up and down her back for a few minutes, and Jemma’s stomach settles gradually. Leaning forward, she reaches up and places the washcloth on the edge of the sink. “Must’ve been something I ate,” she says at last.
“Well, we ate the same thing for dinner last night, so I hope I’m not next.”
Jemma raises her eyebrows. “The Yaro root! You didn’t eat any of that.”
Fitz wrinkles his nose. “That’s probably it.” Enoch was so excited (well, as excited as he ever seemed) to bring back Yaro root on his latest supply run. “A reminder,” he said, “of my and Fitz’s time as outlaws, when we ate it often.” But Fitz had had more than enough of the plant during their year in space, and he declined politely but firmly.
“I know Enoch said it was ripe,” Jemma says, “but maybe—”
“It was ripe.”
Startled, they both jump to their feet to see Enoch standing in the doorway. “Enoch! How long have you been standing there?” Jemma asks. She can count on one hand the number of people who’ve seen her throw up, and while Enoch isn’t technically a person, she doesn’t like the thought of adding someone else to her mental “beings who’ve witnessed me vomiting” list.
“Twenty-three seconds.” He tilts his head at her. “If there is one thing I have learned in my thirty-three thousand years of existence—and I have learned many things—it is how to tell the difference between ripe Yaro root and unripe Yaro root.”
Jemma and Fitz exchange glances. “Yeah, no, no, we believe you, Enoch,” Fitz says. “Remember, I had to learn how to tell the difference right along with you.”
Enoch regards him. “Indeed.”
Jemma smiles reassuringly at him. “I know you’ve done your best to make sure the food we eat is safe. I was just going to say that maybe I had a bad reaction to it.”
“In all my years of studying the human race, I have never encountered a human being who is allergic to Yaro root.”
“Yeah, but how many humans—” Jemma shoots Fitz a look, and he shuts his eyes and nods with a scrunched-up smile. “Right, yeah.”
Jemma puts her hands on her hips and sighs lightly. “Well,” she says mildly, “I suppose there is a first time for everything.”
Enoch nods once. “That is true. I shall see you both in the kitchen shortly. That is, if your stomach is up to it.” He walks off.
As if on cue, Jemma’s stomach growls loudly. “Oh!”
“You hungry now that your stomach is empty?” Fits grins cheekily.
Jemma scowls at him. “Very funny. I saw the look on your face.”
“Hey, I think I did all right! I didn’t end up joining you over the toilet.”
She pats his arm. “You did a fine job.”
He presses a kiss to the top of her head. “C’mon, let’s get you something to eat.” As they walk to the kitchen, Fitz keeps an arm around her waist.
“Anything but Yaro root.”
“Shh! Don’t let Enoch hear you say that.”
After breakfast—all of which Jemma keeps down with no further nausea—they get on with another busy day in the lab.
But then Jemma’s sick again the next morning. And the morning after that. By the third day, she can’t keep anything down or stand the smell of food. Instead of working in the lab, she spends the day curled up in bed, napping often. The guilt of taking a day off from working to save her friends makes her feel even worse, but she can barely stay awake.
Toward the end of the day, she finally opens her eyes without immediately having to snap them shut against nausea. She’d insisted Enoch and Fitz keep working even though Fitz had wanted to stay with her, so their bunk is empty. Feeling a pang of loneliness, she decides to try standing up and heading to find them (as long as they’re not in the kitchen eating).
Holding onto the bedpost for support, she stands up. Her legs are a little shaky and she feels a bit lightheaded, but her stomach stays calm. The strange feeling in her head dissipates as she leaves the room and walks down the hallway, following the sound of conversation to the lab.
The second Jemma enters the lab, Fitz breaks off from talking to Enoch. “Hey, how’re you feeling?”
“A bit better.” Fitz’s arms were crossed and she caught a scowl on his face before he saw her; she wonders what he and Enoch were talking about. “I still don’t really feel like eating anything.”
“Do you feel well enough to hear an update on the progress we made today?” Enoch asks.
Jemma sits down on a lab stool—the one farthest away from Enoch; he’s got a container of coconut water and while she can’t smell it right now, she’s not taking any chances—and rests her arms on the table in front of her. “Yes, but first—do you think you could’ve picked up a stomach virus on your supply run and passed it on to me?” She smiles apologetically.
“Chronicoms do not have stomachs, and we cannot catch viruses.” Enoch sips his coconut water indignantly.
“Yes, of course, I know that. But you do have skin, so it’s possible you touched a contaminated surface and then touched a surface on the Zephyr, which I then touched before eating something.” Jemma realizes she sounds far too excited about potential virus transmission, but she’s tired of feeling ill, and she’s especially tired of not knowing why.
“That is not possible. I always wash my hands after a supply run.”
“Yes, but—” Fitz catches her eye, and Jemma sighs, propping an elbow on the table and resting her head in her hand. “It’s not the Yaro root, it’s not bad rations—” they’d checked all the dates on the ration packs yesterday, including the empty ones in the trash—“and it’s not a stomach virus. I don’t know what else it could be.” She sees Fitz exchange a look with Enoch and suddenly she knows they must’ve been talking about her when she walked in. “What?”
Fitz uncrosses his arms and cradles one hand in the other. “Maybe we’re, uh—maybe we’re overlooking the most—the most obvious cause,” he says tentatively.
Catching how his words stumble over each other, Jemma narrows her eyes at him. She takes in the way he swallows nervously and his eyes dart and his hands twist around each other. She meets his eyes again and sees anxiety but also, strangely, hope.
Then it hits her. “What? No. No, it’s not—I can’t . . . ” She grasps for a rational reason why it couldn’t possibly be that causing her nausea. Finding one, she glances at Enoch and lowers her voice to a hiss of a whisper. “I mean, when was the last time we had time to—” she raises her eyebrows at Fitz and tilts her head in what she hopes is a subtly suggestive way.
Fitz also glances over at Enoch before whispering back, “First night at the Lighthouse. After the reunion party Mack threw for everybody.”
Memories of that wonderful evening flood her mind, but Jemma pushes them away. She won’t let herself be distracted from winning this argument. “Yes, but that was nearly two months ago!”
Again Fitz looks at Enoch, who simply stands there, observing and drinking his coconut water. He lets out a lightly annoyed sigh. “Okay, okay, but . . . when was the last time you—that is, when was your last, uh . . . ” He rubs the back of his neck, and Jemma glares at him, knowing precisely what he means but daring him to say it out loud in front of Enoch.
Enoch tosses his empty container into the trash can with a clatter. “If I may, I believe what Fitz is trying to ask is, when was your last menstrual cycle?”
Fitz shuts his eyes. “Yeah. That. Thanks, Enoch.”
Jemma can picture the purple circle around the date in her pocket calendar. May 10th. She half-shrugs with the arm not propped up on the table supporting her head. “It’s been a few months, but that’s normal with the type of birth control I’m on, remember?”
“Right, yeah, but . . . if—if!” he emphasizes at her baleful look. “If it is—if you’re—then we should find out for sure, yeah?” He shrugs.
Jemma purses her lips. “You mean we should find out for sure that I’m not—that.”
Fitz scowls and sighs. “Jemma.”
She huffs exasperatedly. “What do you want me to do, run to the chemist’s and buy a test?” She flings her hands up. “Oh, wait, I can’t, because we’re orbiting a star over 150 light-years away from the nearest one!” She hears Enoch take a breath and holds up a hand. “Please do not tell me about chemists on planets closer than Earth.”
“Jemma,” Fitz says again, this time stepping toward her, hands held up placatingly.
“I believe I have a solution.” They turn to look at Enoch. “I could perform a simple blood test. It would definitively confirm or rule out if Jemma’s nausea is a symptom of pregnancy.”
Jemma sees Fitz flinch at the same time she does, but Enoch continues. “If it has another cause, the test may provide clues to that as well. I am sorry I did not think of it sooner. I could have put both of your minds at ease already.”
Or given them more cause for concern. No, Jemma’s not going to go there. She can’t be. It’s not possible. She draws a breath and lets it out. “It’s not your fault, Enoch. We’ve all been so busy and distracted.” She smiles faintly. “Can it wait till morning? I’m tired.”
Enoch nods. “Of course.”
She lets Fitz help her to their bunk. He knows she’s exhausted, so he doesn’t try to talk, and she’s grateful. She’s asleep within seconds.
Waking up the next morning, Jemma feels totally fine—to her relief on several levels. She can’t help the triumph in her grin when Fitz asks how she feels and again when she eats an entire bowl of (barely passable) porridge and dehydrated blueberries.
“You should still take the blood test, though. Just so we know for sure.” Fitz shoots her a look that manages to be halfway between pointed and cautious before tearing open a package of cinnamon sugar Pop-Tarts. It’s the last of a box someone stashed onboard for their journey to find Fitz (probably Daisy, Jemma thinks with a pang, even as she sends a halfheartedly disapproving look at Fitz’s breakfast choice).
“Of course,” she says amiably. “And then I’ll meet you in the lab. I need to catch up on those simulations for D.I.A.N.A.”
“S’all right,” Fitz says around a mouthful of Pop-Tart. He swallows. “I’ll go with you.”
“You heard Enoch—it’s just a simple blood test,” Jemma says as she washes her empty bowl. “I’ll be fine. No need to delay your work for that.”
Fitz shrugs. “Should only take a few minutes, right? Not much of a delay.”
His eyes are oddly determined, so Jemma just nods and puts away her bowl. “All right.”
He tosses his empty Pop-Tart wrapper into the trash and they go to find Enoch. He’s waiting for them in the bridge, which they’ve cordoned off with sheets of thick blue plastic to designate it as their makeshift bio lab.
As Enoch prepares the tube and needle, Fitz squeezes Jemma’s hand. She shoots him a puzzled look but squeezes his hand in return.
“When will you have the results?” Fitz asks once Enoch’s finished.
“They should be ready this afternoon.” Enoch caps the tube of blood and walks it over to the equipment he’ll use to analyze it.
Fitz nods. “Okay, good. That’s good.”
Jemma rolls her sleeve back down. “Thank you, Enoch.”
As she and Fitz head to the lab, he presses a kiss to the top of her head. Jemma smiles up at him. “I’m so glad I’m feeling better. I’m ready to get back to work.”
Fitz draws a breath. “Yeah, I’m glad you’re feeling better too.” For a brief second, Jemma ponders whether that’s what he meant to say, but she pushes the thought away. Their friends need her to focus, and science awaits.
They’re still standing against the table in their scrapped-together lab, Fitz’s arm draped over her shoulder, We could just take some time to . . . live circling in her mind, when Enoch comes back.
“I have the results of your bloodwork.” Face inscrutable as ever, he offers them a tablet.
Jemma notices Fitz’s hands shaking as he reaches for it. She hears him draw a sharp breath and then she knows. She looks at the screen anyway, because she’s a scientist and she needs a different sort of knowing too.
Her eyes immediately find the letters “hCG” on the screen and then dart to the numbers next to them. Her mind registers the significance of “100,000 U/L.” Oh. She presses one hand to her forehead and the other to her stomach.
When she looks over at Fitz, the glorious smile on his face and the joyful tears in his eyes drive away the apprehension threatening to overwhelm her, at least for now. “Jemma,” he says, voice soft and hoarse and reverent.
She beams back at him, blinking away her own tears. “We’re having a baby, Fitz,” she manages to say.
Fitz nods and laughs shakily. “Yeah!” He wraps his arms around her, holding her close but so very gently, and presses his forehead to hers. “A baby.” When he looks at her, his eyes are so full of wonder and love that she has to shut her own or she’ll be overwhelmed.
She’s having a baby with her best friend, still the most open, loyal, caring person she knows, who will be the most wonderful, loving father. It will be all right, she tells herself. As long as we’re together, it will be fine.
But when Jemma’s nausea returns that afternoon, so do her concerns. She can’t bring herself to voice them yet; Fitz—and Enoch—are so elated that she just find herself nodding and smiling, if distractedly, through her bland dinner. But that evening, as she waits for Fitz to finish taking a shower and brushing his teeth so that they can go to sleep, Jemma sits cross-legged on their bed and makes a list.
First she writes down every potential issue she can think of. Pregnancy complications (gestational diabetes . . . ). Labour complications (premature labour, haemorrhage, jaundice . . . ). Babyproofing the Zephyr. It’s quite a list; it seems everywhere her mind turns, it bumps into a new potential problem. What to tell our parents. Options if I can’t breastfeed? (She adds the question mark because she isn’t sure there are any other options out here.)
Then she numbers them in the order in which they’ll need to be dealt with. Finally, she rewrites the list sequentially, leaving space for possible solutions to each problem as well as the supplies they’ll need to try to get for those solutions.
She’s taking a break to flex her cramped fingers and rub her forehead where a headache is forming when Fitz opens the door. “Hey, how’re you feeling?” he asks.
Jemma sets the notebook down onto the bed. “Oh, I’m fine.” She smiles. “I’m going to be hearing that a lot over the next thirty-three weeks, aren’t I?”
He smiles back, only a little sheepishly. “Can’t believe you’re due on Valentine’s Day, of all days.” He nods at the notebook as he sits down beside her. “What’re you working on?”
“Well, I know we agreed to take a break from the mission since we really don’t have another option—”
“And because we deserve it.” Fitz gives her a pointed look.
“Yes, of course. But we still have a lot of projects to work on,” she says lightly, handing him the notebook.
As he flips through her twelve-pages-long list, his eyes narrow. He sets the notebook on his knee and looks over at her. “Is this what was going through your mind at dinner?” He taps the cover.
Jemma smiles ruefully. “Was it that obvious?”
He shoots her a look—I know you—before opening the notebook again and flipping to a specific page. “Maybe we shouldn’t take a break from the mission entirely.”
Jemma narrows her eyes at him. “What do you mean?”
He shows her the page he stopped on—the one with pregnancy complications at the top. “The healing pod. We have to build it anyway in order to save May. Now we have even more reason to get started on it as soon as possible.”
Jemma draws in a breath, feeling some of her worry dissolve. “Oh, Fitz, that’s perfect! I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. That would help with potential labor complications as well. I’m sure the three of us can figure out how to modify it.” She lights up. “Maybe we can modify it so that we can hear the baby’s heartbeat—or even display a sonogram!”
Fitz grins at her. “Enoch and I will get started tomorrow.” He sets the notebook on the nightstand and pulls the blanket over both of them.
“Oh, and we’ll need to incorporate phototherapy in case the baby develops jaundice, like I did.” Jemma settles on her pillow, facing him. “It’s not like we can go outside in the sunshine for a bit.” She tries to smile but finds herself welling up instead.
“Hey.” Fitz reaches out to place a comforting hand on her cheek. “It’s gonna be okay.”
“I know.” And she did know. With their combined knowledge and skills, they would handle any problems that came up.
But whenever she allowed herself to dream of building a family with him, it had always been in a home—a real home they’d buy for themselves, with a yard and a garden—decidedly not at the Playground or (especially after they found out what happened in Deke’s timeline) the Lighthouse. It never even crossed her mind that it would happen on the Zephyr.
And she always imagined that all three of their families—her parents, Fitz’s mum, and their team—would be around. She shuts her eyes as tears escape down her cheeks.
“What? What is it?” Fitz asks.
“It’s just not how it’s supposed to be,” she whispers.
“I know.” Fitz moves closer to wrap his arms around her, and she tucks her head under his chin. For a few minutes, he just holds her as she cries. Then, when her tears have stopped, he huffs a sigh. “When has anything ever gone the way we thought it would?”
She wipes away the last bit of dampness on her face and sniffles before pulling back a little to look at him. “You seem all right with it, though.”
Fitz searches her face and she tries to figure out what’s going through his head. Finally he says, “It’s not that there aren’t plenty of things to worry about—like everything you’ve written down, for starters. But at least out here, we won’t be separated.”
Jemma tries and fails not to picture a severed Chronicom vessel, the icy panic from that memory clawing at her heart. She takes a deep breath. They’re in the Zephyr, not that rickety ship, and Enoch has told them over and over that they’re safe out here. He wouldn’t say that unless it was true. Letting out the breath she’s been holding, she nods. “Yeah.”
His thumb strokes her cheek. “We’ll figure everything else out. I promise.”
“I know.” She tilts her head up to kiss him goodnight.
When they break apart, Fitz shuts off the lamp on their nightstand. “Try to get some sleep,” he says softly. “You need it.”
She doesn’t think it’ll be a problem, now that her worries are written down and organized and she’s talked some of them over with Fitz. And she’s really and truly exhausted. “Good night,” she whispers, already drifting off.
Right before she falls asleep, she brushes a hand over her middle. And good night to you too.
For Jemma, the next seven weeks pass in a haze of frequent naps and nausea that can’t properly be called morning sickness since it happens all day long. She tries to make a chart of the foods that seem to be particularly bothersome, but she gives up when it becomes apparent that everything makes her sick except the blandest porridge and crackers.
So instead she counts down the days until her second trimester since apparently, according to the pregnancy book Enoch somehow managed to find on a supply run, the nausea is supposed to abate by then.
Sure enough, fifty-eight days after the nausea started (ninety-one days since they left Piper and Flint in the jungle and told them they would be right back), Jemma wakes up ravenously hungry instead of irritatingly nauseated.
It’s early; the space below the door where light peeks through when their artificial day starts is still dark, and the clock shows 5:43 a.m. Jemma debates trying to fall back to sleep, but her stomach growls loudly. That’s it, then, Baby’s hungry. She didn’t think she’d be getting up early to feed the baby till after they’re born, but here she is.
She manages to sneak out of bed without waking Fitz (she used to sleep next to the wall, but they switched places when it became clear that their baby’s favorite place to sit, especially at night, is directly on her bladder) and heads to the kitchen.
She wants pancakes—wants them very badly, as a matter of fact—but the only kind they currently have and will likely have for the foreseeable future are from a just-add-water mix. She purses her lips at the box. They’ll have to do.
She’s whisking the pancake batter and trying to figure out the quietest way to get the frying pan out from their box of mismatched pots, pans, and lids when she hears someone padding into the kitchen. She glances over her shoulder to see Fitz standing in the doorway, arms crossed, and she winces. “I tried not to wake you.”
“S’all right.” He yawns. “I rolled over and when you weren’t there, I thought maybe you were, you know, so I checked the bathroom.”
“No nausea today,” she says brightly. “In fact, I hope that’s all finished now that I’m in the second trimester. Though I suppose I might have third trimester heartburn to look forward to.”
Shuffling further into the kitchen, Fitz scratches his sleep-mussed curls. “I’d ask if you were coming back to bed, but it seems you’re in the middle of making—” he peers at the bowl and then at the splatters of batter all over the table—“a mess.”
Jemma wrinkles her nose at him. “It’s pancakes. Your baby wants some.”
He squints at the clock over their stovetop. “At six in the morning?”
“Here.” He holds out his hands for the bowl and whisk. “Least I can do since my child woke you up with pancake cravings.”
Jemma gladly hands them over; her pancakes are neater—precise, golden circles—but Fitz’s wrinkly-edged pancakes taste better. She sits at the table while he sets the batter on the kitchen island Enoch picked up somewhere and pulls the frying pan out from the box with a clatter. They exchange grimaces and wait for Enoch to come trundling into the kitchen to investigate, but after a few moments and no sigh of him, Fitz gets back to whisking the batter and heating up a burner on the stove.
As Jemma watches him, she feels a spark of a different sort of hunger. Maybe it’s the sweet domesticity of him making her breakfast; maybe it’s his messy curls and the few days’ worth of stubble on his face; maybe it’s the short-sleeved t-shirt he wears as a pajama top exposing far more of his surprisingly muscled arms than even she’s used to seeing. Or maybe it’s just that she’s fourteen weeks pregnant and she’s read what can happen to approximately forty percent of pregnant people in the second trimester.
Whatever the case, Jemma decides that after she’s finished devouring the pancakes, she’s going to take him back to their bunk and devour him (after they both brush their teeth, of course).
When he rummages through their food supplies and turns to her, grinning, with a bag of chocolate chips that he promptly adds to the six bubbling circles of batter after her eager nod, she halfway considers foregoing brushing her teeth. But only halfway, and after she eats four chocolate chip pancakes (Fitz eats the other two) she does end up brushing her teeth—ensuring minty freshness when she smothers her husband with kisses and giving her the opportunity to watch him do his morning push-ups.
She can’t help the smug smile that crosses her face as she watches him, and he notices. “What?” he huffs, pushing himself up off the floor again.
Double-digits. She swats at the thought and puts away her toothbrush. “Just enjoying the view.”
Jemma knows he sounds breathless because he’s exercising, but it still sends another spark of desire through her. And the second he stands up, she steps forward and kisses him purposefully. He makes a muffled noise of surprise but quickly kisses her back, hands coming to rest on her hips.
“Did you know,” Jemma says between kisses as they shuffle toward the bed, “that in the second trimester, rising hormones and an increased blood flow to—” they tumble onto the mattress—“certain areas can cause an increase in libido?”
Eyes dark and sparkling, Fitz slides his hands under her shirt. “That’s definitely an improvement over the first trimester of puking.”
“Mmhmm.” And then there’s no more talking for a while.
Afterward, Jemma’s hungry again, so once they’re dressed and presentable, they head to the kitchen to make cheese toasties. She really wants her prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella sandwich, but she knows that’s even more unrealistic than pancakes from scratch. So she just helps Fitz lay slices of cheese (or a cheese-like substance fortified with calcium and Vitamin D, anyway) onto slices of bread and swallows hard as she thinks of pesto aioli.
They’ve just plated their toasties, Fitz claiming he’d worked up an appetite again too, when Enoch walks in. He’s tapping away at a tablet screen while—they shoot glances at each other—wearing gigantic headphones they’ve never seen before.
“Enoch?” Jemma calls tentatively.
He doesn’t look up as he pockets the tablet and opens the refrigerator for his giant reusable water bottle, but when he shuts the door he raises his eyebrows at them. “Hello!” he bellows before taking off the headphones.
“Those are new. Are you listening to music?” Jemma asks before taking a bite of her sandwich.
Enoch gulps some water. “These are noise-canceling headphones.”
“Noise-ca—hmmm.” Fitz shuts his eyes and presses a hand to his forehead as Jemma blushes.
“Yes, I purchased them on my last supply run after reading that a not insignificant percentage of pregnant humans, upon entering the fourteenth week of pregnancy, experience an increase in desire for sexual intercourse. I wanted to ensure I did not embarrass you by overhearing such activities if you, Jemma Simmons, were among that percentage, when I confirmed when I walked past your bunk at 6:28 this morning.”
“You’re the picture of discretion, Enoch,” Fitz says even as his ears and neck turn adorably pink. Jemma really wishes Enoch weren’t in the kitchen with them because she would very much like to press her husband against a wall and make out with him.
“Indeed. I hurried to the lab and put these on—” he holds up the headphones—“as soon as I realized what was going on. My plan for the remainder of Jemma’s second trimester is to wear these whenever the two of you aren’t in the room with me.”
Fitz pinches the bridge of his nose. “That’s—that’s really not necessary.”
Jemma quirks an eyebrow at him. Are you sure? He shoots her a wide-eyed glare—Are you serious right now?—in return.
Enoch tilts his head. “I suppose if you simply tell me whenever you’re going to—”
“Nope. No. No. Absolutely not. Not even considering that idea.” Fitz’s entire face is red as a tomato as he crosses his arms and vehemently shakes his head, and Jemma takes pity on him, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“Perhaps you could just wear them after we’ve gone to bed in the evening?” It pains her a little, the idea of restricting herself to that time of the day, but Enoch gave up coconut water for seven weeks for her (and saved their lives many times before that); she supposes she can do this for him.
Enoch nods, pleased. “A very reasonable proposition.”
Fitz makes a quiet strangled noise. “I cannot believe we’re having this conversation,” he mutters before stuffing the rest of his toastie into his mouth.
After eating the last bit of her own sandwich (and swallowing her own embarrassment down with it), Jemma takes a breath and stands up. “Let’s head to the lab and get to work, shall we?”
On their one hundred and fiftieth day aboard the Zephyr (one hundred and fifty days since Deke jumped away, straight into danger, in order to prove himself to them), Enoch prepares to leave for his longest supply run yet. He’s going to Xandar, the only place within 50 light-years that has the final key piece for their modifications to the healing pod, and in order to avoid Kitson, he has to take the long way there. He’ll be gone for a week.
As Fitz and Jemma help Enoch pack the quinjet for the journey, Fitz keeps whispering excitedly to her. Jemma knows he loves Enoch, even if it’s grudging, but he’s clearly thrilled at the prospect of them having a week all to themselves.
“It’ll be like the honeymoon we never had,” Fitz says when Enoch’s out of earshot.
Jemma chews on her thumbnail, thinking of jumping out of a quinjet over the English countryside and fighting evil robots with the man I love, before nodding briefly.
“What? We didn’t have one already, did we?” Fitz sounds vaguely offended, as he usually does whenever he has to think about his other self.
Shaking her head, Jemma makes sure to smile warmly. “No.”
“Okay, good. I know the location’s not ideal, but we’ll still make it good, yeah?”
Jemma nods with another fond smile. “Of course.” But she goes back to nibbling her thumbnail once Fitz’s back is turned.
It’s not that she’s not excited. But she’s got a little bump now, bisected with a line a few shades darker than the rest of her pale skin, and she feels occasional fluttery movements that remind her of Peggy, her childhood fantail goldfish. Truthfully, she doesn’t feel as carefree (well, as relatively carefree as she ever is) as she did back at the start of her second trimester.
As much as she’s going to enjoy this week alone with Fitz, she’s also anxious for Enoch to return with the component for the healing pod. Then she can finally hear and see the tiny human being she’s been trying to grow and care for these past fifteen weeks and reassure herself hat despite her lack of prenatal care (aside from weekly weight checks and urine tests she performs on herself in their bio lab) and her less-than-ideal diet, everything is okay.
Enoch emerges from the quinjet after carrying his last box onboard. “Please send me a message if you think of anything else you might need—or, of course, if you simply wish to converse with me—and I will return it as soon as I can.”
Fitz shoots her a yeah, right look, but Jemma pokes his arm and smiles at Enoch. “We’ll check in every night, won’t we, Fitz?”
“Every night?” Fitz mouths, but Jemma elbows him in the ribs. “I mean, yeah, yeah, of course.” He crosses his arms protectively over his ribs and sends her a baleful look.
“Excellent. I shall see you one week from today.” And with that, Enoch boards the quinjet and flies off.
They watch the quinjet grow smaller and smaller until they can’t see it anymore, and then Fitz glances over at her. “Alone at last.”
She sees the glint in his eye. “Whatever shall we do with ourselves?”
He steps closer and wraps his arms around her.” Got any ideas?” He plants a trail of kisses down her neck.
“Mmm. You certainly seem to.” Their mouths meet, and she welcomes him and the distraction.
The week is still rather blissful, despite the faint anxiety lurking in Jemma’s mind. They set up their bedroom with the remarkably nice furniture Enoch brought back a few weeks ago and break in the bed. They relax on their new-to-them sofa and watch the shows and movies Jemma originally downloaded on a flash drive for the journey home from finding Fitz. They experiment with their food stash to try to come up with dishes as close to Jemma’s cravings as possible (the pudding “sundae” Fitz concocts isn’t quite as satisfying as the real thing would be, but she makes sure to thank him properly afterward for his sweet efforts).
In true honeymoon fashion, they spend lots of time kissing and cuddling and sometimes more. At the end of each day, they check in with Enoch and then fall asleep curled around each other, Fitz’s hand always finding its way to Jemma’s bump.
They spend their last afternoon coming up with possible baby names. Enoch found two copies of the same book of baby names, so they each take one and sit on the sofa with cups of tea.
Truthfully, Jemma would rather wait until after the sonogram to choose names, but she’s not ready to voice that particular anxiety; and, she supposes, if the worst happens, their baby still deserves a name.
Soon she’s got a length list of boys’ and girls’ names, numbered in order of preference and matched to potential middle names, while Fitz just flips through his book and makes very occasional pencil scratches directly in it.
When she’s finished, she picks up his discarded book and flips through it. After a few minutes, she glances up at him. “You didn’t pick any boys’ names.”
Fitz sets his teacup on their nightstand. “Well, we’re most likely having a girl, right?”
“Ugh, Fitz, it’s just a myth that bad morning sickness is a sign that the baby is a girl.”
Fitz shakes his head. “That’s not what—Deke’s the son of our daughter from another timeline, yeah?”
She feels a pang at the mention of Deke. “Yes, but time can be changed. You’re—” She has to physically clamp her mouth shut and bite back the words living proof of that. “You know that,” she says instead, though from the discomfort in Fitz’s eyes, he’s caught her meaning anyway.
“Okay, well, yeah.” He reaches over and squeezes her hand. “But even though we did prevent that future in our timeline, maybe some things stay constant, including us having a daughter.”
She smiles then. “Does that mean having Deke as a grandson is constant too?”
He wrinkles his nose at her. “Oh, come on. I wouldn’t go that far.”
He holds up his hands. “I mean it’s unlikely that our daughter would marry the same man she did in Deke’s timeline, what with circumstances being so different and all, so it’s also unlikely that any of her children would be Deke.”
Jemma side-eyes him. “Mm, yes, I’m sure that’s what you meant. That does make sense, though.” She shifts on the sofa as she feels the baby swishing around. “I guess we’ll find out for sure about this little one tomorrow. Well, as sure as we can be before the baby’s born. Sonograms aren’t always reliable.”
Fitz shifts his attention back to her list. “So this is your top contender.” He points to where she’d written Margaret Anne at the top of the page.
“For a girl, yes.” She catches the look on his face. “What?”
“It’s very . . . British.”
“Is that a problem?”
“No, no, it’s just—what about branching out a bit?”
She sweeps a hand at the list. “There are twelve other girls’ names on here, not to mention eight boys’ names. Anyway, what’s your favorite? I couldn’t tell from your circles.”
Fitz picks up his book and flips through the first few pages before pointing to one she should’ve noticed he did in fact circle several times. She looks up at him, a spark of excitement and rightness in her chest and a smile forming on her face. “My favorite star.”
He taps the page just below the name. “Did you see what it means?”
She looks back down at the definition. Sky. “I love it. Daisy would be so happy for us.”
Jemma hasn’t let herself think of her friends or family for so long that this one little mention breaks her, bringing back all the pain of missing them, and tears escape down her cheeks. “I miss them.” She smiles sadly but then starts to cry harder.
Fitz wraps his arms around her and rests his chin on her shoulder. “I know. I do too.”
“I know we’re doing the right thing, but I wish we could just fly back home right now and be with them.” She takes a shaky breath. “I want to tell my parents they’re going to be grandparents and ask Deke about his mum. And I want to go shopping for baby things with Daisy and May and Elena—and Bobbi too.” She buries her face in his neck.
“I know,” Fitz says softly, and she can feel him swallow hard. “I wish my mum could knit too many cardigans and Mack could keep me from freaking out. And Coulson—” Then his voice breaks too. They’re silent for a few minutes, holding each other and finally letting themselves grieve.
Finally Fitz speaks. “I wish Hunter could be around too, even though he would spend most of the time making extremely inappropriate jokes about my ability to father a child.”
Jemma’s chuckle sounds more like a cough than a laugh, but it’s real. “He definitely would.”
Fitz takes a deep breath. “So. Alya for a girl, then.”
Nodding and sniffling, Jemma reaches for her list. She scribbles out all the girl names, writing Fitz’s choice at the top of that column instead. “It’s perfect. Do you have a middle name you like?”
Fitz scratches his neck self-consciously. “What d’you think of Mackenzie?”
Alya Mackenzie Fitzsimmons. Jemma lets the name roll around in her mind. She and Mack haven’t always had the easiest relationship, but she’s let go of her deeply buried resentment toward him (which she wasn’t even aware of until Fitz told her about her shadow self trying to gnaw Mack’s head off in the mind prison). Regardless, she has such respect for him as a person and as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
More than that, she knows how much he means to Fitz. Mack’s been there for him so many times (she resolutely does not think of Mack crouching by a pile of rubble, covered in dust, tears streaming down his face). And she can picture the tears in Mack’s eyes and the grateful smile on his face, if they do have a girl, when they tell him her name.
“I think it’s perfect too,” she finally says, squeezing his hand.
“You’re sure? Not after Bobbi? I know you two were close.”
“Yes, and I know she hates her name. I think she’d prefer we not saddle another human being with it, even as a middle name.”
Fitz huffs a laugh. “Yeah, that’s true.” He crosses his legs and picks up her list again. “Now, just in case it’s a boy—Enoch? Really?”
“Just as a middle name, Fitz!” His eyes are mildly scornful. “Oh, come on. You know it would mean so much to him.”
“Yeah, and he’d be insufferable about it!”
“Well, you didn’t come up with any ideas!”
He thinks for a moment. “What about something after Hunter?”
Jemma snorts. “Absolutely not. You think Enoch would be insufferable; Hunter would be twenty times worse if we name our child after him in any way.”
“Maybe a name that means ‘hunter’ instead? I bet he wouldn’t figure it out.”
Jemma rolls her eyes but picks up her baby name book.
After spending the rest of the afternoon bickering cheerfully over boys’ names, they take full advantage of their last evening alone. Afterward, they snuggle on their bed, Jemma’s head on his chest, his fingers stroking her hair, as they catch their breath. Then the baby punches Jemma particularly hard and she gasps.
She can hear the laugh in Fitz’s voice. “You’re good, then?”
“No—I mean yes, as I made quite clear several times, but—” She scoots backward so that her head is resting on her pillow instead. “The baby’s kicking really hard. Give me your hand!”
His eyes light up as he lets her place his hand on her stomach, guiding it to where she felt the movement. They wait, breathless for a different reason. “Come on,” Fitz mutters hopefully.
After a few minutes, he sighs and removes his hand. “Guess the baby fell asleep.”
The second he stands up to put on his pajamas, Jemma feels the baby jab her again and sits halfway up in her excitement. “Fitz! You missed it.”
He rushes back over and puts his hand back on her stomach. “Cheeky little monkey; starts kicking again as soon as their da isn’t there to feel it.”
Jemma grins at him; they’ve known for weeks, of course, that they’re going to be parents, but this is the first time Fitz has referred to himself out loud as a dad. And then the baby kicks her again, right beneath Fitz’s palm, and she hopes she always remembers the pure joy and wonder on his face.
The next morning, Jemma lies in the healing pod, pulse roaring in her ears, as Enoch adjusts the controls. She glances over at Fitz, who’s got one arm across his chest, hand clamped to his opposite arm, as he worries at his lip with his other thumb. He catches her gaze and sends her a tight smile, which she manages to return. She wishes she could hold his hand.
And then—finally—another sound whooshes in her ears, fast and loud and perfect, and she laughs.
“One hundred and fifty beats per minute,” Enoch says. “Well within the range for a healthy fetus.”
His eyes are kind when she smiles at him through the glass, and then she looks at Fitz. He’s grinning widely at her, tears welling in his eyes.
“Now I’m going to attempt to activate the sonogram.” Enoch taps the controls again, and then a triangle of blue light appears out of the top of the glass dome, stretching to Jemma’s stomach.
After a few breathless moments, slightly mitigated by the baby’s heartbeat still thumping comfortingly in her ears, a staticky picture appears above her. Seconds later, it clears, displaying an obvious profile of a tiny baby’s face.
“Hello there,” Jemma whispers, tears briefly blurring the image. She reaches out and touches the glass with her fingertips just as Fitz does the same thing outside the pod.
The triangle of light moves around as Enoch changes angles, the screen switching to display tiny arms and fingers, a round belly, and skinny legs, feet and toes. She’s vaguely aware of clicking noises and knows Enoch’s taking screenshots for them to compare to the webpages about proper fetal growth he printed out at Xandar’s library. But she can’t tear her eyes away from the screen or from Fitz’s face, which mirrors the wonder she feels in her own chest.
Then Enoch asks, “Would you like to know if it is a boy or a girl?”
She and Fitz exchange quick glances and nod simultaneously. The blue triangle adjusts angles several times before Enoch can bring up a good view of the underside of the baby’s bum. “It appears you are having a girl.”
Maybe some things are inevitable. She and Fitz grin at each other. The angle switches back to the baby’s face, and Jemma brushes her fingertips against the glass. “Well then, hello there, Alya.”
“A lovely name.” The blue light disappears, signaling Enoch’s finished, and Jemma hits the button to release the glass lid before heading straight to Fitz’s outstretched arms.
“She’s beautiful,” Fitz says.
“She is.” But she can’t let herself be completely relieved yet. She sighs and steps back. “Now, let’s make sure everything’s all right.”
They spend the next half hour studying the screenshots and the pages Enoch printed, and from everything they can tell, Alya’s growth looks right on schedule. They find no signs of cysts or any other causes for concern.
Exchanging relived smiles, they head to the kitchen; now that her anxiety’s gone, Jemma’s starving.
“I believe this calls for a celebration.” Enoch pulls an insulated bag out of the freezer and another one out of the refrigerator and hands them to Jemma.
She raises a curious eyebrow before peering inside to see a carton of vanilla ice cream in one bag and a can of whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and a jar of maraschino cherries in the other. She grins up at him in wonder. “You brought me an ice cream sundae.”
Enoch clasps his hands at his waist. “Well, all the components necessary for making one according to the specifications Fitz relayed.”
Jemma shoots Fitz a smile before hugging Enoch, who pats her back in response. “Thank you so much.”
His lips tilt up slightly, as much of a smile as he ever has. “You are most welcome.” He looks back and forth between her and Fitz. “I am happy for you, my friends. Alya is fortunate to have the two of you as parents.”
“And she’s very lucky to have you as an uncle.” She glances over at Fitz, expecting him to send her a protesting look, but to her surprise he’s nodding with a small smile.
“Oh. Well.” Enoch clears his throat. “Thank you.”
They assemble their sundaes, Jemma’s mouth watering at the small mountain of ice cream, clouds of whipped cream, and trickles of chocolate sauce, crowned with two maraschino cherries. As Enoch contemplates his bowl of cherries and whipped cream, he says, “Some parents, I believe, choose to name children after family members. Perhaps, if you have another child one day and it is a boy, or if on the off chance I was incorrect about the sonogram and this child is a boy, you could consider the name Enoch.”
Fitz shoots her a look over his own giant sundae—See?!—and Jemma takes a big bite of ice cream and chocolate sauce to keep from laughing.
When Christmas rolls around, they’re a day away from having been on the Zephyr for seven months.
(Jemma spent the previous Christmas on the Zephyr too. She, Daisy, and Agent Piper had gotten thoroughly drunk and marathoned Christmas movies from Daisy’s personal flash drive while Agent Davis video-chatted with his wife and son; afterward Jemma had sobbed drunkenly on Daisy’s shoulder about how much she missed Fitz and sometimes wondered if she would ever get to spend another Christmas with him.)
She doesn’t have a tree or lights or even presents this year either, but there’s a roast and veggies in the oven and everything they need for Alya, thanks to Enoch’s latest trip to Xandar. So as the smell of roast meat and carrots, potatoes, and onions wafts through the air, they spend the day setting up the nursery. Well, Fitz and Enoch set most of it up; Jemma sits cross-legged on the rug and directs them while sorting swaddle blankets, cloth nappies, and impossibly tiny bodysuits into baskets.
It’s late afternoon by the time Fitz sets the sound machine (actually a refurbished iPod, onto which Enoch recorded white noise, ocean waves, and rain and thunder on different loops) on the nightstand. “And that is that.”
Enoch holds up a finger. “I have one more thing.”
He disappears into the hallway, and Jemma shoots Fitz a quizzical look. He just smiles and helps her stand. “Me too. Be right back.”
Jemma rubs her belly as Alya tosses and turns, the outline of a leg or an arm or an elbow briefly visible through her sweater. “I wonder what they’re up to.” In the meantime, she shuffles through the nursery on her puffy stocking-clad feet, taking everything in.
It’s a simple setup. The cot rests against one wall, with the rocking chair in the corner next to it, and the dresser and changing table are against the opposite wall, all in varying shades of pale yellow and deep blue and warm grey.
The only decorations are the stars-and-planets mobile she put together herself, now hanging over the cot, and the framed collage of photos of their families above the changing table, where she’ll be able to see it from the rocking chair across the room.
Jemma wanders over to study the collage. They don’t have a printer; the pictures are projected from an SD card inserted into the bottom of the modified frame. Beneath each photo is the person’s name in all caps—GRANNY, AUNT BOBBI, UNCLE MACK, MAY.
The photos are all candid shots from their phones, and she laughs softly at the one of Daisy striking a pose with her recently dyed blonde and purple hair. She’s so glad she snapped one of Deke, grinning, Zima in hand, at the party at the Lighthouse (thinking of it makes her blush a little now that she knows that was the night Alya was conceived). Coulson’s, taken mid-laugh at his Captain America-themed birthday dinner in the kitchen at the Playground, makes her heart twist, but they want Alya to know all about the kind, brave man who would’ve loved her so much.
Just then, Enoch and Fitz walk back into the room, each hiding something behind their backs, and Jemma raises curious eyebrows at them. “What’s this?”
Enoch clears his throat. “I know that, due to your current circumstances and the sacrifices you’ve made for the sake of saving the world, you’ve been unable to have either your traditional Christmas celebration or what is commonly called a baby shower. But I wanted to give you this today.” He tilts his head. “It is a gift for Alya, but since she has not made her arrival yet, I’ll give it to you.”
And from behind his back he produces the softest-looking stuffed monkey. It’s pale blue with a light brown face and arms and (slightly puzzlingly) a red, white, and blue striped belly. As Jemma strokes the soft fabric, she looks over at Fitz with blurry eyes. “A monkey for our little monkey.” She laughs through her tears.
Fitz holds out one hand and takes it from her, looking it over. “That is—did you make this, Enoch?”
Enoch nods once. “I did. I know your fondness for monkeys, and I looked through several Xandarian toy stores, but I did not find one. So I decided to make one myself.”
“Enoch, that’s so sweet.”
Fitz sounds equally touched. “Thank you.”
“You are most welcome, bestie, Jemma Simmons. Now, I’m going to go check the roast.” Pausing in the doorway, Enoch raises his eyebrows at them. “I took the liberty of naming the monkey Enoch.” And then he leaves.
Jemma stifles a laugh as Fitz snorts. She shoots him a pointed look—It’s definitely an improvement over naming a child after him—and he briefly shuts his eyes and raises his eyebrows in concession—True.
“My turn.” Fitz sets Enoch the monkey in the cot (Jemma will move it later; she’s sure he’s just momentarily forgotten that you can’t have stuffed animals in a newborn’s sleeping area) and hands her a box.
Inside Jemma finds cream slippers and a jewelry box, and she’s definitely a pregnant woman in her third trimester because she’s more excited about the slippers, which look soft and wide and supportive.
“Hopefully these’ll fit. Enoch found them and I fixed up the arch support a bit here.” Fitz points to the curve on the inside sole.
Jemma drops the slippers onto the floor and slides her feet into them. They do fit, and more than that, they feel heavenly. “Thank you.” She kisses his cheek.
He smiles and stuffs his hands into his pockets. “There’s more.”
She picks up the jewelry box and opens it to reveal a simple silver band. “It’s beautiful.” She hasn’t been able to wear her wedding band for over three months now, thanks to her swollen fingers, but this one looks like it will fit perfectly. She smiles and holds the ring out to Fitz, and he takes it and slides it onto her finger.
He breathes a laugh. “I made some last-minute adjustments to it yesterday.”
Jemma scowls playfully. “What, in case my fingers swelled more overnight?” She tightens her fingers over his hand. “Thank you,” she says again before looking around a little helplessly. “I didn’t get you anything.
Fitz gives her a look full of fondness and love. “Jemma.”
She shakes her head quickly as her eyes well up again. “Don’t say that I’m giving you a baby, because that’s very sweet and sentimental and I’ll start crying again thanks to these bloody hormones, and then I’ll have to punch you—oh!” Jemma’s hands fly to her back as pain squeeze her tailbone.
Fitz’s eyes widen. “What?”
Jemma draws a breath through her nose and exhales slowly, feeling the pain ease. “It’s nothing.”
He scoffs. “That didn’t look like nothing.”
“It was a Braxton-Hicks contraction. They’re supposed to start around now. I’m not in labor; it’s just one of the ways the body prepares for it.”
Fitz lets out a shaky sigh. “Well, that’s fun.” He wraps an arm around her shoulder. “C’mon, let’s rest a bit before supper.”
“Fitz.” But she sees the panic lingering in his eyes, and with a nod, she lets him guide her back to their room.
Fitz is quiet for the rest of the afternoon and throughout supper, and Jemma makes a mental note to show him the pages in her pregnancy book about Braxton-Hicks contractions when they’re finished.
They’re sitting in bed, Jemma flipping through the book to find the relevant pages, Fitz tracing patterns over her stomach as Alya kicks and rolls around, when another one hits. Despite herself, Jemma winces and hisses through her teeth. When she opens her eyes, Fitz is staring at her stomach with something that can only be described as terror on his face.
“’S tight as a drum,” he says. “Are those bloody fake contractions or whatever supposed to do that?”
Jemma nods and breathes through the pain, and then it’s over as quickly as it started. She hands him the book, now open to the right spot. “See? Nothing to be worried about.”
He scans the pages. “Okay, yeah. Yeah.” But he doesn’t look the least bit reassured.
Jemma sighs through her nose and shuts off the light. He’ll just have to get used to them.
When she wakes up a few hours later to use the bathroom, Fitz isn’t next to her. She must have been deeply asleep if he managed to get out of bed without waking her.
She opens the door to find Enoch sitting outside. Voice rough with sleep, she asks, “Enoch? What’re you doing?”
“Fitz said he needed to check the phototherapy setting on the healing pod. He asked me to listen for any signs of distress from inside your bedroom.”
Jemma nods and shuffles to the bathroom before heading to the bio lab. Ducking under a piece of blue plastic, Jemma sees that Fitz is indeed standing over the healing pod, tablet in hand. As soon as he spots her, he rushes over. “What’re you doing up?”
“Well, I had to pee, and then I came to check on you.” Jemma crosses her arms. “What’s going on?”
“Just—had to check the—” He gestures vaguely toward the healing pod. “Didn’t Enoch tell you? He was outside the door, right?” At Jemma’s nod, he lets out a shaky breath. “Faithful as a guard dog, that one.”
Jemma steps forward and places a hand on his arm. “Fitz. What’s going on? Did the contractions scare you that badly?”
He huffs a sigh. “No. I mean, yeah, but . . . ” He rubs a hand along the side of his neck. “It’s just—she’s gonna be here at any time.”
“I still have over seven weeks to go,” Jemma says carefully, peering at her husband’s face, trying to discern the expressions warring in his eyes. “In fact, since first babies tend to be born late, I likely have even longer than that.” She steps closer and cups his cheek in her hand. “And even if she’s born now, we have the resources to care for a premature baby. We’ve spent the past three months making sure of that. She’ll be fine.”
“I know! We’ve made every possible preparation for everything that could physically go wrong. I know that!” There’s a desperation Jemma doesn’t understand on his face; she feels her heart breaking for him anyway.
“Then what?” she asks so very gently.
But he shatters anyway, hiding his crumpling face in her palm, hiding his eyes from hers as he mutters, “None of that helps anything if I manage to muck everything up.”
“Fitz,” she says softly even as he jerks away from her, stepping backwards.
“For years, I didn’t think about my dad once. Not once.” He cuts his hands through the air for emphasis. “And instead of his voice in my head I had my mum’s, and yours, and then Coulson’s and Mack’s. But I haven’t seen Coulson for years, and now he’s dead. And Mack?” He scoffs. “I’ve seen Mack for, what, an hour in the past two years?” He taps his temple. “But d’you know who’s in my head now?”
Jemma tries to keep the fear off her face, bracing herself even as she prays, Don’t say the Doctor.
“My dad again. From the Framework.” He sniffles. “Telling me every awful thing he told me when I was growing up—and then some, because in the Framework he didn’t abandon me! He stuck around, and he screwed me up, and who’s to say I won’t do the same to Alya?”
Jemma swallows but can’t help the two tears that trickle down her cheeks. Fitz sighs and scrubs at his face, self-disgust evident in his eyes. “See, that’s why I came here. You’re not supposed to be upset, but now you are, because of me.”
Jemma shakes her head and swipes at her eyes. “It’s not your fault.” He scoffs again, but she walks to him and reaches for his face, grateful when he lets her place a hand on each of his cheeks. “You’re not going to muck everything up.” She sees the scornful doubt in his eyes, and it hurts, but she knows his pain and fear run deeper. “I wish there was something I could say to get you to believe me.”
From somewhere behind them comes the sound of a throat clearing. They turn to see Enoch in the doorway. “My apologies; I did not intend to eavesdrop. But, having heard what I did, perhaps I could help.”
Fitz steps in front of her, arms crossed. “What?”
Undeterred, Enoch gives him a considering look. “I have not known you as long as Phillip J. Coulson did or Director Mackenzie has. But we do have a unique history together, and I believe you respect my opinion, even if you do not always show it.”
Fitz sighs. “What’re you getting at?”
“Only this: you are not your father.” Fitz’s face crumples again, this time in relief, and Jemma smiles gratefully through her tears at Enoch.
But Enoch’s not finished yet. “For one thing, I am certain you will never abandon Jemma or Alya the way your real father abandoned you and your mother. That is not the kind of person you are. You, Leopold Fitz, stick with the people you love.”
Fitz nods, tears streaming down his face. Enoch’s not always the most perceptive, but he must see the trace of fear remaining in Fitz’s eyes, because he continues, “I have told you numerous times that you are going to be an excellent parent. I would not have said this if I did not believe it to be absolutely true. And you are not alone.”
Jemma presses her lips together, swallowing her own tears, she suddenly knows what to say. “In the Framework you didn’t have me. Here you do—you always do.”
Enoch gives her one of his barely visible smiles. “Indeed.” He regards Fitz again. “Also, if I ever meet your father when we are back on Earth, I will give him a piece of my mind about the appalling way he treated of my best friend.”
Fitz laughs then, a short but genuine sound. “Thanks, Enoch.” His shoulders sag, tension draining off him. His face is totally worn out, but the self-hatred and fear are gone from his eyes.
“We should get to bed,” Jemma says gently, wrapping an arm around his waist. As they head to their room, she catches Enoch’s eye. “Thank you,” she mouths, and receives a solemn nod in return.
Back in their room, they lie in the dark. Jemma rests one hand on her stomach and strokes Fitz’s curls with the other. “You’re going to be a wonderful father, Fitz,” she whispers. “And even if you don’t believe me right now, that’s all right. I’ll just keep telling you until you do.”
He kisses her cheek. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you.” He brushes a hand across her stomach. “Or you.”
“Deserving, undeserving—that’s not the point,” Jemma says firmly. “I chose you, Fitz. I’ll always choose you. Just like I know you’ll always choose me and Alya.”
Eight months after Enoch saved them in that storage room and told them they would have to change the natural course of their lives forever, their lives change—again—forever.
Jemma’s thirty-seven weeks and two days along—Make that thirty-seven weeks and three days along, she thinks as she spots the time glaring red from the clock across the room—and she can’t sleep.
She should be exhausted. She is exhausted—has been for weeks now. And she spent the day organizing (well, reorganizing) the nursery, shuffling baskets to different shelves on the changing table and rolling up Alya’s impossibly tiny bodysuits and instructing an only slightly disgruntled Fitz where to move the cot (again).
(She refuses to call it “nesting,” a term Enoch used precisely once before she informed him it made her feel like a bird, and she doesn’t need any more reminders that waddling is the only way she can get around anymore.)
After that, Fitz made tea and they took turns reading aloud to Alya, something that’s been part of their evening routine for weeks now and something that, until tonight, has always made her happily sleepy.
Her conditions are optimal for sleeping. Her living furnace of a husband is as far away as possible on their bed while still being within arm’s reach. The room is cool and she’s dressed in her comfiest sleep shorts and softest maternity tank, with just a sheet over her. The ridiculous gigantic pillow she and Fitz stitched together is supporting her belly and her back. Alya’s stopped her nightly gymnastics routine. But she cannot fall asleep.
It’s like her mind won’t shut off, though she’s not thinking about anything in particular. She’s just hyper-alert, though for what, she doesn’t know.
With a silent sigh, she slips from underneath the sheet and heaves herself up. She needs to walk around.
She’s just made it to the door and glanced over her shoulder to make sure she hasn’t woken Fitz when she feels liquid gushing down her legs. For a second, she stands frozen in place. And then it happens again, and she hurries as best as she can to the bathroom. It might not have been my waters breaking. Maybe I just wet myself. A lot.
But the toilet water is pink when she stands up, and she takes a deep breath before going to wake Fitz up.
He flails around a bit when she touches his shoulder. “What? What is it?”
“My waters broke,” she whispers, turning on the light.
“What? Here? In our bed?” He scoots away from where she’d been sleeping, throwing the blankets off and standing quickly.
“No, not in our bed,” she hisses. “I was standing up when it happened. I guess there might be some amniotic fluid on the floor.” She shakes her head quickly. “But that’s not the point! The point is—”
He fumbles in the dresser for a pair of trousers that aren’t pajamas and hops on each foot, trying to dress as quickly as possible. “She’s early!”
“Not really. Any time after thirty-seven weeks is considered full term.”
“Yeah, but—but you said she’d probably be late! First baby and all.”
“Fitz.” She walks over to him and takes his violently shaking hands in hers. “It’s all right. We’re going to meet our daughter.”
“Okay. All right. Yeah.”
“Now, let’s go to the lab and see how far along I am.” Fitz nods, but as they’re heading for the door, he stops her. “What?” she asks.
“Nothing, just—” He pulls her to him and kisses her, then presses his forehead to hers. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
For all her research and preparation, one thing Jemma didn’t realize about labor is that a lot of it involves waiting for things to happen: for contractions to be closer together, for dilation to progress. She spends the next fifteen hours pacing, breathing through contractions like she practiced, and resting when she can.
Fitz stays by her side through all of it, holding her hand while she paces, rubbing her back as she winces and groans through the tightening of her muscles, and fetching ice chips and the little paper cups of orange sherbet that Enoch, in his wonderful foresight, stocked in the freezer. Jemma’s very glad for his constant presence, even if he’s doing a poor job concealing his anxiety.
“When it’s time for me to push, I want you to help me squat,” she says around a mouthful of her third cup of orange sherbet, ten and a quarter hours into labor.
Fitz’s sandwich stalls halfway to his mouth. “Wouldn’t it be more comfortable for you to be on the bed?”
“Comfortable, maybe, but it’s not really the best position for giving birth. Squatting’s one of the best since it opens up my hips more, and gravity will—” She reaches for her hand and presses her lips together but can’t help the small whimper that escapes as another contraction hits. Three minutes apart. When it passes a small eternity later, she continues. “Gravity will help speed things up.”
Okay, but—but how’re we supposed to keep the baby from just—” he makes a sweeping motion with one hand—“falling out onto the floor?”
“You’ll catch her.”
Fitz regards her with extreme apprehension. “You want me to what?”
Jemma smiles. “I want you to catch Alya when she’s born.”
Fitz lets out a long, considering breath. Finally he says, “How’s that going to work if I’m helping you squat?”
Jemma shrugs. “Right before she’s born, you and Enoch will switch places.”
Fitz blinks slowly several times. “That sounds . . . complicated.”
Jemma shakes her head and scrapes more sherbet out of her cup. “Not really, if you think about it.” She scoops a mouthful of sherbet into her cup and raises her eyebrows at Fitz.
“If that’s what you want, I’m sure we can make it work.”
“Good.” She sets her now-empty cup down and holds out a hand. “Time to pace some more.”
Toward the sixteenth hour, Jemma’s contractions feel like they’re doubling in strength. They’re definitely tripling in frequency, coming every minute instead of every three.
When the pain becomes unbearable, she shuts herself in the healing pod for as long as she can stand it—which isn’t for long, since she can’t hold Fitz’s hand. Keeping her hand in his and squeezing tight might not really help with the pain, but it anchors her in the midst of it—in the midst of this strange experience, as her body somehow prepares itself to do something it’s never done before. The biologist in her wants to marvel at it, but it hurts so much.
When Enoch pronounces her fully dilated, he and Fitz work quickly to lay some sheets on the floor and then, true to his word, Fitz helps her squat. It’s awkward and takes a bit of readjusting, but they figure out a way for him to support her while her legs are bent like they need to be.
After an hour of pushing from that position, Jemma’s beginning to rethink her choice. Her legs are shaking, damp strands of hair have escaped from her ponytail and keep falling into her face, and she’s covered in sweat. “No, I changed my mind; help me over to the bed—ahh!” The worst contraction yet slams into her, dragging on and getting worse, and she tries, she really tries, to push along with it, but she’s so tired.
“There’s no time for that, Jemma.” She didn’t even notice Fitz switching places with Enoch, but there he is, facing her, a gloved hand on her cheek. “She’s almost here.”
Hearing him say that gives her a sudden burst of strength. “That explains the burning pain, then,” she says breathlessly. She pants for a moment and then swallows, tilting her head to move some hair out of her face. “Okay, let’s do this.”
When the next contraction hits, she pushes with everything she has left. She’s half aware of Fitz’s encouraging shout of “Come on, Jemma!” and Enoch’s steady insistence that “You are doing a wonderful job.” Then there’s terrible pressure and pain—and then, suddenly, a gush and relief and—most wonderful of all—a tiny cry.
Her eyes fly open at that, and there’s Alya, crying hoarsely in Fitz’s hands, face wrinkled and covered in vernix. She’s the most beautiful thing Jemma has ever seen. “Hi, sweetie,” she whispers, reaching out a shaking hand to touch her tiny fingers.
When Fitz looks up at her, tears are streaming down his face even as he beams. “She’s perfect,” he says hoarsely. And then Jemma laughs and starts to cry too, exhausted and exhilarated and filled to the brim with pure love.
Alya’s just about two hours old, after the business of cutting the cord and weighing and measuring her (at 2.8 kg and 46 cm, she’s small, but she’s healthy) and the first try at nursing are through, when Fitz and Jemma take her to the cockpit to show her her namesake. Jemma knows it’s a bit silly since Alya can’t focus on anything more than a foot away from her blinking blue eyes, but she’s going to enjoy the warm post-labor bliss while it lasts.
“There it is.” Fitz settles Alya in the crook of his elbow—he’s been a bit of a baby hog, but seeing him hold Alya makes Jemma’s heart feel inexpressibly light—and points at the star. “See, that’s where your name comes from. Your mummy’s favorite star.”
“But you,” Jemma whispers, brushing a light hand over Alya’s fine hair, “are the most important star in our sky.”
Later they’ll deal with a touch of jaundice and nappy changes and attempts at feeding and getting by on scraps of sleep. Later still they’ll have time travel to calculate, a quantum device to assemble, and one last S.H.I.E.L.D. mission to embark on. But for now they just sit side-by-side in the pilot’s chair, a sleeping Alya curled on Fitz’s chest, and look at the stars. They have time.