Jemma can rattle off the neurological and biochemical effects of being in love with someone, and how being in love is highly beneficial for one’s health and well-being, without a problem. She can hypothesize about the sociological effects of the romantic tropes that popular fiction utilizes, even on those who insist that they don’t subscribe to those ideals. But she’s not very good at talking about her actual feelings. Especially for a culturally mandated event like Valentine’s Day. She hasn’t had to worry about it too much before, as even when she had someone special in the past, they never put much emphasis on the event. As her previous relationships were generally with fellow scientifically-oriented people, they had both agreed that the day was completely ridiculous and best ignored. But now she has Skye, and she feels like that makes it different.
Not that Skye is really all into that either. She said so, when they stormed a Target for “celebratory booze” at the beginning of an unexpected weekend on the ground just after New Year’s. Or rather, Skye’s groan at the abundance of gaudy pink and red decorations told Jemma far more than a longwinded rant would have.
Still, she feels like she ought to do something. Skye makes her feel…different. Special. She wants to try and communicate that to her.
Unfortunately, nobody on the on the Bus really knows anything about romance either. Perhaps asking Fitz was her first mistake, since he just blinked at her for a second before sighing, “I dunno, Jem, maybe just…show up at her door in your underwear? You’re kinda barkin’ up the wrong tree here.”
Jemma chuckles and shakes her head and decides not to point out that she does that on the regular so it wouldn’t be particularly special. It was worth a try anyway. She doesn’t even think about asking May or Coulson – not least because Coulson would be upset if he knew she and Skye were breaking the “no inter-team relationships” rule, but also because it feels like asking one’s parents for romantic advice, and that’s just a bit too much for her to deal with, thank you very much. And she very much doubts that Ward would be any help either. So, to the internet she goes.
Googling several variations of “cute nerdy valentine’s day” brings up lists, which makes it a little easier anyhow. Lists are comforting, organized and helpful. There are even a few that included gift suggestions, which she browses idly in hopes of finding inspiration, though she isn’t really looking for gifts. Most are either too cutesy or don’t have a practical use, or both. Jemma can see the appeal of some of these things, but she knows Skye would scoff at them, and that would obviously defeat the purpose of gift-giving. She isn’t sure how Skye feels about fancy chocolates, or pretty but impractical jewelry, and her one attempt at clicking through the Victoria’s Secret website leaves her jittery and embarrassed, as ridiculous as that seems. Buying lingerie for herself is one thing, but she doesn’t have the faintest idea where Skye buys her fancy leather and lace things.
Then, about halfway down the fourth list, she spots it. As she reads the product description, she laughs in delight. Yes, this is perfect.
It takes a bit of doing to get the package to ship to a SHIELD-use-only PO Box that she knows they’ll be parked near before Valentine’s Day, but she manages it. She sneaks off the Bus under the guise of picking up a package for Fitz, who’s agreed to be conveniently tinkering with his bots in such a way as to be out of commission, thus requiring her to run the errand. It’s been quiet for the last few days, so Coulson lets her go without trouble.
The box is larger than she thinks it really needs to be, and has an inconveniently obvious logo from the company printed on it. But she settles it into the back of the SHIELD-issued car (which she privately thinks is just silly – why advertise a top-secret government organization by slapping the logo all over their cars?) and then seeks out the nearest department store in hopes of finding a more suitable box and gift wrap.
After twenty frustrating minutes during which she utterly fails to find any small gift boxes that aren’t covered in hearts or cartoon animals with impossibly large eyes, she sighs and goes with the least offensive choice (it has a bright red heart on the lid, but hopefully Skye will overlook it). The paper is even more of a trial, as she appears to have found the only store in Sierra Vista, Arizona without any solid-colored wrapping paper. Finally she settles on pink paper that has LOVE written repeatedly in chunky white font. The Os are heart-shaped. She’s starting to feel like she should have done her shopping for this sooner. Fortunately, plain white ribbon hasn’t gone out of fashion and she finds that without any further difficulty. The card isn’t too much trouble either, as there is a handy “blank” section full of cards with minimal decoration on the front.
She stashes everything in the bottom of her closet, figuring Skye won’t go in there even though she’s in Jemma’s room about three nights a week. A few days later, while she knows Skye’s training with Ward and thus sure not to come knocking suddenly, Jemma wraps it. Her mother taught her how to wrap packages in an appealing way, and though she hasn’t really had cause to do it often in the last few years (she always wraps Fitz’s gifts nicely, even though he usually forgets about hers until the last minute and has to make do with newspaper and string) she’s never gotten out of the habit. Finally, she has a sweet little pink-and-white package that looks like something out of a magazine. She smiles, feeling a flutter of excitement in her stomach about the occasion for the first time that she can remember.
She doesn’t ask Skye about it until only a few days beforehand, though. Mostly out of nerves. “So were you thinking of…doing anything on Friday night?” she asks when they’re snuggled together in Skye’s bed. Immediately she curses herself for her inability to phrase anything in a way that a normal person would.
“I dunno. What day is it?” Skye sounds mildly confused.
That wasn’t quite the reaction Jemma had expected. “Ah…the fourteenth?” she said hopefully.
“Oh.” Skye kind of laughs. “I dunno. Dinner, maybe? We’ll still be in the air, right? I mean, we don’t have that many options and it’s kinda tacky, but…I’ve never had to worry about this before, I guess.”
“I haven’t really either,” replies Jemma. “But that sounds quite nice.” She smiles lazily. “I suppose afterward we can find…other things to do. And I have something small for you.”
“Really?” Skye sounds almost like a child. “I’ve never…” She’s quiet for a moment. “Nobody’s gotten me a Valentine’s present before.”
“Well, I’m honored to be your first,” says Jemma, stroking Skye’s hair affectionately.
Friday morning comes, and though they spent the previous night in their respective bunks, Skye is waiting in front of Jemma’s door with a good-morning kiss before they go to breakfast. They have to be a little secretive about it in order to keep from being caught, but Jemma laid out the rules very early on and Skye’s been very clever at operating within those parameters while still being affectionate. She takes Jemma’s hand while it’s just them walking down the hall, and, after a quick squeeze, drops it once others can see. Jemma smiles fondly at her.
After breakfast, Skye’s sent out with Ward on a routine reconnaissance mission to investigate a possible Centipede safehouse. They’re only gone for a few hours but Jemma can’t help but worry all the same. Every time Skye’s gone she worries a bit, but it would be all too cruel for something to go horribly wrong today, of all days. She tries her hardest to occupy herself with easy, brainless busywork in the lab, but she doesn’t feel settled until she hears that the mission went off without a hitch. The breath she lets out feels like a prayer of thanks.
They don’t meet up again until Skye sneaks into the lab around dinnertime. “We still on for tonight?” she asks, almost shyly.
Jemma beams from behind her microscope. “Yes! Just a moment, I need to put these away.” She begins packing up her samples as she hears Fitz ask curiously, “What are you two up to?”
“Just dinner.” Skye’s response is almost too casual. Jemma’s not really worried about Fitz ratting them out to Coulson, but all the same, she wishes he wouldn’t be nosy. He snorts, not commenting further, and Jemma sighs in relief as she finishes tidying up and chirps, “Bye, Fitz!” as she almost skips out of the lab with Skye.
She’s not quite sure what to expect because the Bus is equipped with a small kitchen, but as far as she knows Skye’s not one for cooking much. But when they arrive there, Jemma sees pots of pasta and sauce steaming cheerfully on the counter and her eyes widen. “Did you make us dinner?” she asks.
“Well, I tried anyway,” says Skye, sounding a bit sheepish. “I figure you can’t really mess up spaghetti.”
Jemma takes her hand and kisses her on the lips. “I’m sure it’ll be lovely.”
They crash on the nearby couch, sitting as close together as they can without actually draping themselves all over each other. “Ward would kill me if he saw me eating this,” says Skye cheerfully, right before she takes the first bite.
Jemma giggles. “He’ll make you work it all off, I’m sure.”
“He didn’t even make any snide comments today! I felt pretty kickass.”
“You’re always kickass,” says Jemma, and Skye grins and ducks her head.
They spend dinner talking about Skye’s mission today and Jemma’s latest findings in the lab (Skye’s eyes never glaze over, even though Jemma’s sure she blathers on about it too long). It’s nice and easy and Jemma would be perfectly content to spend the rest of the evening just talking like this with Skye.
When they’re done eating, Skye seems to get a little shy again and says, “Um…so I really wanted to get you something, but I haven’t had time to go to an actual store. And everything I found when I tried looking online was stupid and all wrong for you.”
“Skye, really, I don’t need anything. I really just want to spend time with you.” Jemma takes Skye’s hand. “Though I do have something small for you, back in my room.”
“That’s where your gift is too, so that works.”
Jemma raises an eyebrow. “Sorry?”
“I’m gonna totally buy you something really nice later, I promise, but right now I figured I’d just give you a lot of orgasms,” Skye replies, almost casually.
Jemma, who was taking a drink, almost chokes mid-sip. Once she’s recovered, she stammers, “I—I can’t say I object to that.”
“Good.” Skye grins lasciviously and Jemma feels a tingle spread through her body.
In Jemma’s room, she says “Sit on the bed and close your eyes” before burrowing into her tiny closet for the box. Skye obyes, although she’s squirming a bit with excitement. Jemma finds it ridiculously adorable.
She sits down next to Skye, holding out the box and card. “Okay, you can open your eyes.”
Skye does. “Holy shit. This looks like a present from a movie,” she says, taking it from Jemma gingerly.
“Mum’s influence,” replies Jemma, chuckling nervously. “She likes things to look just so. She taught me how when I was very small.”
“That’s sweet.” Skye tugs at the bow, almost reluctantly, and only wrinkles her nose a little at the wrapping paper before pulling it off.
“I’m sorry about the paper,” says Jemma, feeling herself begin to babble nervously as Skye works at opening it. “I waited too long, probably, and when I looked for a box and paper they were all horrid, so I chose the least horrid, but it’s still quite twee isn’t it, but I just didn’t know what else—”
“Jem.” Skye’s holding the necklace in her palm and looking at it with wide eyes. “Oh my god, Jem.”
“Oh, there’s a card too,” says Jemma, handing it to Skye and wishing her hands would stop shaking. She starts talking again as Skye reads the card. “I was looking online and I found this and the product description was just absolutely perfect for us, you know, because…you make me feel that way, you know, you do, and I—”
She finds herself abruptly cut off when Skye grabs her face and kisses her. When Skye pulls back after a moment, her eyes are wet with tears. “It’s beautiful, Jem. It’s perfect.”
The necklace is cut from a red circuit board, a perfectly symmetrical heart symbol. Its chain is probably long enough for it to just hang below Skye’s collarbone, which shouldn’t interfere with her other, longer necklaces. The description in question, which Jemma wrote out in her best penmanship, reads:
Some say love is a series of chemical reactions in the brain, but what is the result of those chemical reactions? Ion exchange causes a small electric charge to travel through the circuits in the brain creating cascading reactions of serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine... all coalesce into what we call love. It's easy to break down such a wonderful mechanism full of magic and emotion into something as dry as biology, but you're a geek and that's how you roll.
These beautiful earrings and necklace represent the circuitry that make up the neurochemical pathways of love - give it to your sweetheart to remind them that your neurotrophin levels are significantly higher now that they're in your life.
“Oh, you do like it!” Jemma practically sighs in relief. “I’m so glad. I thought it was just lovely but then I worried it might be too sentimental.”
“No, it’s great, it’s…I love it.” Skye sounds a little choked up. She holds it out to Jemma. “Will you, um, put it on me?”
Jemma smiles and takes the necklace gently. After Skye turns around, she gently brushes Skye’s hair aside, slides the necklace into place, and fastens its clasp. Unable to resist the opportunity, she drops a kiss on the back of Skye’s neck.
Skye hums happily. “Hey now,” she murmurs, turning back around to face Jemma, “I still have to give you your present.”
“Oh, well, then.” Jemma grins. “We’d best work on that.”
Later, as they lie naked and tangled up together, boneless and sated, Jemma admires the way the necklace looks on Skye. She’s taken off her other necklaces, but that one’s still hanging there, resting just below Jemma’s breasts because Skye’s pillowed her head on Jemma’s shoulder. Jemma reaches out to toy with it idly, turning it with her fingers and feeling the circuitry.
She hears a huff from Skye. “You shouldn’t be able to move at all,” Skye murmurs. “I’ve failed.”
“Nonsense,” replies Jemma, smiling. “I’m happy, Skye. You make me so very happy. I love you.”
“Love you too,” Skye answers softly, sounding like she’s slipping into sleep. “Happy love day, or whatever.”
“Yes, happy love day indeed.”