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An Intellectual Curiosity

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Jemma closed the door behind her with a strong clink. She didn’t actually slam it; she had enough self control not to damage dormitory property and got Fitz into trouble with building maintenance, but she was irritated enough to use more force than necessary. Her best friend looked up from his desk with alarmed eyes.

 

“What’s wrong?” Fitz asked. “I thought you were on a date with Smith tonight. Did he do something?”

 

“The question is more about what he didn’t do,” Jemma answered. “Why bother going out on dates at all if he knew he wasn’t going to have sex with me?”

 

Fitz had a brief coughing fit. Jemma was rather worried he might spit all over the drone he’d been working on.

 

“Erm, Simmons, dating is not just about sex,” Fitz said. His face was tinged with pink. “Don’t you have, you know, girl friends you can talk to about this kind of things?”

 

“Don’t be daft.” Jemma didn’t bother to conceal her eye roll. “All the female cadets here are at least five to ten years older than I am, and they already see me as an innocent little virgin whose ears are not ready for grownup talk. I am not going to them with this.”

 

“Well I don’t see how I am suitable for this kind of talk either!” Fitz squeaked.

 

“You are my best friend,” Jemma said as a matter of fact. Even though they have known each other for less than a year, Jemma already decided she would never have a friend better than Fitz. “So you have to listen to me when I am upset. Besides, you are male. Tell me why a man would take a girl out when he wasn’t interested in her.”

 

“Why wasn’t Smith interested?” Fitz asked. “I thought you two looked cozy enough last time I saw you together in the Boiler Room. Wait. Simmons, you didn’t start talking about your dissections did you? Obviously you deserve a bloke who appreciates your genius and all, but it would be difficult to get things, um, moving, if he’s trying not to throw up over cat liver.”

 

“This was not my first date,” Jemma said. “I know not to go into the details of my experiments if I want things to progress. It is disheartening, really. You would think that in a place filled with brilliant scientists, I would be able to find at least one person who wouldn’t mind my work.”

 

“I am sure one day you will find that special person who wants to kiss you even when you are both in hazmat suits and looking at something disgusting on the dissection table,” Fitz said with the loyalty of a best friend. “What was the problem then?”

 

“The problem is that I am 16,” Jemma grumbled.

 

Fitz blinked. “So? Everyone knows we are the two youngest cadets here.”

 

“Exactly,” Jemma said. “My youth is common knowledge. The age of consent in our current location is 18. James said he wasn’t willing to risk criminal charges and jail time just for some bad sex.”

 

“How could it be bad?” Fitz asked in bewilderment. “I mean, it’s you! And sex! Umm… I meant… I didn’t mean…”

 

“I know what you mean,” Jemma said. “While statistically a person’s first sexual encounter is often unsatisfactory, there are always exceptions to the rule. I am a nubile young prodigy with a higher than average fashion sense. Clearly I am physically attractive. Even though I haven’t engaged in sexual intercourse before, I have a very good theoretical grasp on the subject, and I am certain I will excel at the execution of the act as well.”

 

“Yeah… um…” Fitz’s blush was spreading down to his neck now. “I am sure you will be great at… it, whenever it happens. Just not with Smith I guess?”

 

“With whom then?” Jemma asked. “James Smith is the youngest cadet in Sci-Tech aside from us and he’s 21. The other cadets are at least 22 or older, given our requirement for a Ph.D. to get in the door. They will have the same reservations as him. I suppose I could look into the men at Operations and Communications, but with all the lab work and lectures, I doubt I will have time to wander to their campuses.”

 

“Why does it matter so much anyway?” Fitz challenged her. “You are 16. There’s no real hurry. Besides, didn’t you go on a rant the other day about how virginity is a social construct?”

 

“Of course I don’t care if society expects people to have sexual experiences by certain age,” Jemma said. “It’s for my own intellectual curiosity. I understand the biology involved, but I haven’t experienced it, and I cannot fathom why something as simple as release of hormones should influence human behavior so much. You were blushing when I talked about virginity last time, and I assume you haven’t had any experience either. Don’t you want to know what the fuss is all about?”

 

“Yeah, I am curious, but it doesn’t mean I am going to sleep with just anyone,” Fitz said. His skin looked positively burning now. “This isn’t a solo lab project. You need another participant. Wait a bit, yeah? The right partner will come along eventually.”

 

Jemma sighed. She walked from her spot by the door towards Fitz’s bed, avoiding the laundry on the floor. Once she straightened his bed sheets, Jemma kicked off her shoes and sat down on top of the comforter. Fitz reached from his chair to the small nightstand tucked between the bed and the desk, and he opened the bottom drawer with a flourish.

 

Giving him a small smile, Jemma grabbed the box of chocolates from the stash of junk food in the drawer. Before Fitz, she would never dream of snacking so late at night. Over the course of many months and several grueling exams, Fitz had convinced her that an occasional indulgence in junk food was acceptable for dealing with a confidence crisis. He always knew how to lift her spirits. She would eternally be grateful to the day they teamed up for lab. If only she could find a sexual partner as wonderful as Fitz was at being her lab partner and friend. Jemma put down the chocolates as a thought struck her.

 

“Fitz! You are a boy!” Jemma exclaimed.

 

“Boy genius, thank you very much,” Fitz said. He had gone back to working at his desk and he didn’t look up.

 

“Yes, but I mean you are a boy! Not a man!” Jemma said. Oh how did she not see this before? The solution to her problem was right here in the room.

 

“Right, that’s exactly what every 16-year-old bloke wants to hear.” Fitz put the drone down and gave her a suspicious glance. “What mad ideas are you hatching now?”

 

“I stopped by the library earlier to read up on local laws regarding age of consent before I came to your room,” Jemma said. “To see if I could prove James wrong.”

 

“Of course you did,” Fitz said. “And?”

 

“Here they have something called Romeo and Juliet law,” Jemma said. “It stated that if two people between the ages of 14 and 17 were to engage in consensual sexual intercourse, and the age difference between them is minor, then it’s not a criminal offense. You are only 23 days older than I am. We can have sex without legal ramifications!”

 

“Simmons!” Fitz sputtered. “I am not going to have sex with you just because I won’t end up in jail for doing it!”

 

“Why not?” Jemma demanded. “You said I will be great at it. Were you lying to spare my feelings?”

 

“Yes? No? I don’t know?” Fitz squeaked. “I don’t actively think about whether or not you will be great at sex! I was just agreeing with you because you were upset!”

 

“As if you would ever blindly agree with me,” Jemma scoffed. “Do you think I am physically attractive?”

 

“... Yes?”

 

“Do you believe me when I say I have done extensive research on the subject of sex?”

 

“... Yes?”

 

“Do you think I will fail in converting my theoretical knowledge into proper execution of the act?”

 

“... No?”

 

“There,” Jemma said. “Sex with me will be great. Why shouldn’t we do it?”

 

“Because… because you are not attracted to me!” Fitz said. He waved his hands in wild circles. “You can’t just lie down, close your eyes, and get it over with. You still won’t know what the fuss is all about when you haven’t got the right partner.”

 

“Nonsense,” Jemma said. She could feel herself blushing. It was easier to bat her eyelashes at James than to admit to Fitz how attractive she found him. “You are quite appealing physically. The first time I saw you, I thought you were very… pasty, and handsome.”

 

“Really?” Fitz laughed without humor. “Pasty is attractive for you?”

 

“Yes,” Jemma said. She had such a schoolgirl crush on Fitz when they first met. He was so brilliant and handsome. Fitz hated her though, and he refused to talk to her for a long time. Once they became proper friends, Jemma had told herself sternly to stop objectifying him and focus on enjoying his company rather than daydreaming about his eyes. She couldn’t let hormones ruin the best friendship of her life. She always thought he would tease her once he found out about her silliness, but he didn’t seem to enjoy her little admission just now.

 

“Thanks for the effort,” Fitz said. “But it’s not happening. I am not going to be your partner on this only for the sake of your intellectual curiosity.” He held up a hand to halt Jemma’s protests. “You are upset, Simmons.” His tone softened slightly. “Go back to your room and get some sleep, yeah? See things more clearly in the morning. Smith never deserved you anyway. You will find someone better.”

 

Jemma tried not to pout at him. She was in perfect possession of her emotional and mental facilities. No one could be better than Fitz. She recognized the tone though, and Fitz won’t change his mind anytime soon. The idea of trekking back to her own room was loathsome even if the trip was only two flights of stairs. She was comfortable here on his bed. However, considering he had already turned down sex with her, asking to stay overnight would probably be awkward. With as much dignity as a rejected 16-year-old nubile prodigy could muster, Jemma stood up.

 

“I am going now,” she announced. “Only because it is late and not because I’ve said my last word on the subject. We are going to talk about this again in the morning.”

 

“Good night Simmons,” Fitz said in a voice that was half fond, half exasperated. “You can convince me to have sex with you tomorrow.”