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since I came here (felt the joy and the fear)

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Leopold Fitz is what they call an old soul.

            He’s cranky and grumpy, snapping at anyone that dares to speak to him too early in the morning. He prefers his tea just so, and has little patience for newfangled reality television and anyone that enjoys it. Fitz prefers to dress nicely and comfortably in muted ties and cardigans, and he certainly never goes out drinking with the others at the Academy, much preferring to stay in with a good technology journal.

            In fact, he’s fairly certain that he’s got the oldest soul of anyone he’s ever met, including his own mother. Must have been why she was surprised when his father left, and he wasn’t.

            Ironically, Leopold Fitz is also the youngest person on campus, and as such, his curmudgeonly ways seem rather out of place. Sometimes he fantasizes about informing all of the gossipers that whisper about him behind library bookshelves that he used to be Leonardo Da Vinci. Let them giggle about that.

             His life is very quiet and content until the day early into his second year that Dean Weaver pulls him aside.

            “Mr. Fitz, could I see you in my office for a moment? There’s a matter of great importance we need to discuss.”

            He follows Dean Weaver back to her office, sighing heavily as he sinks down into a chair. His last incarnation had lived to be quite old, and sometimes he still feels the phantom pains of rising and sitting.

            “Mr. Fitz, I wanted to speak with you about…. Well. Forgive me, but it’s about your soul.”

            Fitz feels his face heat. Ah, hell. It’s gotten out that he used to be Euclid of Alexandria, hasn’t it?

            “What of it, then?” he asks through a clenched jaw.

            “It’s less to do with your soul, actually, and more about. Ah. Are you aware that your soul has a mate?”

            Fitz’s stomach feels as though it bottoms out and splatters against the floor. Of course he’s bloody well aware of his soulmate! How could he not be, with those annoying tingles in his hands, and the shared nightmares, and the near-constant need to drop absolutely everything and seek her out?

            He’s read everything she’s ever published from the age of twelve. Has multiple copies in a giant binder, highlighted, annotated, and laminated.

            His soul has never found its mate before. Not once, in more than a thousand years of incarnations.

            “Yes.”

            “Right. Well I thought it prudent to inform you of two things in light of your connection to Miss Jemma Simmons. Firstly, she’ll be beginning her first year at the Academy tomorrow. She would have began last year with you, but she decided to pursue her third Ph.D. Secondly, and I’m not certain how aware you are of this… Miss Simmons is a new soul.”

            Fitz’s vision whites out. A new soul. The words bounce around inside of his skull until he’s fairly certain he’s gone deaf, because when he can see again he notices Dean Weaver’s mouth moving but no sound is coming out.

            Jemma is a new soul. Jemma is a new soul.

            New souls are the most rare phenomenon in the natural world. Typically born in groups of five or less during eras wherein humankind is undergoing a cosmic, evolutionary shift, there’s been less than twelve documented groups of new souls in history, and even those are difficult to ascertain by modern standards. Today, new souls are typically big news; their birth is headlined all across the world. New souls are considered the biggest of blessings; Jemma’s parents must have been incredibly proud to be trusted by the Universe with someone’s very first childhood. So proud and protective, in fact, that they refused to allow it to be published, because in all his Googling of Jemma Simmons, not once has he discovered her soul age.

            His soul has a mate, and she’s new.

            The room spins around him; Dean Weaver is still talking, shoving his new room key into his hands. Apparently he’ll be living across with Jemma now, in the best student housing his money could never buy. Instead of dorm rooms, they’ll have an entire student flat to themselves, complete with their own bedrooms and bathrooms.

            “I expect Miss Simmons to be very comfortable here, Mr. Fitz. She’s the first new soul SHIELD has ever recruited, and a genius besides. Anything she needs at all, we’ll strive to provide. I trust her welcome is in capable hands?” Dean Weaver raises one imperious eyebrow at him, and Fitz can read the warning in her gaze very clearly.

            The Universe has entrusted Jemma’s precious soul to his care. As the eldest, he must watch out for her and guide her. He thinks of those sniggers in the library and flushes bright red.

            “Yes Dean Weaver. I’ll make certain she’s comfortable,” Fitz nods.

            Holy hells, what is he going to say to her? Their very first meeting, their first life together… what greeting could possibly encompass this swelling crescendo of love and longing he feels already?

            He doesn’t have time to contemplate it, because Dean Weaver smiles and calls, “Miss Simmons, you may enter!”

            He’s seen photographs. He’s even heard her voice before, having watched grainy recordings of her lectures at conferences. Absolutely nothing compares to the vision that walks through Dean Weaver’s office door. Her dark hair is pulled back into glittering clips at the sides, curling at the ends around her slim throat. Her large eyes meet his, widening before quickly dropping to scan him head to toe. She’s dressed smartly in a white button-down and slacks. He at once wishes to lie her down on his bed and never let her up again, and to place her in a large protective bubble for the rest of time.

            “Hello! I’m Dr. Jemma Simmons; biology, chemistry, and medicine. It’s wonderful to finally meet you, Dr. Fitz.”

            “Just Fitz is fine,” he says without thinking and nearly bites his own tongue off. It should have been you’re the most sublime creature on the planet. “Engineering.”

            “I gave Mr. Fitz your room keys. I think you’ll find everything you need; the apartment should be fully stocked,” Dean Weaver says.  

            Jemma’s grin grows impossibly brighter. “We’re flat mates! Brilliant. That will make collaboration on projects much easier. I’m told we have nearly the same course schedule.”

            He trips over several of her boxes, but makes a show of helping her cart them across campus. The student flats are housed in a brand new, state of the art building. His nose itches just walking into the place and smelling how fresh the paint is. He was fortunate enough to be born wealthy in a few of his lifetimes, but it always made him uncomfortable. Besides, Leo Fitz is not one of them.

            He can tell as she rambles that she’s extraordinarily intelligent. New souls often are; most speculate that they arrive with a fresh perspective on the world, a new way of thinking that leads to extraordinary breakthroughs in every facet of human society. Her face is practically glowing in the late-afternoon sun, eyes free of the baggage he can see reflected in his own and in other people’s.  

            He’s already completely and utterly buggered.


 

            He discovers, over a span of weeks, that they enjoy the same sort of television programs, tea, graph paper, and gin. Jemma prefers to shower in the morning after- horror of all horrors- going for a run. He still prefers to shower at night. Her pajamas are ridiculously cute, covered in polka dots and bears and, notably, cacti. She rarely eats sweets, and scolds him for too much red meat.

            She settles into his life as though she has always been there. He sits next to her in class, works at the same table as her in all of their labs, walks next to her across campus, compares notes with her in the library. They eat practically every meal together, and once she even sleepily kisses his cheek goodnight before retiring to her room, right across from his.

            He tries to picture her in his former lives; wrapped in gauzy linen on the banks of the Nile, carefully styling ink against parchment outside of Shanghai, making a fire somewhere in the middle of Africa, sailing across the Atlantic in long skirts. He can’t see it. Jemma is undeniably new, entirely a product of the 21st century. It’s annoying, how intuitive her grasp of technology can be. He’s supposed to be the best engineer of the age, and yet with her all of his designs take on better life, in a quicker way than they would have without her.

            Every professor adores her, especially having been clued in to her status. Each one seems to want to mentor her personally, and Fitz can’t help but feel pride when her wide eyes seek out his for reassurance in her most overwhelmed moments. Somewhere, somewhen, he must have done something exceptionally right to be so honored as to match with a new soul, and more importantly, with Jemma.

            He wants to back her against the sleek glass walls of their lab and snog the daylights out of her.

            It’s an inconvenient feeling, really. Not least of all because her life, her existence, and her career are all taking off so splendidly. It wouldn’t be fair to distract her now, especially when they’re living together and she seems to rely on his guidance when it comes to the more political side of soul exchange.

            Fitz has waited centuries for her.

            He can wait a while longer.


 

            Jemma Simmons is what they call a new soul.

            She thinks the label is asinine, of course. So she doesn’t have any past lives, no former incarnations. She was never Ada Lovelace, or Marie Curie, or Ellen Swallow Richards, or Hypatia.

            She’s just Jemma Simmons.

            Thankfully, Leopold Fitz seems to like Jemma Simmons just fine.

            She had been afraid, when she first came to the Academy, that he would hate her. She’d heard tale of Leopold Fitz; not only had she read everything he ever published, kept in a file under her bed, but she had kept careful note of his lectures and undergraduate courses. He was a genius, much the same as her; only, he was rumored to have been a genius for eons longer than she.

            Soul-watchers, as they’re known online, had taken to banding together to attempt to figure out if anyone current had been anyone famous in a past life. There’s a rumor Fitz used to be Pythagoras.

            Jemma will never ask. It doesn’t matter to her; as long as he’s her Fitz, the one she’s been longing for her whole life.

            They’re in a History of SHIELD class, discussing the many incarnations of Peggy Carter, when it hits her. She is Jemma, and he is Fitz, but someday they will die. They’ll go on to be completely different people, born to a whole new set of parents. Her entire life, gone. Her parents gone, her friends gone, her accomplishments no longer her own. She might never find him.

            The room swims around Jemma, dangerous and too-bright. Her stomach lurches. She’s dimly aware of the tears coursing down her cheeks and several people calling her name. Her breath comes in short gasps.

            Jemma jerks out of her chair and allows the panic to carry her out into the hall, where she crumples against the cold cement.

            “No, no, no,” she murmurs, burying her head between her knees. “I can’t not be Jemma, I just can’t!”

            No more soft brown hair. No more bookmarks. No more lavender shampoo. No more tastebuds just suited. No more.

            This body will be decaying under the ground somewhere, while she’s relearning a new one. The thought is too horrible to bear.

            “Simmons?”

            Jemma manages a hiccup in between bouts of hyperventilation, but that’s all.

            “Oh, Jemma,” Fitz sighs and sinks down next to her. Her shaking hands dart out to wrap around his upper arm. His beautiful, pasty skin; some day he won’t even be named Fitz.

            “I have to be Jemma, I have to be! I don’t want to be someone else. Fitz, help me,” she gasps, fighting against the rolling of her stomach as hard as she can.

            “It’s going to be alright, I promise,” Fitz says. There’s a tenseness underneath his tone she rarely hears. He only ever speaks like this when she’s questioning soul mechanics, attempting to understand how quantum-entanglement works in ever-changing biological matter. It’s as though he knows things he would rather she not, and while it infuriates her, it endears him to her as well.

            “We’re going to die,” Jemma sobs.

            “Well, yes. Eventually. But it won’t be so bad! Honestly, Jemma. You got lucky. Your first incarnation is in the 21st century, in a developed country. I bet your first death will be you in bed in your hundreds, surrounded by children and grandchildren. Very easy and peaceful. You should have tried dying in the medieval period. Extraordinarily messy and painful, that was. Soon, too.”

            Jemma attempts to digest this as rationally as she can. He’s correct, of course. She did get lucky in that way. She’s unlikely to ever experience death via burning at the stake, or being disemboweled, or tortured, or of an entirely preventable disease.

            “Go on,” she whispers.

            “Er. Right. Well, listen. I’ve died loads of times… been reincarnated loads of times. Dying isn’t fun. I won’t sugarcoat that. And no one ever remembers what happens in between dying and coming back. Anyone that says they do is full of shite, and likely wants your money.”

            Jemma giggles in spite of herself.

            “I imagine coming back will be better now. I’ll be able to find you. I didn’t have anyone, before,” Fitz admits quietly. Against her forehead, she feels his warm body rise and fall with his shaky breath.

            “We’ll come back together?”

            “Every time,” he promises, voice full of fiery conviction. “You’ll always go before me. You’re the younger of us. It’s one of the Universe’s small mercies… younger souls wouldn’t handle seeing the elder go very well. And I’ll always come back first; pave the way for you, so to speak.”

            Jemma hates herself for the question, but it must be asked. “You’re not annoyed with me? Me following you around all the time?”

            “Never.”

            “That’s good, as I’ll be doing it for the rest of eternity apparently.”

            “You won’t be Jemma,” he reminds her. “And I won’t be Fitz. But we’ll always be us.

            When Jemma raises her head, Fitz’s face is very close to hers. Through the remnants of her tears, she can see the deep concern in his eyes. He’s really very handsome, she thinks. And so smart.

            The Universe chose well for her.

            “Thank you, Fitz,” she whispers, but she’s staring at his lips.

            “Any time,” he squeaks, and launches unceremoniously to his feet.


 

            Fitz helps Jemma discover anything she’d like about souls, and soul mates, and soul blocks, and the ins and outs of it all. She’s grown up in a culture saturated with soul, and yet the actual biological, chemical, and mechanical processes are mentioned rarely.

            Fitz patiently explains that he’s known his mother’s soul for centuries, but didn’t know his father’s very well before this. There are others at the Academy he thinks he recognizes, but he must not have had very close relationships with them in the past.

            He tries very hard to skirt around the topic of his own age, but Jemma is relentless. It’s difficult to forget the look of awe on her face when she begins to suspect he might be an Original Soul.

            He pretends not to hear when she whispers how lucky she is to be matched with him.

            Love and lust grow for her in equal spades. He adores the way she purses her lips while measuring samples, and right after the gushy emotion, feels an echo of interest deep in his abdomen. He wants those pursed lips on his skin. No longer quite sure what he’s waiting for, Fitz can’t help but remember that she was made for him. He was made for her, too; the long, lonely centuries seem worth it if the ultimate goal was her knowledge and curiosity all along.

            They don’t flaunt her status, or their connection. Fitz is sure some suspect, what with her unique questions and bizarre gap in knowledge that anyone born in the last few decades would have known. He’s certain he sees the eyes of taller, more muscular cadets follow her through the corridors, and then land on him and his protective, wizened glare.

            But they’re stuck together for the rest of eternity. If he mucks this up and she hates him, she could quite literally hate him forever. Which is a risk Fitz is not fucking willing to take. Building wooden wings and jumping off the bridges of Italy seemed safer.

            So instead he prints her off articles concerning the souls of animals and whether or not they reincarnate (Jemma is inclined to believe that they do, and has taken to bursting into tears whenever he eats a hamburger, so he supposes in this life he’ll be vegetarian). He sends her interesting news articles on the recent humanitarian fight to end multi-life sentences, and the opposing articles detailing how difficult it is to ascertain who the next incarnation is of the world’s most dangerous criminals.

            He most certainly does not go to bed and dream of rolling her naked underneath him, hearing her breathy voice call out his name, feeling her hands on his-

            “Fitz?” Her voice is quiet on the opposite side of their couch.

            It’s been a slow weekend, full of lazy sandwich making and background noise on the television. She looks delectable in her sleeveless top and her skin-tight leggings. He’s imagined peeling them off of her more times than he can count today.

            “Hm?” he asks, not taking his eyes off his glowing tablet to be tempted.

            “Do… do you think soulmates are always romantic?”

            His heart stops beating. The feeling is eerily reminiscent of the moment he met her.

            “What makes you ask that?” he asks, and curses when he hears her exasperated huff. When he answers her questions with a question, she knows by now he’s trying to put her off.

            “Because I want to know, obviously. Your opinion.”

            “I think it’s easy to get soulmates and soul blocks confused,” he finally hedges. He sits his tablet down on their coffee table and turns to face her. She hasn’t bothered to put her hair up today; instead she’s twisted tiny braids into the thickness of it in her idleness. “Or, at least it was. Before we had the technology to detect mates. Sometimes, that lead to souls that were meant to be platonic into romantic relationships. And sometimes, it lead relationships that were meant to be romantic into more platonic waters.”

            Jemma scrunches her nose. “So, you don’t believe they have to be romantic?”

            “I believe people still have free will, Simmons.”

            “You’re not actually answering my question-“

            “I believe that people are inherently designed-“

            “You’re always so frustrating, just because you’re 23 days and a few millenia older-“

            “Not just to love or fuck one another, but to be themselves-“

            “And just because I’m new doesn’t mean I’m stupid, I see the way you look at me-“

            “What?” Fitz wheezes. All air leaves him at once.

            Jemma huffs. Her brown eyes are slightly terrified, but her chin juts up defiantly. “I said, I see the way you look at me. Like you want me. I always thought my soulmate would want me. I could feel you, longing for me. As I did for you. Don’t you want me, Fitz?”

            Fitz has absolutely nothing at all to say.

            Dimly, he can only nod as Jemma begins to move.


 

            Jemma stares at Fitz on the opposite end of the couch- his plain t-shirt, his comfortable track pants, the hoodie she’s already filched from his room thrice- and feels a thrill shoot up her spine.

            Finally.

            Hundreds of years on her, and almost a month older in this life, and she’s the one that must make the first move! Honestly.

            She had dated, briefly, during her stays at various universities. She hadn’t wanted to meet her soulmate and be entirely unprepared. Jemma prides herself on her preparation, after all. She’s held hands, and offered brief pecks goodnight. Nothing more.

            Now, the longing that’s been inside of her for her entire life has turned to a fierce, aching pain. It shimmers throughout her entire body, making the small of her back break out in sweat.

            Jemma crawls over to Fitz and swings one leg over his hip, straddling him where he sits. His mouth opens and closes; she thinks he looks rather like a pasty, beautiful fish.

            “I want to kiss you,” she breathes.

            “Please,” Fitz whispers.

            She closes her eyes and presses her mouth to his.

            A brief shock buzzes against her lips, almost like static electricity. Jemma moans and leans into the feeling, twisting her fingers up into his curly hair. Fitz’s hands are steady on her back, keeping her stable and grounded even as she feels as though her body is about to hover somewhere near the ceiling. Kissing Fitz is like a revelation, like a new scientific discovery, like coming home.

            He groans, the sound zinging directly to her arousal. Her insides clench around nothing.

            Fitz strokes her hair from her shoulders, presses open-mouthed kisses to her neck and collarbones. Jemma pants against him, arching her back and holding him where she wants him. He seems perfectly content to follow her lead, until she takes one of his hands and shoves it gracelessly up her top.

            “Jemma?”

            “I’m sure, I’m sure,” she gasps.

            Fitz shrugs, and begins to reach up toward the bottom of her breast. Her chest feels heavy, nipples already tightening. He’s barely touched her, and she feels as though she might faint.

            “Please,” she whispers, and he chuckles darkly against her cleavage before twisting one nipple between his calloused fingers.

            Jemma moans and rocks against him, delighted to feel his hardness underneath her. Fitz makes short work of her top, lifting it above her head and latching on to one breast with his mouth. Her moans turn to cries; her pussy drips into her panties in a way she’s never felt before.

            “Let me take you to bed, love,” Fitz says. He tears his head away from her chest to look up at her. His blue eyes look almost black in the half-light.

            “Yes,” Jemma nods. She considers no other answer.

            Fitz strokes the back of her thighs, lifting her with surprising dexterity. Jemma laughs and practically skips down the hall to her bedroom. Fitz follows, pushing her up against her closet door to rake his fingers down her back, hooking into the band of her leggings.

            “May I?” he asks, and she’s so busy sucking a bruise against his pulse point she almost doesn’t answer.

            “Go ahead,” she nods, switching to his collarbones.

            Fitz peels the leggings down her thighs, making sure to kiss any skin they reveal. Jemma sighs happily and allows him to throw one of her legs over his shoulder. He presses his mouth to the hot, damp fabric still covering her and she nearly screams when she feels his tongue pressed against her for the first time.

            As sentimental as it is, and as biologically imperative as these responses are, she doesn’t believe she could have done this with anyone else at all.

            Jemma tugs at Fitz’s hair after a moment, yanking him back up to her height. She presses hungry kisses to his lips and his throat, moaning when his tongue slips into her mouth. Then she divests him of his shirt and trousers, stripping both of them until he’s completely naked in front of her and she him.

            Silence reigns the room. Jemma takes him in; his lanky form, his bony shoulders, his red and swollen cock. He’s wonderful, and perfect, and his eyes are so old and so young as they stare at her.

            Jemma smiles tremulously. “Make love to me, please.”

            Fitz takes her hand and guides her to the bed.

            To her surprise, he lies flat on his back, gesturing for her to sit astride him. This way, she quickly figures, she’ll be able to control the depth and force of their coupling. His fingers find her clit first, and she shudders a whimper that sounds an awful lot like his name.

            Then he’s pressing inside of her, and stars are bursting behind her eyelids. When did she shut her eyes?

            She bounces against him carefully, getting used to the heavy thickness inside of her. Gratitude wells up and seems to spill out of her pores with the sweat and pheromones; of all the forms, of all the lives she could have been born into, and this is her first one. She gets to be Jemma, and Jemma gets to be mated to Fitz, and Fitz and Jemma both love science. There’s no more perfect life than this.

            Jemma bends forward. Fitz groans, the sound echoing down her throat as she kisses him, stroking her tongue against his.

            “I love you,” he breathes.

            “Love you too,” she whispers back.

            Neither break the kiss as she falls apart on top of him.


 

            The next morning, Fitz awakens to ridiculously bright sunlight. He’s cranky, and grumpy, but is at least comforted by the fact that Jemma knows how he likes his tea.

            He opens his eyes, and there she is. She’s not a dream or an illusion, some vague imagining in a bed in another time when she didn’t exist and he was alone. Instead, she’s deliciously naked, folded underneath a white sheet. Her hair is wild against the pillow, a sight he knows she’ll be embarrassed about when she wakes.

            Fitz and every version of himself from here on get to wake up to this soul; new and bright, and impossibly loved.

            So he leans over, and wakes her lips with his own.