"Do we have to?" Fitz asked. He gave Jemma the sort of pleading look that usually convinced her to at least pause in whatever mad idea she was trying to get him involved in. Sometimes it even made her reconsider.
Not this time, however.
"C'mon, Fitz! It's New Year's Eve! It'll be fun!" Her voice was full of the cheerful steel that told him this wasn't just a request on her part. "I promise."
Fitz scoffed but accepted the pencil and paper she handed him. Settling himself with his back slouched against the wall and his legs stretched out on the bed in front of him, he sighed.
"How many do I have to write?"
Even he had to admit that he sounded a might bit sullen. He saw Jemma's smile fade a bit and immediately felt guilty.
Sitting up a bit straighter, he poised his pencil as if he was set to write an entire novel at her say so. "I just don't want to have a massive list is all," he added, trying to sound a bit more enthusiastic than he actually was. "You always say that too many goals just sets one up for failure."
That made her smile come back to full force, and Fitz's whole chest felt a bit warmer as a result. He was being a good friend. A best friend.
"I'd say anywhere from three to five," Jemma answered after a moment's reflection. "Enough to see a real change over the course of the year, but not so many that you'll find them burdensome."
Fitz snorted. Last year he'd tried to give up snack foods. That resolution had lasted less than a week. He'd had a bit more success with keeping up with his laundry, but even that was a fail before Valentine's Day.
"I'm going to try to be more realistic this year, I think," he said. Jemma would like that. She appreciated a well-crafted goal that was both a bit of a challenge but still ultimately accomplishable.
"Excellent idea. I think I'll do the same."
He felt a smile tug at his lips when she praised him. She could be so predictable sometimes.
Last year, for example, she'd resolved to create a new organizational system for their lab samples. She'd done it, too, and it had caught on in more than one lab. Someone had even made little signs that read B is for Blue is for Biological. At first he'd worried that someone was taking the piss, but apparently Jemma wasn't alone in wanting clear rules that were easy to remember.
Bending his knees, he brought his legs up into a better position to use them as a desk. It also made it easier to hide what he was writing. Jemma, for her part, was sitting cross-legged beside him with her paper on a hard cover text book settled in her lap. She was already writing, neat curling letters that he could easily read.
He looked away with a slight blush. He wondered if any of her resolutions would be personal.
Several long minutes passed as he stared at his blank paper. All the while, he heard Jemma's pencil as it moved across her page. This was worse than sitting an exam he hadn't studied for. At least then he'd been to class and knew enough to write something.
You'd think the same would be true when he was trying to write about his own life, but you'd be wrong.
Finally, more out of anxiety than out of any real inspiration, he started to write something down.
He was still chewing his lip and mumbling slightly when Jemma looked up. She was clearly finished. She had that proud look she always got when she finished first on an assignment, and Fitz realized that this was basically like volunteer homework. No wonder he hated it and she loved it. Glancing over at her, he gave her a tight smile and then finished up his last sentence. Then he folded the paper in half with finality.
"Well, that's a job done," he said conclusively.
Jemma frowned. "Don't you want to talk about them?"
By some sort of Herculean effort, he managed to neither wince nor sigh. Resolution #1 was going well so far.
"Sure!" He answered through a slightly frozen smile.
Again Jemma's smile returned and again his chest felt warm. She had a really pretty smile. It always made him feel nice.
Jemma sat up proudly and held up her paper like she was about to make an announcement. He supposed she was, in a way. He folded his hands in his lap and gave her his full attention.
"This year, I resolve to learn how to program."
Fitz blinked in surprise. "You what?" he blurted. Then he stammered. "I-I mean, that's great, I just had no idea you wanted to learn."
Jemma nodded. "It's been fascinating watching you do it and see the sorts of things you can do," she said. She even reached out to pat his knee. "I'd love to understand it more so we can talk about it."
He didn't know why, but he was sure that he was blushing. His face felt hot, at any rate.
"You want to talk to me? About programming?"
"Of course." Jemma laughed and gave his knee a squeeze. "You're my best friend. You spend hours of your life doing it. I want you to be able to share that with me, if you'd like."
Fitz's jaw dropped open and he stared. He realized almost immediately and closed his mouth with a snap.
"Well, that's. That's very nice of you," he said. He was feeling very flustered all of the sudden.
Jemma looked at him expectantly and he was definitely blushing now. Clearing his throat, he pulled out his own paper and glanced at it. Not that he needed to. There were only three sentences there.
"This year, I resolve to be less of an arse when Jemma wants to do something that I... don't."
His original sentence had ended with 'that I think is stupid,' but considering what a nice thing she'd just said to him he elected to change it.
Luckily she liked it. He was pretty sure the original version would have caused a fight.
"Oh, Fitz! That's so sweet!"
Another squeeze of his knee and he felt his cheeks get redder.
"It's actually a bit similar to my next one." She grinned at him, and this time his chest didn't feel warm but something did sort of jump inside it. "My next resolution is to try to loosen up a bit."
Fitz looked at her skeptically but managed not to laugh. "Loosen up?" he repeated. "Are you sure you want that?"
Jemma really enjoyed rules. They gave life order and they kept things neat. They'd known each other going on a year and a half now, and he couldn't really picture her as anything but a stickler. It was sort of charming in its own way.
It was her turn to blush now, and Fitz couldn't help noticing how pretty she looked with her cheeks all pink like that.
"I know I can be a bit hard on you sometimes," she admitted.
Again, Fitz was surprised. Not that she'd noticed, he knew he made that far too clear. He was surprised because out of two resolutions, so far both of them were her wanting to change for him.
"S'alright." He shrugged. Licking his lips a bit nervously, he reached out to put a hand on her knee. When she didn't pull away, he even gave it a little squeeze. "I don't mind. Not really." At her skeptical look, he made a slight face. "Not for long?" he amended.
She smiled again and again that warmth filled up his whole chest. They were sitting a lot closer than they usually did. Or maybe it just felt closer for some reason? But they were close enough that he was able to see the little bits of gold in her eyes and he could almost count the freckles on her nose.
He took his hand off her knee quickly and shuffled his paper.
For a moment there, he'd been thinking something completely mad.
He snuck a look at her out of the corner of his eye. She looked almost... disappointed? No, that was silly. What did she have to be disappointed about?
"My next one is to prank Sally Webber."
It wasn't, but he was feeling a lot of tension suddenly and he didn't know what to do about it. If he told Jemma what his second resolution actually was, she might squeeze his knee again and then what would he do? Something mad, probably. And that was just... mad.
She definitely did look disappointed. He was fairly certain. But it only lasted a moment before she was laughing and telling him she'd add that to her list as well. They'd both had enough run-ins with Sally that a little bit of comedic revenge was warranted.
The tension was definitely broken, but Fitz couldn't help thinking he'd made a mistake. What if he had told Jemma what was really on his list? It wouldn't be so bad, would it?
"My last one is a bit of a lark, too," Jemma said. "I've decided I want to start dating this year."
The warmth in his chest suddenly ran cold and for a moment it was like his heart stopped beating.
"You-" His mouth flapped open and closed for a moment while he tried to process the full meaning of what Jemma had just said. She could have just as easily dropped a bomb in between them as say something like that.
"Seriously, I mean," she continued. "Not just a date here and there when I'm not doing anything else. I want to have a boyfriend."
"A boyfr-" Fitz let out a puff of pure disbelief.
Jemma? With a boyfriend? What was all of that talk about wanting to learn programming so they could have more conversations? And loosening up? Is this what she was talking about?
"Did you have someone in mind?" he asked weakly.
It felt like he'd suddenly dropped directly into one of his own nightmares and he had no idea how to get out of it.
Jemma looked down at the bed and curled her hair behind her ears as she shrugged. "I don't know. We'll see if anyone asks me."
Then she looked up at him.
All of the tension that had been released before came right back in that instant. Time felt like it slowed to a crawl and Fitz realized that he had two paths in front of him. In one path, he and Jemma stayed best friends, quite possibly for the rest of their lives.
In the other path?
His heart was beating so fast he felt dizzy. It was so loud, he wondered if she could hear it too.
Licking his lips, he thought about what he'd written down on his paper. He thought about how Jemma's smile made his whole chest feel warm. He thought about how pretty she looked when her cheeks were all pink and how she wanted to learn how to program so they could share another interest. He thought about the little sign she'd made that said A Tidy Lab is a Happy Lab and how her nose always wrinkled up when she was excited about something.
He thought he'd be a complete and total idiot if he let this opportunity pass him by.
"My last resolution is to-" He licked his lips and tried to feel brave.
Jemma leaned forward a little bit, like she was really keen to hear.
"-Is to tell you how I feel."
This time, Jemma's smile lit up her whole face. His chest felt hot and his stomach flipped over and he was sure he was blushing red as a tomato. But that was okay because Jemma was squeezing his knee again and slipping right over to sit right beside him. They'd never sat this close together before, and he could feel how warm she was where their sides pressed together.
Jemma reached up and touched his cheek, and he had to suck in a breath because his lungs felt empty.
"How do you feel?" she asked.
He'd always thought that describing eyes as 'limpid pools' was a load of cloying rubbish, but in this moment he knew exactly what those poets were on about.
He opened his mouth, but he didn't know what to say. But that was okay because Jemma just... understood. The way she always understood. The way he always understood her.
She smiled again and it was like fireworks were going off inside him. He swallowed hard and slipped his arm around her back .
"Me too," she said.
And then the fireworks were going off in earnest as their eyes closed and their lips met. The clock hadn't even struck midnight yet, and this was already the best year of his life.