Fitz knows what has happened to him. He knows that he is hurt in a way that will never truly go away. Brain damage isn't something that can be cured, its different for every person who has it. Some people get worse as time goes on, some get better or at least more able to function close to normal, and some people just … stop.
Fitz is terrified he will just stop.
“You shouldn't be Fitz. You shouldn't be.”
He also knows that Simmons is gone. That she had to leave or she would only hurt herself more. He could never hat her for that. But he hates that it hurts.
He hates that he sees a shade of her, and that it is probably what keeps him going. Not loyalty, or honour or friendship. A construct of his own mind is all that compels him. Its like all those other things have dulled, that he cant feel them as readily as he once did.
Fitz misses Ward too. He cant look Skye in the eye because of that. It tastes like a betrayal.
And Coulson, how-
“Hey,” a voice calls out from across the lab, “Mind giving me a hand, man?”
Fitz spins around to find Mack standing on the threshold, wiping grease of his hands and giving Fitz a lazy smile. Fitz Frowns.
The rest of the word doesn’t come out. Simmons rubs his shoulder, but Mack doesn’t have a trace of pity on his face.
“I'm trying to restore the Directors car, the 62 Chevy Corvette,” he makes a gesture behind him, “I was just wondering if you could help me out. Some of the stuff its been modded with goes over my pay grade.”
A hand comes up to the Scottish scientist mouth and be bites down oh his thumb. For a long moment he fights back stutters before stepping closer to the mechanic.
Thing is he likes Mack. And Simmons likes him too, which means part of his conciousness likes him too. He likes him, likes that he treats him like someone solid and not a piece of cracked glass. It makes Fitz feel like he is standing on solid ground again. He likes Mack.
But he liked Ward too.
“You don't need … my help.”
He says is quietly so no one else in the lab will hear.
“Oh Fitz,” Simmons sighs, but he pays her no mind. Pays his mind no mind.
“Maybe not,” he says ruefully, crossing his rather nice arms across his chest, “Doesn’t mean I don’t want it though.”
It takes him a moment to take that sentence in and translate it, but when he dose he looks up at the taller man. He looks hopeful.
“Might as well indulge him,” Simmons says from over his shoulder, “He is new to the team. He's probably lonely. Plus you do need a break.”
“Is that a yes?” Mack chuckles.
Fitz tries to say something snarky. He'll have to say it another day. Instead he steps past him and makes his way over towards the Garage.
“I'll take that as a yes, then.”
They work on the car for four hours in relative silence, until Fitz comes upon the part that makes the car fly and spends the better part of an hour telling Mack exactly how it all works. He takes in every word.
Coulson comes down and almost cries when he sees them fixing his baby. He gives Fitz a hug and he feels the earth settle under him.
“It is two in the mother fucking morning.”
Mack grumbles this into his pillow but is doesn’t stop the knocking on his door. Someone is knocking quickly and loudly on his door at two in the morning. On a Saturday.
Mack groans as he stands up, throwing on some boxers as he strides sloppily to the door. If who ever it is has the indecency to wake him at this hour they can damn put up with his semi nakedness.
“This had better be important.
He opens the door-
-and its Fitz.
He kinda wishes he had put on pants now.
But if the smaller man notices he doesn’t say anything, he is grinning up at Mack, looking all of seven years old in his Star Trek pyjamas.
“I-I-I,” the smaller man makes a spinning gesture around his head, “I remember … scones.”
“You remember scones? You … you remember how to make scones?”
“Yeah! Yes, yeah!”
Fitz is grinning now, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. Like a puppy.
“And, why do you want me?”
Fitz flaps his hands at him, making a humming noise, before waving down the hall towards the kitchen.
“Just come- just- just come one!”
Fitz grabs on to Mack's arm, and before the bigger man can even consider putting on some pants, he is being pulled down the hall.
“Okay, Scones it is.”
Fitz throws his all into making the biggest batch of scones that Mack has ever seen, talking a million miles an hour while he dose. Mack catches all the things he drops, steers him away from the open oven, talks when he gets lost in his head, and just mostly gets covered in flour. It's not how he would usually spend his morning, but its fun.
May wakes up first out of everyone and walks into the Kitchen to find Mack and Fitz eating the biggest pile of scones she has ever seen. She stops on sight.
Fitz hums through a mouth full of the food.
“Of course, ma'am,” Mack answers for the other man, “We aren't heathens.”
Her face gives away nothing but Mack is sure she looks amused. With out a word the woman rounds the counter, sitting down next to Fitz to prepare her own snack. She puts a huge spoon full of cream on hers and Fitz chuckles. She definitely smiled that time.
“...Any reason why you are naked, Agent Mackenzie?”
Fitz squawks and blushes furiously.
Now he catches on.
“Ma'am, is there anyway to make Scones?”
May snorts and flicks cream at his face with deathly accuracy.
The thing is Mack isn't stupid. He spends the most time with the Scottish scientist out of everyone on the base. Their jobs usually overlap, and he enjoys the smaller man's company.
He spends enough time with Fitz to realise that sometimes he talks to people who aren't there. People who Mack is pretty sure look like the Agent Simmons he had heard about. He is also pretty sure that Fitz knows that the Simmons he sees exists only to him.
It worries Mack enough to do some research on brain damage. But he doesn't treat Fitz any different, that's not what the smaller man needs from him.
But then Simmons comes back.
Mack is really impressed with the lady scientist. She went on an independent mission to infiltrate H.Y.D.R.A, no back up possible, and came out of it with enough information to start to turn the tide of the war in their favour. Aka; she is a straight up bad-ass.
She is also really sweet, firm in a kind way, and Mack watches as all of Skye and Tripp's built up animosity melts away within the first hour of her being back.
But when Simmons goes to see Fitz everyone is worried enough to hover around the door way to the lab, May and Hunter included. Coulson and Koenig are watching from his office, Mack is 98% sure. Simmons is the most nervous of them all though, standing on the threshold clenching and unclenching his hands before approaching her best friend.
Mack was nervous that Fitz wasn't gonna recognise that this Simmons was real.
He bit his tongue and waited with everyone else.
It went surprisingly well … for a while.
Evidently Fitz could tell the difference between the Simmons in his mind and the Simmons outside it. Skye got all teary eyed when the two scientists started talking, saying they were acting like nothing had changed. Mack felt the tension in his shoulders ease when a bright grin spread across his smaller friends face. Today was a good day, fewer stutters and his arms weren't constantly wrapping around himself in a shield.
But then Fitz talked to the wrong Simmons.
“Who … who are you talking too, Fitz?”
They all watched in varied level of shock, and Mack watched as something clicked behind May's eyes as she put everything together. This wasn't good.
“Fitz … are you seeing-”
The smaller man was retreating back in on himself, no words coming out through stutters and hands pulling at his sweater. Mack couldn't take it.
“Hey, Turbo!” he said, in the sunniest voice he could manage, walking into the lab to stand at arms length from Fitz and blocking the others view, “You hungry, man?”
Fitz eyes snapped up and focused on him, and after a long moment the words seemed to translate are a hand came up to twist the curls at the back of is neck.
“Hungry … y-yeah...” He smiled a little sweet smile, “Toasted cheese sandwiches?”
Mack snorted, “Don't know how you aren't sick of them yet, man.”
The smaller man hesitated, “Yeah.”
Fitz chuckled softly, but Mack couldn't help the look of complete sadness that Simmons was flicking between the two of them. She looked so lost, and it mad Mack feel unjustly guilty.
With a sigh stopped in his throat Mack moved towards the other door of the lab, shooting a look over his shoulder to Trip who nodded back. No one would follow them.
Fitz shuffled after him, keeping his head down so he wouldn't see Simmons as she tried to catch his eye. Mack could see that she wanted him to stay, to talk to him. But Mack could see the sighs of Fitz on the brink of a full system shut down. He had only seen it happen twice, and he was pretty sure the smaller man wouldn't want the team to see him like that, least of all Simmons.
They walked in silence to Fitz's room where the scientist had set up a make shift kitchen. (the sandwich press in the regular kitchen made a humming noise that only Fitz could hear that caused him pain. Mack made sure to buy him one that didn't hum.)
As they walked Mack felt a finger hook through one of his belt loops, and Fitz's body heat moving closer. He made sure not to react.
He sounded so small.
“Any time, bud. Now lets grill some cheese.”
Simmons left again. There was a chance that she could help bring down one of the bigger H.Y.D.R.A strongholds, and this time she would have the full support of all that S.H.I.E.L.D. Currently was. She hesitated, but eventually agreed. How couldn't she.
She got to talk to Fitz properly before she left. Without prying eyes so that he could properly and privately explain everything that he had and was going through. They still needed work, but things were patched up enough that her leaving wouldn't hurt him as much as last time.
Before she goes she makes sure to find Mack and give him a hug.
“Thank you. For taking care of him.”
“He doesn’t need me to take care of him. He just needs me to lean on until he realises that.”
Things get worse in the world and then they get better. Fitz, for a time, gets worse and takes to hiding behind Mack when ever anyone is in the room.
(Formerly dead former director Fury shows up with a green haired girl with the ability to control metal. Or magnetism or something. No one explains anything to Mack. She has a calming nature on Fitz though, and Mack is glad hat he is making new friends.
They are gone as quickly (and as explosion filled) as they came though.
Ward gets out. Skye has a break down and then pulls herself back together.
Hartley comes back half robot and not at all the woman they remember. Hunter puts her down, but he goes down with her.
Her dad shows up.
Mockingbird shows up.
Black Widow and Hawkeye show up. They weren't happy with Coulson.
Coulson disappears and comes back with his smile. May relaxes a little.
Ward takes a bullet for Skye and cant be saved. He gets an unmarked grave and no one cries at his funeral. Some of them cry after and feel bad for missing a traitor.
Trip and Skye fall in to bed together and everyone pretends not to know.
Fitz gets hurt and no one breathes for a few weeks. Mack barely leaves his bed side. He wakes up and seems none the worse. Everyone breathes again.)
But after everything goes to hell a couple times things do get better. More people come to their side their bases are more well stocked and spread out. The underground movements are now on their side. Simmons has toppled several large H.Y.D.R.A bases and her cover remains in tack. A think tank called A.I.M has taken down a few, but no one is sure they are trust worthy yet. Coulson and Skye finally get answers.
And one day when the Bus is parked in a Canola field in out back Australia (Victoria, somewhere where they have a lot of cows. Swan something. Swan Hill); Mack is sitting on the Ramp of the plane, feet dangling amongst the yellow flowers and hands tinkering with an old invention, when Fitz comes and sits down next to him.
Their thighs brush against each other and Mack realises how comfortable he is with Fitz's presence. Its the norm now.
“I don’t see Simmons any more.”
Mack drops the invention in surprise and it disappears between the tall yellow flowers.
“The ...the uh, Simmons in my head? She hasn't been … here for a few weeks.”
Mack doesn’t know what to say.
So he says nothing. He puts his hand on the back of Fitz's neck, going for warm and comforting, and they sit and watch the yellow fields of flowers until the sun goes down.
Fitz knows that on some level he has always been attracted to Mack. Simmons (the construct) had commented on it multiple times, how handsome and kind he was. It hadn't been until recently that those subconscious thoughts had become concious.
And Fitz is aware that he is still in love with Simmons- that he probably will be for a long time. But love and attraction are fuelled by chemicals. And Fitz's chemicals want Mack.
It makes Fitz feel guilty for the longest time. He almost wants to break Simmons cover just so he can talk to her about it. Almost.
Fitz compiles a list of facts about Mack and the odds of him … liking Fitz back. Its short and not tipped in his favour but he needed to do it.
One; from what Trip has said Mack has had at least three girl friends, no male or other gendered partners have been mentioned. Two; Mack has never been anything but Platonic with him, tactile but nothing sexual has ever been attempted. Three; Wanting him could be a proximity coping mechanism, but Fitz doesn’t think so. He also didn't think the opposite was true. Four; Sometimes Mack looks at him with the warmest eyes.
He … He doesn’t really plan to kiss Mack. He in fact never really planned to tell the other man about his feelings, was going to try and be content with the friendship they have.
But then Mack was sitting on his bed, smiling at him and talking about something or other. Fitz likes his face when he talks, he always looks so passionate or layed back or serious- his face is amazing. Period. And his voice, and his personality and god- his arms.
Fitz gets so caught up in this train of thought that he leans forward and places a kiss on the other man's mouth (a very chaste kiss, not that Fitz has had many) before his mind has the chance catch up.
Mack goes completely still under him.
Panic surges through Fitz and an apology, a plea for forgiveness, is on the tip of his tongue and tears are forming in his eyes-
-but then Mack is curling a hand around his jaw, and pulling Fitz back in to kiss him so soft and warm and god its so perfect that Fitz is fifty present sure that that he is dreaming.
Mack pulls back grinning and places his forehead against Fitz's, hand running softly through his still too short curls.
“Just so you know, Fitz; we are not going any further than that until we have a proper talk and Dr Smith confirms that you are a fully able to consent. Okay.”
“It- you can call me Leopold.”