“Remind me again why we thought bringing the dynamic duo along would be a good idea?”
“C’mon girl, they’re not that bad.”
Skye gives Trip a look that screams just how dumb she finds that statement before blatantly shifting her focus to where Fitz is about to be banned from yet another booth at the carnival. Sure enough, not one minute later the mustachioed carny is snatching the pellet gun from her friend’s hands and jabbing a finger angrily in the direction opposite his booth.
She’d tried to tell him at the dart booth, the ring toss booth, and the water gun booth that those who run carnival games don’t particularly like having know-it-all Scots pointing out everything wrong with their games, but Fitz being Fitz means he didn’t listen.
Skye can see her friend’s petulant frown from where she’s standing and cringes at the thought of the inevitable round of complaints that will no doubt leave Fitz’s mouth when he attempts to explain that he was only trying to help. The idiot actually believes it too, meaning that Skye’s pretty sure that by the end of the night they’ll find themselves banned from the entire damn carnival rather than just the booths.
She groans in frustration at the fact that Fitz’s inability to keep his mouth shut is once again ruining her plan to get him and Jemma together.
Poor Jemma who looks as though she needs roughly a dozen Advil, nodding along to Fitz’s rambling with a glazed look that tells Skye that the other woman is hearing roughly 0% of whatever her best friend is saying.
“…not my fault that the scope was off! I just tweaked it a bit to make it accurate! It’s not like there was a sign that said, ‘no adjusting the guns.’”
“There was a sign Fitz. Written in big red letters. Posted where quite literally everyone, except you apparently, could see.”
Jemma sounds equal parts exasperated and exhausted and Skye immediately hands her some funnel cake when she’s in reaching distance. The other woman, who’d given her gluten free biscuits once for Christmas, doesn’t hesitate to take the fried treat and bite into it with a look of gratitude. This clues Skye in pretty quickly that Jemma’s nearing her breaking point, so she snatches her friend’s hand and tugs her towards the carousel for, “girl time,” while giving Trip a look that she hopes he’ll understand means, “Help Fitz get his shit together.”
The conspiratorial wink he gives her in return causes the pleasant flutter that Trip always manages to erupt in Skye’s chest and a mischievous smile to break out across her face.
The girls are barely ten feet away before Fitz is turning to Trip with a panicked expression that causes the other man to blink in surprise.
“Trip you have to help me!”
There’s a desperation in Fitz’s voice that Trip finds rather alarming, especially when combined with the fact that the other man suddenly looks as though he’s about to keel over on the spot. His normal pasty complexion seems to have somehow grown three shades lighter and the borderline terrified look on his face isn’t doing him any favors.
Trip moves forward on instinct, clapping Fitz on the shoulder knowing full well that his friend often needs to physically be jarred from the running thoughts in his head. “Whoa man! What’s wrong?”
Fitz groans, fisting his hands in his hair as he begins to wildly pace around. “The first thing Jemma said when we got here was that her favorite memory as a child was when her grandfather won her a stuffed dolphin at her local fair.”
Trip blinks at this, confused by the direction this conversation has gone, and nods his head placatingly at the smaller man. “Okaaaay…”
“And well… they have dolphins here as well so I thought…”
Everything clicks into place for Trip like all of the cliché moments of dawning realization that are so often depicted in films and television. He reflects back on their day and almost smacks himself for not picking up on the signs sooner.
“You’ve been trying to win Simmons a stuffed dolphin.”
The pitiful look that Fitz gives him in response makes Trips want to give the guy a hug, but he knows that Fitz would much prefer a helpful bit of advice. He furrows his brows slightly and looks at his friend with an expression that he uses on his first graders all the time: a healthy mix of condescending doubt and genuine helpfulness.
“Fitz, you can’t win anything if you keep pissing off the carnies.”
This causes the pacing to stop as Fitz throws his hands in the air and looks as though he’s on the verge of tears. “I know. Trip I know that. But Jemma was standing so close to me at the ring toss and she was eating that ice cream by the dart throwing thing and… She just… You know… She makes me…”
He putters off and Trip has to hold back his laughter at the absolutely puppy-like expression on Fitz’s face. He waits a few courteous seconds for Fitz to finish his statement but, upon realizing that his friend is likely too embarrassed to continue, Trip nudges him slightly and tentatively says, “Nervous?”
Fitz drops his head at this in a pitiful nod and sighs in shame before looking back up and saying, “So nervous… and flustered, and sweaty, and I panic. I bloody panic Trip. And when I panic I ramble and start saying stuff that makes carnies angry and…”
Trip snaps his fingers in front of his friend’s face to get him to quit rambling about his tendency to ramble and gives him a stern look. “Calm down man.”
“I just… I just wanted to win something for Jemma so… I dunno. It’s dumb.”
Trip’s mind begins to move rapidly and he grins in excitement as he suddenly realizes that this is the perfect opportunity to put Skye’s plan back in action. He glances at his watch before tugging the folded carnival map from his back pocket, opening it and mentally crossing off all of the places that Fitz is no longer welcome at.
“Alright Fitz. The way I see it, we’ve got about seven more minutes until our better halves…” He pauses at the look Fitz shoots him and rolls his eyes before correcting himself. “Okay my better half and your better half in a currently strictly platonic but hopefully soon to be non-platonic way.”
Fitz seems to realize what Trip is getting at and a bit of excitement slowly beings to counterbalance the nervous trepidation on his face. Trip grins at the sight and grins even more at the thought of how amped Skye will be when he tells her that he is going above and beyond where Fitz’s love life is concerned. So long as she manages to do whatever it is that’s needed on the Jemma front (not much considering how many wistful looks Trip has seen his friend shooting in Fitz’s direction) Operation FitzSimmons take 41 might actually be a success.
“Okay Fitz. We can do this. Seven minutes ‘til they’re back and, lucky for us, there’s still one game left that you haven’t gotten banned from.”
Trip’s smile falters when he reads what said game is, wincing slightly at the fact that, perhaps they’re not so lucky after all. Fitz seems to pick up on his shift in mood because he looks up at him nervously and begins to rub at his neck as he asks, “Which one?”
It’s silent for a few long seconds before Trip gives his friend a hopefully encouraging but likely discouraging look and says, “...Mighty Thor’s Hammer Swing.”
“Oh bloody hell.”
“Okay spill, what the hell is going on?”
Skye loops her arm through Jemma’s, disregarding the carousel in favor of pulling her friend towards a shaded bench and giving her a look that never fails to make the other woman crack. Sure enough, when they collapse onto the small wooden bench, Jemma lets out a sigh and shifts towards Skye with a look of anguish.
“I have no clue! We’ve… Fitz and I, I mean… have been… off lately. Which is odd because before that we were… I thought we might… that there might be a chance of… I don’t know how to describe it but it feels like he’s pulling away. He’s more snappy than usual and I think… I think he’s upset with me.”
Skye can’t help it when she bursts out laughing at Jemma’s teary explanation. On the one hand, it probably makes her seem like a wholly unsupportive friend, but on the other hand this is the first time in her life that Skye has witnessed Jemma be an absolute idiot and she feels the need to relish in the moment.
Of course Jemma isn’t amused or appreciative of the reaction. She shoots Skye a glare, hastily wipes below her eyes in an attempt to catch any escaped tears, and moves to get up and away from the bench.
Skye acts fast, grabbing Jemma’s arm and tugging her back as she says, “Wait, wait, wait. I’m sorry. I wasn’t laughing at you.”
Jemma shoots her a glare that, surprisingly, is actually quite intimidating. Skye almost cowers at the beam of irritation being directed towards her before remembering that she is Skye, duh, and in no world should she be frightened by Jemma Simmons.
“Honest! I wasn’t laughing at you. I was laughing at what you said.” Skye can tell immediately that her attempt to clarify herself doesn’t actually work with Jemma and hastily moves to explain further. “I just mean that, for a genius you can be a bit of an idiot sometimes… and this is one of those times.”
Jemma looks as though she’s about to argue so Skye powers through while she can. “Leopold ‘Heart Eyes for Simmons’ Fitz is not pulling away and is definitely not upset with you. I can say with one-hundred-percent confidence that you really don’t have anything to worry about where Fitz is concerned.”
“But… how can you be so confident? How could you know that?”
Umm, because I have eyes.
“Because he would have told me if he was upset with you… right after he told you that he was upset with you.”
Skye watches as Jemma actually pauses at this, biting her lip in contemplation as her mind works over the very good point that she’s just made. She’s silent for another few minutes before turning back to Skye and saying, “He is usually quite blunt when I’m bothering him… and I suppose he hasn’t been snappy so much as…”
Jemma’s eyes light up at Skye’s word choice, snapping her fingers and pointing wildly at her in agreement. “Yes! Edgy! That’s exactly it. But what could he possibly be edgy about around me?”
Probably the fact that he’s completely in love with you and thinks said love is unrequited.
“I think maybe that’s something that you should just ask him Jem. Only he can actually tell you but… I think the answer might come as a surprise.”
Jemma’s look of contemplation shifts to one of confusion at the latter half of Skye’s statement and she seems to be on the cusp of questioning her about what she means. Not wanting to have to lie to her friend, or betrayher other friend by revealing his not-so-secret but secret-to-Jemma infatuation, Skye hastily stands up and holds out her hand for Jemma to take.
“C’mon. I want to get some cotton candy when Trip and Fitz aren’t around to eat any of it.”
Jemma still has a questioning look on her face and Skye holds her breath as she waits to see what the other woman will do. She sighs in relief when Jemma grabs her hand, thankfully foregoing bombarding Skye with questions, and says, “You really shouldn’t eat that stuff. It’s incredibly unhealthy you know.”
Aaaaand she’s back.
When they finally return to where they’d left Trip and Fitz, Skye’s eyes immediately narrow at the sight of the two men. She chances a glance at Jemma to see that the other woman looks just as confused by the sight, and turns to peer back at her boyfriend and hopefully Jemma’s future boyfriend (an odd step back since they’re basically already married) with a questioning look.
“Why does Fitz look like he just ran a marathon?”
The eyes of the man in question immediately widen and he quickly looks between Trip and Skye in slight alarm. “Wh… no I don’t!”
Skye shoots him an incredulous look before turning back to Jemma to confirm that she’s not going insane. The dubious look on her friend’s face is all Skye needs to look back at Fitz with a carefully raised eyebrow, arms crossed in front of her chest
“You’re sweating. Like… a lot. You’re sweating a lot Fitz.”
“I’m not… I just… It’s hot. Sun’s been beating down on me all day and I’m probably dehydrated and…”
Trip gives Fitz a flick on the shoulder, which promptly shuts the other man up. They share a look that instantly makes Skye suspicious until Trip catches her eye and gives her a thumbs up that immediately sparks her interest. She quirks an eyebrow at her boyfriend and gets a mouthed, “OFS is a go,” in response.
She wants to jump up and grill him on just what that means but instead watches as Trip’s gaze shifts and an enormous grin crosses his face. Skye turns to see what has her boyfriend beaming and feels the beginnings of her own smile as she witnesses Fitz slowly raising his hand and rub a small bit of incredibly unhealthy cotton candy (“It’s called fairy floss Skye.”) from the corner of Jemma’s mouth.
Both his and Jemma’s eyes widen immediately at the contact and Fitz pulls his hand away as though he’s been burned, shoving it into his pocket as though it’s the only thing that will keep him from reaching out again.
Jemma’s soft words cause Fitz to raise his head again and catch her eye and Skye becomes grateful that there’s no gas around because the sparks that are flying between her two friends would surely cause an explosion if there were. She feels Trip come up beside her and they watch the silent staring contest between Fitz and Jemma.
Once Skye begins to feel like a bit of a peeping Tom, invading a personal moment that isn’t really meant for her eyes, she coughs in an attempt to break her friends from their reverie and get their attention. When the noise doesn’t so much as cause them to blink, Skye waves her hand between them and says, “Earth to FitzSimmons.”
This immediately snaps them out of their daze and they jump away from each other with mirrored blushes. They give her a questioning look and Skye marvels at how in-sync they can be and not know that they’re both fully in love with each other.
“Now that it’s dark, how about hitting the Ferris wheel?”
She looks around at her friends and grins when they all nod at her suggestion, winking at Trip and leading the way to the final part of her plan.
The Ferris wheel isn’t one of the larger ones, meaning that the group of four is forced to pair up and pile into separate carriages.
Naturally Skye and Trip take one while Fitz and Simmons take another.
They sit in an awkward silence as the wheel begins its rotation and Jemma shifts uncomfortably, blushing as her constant moving causes her to brush against Fitz on more than one occasion in an incredibly short time.
“Do you not have enough room?”
The question is the first thing that either of them have said since sitting in the small carriage and Jemma startles slightly at the underlying sincerity in Fitz’s tone.
“Oh! I’m fi…”
She doesn’t even finish her statement before Fitz is shifting, extracting the arm closest to her and looping it around the back of the seat to give her more room. Jemma is grateful for the darkness because the blush that crosses her face is likely redder than the candy apple Fitz had eaten earlier. She freezes a bit and Fitz must notice because he moves to pull his arm away. Jemma panics slightly, not wanting to lose the immediate comfort that Fitz’s gesture had given her, and shifts to close the space that his recently-vacated arm has opened up.
She doesn’t snuggle with him per say. She merely takes advantage of his proximity and moves to his side in the hopes that the action will keep his arm from straying away from where it’s almost wrapped around her shoulders.
But her forwardness means that now he’s the one who stiffens and Jemma bites her lip, trying to figure out what the hell is making this so awkward. They’ve spent countless nights pressed closer than this watching old Who reruns, but for some reason sitting above the carnival below, trapped between bright stars and even brighter fair grounds, is making their normal behavior seem more… immense.
They remain silent the entire ride up and it’s only when the ride comes to a halt, their car swaying at the peak of the wheel, that Jemma decides to bring up the thing that has been nagging her for awhile. “What’s wrong?”
Fitz turns to her in surprise, eyes widening and brows raising to his hairline. “What?”
Jemma takes a breath, trying to figure out if she really wants to learn what has had Fitz in such a state lately, before remembering Skye’s mysterious allusion to what his answer could be. She turns her head to meet his gaze and finds herself momentarily stunned by the way the carnival below is reflected in the cerulean eyes of her best friend. She’s even more stunned by the instant warmth that such a sight causes. She takes a moment to simply look at him before remembering the point of this conversation and continuing with it.
“With you? What’s wrong with you. You haven’t stopped talking all day and now you're completely silent. Is… is something the matter? Are you not having a good time?”
Fitz’s eyes widen once again and he begins to vehemently shake his head in the negative. “Wh… no! I mean yes, I’m having a great time! I’m with you aren’t I? I always have a good time with you.”
The immediate response coupled with the utter sincerity in Fitz’s words causes something to flutter in Jemma’s chest and she bites her lip to try and control the grin that wants to break out across her face. She sighs in relief as she realizes that Fitz actually is enjoying himself and doesn’t stop to question why she was so worried about such a thing in the first place.
Instead, she gives him a small smile before resting her head on his shoulder, much like she does during their marathons, and murmuring, “Oh. Okay… that’s…. That’s good. I just… You’ve been a bit off today and I thought… I thought I might have done something to upset you.”
She can feel Fitz shaking his head and cants her head to better hear him when he begins to rapidly mutter. “No that’s… I’ve just been a bit… I wanted… You make me… here.”
He thrusts something at her and Jemma feels something catch in her throat at the sight of the small stuffed dolphin that’s in Fitz’s outstretched hand. She moves her head from his shoulder, tentatively reaching out for the little animal and doing her very best not to cry at the onslaught of emotions that seem to overwhelm her.
Her mouth is open in astonishment when she turns to face Fitz and she feels her heart begin to double in speed at the sight of him rubbing his neck in his nervous tell and carefully avoiding her gaze.
“I know it’s not much… but the only game I hadn’t managed to be banned from was that one with the bloody sledgehammer and… well I couldn’t quite hit the bell.”
She feels her heart swell at his admission and begins to slowly realize why Fitz had been so insistent on making his way through every game in the entire carnival.
Her voice is so quiet that Jemma’s not all that surprised when Fitz bowls over her, his nervous chatter drowning her out as he begins to knead his neck even more.
“To be honest I think they only gave me this little guy because they felt a bit bad for me. Took ten swings and the chap running the game finally just said that I could have this. Bloody embarrassing to be honest, m’pretty sure I heard a ding when the twelve year old girl behind me took her go…”
“I wanted to get you the big dolphin at all the other games, I just got nervous and when I’m nervous I ramble and today I guess all I could ramble about was everything that’s rigged here…”
His head snaps up at her raised voice and it only takes one second of looking at him for Jemma to throw away her years of doubt and tentativeness and just lean forward to press her lips against his.
He doesn’t react for a few moments and Jemma experiences a fleeting moment of panic until his hands move to cradle her head and his lips mold against hers in a way that she’s admittedly been dreaming about for quite some time.
“Dammit. I can’t see anything from this angle! Man, paying the carny to stop the ride when their car was at the top was a terrible idea.”
Trip hums in response, knowing full well that the best thing to do is let Skye vocalize her thoughts and neither do nor say anything that might disagree with them.
The ride begins to move again and Skye eagerly leans forward, Trip having to pull her back when she looks as though she might topple over, in an attempt to get a better look at FitzSimmons. She has to wait an agonizing nine seconds before the angle between their carriages gives her a good view, but when she sees them she squeals in delight and slaps her boyfriend in enthusiasm.
“Aww… Trip look! Oh they’re kissing, that’s so cute. I told you paying the carny to stop the wheel with them at the top would be a good idea.”
By the time the group ambles off of the ride, all four are wearing beaming smiles that far outshine the bright lights of the carnival. The second Skye steps off her carriage, she squeals in delight and claps her hands in excitement at the sight of Jemma tucked under Fitz’s arm, her own arms wrapped possessively around his waist.
“It’s about damn time.”
Both Fitz and Jemma smile bashfully at Skye’s comment before staring at each other with moony expressions that would make Skye gag if she weren’t so happy. She turns to Trip with a grin and doesn’t hesitate to smack his hand when he holds it out for a high-five.
The group begins to meander through the fair grounds in a comfortable silence until Fitz breaks it with a hum followed by, “You know… though structurally sound… this Ferris wheel could do with a few upgrades. Maybe I’ll just quickly chat with the operato…”
A chorus of three exasperated voices cuts him off with a unanimous, “No!” before he can finish the statement.