When he first awakens in the cabin, he genuinely does not know which way was up, or why he existed again. He remembers everything, and he wishes he didn't. He'll never admit it but, in those final explosive moments, he'd been afraid.
He's not afraid now. Confused sure, but fearful, no.
He feels perfect peace, in his cabin. With things that belong to Grant, not Grant-the-agent.
When he turns on the old black-and-white bunny-eared TV, all of his peace disappears like smoke through a keyhole. It takes a bit for everything to click. Time, somehow, has been reset. His place in this new one? He's unsure of.
By coincidence or perhaps fate, the camera pans across a certain weary face. It looks both tougher and yet more broken.
An odd ache rises from his chest. He's not sure who or where it comes but the urge to protect her rises up so keenly he's reminded of Kara.
Could be him wanting to protect what he'd once broken. He did, after all, truly like Jemma in all her iterations: sweet Jemma whose crush appealed to his vanity but not his plan, the determined optimist even in the face of the direst of situations, hardass Jemma who'd wanted him dead. He'd briefly contemplated initiating something that would lead to hate sex then, but there was Kara so he'd crushed his desire beneath his loyalty and tried to forget it.
It could be also Will Daniels and his memories of survivor Jemma making him want to save Jemma from herself. He really doesn't know which it is Still, it's there, too. Maybe it's a little of all of them.
"She doesn't need saving," he says, unsure if he's reminding himself and whatever spirit of Will Daniels that may remain, then, "but it's not like I've anything better to do. I could try being better she looks tired and talking to her would beat talking to myself."
He nods to himself. "Making up with my enemies it is, then."
He sets to it. She'll be easy enough to find: UCLA was written on the building behind her according to footage he'd just watched. It might be old footage, but it's a start.
The fact that she's so far from the playground worries him. Maybe it simply means there's a smaller team, or the need to spread out more… He can't be sure. He ignores the itching voice that suggests it might mean there is no team at all.
As suspected, finding her is easy for a man of his skillset. Finding her entirely alone was sad, but with this universal reset thing, it wasn't out of the realm of possibilities.
When she'd told him she'd prayed for someone to help her, his heart did the aching of its own accord thing again
And then he learns she's pregnant and he thinks what she says much more eloquently: the universe really likes fucking with Jemma Simmons.
But for him? Helping her gives him a mission, a direction, a purpose. He always needed a purpose. Maybe he has now,.
He ignores the face she makes at the implication.
Getting Jemma to give up her own mission was a lot damned harder than he thought it'd be. She was definitely made of sterner stuff than before. He likes it, even when it makes his job harder.
"Simmons, you can't keep going this way!" He says when they reach their tented quarters. She'd balked at keeping the hotel room long term,
"Who says?" She glowers at him.
"Reality, your body, me. Take your pick." he tosses up his hands in pure frustration.
"So we just stop helping people?" She side eyes waiting for the old Grant to appear.
"We can help people without you running yourself into the ground in that red cross tent. ."
"And how do you suggest we do that?" she snarls, rolling her eyes at him pregnancy makes Jemma edgy and snippy, though he's too smart to ever say it.
"We gotta get out of L.A. before the government starts pulling back aide resources. It's going to devolve into even worse chaos than before: looting, food shortages, fractured need to move further into suburbia; some place small, where we can blend in and find our own niches."
"But nothing, Fitz isn't coming back, sweetheart, no matter where you chose to wait for him."
"You think I don't know that?" she shrieks at him.
"I think you don't want to know that." He sighs, scrubbing a hand down his face. "Smaller towns have smaller resources, but when used correctly, you can survive much longer on the goodness of community."
"What do you plan to do?"
"Use my Laguna beach alias to become a cop, work my way up into power and safety, and bring you and baby Fitz with me."
"And I'm to do what? Hide in the house while the world burns around me?"
"Pose as my wife, a paramedic. I'll just switch out yours and Kara's IDs."
"That was meant to be your forever with Agent Palamas?" She says it softly like some deep part of her can relate to how cutting it is to dream for something that fades before it ever becomes real.
She's sad for him it must show for a second. Because he flinches and gathers in himself in again ready to battle the next thing. She can relate to that too. Maybe, just maybe they have enough wounds in common to survive together.
"It was a hope," he says shortly, then softens his tone. "Now it looks like my forever with you, however begrudging it may be."
"Why on earth would you do that?" She rattles off in disbelief.
He shrugs, plopping down on a ratty cot. "There's not a lot of the world left and I at least like you."
"You tried to kill me."
"That doesn't mean I don't like you, Simmons. It wasn't personal.. I'm honestly trying here."
"I never pictured you as a beach bum."
"And I never pictured you trusting me again, but you're starting to. And it's best for the baby. I think you know that, beneath it all. Let me take care of you. Both of you."
The silence stretches out between them, but she's warming to the idea. He can tell.
"You might like Laguna Beach," he says. "Lots of things to do. You could surf... Do you surf?"
"I'm British." The duh obvious in her tone.
"I could teach you"
"You should probably teach me to lie well enough to pose as your wife first."
"Fair point," he says, refraining from smiling. Despite herself, she's in. They have a plan.
AN: Thank you so much for reading the chapter. I know it's a bit short the muse and my health is battling me. If you enjoyed it, please do leave a comment.
Thanks so much to my dear Myranda I love you for always making it better than the wreckage I initially send you. I own nothing. I hope you enjoyed it.