Characters: Elizabeth, John, Rodney and Carson
Summary: Return AU. What if they never made it back to Atlantis? What’s left of them now?
Warnings: NC-17, sexual situations. Angst. AMTDI warning, sorta.
Spoilers: Return Part 1
Beta'd: irony_rocks, who did so much beta’ing and editing, she practically co-authored this thing. *bows down*
Author's Note: I’ve been writing this fic for nearly a month now. It’s my first attempt at Sheppard/Weir, and wow, was this plotbunny intimidating to write. I hope you guys like what I did with it.
There was some fancy new Italian eatery in town that seemed to be drawing in patrons by the masses. With the engine still running, Elizabeth rested quietly in the dimly lit parking lot and braced herself with a drawn-out breath. There was a street lamp directly above her parked sedan, shining down on her rooftop and bathing Elizabeth through the moon-roof. The effect made it feel like there was a spotlight on her; she mused that was exactly what she feared.
Elizabeth paused, briefly debating for a beat about whether it would be too late – too wrong – to call up Carson and cancel the evening’s dinner plans. Over the last few months, a ritual had sprung up: every time all four of them were in town together, they’d have dinner. Though Carson wouldn’t take her “rain-check” with a smile, it wasn’t as if the man was lacking company. John and Rodney were there with him, and she could meet up with him next time he was in town. It wouldn’t be…
No, she decided. She wasn’t going to do that. She simply couldn’t. Elizabeth had managed the previous dinners just fine; she could deal with this one, too. Nothing was different this time – okay, so that was a blatant lie, but one she would happily swallow if it’d help her get through tonight.
With another steadying breath, she fixed her hair in the rearview mirror, brushed off some imaginary lint from her green sweater and padded a hand along some fine wrinkles in her white, free-flowing skirt. Maybe the skirt had been too much? She did have pants in the trunk of her car, so it wouldn't be a hastle to—
She forced herself to stop before her nerves got the better of her.
Calmly as she could manage, ignoring any gnawing sense of concern or doubt, she climbed down from the sedan. It had been weeks-to-months since she’d seen any of the guys – and the last time had been at one of these restaurants as well. That was what their dynamics had been reduced to since they were returned to Earth after the Ancients had kicked them out. Five months, three weeks and 4 days, to be precise, since she’d last stepped foot on Atlantis. She still remembered the moment with crystal clarity: the brief sweep of her eyes across the Gate Room, her gaze darting up the stairs, then beyond that to her office.
Elizabeth wondered if there was ever such a thing of being home-sicked to death.
Despite her delay, when the elevator doors pinged open, Elizabeth realized she wasn’t the last one to arrive. Carson and Rodney were already seated as she was escorted over by the hostess, but John was nowhere in sight. She blew out a silent exhale as she exchanged greetings and hugs, relieved with the glaring absence because it afforded her the opportunity to get her bearings straight.
Of all of them, John was the one she feared seeing the most. Everybody had tried contacting her lately – the dodged calls, the neglected text-messages, the knocks on the doors that went unanswered; of the three men, John had learned the quickest about the futility of these attempts. He knew her the best, after all. Except while she could easily handle the others… John, Elizabeth knew, would likely deserve something better than the average excuse this time.
The last time she’d ditched him had been the morning after they’d first slept together; they hadn’t spoken since.
“I think we should have the ’77 Merlot?” Carson mused to the waitress. “A good selection, aye?”
“Would you like that by the glass or bottle?”
“Bottle,” Elizabeth insisted abruptly.
The others exchanged a look.
John arrived fashionably late, but not late enough for Elizabeth to be pleasantly plastered. Though the urge to get drunk was tempting – so very tempting – Elizabeth forced herself to demonstrate a modicum of that good-old-fashioned professionalism. She was still on her second sip by the time she felt that telltale prickle of being watched. Instinctively tossing a glance over her shoulder, she latched onto John, dressed in civilian clothes and carrying a duffle bag over his shoulder; the image jarring against the backdrop of the elegant restaurant.
He dropped the bag onto the floor as everybody rose to exchange greetings again, this time with less hugging, but as Elizabeth caught John’s eye over Rodney’s shoulder, there was a split-second where she could have sworn he winked at her.
She reached for her glass of wine again.
“So, Elizabeth,” John began amenably enough, not that it really fooled her. “Long time, no see.”
She took a second to regroup, then glanced to his duffle bag. “You bringing luggage to restaurants now?”
He shrugged as he snagged the seat next to her. “I just got in from… out-of-town. I took a cab here, and didn’t have anywhere to stash my stuff.”
Out-of-town. Polite euphemism for offworld missions. Elizabeth’s mind drifted over a dozen muted questions: where did he go? What did he see? Who did he meet? Tampering down on the small upsurge of loss, she told herself it wasn’t her place to ask anymore. He worked at the SGC, not Atlantis. Not for her.
Though the conversation began with more pleasant and superficial topics, they were all human. It drifted back to work almost immediately; Elizabeth explained that she’d just finished her memoirs, ignoring the dubious looks being tossed her way. Yes, she knew no one would ever likely read it. It didn’t matter. That was where her head was at, and she was relieved to have finally, finally finished the project. Though it’d turned out far more intimate in tones than she’d originally intended.
Truthfully, Elizabeth wanted this manuscript to be the final nail in her grief; to be able to let go of Atlantis now. She knew it was unhealthy to cling to the past so fiercely; she would be better if she could just let go. Unfortunately, knowing that and doing that were two very different things. Elizabeth hadn’t managed the latter to any success, not even after finishing the memoirs. She also kept quiet about the fact that the mere notion of her sharing those memoirs – with anybody – almost caused her regular panic attacks.
God, the irony was thick enough to choke.
Thankfully the conversation quickly moved onto Rodney, who half-hinted about doing some revolutionary engineering project; though she knew him well enough to suspect that his excitement was more for show than anything. Like the last time they’d met, he seemed almost bored boasting about his work, a clear indication to Elizabeth that she wasn’t the only one having difficulty readjusting to new positions after all these months.
Carson explained about his new genetics research project in Scotland, the details of which were probably the only non-classified material they could discuss at any length at the table. He tried explaining but the medical jargon went above the heads of all three other members present, and quickly shifted focus to John. For his part, John seemed uncomfortable when the spotlight was on him, and Elizabeth felt a spike of empathy.
Two and a half years in an alien galaxy, bonding and fighting alongside each other, arguing with each other, giving-and-taking, breaking rules, breaking laws of physics, revolutionizing a dozen different aspects of science and anthropology, exploring more wondrous things than anyone could ever imagine… all of that together, side-by-side, and now here they were: reduced to a process that was a little too reminiscent of the first days of school where all the kids went though the obligatory rounds of what did you do over your summer vacation?
John shrugged. “I just got back from a place where, in order to get good with the natives, I had to eat something that looked like a spider and dance around in a circle chanting about my manhood. Then Wallace broke his ankle. Again.”
Everybody at the table winced.
Rodney looked curious. “Did it taste good?”
John shifted in his seat. “I’m more concerned about the aftereffects. I’m starting to feel a little weird.”
He paused, eyes drifting to Elizabeth. “Not really, no.”
It wasn’t a particularly piercing look, but suddenly she felt pinned, hyperaware, the knowledge of that one night brought to the forefront for no other reason than he was looking at her; an expression in his eyes that – if she wasn’t mistaken – belied the fact that he knew exactly what she looked like, naked. Elizabeth prayed her cheeks weren’t reddening, taking a quick sip from her glass to cover for it. By the fleeting, slightly smug smile that ghosted across John’s lips, she quickly realized he knew exactly what she was thinking of; he was thinking of it, too.
More than that, he was enjoying making her squirm.
She supposed she had it coming, but by the time the main entrée arrived Elizabeth was surreptitiously glancing at her wristwatch and wondering how long it could be before she could call it a night. It wasn’t that she wasn’t enjoying the company – she was. Beyond the slight… tension between her and John that she doubted the others even noticed, it was a casual dinner with some old friends – except the old friends were more than just old friends to her; like always, they were issues at the table that no one could discuss because they were all classified; there were a dozen other things being left unsaid and unacknowledged, and Elizabeth didn’t love the idea of being maneuvered into spending any private time with John where she’d be forced into answering unpleasant questions.
The quicker she got out of there, the more likely she’d leave with her dignity still intact. Otherwise she feared the only other option was to go in the opposite direction and get drunk – sheer blindingly drunk.
Elizabeth resisted reaching for her glass again, but just barely.
Twenty minutes later, she retreated to the bathroom to splash some water on her face. Except when she got in front of the jewel-rimmed mirror, she realized she actually couldn’t do that as she had on makeup and the damn task of reapplying it was more trouble than it was worth. She removed a few items from her purse, fishing out her lipstick and breath mints, using them more as an excuse to dally in the bathroom than anything else. She needed a few minutes to regroup, and hopefully figure out what the hell she was going to say to John if-and-when he ever cornered her to demand answers.
Sorry, John, I just don’t like being reminded of what I lost. And you remind me of Atlantis every damn time I see you.
She winced at the patheticness of her thoughts. It didn’t make sense. She knew that. It wasn’t logical or sensible, but entirely emotional. Elizabeth was acting emotional, the luxury of which was something she hadn’t been afforded since first stepping onto Atlantis two and half years ago. Since then, it was soldiering on, keeping a level head, emotions clear because command decisions needed to be made – and yes, sometimes that failed, but most of the time Elizabeth bit the bullet, set aside her feelings, and did what a person in her position needed to do.
Now, it felt like all those pent up emotions were spilling loose like a broken dam. The fact that a few weeks back she’d slept with John was a clear indication of that. In Atlantis she’d allowed herself only the comfort of silently acknowledging the attraction towards him, even that it was reciprocated. But the barrier of a far weightier responsibility prevented anything beyond flirtation and friendship.
Without that barrier in place, it had taken less than a few months for them to sleep with each other. Then Elizabeth had skipped out the next day and avoided John like the plague. She fully acknowledged that she hadn’t reacted to the situation well, but it was a trial making that transition. It was an evolution between them: John had been her trusted second-in-command, then her friend, then her best friend. Somewhere over the years he’d transformed into a man that knew her scarily well, and how were you supposed to begin any type of physical relationship with that type of foundation already set in place?
Weren’t romances supposed to begin because you were discovering a new person? Discovering an attraction that was novel and refreshing and not bogged down by enough emotional baggage to sink a small submarine. Elizabeth and John had been dancing around each other for years. They were extraordinarily familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses – too much so. And as far as the emotional baggage between the two of them? Even ignoring that neither of them were adjusting to Earth well, her last relationship with Simon had ended horribly, and John’s previous relationship included a series of one-night stands with alien princesses and some mysterious ex-wife that he never talked about. They both weren’t at their best in their personal lives. Perhaps that was why they were so good at their jobs?
Atlantis wasn’t a job, though. It was home.
And John was part of her home, which brought her right around to her original line of thinking: every time she saw him, Elizabeth was starkly reminded of everything she’d lost. A romantic relationship between them couldn’t withstand so many pitfalls so early in the game. Yes, Elizabeth decided solemnly with a deep breath, if they started down that road, it could only descend disastrously. There were too many complicated issues.
She just hoped he’d see it her way.
She dropped the items back into her small purse and left the bathroom. She was halfway down the hallway, headed back towards their small table, when a hand shot out and snagged her around the wrist.
“We need to talk,” John announced.
Startled, she sputtered protests while John propelled her back down the hallway, past the bathrooms, towards the rear exit. He forced her out and into the dark alley behind the restaurant, and the large metal door slammed shut behind them. Being manhandled like this worked up her righteous indignation, and she finally managed to rip her arm free.
“John, what the hell do you think you’re—”
The next thing she knew, she was back-peddled against the wall and John’s mouth was moving roughly over hers. Shock swallowed her ability to think, all thought functions ceased at the very first contact, and then his tongue was in her mouth, right hand already clawing under her shirt. He fisted the other hand around her curls, holding her still while he devoured her mouth without even giving her a second to catch her breath. The entire thing seemed to progress at an alarming speed, but when she felt a very prominent hard-on pressed against her inner thigh she realized he’d clearly been amped up for a while.
Her mind stalled, body’s reactions kicked into high gear, and it wasn’t until several moments later that she managed to remember their location. A public alley. She ripped her mouth free, ignoring his groan of annoyance, and then tossed a frantic, searching gaze up and down the pathway. No one was there, the restaurant’s exit seemed miles away – though it was only feet – and John was still spurning this onwards. He moved to nuzzle her neck, sending dark shivers up her body and her hands fisted around his shirt unconsciously.
“I thought you wanted to talk,” she managed, hating the breathless quality of her voice.
The dark look he gave her in response choked back any other words she could possibly manage. This up close she realized something else she hadn’t before – his eyes were glossed over, hazy and unfocused. Maybe it was the dim light, but the dilation of his pupils was all wrong and she realized he’d looked… oh, god, the spider. Like a bolt of lightning, she quickly surmised that he was intoxicated with an alien substance and the epiphany sent a bolt of alarm up her spine.
She cupped his face to scrutinize his eyes better and John took the maneuver to mean something else. He leaned in to kiss her, mouth hungry and insistent, and the entire thing had her mind flashing back to their one night together, to those moments where she’d been so lost in the thick of it that she couldn’t even remember her own name.
She pulled back, and John did that noise again – that one of frustration – and she realized then that he’d barely made a sound during dinner, barely spoke beyond the things he was asked. He hadn’t done much but silently watch her all night long; she’d thought that’d been her imagination but now she suspected that his scrutiny really had been that intense.
“What was in that spider?” she asked John. “John, what was the ritual?”
He only grunted in response, moving down to her collarbone to pay it special attention. Her eyes slid shut helplessly when he suckled, hard enough to probably leave a mark on her skin. Heat pooled between her thighs, but the questions persisted. If he was infected with something, this needed to be looked at immediately. It was obviously an aphrodisiac, but what if it was more—
His hands were already under the material of her skirt. Bunching it up around her waist, she felt him tug down her underwear. The sound she made wasn’t a moan – more of a whimper, really. She clutched at him desperately, arching into his touch without thought. When he closed in to kiss her again, she didn’t resist, just responded blindly – instinctively. Her protests and arguments had flown out the window, and she wondered if the drugged effect was transferrable because she was getting worked up just as quickly as John.
His fingers found their target with intimate familiarity, rubbing her clit before he pushed in and fucked her with his fingers. John swallowed her cry, taking over her mouth with his own. Elizabeth was stuck, caught between two warring sensations – John’s mouth and his fingers. Both moving over her body with a familiarity of a lover who had spent years with her, not just one night.
“God, John,” she breathed brokenly. “Don’t stop… oh, god. Don’t…”
John rubbed against her urgently, persistently, and then she came, heat flooding her body with a spiking high of euphoria. The next few seconds passed in a daze as she came down, unthinking and unmindful of her surroundings. A damn elephant parade could have walked by the alley and she wouldn’t have noticed. John moved her a bit, clutching her body as she rode out the after-tremors. By the time Elizabeth had gotten her breath back, he had pulled back his fingers and was licking them clean one digit at a time.
He flashed a proud smirk, easy-going except for his eyes. “We should get back, otherwise the others will notice.”
Despite that she could still feel his hard-on pressed against her inner thigh, he kissed her just once, hard and demanding, and then pulled back. Her skirt flooded down again. Elizabeth felt cold, abruptly thrown by the lack of his weight and heat pressing into her. He turned and walked away without a word of explanation or acknowledgment. Left dazed and confused, Elizabeth watched him stride away and then her gaze dropped down to the hint of black material peeking out of his pocket before he stuffed it in fully.
Shit. Elizabeth glanced down and realized he’d taken her panties.
She needed another few minutes to regroup, returning to the bathroom again. Her hair was in complete disarray, meshed up in the back. She ran her fingers through the tangled curls lightly, trying to straighten it out so it didn’t look like she’d just been… well, fucked against a wall. Her cheeks looked flushed and red, and she applied a liberal dose of make-up to lessen the appearance.
She could manage this; she’d get John back to the SGC and get him checked out by the medical examiner there. Make sure there wasn’t anything else screwed up in John’s system besides his hormones.
But as soon as she spotted their table, eyeing the three boys sitting in a circle, John facing her, she stopped short. The look he gave her was subtle, but pure predatory. Her knees suddenly threatened to go weak, leaving Elizabeth with the distinct feeling that she couldn’t even walk anymore. Paralyzed by warring emotions, some of which she wasn’t particularly proud of, Elizabeth took a full two seconds to recover.
John was under the influence of something; what the hell was her excuse?
As smoothly as she could manage, she slipped back into her seat, snagging the napkin to fold over her lap. “Hey, sorry I took so long. I… had to make a phone call.”
The napkin slipped off her lap when she self-consciously crossed her legs, and before she could recover it, John was bending down to pick up the white cloth. He had her panties in his pocket, and now he was picking up other fallen items for her. How chivalrous.
“You all right, Elizabeth?” Carson asked. “You seem a little—”
John rose, handing her the napkin. “Here you go.”
Elizabeth tried to control the heat that was spreading across her face, hoping for something else to draw everybody’s attention. “So... dinner was nice.”
“We ordered you dessert,” John replied easily, smirking. “Chocolate cake.”
Elizabeth managed a nod. “My favorite.”
John offered a shrug, one hand slipping inside his pocket. “I knew you’d like that.”
She stilled, body going rigid, eyes darting to Rodney and Carson to see if they picked up on the undertones. Thankfully the other two seemed lost in some duel over the last butter-roll, complete with forks and all. Elizabeth uncrossed and re-crossed her legs, smoothing the skirt again, highly aware of her sticky thighs underneath. Her heart was racing, eyes flittering from her silverware, to the couple in the back, to her glass of wine; anything to avoid looking at the knowing expression on John’s face, or at his hand in his pocket – toying with her underwear, no doubt.
Flustered, she quickly reached for her wine and took one long, drawn-out gulp that finished the entire glass. When she pulled back, the others were staring at her; Rodney and Carson with their mouth’s slightly hanging open, and John with that damn look in his eyes. The one that made her think he was playing over a dozen fantasies of her right now. It simultaneously irked and aroused her.
“I should get going,” she managed, giving in to the urge to flee. This was too surreal. “It’s late and I’ve got an early morning.”
“But you haven’t even had your dessert,” Carson protested, sounding wounded.
“Carson,” she softened her voice. “Really, I’m tired. It’s been a… long day. I would just rather go home and sleep.”
There were a few more sputtered protests from Rodney and Carson, the former grouchier than the latter, but Elizabeth finally managed to climb to her feet, purse in hand, exit within sight. John hadn’t offered one word of protest the entire time, so when he finally spoke up just as Elizabeth was turning away, she stiffened abruptly.
“You shouldn’t drive, you know,” John mused aloud. “You’ve had too much to drink tonight.”
Look who’s talking. Of the two of them, he was the one clearly under the influence.
“I’m fine,” she answered as she turned around. “I actually didn’t have that much to drink.”
Rodney rolled his eyes. “You drank more than any of us. And while you may hold your alcohol better than Dr. Scotty over here, you’re still a lightweight.”
Carson narrowed his eyes. “Look who’s talking, Rodney. You’re the one that started blabbering on about Nurse Bridget when you came back from P5R-424 with a few too many drops of their ceremonial wine in your blood. If I recall correctly, you told her she had pretty blonde hair and a nice firm… well, you know.” He blushed.
“I was only trying to give her a compliment!” Rodney defended himself. “She overreacted, as women tend to do about such things.”
Elizabeth heaved a sigh. “Good night, Gentlemen.”
“Call me, tomorrow,” Rodney reminded with a pointed look.
“I will,” Elizabeth promised quickly.
John snorted and muttered something under his breath. She ignored him, turning on her heels and walking away. She was a few steps away when John suddenly caught up with her, snagging the car keys from Elizabeth’s hand before she could even blink.
“I’ll drive,” he insisted.
This was technically a good thing; she could get John back to the SGC infirmary if they were still together. Then she could personally ream the doctors for letting John leave the mountain without noticing the clear chemical imbalance in his system. She knew that sometimes the post-offworld check-ups missed something, knew that sometimes it took a while for abnormalities to make themselves known, but damn it, this was serious. Carson would never have made such a mistake if they’d been back on Atlantis.
Tempering that line of thought before it distracted her from the problem at hand, she turned back to John. The hard part would be convincing him that he needed to go back to the SGC. Since he was driving – which he insisted on doing despite her heated protests all the way to her car – he had to go willingly.
“No,” John cut into her line of thinking, reading her mind. “I’m not going back for a checkup. I’m fine.”
“With all due respect, John,” Elizabeth countered, twisting in her passenger seat to face him. “You’re not.”
“Look who’s talking,” he lobbied back.
John threw her a pointed glare. “Of the two of us here, you’re the one that’s not fine.”
She paused, actually needing a full second to even realize what he was talking about. Their complicated history came back to her like a flood; Elizabeth had entirely forgotten about those concerns for a few minutes there, more worried about John’s strange behavior than anything else.
She shook her head. “This isn’t the time for this conversation. We need to—”
John stopped her. “And when exactly is the time, then? Two days after never?” His hands fisted around the steering wheel, speeding the car up dramatically; Elizabeth’s heart matched its pace, beat for every mile. “We slept together three weeks ago, Elizabeth. I haven’t heard one word from you since.”
She licked her lips, taking a moment to reassess the situation. The last thing she wanted to do was piss John off. “I know. I’m sorry. I just needed time to… work out some issues.”
“Done yet?” John asked.
She clenched her teeth. “Don’t, John.”
“Don’t do this. Don’t force an issue when you’re clearly not in the state of mind to deal with the—”
“I’m not in the state of mind?!” John exploded. “You’re the one that won’t even talk to me!”
The car took the next curve of the road at an alarming speed, and Elizabeth instinctively gripped the side-arms of her chair. “I just needed some time, John. I still need it.”
“For what?” John asked. “To think things over? To see what you want?”
“I think I knew what you wanted in that alley,” John rebuffed with a dark tone. “I didn’t hear you complaining.”
She flushed, turning away. The car headed into some secluded area of the city, trees lining both sides of the dark, windy road ahead of them. John rode the accelerator hard through the wooded area, and Elizabeth was acutely aware of just how dangerous and foolish this was. She should have gotten Carson and Rodney’s help back in the restaurant. She could have made something up; said he’d been acting weird for other reasons. Both men would have listened to her and helped John get the attention he needed. Damn it. Why didn’t she think of that before?
“John, stop the car,” she insisted. “I’m not driving with you while you’re like this.”
They took the next curve so hard that Elizabeth felt her stomach lurch. “Don’t change the subject—”
“John!” she screamed, almost frantically. “Stop the car!”
Her panic must have shown on her face because John glanced over, that dark look in his eyes giving way to contrition. He slowed the car down. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I just want to—”
“Stop the car, first,” she persisted. “You want to talk, then stop the car.”
It was surreal not to trust this man with the basic skills of controlling an automobile when she remembered vividly how Puddle-Jumpers used to lie down for him like lovers. Abruptly in that instant, as he began decelerating the car, it dawned on Elizabeth just how distant they’d grown over the months. That implicit sense of trust – that unspoken bond – had taken plenty of hits lately. Not by any malicious intent, but simply because it was worn down by lack of use.
Their once-steadfast relationship had been deteriorated by neglect – her neglect – and then later the effects were compounded by the fact that they’d unthinkingly jumped into bed together. They’d dealt with that by not dealing with it and today’s incident didn’t exactly help matters any. She suddenly understood John’s fury over the situation, though it said something about him as well that he only raised the issue when he was hopped up on some alien drug.
They both had to work on their communication skills when this night was all over. This was ridiculous behavior for two supposedly mature adults.
He pulled the car to the side of the road, and Elizabeth pushed open the door eagerly, hopping out of the car. When she slammed the door shut and rested her back against the frame of the car, she was acutely aware that John was quickly climbing out on the other side.
She waited until he rounded the car before she lashed out. “Give me back my keys, John.”
He rolled his eyes. “Say please.”
She usually didn’t get pissed off, at least not in the basest sense of the word. She got angry; she got frustrated; she got justifiably annoyed. She usually never got pissed off. Tonight, she’d been through enough to have her nerves rubbed raw, and the mood went right passed the normal ranges of anger into outright bitchy.
“What do you want, John?” she demanded in a rough voice.
“What do I want?”
“From me?” she elaborated. “Friends? Lovers? Do you just want sex? Or are you looking for something more—”
“All of the above,” he answered bluntly. “But right now I’m thinking mainly about fucking you into the side of this car.”
She jerked away from him, flustered, the thought of that shamefully appealing. She wanted to maintain control, distance. Somebody had to be level-headed in this thing, and surprise-surprise, it was her. God, she abruptly realized this was too much like the Iratus Bug incident. The same aggressive and wanton behavior, and reminding herself that this time as well as last, John wasn’t in complete control of himself. It wasn’t his fault; it was the alien influence.
That calmed her down a bit.
“John, we need to get you to the SGC.”
He stayed quiet for a moment. “Why do you always have to overanalyze?” He shook his head. “Not everything can be thought out, Elizabeth. Not everything has to make sense.”
Elizabeth nearly snorted; this certainly didn’t. They didn’t, not anymore, not without Atlantis. Her eyes slid shut in exasperation. Worked up and agitated, Elizabeth couldn’t help some of that anger from finding another easy target – herself. Atlantis. Atlantis. Atlantis. She supposed that was her glaring problem, right? Everything for Elizabeth was still about Atlantis, even after all these months. God damn it.
Frustrated, she lifted her gaze to his and refocused. “I wish I had an answer for you. I wish I could be as sure as you are, but I’m not, John. Things are more complicated than that.”
“That’s your answer for everything,” he breathed knowingly. “Would you stop hiding?”
His words struck too harsh a chord. She stepped back and dropped her gaze to the ground, scuffing her shoe against the dirt. John followed her. She could see his shoes align opposite of hers, less than a few inches apart, like there was some invisible line between them – him on one end and her on the other. Their entire relationship was made of opposites, and everybody knew what people said about opposites, right?
They attract. Good or bad, they attract.
“I’m not hiding,” she said, unsure of whom she was trying to convince. “I never wanted to—”
“Then don’t,” John cut in, bluntly, as if things were that simple. To make his point, he breached the distance between them, bringing his body so close to hers that she could smell the faint tang of wine on his lips. “What’s your instinct telling you right now?”
To push him back – to run – and leave it to John to point that out to her in a literal physical confrontation. She tried to sidestep him, but John moved with her, right there, and the incident from the alleyway surged to the forefront, the parallels extreme and obvious. She felt conflicted, frustrated, and most of all aroused. The desire spiked alarmingly fast, like it’d always been just a scratch away beneath the surface. A part of her still wanted to push him away, but the bigger part wanted him to finish what he’d started in that alley.
But John made the decision for her, looking into her eyes and seeing… god knows what. It caused him to back away. “Atlantis is gone, Elizabeth,” he told her. “I’m not.”
He swung around the car, leaving Elizabeth rooted in her spot and the part of her that wanted John felt robbed of the moment. With a hard swallow, Elizabeth tried to calm her nerves, and steadily climbed back into the car with as much dignity as she could muster.
“We need to go to the SGC,” she insisted, realizing they were talking in circles around each other. “You need to be checked out.”
He shifted the car into drive, slanted her a look, and then said accusingly, “Why do you even care?”
Elizabeth flinched, hard. He didn’t mean that, that was the alien influence talking, but the remark still stung. It wounded her more than it had any right to, and feeling like she’d been pulled through the emotional wringer, she glanced out the side window as her vision blurred. She forced back the swell of guilty tears, telling herself this wasn’t John; he really didn’t think so little of her.
But god, what if he did?
What if this alien influence just brought out the unvarnished version of John? Without his normal filters in place? Without apprehension or fear? She’d certainly never seen him so willing to confront an emotional issue before. He was usually like her that way, content to leave the unspoken things well enough alone.
Did he really think she didn’t care?
And – a quiet voice in her head accused – had she done anything lately to show him that she did?
Mind awhirl, she thought over everything, over the last few months and that part of Elizabeth that had caved in on itself after Atlantis was taken away from her felt ashamed of itself. She was being selfish. She’d never seen it as such before; just wanted some peace and privacy to recover and reestablish her life. Now, looking back, it was like someone had thrown a cold splash of water on her body, abruptly waking her up to reality. And what she found made her feel ill.
The drive was choked with silence, and she couldn’t force herself to press the issue of the SGC. A part of her knew it was vital, knew she had to get him to the doctors in case this progressed to something worse, but the mood in the car was so toxic that Elizabeth knew better than to broach the subject.
They arrived at her apartment complex, and John broke the hush. “I’ll borrow your car for the night so I can drive back to my place. I’ll return it in the morning.”
She paused. It’d give her an excuse to check up on him tomorrow; as appealing as the thought was, given the circumstances. Tonight had brought to life all her worst nightmares about confrontations, and then some. She nodded, pulled open the door and left John behind as she quickly marched up to the sanctity of her apartment. Except while normally she felt at peace there, this time she felt different.
John was right; she was hiding – a hermit in its shell.
By the time she stopped midstride and turned back, John had already pulled the car away and was speeding down the road.
Continued in Part two.