Spoilers: none, set during S1
Disclaimer: I don't own SGA.
Beta reading: wanderingsmith did the initial beta reading, and the_scary_kitty helped me shape it up and tamed my grammar. fex_84 helped a lot, she is the best when it comes to fic and character discussions. Thank you ladies, you are awesomeness personified!
Author's notes: written for grav_ity, for swficathon. Her request was “Decompression after ‘Hot Zone’, it could end in sex”. I can't be sure if this is what you wished for, but I loved your prompt and had lots of fun dealing with all the issues left after the episode and that interrupted fight at the end.
Sometimes it took a single crack for the wall to start eroding, ending in a final and inevitable break. The latest crisis had settled into an awkward truce of sorts and the expedition was back to its usual business, proceeding with extra caution now after discovering that deathly danger could be met even within Atlantis.
Rodney was back to his annoying, yet very efficient self in no time. Ford was quiet and more serious than usual. Elizabeth sensed Teyla planned to talk to her about the event, possibly during one of their breakfasts, but the Athosian simply stirred her tea and didn't pry, waiting for the moment that would be right. Outside, above the city, another storm was gathering. It was summer, judging by the daily temperature, and the air was humid and heavy for a week now, but the rain simply refused to fall.
People were talking, of course. Most of the expedition wasn't on Atlantis during the first really grave danger the city had faced, and thus the encounter with the Genii wasn't as vivid in the eyes of the expedition members as the nanite virus outbreak. The pressure on Elizabeth's shoulders was of an entirely different kind while she fought a battle on two fronts, instead of one. In the end the lives, most of them, were saved, and the city had restored its balance. Well, almost. Elizabeth wasn't peaceful, because she could sense a crack spreading through the tightly knit structure of the expedition, just as those clouds stubbornly hung above the city, refusing to let the rain fall.
John was never exactly forthcoming, but he and Elizabeth always talked about issues that mattered, and now he was trying to ignore the elephant dancing through the room. For days. Make that several elephants, because him disobeying her dragged more than one loaded question into the equation, and John had pretty much impeccable timing when it came to pissing her off. Ironically, he used Bates, the proper soldier who religiously obeyed the chain of command, in order to accomplish the exact thing that made him a military black sheep. It felt frustrating, and if she was honest with herself, she was hurt by what he had done. Now he was doing his best to push the whole thing under the proverbial rug, wanting them to be as they were before, easily chatting at mid-day as Elizabeth stood on the balcony adjoining her office; without threading into the area of interpersonal landmines. John was the master of avoiding conversations, just as Rodney and Carson had an impeccable knack for interrupting them.
Elizabeth leaned against the railing of the balcony, wishing futilely for the rain to fall.
She was about to go back to her work when the balcony door slid open. She guessed it was John –he didn’t start a tirade on whatever was interrupting his work the minute he stepped on the balcony. Only John and Rodney came to seek her out here, while she rested, one because he was never embarrassed to interrupt people, the other because she allowed him to do so. Anyone else would have used the radio.
He came to stand next to her, close enough for her to catch a familiar whiff of scent. Three nights spent together were enough for her to memorize the mixture of soap and him. Usually, enjoying it was a pleasant, although forbidden indulgence, but now it was enough to make her feel just like few days ago, before they were interrupted – she was hurt, and the emotion was still quite strong, and it wasn’t all about the breach in their professional relationship. Not that they had any other kind of relationship. Sex was supposed to be just sex, just a one time thing although it had happened three times. It was the damned galaxy that refused to give them peace, and the understanding that had begun to develop between them, almost instinctive in its nature. Sex was instinctive as well, feeling like a continuation of whatever they did share. Elizabeth sensed the potential of it even at the beginning, but became fully aware of it after the Genii raid, after John had come to her when the storm had calmed and everyone was back and safe in the city. He'd come when it was okay for her to break, and stayed until the morning.
The agreement not to bring it up and not to do it again was unspoken, but it worked – until she had to shoot at someone. She saw blood, saw her attacker falling to the ground, but didn't know if she had taken a life or not. She and John didn't talk much about it, aside from the briefing that was held, and she sensed John watching her, all the time. Part of her knew he was going to seek her out later, and if anything, it brought her relief to look into his eyes as he covered her with his body that night, because he knew what it was like; the killing and living with it. Sex didn't make the sickening feeling in her gut go away, but the man above her assured her with the knowledge he himself had that she would be able to handle it. She could feel it under her palm as she held John.
That time around they did talk. Sort of. She was nothing if not grateful for the warmth and raw feeling of being alive he left her with, but she had to sort it out somehow, find a neat little box for what they had done, fitting on a shelf of her life somewhere in between friendship and being able to carry on. She started to speak, about how it all got out of control, but John waved his hand, saying we're good, with that characteristic tender and uncomfortable expression on his face.
Their decision lasted until a thousand year old Wraith almost took John's life. Elizabeth was listening to him retell the entire mission in the infirmary, while Carson took care of his injured arm. Something in Elizabeth shifted, as she remembered the Iratus bug incident and the paleness of John's face when she saw him a step away from death. She went to see him later that evening, and when he kissed her, she just wanted to touch him, and didn't want to explain to herself why. Next morning he brought her coffee and an awkwardly worded apology that he turned into a joke, about them doing it for the very last time. Elizabeth smiled at him, and that same tenderly uncomfortable expression graced his face. She thought how she should have been more worried about being so comfortable around a man she shouldn't sleep with. It was a mistake, yet it didn't feel like one. Just... one of those things one shouldn't do, but not a mistake.
John was stepping into her space now, and she briefly wondered if he took too much liberty because she had implicitly given her allowance, but that didn't seem to be the case. He disobeyed her, gravely so, but not because they had slept together.
She had a sinking feeling it would have come to this even if they didn't share a bed.
“So,” he said instead of a greeting, and despite his jovial attitude, she could sense the slight but present edge in his voice. “Enjoying the view?”
“Not really,” she sighed, without turning to properly look at him. He was going for his usual evasive tactics and she wasn't going to buy it. Sometimes, talking to him felt like schooling a teenager and setting the line over and over again.
“I was thinking,” he begun, ignoring the way they didn’t look at each other right now, and Elizabeth thought, they hadn’t looked at each other properly since that day and that conversation. “One thing that we’re lacking here? Except the coffee shops, of course. Meteorologists,” he pointed it out to make it sound funny. In any other occasion it would have brought a smile to Elizabeth’s lips. John continued, “But my mother used to say, stick your head out of the window, and if it rains, it means you need an umbrella.”
Elizabeth kept watching the horizon, and John kept on talking, attempting to drown out the loud silence between them.
“But it looks like we won’t be needing umbrellas soon. Not that I’m a fan of rain, but I think we could definitely use one –“
“John,” Elizabeth turned to look at him as she interrupted his insistent monologue. Yes, they could use some rain. “We need to talk.”
“We’re talking,” he said with a slight tilt of his head, and she sensed he was about to joke his way out. Feeling exasperated and tired, Elizabeth sighed before continuing.
“John,” she kept the voice soft, as the conversation of a few days ago played in her head, concentrating on the thing that troubled her. It wasn’t just his insubordination; it was also something else making her worried – the implied lack of trust, when she made him say the words and he had failed. It sounded like a lie when he claimed he trusted her. Elizabeth kept her eyes on him, thinking about reading his file back in Antarctica. John didn't disobey his commander for lack of respect for the chain of command. The man in command made a decision bad for the people fighting under him, and John knew it. In her mind, Elizabeth agreed with his reasons. He was right not to trust the commander; however that implied he didn't really trust her leadership either. That was something Elizabeth simply couldn't put behind her.
She watched John as he leaned onto the railing and she could sense the tension in his body just by the way he stood there – they had sex only three times, and it was enough for her to tell if his body was tired or sore. She had to pull herself out of that particular train of thought, compose her mind, and do her best to ignore the scent that aroused her so easily. Carefully holding her own emotions out of her voice, Elizabeth continued, while looking at him and John looked at the distant horizon. “That can never happen again,” she said in an even, but firm voice. He was still, but his breathing quickened, and in the next moment he turned to face her.
“Elizabeth, I was damn right, and I’ve only done what was right.” His stare was intense, reminding her of the way he looked at her when they were intimately close, him above her and inside of her, and for a moment Elizabeth closed her eyes and banished the imagery from her mind.
“You risked everyone, John, including yourself,” she replied, keeping her eyes steadily on his. “That's something I won't allow,” her voice was firm, but John didn't move even an inch.
“That's all fine, but the situation out there was getting out of hand.”
“The situation was under control until you breached quarantine,” his stubbornness was quite enviable, but in this case, misplaced, and it seemed he was blind to an alternative point of view.
“Okay, tell me one thing. That guy was going for the control tower. What were you going to do to stop him?”
“Bates was there and he was perfectly capable of stopping him,” replied Elizabeth. With hands on his hips, John hung darkly on the edge of her personal space.
“Then you were going to order one of your own shot, possibly killed? Because that's what it is. Had you been ready to do that, you would have ordered Bates to go sooner,” he pointed out and Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. Admittedly, he was right about her unwillingness to send Bates, or any soldier for that matter, and the chance for Doctor Peterson to end up shot was one of her concerns, but not the only one.
“And by doing that, I would have put Bates in the same danger you put yourself and Teyla in! John, you are wrong if you think I was putting off the inevitable,” she countered but he cut her off.
“That guy was going to get straight into the city and the infection was going to spread, and what you were doing was not enough,” his grim face was hovering above her, he seemed angry, but Elizabeth sensed he was actually scared. “Not soon enough.”
“Which we really don't know because you decided to do things your own way, didn't you? John, you are the military commander of this base. That means your life isn't only about you, it's about all the people you are supposed to lead and protect. If I was already under risk, then you should have stayed where you were!”
For a moment he was silent, his eyes narrowing.
“Now you’re talking like a damn politician,” he said, exasperated, and was that disappointment in his voice?
“Which is what I am, but John, I’m not doing all that I’m doing to save my sorry ass or my career! The price is much higher, John, this city can’t afford to lose both of us,” now she stepped toward him, just an inch, and it seemed like only a breath of tension was between them. “John, being a leader sometimes means killing in a whole other way than firing a gun,” she said softly and all her anger blew away, leaving a feeling of sadness behind. Looking into his eyes was hard, and he was still so tense, still wanted to say something, but then Elizabeth’s radio cracked into life. John swallowed and ducked his head, seemingly accepting her words.
Elizabeth kept her eyes on John, but listened to the voice talking into her ear. It was Peter, informing her that Sergeant Bates’ team was coming back under fire, and one man was wounded.
It shouldn’t have surprised her, really. That damn conversation was still not done, although Elizabeth felt more at peace, but letting the whole matter just drop wasn’t something John was going to do.
That was what she thought when he came to her door at night. It wouldn't be the first time they had a talk when she was already wearing her pajamas. However he didn’t look angry any more – just darkly restless, as if something was plaguing his thoughts and he needed to get it off his chest, more than make himself right about the whole thing.
The door slid closed behind him and he shifted uncomfortably, avoiding looking at her at first. Then he did, and the intensity in his eyes felt uncomfortable. He licked his lips and scratched the back of his head, and by the way his shoulders hung, Elizabeth knew everything was still not okay between them.
“I…” he begun, coming a little closer to her and swallowed thickly. “It's not trust, damn it,” he frowned. Eloquence wasn’t John’s forte, but it wasn’t like he completely lacked the skill of verbal communication, he knew how to be persuasive and stubborn when he wanted something, and was fully capable of getting his point across. However, the strength of his words failed when emotions knotted his throat. Elizabeth just looked at him as he was trying to make the words come to him. “I do trust you, I just….” he frowned as frustration and fear flickered across his face.
“Just… what?” asked Elizabeth, stepping a little closer and touching his tight bicep to encourage him.
It felt like the tension brewing between them since their first argument exploded. It took a mere moment be locked in John’s embrace, and his lips latched onto hers, feeling urgent but still soft, as his tongue entered her mouth like it belonged right there. John hardly let her take sips of air as he was making a point with what he was doing, being there with her, listening to her moans and doing things that felt so good. Elizabeth had to focus on him, completely, and she felt tense muscles anywhere she touched – he wanted to tell her something, and at the moment his body was doing a far better job at communicating than his words, wanting her breathless and naked; he wanted her thoroughly satisfied, thus his mouth was busy doing something entirely else instead of talking. John’s hands started tugging on her pajama shirt as he walked her backwards, probably aiming for the bed, but instead, he pushed her against her desk.
“John, John…. slow down,” she said, with lips slightly raw from their kissing. John pulled back and their lips separated with a soft pop. In his eyes she saw something similar to fear, and although asking him to go away would have been the right thing to do, she couldn’t bring herself to do that. He was fumbling with her clothes now, and she pulled the shirt over her head, parting from him just slightly.
His hands on her skin felt right, and his mouth was alive on her neck. She shivered as his tongue darted out, and the teeth bit her gently, down the column of her long neck as she swallowed an entirely different kind of tension. He went further down, touching and kissing her breasts, until he finally knelt and rolled the rest of her clothing down her legs. Elizabeth toed away her clothes, watching him. John held onto her, and Elizabeth felt her own chest tighten as she was trying to understand what was going on with him.
“You are so damn gorgeous,” he said hoarsely and her own throat jammed. It was the first time he said something like that, and it felt better than it should have. Staring into his eyes, with his hands on her naked hips, Elizabeth couldn't push away the feeling which both felt right and freaked her out, because this thing between them, it was definitely something. She just didn't have a name for it yet, but it had a will of it’s own, and right now she was alarmingly okay with that.
As John got to his feet, he let Elizabeth undress him from his shirt, and lead him to her bed, where she knelt to pull his sweat pants and boxers down from his body. John then moved above her, and she lay flat on the mattress, as he carefully shifted his full weight to the side.
He moved down her body purposefully, fingers tracing patterns on her naked self, tongue licking her, until he parted her legs and fastened his lips on her clit, then moved lower to fuck her with his tongue. She gasped and her hips bucked, but he held her down, firmly, teasing and probing her, and driving her out of her mind. It didn't take long for her breath to quicken, he was so damn good at this, working her up but never bringing her to the climax, and holding her still at the same time, testing where the limit was, much like he was doing in many other things. When she started to whimper he used his fingers again, one, and then two, gently pushing them inside her heat, slowly and all the way, until she came with a loud, shattering orgasm.
Elizabeth felt boneless when he moved above her yet again, and pushed his rigid body inside of her. He was hard, and heavy, moving slowly, and she felt every inch of his cock, caressed the tight, strong arms which were keeping most of his weight above her. Elizabeth rocked her hips, but John just pressed her down, intent on going slow, until he seemingly found that something he was seeking ever since he entered her quarters. They hit a good rhythm, not too fast, but purposeful, kissing each other all the time.
Then, abruptly, he stopped. Elizabeth opened her eyes, moaning a protest when she felt the lack of him above her. John urged her to roll over, until she was flat on her stomach with legs still spread, and straddled her, with her right leg pinned under him as he pushed her butt up. Then he was leveling above her and entering her from behind, warm and rigid flesh sliding inside of her wetness effortlessly. Elizabeth closed her eyes and could see spots of color as he thrust, feeling him stretching her body in a completely new way. He held his hands on her ass and groaned deeply. Elizabeth craned her neck to watch him, his face contorted in the most beautiful expression of lust she could imagine, as his eyes rolled back.
“Fuck,” he groaned. “You feel so damn good,” his voice sent shivers through her and her skin tingled, feeling too tight and itchy. This position made her feel deprived, she wanted, needed more contact with him, his hands, his mouth, his whole cock in her body. She pushed her ass against him, as much as she could manage, trying to get up, and he got the message. Elizabeth felt John's hands on her as she leveled herself into his lap. He grunted into her ear and kneaded her breast as he fucked her in earnest. She reached for her clit, and it took less than a minute for another orgasm to shake her body. John held onto her while she was coming, biting her shoulder and pushing into her with short, deep thrusts. Then, as her shudders ceased, he just kept on holding her, gently kneading her breasts and whispering into her ear. Elizabeth couldn't tell what he was saying, but his tone was a tender, sweet sound she never heard him use with anyone else.
A moment later John nudged her forward and onto her knees to hold her hips through the last few thrusts. When he came he collapsed onto her, and together they fell onto the bed, him above her, until they regained their breath and moved enough to lie down on their sides, facing each other. John kissed her tenderly, and kept doing so until he pulled her body against his own. Elizabeth was slowly sobering, realizing this was the time when he should be going, but his kisses felt too much like an interlude to something else. His body was still tense and she just held him, her thin arm over him.
John's face was buried in Elizabeth's shoulder when he finally spoke.
“I do trust you, Elizabeth... I just.... don't like being helpless.”
The words left his mouth and the tension started loosening its hold over his body.
As he relaxed under her hands, Elizabeth felt they were shifting back in a safe place. She closed her eyes, kissing the shoulder under her lips, then pressed her face into his skin. She felt his lips on her hair, and his hands gently and apologetically soothing her back. “I'm sorry,” he said.
Elizabeth nodded against his skin, it was suddenly clearer. She thought back to the day when she met him, and remembered reading his personal file, and then thought back to the moment when he urgently called for Bates to open the door. Her anger and hurt were gone. Elizabeth sighed, finally understanding.
“I wasn't trying to do that,” she whispered, stroking the thick black hair at the back of his head.
“I know that, but...” he moved and kissed her forehead, leaving his lips to linger there. Elizabeth sighed. Feeling him alive and breathing, so warm in her arms made it all the harder to say what she had in mind.
“I know it's hard... but there may come a moment when you won't be able to help me. Or the other way around. You know this, John; you have to know it.”
Her words felt cold, like the wind picking up on the outside and sneaking into the room. Elizabeth could hear the thunder and the unmistakable sound of the rain falling. John just held her quietly and she knew he was accepting it. “You can't disobey me again, John. All I can promise you is that I won't put you in a helpless position, not purposefully. But if we...”
“I know,” he said, pulling her still closer. “Look, I can't promise you I'll never disobey you again. But it won't be because I don't trust you,” he breathed quietly. “Or don't respect you. And I can promise I will try.”
The rain was falling steadily when John covered them with a single blanket. Staying near his warmth felt good and right, and Elizabeth felt her own tension loosen. John was already asleep, and the sight of his calm face assured Elizabeth even more than his words did. Sometimes his body was more vocal than his words could ever be, and as Elizabeth closed her eyes, the world around her seemed deceptively peaceful. Another storm was just a matter of time, but for the moment everything was alright in her corner of the world. Next to her, John peacefully slept.
Elizabeth knew, without a doubt, that she could count on him.