Spoilers: Up to and including The Long Goodbye.
For: krisrussel, whose prompt was "John and Elizabeth wake up naked in bed next to each other and are sure they went to their respective rooms the night before. What happened?"
A/N: I'm so very sorry this is late! I moved a thousand miles across the country partway through this, and then I've just let other things keep me distracted. Many apologies!
"Well, certainly memory is a curious machine and strangely capricious. It has no order, it has no system, it has no notion of values, it is always throwing away gold and hoarding rubbish." ~ Mark Twain
The first thing Elizabeth felt upon waking was a headache. The pain was dull at the edges but still strong, and sent aches down the side of her head and into her neck.
The second thing Elizabeth felt upon waking was the dead weight of a sleeping person's arm draped across her midsection.
Pain momentarily forgotten, her eyes flew open to take in her surroundings. Dim morning light filled her surroundings, illuminating a guitar in one corner, a pile of dirty clothes in another. The room wasn't her own, but it was familiar, and it took her only a moment to place it. Her suspicions were confirmed when she looked over to the owner of the arm laying on her.
How? What? How? were the only questions Elizabeth could seem to ask herself, though she was unable to answer them. Somehow she had ended up in bed with John, and she couldn't seem to remember getting there.
She gently moved his arm off herself, and sat up in the bed, though she did it a bit too quickly. The pain in her head flared, and she unconsciously made a noise. The movement and sound must have woken John, because he spoke from behind her, voice groggy.
"What are you doing here?" He sounded surprised. She didn't blame him.
Elizabeth turned in the bed to face him. She realized that he was naked - from the waist up, at least. The blanket was covering his lower half, and she found herself grateful for that. Instead of answering his question, she asked one of her own. "What happened last night?"
"I could ask you the same thing," he replied, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
Elizabeth shook her head. "I don't remember." The fact that not only she didn't remember, but he didn't either, worried her.
"My head is killing me," John muttered, sitting up in the bed. His faced became unreadable once he looked at Elizabeth. "You're wearing one of my shirts."
She started, looking down at herself. She hadn't noticed, but sure enough, she was in one of John's long-sleeved black shirts. Elizabeth sighed. Pounding headaches, waking up in the same bed, she's wearing his clothes - could they really have done what she was afraid they'd done? Gotten drunk and had sex? It seemed painfully immature for her.
"I've been in this situation before," John said, a grin playing at the corner of his lips.
"I hope not since college," Elizabeth replied. John merely shrugged. They stared at each other for a moment, neither saying anything. Elizabeth had a million thoughts running through her mind - what had she been thinking last night when she jumped in bed with her subordinate, what the hell did they drink that made her black out like that, and just how awkward was it going to be in an hour when they met up again in the control room and tried to act like everything was normal?
"This is weird," John cut through the silence. "I wish I least remembered last night. We're getting all the awkward next morning crap, but none of the happy memories." He looked like he was trying to envision said happy memories just then. The awkwardness spurred them both to quickly get dressed, and for Elizabeth to make a hasty departure. She was held up at the door, though, as a large body fell through when it slid open. "Ronon!"
Ronon had been sleeping outside John's quarters, leaning against the door. He woke up and quickly rose off the floor. "Good morning," he said.
"Ronon, what's going on?" John joined Elizabeth at the door.
"Nothing. What do you remember about yesterday?"
John and Elizabeth avoided looking at each other. "Not much," John replied. "My team had the day off, so we had a movie night..." He trailed off, confusion contorting his features. "Wait a minute. I remember last night. I stayed up late showing you horror films. And then I went to bed. Alone."
"Wait, I remember last night too. I stayed late in my office, and I ate dinner there. And then I went to bed in my own quarters. Also alone," Elizabeth hastily added the last bit.
She didn't know what to do with this information. Why were their memories so wrong? Was something wrong with them? Was that why Ronon was keeping watch outside of John's quarters all night? Elizabeth had a wild idea that they'd both had a bout of sleepwalking. Sleepwalking in which they'd also had sex. She mentally chided herself for such an absurd thought.
Ronon's expression never changed through their comments, but Elizabeth got the distinct impression that that wasn't what he wanted to hear. Her concern was enough that she readily agreed when Ronon suggested going to see Beckett.
The doctor was less than forthcoming with answers. He'd avoid their questions while asking plenty of his own as he peered into their eyes and measured their brain wave patterns. When his medical examination was complete, he finally told them what was going on.
Their memories were broken. The day John had remembered as "yesterday," with movie night, had in fact been two weeks ago. Each night when they went to sleep, they forgot the previous day. Throughout the day, their memories were normal, but sleeping was like a reset. It had all started when their minds had been taken over by two feuding aliens. Their minds had been occupied, and their bodies taken over.
Beckett told them that eventually the two aliens had simply died, for lack of a better word, and control was returned to themselves. Elizabeth suspected there was more the story, but it didn't seem relevant at the moment. Once the day had been saved, and Atlantis back to normal, they resumed their lives. But the next morning, when Elizabeth and John woke up, they didn't remember the previous day. Finding nothing wrong with them physically, they had assumed the memory loss was a temporary thing due to the trauma of the aliens inhabiting their minds. But the next day after that, they still didn't recall the events of the alien takeover, or the previous day. Same with the day after that. It didn't take long to realize that they were unable to form new memories, and that the mental trauma was much worse than they thought.
"And that's how two weeks have passed without you remembering any of it," Beckett finished with the air of telling an familiar story. Which is exactly what it was, Elizabeth realized. He'd had to tell them this every day for the past two weeks.
"Can you fix it?" She asked, trying not to show how disturbed she was with this news. To know there were a dozen or so days that she had lived and breathed and walked around, interacting with the world, and she didn't even remember it, was unsettling.
"I'm certainly trying," he replied. "The Lanteans have a wealth of information on the human brain. Rodney is helping me access it and interpret the data. There's so much to learn, but there has to be something in the database that can help. I won't rest until we find a solution."
"Have you told Earth?"
"Not yet. You thought we should wait until we're out of options, Dr Weir. They might send you back to Earth, where they have less than adequate facilities to deal with this."
Elizabeth only nodded. She wasn't sure which was worse - knowing she'd had sex without remembering it, or knowing she'd been giving orders without remembering them. Having no memories left her feeling oddly disconnected from the world, as if she'd started watching a movie partway through and was trying to figure out the story without knowing what happened in the first part. She glanced at John, and if the expression on his face was anything to go by, he seemed as bothered by all of it as she did.
"Just try to go about your lives as normal," Beckett said, injecting cheer into his voice. "Your memory may return through repetition of familiar things, we're not sure. I'll call you if I have something to tell you."
Go about your lives as normal. Beckett's parting piece of advice rang through her mind as Elizabeth sat at her desk, staring at her computer without really seeing it.
She'd tried hard, greeting people she came across cheerfully, plowing her way through a couple days of backed-up reports that needed approving. But it had only taken a couple hours until the fake cheer wore off and her focus fizzled away into nothing. Her mind kept wandering back to that morning, waking up in the same bed as John. She was sure, now, that they'd gotten drunk and slept together. Fortunately her headache had faded to almost nothing thanks to liberal applications of water and painkillers.
What hurt her most now was her own feelings of betrayal, from herself. Elizabeth couldn't deny that she'd had an illicit thought about John every now and again. He was attractive, and she liked him - she thought he was a good man. She didn't ignore what she felt, but she never dwelt on it either, and never let it become anything more than admiration from afar. At least, that's what she thought. Had she really let her judgment lapse enough that she would have sex with someone, knowing full well neither of them would remember it? She couldn't blame the alcohol; she'd drunk with John before, and never even considered sleeping with him.
She was jostled from her thoughts by a knock on her door. It was Rodney. She called for him to come in.
"Hey Elizabeth," Rodney smiled at her, a little too cheerfully. "How are you?"
"Fine," she said, immediately suspicious of his ulterior motives. She rarely knew Rodney to ask about someone's well-being without wanting something.
"Did Beckett break the news to you? How did you take it?"
Elizabeth wasn't in the mood for his nosiness. "Oh, well first I did a cartwheel and then I launched into a rendition of Seventy-Six Trombones. How do you think I took it, Rodney?"
His face registered surprise. "That's never happened before. Fascinating."
"Well, I've turned your and John's, ah, predicament, into something of an experiment."
"An experiment?" Elizabeth echoed.
"Essentially, you are starting every day with the same brain wave pattern as the one before it, because your mind appears to be regressing back to the same point every day. Even so, you do different things every day, have a different mood; say different things. You react to the news of your memory loss in a new way every time. This can have larger implications for theories on free will, that our actions are a result of our surroundings and not necessarily a result of our minds. For instance, you've never been that sarcastic with me when I come see you, so it leads me to believe something else happened today. It's fascinating."
"Rodney, let me make one thing very clear. I am not a science experiment. Understood?" Elizabeth put as much cold fury into her voice as she could muster, and paired it with a hard stare. Rodney could get on her nerves at the best of times, and this definitely wasn't one of those. "Why don't you go put all that intellectual energy to use working with Dr Beckett, and try to fix this?"
Her tactic worked, and Rodney quickly left. Relieved to be alone again, Elizabeth resumed staring at her computer. She wasn't left alone for long, though. Ten minutes later, there was another knock at the door. It was John. She waved him in and watched him sit down. He seemed nervous.
"I found an empty bottle of Athosian ale underneath my bed," John attempted nonchalantness.
"Well that explains the headaches," she replied.
"I found something else too. An opened condom wrapper, on the floor." His eyes flicked towards hers, then away again, clearly embarrassed to be having this conversation, in this location, with Elizabeth behind the desk and John in front, like they were scheduling a mission through the stargate.
Elizabeth hadn't even thought about that, but was relieved to hear it. "At least we were safe. John, I'm sorry."
"For the whole situation we're in." Elizabeth crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair. "Clearly I let bad judgment get the better of me."
John straightened in his seat and locked eyes with her. "Firstly - ow, okay? I don't like hearing I'm someone's 'bad judgment.' Secondly - it takes two, you know. So don't take all the blame yourself. I may not remember what happened, but I can guarantee you, I had something to do with it."
It was moments like these, when John would look at her and command her attention, and not let it go, that she thought that maybe he felt a little something for her, like she felt a little something for him. But then, as usual, someone blinked and it was gone.
"I'm going to get back to work," John said. Before Elizabeth could think to say anything, he was gone.
Elizabeth was having a hard time doing much of anything. She'd sat at her desk for hours and got nothing done. Nothing since John's departure. Her mood had become dark after he left, and she sat at her desk, trying to recall the previous night, of her and John's time together. It was useless of course - Beckett had been clear about her status. But that didn't stop her from trying. And although she wasn't able to dredge up any real memories, her mind had conjured up plenty of possible scenarios. A part of her had relented and enjoyed embellishing the thoughts she was having, since she knew in just a short while she'd wake up and forget it all. Elizabeth figured this was the same part of her that had decided sleeping with John would be an excellent idea.
By the end of the day, she had gotten fairly frustrated, and decided to give up all pretenses of work. She wandered into the mess hall, looking for something to drown her sorrows in. Skipping dinner altogether, she zeroed in on a bowl of chocolate pudding. It was early still for the evening meal, so the mess hall was mostly empty, but she spotted Teyla sitting at a table by herself.
"Mind if I sit?"
Teyla smiled and gestured. "Please. How are you feeling, Dr Weir?"
Elizabeth dug into her pudding and considered the question. "I'm feeling like if the universe is fair, the calories from this pudding won't count tomorrow, once I've forgotten that I've eaten it."
Teyla laughed, and it lifted a bit of the weight off of Elizabeth's mind.
"What have you been up to, Teyla?"
"I have been teaching some Athosian children how to stick-fight."
At this, Teyla launched into an explanation of an Athosian rite-of-passage involving learning to fight at a certain age, which was an old custom designed to give their people every advantage against the Wraith. Teyla herself had begun lessons when she reached her eighth birthday. Elizabeth was genuinely interested, but despite her best efforts to remain focused on something that day, she found her eyes wandering when she saw John walk into the mess hall and sit at a table with Ronon.
He didn't notice her at first, and seemed to be deep in conversation with Ronon - although John was doing most of the talking. But as he bit into a sandwich his gaze shifted and found her. John chewed his sandwich and turned his attention back to Ronon, though he kept looking back at her now and again.
"...and then I told Rodney that I would be honored to marry him."
Elizabeth jerked her gaze back to the woman in front of her. "Wait, what? Marriage? Rodney?"
Teyla simply raised an eyebrow. Of course, Teyla had noticed Elizabeth's inattention.
"I suppose my mind has been drifting. Sorry, Teyla," Elizabeth looked sheepish. She was saved from further embarrassment when Beckett's voice popped out of the speaker in her ear, sounding excited, and urging her and John to come to the infirmary right away.
"Electroshock therapy?" John seemed aghast at the idea. "Isn't that kind of medieval?"
"It's still a viable therapy for many conditions on Earth. When the aliens took over your minds, they disrupted the natural pathways in your brain. We can use electroshock therapy to remap them. I didn't consider it as an option before because our knowledge of the human brain is still so limited. We don't know how human memory works, for the most part. Or at least, we didn't. But with the Lantean knowledgebase, I think I've figured it out. Well enough to solve your problem, anyway."
"Would we get regain all the memories we've lost?" Elizabeth asked, earning a sideways glance from John.
"Theoretically, yes," Beckett replied. "Though getting back those memories may be a long-term project. But at the very least, I know we will be able to repair the pathways so you can form new memories again."
"How long will it take before it works?" John asked.
At that, Beckett shook his head. "I don't know. It could be a couple treatments, it could be a couple dozen. After one or two treatments I should have a better idea of when."
Elizabeth nodded. They were working towards something now, and that felt better than sitting still. "Let's get started, then."
"I still haven't gotten over what the Doc told us," John said around a mouthful of food. "He says it's been a month. I feel weird not being able to remember any of it."
Elizabeth nodded and picked at the french fries in front of her.
"I wonder if the shock therapy he's doing will hurt," he said.
"You're quiet," John observed.
"I'm trying to remember..." She trailed off, without finishing her sentence, as an image flashed in her mind. It was more of a feeling, but it seemed real nonetheless. It was a memory of John kissing her. Startled, Elizabeth mentally grabbed at the image, but it faded from her mind. Had she really just felt an actual memory?
"Get anything?" John asked, watching her intently, his food forgotten.
"I don't know. It's faint. I'm not sure if it's real." Elizabeth cleared her throat. She couldn't be sure if what had flashed in her mind was a memory or if it was some long-ago dream she'd once had. "Have you remembered anything?"
Elizabeth thought he hesitated slightly before denying that he'd remembered anything worthwhile. They both finished their lunch quietly, lost in thoughts of memories neither of them cared to share. Elizabeth wondered if his were anything like hers.
They were walking slowly down a hallway, making smalltalk, as Atlantis personnel went about their business all around them. They were ruminating on their shared misfortune of being strangers in their own bodies.
"I'm definitely not happy about knowing I'm doing things, but not being aware of it later," John scowled.
"I'm not either," Elizabeth replied. "Which is why, apparently, I decided to do something about it. This morning, after finding out about our situation from Dr Beckett, I went to my quarters to think for a while. I thought maybe I should start up a daily journal, to keep track of what I've done. It seems I've had the same thought before, because I found one already on my desk. I started it up a few weeks ago."
"Anything interesting in it?" John perked up.
"Actually, no," Elizabeth sighed. "Most of it is just like today. Wake up, get told I have missing memories, be told I was temporarily relieved of my duties a month ago by the IOA, and spend the rest of the day wandering the halls of Atlantis. Just like today. Although, some days are missing."
"You think something happened on those days?"
"That was my first thought. I cross-checked the missing days with the daily reports being written by Lorne, but nothing important happened those days."
"Huh," was all John said.
Elizabeth cast a sideways glance at her hallway-wandering companion. All day, she had kept thinking about him - more specifically, his face. She felt as if she had a familiarity with it she'd never had before. Not knowing why made her a little antsy.
"Well you know what?" John snapped his fingers. "I'm going to do that too - keep track of my days. You've already got the writing thing covered though. I think I'll dig out my camera and start taking pictures."
Elizabeth smiled. "Pictures sound like a great idea."
Elizabeth laid next to John on her bed, both of them naked and sweaty and trying to catch their breath.
She had fallen in love with John Sheppard that day. He took her for a ride on a puddlejumper - Lorne had indulgently looked the other way - and had shown her the planet from high above, sparkling like an iridescent marble. And after that, he had taken her deep below the surface of the sea. It was there, in the dim, blue-tinged light, that John had confessed to her.
He had felt lonely most of his life, he said. "But when I'm with you, I don't."
Elizabeth had realized then how she felt. When she knew that she wanted to kiss him and didn't care what the consequences might be, she knew that she loved him.
She didn't confess this in words to him so much as in actions, which is how they'd ended up in her quarters, hands all over each other, lips never parting except when necessary to remove a piece of clothing.
She turned to her side, and watched John's chest rise and fall. Elizabeth felt a sadness, because she wouldn't remember this. Not only the physical memories, but how she felt about him. Tomorrow morning, it would be gone.
Despite the closeness they'd just shared, Elizabeth felt alone.
"Are you sure you're making progress?" Elizabeth asked from her prone position. She was laying on a bed in the infirmary, wires attached to her head. "Because I don't remember anything."
Beckett finished punching in some numbers on a computer to Elizabeth's left, and turned to her. "Are you sure you're not remembering anything?"
"I've had a couple flashes, but I can't even tell if they're real memories." Elizabeth tried not to even think about them, since they involved her and John in compromising positions. She wanted to believe they were an old dream, rather than something real.
"That sounds about right. Colonel Sheppard has had some images return as well. They're not clear, but they are there."
Elizabeth was surprised. "He didn't tell me he remembered anything." But I didn't tell him either, she reminded herself.
Beckett smiled and patted her arm. "This is taking longer than expected, but I'm confident it will work."
"I hope so. I feel lost without anything to do. How long have I been relieved of command now?"
"Two months," Beckett replied. Elizabeth nodded. It had been disturbing to wake up that morning, going about her day as normal, only to find out she was no longer in command of Atlantis. And not only that, but almost three months had passed without her remembering any of it. From what she had been told, they kept it quiet from Stargate Command for a while, but they couldn't hold out forever. As soon as a treatment had been found, they finally told the SGC. The IOA had been quick to pull her from command, and to lean on the Air Force to pull John from his. At least, until their memories could be fixed.
As Beckett prepared to begin the electroshock therapy treatment, Elizabeth pushed down her nervousness. She had to fix this situation, and even if it hurt a little, she would get command of Atlantis back. She would get her life back.
Her nervousness had been for nothing, though. When Beckett started, she felt a loud humming in her head, but that was all.
"This will take about an hour. If you can, try to sleep," Beckett said, before drawing the curtain around her.
Elizabeth breathed and tried to relax. Sleep was preferable to an hour of listening to nothing but the humming. But as she let her mind wander, thinking of mundane things like schedule rotations to put herself to sleep, something nagged at the back of her thoughts. Hopeful that it was a surfacing memory as a result of the treatment, she tried to engage it, to pull it out. She wasn't sure she was getting anywhere - her brain felt as helpless as when trying to remember the lyrics of a song without knowing the tune - when the memory slammed into her consciousness at breakneck speed.
Elizabeth was on a bed, and she wasn't alone. She was with John. They were moving together, in rhythm. He was on top of her, inside her, all over her. She could hear the sounds of her own pleasure in the air, and feel the rasp of his stubbled chin on her face.
She'd had glimpses of this scene earlier that day, but she couldn't quite identify what was going on. Or maybe she had an idea, but she didn't want to admit it. Before, it had seemed unreal, dreamlike. But this image was crystal clear and high definition. Elizabeth wanted to see the memory through to the end, but suddenly there was a commotion around her, distracting enough for the memory to slip out of her mental grip. She opened her eyes and saw Beckett's worried face. He was disconnecting the wires from her head.
"Are you alright love? What happened?" He asked, his accent slightly thicker in his panic. "Your heart rate went through the roof!"
Elizabeth put a hand to her cheek - it felt warm - and tried to smile encouragingly at the doctor. "I remembered something."
"Aye, I'll say," Beckett sighed, relieved that she was okay. "What were you remembering, running a marathon?"
Elizabeth grinned, despite herself. "Something like that."
Beckett helped her sit up, and as he busied himself double-checking her vitals, she tried to access the memory again. She found it now rose steadily, like any other memory. The treatment worked.
"Here we are, golfing off the side of Atlantis." John handed her a photo. It was clearly a self-timed photo, as the very tops of their heads had been cut off, but it was definitely them. They each had a golf club in their hands, and there were golf balls littering the ground around their feet.
"Looking at these photos, it's like we've been on a long vacation," Elizabeth mused.
"I better remember it all eventually," John remarked. "It just doesn't seem right that I'd get all this time off and then not even be able to enjoy it by remembering it later."
Elizabeth smiled, and set the photo down on top of the pile of others. Their memories had been missing for four months. But not completely missing. They'd been receiving an electroshock therapy treatment devised by Beckett, and it was working. The majority of their memories were still absent, but some had surfaced.
She remembered a mixture of things. There were a lot of flashes of times she spent sitting in her office. Time spend wanding the corridors. Finding Ronon following her around, as if he was watching over her. Observing Teyla train young Athosian children how to fight with sticks. But a significant amount of her memories were of times spent with John. It made some sense - they were both off duty, and they were both in the same predicament. What else could they do but commiserate together? Her daily journal writings were filled with accounts of things they'd done together, and John's photos corroborated much of it.
On top of the individual memories surfacing, Elizabeth was feeling a sense of familiarity with John. She wasn't just remembering random events, but the feeling of having spent so much time with him, of getting to know him. And there was, of course, the first memory, as she'd dubbed it. It was the first memory that had come to her when she awoke that morning: being intimate with John Sheppard. After speaking with Beckett, she'd gone back to her quarters, and found her journal there. Skimming the entries, she found references to "the memory" but nothing explicitly stated. She clearly had decided not to write down exactly what was in the memory. Even though she couldn't remember why, Elizabeth was sure it was a good reason, and agreed with her past self not to write anything else about it. She tried to ignore how much this decision felt like running away.
Regardless, while she vividly remembered the act itself, she could not remember what had led up to it. Who initiated it? Were emotions involved, or had it just been physical? Elizabeth was determined to remember all of the circumstances surrounding their night together, and she wasn't going to bring it up with John until she did.
Shaking herself out of her reverie, Elizabeth turned her attention back to the man in question, who was talking. She had no idea what he had been saying, but she figured he was probably talking about the photo he had pressed into her hand. She looked down at it, and felt shock land like a lead weight in her stomach.
It was a picture of her, lying in bed. She was covered by a blanket, but obviously had nothing on underneath. She might have been asleep, except for the small smile at the corner of her lips indicating otherwise. And there, in the corner of the image, was her hand, holding someone else's. The hand belonged to the same person holding the camera.
Elizabeth didn't know what to say. She looked up at John, who looked as if he was seeing her for the first time. "Do you remember this?"
She shook her head no, and looked at the photo again. Was it from the same memory she had of their night together? "When was it taken?" she asked.
"It's from two weeks ago," John said, and Elizabeth looked at him again. The memory she had of their night together felt older than that, much older. But there was a blank spot in her journal two weeks ago. She hadn't cracked the mystery of the missing days, but maybe that was it - days they'd stepped over a boundary. Just as she only referred to the visions of their night together as "the memory" in her journal, she had opted not to document repeat performances at all.
John's voice cut through her thoughts. "You look happy there," he said.
She shook her head and slapped the photo onto the table. She got up from the couch and walked away from John, crossing her arms. Elizabeth may have been happy in that photo, but she was pissed now. Pissed at herself, for clearly giving into an urge when she thought there'd be no consequences. She should have known better; there are always consequences. So was she really that stupid, or did she sabotage herself? Was there some part of her that had wanted this?
Elizabeth mentally added up the number of blank days in her journal - she guessed about a dozen over the few months she'd been keeping it.
"Something wrong?" John asked. She could hear the forced aloofness in his voice. He was on the defensive. It made sense - she had a habit of pushing him away when he got too close. But no matter how much she'd ever wanted to start something with him, she'd always decided she'd rather not run the risk of ruining what they had now.
But what did they have now? Nothing but missing days and a handful of photos. It had been months since this all began, and so little progress had been made. It all felt so hopeless.
Elizabeth knew that this was the exact line of thought she must have had on those dozen days. This was how she could break her own rules.
"I'm sorry, John," she said. She felt his presence closer to her - he must have moved off the couch - and she drew her arms tighter around herself. "I've apparently made some bad judgment calls."
"Is that what we're calling it?" There was an edge to his voice, and Elizabeth winced. "It meant something to me. Did it mean nothing to you?"
"I don't remember-"
"Bullshit!" John shouted, cutting her off. Elizabeth turned to look at him, surprised. "I remember every time. You must too."
Elizabeth shook her head, too stunned by this revelation to become angry. "I don't, John. I remember one time, months ago. I thought it was the only time."
She paused to watch his face, to see the hurt there, and the realization his her like a ton of bricks. John cared about her. Maybe more than she cared about him. After all, he had remembered all their nights together, but she hadn't. Instead she remembered mundane things like going to see Beckett for checkups and taking trips to the mainland. "I'm sorry, John," she repeated. "It was selfish of me."
"You weren't the only one involved in the decision making process," he replied.
"No," Elizabeth agreed. "But I wouldn't have done it at all had I known it would come to this. I don't remember it, but I know I wouldn't have slept with you unless you were the only comfort I could find."
John appeared to be struggling with what to say in response. In the end, he didn't say anything, but just left. Elizabeth felt numb. She didn't know why she had said what she said - it just came out. She sat down on the couch again and picked up the pile of photos that John had had in his hands and rifled through them. There were more of them doing silly things together - she took a moment to laugh at a photo of John with an uneven hair cut. Elizabeth guessed she had been the one to cut his hair. He didn't look upset about the poor haircut, but had a small grin on his face. At the sight, her heart dropped into her stomach and she stopped laughing. Why did she feel so guilty?
The next day, Elizabeth had forgotten their fight, and the things she'd said. After Beckett told her what had happened - a story he seemed to be tired of telling - she spent the day reading, mostly, as John seemed too busy to talk.
The next day after that, she remembered the day before it. She remembered being called to see Beckett in the morning, she remembered him rattling off the story of her and John losing their memories. She remembered not being able to find John anywhere, of eating eggs for breakfast, and she remembered sitting next to the window in her quarters with a book. These memories seemed so natural, and so fitting, that she wondered how should could ever not remember anything to begin with.
Beckett was so excited by her progress, he hugged her. Now that she could remember what it felt like to wake up to months of missing memories, she appreciated the previous day's so much more. When she found John and told him the good news, he said he was happy for her but seemed distant. She found that when she looked at him, she felt a strange mixture of feelings: happiness, familiarity, guilt. But she didn't have time to dwell on it, because John excused himself from their conversation before too long. She felt as if something had happened between them. Or maybe John had remembered their one night stand? Elizabeth reasoned that it might be what made their interaction awkward.
That night, while she slept, the rest of the memories came forward. She tossed and turned all night, waking up at intervals when there was a surge of visions and thoughts. Her brain felt full and it ached with the weight of the new information. But when she finally awoke, right before dawn, she finally remembered all of it. And Elizabeth thought that maybe she had been repressing the memories.
She remembered that night of the first memory clearly now: they had had a bit too much Athosian ale to drink, and had gone out to the balcony to see the stars. They'd ended up sitting on the ground, leaning against the railing, and talking. They hadn't been talking about anything in particular, and in the midst of all that nothing John had said something. He had turned to her and said simply, "I like you."
It wasn't the alcohol in her system that had made her do it - it was the raw emotion in those three words, and the feelings that had bubbled up in her as a result. But she did it: she leaned over to him and kissed him. He was as good of a kisser as she had imagined, and the feel of his hands pulling her towards him made her want him more. It was then they had made their way to his quarters, and it was then they had slept together.
She thought of the fight she'd had with John. She had been wrong about what she said. She hadn't turned to him as a last resort; she hadn't used him. On those days when she'd slept with John Sheppard, she had fallen in love with him.
Elizabeth rose from her bed and looked at herself in the mirror. She was still a pro at concealing her feelings. Her expression was only one of mild discontent, rather than the slight terror she actually had. She'd fallen in love with the same man a dozen times, and all the reasons why came rushing back.
Flashes of John taking her for a joyride in a puddlejumper, sailing first through the stars and then through the sea. Another time, when he sat and listened to her explain the idiosyncrasies of the Ancient language, for an entire hour - just listening as if he'd rather be doing nothing else. Hitting golf balls into the ocean off the side of Atlantis. So many meals together; too many to count. His lips against hers, softer than she'd expected.
She asked herself what she was so afraid of, and she couldn't find an answer. Being fired by the IOA? Elizabeth wasn't afraid of them. She'd fought them before and won, and she could do it again. She had never run from anything in her life. In fact, she'd always run towards obstacles. So why run now?
John was a hard man to find, when he wanted to be. When she finally located him, he was sitting in the back of a jumper in the jumper bay, bouncing a golf ball off the wall.
"Are you hiding from me?"
Her voice must have startled him, because John threw the golf ball a bit too hard, and it ricocheted off the wall at an odd angle and sailed past Elizabeth's head.
"Sorry." John stood quickly. "How are you, Elizabeth?"
"I'm fine. I'm better than fine. I remember everything."
"You're a few days behind me," he observed. "The Doc thinks that's due to the Ancient gene, that my brain is wired a bit differently -"
"I'm sorry about our fight," Elizabeth said, cutting him off. "I didn't mean what I said. I didn't know all the facts."
"What facts?" John's expression was guarded, and she couldn't be sure what he was thinking.
"The fact that I don't regret all those times we were together. Remember the first time? The night we drank too much? Do you remember what you said?"
"Well, here it is then. I care about you John. Our time together was more than just physical comfort for me."
John smiled. "Then prove it."
Elizabeth's paused only for a moment before moving closer to him. She brought a hand to his cheek and pulled him in for a kiss. It was chaste at first, a light brushing of lips, but it quickly deepened. In a way it felt like the first time, even though it wasn't. John's scent and feel were immediately recognizable to her, but she reveled in them anyway, wanting to explore him and take the time to commit it all to memory, now that she knew she could keep it.
When they finally pulled apart, Elizabeth felt the sort of elated high a person gets before they embark somewhere that's entirely new. Even though things would be hard sometimes, and there would be obstacles to overcome, the promise of happy returns overshadowed it all.
"What are you smiling about?" John said, looking as content as that day he took her picture as they held hands in bed.
"Because..." Elizabeth paused, and smiled. "I like you too."