Title: “Two’s Company”
Author: Little Red
Summary: Five times John Sheppard wished that Elizabeth Weir would just go away.
Author’s Note: Started in 2007 for some 5-things challenge, finished for my 2011 Sparktober finish-a-thon!
- one -
One thing John Sheppard really misses about Antarctica: crappy cell phone reception.
It doesn’t occur to him much while he’s there, because he doesn’t get too many phone calls anyway. His buddies stationed in warmer climates — those who are still talking to him, that is — communicate by email if they have to communicate at all. For local matters, he’s reachable by 2-way radio 24 hours a day while he’s on base, and there’s really nowhere but base to go on the great white continent.
He’s only been back in the United States for forty-eight hours, and he’s had eight calls from the mobile office of Doctor Elizabeth Weir.
John really isn’t sure what to make of her. A google search from the lobby of his motel reveals that her name is all over important international relations journals and UN agreements, not to mention an avalanche of academic papers with twenty-word titles. All that leads him to believe she should be sitting in an ivory tower somewhere completely ignoring his existance.
Instead, she’s setting his phone on fire with her repeated requests for him to go to another galaxy with her, which might or might not contain the lost city of Atlantis (not a military code word, but actually Atlantis) and/or powerful aliens (actual aliens) and the very real possibility of death (he adds that last part himself).
His phone rings again, and he silences it. It’s not even some underling calling to check up on his answer regarding the expedition, because Doctor Weir herself is leaving him voicemail after voicemail. “I know this is a lot to ask from you,” she always says, “and I really want to answer any questions you have.”
The woman is about to lead a who’s who of Scientific Digest into another galaxy, and she’s taking time to keep calling him and offering to answer his questions, because she’s decided his genes are necessary to her expedition.
It’s all way too weird. And she won’t leave him alone. The deadine is fast approaching, he knows, but he really needs more time to sort this all out (if it’s even possible to rationally think out the option of going to another galaxy to meet aliens). He has no idea what miracles this woman expects from him to make him this important to her, and her Scottish doctor friend rattling off lots of genetic percentages doesn’t really help him figure it out.
John rationalizes, tosses arguments back and forth. He’s reasonably content in Antarctica, though he admits that he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his career there. The US Air Force certainly hasn’t missed him while he’s been in snowy exile, and he knows Doctor Weir has read his file. This is all too strange, and he should call her back and tell her good luck but no thanks.
But he can’t, and not just because this is a once-in-a-thousand-lifetimes opportunity. John knows the second he picks up the phone, Doctor Weir will talk him into it. She already talked him as far as a motel in scenic Colorado Springs. She has him halfway convinced that maybe there’s a reason he felt compelled to sit in that crazy light-show chair in the first place. She’s persuasive enough that even though it doesn’t make sense, he thinks maybe he really will be able to do some good on her wild sci-fi adventure.
She’ll wrangle a yes out of him somehow, and he’s not ready to be talked into it. Not yet.
There’s a knock on his motel room door, and he somehow knows it’s her.
He doesn’t really believe his gut instinct, though (how could she possibly find the time in her galaxy-exploring schedule to come to his Motel 6?), so he opens the door.
“You’ve been avoiding me, Major Sheppard,” she accuses. She’s dressed in a sharply tailored business suit and he’s in jeans that could use a trip through the washing machine. He’s grateful he thought to throw a t-shirt on before answering the door.
He can say nothing but a lame, “I was going to call you back.”
Doctor Weir doesn’t look like she believes him. “I’m going to need your answer by tomorrow. Why don’t you come back to Stargate Command with me and at least see what I’m proposing? I got you security clearance.”
It throws him off a little that she’s asking him instead of ordering him. It might actually be nice working for a civillian. Of course, General O’Neill told him that there will also be a US Marines full Colonel along to command the military contingent, which is hardly his idea of fun. It’s yet another reason to send Doctor Weir on her way and return to Antarctica, where it’s quiet and no one expects miracles and no one can reach him by cell phone.
He asks, “Are you going to keep calling me if I don’t come with you to Stargate Command?”
She smirks, a dangerous half-smile that makes him instinctively want to find a way to make her laugh. “Yes,” she says.
He takes her up on the tour of the SGC, but she talks him into it before they even get there.
- two -
“You did what?”
She’s not really asking him to repeat himself. John Sheppard has only known Elizabeth Weir for, oh, six weeks or so, but he’s already figured out that she hears everything, and that right now she’s just stalling for time until she can come up with the proper way to tell him off.
Next to him, Lieutenant Ford is sitting ramrod straight, eyes facing forward, doing his best imitation of a potted plant.
John will have to tell him to relax in debriefs in the future, because according to Doctor Weir, everything is actually the sole fault of her new acting military commander.
“Major, need I remind you that we have limited supplies and resources, are practically defenseless-”
Yes, he thinks, please remind me. I’ve actually forgotten in the past thirty minutes.
She’s still talking when he finishes scraping a bit of mud off his jacket and looks back at her. “-and that we can’t afford to get involved in high-conflict situations on other worlds just because you decided on your own to turn a recon mission into a revolution!”
“I made the call to take action. It was my call to make.”
She doesn’t look impressed by his argument. “Oh, really. And have you thought about what long-term arrangements you’ve signed us up for?”
“The Second Authoritat is in charge now. We’re done.”
She openly gapes at him. “Major, you helped to depose a government!”
It does sound worse when she says it.
“Trust me, they’ll be better off now.”
“You don’t know that. A new government doesn’t just solidify control like that because you helped them fire a few guns.”
Ford interrupts, “We never gave them our guns, ma’am.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant, I’ll be sure to note that in my report.”
Report to whom? John thinks unkindly. He’s sure she does very well on Earth, where there are reports to file and she interacts with people whose nations you can actually find on a globe. In many ways, she’s even more impressive than his google-search of her name let on. But out here... hell, he hasn’t had the chance to even think about what their new game plan should be now that he’s suddenly in charge of Marines in another galaxy, and all the yelling she’s doing isn’t helping.
“Are we done here?” he asks.
Weir dismisses McKay and Ford and Grodin — Ford hesitates a bit, like he should stick around and defend his superior officer — and then John is left staring at her from across the briefing table.
“We have a problem,” she says.
“I can handle the Second Authoritat.”
“We’ll deal with that problem later. First, you and I need to figure out a way to work together.”
He’s not sure how she did it, but with that one sentence, he suddenly feels a lot like the dirt on his jacket. “It was a military decision, Doctor.”
She doesn’t say anything. When he can’t stand the silence, he adds, “You gave me this position.”
“And I don’t regret it,” she says, without hesitation. “I believe in your ability to be the ranking military officer on this expedition. You have to believe in my ability to do my job.”
He isn’t sure what to say to that. How is he supposed to trust her when he barely knows her? How in the hell can she say she trusts him?
“All right,” he asks. “What would you have done?”
“Probably nothing, until we had gathered more information. A political revolution is a big deal, much more than just picking sides in the initial insurrection. Your gut instincts about the Second Authoritat might be right, but there’s every reason to believe this isn’t a step up for these people.”
“Sometimes you can’t just sit and wait for more information. You need to act one way or the other.”
“The point is, you didn’t give me that chance.”
Doctor Weir collects her laptop. Before leaving, she says, “Finish your report. We’ll meet tomorrow to figure out our next step in this Second Authoritat coup. 0800?”
John leaves and goes for a run before finishing his report, not sure if he’s mad or ashamed or what after that conversation. He needs to make a point to explore more of the city so that he can get farther away from the control tower when he needs to think.
Whatever just happened in that debriefing, working for a civillian isn’t turning out quite the way he expected.
- three -
All he can think is: she has to get out of here.
It isn’t enough that he’s tied down, that they’re hitting him with something that feels like it packs a hundred thousand volts, but she’s there watching every second of it.
Elizabeth is yelling at someone — he can see her mouth moving, though after he was hit with the alien cattle prod a few times, he can’t hear anything except a shrill buzzing.
He gasps for air. “Go!” he yells, but she shows no sign of listening. He can’t see any other members of his team, but his vision’s not doing too well, either.
He’ll kill them for letting her stay behind, especially if they left her alone. Theoretically she’s not in danger, since the Kikathor are punishing him for some offense he personally committed (trespassing on holy grounds, wearing the wrong cologne, something), not waging war against Atlantis as a whole. The guard told him, after he’d been dragged away from his people but before he ended up here, that his friends would be permitted to witness the “fair judgment” under armed guard, and that John would rejoin them once he’d repaid his debt to Kikathor society.
“We are a just people,” he said. “Our word and our law is good.”
He can’t trust them over his nerves burning. He’s never been this angry, at the man holding the supercharged cattle prod, at the Kikathor justice system, this whole stupid planet, and Elizabeth, goddammit, for not getting the hell out of here.
The man hits him again and he can’t help but scream.
He doesn’t want her to see this. He’s never letting her on another mission, ever, and if she puts up a fight he’s throwing her in the damned Ancient brig, and-
The pain stops.
He flinches the next time something touches his skin, but it doesn’t hurt. Cool hands, one on his bare chest, one on his forehead. Someone else rips off his bindings abruptly, scraping over his wrists. The cool hands don’t move.
“It’s over,” Elizabeth says. “They’ve agreed to end this. Rodney’s getting the jumper. You won’t have to walk far.”
“I’m okay,” he grits out. After a quick internal inventory, he realizes he’s not lying. He’s going to be sore as hell, but he can engage his muscles enough to move. He’s not bleeding, no broken bones, he can see and hear again and feeling is returning to his hands and feet.
“If you don’t mind,” she says, helping him to sitting, “I’m going to let Carson decide that.”
He suspects, if this went on much longer, Carson would have had a lot more work to do.
He was going to yell at her, he dimly remembers.
“Thanks,” he says instead.
- four -
This is going to kill him.
So far the Wraith, a nuke on a puddle-jumper, turning into a damned alien bug have all failed to do him in, but against this... John has no defense.
“Elizabeth,” he starts to speak, and then stops in his tracks. Speaking means he’s going to have to think about her, and maybe look at her, and that is a bad, bad idea right now.
Hell, who’s he kidding? He’s already thinking about her, can think of nothing but her, and God help him, he’s looking.
Elizabeth isn’t just looking back at him from where she’s stretched out on a sleeping bag on the floor of the jumper. She’s devouring him with her eyes.
John groans and turns his gaze back to the completely dead puddle-jumper controls. They need a tow truck, badly, and he needs a cold shower, and she needs to stop breathing so much, because he can hear her and smell her and he knows she’s right there, two feet away-
“There must have been something in the air,” he says, his voice a little higher than he expects it to sound.
They didn’t eat or drink anything anything other than water from a canteen. They went to the planet to join up with Lorne’s team, Elizabeth got dizzy on the way to the village, and John practically dragged her back to the puddle-jumper to go back to Atlantis for a physical.
They argued over who was the worse mother hen, they took off toward the space gate orbiting a planet on the far end of the solar system, and all the flight controls went dead.
And then Elizabeth said she wanted to jump him.
“John...” she purrs. “Look at me.”
“No.” He glues his gaze to the nonresponsive control console and thinks fly, fly as hard as he can, to no avail.
Elizabeth seems to have taken the brunt of whatever it is that’s affecting them. She experienced symptoms first, headache, dizziness, complaining about the temperature...
He can hear her moving, and then she’s next to him. One hand slips across his shoulder to his neck, and he just about dies.
It might have hit her first, but damn it, he’s not immune, or he wouldn’t be contemplating just how incredibly, unbelievably awesome it would be to grab her across his lap, right here, and kiss her like there’s nothing else in the universe, lie her down naked on that sleeping bag he laid out for her when he thought she just wasn’t feeling well...
“Elizabeth,” he groans. “God, we can’t do this.”
He is not that guy. He’d never take advantage of her, and not just because she’ll skin him alive when she gets over this.
He’s just the guy sitting here, trying to pretend he isn’t hard as hell while Elizabeth fucking Weir leans across him to whisper in his other ear,
“I want you, John.”
“Elizabeth, go sit in the back,” he orders, and it’s practically a growl.
“I’ve been thinking,” she says, and he can see the tiny beads of perspiration along her hairline. She’s so close he can taste her just by opening his mouth. “Whatever’s happening to us... the pollen in that field... maybe it’s affecting the physical manifestations of your ATA gene.”
“You’re saying the jumper’s fine-”
He can’t stand it. He presses his nose against her neck, right there next to him, and breathes her in.
She does smell different. Not that he’s ever-
He knows what she smells like, and this isn’t quite her, and maybe she’s right that this isn’t quite him either.
Which means they have absolutely nothing to do, nothing to fix, can only wait for Lorne to finish up his mission and fly right past them on the way to the ‘gate.
Nothing to do.
“John...” Elizabeth whimpers, and the spark of need that goes right through him at the sound of his name on her lips in that tone of voice that he never, ever thought he would hear...
His hands are shaking.
“Go sit in the back,“ he repeats. “Try to sleep. Something.”
She moves back to the floor, but it isn’t nearly far enough away in this impossibly small jumper. He can hear her rustling around instead of lying still. His stupid broken gene won’t even let him shut the door between the cockpit and the rest of the ship, and he can still smell her.
“Damn it,” he says. “Damn it, damn it, damn it...”
No matter how long it takes Lorne to get there, it’s going to be an eternity.
If it doesn’t kill him first.
- five -
If there’s one thing he really hates about Atlantis – besides the casualty lists, the relentless responsibility, the very real possibility that none of them will get out alive – it’s that short of a city-wide quarrantine, there’s no way to lock the doors.
Given the apparent nonchalance the Ancients had surrounding the concept of personal privacy, John should feel lucky that their individual quarters have doors at all. At the moment, after being forced out of the new Alpha Site, losing Corporal Garrett and Dr. Sing, and leaving eight others in the infirmary, John isn’t feeling lucky about anything.
Elizabeth, standing just inside his unfortunately unlocked doors, isn’t helping.
“I’ve already said it all,” he tells her. Colonel Caldwell could have filled up the Sunday edition of the New York Times with all the notes he took on the events leading up to the Legaran attack and John’s decision to withdraw. “We at least need to wait until Leahy is at least conscious before we strategize a new fallback planet.”
Elizabeth waves that off. “I’m here to check on you, John.”
Her eyes widen.
The last time she entered his quarters uninvited, woke him up with a kiss and crawled into bed next to him wearing nothing but a smile, he felt like the luckiest man in the world.
Now, he’d rather she were just about anywhere else.
He sullenly hides his bandaged hand behind his back, though there’s a nice bruise darkening around his eye he can’t hide as easily. There’s sympathy in her face, kindness, and right now he’d rather face down another Legaran legion. He knows what she’s going to say – it wasn’t his fault, he saved the people he could, they’ll find a way through this – and while she’s right about some of that, he’s not ready to hear it.
“I don’t want company, Elizabeth. Go worry about someone else.”
He doesn’t mean for that to come out as sharply as it does, but she should know better. They’ve been lovers for less than a month, but she’s known him far longer than that. When something goes wrong, when there’s a disaster, when he fails someone – himself, their people, her – he always needs to suffer alone.
Elizabeth sits on his desk chair like she plans to stay a while. “I just came from the infirmary. Morris came out of surgery with no complications.”
Teyla all but dragged Morris back through the gate, surely injuring his shattered leg further. They were both screaming – her demanding cover fire, him because he was somehow still conscious.
Elizabeth’s voice shakes him out of his thoughts. “Everyone else is already sleeping. You should be, too.”
He grunts rather than talks, because he’s pretty sure anything he has to say won’t be kind. Those sleeping in the infirmary are heavily doped on painkillers, Morris will probably have to go back to Earth for months of physical therapy, and Elizabeth’s worried about him losing sleep.
Garrett had potential. The annual fitness report still sitting on John’s desk says that she’s motivated, disciplined, an excellent candidate for promotion.
Dr. Sing came to Atlantis over a year ago, and John hardly knew him. That seems almost worse.
And Elizabeth... she was at the Alpha Site less than a week ago. His stomach twists with unnecessary fear, thinking what if, and that only makes him angrier. She wasn’t even there when they were attacked, but he can’t get her out of his head any more than he can get her out of his damn quarters.
“What do you expect me to say?” He doesn’t let her answer. “I didn’t see it coming. People died. That’s the whole story. It’s done, Elizabeth, until the next time it happens, and the next. The last thing I want is for you to try and make me feel better about it.”
Something flashes in her eyes, more hurt than angry, and he feels that twist in his stomach again. He can almost hear her, a few days from now, This isn’t working out.
Instead, she says, with more compassion than he deserves, “I know. They’re my people, too.”
She’s right, and it takes the heart out of his fight. Three years ago, she stood watch with him over the dark ocean after Sumner’s death. Even though he always withdraws to lick his wounds alone, he’s never actually gone through a loss on Atlantis without her. Then, after Sumner, he didn’t know if he deserved her confidence, the way she trusted him when she didn’t really know anything about him.
Now, he’s not sure that he deserves her.
She stands up. “Try to get some sleep, okay?”
He surprises himself by saying, “You don’t have to go.”
She pauses, halfway to the door, and gives him a look like he’s confusing her – which is fair, since he’s a little confused himself. She does that to him. He hasn’t figured out yet how to open his heart without losing his head.
Or losing her.
It occurs to him that, with all the ways she’s already stood by him, he’s probably not giving her enough credit.
“I just wanted to see you,” she says, “after everything that happened. I know you’d rather be alone. I’ve got to check in with the control tower one more time anyway.”
Suddenly, all he wants at the end of this awful day is Elizabeth asleep next to him. “I’m not very good company, but...”
She says what he hopes will always be true, every time she walks away: “I’ll come back.”
- six -
He proposes to her on Earth.
It’s not a surprise, and he doesn’t have to go down on one knee – they’ve been talking marriage in theory for a year and more specifically since the open secret of their relationship made it as far as the IOA and a sympathetic member hinted that “an official relationship” would look better.
A ring is essential, though, not just because Elizabeth is a little bit traditional in spite of her cross-galactic globetrotting. John needs something tangible because, well, part of the reason he wants to marry her is so alien dignitaries stop proposing to her. It’s happened twice in less than a year. Yes, he’s in love with her. Yes, he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. But he’d really like her permanently off the market.
With less than two hours free on the surface between meetings in the SGC, John’s impressed they managed to even find a jewelry store, let alone something off the shelf that she likes.
“You’re not disappointed it’s not unique?”
Elizabeth grins. “It’ll be the only one in the galaxy.”
He doesn’t plan to officially propose, one knee and all, until they’re back in Atlantis and they’ve got more than a few minutes to themselves to celebrate, but riding in the back of a military car on their way to the mountain reminds him of something.
She changed his life in a car just like this when she talked him into joining her in Atlantis. It seems only fair that she say yes to him in the same circumstances.
“So,” he asks. “Are you going to marry me?”
She’s already wearing the ring, because they’re only on the planet for another eighteen hours or so and if the size isn’t quite right, they’d better find out soon.
He knows she won’t say no, but his heart starts pounding as soon as he asks, because this is Elizabeth, and it’s him. She’s made him a better person, over and over, and he can’t even imagine himself without her anymore.
He can breathe again, just in time for her to cup his cheek in her hand and kiss him like he’s the last man she’ll ever kiss.
It’s awkward in a car, but he hugs her anyway, pulling her as close as he can.
“I love you,” he says into her hair. And, just so he can hear it again, he asks, “Are you sure?”
She laughs, kisses his cheek, promises: “You’re never getting rid of me.”
That's really all he needs.
- end -