Author: Little Red
Summary: In “The Siege,” she can’t think about him until later. UST.
Author’s Note: For Sparktober bingo, “The Siege.” I’ll edit this... later.
She tells him to go, and she’ll grieve later.
She probably won’t get the chance.
Elizabeth doesn’t have to tell herself not to think about losing him, because there are Wraith in the city and her people are dying around her and there’s nothing she can do, but she’s needed on fifty radio channels not doing it. She doesn’t think any of them will outlive John for long; he’s just dying sooner, cleaner, without Wraith hands on his chest.
John’s voice is in her ear. She listens for poignant last words but there are none. Neither of them have time to think about what’s happening. Later, she thinks, because she’s been telling herself that about everything she’s put off since all of this started (sleeping, eating, crying).
There’s an explosion on the monitor, no more tangible from the surface than a video game death, and it’s done.
“He did it,” she says, and understanding feels like it’s barrelling toward her.
McKay’s face is ashen. She can still hear gunfire around them. It’s not over.
She can put off thinking about his death for now, maybe forever. There’s every chance they’ll all end up joining him.
As it turns out, John is alive. She could kiss Caldwell for saving the city, for showing up just in time – on the right day would be impressive enough, but that he managed to cross whole galaxies and arrive at just the right moment to pluck John out of the cockpit of his puddle-jumper and save his life.
She wraps her arms around John, despair she hasn’t dealt with smothered over by relief she won’t get to deal with for a while. He looks beautiful, in astonishingly sharp focus, like she can see all the molecules that make up his face. She wants to trace her fingers over every line, every hair.
She should think no, never, that’s not appropriate, but her mental responses are on autopilot. Later.
They get back to business.
There are so many dead. Ford is gone, and Elizabeth tries to offer John sympathy, but she almost can’t feel anything. There’s such a backlog of emotions for her to get through, like emails stacking up in her inbox on days when the science teams are dragging her into all their arguments. Bright, young, hopeful Aiden Ford consumed by madness and alone out there in the galaxy... she assigns that bitter loss a number and sends it to the back of the line.
She orders the recall of the civilians who stayed at the Alpha Site, and that’s her last order for the day.
She goes to see Carson, hoping there’s no other losses she’ll have to add to her emotional queue. He catches her up on the lists – the dead, the critically wounded who are on their way back to Earth, the minor casualties who can be treated locally, those he’s already released back to quarters.
“And Lieutenant Ford,” Carson adds. When he closes his mouth, his lips are tight.
“You can’t blame yourself,” she says.
He sighs. “Wouldn’t you?”
“Not now.” She has to confess, though, “Maybe later.” Her eyes are still fixed on the casualty lists. John isn’t on any of them. She’s seen him, touched him, but some part of her brain expects his name to be in front of her. She wonders if, when John sees this list, he’ll be thinking the same thing.
It makes sense she’s thinking about him more than the others, because he’s her partner. They’ve been joined together since they started this, since Sumner died. They took on the galaxy together and barely survived.
He would’ve taken the puddle jumper without her permission, because it needed to be done, but he asked her, and she agreed. She told him to go.
“You need rest, Elizabeth. Tomorrow will be-”
She finishes, “-nowhere near as hard as today.”
John is outside her quarters when she approaches, just... standing there.
“Were you waiting for me?” She’s not sure if she has another emergency’s worth of energy left in her, and she doesn’t know why else he’d come looking for her.
John’s eyes widen when he sees her, and he backs up a few feet to let her access the door. “Actually, I was debating whether to knock or not.”
It’s a strange statement. He doesn’t look embarrassed, though – maybe his feelings are also on back-order after the week they’ve just had.
She swipes her hand over the door release. “Do you-”
“Can I come in?”
He’s never once, in the year they’ve been here, asked to enter her quarters. He’s come here a few times to talk to her after hours about pressing issues, but he’s always stayed in the doorway. She waves him in.
Elizabeth has been in his quarters, and she recalls them being neat as a military-issue pin. Usually hers is similarly tidy – if perhaps without the sharply mitered sheet corners – but right now the bed and the clothes on the floor look as rumpled and unkept as she feels.
She’s pretty sure she and John are both beyond caring about things like that.
John follows her in, and stands a few feet from where she sits down on her bed. He doesn’t say anything out loud, but she gets the sense he’s having a whole conversation in his head.
She says, to break the silence: “We survived.”
John nods. “Most of us.”
The lists she read feel imprinted on her retinae, like she could close her eyes and read off every name. “How are you doing?”
He shrugs. “More alive than I expected to be.”
Something sick lodges in her throat, and it’s hard to swallow it down. She hasn’t even had time to really think about it. “Thank God, right?”
He stuffs his hands in his pockets. “Finding comfort in religion?”
He says it like it’s a casual question, but under the circumstances, she doesn’t think anything can be casual. “I didn’t grow up religious,” she tells him. “After today, though, I’m thinking of starting.” She has never told him much about her childhood. They rarely talk about anything besides the mission. A painful thought sneaks through her exhaustion – I could have lost him without really knowing him.
John nods for a few long seconds after she stops talking. He pulls one hand out of his pocket and scrubs it through his hair.
“You’re the last thing I thought of,” he says.
It’s unexpected enough to shake right through her pile of unread emotions. Her heart starts beating faster. “What?”
The way he looks at her – the way his hand sometimes brushes hers in the transporters – the warm smile that can always make her smile back – the thing she’d almost forgotten after he saved her life, after Kolya, when they were nearly alone in the city waiting for the storm to pass and he stood far closer behind her than he had to, his face right against her hair, his hand wrapped protectively around her hip...
She told herself she’d think about it later, figure it out what she felt once the storm was gone and the city was back to normal.
John is looking at her knees on the edge of the bed, not her face. “When I thought that was it, I was looking at the displays and checking the timer and then... I was thinking about you.”
She remembers hugging him in the control tower. He still looks just as acutely real.
“I just thought you should know.”
Her heart is pounding. She expects to be thinking no, no, because this changes things, because she shouldn’t enjoy hearing this, shouldn’t want him to cross the space between them and sink down with her onto this bed so she could smell him and feel him as she sleeps.
He doesn’t say it, but she knows he’d never be here, never be telling her this if they weren’t both this far past the point of reason.
She says, “I’m glad you told me.”
He shifts from foot to foot for a moment and she knows he’s going to leave before she has the chance to process this, before she comes up with anything better to say to make him feel better, to make her feel better, to cement that they’re both here and alive and she cares about him. If he died on that ship, she’d have lost a part of herself.
He tilts his head toward the door. “I should-”
“John.” She has to touch him. His posture stiffens when she stands up, like he’s going to bolt, but he’s still there when she reaches him.
She hugs him again, only this time she squeezes harder, and his head falls to her shoulder, nose pressed to her neck. She brings her hand up to hold the back of his head and her fingers spread through his hair on instinct, without any conscious thought from her.
They’re both alive.
When he lifts up his head, he doesn’t release her completely. His hands slide up to her shoulders, then to cup her head, and he presses a long kiss to her forehead that makes her whole tired body feel light.
He lets go, slowly.
“I’ll see you in the morning,” he says, and she knows they won’t talk about this again, not for a while. “Sleep well.”
“You too.” She can’t put everything she’s feeling into her voice, but she tries. “You deserve it.”
The door opens and then closes behind him.
She’s beyond tired, but takes a shower so that she can fall into bed clean, without the day still coating her skin and hair.
She can’t sleep right away – she never can, not even if she’s weeks’ worth of exhausted. Scattered things she might never get the chance to fully deal with flit through her mind: the Wraith darts exploding against the shield, the way the rail guns vibrated the balcony under her feet, all the voices on the radio, Carson’s lists, Caldwell, John. You’re the last thing I thought of. He was about to die, and he thought of her – not as a voice on the radio, not as the one who agreed with him that this was necessary, but... her. He was willing to die to save their lives, and she gave him comfort, somehow.
She imagines peeling John’s sweaty clothes from his body to help him into the shower, imagines lying next to him, keeping him warm.
Later, she thinks.
Someday, when there’s less happening, when he can think of her like that when he’s not seconds from death.
Later, maybe, they’ll get that chance.
Bingo card is here. I've got a lot of wood to chop. :)