Courting Change

by sugargroupie

PG, 1656 words

Summary: she knows his body better than his heart.

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership to Stargate: Atlantis or its characters.

Notes: Written for the 2008 Sheppard/Weir ficathon. My recipient Rory_Elizabeth, requested Elizabeth and John on Earth. No specific spoilers involved, so I guess this is AU. Thanks to Shannon for the speedy beta (and the mocking). Mistakes remain mine.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

"Are you going to let me in?"

Elizabeth blinks at the question. For one surreal moment she's taken back to nearly a year ago, when John had asked that very same question standing outside her quarters in Atlantis. She'd let him in then and what followed was something Elizabeth isn't sure she wants to repeat this day.

Or ever, she corrects herself, before her traitorous mind can even process entertaining the possibility.

She wonders if that damn question will always be a prelude to sex, then pushes the thought away. Her intentions are honorable tonight -- to have dinner with John and catch each other up on the few months they've been out of contact. She's not sure their newly rekindled friendship would survive veering so far off this currently very straight and narrow course.

Giving her head a little shake to focus on the present, Elizabeth smiles and steps aside, allows John to enter. "Of course. How are you?"

John runs a hand through his hair, unruly as ever. As he crosses her path she notices that his clothes are wrinkled, his shirt clinging slightly to his back. "Wet," he replies with hesitation. Elizabeth raises an eyebrow in curiosity when he steps closer, his demeanor awkward, much like she imagines he was when he was a lanky-limbed boy on the cusp of manhood.

However, his answer's not exactly true. To Elizabeth he looks damp more than anything, like he'd been out in the rainy weather all day and then decided it wasn't worth the effort to change his clothes. She sneaks a glance outside before shutting the door, noting that the steady downpour has finally trickled down to sprinkles.

Elizabeth takes a deep breath at the nearness of him; inhaling his musky scent and the rain, feeling the humidity like a shroud around him.

She remains rooted in her spot upon realizing just how close he is. John leans down, brushing a soft kiss against her cheek before returning to his full height. His cheeks are flushed beneath his perpetual beard stubble and a satisfied smirk now shapes his mouth. Not for the first time does Elizabeth wonder what goes on in the mind of John Sheppard.

He lifts the large paper bag in his right hand that she'd been too preoccupied to notice and says, "Brought refreshments," as he walks further into her home. Elizabeth is left alone as she closes the door, stifling the urge to touch her fingers to her cheek. Moving to follow, she stops short at finding Sedge staring at her, as if the dog is waiting on a certain reaction from her master.

The sound of movement in the kitchen alerts Sedge to more pressing concerns, and she jogs away with her tail wagging.

Left alone to catch her bearings, Elizabeth rakes her fingers through her hair. It was just a friendly peck, she berates herself. It wasn't a sign that he wants to take you to bed. Except... experience has taught Elizabeth that when it comes to John, nearly all of his gestures are layered, his actions almost always deliberate.

Since returning to Earth, neither had made any attempts at picking up where they'd left off. Anything beyond friendship required too much effort on top of dealing with their forced return and IOA inquiries. Elizabeth wishes she'd forced herself to take a moment to address what was happening between them, even to say nothing more than, "It was fun but it's over." At least they'd have had closure, instead of what now remains -- the distracting weight of things unsaid.

Not to mention the arousal. She's aware right now of how very much she wants him, and how unfair it all is that the feelings she's repressed for so long can be so casually set free by a soft kiss on her cheek.

"Elizabeth," John calls from the kitchen. He peers around the corner, the sleeves of his shirt already pulled back over his forearms. "What are you doing?"

Pushing aside her musings, she shakes her head and turns to follow. "Nothing."


They work together seamlessly in the kitchen, maneuvering around each other as if it's routine. It all feels a little too familiar to Elizabeth, reminding her of lazy Saturday afternoons with Simon, and she stops short at the reflection. It's the only time she makes the comparison between the two men, as she often makes it a point not to; but more than that, it's because her experiences with John are so different.

She's reminded of this very detail when John retrieves a bottle of wine from the bag he carried in earlier. Elizabeth nods in approval, smiling her thanks as she reaches her arm inside to search for whatever else he brought. The bag is too big to carry one bottle of wine, after all. When her hand hits against something familiar, she lets out a short laugh, lifting a six pack of John's favorite beer.

"What's funny?" he asks as he takes the case from her hand.

Elizabeth shakes her head. "Hold on," she tells him and opens the refrigerator door. She sets an identical carton of beer beside the one John brought, and they both chuckle.

"Sweet! Now I won't have to rush out to buy more."

And there it is again; words from John that have multiple meanings. She wants to ask him directly what he means -- Do you plan on coming around more often; of never leaving; of going through both cases in one night? Which is it?

Elizabeth hadn't planned on having this conversation, but she knows it needs to happen. Whatever they decide, however they move on, depends on what happens next.

Needing something to occupy her hands, she sifts through a drawer for the bottle opener and sets two bottles aside, storing both cases in the fridge. "John, we need to talk," she begins, wincing at the words. She pops both caps quickly and hands John a beer.

John looks distinctly uncomfortable, and Elizabeth is not in the mood. "Don't act like I'm sending you to your death, John," she scoffs, "it's just a conversation."

He scratches the back of his neck, shrugging his shoulders sheepishly at his automatic response. He takes a long drink from the bottle, possibly to buy himself some time to respond, leaving Elizabeth vaguely amused and mostly resigned.

Contrariness to exposing his emotions aside, she understands John's reluctance. It's not as if they spent a lot of time in Atlantis discussing personal matters. And regardless of how well they know each other, how instinctive the give and take of their relationship has grown, Elizabeth acknowledges that in this instance she knows his body better than his heart.

Perhaps it's time for that to change.

"You're right," John says quietly. "We should talk about what happened. I'm just, well, you know..."

Not good at this, Elizabeth completes silently, wondering if he's underestimating himself again. She holds his stare for a moment until a slow grin from John eases the tension between them.

"Let's eat first and then we'll have that talk," he suggests while turning to the stove to begin preparations.

That talk sounds so ominous, but she really is hungry. Her eyes skim the vegetables simmering on the stove top and the fish in the oven. "What else can I do to help?"

"Leave while I work my magic."

"Excuse me," she says with amusement, "I went grocery shopping to get you all this and you're kicking me out of my own kitchen?"

John surprises her with a hip-check, smiling as she covers her mouth to stop the giggle from completely escaping her lips. "It's my kitchen for the time being, and you are distracting me."


The rest of the evening passes by much too quickly.

They talk as they eat; stilted conversation that slowly evolves into quiet confessions.

"I'd wanted you for a long time Elizabeth, but you always held yourself back." Very little food remains on John's plate as he leans back in his chair, swallowing deeply from his second beer. He fidgets a bit in place, awkwardness shading his face once more.

"After," he emphasizes, the word encompassing so much of what's happened in their lives the prior year. "I didn't want to know why you had sex with me that night, or the next morning." He offers her a small smile at the latter. "You were already pulling away when we got back; your reasons didn't seem to matter at that point."

"John," Elizabeth breathes, at a loss at what to say next. She'd never meant to hurt him, but she hadn't been thinking beyond the moment that night, or since her abrupt return to Earth.

"You confuse the hell out of me, you know that?"

Elizabeth's gaze snaps up to find John shaking his head, his expression one of wry amusement and not the anger she was expecting. "The feeling is very much mutual," she answers softly.

John shrugs one shoulder and looks away. "You did say you wanted to talk."

"I know, I'm glad." Elizabeth tentatively raises his hand palm up on the table and strokes her thumb up and down the middle. "I missed you," she admits as she shifts forward in her chair, the truth of her concession like a gift and a burden.

John mirrors her action and threads his fingers through hers, holding on to her hand tightly. "I'm not going anywhere," he drawls, voice gravelly thick.

Elizabeth can only nod as she moves closer and cups the back of his head before sliding her hand comfortably along his jaw. "Good," she murmurs, and leans in to kiss him.

When they finally break free, Elizabeth isn't sure who is holding on to whom tighter.

Resting her thumb at the corner of his mouth, she nods again with a sigh, fully welcoming him back into her life.

They're courting change now.


e n d