Fall
a Stargate: Atlantis story
by dirty diana
dirtydiana78@hotmail.com
for lunasky in the Atlantis secret Santa.


Fall

after

It doesn't feel like dating at all. It feels like falling, spinning out of control, bracing for a dizzy crash landing. John visits in the middle of the night. He knocks, and then the door slides open, responsive to his touch.

"Sorry," he says, and then steps inside. The door closes behind him. "I brought you something." When he opens his hand, the stone is unpolished, glittering red lines running like veins across its surface. She can't ever remember mentioning that red is her favourite colour.

She runs a thumb exploringly over the smooth surface. "Has Dr. Beckett's team taken a look at that?"

He shrugs. "Rodney promised me it wouldn't explode."

"Oh."

"Probably wouldn't."

"Right." She takes it from him and places it on a table, where she will see it when she wakes. The rock is warm with the heat of his hand. "How was the mission?"

John watches her, and looks amused. "I just spent two hours telling you about the mission."

"I know." She sits on her bed, with her hands on her knees. "How was it?"

"Well." John pauses. "Rodney fell in the mud."

Elizabeth can't help laughing.

"He tripped on a rock." John answers her with a wry smile of his own. "Teyla and Ronon thought it was pretty funny."

"I bet." Elizabeth takes a breath, wiping her eyes. "Rocky planet, was it?"

"Very." John sits, and rests a hand on hers. "Little rocks. Big rocks. Rocks shaped like the Enterprise."

It's not like dating at all.

~

"John, I don't really think this is necessary."

John answers only with a brief shake of his head. "It's necessary. I still can't believe they sent any of you through the stargate," John still says it as if he's cursing, "without any kind of self-defense skills."

"Well," Elizabeth begins, "it's not as if I'm..."

"Defenseless?" John makes a face that she can't quite decipher. "Yeah. You are."

"Maybe someone else should train me," she suggests at last, laying her towel and sweatshirt on the floor of the sparring room.

John catches her lowered gaze, eyes narrowed. "Am I making you nervous?"

"No."

It's true enough, for the moment.

~

It's hard to tell which one of them is angrier. It's fear, masquerading as anger, and just enough lingering embarrassment to put colour in her cheeks.

The apology had been a mistake. John's eyes narrowed, in the small space of her office, where he stood, far enough away to be polite, close enough that she could smell the sweat and fury on his skin.

She's still a little weak, she knows, still a little pale. She can tell this when he looks at her, as if he might be able to see through her, as if she might fall.

"It wasn't just you, Elizabeth. It was both of us. And I..."

He doesn't finish what he's thinking. Distracted by her own frustration, she misses the moment when his words turn into a proposal, without subtlety or smoothness. "We can't just pretend it didn't happen."

Elizabeth tilts her head to one side, arms crossed against her chest. "What are you suggesting, John?"

"You know what I'm suggesting," he answers, and stops just short of reaching for her hand.

~

Carson thinks the headaches will be gone soon. This doesn't ease the blinding pain, though, or the flurry of sensation that precedes it. "Was I too rough on you?"

He hands her a bottle of water, and she can't quiet tell if that's an apology.

"I'll be sore in the morning," she says quietly. "But, no. It's not you."

He had pinned her to the mat, and she could taste hot salt on her tongue. Dizzy with every heaving breath, overwhelmed by the scent of him.

"It's about defending yourself," he tells her, and she has the fleeting sensation of letting him down. "Not fighting fair."

He hadn't kissed her then. He kisses her now.

Later, when she wipes her damp skin dry, it's not only her arms that ache from struggling.

~

Rodney almost catches them, once. In the east end of the city, in the late part of the afternoon, when the sun hits the east windows with a burnt glow that eases her breath.

"We were just..."

"Looking for the M2X 498 file," John finishes, and his hand casually brushes her elbow. "Dr Weir thinks we might have missed something."

"You're not considering going back there, are you?" Rodney looks horrified. "I almost died on that moon."

John's sigh can barely be heard. "You didn't almost die, Rodney. The natives were just being friendly."

Rodney looks sceptical. "What would you know about it? You were unconscious the whole time."

"Did you want something, Rodney?" Elizabeth's mouth twists with nervousness.

"No, no." Rodney waves a hand dismissively. "I was looking for a file myself, but now it occurs to me that this is the wrong room. I'll just..." Rodney is still talking when he leaves. He doesn't look at either of them.

When he's gone, Elizabeth shakes her head. "We can't do this."

"I thought we had this conversation," he whispers as he kisses her.

~

"What's the point, John?"

"Lowers your centre of gravity." His hand touches the inside of her left knee, nudging her feet further apart. "Gives you more leverage. Ask Rodney."

"No. I mean, what's the point of this?" She spreads her hands, indicating the training room, thick with the sharp smell of blood and bruises. "I might not even have a reason to go off world again for months."

"I don't want that to be because you're afraid."

"I think you're the one who's afraid," she answers, and regrets it too late.

He shrugs, and doesn't deny it. "Maybe. But I can't always get there, Elizabeth."

She doesn't believe that, not really. It worries her.

Once more they struggle, to the sounds of grunts and harsh exhalations of breath. John's voice is calm as he instructs her. Wider, tighter, faster, again. Afterwards he walks her to the infirmary so that Carson can tend to the cuts on her hands and knees, from falling.

When he comes to visit her that night, she's exhausted. And so he curls against her, with a hand on her shoulder and another on her thigh, and lets her fall into peaceful sleep. She doesn't notice when he leaves her, but in the morning she wakes alone.

before

Elizabeth is an only child. She never thought of herself as smaller or weaker than anyone. But this place is larger than she can count in her head, and the distance to the stargate seems to grow with every step. The moon vanishes now and again behind the trees, and she loses John, more than once, in the dark.

He finally forces her to call her own name, every five minutes, in the jet black prison of trees, and he does the same. Then his fingers wrap tightly onto her wrist, pulling her back onto a path that only he can see.

The night is warm, but she shivers anyway.

"I'm sorry." They stop when he sees she can no longer walk, when her voice becomes hoarse. "I don't know what's wrong with me."

She knows him well enough to know that he sounds annoyed. "You were a hostage, Elizabeth."

"I guess I was." She hadn't thought of it quite like that. When she moves closer to him, in the dark, she thinks that it might ease the chill. She realises she doesn't know exactly how long it's been, since the people beyond the trees told her that she couldn't go home. Back to Atlantis. "I was pretty wrong about this one, wasn't I?"

"It happens."

"I thought they could help us."

"I know." He doesn't push her away, but runs a hand up her back. She can hear them all, the questions that he's not asking.

"They didn't hurt me," she tells him softly.

"We'll talk about it later," he says, and she can hear that he doesn't want to talk about it at all.

More than once a sound from the dark draws John's gun from its holster, a movement that startles her more than the sound itself. But there's nothing there, and she can feel John's temporary relief as he exhales.

Despite her exhaustion, she can't sleep. John won't, just lets her curl up against him, still biting her lip, fighting the sensation of cold.

"Elizabeth." It's a strangled sound that he makes, and Elizabeth starts, from a dazed half-dream. Realises that she has her hands stroking his face, caressing, her thumb tracing the outline of his mouth.

"Cold," she says quietly.

"I know," he whispers, and his hands cover hers. "But we can't."

"Who says?" she asks him, and kisses him urgently, her tongue slipping between his lips. None of this feels real, not the trees, not the moon, not the fear that pricks her insides, and certainly not John, skin-hot and slipping through her fingers as she tries to hold on.

"Elizabeth." She can feel her own pulse throbbing, behind her temples. "What did they do..."

She quiets him with another kiss, and she can taste the hesitation in his mouth, before he groans quietly against her, and pulls her closer. He's whispering words in her ear, things that don't make sense, mindless babys and promises that everything will be okay, words that she can't follow with her head spinning endlessly.

His hands roam over the curves of her body, without slowing, forcing his hand between her thighs as she sighs.

"John." She's yielding to the waves of sensation that roll over her, and closing her eyes. "We can't."

"Who says?" he whispers.

Elizabeth sleeps with her head on his shoulder. He wakes her with the first light, before dawn, and again they run, with their footsteps echoing against the sound of the waking birds.

after

Once, when there is only one team off-world, and her headaches have eased, John takes her to the mainland. It's a revelation to watch him fly the jumper, fingers roaming over the controls, with a concentration crossing his mouth that she doesn't see often.

He lets her pick the spot where they land, an angular stretch of beach with rough brown sand. He promises to teach her to surf.

They wait for the moon to rise, and he opens a bottle of something he traded off the Athosians, something dark red that goes straight to her head. John hardly touches it, but lets her talk, and says nothing when she leads him down to the edge of the water, to walk in the surf.

"Maybe," she says, quietly. It seems like more than maybe, here. An easy feeling, the waves on the sand, a door opening. Like going home. She leans her head against his chest.

"Told you so," he answers, just before his mouth brushes hers.

~fin.

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