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Stargate Universe Fic: Shadows - tranquility... best achieved in chaos
phrenitis
phrenitis
Stargate Universe Fic: Shadows
Title: Shadows
Rating: M
Category: Matthew Scott/Vanessa James.
Spoilers: Season One, Pain.
Disclaimer: Owned by others.
Author’s Note: Only anr could understand and forgive me for this inexcusable delay for her generous qldfloodauction bid. This is all for you, my dear friend - may these two live on in fic!
Summary: There's nothing she wants less than having a past with him. Because now it’s messy.

==

It starts because of her needs – something uncomplicated, something a little thrilling. But it ends because... well, she’s still trying to figure that out.

==

It’s unbearably hot, and she can feel the heat of the sun from the lifeless planet radiating through the rough rocks pressing at her back. She ignores the sharp sting of little cuts from the stone and pulls Matt closer to her, swallows back sound when he hikes her leg higher up over his hip, the angle electric. And then it doesn’t matter much that she’s sticky and sweaty and sandy (or dusty, whatever it is that covers 80% of the planet’s surface) - her head is against his shoulder, his hand gripping a bruise into her thigh, and she comes silently, a long shuddering breath as she moves against him and the rocks dig painfully and rhythmically into her back.

Matt says something that sounds vaguely like her name, but it’s faint, raspy, and the way sounds carry on this planet, she can’t even be sure it didn’t come from the others working down in the valley. After all, he has barely known her a week, and she’s still James to everyone but TJ.

She’s surprised when he doesn’t just walk off after he finishes (he seemed like a get-and-go kind of guy; she liked that about him), but kisses her full and hard, his arm tight around her waist as he holds her to him.

“Alien planet sex. That’s a new one,” he muses playfully in her ear.

She steps away from his hold to get her clothes back in order. “I made the honors list?”

“It’ll be hard for anyone to beat that!” he says and slaps her ass.

The sound echoes.

==

She knows how complicated relationships work, and she hates the repetition of failure.

There's nothing she wants less than having a past with him. Because now it’s messy.

==

She is at the halfway mark of her patrol, some lost and forgotten corridor of Destiny that she’s pretty sure doesn’t need checking because what are the odds (of course, what the hell else is she going to do?), when Matt materializes out of nowhere.

“Damn it, Scott.” Her finger eases off the trigger, heart pounding as she lowers the gun and throws him a glare. “You trying to get shot?”

He smiles crookedly (she hates it when he does that – kind of hates a lot of things right now) and he gives her a little shrug of his shoulder. “Just shoot first and ask questions later, huh James?”

“Down here? Damn straight.”

They’re in a dark and cold hallway surrounded by nothing but grey walls and the occasional hiss of air as the life support system kicks on and off. It’s deathly quiet, almost eerie, and Matt gives a nod after a quick glance around. “Point taken.”

She walks on past him, tries to ignore the way he hesitates and then follows as she continues along her route.

“Did you need something?” she finally asks as the silence grows awkward.

“I, uh…” He struggles for words. “I wanted to see if you were okay.”

It’s only been a few days since The Incident (as TJ calls it, and they really should start numbering these things), but she’s still trying desperately to forget it as quickly as she can. “Is this about the whole tick thing?”

“Yeah.” He catches up to walk by her side. “I think we should talk about it.”

She bites back the stinging reply that jumps to mind. If anything, the whole incident is a not-so-neatly packaged reminder that it’s really time for her to move on. Suddenly tired and not eager for conversation, she shakes her head. “It was just a hallucination.”

“James. Vanessa. Wait.” He grabs her arm and gently pulls her to a stop. “Look, I know it was my fault. All of it. I just wanted to say that I'm sorry.”

She wants to punch him sometimes – the way he complicates things that are supposed to be so easy. But she figures now or never. “You were a jackass, you know."

“I was totally a jackass,” he admits outright, that damn crooked smile back on his face. “And this thing with Chloe, it’s just… it’s…”

“Complicated?” she offers. She has other words, but she’s trying not to ruin the moment.

He nods, sighs. “It’s a lot of things. And I know I should have told you earlier, handled it differently. Better,” he corrects quickly when he catches the quick expression she knows has just flitted across her face. “But I am sorry.”

His words are surprising, if she’s honest with herself, and she’s not quite sure how to respond to such a direct apology. She toys with the light on her gun, flicks it on and off to watch the pool of light illuminate the space on the floor between them - light grey, dark grey, on and off.

She just had to get stuck with him on some god forsaken ship at the far end of the universe. She’s half made up her mind to absolve him for the past when she looks up and realizes he’s already gone.

==

Chloe sits down next to her in the mess.

"You won't need to be sorry," Chloe states softly, but she seems distracted, her eyes glazed and distant.

"Excuse me?"

Chloe gives her a wry smile. "You'll see; it's a forgiveness of sorts."

==

At the end, she and Greer accompany the Colonel as he escorts Chloe off the ship. It’s a quiet farewell – Chloe stares ahead, lost in her mind again, and leaves with only a brief nod that might mean goodbye.

Matt’s waiting for them when they return.

“Tell me I didn’t just do the wrong thing,” he says, and despite the grief, there is anger in his voice at them, at Chloe in particular.

Colonel Young rests a hand on Matt’s shoulder briefly. “It was my choice and Chloe’s decision.”

Matt nods in acknowledgement, but doesn’t look like he believes a word.

“Brody?” she suggests once the Colonel is out of earshot. Matt doesn’t respond, but Greer drags him along to get a drink anyway.

==

There’s a knock at her door a little after 0300 hours, and she stumbles out of bed, bleary with sleep and alcohol. The door slides opens to reveal Matt standing there looking equally wrecked, shoulders slumped, desperate.

“This had better not be what I think it is,” she warns.

He manages a lopsided smile. “It’s not. Honorable intentions and all that stuff. Can I come in?”

She lets him in warily. She’s had the Matt crash course thank you very much, and isn't in the mood to try that again.

He stands in the middle of the room and looks down at his hands blankly. “I thought I should stop by. Say thank you. For Chloe.” His words come out in a drunken, slurred rush. “I knew it was coming, the way it was taking over, but I thought maybe we’d figure it out. Again. I hoped this time. I figured we'd know how to fix her permanently before… you know.”

She goes to sit on the edge of her bed and waits for his words to finish tumbling down around them. She has thoughts in her head – things better left unsaid, things that won’t fix Chloe being abandoned on some planet in a galaxy this side of nowhere, and Matt standing in front of her like a dejected white knight with no one to rescue.

She understands him now, for better or worse. She found forgiveness a while ago - it had been hard to avoid someone for long in a closed space the size of a cruise ship, and eventually time had healed what lack of distance couldn't. They are, all of them, just lost souls in the end.

“Do you want to stay here tonight?” she asks. She surprises them both with the question. Apparently, she really is her own worst enemy.

Matt looks at her closely, but doesn’t say anything.

“And don’t even get that thought in your head,” she tells him sternly. “Just stay for… the company.”

She doesn’t bother to wait and see what he does, but crawls back into bed. She already has a wicked headache, and she knows TJ won’t, under any circumstances, waste meds on a hangover.

It’s a long moment later before she hears his pants hit the floor, the soft rustle of the shirt that follows. She feels him lie down beside her and doesn’t open her eyes, doesn’t turn to face him though she finds there’s a strange, unknown part of her that wants to.

“If you so much as touch me,” she cautions because it doesn't hurt to reinforce the warning, “your balls will be in a sling for a week.”

==

Complicated is an understatement. She doesn't have any kind of definition for this.

==

She sits at the table with Greer, looks at the bland mess of food on her tray.

“Cheeseburger,” she mutters to herself, half hopeful, eyes closing in prayer as she forces herself to eat whatever it is they’ve been served.

“Just like my mama used to make,” Greer says with gusto. “She couldn’t cook worth shi-“

“I need to get off this ship!” Matt sits down heavily beside her, his tray hitting the table with a thud, and she can see his restless impatience is only getting worse. “It’s been nearly three weeks! By now we must need water, food!”

Greer glances at him, then looks over at her curiously. She may be, on casual occasion, sharing her bed with Matt, but it hasn’t extended beyond being a bizarre sleeping arrangement between friends, and she does not want to get involved in a conversation about it. Oh she hears the whispers being passed through the ship all right, and she is, by all accounts, either fucking him nightly leaving him riddled with guilt post-Chloe, or doing such a poor job of it that he’s just completely sexually frustrated.

Frowning, she stares down at her food and pushes bits around with her fork intently.

“Rush says we’re a few hours out from a planet,” Greer tells him.

“It's about time! Lieutenant James, you’re with me,” Matt announces and then leaves abruptly, his food untouched.

She carefully and slowly separates the grey lump of food from the greenish mush on the other side, feels Greer watching her closely.

“Well,” he says, and there’s a smile in the word that makes her jaw clench. “Well, well, well.”

Her head snaps up. “You done?”

==

It takes over four months before someone can say 'Chloe' and no one winces.

She's not the last, but it's close.

==

Matt sits with her at the ‘gate, glasses on and hat low over his brow in an attempt to ward off the sun. The temperature is incredible - rippling heat waves are visible in the air, and little drips of sweat roll down to pool, stickily, in the small of her back.

After a brief reconnaissance, it's ended up as a mission for the scientists, and she looks over to the left on occasion to watch their excitement build and ebb repeatedly as they pour over the text on the monument. She idly wonders why Matt continues to bring her along instead of Greer - thinks maybe she shouldn't continue to let him into her bed.

Matt hands her the canteen, the back of his hand light against her leg for a moment. She suddenly remembers that other planet from forever ago – sweltering, his hands on her, the silence save their breaths, quick and warm. She avoids his gaze and looks back at the scientists, but she’s thinking about the feel of his chest under her fingers, the firm press of his body, his mouth hot on her neck.

Matt clears his throat and she jumps at the sound.

“We have to get out of the sun,” he says, either pointedly ignoring her reaction or completely oblivious, and stands. “There’s shade about half a klick to the east.”

She follows him dutifully and part of the way there she realizes she’s watching his back - the damp shirt stuck to his skin, muscles moving smoothly as he walks. With a dry swallow and fighting the flush of color she feels on her cheeks, she forces herself to look down.

The sun is directly overhead and her shadow is a small puddle at her feet, her boots stepping down on herself with almost rhythmic precision.

“You alright?” he asks when they arrive at the overhang, makes room so she can stand beside him in the bit of shade it provides. It’s appreciatively cooler even though the humidity remains.

She nods. “Sure. Why?”

“You just seem distracted.”

“Hmm,” she says noncommittally. She is distracted if truth be told, but it’s about thoughts she is most decidedly not interested in sharing.

"Thanks, by the way." He rubs the back of his neck as he fights for words that don't come easily. "For being there... and not asking questions. It's helped."

She glances up at him in surprise.

"Chloe said to talk," he explains, embarrassed, and takes a long pull from the canteen. “I can’t remember the last time we were anywhere this hot…”

He suddenly falls silent and shifts awkwardly. For a second, she’s perversely pleased that he now has those thoughts in his head too. But the feeling passes quickly.

“I did forgive you, you know,” she tells him, wondering at the same time if she’s ever actually said it out loud.

Matt turns and looks at her, but his expression is hidden behind sunglasses.

She waits for him to respond, one long moment that stretches. “Well, I’m not going to say it again,” she adds pointedly.

That finally earns her a smirk in return.

==

He stops coming to her room around the time he nearly kisses her.

It shouldn't matter, but it aches like rejection.

==

She rushes with Greer along the narrow, tree-lined path, but they come into the clearing just one moment too late, and it’s already over - three dead and a crater two meters deep in the dirt. The sound of the explosion is still fading, her heart thumping widely at the close call.

She doesn't know what else to do and checks the bodies for signs of life out of respect and sorrow. It's futile as she expects. They are losing people too fast to be able to fully process it anymore.

Matt arrives on the other side of the space, expression going from scared to horrified to furious in a flash, and then he’s pounding across the ground to them. Greer takes a half step in front of her and she's confused by his reaction.

“Where the hell were you?” Matt is already yelling before he reaches them, his eyes finding hers. “I called you here over 10 minutes ago!”

“We were at the ‘gate, sir,” Greer responds coolly, but she can see his fists tighten at the implication there was any delay.

“Fuck, Sargent!" Matt is right in his face looking angry enough to punch something. "When I say 'on the double' I expect you to goddamn run!”

She steps forward immediately. “Lieutenant Scott, a word?”

His jaw clenches, but he gives a nod in quick acknowledgement before turning down an adjoining path. Greer gives her a pointed look before she leaves.

"What?" she asks.

He shrugs. "Not me he was worried about."

She frowns at him, and then follows after Matt. She finds him a ways down the path, leaning against a tree and rubbing at his face in frustration.

"You need to apologize to him," she says.

To her surprise, Matt nods. "Yeah."

She goes to stand beside him. "There was nothing we could do. You know that, right?"

"I know," he agrees, but regret and anger still color his tone.

"Look, with all that radio interference, they wouldn't have known to clear out," she explains, forcing him to understand. Tragedy strikes Destiny frequently, but she knows Matt isn't good at handling loss. "A few more seconds and we'd just be dead, too."

He looks at her searchingly as though she has answers he desperately needs, like she can give him the impossible. There's an intensity in his gaze she's never seen in him before. Then Matt leans in to kiss her.

She steps back, her heart caught in her throat. It's not that she doesn't want to reciprocate, it's that, despite everything they've been through, inexplicably she does.

"Shit, James. I'm sorry," he says immediately, his expression pained. "I wasn't thinking."

"It's fine." And she's surprised to find it's true. Their past isn't waiting under the surface for the right moment to rise and haunt her.

He gives a harsh shake of his head. "I don't understand what's happening anymore."

No one does, she wants to say, and doesn't stop him when he leaves.


==

It happens again a few weeks later under similar circumstances.

This time she doesn't step away.

==

Matt seems surprised to see them around the table - her and TJ and the others playing a quiet hand of poker in the dead of night. It's not a weekly thing, or even a planned one, but insomnia has a habit of catching.

Colonel Young waves a hand. "Come sit, Lieutenant."

Matt obeys and slides into a space next to her, his hand brushing her thigh in silent greeting. They're established friends, but they're not sleeping together, and aside from a one-time almost-kiss, and the next-time desperate-kiss, she's not quite sure where they stand. Ironically enough, there's still the assumption from everyone on the ship that they've been paired off since Chloe's departure.

She's a damn good poker player, but Matt can read her more than she realized, and her winning streak falters.

"I'm not sorry," he admits when she folds with a look directed his way.

TJ takes the next two hands instead, and Colonel Young mumbles something about an enigmatic expression. But it's anyone's game after that, and even Matt plays a winning hand a couple of times. Only the Colonel walks away without ever getting a decent set of cards, and Eli gladly relinquishes dealer duties.

She's still mildly surprised when Matt accompanies her back to her room, but he stops outside the door. He watches her, and she tries to guess at his thoughts.

"Would it ever work?" he asks. It's straightforward in a way she's not expecting.

"I don't know," she says honestly. They are beyond any of the relationship rules she's learned, and everything they've become is new territory. "What do you want?"

He sighs softly. "Something normal."

==

She tries not to need anything at all. It only leads to trouble.

==

"You don't get to do this," she yells, and the control room is too small for the sound. It's the second time he's managed to keep her off a mission, and the second time he's thrown himself in harm's way unnecessarily. "You don't get to take these risks like no one cares."

He throws up his hands. "We're dying slowly, James! One by one."

"So you're next, is that it?"

"Why not?" he says like it's the obvious choice.

She nearly slaps him. "Fuck you, Matt."

"There aren't enough of us left," he continues undaunted, and stops pacing to stand in front of her. "We can't lose anyone else."

She gets it now, what he's trying to say. "We can't? Or you can't?"

It doesn't clear the tension from the room, but he hesitates.

"Your death won't bring Chloe back," she says.

"This isn't about Chloe!" He glares at her in frustration. "It's about who is still on this damn ship. It's about you, Vanessa."

It stuns her - the way he admits to feelings only when forced to confront them. But whatever she'd been thinking, he cares for her. And then she gets infuriated all over again, her finger pointing an accusation in his face. "You don't get to die for me! And you don't get to keep me here. Jesus, it's not even any safer on Destiny."

"It's a start!"

"I'm a soldier, Matt," she reminds him. "I'm better on the ground watching your back!"

His anger deflates in the face of hers, and he glances at her almost sheepishly. "Greer told me you'd say that."

"You could try listening to reason for a change," she says with a huff of irritation. He could be so unbelievably thick-headed sometimes.

"Yeah." He nods, then gives her a half shrug and an apologetic smile. "You know there was a romantic gesture in all that though, right?"

==

It's something like 13 months after Chloe, and god only knows how much longer since base camp when the circle completes.

"Finally," Greer comments, and it's really all anyone ever says about it.

==

She turns away from him, waits for Matt to leave the room as the silence builds to breaking. She expects to hear the door slide open, and she listens for it, tense. But aside from the electronic hum of the equipment in the room, it's quiet.

The controls on the panel in front of her eventually dim from lack of use, and she idly touches a button, lights springing back to full brightness. Somewhere, a side thruster is spinning on and she wonders whether it will be Rush or Eli to notice first.

The minutes keep passing, and Matt has been quiet for so long that she starts to wonder if she missed the sound of the door and if he’s actually still in the room at all. Their argument still presses mildly at her, distracting in the way it lingers.

It’s the feel of him she notices first, fingers lightly twisting in the hem of her shirt. The material pulls down as he gently tugs at it, and she's suddenly aware that he’s behind her, right behind her, so close that she can feel his chest against her back when he breathes.

There's a question in his touch, in the way he's taking it slow, but she doesn't stop him when his fingers play against her waist. She’s stuck between him and the panel, and she thinks about saying excuse me or something equally banal, thinks about maybe stepping to the side and away even as his hands slide around to her stomach, palms flat and hot on her skin.

Her hands are damp, curled around the edge of the panel, and she’s careful to keep them there. She refuses to give Matt the satisfaction of knowing he’s having any sort of effect on her, and god forbid she splay her hands out on the panel and accidentally start lights flickering and Destiny going in circles.

She doesn’t turn in to him, doesn’t arch into his touch when his hand slides up to tease her breast through the fabric of her bra even though her mouth is wet and her heart is hammering against her ribs.

“Really, Matt?” she asks as indifferently as she can manage, happy that her voice doesn’t betray her.

His hands still. "This isn't just about sex."

She nods. It didn't occur to her to wonder at it - the circumstances so different now. But she appreciates his concern.

"This isn't like before," he adds. There's an insistence behind it that makes her smile.

"I know."

"And I'm taking you to dinner after," he says with finality, and she laughs.

He unbuttons the front of her pants and helps her shrug them off her hips to where they pool around her ankles until she kicks them out of the way. Matt’s mouth is on her neck, but her focus is diverted by his hand as it slides beneath the waistband of her underwear, and slips down between her legs. It takes little time at all - a few deft, strong strokes of his fingers, and he brings her right over the edge. She’s incredibly surprised at that, air filling her lungs almost in hitches, and when she glances up at him, she catches the very small grin playing at the corner of his mouth.

“It’s been a while,” she says somewhat tersely. Damn him.

He doesn’t say anything to that, but she can feel him hard against her as he tilts her head and kisses her with a pull that sets off need through her like an adrenaline rush. She spins around to kiss him properly as he grabs her by the hips and lifts her up onto the panel display.

"So much for normal," he reflects out loud, voice a warm murmur in her ear.

"Shut up, Matt."

Then she strips off her underwear while he undoes his pants, rush in the movements fueled by eager desire. He steps between her legs and she wraps them around his waist - gasps as she's caught off guard when he pushes her back against the control panel with the weight of his body. He carefully slides in to her and his arm hooks under her leg, the back of her knee resting in the crook of his elbow as he pulls it higher and higher. It's nearly at the limit of her flexibility when the slant of their hips meet and -

"Jesus." The word explodes from her on a breath of air.

She has absolutely no leverage at this angle, but Matt doesn’t seem to care. In fact, he seems exceedingly pleased at the way he’s positioned them. And then what she is about to say is lost in an amazing thrust of friction that nearly drives her to the edge again.

The radio beside her crackles on. “Lieutenant James, this is Colonel Young. Please come in.”

No, for fuck’s sake, her head drops back against the panel in frustration and she looks at Matt helplessly.

He doesn’t immediately move off, but incredibly manages to wait locked deep inside her. His hand softly strokes the exposed skin of her leg as he gives her a look that seems entirely too mischievous given the moment. “You better answer that.”

She is having a hell of a time focusing, too many senses on overload at once. She struggles to reach sideways for the radio, aware that she really has no control in this position, and finally grasps it with her fingertips. Matt’s grinning wickedly as she brings the radio to her lips and clears her throat. “This is James.”

“Lieutenant, I’m getting reports of minor system malfunctions all over the ship. What’s going on?”

It dawns on her. The control panel.

Matt presses his lips to her neck, then starts to move, gradually pulling out and then pushing into her again – it’s maddeningly slow, deliberately so. Nerves race across her body, her skin hot and sensitive to his touch. Her hips involuntarily bump up into his a little even as she means to try and stop him, but she’s easily outmatched in their position and can’t do much more to speed him along. She’s actually panting.

“Lieutenant?” Colonel Young’s voice punches through the air, and she feels Matt’s quiet tsk tsk against her shoulder.

She fights for breath, quickly presses the radio on. “Sorry, sir. Just a maintenance test run.”

“A little warning next time, okay Lieutenant?”

“Yes sir, understood sir. James out.” She’s not even sure if she manages to get the last bit said fully before her finger slips off the button.

Matt's mouth finds hers before she can lecture him, effectively cutting off any protest. Then, thankfully, finally, he picks up the pace, an urgency to the tempo that speaks to how much self-control he'd been applying.

It takes neither of them long from there - too much wanting between them to be able to hold on to waiting any further.

==

It ends in absolution.

She knows this is what Chloe meant.


-Fin

Tags: ,

2 whispers :: tell me a secret
Comments
anr From: anr Date: March 1st, 2013 11:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
THANK YOU!!

I'm seriously beaming right now because this is all kinds of perfect and wonderful! (And kicking myself for not checking LJ this week, but never mind that, because.) SO SO GOOD!

The touches! The kissing (and not-kissing)! The dialogue! The characterisations!

I love it all, bb. Thank you so much. *clings*
phrenitis From: phrenitis Date: March 3rd, 2013 01:41 am (UTC) (Link)
I can't believe how long it took me to finish this, and I am SO sorry for the ridiculous delay. Thank you for your patience, and I'm so happy you liked it!! I had forgotten how much I missed these two. <3
2 whispers :: tell me a secret