Category: John Sheppard/Elizabeth Weir.
Disclaimer: Owned by others. Pay them.
For: babylil who has incredible patience and asked for a shower scene, a reasonably optimistic ending, and John/Elizabeth out of the city together.
Author's Note: Written as a back-up for the swficathon... yet even this is late, and may babylil forgive me for that. So much thanks to mspooh for the beta.
"Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin."
-- Brendan Kennelly, 'Begin'
i. Alpha Site
The sand is thick and red, and it spreads out from the base camp like a barren sea.
She trudges through this dry world, dust in her hair, dust on her clothes. The days are endless, and the hours long. This will not do, she thinks.
She is so very tired.
The shower room is empty, and her footsteps echo.
She stands under the showerhead wearily, watching as the dust becomes mud that swirls a dirty red across the floor.
This abandoned town of cement and metal is out of place. It’s eerie, and she’s glad they’re moving on.
She tries to shrug out of her jacket, but her clothes are heavy, drenched with water, and the wet sleeves roll and stick against her arms.
There’s a brief fight for control; the jacket wins.
He’s in the doorway when she looks over, his hair and clothes a sandy, windblown mess. He doesn’t smile, and red footprints follow him as he walks closer.
She holds her breath.
He stands in front of her - not touching, never touching - but he watches her intently, his face close to her own, and the touching they can’t see, doesn’t count.
The jacket loosens and falls as his hands slide down the backs of her arms; his fingers slip beneath the fabric to trail down her skin and very gently across her palms.
Her heart is beating faster than normal, but she knows they can’t do this, really shouldn’t ever do this. His eyes drift to her mouth.
“I hate this world,” she says, and it hurts more than she expects.
He hangs her jacket on the door as he leaves.
ii. Bravo Site
The Wraith find them immediately, and they scramble to save what’s left of their numbers.
Boxes, puddle jumpers and people cross through the stargate in haphazard fashion. Luckily, most of the technology salvaged from Atlantis is still packed, and now it’s only a matter of how much they can save before their time is up.
A crate topples, cracks, and medicine vials spill out on to the floor. No one stops, no one looks back, and the crinkle of glass as the vials break under their feet propels her into action.
She scans the labels at first, insulin, heparin, azathioprine, and then the importance of it, the hugeness of what they’ve lost sinks in. She stops wasting time by reading.
Glass cuts her palm twice, and then she loses count.
“Elizabeth.” John grasps her arm, but she pulls away.
“Elizabeth, let’s go.”
She is in automatic pilot, stuffing vials into her bag although it’s overflowing, the vials spilling over onto the ground again. “We should have stayed where we were.”
“Now’s not exactly the time-”
“I should have listened to you. We would have been safe!”
He hauls her up forcibly, steadying her against him. “Enough.”
It’s all he needs to say. He waits, holding her tightly until she has gathered herself; it doesn’t take long.
She turns for the ‘gate, leaving red handprints behind on his vest.
iii. Charlie Site
A week after their arrival, she falls sick.
The fever is frightfully sudden, hitting her in the middle of a debriefing. She sees bright lights, hears the sound of rushing water, and then is aware of nothing.
She wakes to the sight of her IV drip. She recognizes nothing else.
John rounds a corner and as he draws near, she notices the paleness of his face, the weight he’s lost. He smiles reassuringly, taking a seat in the chair by her bed.
“Some would say staying in bed for almost two weeks is bordering on the irresponsible.”
She’s shocked and says nothing, struggling to accept the timeframe.
His fingers tap the top of her sheet. “We didn’t know if you were going to make it there for a while.”
“Where are we?” Her throat is dry and the words come out raspy.
“Underground. Turns out there were others already here after all.” He shrugs. “Long story short, the top soil is contaminated with a virus leftover from one of their wars.”
She sighs, looks around at the filled beds in the room. She doesn’t want to ask. “How many did we lose?”
His smile falters and his fingers still; she knows it’s bad. “Almost a quarter,” he says softly.
A quarter. It’s unthinkable.
She feels overwhelmed, and for a minute she has to look away. There are IV bruises on her arm - half-healed, half-faded – but the centers still flare a deep red. She realizes how close she came to death.
His eyes follow her gaze, and he reaches for her hand.
iv. Delta Site
She’s lost for a little more than two days when he finds her.
“You’re walking in the wrong direction,” he says simply.
They sit side-by-side sharing soup in front of a fire. The sun sinks amidst a backdrop of reds and purples, and despite the danger in having been lost, she’s exhilarated by this adventure.
“I should have gone off-world more often.” She says this playfully, and then realizes the impact her words may have now that Atlantis is gone.
“We wouldn’t have been able to get you out of your office,” he points out with a smile.
She raises an eyebrow. “I wasn’t that bad.”
He smirks and rests the cup of soup on her knee, slowly turning it with his fingers. She watches, trying to let it be nothing, fighting away the mixed feelings it causes. She doesn’t know what to make of their relationship anymore, doesn’t know when the occasional touch suddenly became both intimate and forbidden.
The sun falls below the horizon, but its fading light sets the sky on fire. She’s been to a few worlds by now, and none have ever had a sunset quite like this.
He nods at the splash of color and then grins. “Red sky at night, Sheppard’s delight.”
“How long have you been waiting to use that?” she asks, laughing.
He takes the soup off her knee and holds it out of reach. “That’s it. You’re full.”
It takes a punch to the arm and a very brief chase around the fire to get it back.
v. Echo Site
The flowers bloom once a month at dawn, and somewhere in the time here, hiking up the hill to watch them became a tradition.
When he nudges her awake, she shakes her head. “No. Not this time. I’m not going.”
Their home has no name, and for now they are content to leave it as Echo. It’s the longest they’ve settled on a planet since Atlantis, since Earth, but no one wants to tempt fate.
She steps outside, immediately shivers in the cold, and gets a few waves from others on their way up to watch the blooming. John waves back and grabs her hand.
“At least it’s not snowing,” he says, and pulls her along.
Of all the things she regrets when this winter world was chosen, the lack of foresight on what to do about the diminishing supply of coffee ranks highest.
The top of the hill is crowded, and even after having lost so many, she’s proud of those that are left.
Teyla, Ronon and Rodney notice them and drift over to talk. John’s hand moves to her lower back, and she smiles.
He wanted to give her time, didn’t want to rush things, he’d said. She had needed that at first when she was still tired from running and unable to plan more than two steps forward at a time, but she is on firmer footing now. Or at the very least, adapting to life on the move.
And they aren’t exactly fooling anyone anyway.
It grows quiet and she looks over at the white flowers. They’re not the only plant life on the planet, but they’re certainly one of the most beautiful.
Almost simultaneously the petals begin to unfurl, the red on the inside a bold and beautiful contrast to the snow along the ground.
A cheer goes up, and she lets out her breath.
“Now we drink!” John states with a grin. Another, more resounding cheer follows them back to the camp.