"They called the search off?"
"They said there was nothing to search for," Chuck told her gently.
Elizabeth held his gaze for a moment before nodding once. "Thank you." She watched him return to his station, frozen in grief and shock. The likelihood that they'd somehow gotten to safety before the hive ships went up was so small...this time they really might be gone.
She lowered her head and breathed deeply, taking hold of herself before starting toward her office. Her team couldn't see her stumble. There would be time later, when she was alone. The gate suddenly kawooshed to life, and she turned back to it so fast that she almost gave herself whiplash.
"Offworld activation," Chuck called over the alarms.
"Who is it?" Hope bubbled up through the grief, and despite the odds she found herself praying that they'd escaped death yet again.
"We have an IDC," he paused, watching the screen. The smile that spread across his face told her all that she needed to know. "It's Colonel Sheppard's code."
Relief flooded her chest. "Let 'em in!" she exclaimed and sprinted down the steps into the gateroom. John, Teyla, and Ronon strolled through the rippling surface, and she met them halfway across.
"Sorry we're late," John quipped with a grin as the event horizon vanished.
Elizabeth rolled onto her back with a frustrated sigh and stared balefully up at the ceiling. She'd gone to bed an hour ago, but sleep still eluded her. Her mind kept replaying the moments when she'd believed his team dead in the destruction of the Wraith hive ships...when she'd thought she'd lost them. Again. This was far from the first time he'd scared her like that, but it was the first time the shaky feeling in her core had held on this long.
She got out of bed and walked over to the window, pushing back the filmy curtains to let the cool moonlight wash away her anxiety. Unfortunately the Lantean starscape just wasn't enough this time. Her reflection in the glass was faint, but she could still see the troubled eyes that looked back at her.
"Why is this time so different?" she murmured softly, wrapping arms around herself. No answer appeared in her mind...just a faint image of his face, chiseled features caught in a mischievous grin. She willed it away but it wouldn't budge. Suddenly all she could see was him...lying on the floor of the Jumper, barely alive after the Iratus bug had been removed. In the throes of transformation into a Wraith and telling her to put more guards on his door because he wasn't safe to be around anymore.
"Damn you, John...get out of my head," she whispered, but he didn't listen. Elizabeth sighed and dug her slippers out of her closet, ignoring the little voice at the back of her mind insisting that what she was about to do wasn't proper behavior for the expedition commander. Normally that little voice would have stopped her...but something really was different this time and she wasn't going to understand what it was until she re-assured herself that he really had returned in one piece.
Atlantis's corridors were fairly empty this time of night, but the few people she passed did double-takes at the sight of their leader stalking through the halls in her pajamas. Her feet carried her swiftly to his quarters, and she knocked before she could think too hard about why she was here.
"Just a minute," his voice sounded muffled. A couple of seconds passed, and he called to her again. "Come in."
She palmed the door open and made it about five steps through before she froze. He was standing in the doorway of his bathroom, clad only in a pair of charcoal gray sweatpants. A towel was tossed over one shoulder, and his dark, wet hair stuck out in more directions than usual. She knew that she should look away or at least blink, but her eyes felt locked right where they were. "I'm sorry...I didn't realize that—"
"I told you to come in, didn't I?"
She blushed. "Yeah...you did."
He watched her curiously. "What's up?"
She just stared at him. It was a good question. Unfortunately the only answer that she had was that she'd been driven to his door by the overwhelming need to see him. She couldn't exactly tell him, that, though. She should have listened to the voice.
He took a few steps toward her, tossing the towel onto a chair. "Elizabeth? Are you okay?"
She'd occasionally thought about what it would be like to see him like this. He may be her friend, but he was also pretty damn attractive and she'd been alone for a long time. She wouldn't be human if he didn't show up in her fantasies occasionally. But this wasn't her imagination...he was actually standing just across the room. Her breath caught in her throat. Reality wasn't all that different than the fantasy, and something new stirred inside of her.
She wanted John Sheppard.
The realization hit her so hard she almost stepped back. They were close...partners in running the city, in the fight against the Wraith, and in what felt like a million other ways both critical and mundane. Their relationship was a delicate blend of the professional and the personal, forged in a place where death hovered on the horizon nearly every day.
It didn't matter what she wanted. She couldn't do anything to disrupt that balance.
"Elizabeth? Talk to me...are you okay?" He sounded worried now, worried enough to cross to where she stood. His skin was still damp, shining in the dim light of the room. The scent of the soap he'd used made her heady, and she had to resist the urge to bury her face in the crook of his neck.
"That's it...I'm calling Beckett." He strode quickly over to where his uniform was tossed into a heap on the bed and started hunting around for his radio.
The thought of explaining to Carson what she was doing in his room at that lifted her paralysis. "No...don't. I'm all right."
"Why am I here?"
"I..." she held his gaze for a long moment before the intensity of it overwhelmed her and she had to look away. "I should go." She turned to leave, but only made it about halfway to the door before his hand closed around her shoulder. She turned back to him, surprised.
She shivered, both from the hunger in his voice and the feel of his skin on hers. "I thought you were dead," she told him, suddenly angry.
"We were going to stop that, remember?"
A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, but he didn't succumb. "I know."
"Is there anything that you don't know?" she snapped in exasperation.
"Tons of things...though I do know that the answer to the life, the universe, and everything is 42. If you're looking for something more specific, you're gonna need to ask McKay. Though I doubt he'd be happy if you stopped by right now."
Her anger melted into a frustrated chuckle. "Damn it, John," she said, shaking her head.
The mischievous grin made a brief appearance before fading into something that sent tingles coursing through her veins. His eyes grew dark, and as she stared into the hazel pools she saw the same desire that had begun building inside of her the moment she'd walked in. It was enough to push her over the edge.
"Shut up," she whispered, not quite believing what she was doing when she grasped his face in her hands and kissed him. He froze for a split second and then he was kissing her back, sliding his tongue into her mouth and a hand into her hair and pulling her so tightly against him that the traces of water left on his chest soaked into her tank top within moments.
She broke the kiss when the need to breathe became overwhelming and gasped as his lips trailed over her jaw and onto her neck. She let her head fall back in invitation, moaning softly as his tongue swirled over her pulse point. His hands slid down her back and then lower, pulling her hips against his and making it clear exactly the effect she had on him.
"'Lizabeth...if you're gonna go, do it now," he panted, breath hot against her throat.
Her logical mind told her that she should take the out he was offering, but the rest of her needed this, needed to feel connected to another person...to him...on a level that was purely physical. She took a handful of his hair and pulled his head up so that she could look him in the eyes. The raw passion that roiled there made her shiver. "I'm not going anywhere."
His hands slid up her arms and over her shoulders to cradle her face more gently than she would have thought him capable of. "You're sure?"
Was she sure? The jury was still out on whether or not this was good idea, but she did know that she'd never wanted anyone more in her life than she did him right now. This time she was going to let herself take what she wanted.
John stopped talking and kissed her, slow and deep and like he was afraid she'd vanish before he got the chance to do it again. She returned it, sliding her hands through his hair and over his body and throwing herself into a fire that incinerated any lingering reservations. He started tearing at her clothes as she pushed him back toward the bed, and it wasn't long before the only thing keeping the cool air of his room from pebbling her skin with goose bumps was his touch.
He pulled her down atop him, but she resisted when he sank a hand into the hair at her nape and tried to draw her into a kiss. She stared at him, tracing lips as swollen as hers felt with a fingertip and watching his chest rise and fall in heaving breaths in time with her own. Another realization swept through her, one more terrifying than anything she'd encountered in the Pegasus Galaxy to date.
She loved him.
She loved him. Cautious, steady Dr. Elizabeth Weir, PhD and intergalactic diplomat, had somehow fallen in love with her spontaneous and impulsive military commander, a man she sometimes argued with more than talked to and who tried her patience as often as he could get away with it. It was a trashy romance novel come to life. Maybe there was a whisper of truth among those steamy pages.
Elizabeth swallowed hard and let him pull her mouth down to his. She could never tell him how she felt.
But she could show him.