Title: Midnight Showing
Spoiler: Episode addendum for 'Suspicion'. John/Elizabeth friend fic.
Notes: This is... er. Probably Ness's fault. And Little Red. And Lyssie. And probably nostalgia somewhere.
Summary: He knew it was coming. He just didn't think it'd be over bad horror.
For a city covered in auto-lights and huge windows, Atlantis sure got dim a lot, John thought sourly as he slumped towards his quarters. The last week had... well. Sucked the suck of the doomed, and the semi-darkness that showed up so quickly these days - the geeks in meteorology were pretty sure the city was in the planet's winter-cycle - wasn't really helping his mood.
Neither was the Wraith currently being housed in holding cell one. Okay, so maybe that hadn't been their best idea. The guy wasn't going to talk. The only thing they could actually do with him was taunt him with a rather healthy and robust random guard, and point out indecipherable parallels to the Lord of the Rings movies.
Night Of The Living Elrond. Heh.
Beckett couldn't even really do a good "exploratory surgery". At least not without running through the city's entire store of tranquilizing materials. So they were stuck with something that could kill them all. In the basement. Behind a forcefield that would - according to McKay and Zelenka - only last until their kids had kids. The freaky part being that the boogieman would probably still be alive when those kids had kids.
Yeah, not one of their better plans. But this did seem to be the week for crappy forward-planning.
Trying not to trip on his untied bootlace, John padded up the last set of stairs leading into the 'officers quarters'. Like most everything else in the city, the area designated for personal use was set up like a snowflake. Staircases spiraled up into a common public area with room suites branching off. All told, it reminded him strongly of a better version of his college dorm.
And the only difference between the 'nice' quarters and the 'regular' ones seemed to be about three more flights of stairs. John sighed and moved in to the common room.
"You okay?" John stopped, blinked, and stared. His eyes had to be wrong. What they said was "Dr. Weir is standing in front of the floaty screen connection kit holding a copy of Thirteen Ghosts." But that couldn't be right because she lived...
Right down the hall. Right. Okay. And this was empirical proof that he needed eight hours of sleep.
"Uh, yeah. What are you doing up?"
She waved the DVD case at him before setting it on the machine and moving over to the couch. "When I can't sleep, I watch bad horror movies."
"Don't tell me your personal item was that."
"It wasn't. This was in one of the recreation boxes General O'Neill sent along."
John edged further into the room and watched as the opening credits flashed across the floaty screen, only to settle on the root menu. "So you can't sleep?"
She shrugged and turned the volume down a bit so the weird chanting was only barely noticeable. "Too keyed up from today. Change makes me jumpy."
More out of curiosity than tiredness, John shuffled around the side of the sitting area and slumped down at the opposite end of the couch. Some of the more enterprising young officers had scavenged it from one of the empty suites and hauled it up the two flights of stairs between here and the nearest transporter.
He did have to give the Ancients credit. They sure did know how to make stuff that lasted. Back on Earth he'd had a hard time finding a toaster that work more than two years. The only thing that seemed to have broken down here after ten thousand years in a sealed - and sometimes drowned - city was the plant life.
And most of that hadn't even disintegrated.
The couch was squishy and he ended up with his knees almost to his nose with one good flop. Oh, yeah. Very dignified.
"Change is weird."
"Is that John-speak for 'sucks'?"
He eyed the woman next to him. Scrubbed free of makeup and obviously fresh from a shower, she was in a schlubby sweat suit that just may have cost more than his first car. Her hair was somehow jammed up into a little ponytail at the back of her head. She looked better than both his prom dates ever had. "Yeah."
"Thought so." She was fiddling with the DVD remote, flipping through the options on the main menu in time with the groaning. "So, I talked to Teyla before she went to help her people settle in."
"I just got back from dropping her off." Ahh. Here we go. "I hung out and let the kids tell me a story."
"That got to be quite the ritual, didn't it?"
"Yeah." He smiled, thinking back to the previous week when Jinto had managed to freak him soundly out. "But they ended up way better at freaking me out than the other way around."
The smile in her voice was apparent. "He told you the one about the ganesh monster, didn't he?"
"Gah! Don't remind me... Hey, he told you?"
She nodded, her face going softer. "I'm going to miss those kids."
Huh. He'd never seen her interact with them much. Then again, they'd been working opposing shifts and he'd been off-planet for most of the last month and a half. For a supposed command team, they really hadn't spent more than a day in each other's presence since that one rather interesting infirmary visit right after he'd almost been sucked dry. "You were around them?"
That got him an eyebrow.
"They're good kids. And not nearly as awed by this city and us as their parents. Towards the end there, I was having to shoo Wex out of Peter's workstation at all hours." Her smile disappeared. "I thought we had a new comm officer in the making there."
He shrugged and bit his tongue. Some things didn't need going in to in the middle of the night. Besides. Things had sort of worked out. An all purpose "Yeah" seemed the safest response.
They sat silent for a few moments. John lost in a rather depressing haze that started with being moron enough to touch an innocent object and ended with the viper in the basement. No, definitely not the best stretch of time he'd had.
He looked over. Elizabeth was fiddling with the remote again. "Hm?"
"We really need to talk about what happened yesterday."
Okay, so were going to talk about it. He was so not awake enough for this. "Are you sure you wanna do that now?"
"Can you think of a better time?"
Damn. "Well, no."
They took turns staring at the screen.
"You wanna start?"
"It was your idea."
"Didn't really think this out, did you?"
"You're trying to make me order you to your room, aren't you?"
"Dammit, John! I'm really annoyed at you right now, and you're not helping." How she managed to convey a death glare in his direction while not in all actuality even look at him, he didn't know. But she could and was.
He sighed and scooted forward to sit on the cross bar of the couch. This was not a discussion he wanted to have from the depths of a pillow. "I'm supposed to make chewing my ass easier for you?"
He paused. "That came out wrong, didn't it?"
Nope. Still scowling.
Elizabeth took a deep breath. "You shouldn't have dismissed Sargent Bates like that. Earlier."
"Yeah. But he was being I really /I annoy-"
She shifted and turned her body so she was facing him. "I didn't try to discuss it earlier with him because I honestly didn't have time. Most of the last week was spent in front of other people, and that was something that needed to be addressed privately. Like it or not, there is a hierarchical structure to this city. One that's frighteningly similar to the organization you work for. And while it I is /I your job to question his actions and behavior, it was humiliating for you to do it in front of me, and later the entire staff. This is a lesson I've learned well recently."
John sighed. He'd heard about her blow up with Cavenaugh. Another thing that was frighteningly like a military base here on Atlantis was the chain of gossip. He'd heard the story from six different people by the time Beckett had allowed him to go back to his then-quarters.
"I had a point, Elizabeth," he used her name deliberately. "He was ripping Teyla and the Ethosians down, and ignoring the rather obvious fact that none of those people would ever betray us to the Wraith."
"But you didn't know that for sure at the time."
He ignored the movie, which had, apparently, gotten bored waiting for Elizabeth to push play and had started in protest. "Look, it was a judgment call. I was right..."
"Which you easily could not have been. And if you remember, sort of weren't." Elizabeth scrubbed a hand over her face and sighed. She looked tired suddenly. Older than he knew she was. "You didn't, and still don't, know Teyla well enough to have that sort of blind devotion. And that is a mistake we cannot afford."
"Hey, hey! Teyla's great!"
"John, I'm not disagreeing with you!" The slap on the shoulder was unexpected, but her expression was even more so. Wow, Elizabeth Weir was seriously pissed. "I never did disagree with you! I like Teyla. I trust Teyla. But trusting anything blindly is always a bad idea."
"But you're asking me to trust you like that." Yeah, that was a headache coming on.
"No, I'm not."
"Sure seems like it."
"Did you let me finish?"
"Uh, judging from your face, no, I didn't."
"Then shut up and pay attention," her voice rose sharply. It occurred to him that he'd only heard her shout once before, and that had been out on the balcony their first day here. Trying to get him to see sense. "I don't want you to trust me blindly. God knows I didn't handle this whole thing as well as I could have. I made mistakes. But I was willing to listen to them be pointed out. WE didn't get that from you."
O-kay. John was too stunned by Elizabeth's intensity to interrupt.
"John, despite the obvious physical characteristics, the Ethosians have a completely different cultural background than anything we've ever seen before. All the background we have, everything we've experienced or expect on a very basic level has almost no bearing. Something that we could casually brush off as a joke could be a huge taboo for them, and vice versa.
"My basic point was, and is, that we knew next to nothing about their culture and way of looking at the world, even after three months. I didn't want them to leave. I wanted to get to know them better. God knows we've all been insanely busy trying to get everything settled and working. I should have made a point of talking with Halling and Beesha and Teyla and Corin."
"Oh, I don't know. Corin is kind of a dork."
Elizabeth paused and smirked. Her face loosened and let go of some of the tension. Not all of it, but enough. "My point is that if we'd gotten our heads out of the clouds a bit more in the last few months, maybe everyone could have handled this better. Especially me."
Well. "But that's not what you wanted to talk to me about, is it?"
"I have a sister."
"All becomes clear." She paused and bit her lip, presumably to fit everything together right in her head. If there was one thing he completely and totally trusted about Dr. Elizabeth Weir, it was that every argument she ever made was based on all the facts she had available. It was a trait he'd never really had the patience for, but it worked on her. "You went too far defending the Ethosians without listening to what I was trying to say. We don't know them. And by backing them that far, with that little information, you compromised your position as lead military officer in charge and lost face with your subordinate."
John blinked. That was... blunt. "I really don't know how to respond to that."
Elizabeth shrugged and threw him a half-smile. "Take it as constructive criticism and move on?"
Which it really was. And despite the nervous gnawing sensation bouncing around his stomach - an involuntary reaction to any dressing down - he wasn't feeling belligerent about it. Weird. "Can I offer some of my own?"
It was surprising how pretty she got when she grinned. He shrugged the thought off. "I wouldn't have it any other way, Major Sheppard."
"Do you think that maybe you were a little too... er. Untrusting?"
"I was cautious, maybe a little too much so, according to Teyla. But I didn't want to make another wrong step." Elizabeth sighed and juggled the remote. "I was trying to be diplomatic, and it went and partially blew up in my face."
John leaned back and eyed the ceiling. Like it or not, she had a point. She seemed to have them a lot, damn her. And if she was willing to own up to her own problems... "Okay, so maybe I got a little caught up. But I don't like my friends being verbally attacked."
He could feel Elizabeth shift at her end of the couch. The cushions jostled a bit before settling back down. When she spoke again, she seemed closer.
"I wasn't very happy with Bates either." She held up a hand, "BUT, that doesn't mean you had the authority to undermine him like that."
"You know, he is my subordinate."
"Who was assigned to his post by General O'Neill. Who outranks you."
"Yeah, there is that." God this was screwed up. Not that his professional life for the last few years had been a bed of roses. Wait. John rolled his head sideways to eye her. "Wait. Didn't you assign him?"
Elizabeth shrugged and tugged at her sleeve. "I did. But I was mostly just following the briefs set up by O'Neill and Sumner. They seemed like people who knew what they were talking about."
Which was true. He'd only spent a relatively short amount of time with General O'Neill, but what he'd seen had been impressive. John had been weirdly reminded of Rushmore when talking to the man. That movie may have been a screwball comedy on the surface, but underneath, it had been whip-smart. And he needed to stop relating people to bad movies in his head. "Yeah. They seemed like with-it commanders."
"You're just annoyed that you didn't get to pick your own man for the job?"
"It is a little frustrating."
She nodded again and went back to playing absently with the DVD player remote. "Like it or not, all of us are in this together. You and Bates really need to have a sit down and hash out whatever awkwardness is between you. We really can't afford to have another week like this." She quirked a lip. Sadly, he thought. "We don't have enough people left."
Not something he was looking forward to. All told he really didn't think Bates was a bad guy. A bit of an asshole, but good at his job. Sumner had liked him. Trusted him. Made him his second-in-command and thought enough of the man to put him in charge of base security. Not a light thing, given Bates' non-commissioned status.
John had been a last-minute unwanted addition to a well-oiled machine. Worse yet, he'd been partially responsible for its dismantling. And now he was in charge.
Yeah, Bates had a justifiable chip on his shoulders.
"I don't think that's going to be that simple, Dr. Weir."
Elizabeth patted his shoulder with her free hand - wow, she was closer - and shrugged. "No one ever said it would be. But it's a good start."
They nodded at each other and turned, as one, back to the screen. Shannon Elizabeth was splashing her face with invisible blood. Elizabeth snickered and dropped the remote on the cushion between them.
John thought of something, blinked and looked over at her. "Do you think it's odd that we just kind of had a huge fight without yelling?"
Elizabeth looked mildly disturbed for a second, but her features smoothed out and a slight smile tugged at the corners of her eyes. "It is vaguely weird."
She paused. "Even for a trained diplomat such as myself."
He poked her shoulder, feeling strangely seven. "Any thoughts as to why?"
She shrugged and started playing with the zipper on her sweater, zipping it up and down over her t-shirt. "I think the problem is that I'm too comfortable with you."
Huh? "What? Problem?"
Zipzip. "You remind me of my brother. The one who used to dump dirt in my bed and make me pancakes on my birthday."
He would never understand women. Ever. "That sounds... brotherly."
Zipzipzip. That was going to be really annoying if she kept doing it.
Elizabeth smiled and, as if sensing his train of thought, dropped her hands onto her lap. "It was. But I knew what to expect from him. I knew that he'd back me to the wall and then curse me out once everything was said and done."
Ah, okay. That made a bit more sense. "And you don't from me. But you thought you did because you knew what he'd do?"
"Well, suspected more than knew. And when you went the other way..."
"It threw you for a loop."
She nodded. "And if we're going to make this whole command team thing work, we need to eliminate that element of surprise. It's a liability. I need to know you'll back up first. No matter what."
"Hey, I trust you..." Mostly.
"Mostly." She was good at that. "Not instinctively. But I wouldn't expect that from you. Not yet. We've only known each other for five months, John. You don't know me, and I don't know you. Unfortunately, building that up is going to take time."
"Which we don't necessarily have," he sighed.
She shrugged and bit her thumbnail before folding her arms over her knees. In the dim light of the common room and with no makeup she looked all of a rather expensive twelve years old. In a good way. "Maybe. So, I wanted to tell you this. You can trust me to back you up. In the end, I will back you to the wall, but do not confuse that with blind trust. I will question you. Just at an appropriate time and in an appropriate place."
He nodded. "That's fair. I'm sorry I made your position more difficult."
She grinned then. Quick and evil it ran across her face, reinforcing the little voice in the back of his head that kept telling him he should get to know this woman better. "No you're not."
How she had his number this quickly and this continuously was probably going to be one of those mysteries of life. "Okay, so not really... but I do see your point."
Elizabeth nodded and picked up the remote. "That's probably the best I can ask for. Now. Wanna watch a crappy movie with me?"
"Why not?" John dumped his feet on the long bench someone had set up as a coffee table and leaned back to see the screen. Admittedly, nothing was really resolved. Nothing long-term. But she was right. All that would come with time, and here and now was a good place to start. "Best death of a lawyer ever filmed."
"I love the squelchy sound when the doors close."
Yes. Totally needed to get to know this woman better.
"How did you manage to stuff so many clothes in your one duffel?"
The wicked grin she gave him as she hit play would haunt him for the next week. "Trade secret."-fin-