Line of Fire

Chapter 7

Elizabeth peered at the map, squinting her eyes at the squiggly hand-drawn lines. She had returned from her bi-weekly visit to the infirmary to find John had left the map and a cryptic note sitting casually on her desk top. She had smiled at his invitation…"Feel like dinner? X marks the spot. 18:00. See you there. J.S." Unable to resist either the invitation or the man extending it, she had changed and touched up her hair and makeup. Now, after trudging down the long corridors of Atlantis for thirty minutes, she found herself slightly out of breath and cursing the dim light.

Elizabeth had been on her feet for the last week or so, but her recovery seemed to be taking forever. She was used to having enough energy to keep her on top of things for days at a time. Now, every afternoon, she needed to lay down and nap for at least an hour. Her side ached, especially with sudden moves or bends. Her head injury had healed much faster, but had left a garish scar that left her cringing in the mirror. All in all, she was extremely happy to be alive, but really wished that her body would hurry up and heal already.

She had awakened in the infirmary a second time to find John perched next to her bed, his eyes focused on the laptop computer Rodney had lent him. Apparently, he had decided to take over her job while she recuperated. While Elizabeth knew this was the standard operating procedure, she was still surprised to see the paper-work avoiding Colonel take the responsibility to heart. He had run a hand through his spiky hair, his eyes bleary from staring at the screen, when he had noticed that she had awakened. John had smiled in relief, saying, "Get better soon, will ya? I hate this stuff." Elizabeth had found herself grinning, amused at his plea.

Now, almost five weeks later, she was back to work, although only in the mornings. Dr. Beckett had flatly refused her request to work all day, saying that she needed to rest both her mind and her body. In the beginning, Elizabeth had appreciated the extra down-time, but now that she was starting to feel like herself again, she found herself restless and bored.

Not that the others didn't help fill the monotony. Carson poked his head in at least twice a day, double-checking his star patient. Both Teyla and Ronon had stopped by, often taking her to lunch and walking with her as she wandered Atlantis. Rodney and even Dr. Zelenka also stopped by, usually bickering, but pausing long enough to catch her up on events. And John….

Elizabeth took a moment to lean against the wall. According to the map, she was very close to the fabled X. She found herself tingling with anticipation, wondering exactly what the handsome Colonel Sheppard was up to. Since her injury, he had...changed. Before she was shot, they would exchange playful banter and teasing, but neither would ever act on the attraction between the two. Elizabeth understood; she was his boss, after all, not to mention slightly older, and probably not his type. But still, there were moments when the chemistry between them fairly crackled with life. Regardless of sparks, however, for the last two years their relationship had been limited to that of friends and colleagues.

Now, though, John was different. His eyes lingered on hers longer, his smile of greeting was wider, his touches more frequent, and yes, more intimate. He brushed her hair off her face more often or ran a casual hand across her shoulders. He had become her almost constant dinner companion, and she was surprised to learn that the man could actually cook a decent meal. As the days turned into weeks, Elizabeth found herself accustomed to seeing John in the evenings, relaxing and talking about nothing in particular. Their relationship was evolving, she realized, and although the practical side of her protested, throwing out reason after reason as to why she should put a stop to it, she found her heart had over-ruled her mind's objections. Curiosity and desire beat logic every time.

Elizabeth turned the corner, and found herself in a large room, almost like a ball room. On the far side there were huge glass doors, one of which was open. The view through the windows was blocked by gently billowing curtains. As she drew closer, she could see that the curtains were actually bed sheets.

She poked her head through the open door, and gasped. The view before her was breath-taking. The azure blue water made a startling contrast to the warm glow of the lights within Atlantis. Elizabeth found herself leaning against the metal railing, her eyes riveted to the beauty before her.

"Pretty, isn't it?" John's voice cut through her reverie, and she turned to him, a wide smile on her face. He was dressed a little more formally than his normal jeans and shirt, wearing what looked like Dockers and a white button-up silk shirt. Soft leather shoes encased his feet. He had even tried to tame his unruly hair, she noted. She was glad she had changed, wearing a long red sheathe dress, with light sandals on her feet. Somehow, she knew this night would be special.

"Oh, John, how did you find this place?" Elizabeth asked, resting her hand on his arm as he approached. He came to her side, leaning his elbows on to the railing next to her. His eyes had warmed as he took in her outfit, and she felt a pink blush staining her cheeks.

He was quiet for a moment, his eyes distant. "When you were wounded, I needed to think, to get away. I found myself here," John replied, his eyes serious, and his face solemn. He turned, searching her face. She was aglow, her eyes sparkling with life, her curly hair lifting in the gentle breeze. John paused, and took a deep breath.

"Liz, I know that we're supposed to remain professional, you being my boss and all, but….things have changed. For me, anyway." John stopped again, his green eyes clouding with doubt. Elizabeth remained silent, her own eyes giving nothing away.

John leaned in, cupped her face in his hands, and lowered his mouth. His lips covered hers, and he gave her a small, gentle kiss. He waited for her to pull back, to gasp in shock or any other negative reaction. Instead, she leaned into him, and kissed him back, pulling his head down towards her. He nearly moaned aloud as she opened her mouth, her tongue running across his lips and into his mouth, deepening the kiss. He pulled her closer, the kiss becoming harder and more demanding, and John ran his hands down her back, marveling that she was letting him do this. Finally, out of air, they broke apart at the same time, Elizabeth's eyes still closed.

John's breath came in short pants. Desire and need coursed through him, sending heat to every part of his body. He stepped back, watching his expedition leader closely. He half-expected her to turn tail and leave, mortified that she had allowed this to happen. Instead, she opened her eyes, warmth and her own desire apparent in their depths. She reached out trembling hand, running it through his hair. Then, she took a deep breath, turning towards the table he had set up earlier.

"So, what's for dinner?" she asked, doing her best to ignore the passion he had ignited within her. She watched as he opened his mouth, his eyes full of astonishment and confusion. She stood quietly, praying he would take the hint and let this moment between them…wait. She wasn't ready for this, physically or emotionally. Yet, she wanted it. Elizabeth was never one to rush in when she was unsure of where she stood, and this was no exception. She needed time.

John stared back at Elizabeth, seeing the resolve in her eyes. She had kissed him back. He controlled a shiver as he recalled her mouth on his, demanding and warm. Yet, she had stopped, then suddenly changed the subject. He searched her face, seeing the need to wait in her eyes. Comprehension flowed through him; Elizabeth needed time. Time to adjust to this new relationship that was growing between them. And John loved her. He would give her all the time she needed.

He took a small step away from her, giving her a reassuring smile. Taking her elbow, he guided her to the chair.

"Your favorite," he answered, surprised that his voice sounded so normal. Elizabeth's smile of relief and gratitude was all he needed to continue the banter, falling back into the familiar teasing that they had always shared. If time was she needed, the John was going to do his best to give her that time.

"And how do you know what my favorite dinner is, Colonel Sheppard?" Elizabeth's question was answered when he paused serving up the salad, then shrugged his shoulders.

"Actually, I don't. But I'm willing to find out," he added, a smile of challenge on his face. John replaced the salad bowl, lifted his wine glass and offered her a toast.

As Elizabeth raised her glass, he leaned in closer, taking her free hand. "To finding out what all your favorite things are," he said quietly, taking a small sip of wine.

Elizabeth paused a moment, savoring the look in his eyes as he watched her, then smiled, the glass against her lips. "And yours also, John," she added, squeezing his hand. John gave her a quick grin, then lifted his fork.

"Let's eat!"

The End