Disclaimer: I don't own Stargate Atlantis or its characters…
Author' note: So sorry for the tardiness. I could use the excuse that since it was the last bit of the story, I wanted to make sure it was just right, but that would be a lie. The truth is that I've been severely busy, and when I had time, I was tremendously lazy. That being said, I hope the ending isn't too disappointingly crappily written…
Elizabeth sat back and took a moment to clear her head. She knew what was bothering her, but that didn't mean she wanted to admit it. The last few weeks had seen things basically return to normal, except for her relationship with John. It seemed the same on the surface, but it was forced, and far from as open as it had been. And there was not much she could do to correct it. She could only hope that with time, it would work itself out.
However a bother dealing with John had become, it was not her most pressing problem. That morning, Major Lorne's team had returned from their survey of P4T-391, and she was confronted with the revelation that three weeks had indeed passed since the Fawning had debilitated John and she had become infected as well. She had been feeling strange for a day or so, but it was especially noticeable when she had greeted the team. Quickly, she had realized her senses were slightly sharper than usual. The strong unwashed smell of the men, a mixture of tropical vegetation, fertile dirt and overripe fruit, and perspiration had overwhelmed her. It was all she could do not to cover her nose as a reflex.
Lorne, she had found particularly appealing, looking as disheveled as the rest of the team from the 18 hour survey-mission, but in a more organized, suave way. Elizabeth had been distracted by his solid form, broad shoulders, and strong jaw line as she complemented the team of soldiers and scientists on a job well done. It had been difficult, but she had managed to tear herself away from his teasingly bright eyes, filled with the lively personality of their owner.
She had been basically hiding out in her office, hoping that if she wasn't constantly confronted with the problem, she could ignore it. But people had kept coming and going as per usual, forcing her to deal with any attraction she might feel for them as they informed her of problems, successes and complaints. Then he had shown up, giving her a pre-mission-briefing briefing, leaning against her desk and strutting around her office like nothing had changed between them, like things hadn't grown awkward, like she hadn't deliberately attempted to distance herself when he was concerned.
It was a good thing that she was already quite familiar with the situation on PX3-657, otherwise the mission briefing she had to attend later would prove rather difficult. Because, while John Sheppard had been in her office, she had not been listening to a word he was saying. Maybe the reason she had found herself so much more affected by his presence than the others was that they had already slept together. She had a memory to drive her fantasies and her desires. And she had fantasized about him as he stood before her entirely oblivious to the fact that she was considering jumping him, calculating how long it would take her to tear all of his clothes off, imagining how incredible it would feel to have him inside her again.
But somehow, Elizabeth had managed not to act upon her desires, restraining herself with what she hoped was at least some composure until John had finished his spiel and left.
There was just no denying that The Fawning was upon her. She would have to go to Beckett. Hopefully, he would have found a treatment for her…before she did something regrettable.
John Sheppard walked slowly down the empty Lantean halls. He had sought out one of the explored but unused sections of the city in order to have some privacy with his thoughts. Elizabeth had been acting strange that day. Well, admittedly she had been acting oddly towards him ever since…
But that wasn't the current issue, the one that was consuming his thoughts. Elizabeth had been infected by the virus because of him. And now she was beginning to suffer The Fawning because of him. He winced at the memory of Dr. Beckett haranguing him for having sex with Elizabeth. Eventually, the doctor had realized it wasn't his fault, but not before he had let it slip that her infection by the virus would be far more severe and complicated than his.
There was no doubt in his mind that it was the cause of her subtly bizarre behavior that day. She had been surprisingly distracted both times he had tried to talk with her earlier. He knew that she always had a lot of things on her mind, but this was different. It was the first time in a while that she had actually looked at him for more than a split-second at a time. In fact, he was pretty sure she had been staring in an absent-minded sort of way.
If his suspicions were true, and what he saw in her eyes (that she wanted him) was true, then he had a decision to make. He could go to her now, before it got bad, before her affliction became apparent to others. He could protect her. Or he could wait it out, see what happened. But he didn't like the idea of Elizabeth's weaknesses being exposed to everyone, even though they were people who cared about her.
And he couldn't lie to himself. Part of him wanted to be with her again, to enjoy her as a woman, to see her that happy and lighthearted once more. And perhaps, he could get her to tell him what was going on, what he had done to make her so cold to him.
Yes, he would confront Elizabeth, offer to help her end the viral attack, and hopefully get some answers…
John lay beside her, struggling to find his way back to reality. It had been as intense and overwhelming as before, even though he was in full control of his desires this time and his body had only been raging with the normal amount of hormones. He let his eyes wander over Elizabeth as she slowed her heavy breathing back to normal, her bare chest noticeably rising and falling. All he wanted to do was take her in his arms again.
"We shouldn't have done this…" Elizabeth said staring fixedly at the ceiling. Her words were cold and they pierced his chest as if she had stabbed him with a jagged icicle. "You should leave."
He could only watch as she turned her back on him to lie upon her side. It was the most frustrating puzzle he had ever encountered. How could she behave like this? She couldn't really feel like that…no one could handle that kind of emotional instability. She had been warm, joyous even, while they were in the throws of passion. And now she had completely shut down on him, resuming the distant, removed attitude she had been showing him over the past few weeks.
John reached out a hand towards her naked shoulder, wanting so badly to be able to comfort her. Something was obviously wrong. Elizabeth had never demonstrated such a tendency for erratic behavior. But he hesitated before his hand made contact with the smooth flesh, before he instinctually pulled her into a warm embrace, something she apparently did not want from him. Instead, he removed himself from her bed and found his pants. It was her bed, her room, her life. If she didn't want him in it, then he had no right being there.
Something was wrong. And John couldn't stand seeing her like this.
"Elizabeth," he said her name gently, hoping it was loud enough to garner her attention, but not too loud as to lose all delicacy he intended in it. "Please tell me what's going on."
There was no movement to signify any form of response to his request. So, John walked around the bed, approaching the troubled woman, needing to see her face, to ascertain what her real thoughts and feelings were. She must've heard his approach, known his intent, because she slunk from the edge of the bed to sit upon the floor with the blankets gathered around her, denying him that which he sought.
"C'mon! Talk to me!" he snapped, overwhelmed by frustration.
She looked at him. She looked at him and part of him died. He didn't know why there were tears running silently down her cheeks. He only knew that it was his fault. What had he done? But it was too late for guilt or remorse. She was already snapping back at him.
"You shouldn't have done this, John," Elizabeth began chewing him out, responding to his own angered cry of frustration. "You had no right to make this decision!"
"What?!" Maybe she was right, that she hadn't been in possession of her own faculties enough to turn him down if she had wanted to. But she was also absolutely wrong. "It's not okay for me to make the decision to help you, to prevent your suffering The Fawning, but you could make the exact same decision to have sex with me?"
"It's not the same thing at all, and you know it!" Her eyes were blazing and although she still was on the floor she had risen up onto her knees in the heat of the argument. God, she could be intimidating! Even though he was standing, towering over her, certain that he was in the right and she was being hypocritical, she had the upper hand. And although he couldn't really entertain the notion at the moment, John was realizing just how incredibly hot she was when she was pissed, her muscles all tensed and her face flushed like when he had her mid-coitus. "When I made the decision to sleep with you, there were no other options. You were going to die. I knew the consequences and fully accepted them. It was a one-time deal, a single occurrence, a solution to an impossible problem."
He opened his mouth to respond, to argue with her that his motives had been basically the same, but she allowed him no such chance.
"But when you came to me, you changed everything!" She wasn't going to let up until he understood what he had done. "Before, it had been an aberration, excusable as a mistake. Now, now it's a pattern, a liability. Before, maybe we could've pretended it never happened, kept it secret. But now…They will find out."
And there it was. They. Them. And it possibly made him even angrier. How could people living billions of miles away have such control over their lives? It just wasn't fair. More than that, it wasn't moral. No person should have a say in the personal affairs of another, especially something as intimate as who they chose to have sex with. But Elizabeth was right, if the SGC, Pentagon or whatever fascist power-that-be found out, they would be in serious trouble, court-marshal, confined-to-a-small-mundane-corner-of-earth-for-the-rest-of-their-lives trouble.
He shook his head expressively. She may have been right, but he couldn't help but feel there was more to the situation. It seemed like she trying to keep him on edge, wound-up for a reason. He decided to thwart what was probably the hundredth diversion tactic she had used on him in the past few weeks. His curiosity as to the cause of her recent behavior had finally developed into desperation for the truth.
"Know what I've always liked about you, Elizabeth?" he asked her gently as he sat down beside her. It was a blatant change of subject matter, but he hoped that it caught her off-guard enough to elicit a response, to allow him to guide her to the revelation he desired. It worked.
"No. I don't know, John." she responded, slightly exasperated but also amazed at his ability to turn off his aggressiveness and anger as if he hadn't been emotionally, passionately engaged in the argument.
"Since the first moment I met you, I could see it," he began, like he was telling a story. Except this story was the absolute truth, what he felt deep down inside. "Your humanity, Elizabeth. Your seemingly unending capacity for compassion and kindness. No matter what the situation, you've never lost it. And I've always admired that in you, even when I was arguing against what I thought at the time was 'blindness' to reality. And I hated every time I had to tell you we lost another person, to see that part of you die a little. But it always came back. You've always managed to keep your heart from growing hard. And I thought that it was the one constant that I could forever rely upon, that would never change.
"But you've changed. And it's all my fault. What did making that decision do to you, Elizabeth? Why did having sex with me make you grow cold? What did I do to you?"
Elizabeth had been watching him intently as he poured his heart out to her, his concern for her, his distress that he had hurt her. She had always known there was more depth to the man than people gave him credit for, but she had never expected this. And she had never considered that he would also have to bear the consequences of her choice, that it would affect him in this way. Then again, she hadn't expected to be so wholly mixed up by it all either.
"It's not your fault," she consoled, wrapping her arms around him. He pulled her close into a warm embrace, something he had desired to do for what seemed like an eternity. "I was just afraid."
He released her enough so he could look in her eyes. His face changed, confusion lining his features. "Afraid of what?"
"That you'd find out," she whispered. He still looked confused.
This was exasperating! "Please, just be straight with me."
"Okay," she nodded her head, assured that telling John was the right thing to do. "Being with you…I… You made me feel good." He smiled at that, his lopsided, most charming grin that melted her insides. "And I felt like maybe I was…falling in love with you."
She looked away, unable to face his reaction, whatever it may be. She felt silly for it. All it had been was sex, right?
Oh, god. This was serious. Could Elizabeth really feel that way about him? It had only been sex, hadn't it? Sure, there had been a connection between them. They were friends, and there was practically nothing he wouldn't do for her, to keep her safe. And despite a few rough spots, they got along rather well, except for the past few weeks. But he had sought her out, knowing The Fawning was upon her. There had to be a reason for it. He could've just let it go, seen how things had played out, only help her if it was really necessary. But he hadn't, because the truth was…
"I care about you a lot, Elizabeth. And being with you was amazing. But the way you've been treating me, the way you've grown cold, it hurt." Like Elizabeth couldn't face him, he couldn't face her, the one to whom he was saying things he'd never thought he'd say to anyone. "I guess that's why when I realized the virus had begun to affect you, I sought you out. I was hoping that I could coax the real you back out again. I was desperate just to make you smile again."
Elizabeth finally looked at John. He was being absolutely sincere and it was apparent in his deep, honest eyes. Wrapping her arms around him again, she pulled herself to him and whispered into his ear. "Thank you for being honest with me."
"Thank you for finally telling me the truth," he whispered back. Overwhelmed by the chemistry between them, and it wasn't just viral-induced, he kissed her cheek. She turned and he found her lips. And they both found it exceedingly pleasant.
"But it still doesn't change anything," she told him, pulling away slightly after they broke the kiss off. "We can't do this ever again."
She moved to get up but he caught her by the wrist. "Not so fast, Elizabeth."
Her heart-rate quickened at his assertiveness. Although they had had a sincere, open conversation, she still had resigned herself to living with her misery, knowing that she could never have him, not even just in a sexual relationship. She thought that she had made this fact clear to him, that he had accepted it as well. But when she looked into his eyes, she knew that he wasn't resigned to it as she was.
"They have no right to dictate what we can and can't do," he informed her of what she already knew, but couldn't act upon.
"It wouldn't be appropriate, no matter how we feel," she countered, although not liking the fact that she was fighting for a cause she abhorred, against the man she only wanted to be close to.
"You've already given up so much for them, for the expedition, for me," he said, not letting her go, knowing this was the only chance he'd have to convince her that her life, her personality was worth preserving. "You're a person, Elizabeth. Not just a leader. And you deserve to be a person."
The tears began to retrace their path down her cheeks. She knew he was right. And he knew he had gotten through to her. Collapsing into him, she allowed herself to be cradled in his arms. John wiped the moisture from her face, kissed her neck and shoulder. Something occurred to him and he paused.
"I don't mean to pressure you into anything with me," he explained, realizing that she had never really freely chosen to be with him. The first time, she had felt it necessary to save his life. The second time, she had been the one overcome by the virus, incapable of refusing a lover. "I just want you to realize that you can and deserve to have a life beyond the responsibility of keeping all of us from getting ourselves killed. But it doesn't have to be me. Although I'd like-"
Elizabeth silenced him with her lips, and they soon found themselves, by choice, in a sexual encounter as passionate as the previous two.
"You didn't expose someone else to the virus?!" Dr. Beckett asked, alarmed and shocked by Elizabeth's assertion that she was fine despite having a positive blood test for the active virus only yesterday.
"No one who hasn't already contracted the virus has been exposed," she reassured him.
"You mean that you and the colonel…" he blurted out before his mind could censor itself, then realized it and let himself trail off. Well, that explained her good mood. But still, if she just had waited, he could've offered her the solutions that he had come up with, although they admittedly weren't that great either.
"Well, then. Let's check your blood and see what the virus is up to," Carson changed the subject. She offered him her arm and the wince was minimal as the needle penetrated her vein.
"I've come up with a few possibilities to manage the viral attacks," he offered her as he watched the test-tube fill with blood.
"Just 'manage'?" Elizabeth asked, also watching her blood flowing into the small glass vessel. The doctor placed a cotton swab over the spot where the needle was stuck into her arm. Then he pulled it out. She bent her arm as was customary, but wondered at the strange sensation of the needle sliding through her flesh. No matter how many times she underwent the procedure, it still creeped her out.
"Yes, I'm afraid so," Beckett conceded. "The disease's interaction with the human body is so complicated…I could spend the rest of my life studying it and still not figure out how to completely neutralize it."
"I see," she replied, her brow twitching slightly with concern. This had serious implications for her life, but she couldn't fully feel the gravity of it. She blamed John for the emotional high she apparently was on.
"But that doesn't mean there aren't treatments we can consider," Carson hastily supplied.
"To manage it," Elizabeth finished for him. She had already figured out a way to manage it.
"For example, there are birth control medications that alter a woman's reproductive cycle, effectively drawing it out so that she only menstruates four times a year," he explained the best solution he had come up with. The tests he had run on the active virus taken from Elizabeth's blood the previous day had shown they were responsive to the synthetic hormones.
"So, I would still have attacks multiple times a year?" she surmised. "Why don't we just trick my system into extending it for even longer?"
"Well, there could be numerous side affects we couldn't even anticipate," he answered, taking her arm and putting a band-aid over the fresh wound. Elizabeth tended to be a bleeder. Not enough iron, and too busy too listen to her doctor's concerns. "When you alter body systems so much from their natural state…It's just not good."
"So, if I switch birth control, the number of attacks will be reduced," Elizabeth concluded.
"Yes. And I believe that with a little more study, I may be able to develop a treatment, a dosage of hormones sufficient to signal the virus back into dormancy during an attack of The Fawning."
"Thank you, doctor," Elizabeth said. "But I won't be too upset if you don't succeed."
Dr. Beckett gave her a confused look, but followed her own gaze over his shoulder, to where John Sheppard stood just a few feet away. Catching that their attention had turned towards him, John assumed the conversation was over.
"Are you done with her, doc?" he asked. "Because she promised me lunch and I'm starving."
When Beckett failed to respond, Elizabeth raised an eyebrow at John and he shrugged his shoulders lightheartedly. The doctor finally snapped back to reality, but not all of him arrived, for he was still shocked at what he saw passing before him. He obviously knew that they were sexually intimate, but he still found it odd to consider their relationship as it was revealed before him.
"Um, yes, go ahead," he finally managed to say. He could only stare in a manner which he knew was rude as Elizabeth hopped up and walked over to John, who proceeded to place an arm around her waist and escort her out of the infirmary. He imagined that they would receive a lot of such looks, but if they were happy…
And they were, quite happy.
Author's Final Note: Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope that I at least provided you with some form of entertainment, however brief and unsatisfying…