Title: A Lot Like
Notes: Written as a backup for the 2005 Sheppard/Weir ficathon. For admiralilly, who had to wait a looooooong time for this. HUGE thanks to Melyanna who proofed it and Inga who knows the private joke.
Summary: On a trip back to Earth, John and Elizabeth take in a little holiday cheer.
John found her staring at a spectacularly ugly painting in the mess while trying to finish her half-full carton of barbecue pork. She wasn't very enthusiastic about the whole thing. The pork or the painting.
"Hey, what are you still doing here?"
She eyed him, taking a few seconds to absorb the sight of him in civilian clothing. Some of the sights she'd been exposed to in the last four years had been pretty odd. Strangely, John Sheppard wearing a pair of blue jeans and a bright green sweater was suddenly ranking near the top of the list.
The sweater had a reindeer on it.
"What the hell are you wearing?" Giggling, she dropped her chopsticks into the last of her food carton so she could fully turn her attention towards him.
Aggrieved, he glared at her. "Oh, hush up. It was a present from Cadman's mother. I have no idea why she knitted me a sweater, but apparently, she did. And this is it."
"Is she punishing you for something? And why are you actually wearing it?"
He pulled out one of the chairs across from her and dropped himself into it. She'd noticed that he never seemed able to actually sit in a chair. He either lounged against something or fell into it like gravity had suddenly kicked in extra hard. As a result, she's sure her desk is going to have a groove worn into it sometime soon.
"No. Well, she might be punishing me. And as to why I'm wearing it..." He shrugged and picked up her carton and chopsticks. Expertly he clicked the wooden sticks and shoved some food in his mouth.
She made a face at him. "That was mine, you know."
He made a handwave gesture. "But you had that 'I'm done with this' look on your face when I walked in, so I figured it was fair game."
"You're avoiding my question."
"Yeah. Would you believe it's because it's vaguely Christmas and I wanted to get into the spirit?"
She raised and eyebrow.
"Yeah, didn't think so. Carson bet me fifty bucks."
She laughed again and stretched her feet out until they settled in his lap. She ignored his rather startled look. Maybe it was just the spacelag or the fact that her plane to see her family didn't leave for another two days, but it felt good to be in his presence. She hadn't really seen him in the last few days outside of the required debriefing meetings, even though the rest of the staff who'd flown back with them had been busy or started their leave already.
Basically, she'd been feeling a little lost and a lot lonely.
"Are you bucking for a footrub or something?"
"Well, I wouldn't say no. What do you think the pool is on you making me moan tonight?"
He grinned at her, raising an eyebrow in the patented Sheppard flirt. It really was quite silly how attractive the man could be. "I like the last bit, but I am not giving you a footrub." He made a face and waved the chopsticks at her. "Feet are gross, Elizabeth."
"Well, I'm sure yours are stomping around in those combat boots all the time." She wiggled her feet again and stuck a half-hearted pout on her face. "Mine are cute."
"Uh-uh. No way."
She sighed and whipped the puppy eyes out on a low wattage.
"No! Tell you what." He dropped the chopsticks in the now empty carton and pushed her feet off his lap before standing. "We're both off on leave, right?"
She nodded. "Yeah. I'm off for home day after tomorrow."
He grinned then and reached over to help her up. "Come on. Let's go see what there is to do in Colorado Springs on a Friday night in December. Get out. See something besides the bottom of this cave."
"You're going to wear that sweater in public?"
"Fifty bucks is fifty bucks."
They decided on the winter carnival. Well, it had been advertised as a winter carnival. In reality, it more closely resembled a school fun fair stretched over several blocks of a main residential road. Booths and homemade displays and stands littered the roped-off area as varying residents tried to out-do each other on garishness, originality, and kookiness.
Elizabeth was loving it immensely. Even if John had decided to drag her through every stand and set up the place had to offer. In subzero weather. And had decided that the thing to really make the experience more enjoyable was getting ice cream.
"This stuff... taste it."
"I am not eating that."
"No, c'mon! Taste it!"
Elizabeth pushed the hand holding the spoon away from her face and elbowed him in the ribs. "You just made the most disgusted face imaginable and now you're trying to get me to try it. I'm your date, you're supposed to be nice to me."
"Where did you get that idea?" John took another bite, pulling another face before he tossed the lot in the nearest trash bin. "God, that was disgusting."
"I kind of got that from you trying to make me taste it."
"Swear, it was like ice-cream with bits of playdough in it."
"And I say, again, you wanted me to taste this stuff?"
"It's one of those shared experience things. If my mouth has to have a gross aftertaste, so should yours."
"You're the one who was going on and on and on about getting ice cream. John, it's Christmas and roughly ten degrees."
"And the last time I had ice cream was two years ago. The last time we were here."
"Kinda sucks for you that it was gross, huh?"
John shrugged and stuffed his hands more firmly in his coat pockets. "Yeah. Stuff changes, I guess."
Elizabeth just shrugged before turning away. "Not everything."
They wandered further down the lit boulevard pausing here and there to browse through handmade crafts or watch a demonstration. John slid to a halt next to a particularly garish display.
"I had no idea belly dancing was part of the Colorado Christmas culture."
Elizabeth, who'd been distracted by the sight of a rather large woman in relatively little clothing holding the leash of a rather tiny dog, turned and started to laugh. Sure enough, the local belly-dancing club had a display up and three older women were currently shaking their hips as if the turning of the earth depended on it.
"You know, they're actually quite good." Elizabeth tilted her head a little to the left, mirroring John's stance and nodded. "I could never do that with my hips."
"You never know until you try." John's tone screamed smirk, and not wanting to encourage him over-much, Elizabeth just turned away to take in the whole of the street. It was peaceful despite the growing crowd. The snow wasn't too deep and the lights were bouncing off the drifts in cheerful ways that might have been tacky some other time of the year.
It looked like the typical American Christmas fair. An odd little section of Elizabeth's heart warmed at the idea that as much as things changed in her life, there were still bits and pieces of her homeworld - her home country - that didn't. Despite what John had said earlier. And even if it involved a lot of brightly colored plastic and twinkly lights.
"You're incorrigible, you know that, right?"
"I live to flirt. Well, that's what Teyla tells me anyway."
Elizabeth laughed and raised an eyebrow at her partner in crime. "Teyla would know too."
"What?" He narrowed his eyes at her. "What do you know?"
Elizabeth just shrugged and tried to look innocent and all-knowing at the same time.
"Stop doing that!"
"I'm not doing anything."
John glared, thought better of it, and tried a pout. "You know we men folk are helpless in the face of your weekly coffee klatch."
Bemused, Elizabeth raised an eyebrow at him before starting off down the street towards the next shiny display. "Calling it a 'coffee klatch' is no way to get me to cough up details, Colonel."
"You know what I mean!" He projected at her retreating back.
"We don't even drink coffee!"
He groaned and moved after her. "I know, I know, you drink tea and discuss things of dire importance relating to cultural understanding between the Tau'ri and the Athosian people."
Not really mad at him because she and Teyla really did spend most of their weekly meetings bitching about Rodney, Ronon, and John's antics, Elizabeth turned to snicker at him. "You actually read my schedule?"
A pace with her, he shrugged and stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets. "It's posted on your calendar."
"You and Rodney looked it up, didn't you?"
"Surprisingly, Ronon did. Something about how the two of you could take us apart if left to your own devices or something. His estimation of you has really grown in the last few years."
Elizabeth mirrored John's stance, trying to tuck her hands into her coat and body as closely as possible. It was starting to get really cold out. Oddly, she was fine with that. "We just needed to come to an understanding."
John snickered, his attention momentarily drawn to a living nativity across the street. "I think you shutting down the city and nearly blowing him into next year had a lot to do with that."
"Yeah, I guess." Suddenly a bit uncomfortable, she shrugged and looked back in the direction she'd been heading. Ahead was a small park nestled between two houses that had been decked out with more of the white twinkly lights that decorated the more tasteful displays.
The warm weight of John's hand settled on her shoulder, startling her a little bit. "Hey, it's okay. He's fine."
Her smile was strained but present, and she reached up to squeeze his fingers. It was okay. Ronon was fine. And he did tend to listen to her better than he had before. "Yeah. It's still a little awkward."
He nodded and they started to move again. At the last second, she caught him by the arm and pulled him into the park. Strangely, the noise from the fairly busy street lessened as they moved into the snowy area. Elizabeth looked up into the lit canopy and felt herself relax. The overhead lights cast a warm glow over everything, and if it hadn't been freezing she'd have been entertaining thoughts of staying all night.
"This is really pretty." He let go of her arm and turned a little circle while looking up. "It's like a net of lights. You can kinda see the wires."
"It's like stars, almost."
"The lights. They're like stars. Except not scary ones." She shivered and wrapped her arms tighter around herself, but didn't look down. Beyond the lights and the netting she could see the real thing. When she was small, she'd stared up at the stars in the backyard of her parents' home and made up stories about the things going on up there. It had been obvious to her at a very young age that there was no way they were alone in this big universe.
Now that she knew it was true, she kind of wished she could go back to those stories.
"Yeah." John's voice was soft and low behind her. She wasn't surprised to feel him throw an arm around her shoulders and give her a quick squeeze. She was surprised, however, when he didn't immediately let go. "I keep forgetting how pretty they are from far away."
"They're almost more real."
"I miss these stars on Atlantis. I mean, normally I can distract myself. But sometimes, I go outside and look up an they just aren't the stars I grew up with."
She leaned her head onto his shoulder, the vibrations of his voice comforting in the dark. "Yeah."
He sighed and then snorted. "Oh, you're not going to believe this."
"You remember how all last week Cadman was chasing me around trying to get me stuck with you under the mistletoe?"
"Uh, no. Wait, was that after the briefing with Agnamon?"
"Yeah. Apparently the bet was up to $200. Anyway, there was a bet that she couldn't get us under mistletoe."
"We're standing under mistletoe, aren't we?"
His snicker told her everything.
"Well, we can't break tradition." She reached up and kissed the tip of his nose. It was cold from being uncovered so long, but the startled yelp he gave was totally worth it. "So there."
"Not fair woman!" Laughing, he leaned over and kissed her softly just next to her mouth. He smelled like the gingerbread ice-cream he'd thrown out earlier and John. When he pulled back, she smiled up at him softly, her earlier mirth there but quieted. It wasn't the best kiss she'd ever had, but all told it felt pretty damn powerful.
"I'm glad we did this," she whispered.
He smiled and stroked the curve of her cheek. "Me too."
They stayed staring at the lights for a long time.