John rolled his head back against the headrest. He had to admit that business class was a lot better than coach, but the hot towels were still something he didn't understand. Bashing the small, provided cushion between his fists a few times tenderised it enough to tuck it behind the crook of his neck.
Positioning it just so, John prepared to gently doze off before take-off. That was the way he normally flew. Falling asleep – hopefully – before they were in the air in the hope of avoiding the amount of screaming children who didn't understand why their ears and heads were in excruciating pain. This time, however, his attention was dissuaded from sleep mere moments before the plane began ambling along the tarmac.
He couldn't quite see the full expanse of her face; he could see the sharp edge of red, thin-framed reading glasses, the line of her tailored suit and the long tendrils of dark chocolate coloured hair. The slight curls of her hair weaved it's way down her back and beneath the collar of her suit jacket out of sight. The few tendrils that fell free of her shoulders cascaded down her front and dangled precariously over whatever document held her rapt attention.
She was two rows ahead and on the opposite side of the aisle, so his view was nearly perfect.
People were still mulling around the cabin, tucking bags in overhead compartments and shuffling through the small passageways between chairs. He noticed that there were two seats beside her left vacant and wondered why she hadn't taken the window seat. John couldn't think of anyone in their right mind denying themselves the window seat.
He and his cousin had their annual Christmas boxing match over that very seat.
It was then that he noticed why the seats were empty. Her head tilted up slightly, as a Scottish accent called something in Russian across the cabin. She smiled serenely and waved her hand over her head and the man made his way over, his blue eyes sparkling at the sight of her – like he assumed many must have done – and leaned down to gently kiss her cheek. John didn't know what to do. He didn't speak any Russian and by the looks of it she was spoken for by this blue-eyed, softly spoken Scot. His chances of accidentally bumping into her in the galley were shot. Mostly because she was Russian and he had no clue how he would translate his best pick-up lines or argue his way out of it when her boyfriend came wondering where she was.
Settling down in his chair, he attempted to ignore her. Even tried to veer his eyes away and attempt sleep again, but a voice caught him off-guard. A woman's voice. Her voice.
"Evan! Hi!" she stood up and hugged the man as he climbed across the two of them and sat down by the window.
John was gob-smacked.
Only then did he realise that when the Scot had sat down, they had not continued their conversation in Russian but had subtly slipped into Czech and John couldn't believe he hadn't picked up on it.
So she was multi-lingual, nice, he thought to himself.
John watched her in fascination, studying the way she expressed her points without a single over-gesture of her hands, the way her pen tapping on the notepad in-front of her wasn't in the least annoying, and how she seemed to be equally focussed on both men. This was either very good, or very very bad.
John liked to look on the positive side of life and safely assume that they were all simply friends and she was not seeing either of them. On the plus-side that would mean the galley option was back up in play and he had no curious boyfriend to worry about. He'd gone down that road only once before and it wasn't, in the slightest smidgin, pretty – but on the negative side she could be seeing both of them and then that could get very interesting.
He decided to leave that one open for the moment.
As the plane started to take off and the seatbelt lights flashed with insistence, John buckled up and realised that the amount of children in business class was diminished so there was no need for sleep just yet. Instead, he continued his uninterrupted assessment of the brunette two aisles ahead.
He was normally attracted to blondes. Those who were tall, endowed and possessing an IQ lower than a muskrat that drove him insane once they started to speak. This woman, this stunning woman, with her dark hair and mysterious presence had him captivated. Her librarian crossed with sexy politician look in her fitted grey suit and her sharp pointed heels made him feel, even more poignantly, that she was out of his league, but he couldn't look away. He unknowingly smiled when she raised her left hand to remove her glasses and he saw no wedding band nor a diamond fit for a woman like her. John then immediately wanted to slap himself for considering she'd even let the thought of a mile-high club induction course cross her mind.
"Can I get a glass of Champagne, one Budweiser and a Scotch please?"
"Of course, ma'am," the flight attendant replied.
John watched as the flight attendant went through her little cart and collected the items, placing them gently on the woman's tray before unclipping the brake locks and moving onto the next aisle. He watched with curiosity as the woman passed the Champagne to the man by the window, the Scotch – not so ironically – to the Scot and kept the Budweiser to herself.
He didn't even realise he was being spoken too, nor that his grin was so goofy until the flight attendant's hand was gently shaking his shoulder. "Sir, are you alright?"
"Oh…" he finally looked up at her and tried to smile more normally. "…yes I'm fine, sorry."
She smiled gently and gestured towards the cart.
"Um, no, nothing for me, thanks." She just nodded and moved on.
Waking up from an unintentional snooze, John blinked a little and readjusted himself in his seat. Wincing at the ache developing in his neck and attempting to stretch his legs without knocking the woman beside him. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed that the mysterious woman he had been watching, wasn't in her seat. John leaned up and craned his neck to see if she was near the galley. He couldn't see her but the restroom light was on 'occupied' so he quickly unbuckled his belt and made his way towards it.
Standing outside the door, he waited and waited. He smiled saucily at many a young flight attendant when she walked past, knowing none of them were stupid enough to encourage his behaviour beyond the point of blushing and smiling back before they moved on.
As a brief rattle of turbulence rocked the plane, John staggered back against the restroom door, finding himself landing roughly against the object of his current escapade and crushing her slight frame against the galley wall.
"Oh, I'm so sorry." He muttered desperately grasping at her to stand her upright.
"I'm fine, it's ok." She answered softly and brushed past him in the cramped space.
Turning back around, she faced him with patience as he finally came in contact with the stunning display of green in her eyes.
"Are you ok?" she asked, when he didn't finish his sentence and he coughed to clear his head.
"Yes! I'm fine…I mean, ah…yes, thank you…" he held his hand out as if asking for her name and she smiled softly.
'Oh my god, pretty name.' John blinked and then smiled. "Thank you, Elizabeth."
She nodded with a smile and turned around again, making her way back up the aisle where she met her two friends, talking to them a moment before glancing his way with a smirk and taking her seat again. Dragging a magazine out and pulling her glasses back on.
John dragged his eyes away from her and stepped into the restroom, standing there like an idiot for a moment when he really didn't need to go. Just to keep up the pretence of not actually stalking her.
"Who was that, Elizabeth?" Evan asked, looking away from his video game for the first time during the flight.
"Um, I don't know."
"He seems to be quite fond of ye love, he's still looking."
Elizabeth blushed and looked her friend in the eye. "Don't be silly, Carson."
"Ah well, don't expect me not to say 'I told ye so' when he asks for your number."
Elizabeth laughed softly and turned to her magazine. "Please Carson, we've got three hours left of freedom before the conference, let me relax."
"Aye love, you relax, and I'll keep an eye on this lone ranger for ye." Elizabeth laughed again and shook her head, turning back to her magazine but not before she caught the eye of the mysterious man on his way back to his seat.
John lazily made his way down to the baggage carousel. Not really caring all that much if his duffle even made it off the plane and through the amazing labyrinth of conveyer belts behind those very secretive looking black flaps. He watched all of the other people, fighting with their luggage and in some cases, each other, in order to get all of their things together. He noticed the man that was sitting with Elizabeth, the muscly one who had been sitting by the window, grab three small suitcases off the belt and carry them over to the doors, walking out towards the taxi rank.
John nervously switched from foot to foot, mentally willing his duffle to hurry up and crawl itself out so that he could run out there in time. But by the time he'd dodged a rather insane old woman and a screaming five-year-old, he got out the doors just in time to see her slide into the taxi and disappear down the road.
Never to be seen again.
"Hilton hotel, please." John sulked into his own taxi, shoving his bag away out of spite and crossing his arms over his chest.
His night was spent in the hotel bar, knocking back beers like they were milkshakes and dreading the thought of the so-called, 'intelligent debate' awaiting him in the morning. He still didn't have a clue as to why his CO had forced him to go to this conference, he'd never cared about politics, and even less about the politics involved in keeping the armed forces the way they were. He couldn't care less, as long as he had the resources to fly whenever he was needed or wanted, he was happy. Now he was being punished by being forced to sit in a massive conference room full of grotesquely pompous politicians complaining about the Government's spending on the US Armed Forces.
'Air-Force representative my butt.' Chugging back his fourth beer into oblivion he clambered up from his seat, feeling remarkably more sober than he would have thought, paid the waiter then made his way back to his room, dropping himself onto the bed and falling asleep without so much as pulling the blankets back or changing his clothes.
Elizabeth twisted the tie of her robe in her hands.
"What are you thinking about?" Evan called through the open adjoining door as he walked past drying his hair with a towel.
"Oh nothing; well, the debate really."
"Not that sexy, dark and mysterious young man from the plane?" Carson winked at her as he walked into her room from the opposite door adjoining his own room.
"What would you know about sexy in men?" Elizabeth asked with a smirk as she sat up and crossed her legs to perch on the end of her bed.
"Hey, I may not be gay, thank bloody god, but I'm certainly not blind…I know when a man is, or isn't attractive…heck, we've been friends long enough that I know when you find a man attractive, so don't you try and lie to me girly."
Elizabeth laughed and turned around so that she was lying on her stomach with her feet kicking in the air. "So you thought he was cute?"
"I never said 'cute' per sae."
"Face it Carson, you dug yourself in this one." Evan laughed from the other room as he climbed into his own bed.
"Perhaps cute wasn't the best phrase." Elizabeth crossed her eyes.
"Hey, I don't know, but he certainly seemed interested in you."
Elizabeth shrugged and climbed back up on her bed, tossing the covers back and dropping her robe to the floor before climbing into the bed. "It's not like I'll see him again anyway, so it doesn't really matter."
"You never know, love, serendipity is a powerful thing."
"Good night Carson." Elizabeth grinned as she leaned now if you can over and turned out her light.
Elizabeth watched his shadow dance across her walls as he moved about in his room before his light too went out and she snuggled herself down in the fluffy pillows.
Elizabeth juggled her palm cards flipping them and folding them in her hands. Carson had asked her several times at different functions why she had them. Why she always insisted on writing them out when she never ended up reading from them. She often got so caught up in a debate or a speech that she'd completely forget them and go with her instinct. Elizabeth worked better that way, he'd told her so many times, but there was just no stopping her from staying up all hours preparing and comparing notes and theories that she knew by heart anyway. So he humoured her and let her be, insisting only that she eats regular meals – ones he often brought to her – and slept more than four hours a night.
She'd lived by his instructions and it'd only taken five years into their friendship for either of them to stop complaining.
But she was nervous for a different reason this time, one neither she, Carson or Evan could figure out. She was simply on edge and it was starting to worry her.
John found himself a seat in the darkest, furthest corner away from the stage and slumped into it, wondering why on earth he hadn't ditched the conference for a nice sunny lit chair in the bar and that cute waitress smiling at him with no shame for her blush. He didn't understand why this time he'd just followed orders and went to the damn conference to listen to a bunch of politicians debating government spending, and a bunch of Generals and Colonels defending that spending on the basis that the military needed the funds for housing, bases, weapons and relief for third world victims of their war being fought on foreign soil.
He never cared much for the politics of war. He was a soldier, a foot soldier to be more precise, a pawn happy with his place as long as he was rewarded with a means to bend the rules on occasion. He knew why he wasn't a part of this war, if the previous one was any indication that his penchant for bending the rules had landed him in no small depth of hot water.
Here he was, running errands for the Air-Force, being the charming little mascot and poster boy for America's Air-Force Officer recruitment program, with his Lt. Colonel title having no more use or effect than his previous rank of Major. Well, actually, at least as a Major he'd had options, he'd had outlets. Now he was stuffed in a blue suit, poked with ribbons and medals he didn't feel he'd earned and shipped off to boring seminars meant to either teach him a lesson, or on a slightly ironic note, show him even more reasons to rebel against the establishment.
His current ponderings came to a grinding halt, he froze in his seat and went dumb at the sight of her. Watching her climb up to the podium John couldn't help but study every detail, the distance of her stride, the length of her legs and the way the crisp black trousers hugged her at the hips, the curve of her waist, the way her jacket fell so effortlessly over her shoulders and the rich red of her blouse beneath it, he took note of her long dark hair, longer than it had looked on the plane and the way it fell over the front of her shoulder on the left, but hung securely behind the right, she wasn't wearing her glasses but he held out a faint hope that they were clutched securely in the hand that he couldn't see.
He fell back on his first assessment. She was stunning.
"Dr. Elizabeth Weir, we are honoured to have you speaking here today." She smiled her socially accepted platitude towards the previous speaker, a Colonel someone someone in John's memory and he felt a strange sense of pride crawling through him as he read the cold insincerity in her tone, one that the Colonel, whose name John so obviously didn't remember, hadn't noticed.
"Hello…" she started with and that was all John heard for the whole fifteen minutes she was on the stage. Not that she wasn't interesting, John had never been more enthralled by this particular subject and actually found some agreement in what she said, but once she left the stage, he couldn't for the life of him remember what she'd said. Something about government spending, being opposed to it and another part about weapons proliferation but that's all he caught. Apart, of course, from the fact that her lipstick was more of a cherry red than a raspberry colour and her voice was lulling him into a sense of peace he hadn't felt in years.
He had to meet her.
Elizabeth ran her finger slowly around the rim of her glass, causing it to sing a gentle tune like a soft whistle bouncing off the crystal. She stood back against the wall, always feeling out of place when coming to these kinds of events. Her feelings remained, regardless of the response her speeches usually attracted. Oblivious to the fact it was her looks and the pure unlikelihood of someone like her being involved in such a career had these military and government types a little baffled, she always felt strange in this environment and that feeling just never seemed to lift.
Taking a sip of her Champagne, she nearly choked on it when a man stood directly in front of her and startled her.
"I'm sorry, do I know you?" she gathered herself and lowered her glass to rest between both hands, far away from her lips.
"Yes, the flight over, do you remember?"
"Oh right…" she smiled a blinding smile and noticed the man's eyes drift to her lips. Clearing her throat, his eyes refocused on her face. "Can I help you?"
"Well, I was just wondering if you'd like to dance, facing the staggering serendipity that we met on the plane and then met again here."
'Serendipity' Elizabeth stared for just a moment, pondering her conversation with Carson the night before –"Serendipity is a powerful thing"- before he waved his hand in front of her face. "Are you ok?"
"Oh, yes…it's just, what you said I…"
"I asked you to dance." He smiled and she shook away her silliness.
"Nevermind," she smiled again, placing her glass on the nearest table, she raised her hand to him. "I would love to dance."
John couldn't believe it. He was actually dancing with her, holding her and feeling the flushed warm skin of her back as they danced. She'd removed her jacket almost an hour ago, favouring the cool breeze on her heated skin as they danced to the fast paced beat. He laughed at their awkwardness when the songs so suddenly changed a little slower, taking their time to come together again before finding a rhythm that had her resting her head on his shoulder and running her fingers along the toned muscles of his back.
He could get used to this.
He was still a little stunned that it had happened so quickly, and for a brief moment he hoped and prayed that it wasn't a dream. She felt so real, with her breath on his throat, and her laughter, which he had come to the conclusion was the most pleasurable sound in the universe, in his ears.
"So why are you here?" she asked him out of the blue, after hours of dancing with no more than a laugh shared as far as conversations went.
"I was ordered."
"My CO seems to think these seminars will teach me the finer points of military life."
"And what do you think?" he caught her smirk as he spun her around, and then pulled her back into him with an 'oomph'.
"I think it's a load of bull."
"Really?" she raised an eyebrow.
"Well…" he ran his eyes across her, staring into her eyes before letting them fall – with a light-hearted smirk of course – over her chest then back to her face. "…not all of it."
Elizabeth laughed heartily before falling with her forehead into his chest. "So why didn't you just disobey and find your way to the nearest club, or bar?" they were dancing closer now, her voice hushed and her hands playing between his shirt and his jacket.
"I don't know…" he breathed into her hair, marvelling at the smell of her shampoo mixed with something so unique it must have been exclusive to her. It- she- was intoxicating. "I just…did."
"I've never been so nervous at one of these things before, never in my life like I was today." She whispered.
John's body tensed up for a moment before relaxing; he tightened his hold on her waist. "You didn't look nervous."
"Tell that to my rumpled palm cards." She laughed and John could feel her laughter reverberating through his own chest.
They were silent for a moment, gently and slowly moving about the floor as a single being before Elizabeth tilted her head up with a serene smile. "Do you want to go for a walk?"
"I don't know, what about stranger danger and all that stuff mommy's teach their good little girls?"
Elizabeth smirked playfully and tugged on his hand. "I'm a big girl." She declared before grabbing her jacket as they slid out of the room quietly.
"So, why are we walking through hotel hallways?" Elizabeth shrugged and slipped her arm into his.
"It's too cold outside for walking in the streets."
"Good point." He smiled, looking down at her and wondering how exactly he'd found himself here, with her.
"What are you thinking about?" John smiled and moved his arm to curl around her shoulders.
Nodding, Elizabeth turned around and grabbed hold of his hand, walking backwards down the hall with a devilish smirk on her face.
"What are you thinking?"
Biting her lip Elizabeth grinned wider, fighting off the faint sensation in the pit of her stomach screaming at her "You don't even know his name!" , but she ignored it and trudged on, dragging him down the hall.
"That my room is this one over here." She let go of his hand for only the time it took her to pull the cardkey from her pocket.
"I don't know…"
Elizabeth ignored his hesitance, dragging him through her door and closing it behind him.
"Ah…" he was caught a little off-guard, to be honest he hadn't really known what to expect when she pulled him in there, but coffee wasn't high on the list of possibilities…though perhaps it was for the best. "…yes, please."
John could hear a sound coming from the room next door and noticed she quickly ran over, stumbling over her suitcase in order to close the adjoining door.
"What was that?" he stood there, eyes wide as she lent her back against the wall and let out a deep breath.
"Oh, Ah…" running her fingers through her hair she smiled nervously. "…that was just my friend Evan, he's a little…"
"Adventurous with the ladies." John mused and Elizabeth let out a nervous laugh.
"Something like that…so," she made her way back over to the coffee pot. "How about that coffee?"
"Ah," John stepped between her and the pot, so close that her eyes nearly crossed trying to focus on his face. "…I don't actually want any coffee."
"Me either…or, either."
Laughing, John reached a hand down to rest on her hip and she shivered at his touch. "If you want me to, I'll stop," he assured her.
She nodded, feeling his breath on her face as her eyes closed, half listening, half trying to remember how to breathe. "So um, what did you think about the conference?"
"Shh…" John raised his finger to her lips and Elizabeth moaned when he lent down to lightly brush his lips against hers. "No talking." He whispered, before pressing his lips harder against hers and moving his hand from her hip to her back and pulling her closer.
"I–I don't think…"
He kissed her again, silencing her with a deep sound from the back of his throat, making her knees buckle. He caught her, holding her tighter against him as they moved towards the bed and sat her down. John slipped her jacket from her shoulders, making her shiver as his hands met the skin of her bare shoulders before pushing her gently down on the bed.
"I told you…" leaning over her, he ran his hand across her belly, underneath the hem of her shirt. "…tell me to stop and I'll stop."
She wanted to say it; she knew this was wrong; everything about it just wasn't her. She didn't meet mystery men at conferences; she didn't take them to her hotel room and sleep with them all before learning their name. She wasn't Evan; as much as he'd tried to teach her she could never seem to grasp the concept of i 'love 'em and leave 'em' /i like he did.
But yet here she was, seducing or being seduced – she couldn't really work out who was doing the seducing- by a handsome Colonel that she knew little to nothing about, apart from his somewhat strange affinity in saying exactly what she either needed or wanted to hear.
"I…" Elizabeth groaned as he ran his fingers over her thigh. "Oh, god I'm going to hell for this." Elizabeth muttered and John smiled against her mouth before capturing her lips again.
Carson bid farewell to the barman, thanking him with a grin as he carried a bottle of scotch and two glasses towards the elevator. He had no doubt that Evan would have company, the man never failed pick up some poor defenceless chap with a weakness for the pilot's charm. But he hoped Elizabeth would still be awake, perhaps conscious enough after the conference to spend some time with him, drinking and teasing the noises they could hear coming from Evan's room.
Catching the elevator up three floors, he meandered down the hall before coming to a stop outside her room. He was about to knock when he considered the time and instead of disturbing the other guests with loud knocking, he headed to his own room to go through the adjoining door. Pushing it open and switching on the light, he dropped the glasses in shock.
She gasped and crawled from beneath the pronouncedly male body sprawled on top of her, dragging the thin sheet up to her chest and trying desperately to cover the both of them.
"What're ye doing?"
She looked at glanced at John, and he looked at her with a bemused expression, moving himself behind her, because the sheet was just not helping. "Um…I…"
"You're that young man from the plane." Carson pointed at him, stating, not asking.
"John Sheppard." He tipped his head, glancing at Elizabeth and knowing that was the first time she'd heard his name, though she covered that fact well.
"Carson, what are you doing in here?" Her voice was shaking, and Carson noticed.
"I was coming to check on ye, but I see you didn't need it."
The pair in the bed didn't know what to do.
Carson just stood there, not knowing what to say, and watched them trying desperately to keep themselves covered.
"I, I'll go then." Carson picked up the glasses and moved into his own room, slamming the door as quickly as he had arrived leaving John and Elizabeth to stare at it.
"Maybe I should go." John whispered, drawing Elizabeth's attention from the door, making her look into his eyes for a moment before looking down at the rumpled sheets.
"No, I…I don't think…"
"You don't think this was a mistake?"
Elizabeth looked up at him, staring into his eyes and thinking so hard her eyes started to cross. She was silent for so long that John started to get itchy for an answer, panicking inside his own head and creating a million and one scenarios that were going to have him on the other side of the hotel door any minute now.
"No." she whispered and he was caught so off-guard that he barely even registered her voice.
She looked up at him then, smiling softly and raising her hand to grasp the back of his neck gently. "I don't think this was a mistake."
"But…but we don't know each other."
Elizabeth climbed out of the bed quickly and grabbed the sheet that had been covering him. She wrapped it around herself and giggled at his attempt to cover himself with a pillow. Running off towards the bathroom, all he could do was watch her in confusion. She closed the door and a few moments later she came back out again.
Walking over to the bed, she grinned and held her hand out to him. "Hello, I'm Elizabeth Weir; I have three brothers, an unsociable cat, an intolerably gay friend and one that cares more for my safety than I do. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance." John blinked and looked at her hand for a few moments, before he took it tentatively and let her shake his. "And you would be?"
"Ah, Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, no brothers, no sisters, no pets, though I do have a friend who believes he's god's gift to scientific evolution."
"See, now we know each other." She grinned and sat down on the bed beside him.
He stared at her for a moment, roaming his eyes over the loose curls framing her face and smiled as he reached over to brush them away.
"You're amazing." He whispered and she pushed him onto his back to kiss him and soundly shut him up.