Rodney let loose a low whistle while looking at the entrance of the cafeteria.
John frowned and turned around to find out what he was looking at. "What?"
Ronon said. "Whoa!" around his sandwich.
Atlantis' Chief of Food Services, CW4 Helena Leiter stood at the service bar speaking to Lieutenant LeVox. She was not dressed in her usual uniform of chef's coat and cargo pants. Instead, she wore a swirling green and blue blouse and dark jeans that hugged her curves impressively. Her red hair was loose and cascading down her back. As she leaned across the bar, her foot lifted to reveal what looked like a high-heeled boot. She began laughing and reached out to swat the lieutenant.
John swallowed hard, his eyebrows lifting to the sky, then turned back to the others. "Did I miss a memo?"
Rodeny shook his head. "If you did, I did, too."
He frowned. "I'll be back." He stood and walked toward her as she turned and started out the door.
A short jog caught him up to her as she turned to head toward her room.
"Hey, Chief," a Marine whistled. "You look good!"
Helena smiled widely. "Why, thank you, Sergeant!"
The Marine walking with him looked her up and down and said. "No, ma'am, thank you."
She laughed and shook her head. "Down, boy."
"At ease, Sergeant," John growled, sharply, falling in step next to her.
"Aye, sir!" Both men snapped to.
Helena continued walking but pouted up at him, good-naturedly. "Aw, you're no fun."
John's eyebrows came together. "Hot date?"
She looked at him sidelong with a grin and raised eyebrows. "Are you offering?"
John frowned. "I think I'm too late."
She laughed and approached her quarters. "What if I said you weren't? Would you?"
His eyebrows rose and he looked her up and down, deliberately.
She blushed to her roots and leaned toward him, touching his arm. "You keep that up and I won't be responsible…" She laughed at his look of surprise, and shook her head. "Come on in, John."
He followed her in. "Seriously, who are you seeing? Lorne?" he frowned. "Not that new astrophysicist, uh, Lactose?"
She frowned. "The new astrophysicist's name is Lakatos; means 'locksmith' in Hungarian. And no, there's no date. Not seeing anyone. Just in the mood to look a little more like a woman and less like a soldier."
John rubbed the back of his head. "Well, you definitely don't look like a soldier. Those Marines weren't wrong."
She beamed. "Nothing makes a woman feel more like a woman than a beautiful man telling her she's beautiful." She put her hand on his chest. "Thank you."
"So, what's the occasion?"
She laughed. "You're going to think I'm weird."
John looked at her, waiting.
She warmed. "It's the tenth anniversary of my divorce."
He frowned at her. "So you're celebrating?"
She smiled and nodded. "It was a bad marriage. We shouldn't have gotten married when we did and we stayed in it far too long." She sighed. "Let's just say we didn't part as friends."
John nodded. "I see. Did he celebrate, too?"
She laughed. "Actually, he got remarried a week after the divorce was finalized, so I'd say 'yes'."
John's eyes widened. "I can't imagine jumping back into marriage after my divorce."
Something in his tone made her frown. "You've been married," she accused.
He rubbed his chin. "Yeah."
"So, you probably do think I'm nuts."
He couldn't stop looking at her. "What? No, no!" He shook his head. "I…I…I'm having a hard time concentrating."
With a laugh, Helena waved him off and turned to the small refrigerator she kept in her room. "Have a seat. Would you like a beer?"
He shook his head. "Honestly, I have a meeting with Elizabeth in a little while," he looked at his watch. "Actually, I'm late for it, now. Thanks, 'Lena," he said, sarcastically. "Watch me try to explain why I'm late this time."
She grinned. Her eyebrow rose. "Rain check? Dinner, maybe?"
He smiled. "Yeah." He nodded. "Yeah. I could do that."
"Good." Helena tilted her head. "But John," she said. "No uniform."
He looked down. "Right. Celebration. No uniform. Is there a specific dress code?"
She bit her lip and shook her head, blushing. "Not going to say what just popped into my head," she chuckled. "You wear whatever you want to wear. Just no uniform."
He narrowed his eyes at her and wagged a finger at her. "Bad!"
She tried to look contrite, but fail miserably.
Shaking his head and smiling, he walked out.
"Hey," Rodney said as they left Elizabeth's office. "You said you were coming back, but you didn't. Where'd you go?"
John shrugged. "There were some rabid Marines drooling over 'Lena, so I walked her back to her room."
Rodney shook his head. "Did you find out about the, uh," he moved a finger up and down his chest.
He shrugged. "She took a day off," he said.
"Really?" Rodney looked surprised. "Hmm." He shrugged with his face. "She really, uh, well, she looked great."
John frowned. "Yes, Rodney, she did."
"But, then," Rodney looked at his friend, as if monitoring his response. "She always looks good. She's a very beautiful woman."
John turned his head, slowly toward Rodney, his eyes narrowed.
"What?" Rodney raised his eyebrows. "Don't you think so?"
John sighed and shook his head.
"What?" Rodney frowned.
"And you call me 'Kirk'."
Rodney looked perturbed. "Oh, come on. You can't tell me that you don't think Helena Leiter isn't a lovely woman. At least she's human and not ascended."
John rolled his eyes. "Good night, Rodney."
Rodney grinned at John's back and then shook his head, walking off toward his lab.
Helena's door opened when John signaled. He looked around but didn't see her. There were two covered plates on a table next to the window and music playing. The lights were on, but they weren't bright. "Helena?"
"Come on in, John." She came around a curtain and smiled at him. She was no longer dressed in the outfit she's been in. Instead, she was wearing a dress that looked like it wrapped around her and she was barefoot. Her hair was now swept gently back and twisted in a clip. "Wow," she smiled. "You look perfect."
He raised his eyebrows and looked down at himself. He was dressed in his favorite blue button-down shirt, un-tucked, and white pants. "Thank you."
She smiled. "LeVox made this wonderful Caribbean steak, marinated in pineapple juice and topped with a slightly spicy sauce so it is a little sweet and a little spicy and completely Caribbean. So I told him to bring two plates and decided to change and put on my 'Summertime' playlist; so I hope you like the Caribbean."
His eyebrows rose. "Sure. Who doesn't?"
"Are those for me?"
He looked down at the small bouquet of flowers in his hand. "I stopped by the botany lab." He handed them to her.
Taking them, she grinned. "Sweet. Come in; sit." She moved over to the dresser and grabbed a vase that sat empty. She placed the flowers gently in it and picked it up to take it to get water.
He looked down at her feet and then at his own casual shoes. Then he shrugged and kicked his shoes off and kicked them next to the door.
She laughed. "That's the way!"
He sat, comfortably, on the couch and watched her bring the vase back into the room.
She reached into the fridge and pulled out two bottles of beer. "Your beer, sir."
He smiled up at her, taking the beer and watching her fold her leg under her when she sat on the couch next to him.
"So how was your day?" he asked.
She smiled and leaned on her hand, with her elbow resting on the back of the couch. "It was wonderful. I should do this more often, but if I did, I don't think I'd appreciate it as much."
He took a drink from his beer and swallowed it. "You're probably right. But you look happy."
She looked off into space. "I am. I really am. I needed this. I needed to feel like more than the job and the city and all the crap we've dealt with even if only for a little bit." She looked down.
John frowned. "What's the matter?"
She bit her lip and shook her head, jumping up. "Nevermind. Are you hungry?"
He watched her move inside that dress and swallowed. "Absolutely." He stood and moved to the table, where she uncovered some fantastic looking food.
A couple hours later, most of the food was consumed and he was sitting on the couch watching her move around the room. Finally, he spoke. "You really look fantastic in that dress, 'Lena."
She turned and looked at him. Beaming, she said. "Thank you, John."
John stood and walked over to her. He took her arm, stopping her in the middle of loading dishes back on trays. He smiled just slightly at her and asked. "Dance?"
"But you don't dance."
He frowned, defensively. "I dance. I danced with you once."
She slipped into his arms and they began to sway with a soft ballad backed by steel drums. "Yes, you did, but you didn't look like you wanted to when I asked."
He looked over her head. "It's not that; I don't like crowds."
She grinned. "This is better," she admitted.
He looked down at her and she warmed under his gaze.
"What is it, 'Lena?"
"What is what?"
"You seem a little flustered."
She looked up, her eyebrows up. "I do?"
He examined her and she pinked again.
She laughed, softly, and lightly tapped his bicep. "Stop that."
"Why do you call me that?" Helena's eyebrows drew together and her eyes narrowed with the question.
He frowned. "What? You don't like it?"
She shook her head. "It's not that. I like it. I really do. But you know that you're the only one who calls me that."
His eyebrows rose. "Really?"
"I didn't realize. Are you sure?"
Helena laughed. "Yes, John, I'm sure."
His hand shifted on her back and she stepped closer to him. "I don't know why. It just seems right."
She rested her head on his chest, then. "It does."
He stopped moving and looked down at her and could smell her hair. "'Lena."
She looked up at him and, suddenly, they were a breath apart. She didn't pull back as she looked into his eyes and at the rest of his face, as if memorizing every line and whisker.
"You didn't answer my question."
"Which question was that?"
"Why do you seem so distracted?"
"Oh, that question."
"That's not an answer."
She looked at his mouth. "I don't want to talk, John," she whispered, her breath warming his lips.
He frowned at her and her eyes returned to his eyes. Then, without thinking of any possible consequences to his actions, he dipped his head the span of the breath that separated them. Her gasp was swallowed by him as he captured her lips with his and gently, softly, tentatively explored. When he paused for the slightest instant, she pressed against him and touched his cheek with a feather soft caress. In response, he tightened his arms around her, pulling her closer. He was rewarded by her response, her tongue flicking against his and a soft, throaty groan.
He pulled back slightly, ending their kiss. He enjoyed her flushed face as her eyes opened to look at him. "'Lena," he whispered.
"If you keep looking at me like that, I won't be held responsible…" he gruffly repeated her words from earlier, but not joking as she had.
She took a deep breath, which caused her breasts the move against his chest, in turn causing electricity to course through him. She didn't try to move away. She, instead, looked at his mouth again and licked her bottom lip.
"Aw, hell, 'Lena," he growled. He pulled her to him and devoured her mouth again.
This time, their hands began to roam. Her fingers traced his jaw, then wove into the hair at the nape of his neck. As their kiss deepened, her other hand drew feather-light brushstrokes down his back and to just above his waistline.
At the same time, his hands found the clip, holding her hair, and pulled it out, setting her hair loose. He wove his hands into the silkiness of it and he gently pulled her head back, releasing her lips to travel to her neck just below her ear.
A soft moan escaped her, sending jolts of electricity through his body. He returned his attention to her mouth as his hands tangled into her hair. Finally, he pulled back.
"'Lena," he growled, lowly. "What the hell is going on?"
She smiled, slightly, seeming unfocused. "Seems to me, you were doing a pretty good job of kissing me." She took a deep breath and blinked, as if to clear her vision.
"Why aren't you stopping me?" he held her head in place and investigated her face.
She warmed under the intensity of his gaze. Her eyes dipped away.
Her eyes were glistening when she looked up at him again. "I don't want you to stop," she whispered. "I want you, John. Just for tonight, no strings attached."
He felt as if he'd received an electric shock, suddenly. He pulled back. "What?"
She looked away again, silent.
"This whole thing…has it been for…?"
She looked at him like he'd said the world was flat. "No!" She insisted. "You followed me, remember?"
"But you invited me back."
"We're friends, aren't we?"
"Of course, but friends don't…"
Helena's eyebrow rose and her usual teasing grin returned. "Really? John, I know for a fact that you haven't been exactly celibate since arriving in this city. I could name five names just off the top of my head. Are you going to tell me that you wouldn't consider any of them friends?"
He tilted his head and frowned at her. He shifted from one foot to the other and lifted his hand to point in her direction. "I'm not going to discuss other…friends…with you, at least not right now."
She turned away from him, then. "Then what is the problem?"
He looked at her: her dress clung to her in all the right places; hair hung in red waves down her back, slightly messed from his hands; she had her arms crossed around her waist; and her back was reed straight.
"I don't want to do something you might regret later," he said, finally.
She turned at looked at him with a tilt to her head and a fire in her eyes. "I am not a child, John," she said, softly. "I am not looking for a romantic relationship. I want to feel like a woman, to touch a man and be touched by him." She pointed toward the door. "Now, I could choose any one of those young Marines out there, but it would be so much nicer if I felt like that man really cared about me."
The idea of touching her and being touched by her warmed him, but when she spoke of the Marines, he went cold. He growled and took a step toward her. "Most of those 'young Marines' are little too young for you, aren't they? I mean, you once called Ronon a baby."
She stepped closer to him and looked up into his eyes, defiant. "Maybe I'm just reassessing my preference for older men, John."
"So you're saying that if we don't…you know," he took a deep breath. "that you'll go find some Marine to…you know."
She rolled her eyes and stepped away again. "No, of course, not, John! What I'm saying is that if all I had been looking for was 'you know' from the beginning, I could have found it with some random Marine."
John frowned as though confused.
She shook her head and stepped away. "Forget it, John. Just forget it. It's okay. I don't want you to feel uncomfortable in any way and you seem to be having difficulty with the whole concept." She started to turn toward the fridge. "Let me just get us another beer, we'll back up and forget everything between the dancing and now. Okay?"
He considered her, feeling his guard start to drop.
"John, please don't look at me like that. I'm having a wonderful day and don't want to spoil it and if the thought of 'you know' with me makes you uncomfortable, let's forget it."
John raked his hand through his hair, which made Helena smile. "Damn it, Helena!" he muttered. "I'm your C.O."
She frowned and lifted her index finger straight up, shaking it in the negative. "No uniforms, John. Right now, here, in this room, we're friends relaxing in the Caribbean. That's all." She turned away, finally. "Now, do you want another beer?"
Watching her move across the floor, that silky dress clinging to her like bed sheets, was driving him to distraction. Knowing she wanted him was enough to make him insane.
Unbidden, the appreciative looks and words of those two Marines in the hall appeared in his head. The irritation he'd felt bordered on irrational, then; now the memory of it, topped with her words, made his blood boil.
With three long strides, he covered the distance between them. He took her arm and spun her to face him, causing the refrigerator door to fly open then slam shut.
Helena looked up at John in shock at his rough handling. She looking into his eyes, which were the darkest she'd ever seen them. As she opened her mouth to question his sanity, he captured it with his own.
This kiss was no gentle, exploratory kiss. It was a ravishment, thorough and demanding.
Shocked, it took her a moment to respond, but when she did, it was with all the fervor of the desire she felt.
When he finally pulled back, she opened her eyes to find him examining her face. She knew from the warmth it was generating that it was flushed. She felt weak in the knees, butterflies in her stomach and cross-eyed all at once.
He released her, but only to move his hands to her hair. "Do you know how many times I've wanted to wrap this around my hands? The first time I saw it down, I wanted to kiss you just to have a reason to have my hands in it."
She smiled, touched.
"Damn it, 'Lena," he growled, lowly. "The way you smile, the way you laugh, the way you have of touching my arm or my chest," he looked down at her body. "The way you look in a tee shirt and BDU cargo pants – the way you look right now! – is enough to drive any man to distraction."
She blushed and averted her eyes.
He dipped his head closer to her. "And that's damned sexy, too! A woman your age shouldn't blush anymore, but you do and it makes me wonder exactly how far that blush extends."
Her eyes popped back up to him and she gasped.
In response, he captured her lips again, hungrily. He delighted in the way she clung to him, like he was the only thing keeping her on her feet. This time, when he pulled back, her lips looked slightly swollen, her face was flushed and her eyes were closed.
He shifted his weight and moved his hands from her hair to cup her face. "'Lena, look at me."
She opened her eyes. They were dark blue, like the color of the sky just after dusk. "Yes, John?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, John," she breathed softly.
"I don't want to damage our friendship. Tell me what you want."
She licked her lips, which did strange things to his insides, and sighed. "I want you, my dear friend, tonight, on our Caribbean island. Tomorrow, we have to return to Atlantis and put everything back where it was. But tonight – " She frowned, then, up at him. "But what do you want, John?"
He tilted her face up to his again. "I want to make you forget about Marines."
She frowned. "Who?"
He smiled and dropped his hands. "So I guess my work here is done."
"Oh! Those Marines." At first, she honestly looked as if she really just remembered though he could tell by the twinkle in her eye that she was being saucy.
He growled again and took possession of her mouth again. This time, though, his hands began to roam over the silky fabric of her dress.
At the same time, he felt a bolt of electricity as her cool hands touched his stomach under his shirt. It jolted him enough to break their kiss. But it was not enough to stop his hands.
He looked down at her body, examining the dress and found a tie at her waist. As he worked on the tie, she began to unbutton his shirt, breathing feather-light kisses on his chest after each button. He shrugged off the shirt as he pulled the cord of her dress.
She spun for him, unwrapping her body like a gift. She shrugged off the dress and moved back to him, latching her fingers on the button at his waistband, releasing the button and easing the pants over his hips.
Before his pants hit the ground, he had her in his arms again, feeling the warmth of her body against his skin, kissing her thoroughly one more time and reveling in her responses. Then, in a quick motion, he broke off the kiss and gathered her into his arms to take her and lay her gently on the bed, covering her body with his own.
Later, he watched her get out of bed, clothed only in her long hair which was damp around her face.
"Where are you going?" He asked, softly.
She turned and smiled. "To get some water. Don't want us to get dehydrated."
He marveled at how comfortable she seemed to be with him watching her. When she turned away from the fridge with two bottles of water, he watched her hair move softly against her breast and felt a familiar tightening in response.
Her eyebrows rose, suddenly. "Wow," she grinned looking at the sheet that covered him. "Ready for round two, already?"
He grinned widely and wiggled his eyebrows at her. "Ding, ding." He lifted the sheet to welcome her.
Setting her own bottle on the table next to the bed, she slid in and offered him the water. He took it and opened it and began to drink, but he choked and splashed refrigerator cold water on his chest as he jumped at the touch of her cold hand on a very warm part of his anatomy.
"Holy crap, 'Lena! You're hands are cold!"
She started laughing and looked sheepish. "Sorry. I forgot that I just carried water straight from the fridge."
He narrowed his eyes at her and slowly screwed the cap back on the water bottle. He looked down at the water on his chest and the edge of the sheet that covered him.
Her eyes widened. "Now, John, don't you even…"
"Payback's a bitch," he turned the bottle in his hand, holding it by the cap.
Before he could touch her with it, she jumped back out of bed, holding a finger up to him. "John! I said I was sorry," she laughed, backing away as he climbed out as well.
"And I'll be sorry, too, after you get what's coming to you."
She straightened and her eyebrows lifted. "Hmm. I rather like the sound of that."
The sight of her standing before him, hands splayed in defense, flushed with laughter, made him put the bottle on the table. He stalked her and she lowered her guard, licking her lips in anticipation. He reached for her waist and she jumped and intercepted his hands in hers.
"Your hands are cold!" she accused.
"Have any ideas of how to warm them?" he asked, lowly. He interlaced his fingers with hers and took another step, making her step backward, then another and another, until her back was against the wall. He held her hands up on either side of her head, braced against the wall as well and leaned in to taste her neck.
She sighed and arched against him. "Mmm. I think I could come up with something."
Sometime after round four, they fell asleep with her curled up to him, her leg over his, her arm on his chest and her head on his shoulder. His arm was under the curve of her breast, wrapped around her waist, with a damp curl of her hair wrapped around his hand.
Thin rays of light were filtering into the room when John was roused from a blissful sleep by movement and a sudden cold spot on his right side. He frowned and looked over to where the cold was coming from to find Helena climbing out of the bed.
"Where are you going this time?" he asked sleepily.
She smiled endearingly at him. "It's 0400. Coop's in the kitchen already."
He blinked. "It's morning?"
She nodded. "Yes."
He shook his head. "No. Not yet. Come back to bed, we have some time still."
She smiled a bit wider. "I'm not fooled by you, John Sheppard. You don't want me to come back to bed to go to sleep."
He smiled. "You're right," he swung the sheets off and stood. He glanced away and winced. "But I need to visit the…" He glanced beyond her to the bathroom.
She nodded. "Me, too."
He motioned for her to go first. When she came out, she started the shower and stepped out of the bathroom, motioning for him to go in. When he came back out, he leaned toward her, took her by the waist.
"Come here," he growled.
She willingly moved into his arms and reached up for his kiss. After a fair amount of in-depth kissing, she pulled back and raised an eyebrow at him.
He grinned at her and wiggled his eyebrows, glancing to the bed.
She shook her head and took his hand, leading him into the shower.
She smiled up at him as she tucked her uniform pant leg into her boot. "What is it?"
"I was just thinking that it's a really good thing you keep your hair up all the time."
She frowned and flung her hair back. "Why?"
He was leaning against the table, dressed in his clothes from last night, drinking coffee. The hand that wasn't holding the coffee cup was shoved into his pocket and his ankles were crossed. "I don't think I'd ever be able concentrate if you wore it down all the time."
She laughed and stood. "Flatterer." She moved over to a mirror and began to brush and braid all that hair.
He sipped his coffee. "It's amazing that you get all that up in a bun that looks so small. No wonder everyone's so shocked when you wear your hair down."
"It's just not practical to have it down in the kitchen. Not to mention it wouldn't be too appetizing to find a two foot long hair in your food."
John made a face and Helena laughed again.
He waited until she was finished and ready to leave for the kitchen.
Helena moved over to him and took his coffee cup from him. She moved close to him and put her hands around his neck. He put his arms around her waist and pulled her as close as clothes would permit.
This kiss was slow and tender. It was, for all intents and purposes, a good-bye kiss for they both knew that once they stepped out of her door, their oasis was over.
"'Lena," he groaned. "You're going to kill me."
She looked delighted, but said. "Hey, you're the one that kept me up all night."
"Me? Excuse me, but you instigated both round three and round four."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "And you started five." Her eyebrow rose and she sighed. "I was KO'd in every round, I have to say."
He smiled. "That makes it a split decision, then."
She beamed, then tried to glare at him. "But I'm exhausted. Hell, as it is, I'm going to have to come back here and take a nap between breakfast and lunch."
His hands moved on her waist and smiled. "A nap sounds nice."
She shook her head. "And I mean sleep, my friend." She grinned up at him.
He kissed her again, then opened his mouth to speak, looking thoughtful.
She put her finger to his lips. "Go get ready for work, John. I'll see you at breakfast in a couple of hours."
"So, no more Caribbean island."
She shrugged. "Everyone needs a vacation every once in a while. If you want to take one with me, I'll check my availability."
He rolled his eyes. "Oh, thanks, 'Lena. I appreciate your considering me for your busy schedule." His words dripped with good-natured sarcasm.
She gained a wicked flicker in her eye and grinned saucily. "Right behind the Marines."
John's smiled melted and he narrowed his eyes at her. "Helena."
Innocently, she looked up at him. "Yes, John?"
He grabbed her and kissed her hard and thoroughly. When he let her go, she blinked hard several times. "You were saying?" he asked.
"Hmm? What were we talking about?"
He grinned and took her hand as they walked together to the door. Just before it opened, he kissed her on the forehead. Then they walked out the door together. Without another word, he headed left to his quarters and she headed right to the cafeteria.