Graffiti
by Bil!

K+ - Romance – John/Elizabeth – Oneshot

Summary: John's pretty sure that even at age 14 he wasn't this stupid. Sparky.

Season: Two. Spoilers: None.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Please get them out of my head.

A/N: This is silly. You have been warned :) Presenting a fic with no redeeming qualities whatsoever:


"And then he squeaks – honest to God squeaksIs that a lemon?"

The group around the messhall table laughed – save Rodney, who scowled at John. "And what would you do if you were faced by a total stranger waving a deadly—"

"Fruit?"

"—weapon in your face!"

Ronan snorted. "Please. Strangers are always threatening Sheppard."

Tables abruptly turned, John was the one scowling. "They are not!"

Teyla tilted her head to study him with a wide-eyed innocence John just knew had to be faked. "What about that man on Taryat who—"

"That was a misunderstanding!" John protested.

"Oh?" Elizabeth asked with interest, leaning forward and resting her chin on her hands while her eyes twinkled. "Do tell!"

"No!" he said instantly. Teyla opened her mouth and John glared at her. "I said no."

"Hey!" Rodney said indignantly. "Why do you get to shut people up and I don't?"

"Because I'm the team leader and you have to follow my orders."

"'Sides," Ronan said, "Teyla'll just tell her later." He leant back in his chair and slung an arm over its back while he took a bite of his apple, smirking.

Rodney sat back, satisfied, and John groaned. "No respect," he complained, scowling at Ronan. "I get no respect."

"I have a healthy respect for your ability to get yourself into trouble," Elizabeth assured him.

He pulled a face at her. "It's all Rodney's fault."

"Hey! I'll have you know that you're the one who gets us into the most trouble."

"Four words, Rodney: 'Is that a lemon?'"

Rodney tried to explain to Elizabeth exactly how the whole thing wasn't his fault. Satisfied that he'd distracted them and no one was going to be spreading embarrassing tales about him – at least not in his hearing – John concentrated on his lunch.

When Elizabeth laughed he looked up, watching her shake her head fondly at Rodney, her face alive with humour. She glanced over at him as if feeling his gaze and he hastily dropped his eyes to his plate. That made Teyla look at him and for a moment he was worried she'd figured it out, but she just gave him a commiserating look, assuming his focus on his food was due to Rodney, and John heaved a sigh of relief.

When Rodney's monologue, half exculpatory explanation and half complaint, had wound to a close, Elizabeth put her fork down. "Well, I'd better get back to work," she said, standing.

"I will walk with you." Teyla got to her feet too, and flicked a look at John. "And perhaps tell you of Colonel Sheppard's... misunderstanding."

He grimaced at her and waved a farewell to Elizabeth, watching them walk across the room. As they neared the door they both laughed and Elizabeth looked back over her shoulder. John could have sworn she winked at him. Ronan rescued his plate before he could sink into it and John sank down onto the table top instead. Of all the people to be embarrassed in front of...

Grinning at him, Ronan took a piece of lettuce from John's plate and munched on it pointedly. "Yeah, yeah, laugh it up," John grumbled, and snatched back his plate.

Rodney looked up suddenly, opened his mouth, and then closed it again. "Where – where'd Elizabeth and Teyla go?" He glanced around as if he thought they were hiding behind him.

John gave him an incredulous look. "How is it you aren't dead, McKay? You need to start paying more attention!"

"I was paying attention! I think I've figured out how to route the isotropic conductors through the—"

"Ah!" John warned. "No technobabble at the dinner table!"

Rodney snorted. "Please, the moment you need someone to save the city – again – you'll be falling over yourselves to get me to 'technobabble'."

"Yeah, well, this isn't that moment."

"Fine," Rodney snarked, pushing himself to his feet. "Well, some of us have important, worthwhile work to do. I can't lounge around here all day, unlike some people."

"The city wouldn't fall apart without you!" John shouted after him. Rodney just waved dismissively over his shoulder and didn't look back. "Geez, maybe next time we're in a firefight we should just leave him to save himself, since he's so all-powerful."

Ronan grunted an acknowledgement and, having finished his apple (including the core, gross), grabbed his plate and headed back for seconds. Seriously, the amount the guy ate he should have been a hobbit. Left to himself, John fell into an abstracted mood, toying with the remains of his lunch and wondering how badly Teyla was ruining his reputation with Elizabeth. When Ronan came back with a second helping at least the size of his first John didn't look up, frowning down at his plate.

"You're mooning again," Ronan told him.

That jolted him out of his mood. "I do not moon!"

"Yeah you do," Ronan said, unmoved by this protest. "Why don't you just tell her?"

"Tell who what?" he asked defensively.

"Whoever she is you keep mooning over that you like her."

"I don't moon! And there's no one I like."

Ronan shrugged. "Whatever you say, Sheppard." He shovelled a forkful of food into his mouth.

"There isn't!"

Swallowing, Ronan shrugged again. "I said whatever."

"Yeah, but you didn't believe me."

Ronan looked at him with half-closed eyes, amused in his surly way. "Nope," he agreed.

John gave it up.

Friends. Really, what were they good for anyway? One of them technobabbled while he was trying to eat, one of them told his embarrassing stories to the one person he really didn't want to hear them, and one of them didn't believe a word he said. Ronan rescued his plate again and John tried to meld with the table. "I hate you all," he said into the wood.

"You'll get over it," Ronan said with unnecessary cheer.


Most of the time, John liked his job. However, 'most of the time' did not include meetings like the one several days later that involved Rodney's interminable explanations of his latest work of genius. John would have happily settled for "It gives us more power, this is good". That was all he needed to know. Unfortunately, Rodney and Elizabeth didn't see it that way.

He was sure Elizabeth didn't understand any more of this than he did, so how she could look as alert and interested as the bunch of scientists sitting around the table was beyond him. For a moment he was sorely tempted to tell her to get a new second in command, one who didn't mind all this bureaucratic crap. But only for a moment. He couldn't imagine being anywhere but where he was, on Atlantis at Elizabeth's side. Couldn't stand the thought of entrusting Elizabeth's safety to someone else.

At which point he realised he was staring at Elizabeth (again) and hastily looked away. Damn, this was getting worse than that time he was fourteen and had the hugest crush on Emily Dempsey, which had made him tongue-tied in her presence, stupid and sulky out of it, and culminated in a broken leg – matched by a broken heart when she went out with what's-his-name Jenkins (who was a total jerk). John had managed to never get that stupid over a girl again... until he met Elizabeth.

She didn't even know what she was doing to him, that was the worst thing. Or the best thing. Bad enough he knew he was being an idiot, he didn't need her knowing as well. Or anyone else, for that matter.

His wandering eyes found their way back to Elizabeth and he hastily dragged them away again and tried to focus on Rodney. And failed.

He hadn't lied to Ronan exactly – not that he wouldn't in a second to stop anyone from guessing – because there wasn't anyone he liked. He'd liked Emily Dempsey. This, this was a million times worse. ('Like' was the wrong word entirely, but he refused to admit to the other 'L' word.) But, just like with Emily Dempsey (not that Emily Dempsey could hold a candle to Elizabeth Weir), he didn't stand a chance.

It figured that when he finally fell, it'd be for a woman he couldn't charm. Oh, she liked him and she might even play along for a while if he tried to flirt, but she was completely indifferent to his attempts at something more than friendship. Not, admittedly, that he'd made strong attempts because he was too scared of losing her. Elizabeth wasn't like the other women he'd tried a relationship with. Elizabeth was different. It wasn't something he understood, certainly not something John had expected. Teyla smiled at him and he knew it was a nice smile, a fantastic smile, but that was it. Elizabeth smiled at him and he had crazy ideas of offering to fetch her the moon or going down on one knee and begging her to spend the rest of eternity with him.

On finding his eyes drifting back to Elizabeth again, he hastily flipped through the report in front of him to distract himself. When he'd done that, he retied a bootlace that didn't really need it. Then, when he discovered it was now trying to strangle his foot, he hastily retied it. Deciding it was too loose again, he tried to tighten it but the lace snapped. The scientists didn't notice, intent on Rodney's descriptions of his own brilliance, but Elizabeth flicked a look at him and John wished he could slide under the table. To his relief she soon looked back at Rodney. Catching himself staring – again – he hurriedly started investigating his pockets instead, wondering if he could sneak a PDA into the next meeting.

Geez, he had a lot of junk in his pockets, didn't he? He pulled out the first thing his fingers encountered. Gum? Where had that come from? He considered eating some, but no, if Elizabeth caught him chewing—Just no. A crumpled piece of paper followed, covered in a scrawl even he couldn't decipher. He hoped it hadn't been something important and shoved the note back into his pocket. What else did he have in here? Ah, this felt promising... A pocket knife. He fiddled with it under the table, testing the blade.

Afterwards he blamed the whole thing on the fact that thinking of his teenage years had made him revert to teenage habits. And it really was a long, long, long, boring meeting. And he wasn't really paying attention to what he was doing until suddenly the meeting was over and he was staring at his handiwork in horror.

"John? You okay?"

His head snapped up and he met Elizabeth's gently inquiring eyes before hastily pushing himself to his feet. "Fine," he said.

She smiled. "Come on, then. I think we deserve a leisurely lunch after sitting here for so long."

He beamed at her and happily followed her out the door, leaving the inscription J 4 E carved into the rim of the briefing room table.


John couldn't believe he'd been so stupid as to leave actual physical evidence of his feelings lying around where anyone could stumble across it. Honestly, even when he'd been fourteen he hadn't been this stupid. Had he?

For the next three meetings he very carefully avoided sitting in that seat again, and when no one mentioned seeing a bit of graffiti on the table he started to breathe a bit easier. Maybe he was in the clear after all. But he should have known someone would notice his artwork eventually. And he really should have guessed who it would be.

John was holding an important meeting of department heads, going over the latest security changes to make sure they could pass the information on to their people. To his annoyance he had to constantly call Rodney's attention back – not only did Rodney run boring meetings but he didn't pay attention to the important ones either. Afterwards John thought he should have expected Rodney would be the one to mess up his life. Wasn't it always Rodney's fault?

Bored and not afraid to show it, Rodney fidgeted annoyingly, shuffled papers, and then suddenly spoke up: "J for E? Oh God, I'm back in high school!"

A lifetime spent thinking on his feet, both in covering his tracks in elaborate practical jokes and in fighting the enemy, kept John from giving himself away. "If you ever left," he sniped. "I'm talking here, Rodney."

"Yes, yes, but look, it's carved right into the desk."

John shot Elizabeth a pleading look. "After the meeting, please, Rodney," she said and Rodney subsided.

But he wasn't the sort of person to let it go, so after the meeting was done he loudly showed off his discovery, soon surrounded by people wanting to know what all the fuss was about. John joined the crowd because it was expected of him, but come on, didn't these people have better things to do than gape at a rough bit of carving? The crowd shifted to allow Elizabeth her unchallenged right to investigate. John held his breath as she studied his handiwork, her lips pursed in irritation, sure she would be able to smell out who was to blame. Damn, where was Teyla with an embarrassing story to distract everyone? Teyla could tell embarrassing stories about him every day for the rest of his life if she'd just magically get him out of this right now.

"I want to know who did this," Elizabeth said, looking around at them. "Talk to your people. We can't have vandalism in the city."

John winced at her annoyance. Oh boy, this was going to hurt.

"It could have been anyone," Radek said. "Everyone comes into this room at some stage."

"Yes, thank you, Radek," Rodney sniped sarcastically. "That's very helpful."

"He's right, McKay," John pointed out and took a deep breath. This was the moment for him to own up and face the music—

But then Alexia spoke up and blew his world to pieces. "I think it is sweet," she said, her soft French accent blurring her words. "I wonder who they are and if E knows J likes him. Her."

John liked to think that under normal circumstances he would have manfully owned up and accepted whatever punishment Elizabeth thought was due, maybe not here with everyone listening, but definitely in private later. He was sure he would have done it... but not with those words ringing in his ears. He'd done something a lot worse than graffiti here: he'd opened himself up for exactly the kind of questions he'd spent too much time avoiding.

As the day went on his resolution to say nothing only grew. Word had spread: no one, of course, had admitted to being the perpetrator, but everyone was wondering who it was – and who it was the artist had a crush on. Atlantis, John felt, was fuelled by rumour and gossip rather than Rodney's ZPM and this was a delightful subject for them to talk about because it was a complete mystery and there were so many theories people could come up with. Honestly, half these people had never gotten over their teenage years. Owning up to graffiti was one thing, opening himself up to the kind of speculation filling the corridors and messhall was out of the question. Bad enough he knew, he wasn't letting anyone else in on his secret.

Before this he hadn't realised just how many people in Atlantis had names beginning with E or J. Eduardo and Jane, Johnston and Eccles, Erin and Jeremy... Strangely, in all the conjecture he never heard his or Elizabeth's names mentioned, certainly not in conjunction with each other. Presumably everyone knew how out of his league she was.

After a week in which he managed not to give himself away, speculation began to die down and everyone moved on to wondering who could have left bootmarks on the ceiling of the Infirmary corridor (not to mention how and why). John was beginning to heave a sigh of relief and think himself in the clear despite his moment of stupidity.

Then Elizabeth frowned at him across her desk and said, "No one's admitted to the vandalism in the briefing room." She tightened her lips a moment. "I'm disappointed by this lack of honesty." John pretended he wasn't wincing (but how could he tell her the truth? he couldn't!). "I'm going to cancel the harvest festival next week if no one owns up," she added firmly. "I'll make the announcement this afternoon and hopefully that will produce some results. I had hoped it wouldn't come to this – I feel like a school teacher."

John squirmed in his seat, but everyone was looking forward to the festival, an Athosian celebration they'd borrowed and turned into an Atlantis celebration, and he'd spent too long looking after his people to be able to fail them now.

"You don't have to," he admitted. "It was me." She narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously, wondering if he was taking the rap for someone else, but he met her gaze and let her read the truth of it. "It was me, Elizabeth."

"You?" she said, and the disappointment in her eyes was almost more than he could take. "But why? I can accept that you did it, but why didn't you tell me?" That, he knew, was what hurt her: not that he'd done such a stupid thing but that he'd lied to her.

"I wanted to," he said, not meeting her eyes and staring at the desk, "but I couldn't."

She shook her head. "Why not?"

"Because I didn't want you figuring it out," he said honestly.

"But if you'd told me it was you, what more could I figure out?" she asked, perplexed.

Oops. Wincing further, John risked a look up at her.

Her eyes widened. "Who E is, that's what you—"

Like a coward John abandoned ship, feeling her startled eyes on his back as he fled her office and dove through the controlroom. He'd been so careful, so circumspect, and now one moment of stupidity had ruined everything! Elizabeth would be kind and understanding, because that was who she was, but now she knew and that would change everything.

He avoided her for the rest of the day. And hoped that she wouldn't tell anyone else what she'd found out. And cursed himself for being a thousand kinds of stupid idiot. Maybe he should just throw himself off the controltower, save the Wraith the trouble. If the choice was up to him, he would have avoided Elizabeth for the rest of his life—Actually, no, John had to admit he didn't know if he was that strong. Even not seeing her for a couple of days tended to put a strain on his self control because he needed to see her. Just to see her, to know that she was around. But a week, definitely; he would have liked to avoid her for at least a week. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. The rest of the day, that was all he got.

He couldn't avoid her the next day because he had a pre-mission briefing to sit through, but he was carefully late for it so that he wouldn't have a chance to talk to her. He didn't look at her as he mumbled an apology and not until he was sitting down and Rodney was bouncing forward to explain the techno-joys of their next planet did he realise he was sitting in the seat of doom.

Avoiding Elizabeth's eyes and ignoring Rodney's pontifications, he ran his finger over his idiotic admission – and found that it had grown. Someone had added to it with a hand whose innate neatness couldn't hide the fact that she wasn't used to carving things into desks.

J 4 E was now followed by E 4 J. He stared at it. He blinked. It was still there. He blinked again, carefully, but it didn't go away. When he ran his fingers over the letters he could feel the shape of them. It was real.

He lifted his eyes in shock. Elizabeth was watching him, biting her lip as she watched for his reaction. He stared at her and she gave a rueful little half shrug but resolutely met his eyes.

"You're kidding!" he said in amazed disbelief.

"I know," Rodney agreed happily. "It's incredible, isn't it?"

"Rodney would never kid about such a thing, John," Elizabeth said calmly. "Neither would I."

Teyla offered them confused looks, while Rodney continued talking, unaware of the second conversation going on, and Ronan, bored, scowled at the wall. John ignored them all, watching Elizabeth with a growing smile and not caring who might catch him staring. Her cheeks reddened a little under his intensity, but she smiled at him and John figured that maybe he wasn't so completely stupid after all. Now he just had a dinner date to plan – and couldn't Rodney hurry up and finish so he could kiss her!

John never did find out what had Rodney so enthused, but then he didn't particularly care. He had more important things to worry about. Like whether you could ask a woman to marry you after only one date...

Fin