Title: Something a Good Deal More Dangerous
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The world belongs to Steven Spielberg et. al.; the words are mine.
Summary: Five times Jim Shannon would rather not have talked about his love life, and one conversation he participated in with enthusiasm. (Or: Terra Nova as it might have been: with ninety percent more soap and fifty percent less opera.) 20,000 words.
Warnings: Sexuality, including an open marriage, of both het and slash varieties; mentions of a dystopian future; off-screen death; some language.
Notes: A parallel, close-canon Terra Nova AU, beginning at the end of 1.3 "Instinct" and continuing through a series of altered and added scenes - yet another example of my love for niche pairings in niche fandoms. A few lines of dialogue were borrowed from relevant episodes.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to sulien77 for a speedy and thorough beta job! Submitted as part of the 2012 fivetimesbb Big Bang challenge.
I: Elisabeth Shannon
Barely a week in Terra Nova, and Jim Shannon had already seen more action than his entire last month on the force in 2147. Never mind the two years he'd spent in Golad after that. Though none of it was the kind of action he'd been looking forward to- his life had always been contrary like that. He let out a small, internal sigh as he and Elisabeth walked through the door of their new home, taking in the sights of disarrayed furniture and children sprawled on couches and chairs instead of tucked into bed where they should be, and reminded himself that patience was supposed to be a virtue.
At least the kids all looked happy and more or less unscathed: a sight worth any amount of pterosaur bites and cold, lonely showers. However many 'malcomus pterosaurians' had invaded the house while the flock hovered over the colony, it seemed like the younger Shannons had managed to handle themselves just fine. Jim stopped just inside the entryway, and smiled faintly as he took in their drowsing faces.
Getting to see them every day instead of the grey walls of an oxygen starved prison cell still felt like a miracle, most mornings. Josh was still a little touchy, but Maddy was taking the whole reintegration as a family thing in stride, and little Zoe was smiling and calling him Daddy again as though they'd never been apart from each other. He knew it had to be especially hard for her- Elisabeth had told him the government had separated her from the rest of the family, too, with the excuse that they didn't reward people for breaking the law- but she was taking it like a little trooper. Jim was never going to take any of them for granted, ever again.
Elisabeth let the silence lie for a moment as he soaked in the feeling of home and family, then tilted her face up with a smile. "Do you remember when they were really small and we used to just scoop them up and carry them off to bed?" she asked, a wistful note threading through her voice.
Of course he did. Those memories had got him through a lot, inside. They were a little big for that kind of treatment now, though; Josh and Maddy at least, and it would take a crowbar to pry Zoe away from Maddy at the moment.
"Well, I guess we're all pretty tired," he shrugged, feeling the corners of his mouth tug as he turned his attention to his wife. She was so beautiful, even after a long day of working to a literal deadline, a beauty as much of the spirit as of the body. Elisabeth had been the center of his world since the day he'd met her, for her sharp wit, her generous heart, and her tenacity. Even when they weren't meshing well in the bedroom, even if he left out the fact that she was the mother of his children, she was still the best friend he'd ever had.
"Oh, I'm not that tired," she said, smile shifting to something a little warmer, reminding him just what they'd been interrupted in the middle of about twenty-four hours earlier.
He was tempted- very tempted- to take her up on that. He'd been trying to, actually, all week. He was almost afraid to find out what was going to interrupt them next, though, after fielding Zoe crawling into bed with them, dinosaurs screaming right outside their door, emergency shifts in the science lab, and all night field trips to divert an incoming horde of native flyers to a new spawning ground.
"Well, I guess we should start fixing this place up," he allowed, half teasing and half serious, glancing around at the distressed décor. "I mean, there's a lot of damage..."
Elisabeth chuckled softly, then caught his fingers, shaking her head at him. "Bed," she whispered suggestively, tugging him toward the sliding door to their bedroom.
The thing was, though, even he could see beyond the impulsive desires of the moment, if he was given enough chances to think with something other than his hormones. Jim let her pull him away, to be sure the conversation would be out of sight and hearing range of the children if any of them happened to be playing possum, and slid the door shut as they stepped into the small, airy room.
There wasn't as much damage from the transient winged invaders away from the main room; less to damage there, really. He hadn't had anything to pack beyond the tools Elisabeth had slipped him to break out of Golad, and Elisabeth had sacrificed a significant chunk of her own baggage allotment to smuggle Zoe's things through the portal while he carried their daughter in an oversized backpack. All that had mattered to either of them had been making it to Terra Nova as a family; mere things could always be replaced.
That was all that mattered now, too, really: the family. The commitment they'd built together. Yes, Jim was a little needy and hard up after two years behind bars; and she was probably a little touch-starved herself. That didn't mean they needed to push each other into bed, not if it wasn't for the right reasons. She'd been awfully quick to take every excuse presented, almost relieved at every interruption, and he wasn't a cop for nothing.
He settled his hands on her hips as she drew him close for a kiss, savoring the touch- he was only human- but when she tried to push him back a step, he firmed his grip and held her away from him instead.
"Elisabeth," he said gruffly, shaking his head at her. "It's okay."
That took her aback; she stopped short, nose wrinkling in a puzzled frown. "What do you mean, Jim? Of course everything's okay."
She made to pull him close again, but he captured her hands in his instead. "I know it is. And look, I'm not turning you down. But I thought, after the week we've had..." He frowned, trying to figure out how exactly to capture what he wanted to say in words. "I guess I just want to make sure it really is the right time. We're hardly even used to sleeping next to each other again, and I don't want to fuck everything up if you're not really in the mood."
His wife's face went through some interesting contortions as he spoke, indignation and want and worry- and, yes, relief- shifting like clouds across the face of the sun. Remorse was the one that lingered, though, as she tugged a hand free of his grip and flattened it over his chest, stroking softly at the cotton of his shirt over his breastbone. "It's not my mood that's the problem... God, I was hoping you hadn't noticed." She flashed a quick, weary smile at him. "But of course you did; you're my Jim. It's just that... well, I've been alone for two years, and things here have been..."
"Distracting?" Jim finished for her. It was the most tactful word he could think of.
She grimaced. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't..."
"No, no; don't be sorry." He shook his head, cutting her off before she could get more specific, and pulled away to sit down on the edge of the bed; if he was going to be all responsible and actually have this conversation, at the very least he was going to do it in comfort, not begging for a crick in his back. He patted the sheets next to him as innocently as he could, and waited as she took a seat next to him, folding her hands in her lap and searching his face with concerned eyes.
Then he blew out a breath and tackled the next step of the conversation. "You know I love you, right?"
She swallowed at that blunt opening. "Yes, of course, Jim. You know I love you, too, I hope."
He snorted. "I'm here, aren't I?" She could so easily- so easily- have left him behind, and he'd never have known the difference until his sentence was up four years after the Tenth Pilgrimage went through the portal. "Of course I know. I'm not accusing you or staging an intervention, or anything."
Elisabeth's brow furrowed at that, gaze sharpening on him in alarm. "Who said anything about accusations? What are you trying to say, Jim?"
"Okay, that was a poor choice of words," he winced. "The thing is- I noticed the timing, all right? I'm not complaining. I'm not trying to prove anything one way or the other. But I don't want you choosing to sleep with me out of guilt, or whatever else is bothering you. We never exactly planned for this, I know- but it's not going to break us, whatever happens."
"Now you're really starting to worry me," she frowned. "I don't understand what you're trying to say."
Did he really have to say it? Jim turned his face away, taking another deep breath. "Liz... you gotta realize. I'm a cop. It was the law. I went for the sterilization treatment after Maddy was born. So I know. And now that we're all here..." He let the sentence trail off.
Elisabeth's breath caught, her complexion lightening by several shades as he glanced back to take in her reaction. "What...? Jim, why didn't you say anything then? I honestly thought... well, I couldn't be certain, and I never wanted to... I can't believe you never told me!"
Well, that was one worry, drifting away like mist: she hadn't set out to deceive him. He hadn't thought so... but he'd had a lot of time to think about things, and he could have been clearer, too. "I guess it just never occurred to me that you wouldn't realize. And you didn't exactly tell me anything, either." He sighed. "But it doesn't matter to me. It never did. You know me; I adored her from the first time I felt her kicking. She was mine, and that's all there was to it."
The next part was a little more difficult to get out. "And I knew- look," he continued. "I hardly saw you one day in seven for a few months there, as rough as things were before my promotion came through and you finished your night rotation. So the fact that I never met him- I got it. I'd have liked to know, but it wasn't a deal-breaker. If you weren't telling me about him, I figured that meant he wasn't going to be an issue, and there was no point making a fuss about it."
They may have left the exclusivity clause out of their contract, but one thing they had vowed to each other: commitment, with a side order of honest communication. That was why he was bringing it up now, before Malcolm Wallace's smug face drove him to do something he'd regret; the man obviously did mean something to Elisabeth. Letting the question hang unresolved was just going to make the situation more unpleasant for all three of them.
Elisabeth swallowed, her expression still wary. "And you were right," she said. "So why bring it up now?"
"Because now that we're here, and I've met your boss... yeah, he's going to be an issue," he said, with a wry smile. "I'm not blind. What was it, going out for drinks one last time before he 'went on an expedition'?"
Elisabeth bit her lip, looking away. "Malcolm," she sighed, heavily, then shook her head. "Yes; we were very close, once, and I thought it was goodbye. He said it was his last night in the country, and that he was never coming back- though he never said he was a pilgrim. I never expected it would amount to anything more than the one evening, or I would have mentioned it. I was very surprised to see him yesterday."
"I guess Mr. CSO didn't tell you he put your name on the top of the shortlist he gave to Taylor, then," Jim snorted. Dr. Wallace had known exactly what he was doing, whatever he'd said to Elisabeth.
It was like the plot of some bad romantic drama. One he did not want to find himself living out. Good thing he trusted his wife.
"Really?" The storm cloud in her expression lifted for a second in surprise at his news. Then she shook it off and lifted a hand, stroking soft fingertips along Jim's jaw line. "I suppose I'd better live up to the implied praise, then. But even if he'd told me- you should know already, but let me tell you again: I'd never have left you behind. You're mine; you're ours. And that will never change."
Jim nodded and stroked a lock of long, dark hair back out of her face. He'd expected that; but it was a relief to hear, all the same. And it made it a little easier for him to lighten up on the subject. "Yeah, I know. But he does still make your heart go pitter-pat, doesn't he."
"Well." Elisabeth paused, assessing his expression again, then gave him a wistful, teasing smile. "I wouldn't phrase it that way; he doesn't hold a candle to you, love. But he and I had a tremendous intellectual crush on one another at university, and our personalities and working styles meshed well; that hasn't changed. He's not exactly ill-looking, either. Can you blame me for carrying a bit of a torch?"
Jim wrinkled his nose up a little at the resulting mental image. Their personalities sure didn't mesh; but then, that wasn't the question she was really asking, was it? "Eh, he's not my type, really," he said, carefully. "One of those cases where our tastes don't really overlap. But I'll take your word for it."
She gave a breathy chuckle, the rest of the tension leaking out of her shoulders, and leaned sideways where she sat to wrap an arm around his back and pillow her head on his upper arm. Without intent behind it, the contact was as easy and unfreighted as ever; he sighed at the feeling of security that settled over him despite everything as he turned his head to rest his chin on her hair.
"Hmmm," she mused, tracing slow patterns on his sleeve. "There's someone who is, though, isn't there, or you wouldn't be going to so much trouble to clear the air about Malcolm before we've even finished settling back in together," she said, thoughtfully. "I know you, remember; being understanding is one thing, but you're almost unnaturally calm about this. It isn't very like you."
"Oh, believe me, part of me wants to beat on my chest, tell him you're mine, and punch that smirk off his face," Jim replied, promptly. Then he paused for a second, one corner of his mouth curling up as he savored that mental image. Whatever his rational mind might say about their arrangement, he couldn't always quite stomp out those feelings of possessiveness. "I've been waiting a long damn time to see you and the kids again, to start over together, and here this guy is, one foot already through the door before I even knew he was there. But I had a lot of time to think in Golad. And I figure it's better to clear the air now, before things get any more complicated. I know my temper's not the best in the heat of the moment."
"No, really," Elisabeth said with a not-so-delicate snort. "If I hadn't known that before you struck that population control officer..."
"Yeah, not my best decision, was it?" He shook his head. He would still defend Zoe's existence if he had it all to do over again, but hitting that guy? Yeah, that had been stupid; he'd known better. A fine and a citation, they could have dealt with; instead, in exchange for the momentary satisfaction of losing his temper, he'd been sentenced to six years in prison, and Elisabeth had been forbidden to keep Zoe. Their clandestine third child would have grown up in a government home, if Elisabeth hadn't found a way to sneak her and Jim into the Tenth Pilgrimage.
"Not so much," she replied, dryly.
Jim shifted to press a kiss to the top of her head. "You know, while we're on the subject of being all mature about this... there is one thing I want to add to our agreement," he said, carefully.
"Mmmm? And what might that be?" she asked, stifling a yawn.
"Like I said, I'm Zoe's father. And I don't want that to change." He could handle sharing Elisabeth, within the boundaries of their understood rules; she was her own person, and he never wanted to dim the light in her eyes. But his kids? Call him selfish, but no. And besides, they'd never felt the need to clue the children in on the more complicated details of their relationship before. Josh and Maddy might be old enough to understand, but the truth would probably just confuse Zoe, and a couple of twists in a double helix didn't define fatherhood as far as he was concerned.
"Zoe doesn't find out," he continued. "Not until she's mature enough to understand. I'd prefer if you didn't tell anyone else, either- but I know that's not my call. Just make sure he knows if he ever crosses that line, he'll regret it. Zoe is mine."
She raised her eyebrows, pursing her lips as she looked up at him. "And there's the Alpha Jim I married. I'd wondered where he was hiding," she said, wryly.
That- wasn't what Jim had been expecting; he'd been deadly serious about the request, and he'd been hoping she'd either agree outright or offer an alternative they could both live with. Not- whatever that was. "What, do you think I'm overreacting?" he frowned at her, stung.
"No, no; I quite understand," Elisabeth said. She smiled, then pulled away for a moment, leaning forward to slip off her shoes. "For Zoe's peace of mind, if for no other reason. But the way you phrase things, sometimes. Honestly." An amused, fond smile lit up her face as she changed the subject. "Considering your new job, I suppose it's a good thing Commander Taylor has an even more dominant personality than you do..."
Her voice trailed off worryingly before she reached the end of that sentence, but before he could guess where she was going with it and head her off, she brightened, smile growing wider. "No. Jim! That's it, isn't it?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," he replied, turning his attention to his own boots. Trust her to change the subject with that; it wasn't like there was even anything to tell.
"It is!" Elisabeth exclaimed. "You have a crush on the Commander!"
"Shh, you'll wake the kids!" He sighed. "Look, you save a guy's life, play a little dinosaur chicken with him, do some pterosaur wrangling together..."
"He gives you a decent job when he had every right to jail you for breaking into his colony or leave you on weed-pulling duty..." she continued, teasingly.
The Soldier and the Lawman: yeah, so Taylor had a use for him. There was really no point in exaggerating that into anything more than it was, though, which was why he hadn't brought it up. Even if it did make Jim feel warmer to have such a guarded and- well, commanding- guy trust him with his life when they barely knew each other, it would be ridiculous of him to set any value on that while everything else was still uncertain.
"I wouldn't call it a crush," Jim hedged.
Elisabeth snuck a hand under the hem of his shirt, fingers dancing over his lateral muscles, catching him by surprise. "Men. What would you call it, then? How did you put it- does he make your heart go pitter-pat?"
He squirmed away her tickling offensive, trying not to laugh. How exactly had he ended up on the defensive, again? "Elisabeth!"
Her smile softened and she let up for a moment, letting him recapture her fingers. "As you said: he's not my type, really; but I suppose I can see how he's yours. All that testosterone, and you always did have a thing for bull-headed personalities..."
He shifted his grip so that both of her smaller wrists were trapped in one hand, then snuck the other behind her back to search out her weak spots. "You know what they say. Takes one to know one," he drawled.
She laughed, but didn't object, wriggling in a half-hearted attempt to free herself. "Oh, and even better," she managed to gasp between bouts of giggles. "I've already told him to be careful with you!"
"What?" Jim gaped at her, fingers stilling in surprise. "When? That was kind of premature, don't you think?"
"I was talking about his giving you a badge, actually," she grinned at him. "But perhaps I was being a bit prescient as well. Don't tell me I've embarrassed the big bad Sheriff?"
"I refuse to answer that on the grounds that I may incriminate myself," he sniffed, leaning back to sprawl limply across the bed and dropping an arm over his eyes. Seriously; there was just no accounting for human libido, sometimes.
"You know I was worried, when you pulled away from that kiss," Elisabeth said more seriously, sprawling back to join him, propping herself up slightly on one elbow so she could still meet his eyes. "I thought- well, it doesn't matter. But I'm very glad we had this conversation."
He stared back at her, drinking in her face for a second as the still silence of the golden-lit room sank under his skin, thinking it all over. "So am I, actually," he admitted, roughly. He hadn't realized how much the thing with Zoe had still been knotting him up until he'd actually aired it, and they didn't need that kind of jealousy clouding their marriage when they had enough outside pressures working against them already.
"Good," she replied warmly, reaching over to trace a finger down his cheek again.
He cleared his throat, trying to ignore the line of heat flashing straight to his groin from that casual touch. "Just... uh. If you do pick things back up with Malcolm. Not in the house, all right?"
"Nor the lab either, I think," Elisabeth mused, ghosting her fingertip down over his chin and along the line of his collarbone. When she ran out of visible skin to trace, she nudged him up a little and yanked at his shirt, slipping it off and discarding it on the floor to join their shoes. "Though I'll be sure and leave a forwarding link, if the children need to reach me when I'm not in the house. And we'll have to work our schedules around each other- I'd prefer if at least one, if not both of us is here every evening."
Jim shuddered as she picked up skimming over his skin where she'd left off, distracted by the casual way she was discussing their outside love lives while deliberately setting his nerves on fire. She knew exactly what she was doing- and this time, he didn't plan on resisting her. That delicate touch was about ten times more arousing than all her earlier dutiful attempts at seduction.
"I seriously doubt I'm going to have any excuse to be anywhere else anytime soon," he muttered, reaching out to snag his fingers under the hem of her shirt.
She let him tug it upward, raising her arms briefly as it passed over her head, then tossed her hair free and leaned forward, following the path her finger had taken over his sternum with her tongue. Her breasts fell free against his chest as she moved; she'd left her bra behind at the infirmary with her sweaty scrubs when they'd cleaned up before heading home, and his hips bucked as already-taut nipples scraped over sensitive skin.
"Care to wager on that?" she laughed, arching her whole body against him. Then he groaned, digging his fingers into her hips as she pulled back and shifted her attention to the fastening of his pants.
"What were we talking about, again?" he asked.
"Oh, I do love you, Jim," Elisabeth chuckled, lifting her head to capture his lips again.
"Likewise," he murmured back.
And finally, finally the awkwardness of the past week swept away, until they were both pleasantly sated, settled, and sore.