Disclaimer: I own neither the show nor the characters. I don't earn any money; I just do it for fun.
Author's Note: Written for failegaidin for Sparky Santa. I had started another fic, but the "John and Elizabeth getting together" part wouldn't have happened, so I wrote this fic instead. This is probably not what you had in mind, but I hope you still like it!

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1.

The Athosian party was in full swing by the time John and Elizabeth joined the festivities, having been delayed by a last minute video conference with Earth. John immediately grabbed them both a drink and they went to join his team.

Soon after, they were separated when a group of girls dragged Elizabeth and Teyla away. Halling joined John, Rodney and Ronon, bringing a bottle of alcohol he made himself with him. It was strong, and John didn't really notice at first that Halling kept filling up their glasses. And when he finally did notice, he was already drunk and past caring. He wasn't the designated pilot; hell, they didn't even take a Jumper to come here.

With the four of them, the bottle was quickly downed, and even in his drunken state, he noticed that Halling and Ronon were by far the most inebriated of them. Rodney was passed out on the floor, but the light snoring coming from him told John that he was going to be fine.

He slowly looked around the settlement, and found what he was looking for. Or rather who he was looking for. Elizabeth was at the other side of the fire camp, sitting among Athosian women, and helping the girls to make necklaces. He could see her laughing at something one of the girls said, and he felt himself smiling.

He didn't know if it was the alcohol talking, but he wanted to walk over to her, and kiss her until she kissed him back. Or slapped him in front of everyone. It could go either way, really. Still, he guessed that a kiss would be worth a public humiliation. Or maybe it was still the alcohol talking.

As if she sensed him looking at her, she turned her head towards him, and smiled. He didn't look away, as he would have usually done. He held her eyes until she was the one to turn away from him to focus on the children around her once more.

"What are you waiting for, Colonel Sheppard?" Halling asked, jolting him out of his thoughts.

"Uh?" John replied, turning to look at him.

He had completely forgotten about his drinking buddies as his mind had focused on Elizabeth.

Halling, even though he was drunker than John, apparently retained his thinking faculties.

"I asked why you were still here, instead of being with her. We've learned a long time ago that if we wait for too long, it might be too late. I thought you had learned this lesson, too."

John thought about Halling's words for a couple of seconds, before downing the rest of his glass and setting it on the table.

"Drunken courage," Ronon said in a slurry voice, as he watched his friend walk in Elizabeth's direction.

"Sometimes the only one we have," Halling replied, before getting up to find another bottle.

John wondered if Elizabeth knew he was coming for her when she rose from her table and met him halfway.

"You don't look too stable on your feet here, John," she said as he came to a stop before her.

"I'm fine."

He was swaying a bit, and grabbed her hand, first to stabilize himself, then to drag her slightly out of the camp. If he was about to be humiliated, he still retained enough self-consciousness to not want it to happen in front of everyone.

Once out of earshot and eyesight of the rest of the camp, he surprised her by moving fast and kissed her before she could react to his closeness. She kissed him back for a few seconds before she pushed him abruptly away.

"You're drunk, John. And don't tell me you're not. You almost fell down, there."

"Maybe I am, but I know what I'm doing."

"No, you don't. Otherwise, you wouldn't..."

"Wouldn't what?" he interrupted her. "Kiss you? Maybe it actually gave me enough courage to finally do it."

"You need courage to kiss me?" she asked with sadness in her voice.

"No, I would never need that. But I need it to tell you that I don't just want to kiss you. I want to be with you."

"You don't know what you're saying, John. You're..."

"Drunk, I know. But I also know what I'm saying. Tomorrow, when I'm sober, I'll tell you again. And again. Until you finally believe it."

Not wanting to hear her protest again, he kissed her before she could say a word. She didn't push him away this time, and he took it as a good sign.

The next morning, when she brought him coffee, he said it again, and he didn't have to repeat himself this time.

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2.

She didn't question her gut feeling when it told her that something had happened off-world. She never did when it came to his team. Instead, she immediately radioed Lorne's team to gear up, and asked Chuck to dial the planet.

When they didn't answer straight away, it only served to make her concern grow. They could be out of range, but deep inside, she knew that it wasn't the case. She kept calling their names, and when it was finally answered by a moan of pain, she asked a medical team to join Lorne's in the Jumper bay.

An hour later, as she watched the team being wheeled into the infirmary, she realised that once more, her gut feeling had probably saved them. She had often heard about this sixth sense, but she never believed it herself, until she came to Atlantis, and had experienced it firsthand.

"How are they?" she asked Carson as he stopped beside her.

"They all got concussions. Rodney broke his ankle, and he's already complaining, so he's alright," he said and they shared a smiled. "Teyla and Ronon were a bit luckier, but they got bruises all over. Colonel Sheppard, on the other hand, is the one I'm worried about. He broke two ribs, and is bleeding internally. They're prepping him for surgery. I wanted to update you myself, but I need to go now. That's a good thing you followed your instinct, lass, you've saved his life," he added, giving her hand a squeeze.

She released a shaky breath as she watched Carson walk in the direction of the OR. She sat on a nearby chair, and put her face in her hands. She was shaking with unreleased tears, but now wasn't the place nor the time to shed them.

A couple of hours passed with no news from Carson. At her request, Chuck had brought her data pad, as she hoped that working would help ease her worry. But she kept reading the same line over and over, and had been relieved to see Teyla and Ronon coming her way.

Finally, they spotted Carson walking towards them. He looked tired, but he was smiling, something Elizabeth took as a sign that John would be fine. Something Carson confirmed straight away.

"The surgery went well. We managed to stop the bleeding. He will have to stay in the infirmary for a week, and he won't be able to resume his missions for at least two months. I'll update you on this part in a few weeks," he added for Elizabeth. "You two should go back to your respective beds," he told Teyla and Ronon, who left without protesting. "We've put Colonel Sheppard in a private room. Why don't you go and see for yourself that he's fine, lass? And then, you should go get some rest."

"You should go get some rest, too."

"I will," he promised, knowing that she wouldn't do the same.

"Thank you, Carson."

Just as she was reaching the door of the private room John was in, a nurse was leaving. She reassured Elizabeth with a smile that everything was fine, and held the door open for her.

She let the door close behind her, and went to sit on the chair beside the bed. It was weird to see him unconscious. It was far from the first time that a mission had gone wrong and put him in a bed in the infirmary, but it was the first time it required surgery. She couldn't help but wonder if his team's luck had finally run out. It certainly looked like it to her.

She didn't know how long she had been sitting there when he finally stirred. She saw him wince as he pulled at his stitches, trying to find a more comfortable position. She got up from the chair to sit on the bed, taking his hand in hers. His eyes opened and found hers, before he gestured towards his mouth with his free hand.

She grabbed the glass of ice chips from the bedside table, and offered him a spoonful.

"Better?"

"Yeah... What happened?"

"You crashed the Jumper. Your team is fine," she quickly added, knowing that he would be worried. "They all got concussions and Rodney has a broken ankle too. You, on the other hand, weren't as lucky. You have two broken ribs, and you had surgery for internal bleeding. It'll be a while before you can go back on missions."

"You sent a team," he said, remembering fragments from what happened in the Jumper now that she filled in some blanks.

"I had a feeling that something happened."

"Thank you."

She didn't know what prompted her to do what she did next. Maybe she was just relieved to see that he was going to be fine. Maybe she was still not completely over the fact that he almost died, again. But when she pressed her lips against his, she felt like she needed it.

Before her mind could kick in and tell her that it was a bad idea, his free hand cupped the back of her head and he deepened the kiss.

"We should stop," Elizabeth said as the kiss came to a natural end, but John just initiated another one.

"Why?" he finally said, as he rested his forehead against hers at the end of their second kiss.

"The heart rate monitor. If your heart rate keeps rising, the nurses will come and see what's going on."

"We'd better not risk it," he agreed with a sigh.

"No. And we should talk first, but not now," she added as he lost his fight with a yawn. "You need to rest. Sleep now," she said, as he brought her hand to his lips to press a kiss on her knuckles.

She watched as sleep claimed him. She wondered if her gut feeling when it came to his team had something to do with what had just happened. And if it did, she was glad for it.

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3.

When he invited her mother and her to spend Christmas with him and his brother, she was surprised. That was until her mother let her know that when she had been missing, John had visited her mother every single time he was on Earth. To say that she was thankful to have a friend like him wouldn't be enough; there are times when she wondered where she would be if he wasn't in her life.

And now, as they arrived on the afternoon of Christmas Eve at the Sheppard household, and she watched them hug, she realised that where her mother had found a son, John had also found a second mother. She wouldn't be the one to deprive them of this link. They were introduced to Dave, John's brother, and knowing about their fallout years before, Elizabeth was happy to see the two brothers together again.

Christmas Eve was spent as a real family, even though they weren't exactly one. They trimmed the tree and decorated the living room, before moving into the kitchen to start on Christmas Eve dinner.

It was close to midnight when Dave and Elizabeth's mother retired, leaving John and Elizabeth alone. The only lights in the room were those coming from the Christmas tree and from the fireplace, leaving the room half in darkness.

"It looks like we're going to have a white Christmas," John said, as he nodded towards the snow that had started to fall outside.

"Yeah..."

She snuggled closer to him, resting her head against his shoulder as she looked at the fire burning slowly. His arm wrapped around her shoulders, and she felt his lips pressing a kiss in her hair.

"I'm glad you're home. I've missed you."

She knew that already. He had said it many times since she came back, and she returned it every single time.

"I've missed you, too."

Things had changed since she came back. Atlantis wasn't the same anymore; she wasn't their leader, and she didn't expect to have her job back any time soon. She had come to accept it, and what really mattered to her was that she was still part of the expedition.

Her friends had changed, too. She had been surprised to learn that Teyla had a son, and that Rodney was dating Jennifer Keller. Even Ronon had a girlfriend, something she wouldn't have imagined prior to her disappearance. Most of the expedition had moved on since she left, and she had expected it, but seeing it with her own eyes had been weird.

Only John stayed the same. He was her rock, the one constant in her life, and for that she was grateful. As much as she had expected the changes, she had still wanted some things to remain the same.

"I'm never letting you go."

"Good," she replied, leaning her head back so she could look into his eyes. "Because I'm not going anywhere."

"Good, very good," he said, before pecking her lips.

"Well, that's new."

"Is it a bad thing?"

"Like you said, and I quote: 'good, very good'."

She smiled at him, and he smiled back, before she rested her head against his shoulder once more.

Another change was coming; it was their turn to move on.

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4.

When they started being friends with benefits after the whole retrovirus fiasco, they didn't think it would last for more than a couple of months. They both thought that even though nothing would change on a day to day basis, their differences would surface at one point, and make them realise they had made a mistake.

But two years later, their little agreement still held, to both of their surprises. It was going too fine, even though neither of them would say something in fear that they could jinx it. After two years, they were spending most nights together than apart.

Without them noticing it, they had fallen into a relationship; they didn't give it this name – or any name for that matter – but it was true nonetheless. They didn't talk about it, neither of them wanting to change the status quo.

That night, two years and a half into their non-relationship, Elizabeth didn't even think before joining John in his bedroom. She entered, and making as little noise as possible, started to strip. Grabbing one of his old shirts, she put it on, and lied down on the bed. John's body immediately spooned against hers, and she sighed, wrapping his arm around her waist, and linking their fingers together.

"Didn't expect you tonight," he whispered sleepily against the skin of her nape.

"Sorry, the dinner lasted longer than expected," she replied, already half-asleep.

"Ok... 'Night. Love you."

"Love you too."

###

The moment Elizabeth woke up, she remembered the last words she and John shared the night before, and sat up in bed. This woke John up, and he was following his instinct and was about to reach for his gun when he noticed Elizabeth, with her face buried in her hands.

"Elizabeth? What is it?" he asked, putting his hand on her shoulder but she shrugged him away.

"It's ok, it's nothing."

"Elizabeth, I can see that something's wrong. Just tell me what it is."

"Do you remember what we said last night? Just before we fell asleep," she clarified.

"No, I...," he stopped, as fragments from the night before came back to his mind. "Oh... Is it really that unexpected?"

"What do you mean?" she asked, turning in bed to face him.

"I mean... Most of these friends with benefits arrangements don't last half as long as ours. And if we're honest with each other we've moved past this small arrangement a long time ago. This isn't just about sex anymore; it's about being together, admit it."

"I wouldn't have come here last night if it was just sex," she agreed. "So what now?"

"Now? I'm still feeling a bit tired," he said, pushing her until she lied back down on the bed, and he settled over her.

"You don't seem tired to me," she moaned, as he started kissing her neck. "And don't you dare leave a mark."

"Never, Ma'am," he replied with a smile, before sobering up quickly. "I love you, Elizabeth."

"I love you, too."

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5.

His mind had come up with a hundred different scenarios on how best to ask Elizabeth to go out with him. It had gone from drinking to find the courage he would need, to a near-death experience, though he wasn't too fond of this one. One had even Christmas and family, but December was still months away, and he didn't want to wait.

In the end, he decided that just asking her would probably be the best way to go. There was still the possibility of her refusing, and he was prepared for this scenario, but he didn't want her to think that he wasn't serious. Because he was. He had thought this through, since he had come to realise that what he was feeling for Elizabeth went beyond mere friendship.

He wanted it; he just hoped that she reciprocated it.

He entered her office but wasn't surprised when she didn't acknowledge him immediately. He knew her enough by now to be sure that she noticed him entering and was just finishing reading a report. He sat on the chair before her, and waited.

When she finally looked up towards him, she sent him a smile.

"Can I do anything for you, John?"

"I just came by to see if you wanted to have dinner with me, tonight."

"Well, I will, as we do every other evening."

"No, that's not what I meant. Do you want to have dinner with me, tonight, Elizabeth?"

"You have just asked me this, and I've already answered."

"You won't make it easy on me."

"What's going on, John?"

"When I say 'dinner', what I really mean is 'date'.

"Oh..."

"You're probably trying to come up with a thousand different reasons why it shouldn't happen, and I promise I'll listen to them all, but tonight. Please."

"Ok," she finally agreed. "I'll have dinner with you, John."

"Great. I'll come and get you at 2000."

He left before she could say something else, not wanting to tempt his luck. She had agreed to this first date, now he'll have to make sure she will agree to a second, third and more dates.

And he could be very convincing when he wanted to be.

Fin.