John entered their house quietly. The door to their apartment squeaked a little as he closed it, causing him to flinch slightly. Tossing his keys on the table next to the door, he shrugged off his coat and made his way into the kitchen, intent on making some decaf before he went to bed. When he rounded the corner into their kitchen, the table came into view and he stopped in his tracks. It was covered with dishes, food heaped on them, two obviously burned candles in the middle of the table. There was a box setting next to one of the plates. The plate had been intended for him; it had a small glass of Jack Daniels setting in front of it.
His heart sinking, he made his heavy legs move forward so he could pick up the box. Opening it, he found a long silver chair and a note that read: "Happy seven years! I know you don't like to wear your ring on missions so I hope you'll wear it on this chain. Lots of love, E."
Sighing deeply, he set the box down again and turned to go into the other room but found Elizabeth standing in the door way, her face blotchy, her eyes bloodshot. He could barely meet her eyes.
"'Lizabeth…" he started uncomfortably.
"No," she cut him off. "John, I don't want to hear another excuse. We've talked about this so many times!" As she said the words, her voice broke and she took a breath, trying not to cry. Looking into her eyes, he couldn't even apologize.
"I…" she began again. "John, I wanted this to work! I want this to work! But you're just not here! And I don't just mean physically, I mean emotionally, and relationally! Every time we talk about it, you say it's going to be different but it never is!" She wiped her tears away angrily amid a noise of disgust.
"Hey," John began, "I'm not exactly the only one to blame here."
"Really?" Elizabeth's eyes spit fire. "You honestly believe that? Because I'm trying! I'm trying to make this work! And even with all my experience negotiating and making people work together, I can't make us work together! I can't make you work with me!"
"Hey," John said as he moved towards her. "I haven't been the one complaining constantly about stupid things that I think need to be changed! I'm not the one who's been constantly nagging you about your actions and what I need from you! I'm the one who's been trying to change things, instead of complain about them!"
"You think I'm complaining? You think the things I'm telling you are stupid? JOHN, you missed our SEVEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY! I bought you a THOUGHTFUL GIFT! Did you even THINK of buying me something? Did you even REMEMBER it was today?"
John could feel his anger starting to spiral so he tried to take a breath. "Elizabeth, I've been a little busy WORKING. I was on assignment and I got held up on my way back. I was a little late coming home and I'm SORRY about that."
Elizabeth was shaking her head as he was talking. "No, John, no you don't even SEE IT! Don't you understand how much these things MATTER to me? I NEED you! I need you to show me you love me! And when you forget our anniversary, that makes me feel like you don't LOVE ME ANYMORE!"
Tears started to come down again as she continued, "And I'm sick of feeling that way John! I'm sick of feeling unloved. I'm sick of feeling like your work is more important than me!"
John growled as he turned away from her, putting his fist down on the table a little more firmly than he had intended. "And I'm sick of you nagging me about everything I do!" He turned to her again. "I'm sick of feeling like every action of mine is under scrutiny. I'm sick of worrying about what your reaction's going to be when I get home! And I'm SORRY about tonight, I was preoccupied!"
Elizabeth's face contorted into a harsh laugh. "Preoccupied? You know I turned down a negotiation for this anniversary! I decided specifically to take off today so we could be together and have a nice meal but obviously it wasn't important enough to you!"
John's gray eyes flashed and his gaze tore into Elizabeth. "Fine, you know what, you're so damn determined to believe I forgot on purpose, there's nothing I can say that will change your mind. So FINE, I didn't come home because it wasn't important! I didn't come home because I DON'T LOVE YOU! I didn't come home because I don't ENJOY BEING WITH YOU! IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR?"
After the words had left his mouth, he felt a knife enter his gut. He had gone too far. Tears began streaming down her face and she looked down, twirling the ring on her finger, tears dripping onto the floor. John held his breath for a moment and then took a step forward, touching her lightly on the arm. As he did, she shoved him away angrily and he retreated a couple steps. Looking him in the eyes, her face contorted, she said,
"John, I think it would be best if I move out for a while."
With that, she left the kitchen and he could hear her banging around their room, packing her suitcase. He didn't move from the position he was standing in until the slamming door broke him out of his revere. Then, he went to the table, carefully took the necklace from its box, slid his ring on the chain, and put it around his neck to hang with his dog tags.
He sat there for a long time.
They had been living apart for three weeks when John made his appearance at the Antarctic base. It caught Weir almost entirely by surprise; to see him sitting there in the chair, the solar system map spread out above his head, the technology coming effortlessly to life under his touch. She had to admit he looked good; hot was the right word. She never could resist him in his uniform, especially with his hair mussed from the helmet.
Still on the high from discovering Atlantis was a real place, she was delusional enough to think John would agree to come to Atlantis with her. She should have been more realistic.
"John!" she called to him across the floor after they had finished with the chair. He looked at her with surprised gray eyes and gave her a small nod as she made her way over to him.
"Elizabeth. I see this is the top secret project you've been working on."
Elizabeth had to smile at that. Her top secret projects had been the subject of innumerable jokes and fights over the past couple months.
"Yes, well, it's pretty amazing stuff." She paused for a moment, allowing herself to smile at him. "And… that's kind of what I want to talk to you about."
He frowned at her and crossed his arms. "What? Me coming to work in Antarctica? My own secret projects?"
She shook her head. "No. Have you been briefed about Atlantis?"
He shrugged. "Sort of, for all of five minutes."
Letting out a breath, she connected eyes with him again. "I want you to come along."
The silence reigned for a long time. John stared at her hard for a good thirty seconds before looking away. After that, he looked to the side and began to fidget slightly with his flight suit.
" 'Lizabeth, I don't know if it's such a good idea for me to be part of leadership on Atlantis, what with our relationship issues and all."
She frowned. "John, this isn't just about you and me. I'm not asking for selfish reasons. I want you there because the expedition needs you. You can work the Ancient technology like a natural and we don't have anyone on the team yet who can do that."
John looked intently at the ice packed wall to his left and nodded his head slightly. Of course, it would be about what's best for the team and not what's best for them. That was so Elizabeth. After a moment he turned and his face was set. "All right, my answer is no."
She started to protest but he held up a hand to forestall any further arguments. "Elizabeth, I'm really not in the mood to get into another fight with you. My answer is no. I'm sorry."
Without another word, he made his way towards the elevator. Watching him walk away, Elizabeth knew she couldn't let him go. Besides the fact that he was invaluable to the expedition, she just wasn't ready to give up on him yet. She still loved him. Maybe a change of scenery would do them some good. And she was pretty sure General O'Neill could convince him to come.