Ended up that they started in "The Eye", and I have a feeling I'll keep going for the second half of the season since there are plenty more episode titles on the list (but since these are self-contained vignettes it's not actually a WIP and no one can threaten my life! YAY!).
I'm sharing because driftingatdusk and rosewildeirish told me to. :)
Anyway. Unbeta'd. Read and enjoy or... don't. :) Comments and suggestions are totally welcome. Spoilers only through "The Eye" for this set of them and 'tis John/Elizabeth UST.
- Duet -
John counts off the kill shots and thinks about Kolya.
He has only heard a voice on the radio -- cool, older, a slight accent. He can't picture what his opponent looks like, and when he tries to his mind torments him instead with images of Elizabeth, defenseless and afraid at the point of a gun. Dead and broken on her office floor.
He can't think about her, so he thinks about the Genii commander, makes sure his kill count is higher than his. There are only the two of them involved.
He loses his exact count at the Stargate. The bright flashes against the shield are too fast to count. He fires on the control console and ducks for cover and doesn't look at Elizabeth's office because that is where her body will be, and for a second he thinks those quick Genii deaths aren't painful enough to make up for what has been lost.
Just for a moment as he stops outside the control room and gasps for air, he wavers. Elizabeth is in his mind, sick at his callous thoughts and unable to recognize him. She isn't -- wasn't -- about this. The thought only makes him more angry.
He estimates. Fifty against the shield, maybe fifty-five. Sixty-three, total.
Until this is over, Elizabeth is just a number.
"Kolya, I'm having a hard time keeping up. What's the score again?"
His opponent is shaken, slips with his words, and just like that, she's not dead anymore. Elizabeth's voice is all but torn away by the wind and immediate danger and he wants to reach through the radio and hold onto it forever.
It's not about Kolya anymore.
- Necessary Evil -
After the seige, after the storm, after two hours of watching her calmly draw up a repair schedule, he finds Elizabeth shaking on the floor of her quarters.
John had a reason to come here at 0200 after the longest day of his life, something about how they're going to handle the obvious Menarian information leak, something that really doesn't have to be touched on until after they've both had a good night's sleep.
When she doesn't answer her door chime he forgets all about the Menarians and his other prepared excuses and overrides the lock with a burst of panic. Irrational images fill his mind for the three seconds it takes to get through. The nurses missed something, a dire injury that has left her unconscious and bleeding on the floor of her bedroom. One of the Genii escaped the massacre and was waiting for her to finish what Kolya had started. The whole end of the day was a hallucination and she's still captive, still in danger, still dead.
Elizabeth starts in surprise when the door opens but doesn't attempt to hide that she's crying. He's still terrified, still running on adrenaline and rage, and her wide, tear-filled eyes push him right past the point of propriety where he would apologize for barging in and ask if she'll be all right. He's on his knees next to her before he realizes what he's doing and wraps his arms around her like he can physically absorb her hysteria into his body.
She's the one who turns his awkward embrace into a proper hug. Her sobs are loud in his ear, uncontrolled, and her fingers dig into his back like she's afraid she'll be swept away.
He has no words, can't work even a simple "It's okay" over the boulder in his throat. He's shaking, too, holding her tighter when he remembers everything he couldn't let himself feel at the time. The city could have been lost. He was alone against an invading force. McKay was a hostage. She was dead.
He presses his lips to her hair, breathes in the persistent smell of salt water. He didn't fail her.
Elizabeth's breathing becomes easier and her death grip on him relaxes completely, like she has no muscle left to her. After the sobs quiet, she pulls herself up to sitting. She still looks unstable so he helps her move a few feet over until her back is against the side of the bed.
She doesn't apologize for the emotional scene. He should get her a glass of water, he thinks, or a handkerchief, but he's unwilling to shake free the hold she still has on his hands. Quiet tears are still streaming over her cheeks, but she doesn't acknowledge them.
"I don't know how you do it," she says, and suddenly he isn't sure if she's crying because she was terrified within an inch of her life today or because so many other lives were lost and she was helpless to prevent it.
He doesn't explain to her that they're not people when he kills them, just moving targets. "That's why you have me here," he reminds her. "To handle the barbarians at the gate."
She pulls one of her hands free to swipe at her nose. "It must be hard for you." Her words are tight and she's searching his face for something, some kind of reassurance that he doesn't know if he can offer her.
He has never had to explain himself to someone who didn't understand before.
He can't say he's sorry, either. Not when the alternative means that she isn't here to feel so badly about it.
He tells her the only thing he can. "It's necessary."
- Past Tense -
John has been dreaming a lot lately, but not about the Genii.
He dreams about Afghanistan, but like it's happening now. Ford is there, and Teyla, and Colonel Sumner for some reason. He begins the dream each night convinced that Elizabeth is missing, has been taken hostage, but none of the others know who she is.
The violence was more chaotic then, less us-against-them and more of a deseperate free-for-all where you could only pray that every grenade you threw wouldn't land as friendly fire. It was worst on the ground. The air was no less confusing, only a bit more detached. The kills seemed cleaner from that altitude, like a flash against the 'gate shield.
When he wakes up, he showers and dresses and wanders through Atlantis to ground himself in reality. More often than not, he runs into Elizabeth on his travels. Even on nights when he doesn't find her in her usual haunts -- the control room, the balcony, the mess hall -- he suspects she's awake somewhere.
She looks tired all the time now. He doesn't think anyone else has noticed.
The next inhabited planet he visits has a teeming marketplace. In a back corner, near another vendor who McKay thinks might be sitting on some valuable technology, is an old woman in red.
"This will cure you," she says out of nowhere, handing him a box of loose herbs. "In tea, this lulls the demons to sleep."
McKay gives him a strange look when he buys it.
"Smells like peppermint," is his excuse.
- Face of the Enemy -
Sora looks small and fragile inside her cage, like the young farmer girl he thought she was when they first met.
He asks her the usual questions, about her people's plans and advantages and strategic positions. She gives him the answers willingly, but perhaps that's because she knows as well as he that the Genii operation will be almost unrecognizable now after so many of their best soldiers were lost.
She has not once asked to be released.
Elizabeth comes with him once and asks what steps Sora would suggest they take to negotiate an end to hostilities. The prisoner says the same thing that he's told her a hundred times -- that no peaceful arrangement will be good enough.
"Nothing short of total Atlantean surrender will satisfy my people now. Perhaps not even that."
Elizabeth leans closer and uses the same voice he heard her use with a crying Athosian child who had just banged a knee on an unexpectedly slippery staircase. "Don't you want to go home?"
Sora doesn't answer, but looks at him like she expects he will understand.
- Past Tense, Part II -
At 0400 they have the mess hall to themselves.
"Tell me about your dreams," he says, toying with the edge of a reusable tea bag made from a square of cloth and a piece of string.
Elizabeth frowns. She doesn't give pieces of herself away that easily. It took an act of God for him to even find out her birthday, a bit of crucial intel he's holding in reserve.
"What makes you think I'm having nightmares?" Elizabeth Weir is rarely coy, and this is perhaps as close as she gets.
"You can't tell me you're awake at this hour for the company."
She smiles. Her eyes narrow just a touch like she's thinking something snarky -- more and more he suspects that she always has something biting on the tip of her tongue, held back only by years of diplomatic training -- but to his surprise she gives him a direct answer instead.
"I dream about what could have happened when the Genii were here, mostly. You?"
Tonight it was Kabul again, a mission gone bad, only Teyla was the one in the cockpit next to him and there were gale-force winds outside keeping him from reaching his target.
She reaches across the table to squeeze his hand, gently, a show of friendship and sympathy that she's allowed to offer as a woman and a civillian, and he realizes that's what he was hoping she would do.
His fingers thread through hers without his consent, his thumb brushing the soft skin of her hand until she offers him a tired smile that makes his heart do something unexpected in his chest.
Part of him starts to panic.