John Sheppard is loving this.
He shouldn't be -- it probably speaks something terrible about his character as a human being -- but it's quite possibly the most entertaining thing he's seen in years. Including the brand new media shipments brought from Earth. Including the Athosian kids' dramatic re-enactment of what they called "Earthers Fight The Wraith," in which Jinto played him with an exaggerated swagger and the ability to destroy Wraith with veritable superpowers (Jinto-as-Sheppard also dramatically rescued Marta-as-Doctor-Weir, which resulted in a staged kiss and had Elizabeth blushing for about two weeks).
Including the time McKay got attacked by that sticky alien pine tree and it took four hours to get him free (... okay, that one doesn't speak particularly well of his character as a human being either).
But Elizabeth Weir is drunk. And flirting. And giggling. And it's awesome.
John's stone-cold sober. Even though the Lutterians (Ford keeps calling them "Lutherans," either by accident or because he thinks it's funny) seem to be no threat to anyone, they are off-world. And even though he's certainly let down his guard to drink a pint or two off-world before -- foolishly, perhaps -- it isn't every day that Doctor Weir accompanies them. The laws of cosmic fortune dictate that this will be the day that something dramatically bad happens, and so he's drinking nothing but water with his P-90 settled three inches from his hand.
So far, the night has been uneventful, except for the discovery that, after over a year of complete sobriety, Elizabeth can't hold her liquor.
"Your people must have the equivalent to... barroom humor," she's saying, and even though she's correctly using words like equivalent and engaging in an anthropological discussion, her cheeks are red with laughter and alcohol-dilated blood vessels and John knows she's three sheets to the wind.
One of the two high-ranking Lutterian officials she's charming grins at her. "I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with that term. Please explain."
John suspects that the Lutterians know exactly what she's talking about, but are encouraging her only because they're just as entertained by this as he is. He feels a brief flash of guilt -- he should take responsibility for her image as well as her physical safety -- but it isn't like she has stripped and hopped onto the table yet. And he'd stop her if she did, right? Wouldn't he? He's pretty sure he would.
The fact that he misses a few minutes of the conversation pondering this leads him to believe that he's getting drunk by osmosis.
"... and so, when a priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a bar, the listener will anticipate something-"
The other Lutterian is speaking now, "You have multiple religions on a single planet?"
Elizabeth bursts out laughing, and one of the aliens pats her on the back when she starts to cough. Somehow, this only makes her laugh more, and she ends up practically collapsed against the chest of the nearest Lutterian.
John finds himself snickering, too. He's never really seen her lose it before -- not except with frustration, anyway -- and it's enchanting.
"I'm sorry," Elizabeth apologizes as she recovers, her voice much higher and more flirtatious than the one that usually bawls him out over the com radio. "I clearly wasn't ready for this ale of yours."
The Lutterian continues to stroke her back. "The effect is most pleasing on you."
Reflexively, John's hand lands on his gun. He somehow expects Elizabeth to slap the man's hand away, but she only smiles dopily at him.
"It's... very freeing," she says. "In fact, alcohol tends to be an integral part of Earth... courtship rituals... as much as we pretend otherwise. This one time... well, I should probably know you better before I tell that one." She laughs again. "Where were we? Oh! Bad jokes..." her grin flashes over to Ford. "Speaking of sex... I'm sure one of you has got a few dirty jokes to share."
Ford -- who has never, actually, broken the sober-off-world rule, and tonight is no exception -- looks like nothing so much as a small animal frozen in headlights.
"Come on, L'tenant..."
"Not in mixed company, ma'am," Ford mutters.
He smirks. "Are you really asking?"
She laughs again, and he can't help but feel some sort of ego-boost that he got that reaction out of her, even though, at this point, she'd probably find any inanimate object hysterical.
Teyla shoots John a look. "Perhaps not all aspects of a culture must be shared." She's been drinking, too, but all the Athosians appear to have a ridiculously high tolerance -- a lot less ridiculous, actually, once John tried the "home brew" that Teyla was raised on and took about a year off the life of his liver.
"I disagree, Teyla," the Lutterian now all but cuddling Doctor Weir argues. "I am always fascinated by the baser elements of other cultures."
And Elizabeth is giggling again. "It was one of the more interesting aspects of my anthropology studies... but aliens are much more interesting. Well. Alien humans. Rodney, would you call it... exoanthropology? Xeno... Rodney?"
John looks around, but sees no sign of him.
"He left to see one of the laboratories," Ford supplies just as John is about to jump to red alert. "He did tell you, sir."
John isn't sure he likes the idea that he's been spending so much attention focused on his drunk boss that he might as well be drunk himself, but he likes it even less that, somehow, by the time he turns back, Elizabeth is making out with the guy.
He actually says, "What!?" out loud.
Not that he cares, of course. (Of course.) He just... doesn't need to see that.
Elizabeth separates herself with a pop of suction -- ew -- and bats her eyelashes at him over her shoulder. "Just conducting exo...pological... research. No, that's not right."
Ford's the one who actually cracks up, and John decides that enough is enough.
"Doctor? I think you've had enough."
She displays just how much she's had by pouting and yanking her mug of ale out of reach before he can take it from her with a taunting grin. "I'm just having fun, John."
"I think we've all had enough fun."
"You're just jealous," she informs him imperiously, wrapping an arm around her alien conquest's shoulders.
The Lutterian, however, pulls away from her like she has suddenly become diseased. "I'm sorry, Major," he says immediately. "I was unaware that she was already claimed."
John can almost feel Teyla and Ford's eyes widening next to him, but in the face of Elizabeth being "claimed" by a random alien while incapacitated like she is, he'll let these people think whatever they want about their relationship.
"I think we should let her decide whether or not she feels like being claimed after she's had a night to sleep it off, don't you think?"
"It is rather late," another one of the aliens concedes. And then, like this was all an official meeting rather than a dinner party, "Perhaps we should reconvene tomorrow."
John decides to let Teyla say the formal goodnights, and takes the opportunity to grab Elizabeth's arm and pull her away from the drinks and the lecherous aliens while he can. She goes along willingly, if stumbling occasionally, and finally leans against him for balance.
They're not quite out of earshot of the other diners when she starts laughing again. "You're terrible!" She pushes against his chest for emphasis, and he ends up looping an arm around her waist to keep her from spinning into the far wall of the hallway. She really can't hold her drink.
"I, Doctor, am not the one who just almost got 'claimed' by an alien delegate who wants to study the baser parts of our culture."
"You are jealous," she says right into his neck, and trips over his foot.
He isn't jealous -- he doesn't think -- but she's very warm and snuggled right up against him, so he doesn't argue too harshly. "Am not."
"You are." She beams up at him, still red-cheeked, and he marvels at how different she looks when she's relaxed, like her professional mask transforms her into a whole other person. "It's... cute."
He groans. "I am not."
"Jealous, or cute?"
They've arrived at the multi-bed suite the Lutterians have set aside for them, and he steers her toward one of the beds. He's glad they'll all be in one room -- he doesn't think she's that drunk, but he still wouldn't feel comfortable leaving her alone.
"I'm neither." He stops next to the bed. "Door to door service."
Elizabeth snickers and licks her lips. "Not tempted to take advantage of me?"
He all but boggles at her and can, unfortunately, feel his ears getting hot. She really is bold when drunk. "Okay, Doctor-"
And her lips are against his before he can complete the sentence. And he's confused just long enough to let her tongue slip into his mouth, her hands wend around his shoulders, and good God, about half of his brain explodes with the knowledge that he is kissing Doctor Weir, and even if it's awkward and unexpected she is just as warm and soft and willing as he ever thought she would be. (And, yes, a guilty part of him has to admit that he has thought about this before. Just not very often. Or... not in a way he ever considered acting on it. She's attractive, and he spends a lot of time with her, and it would be weird not to think about it... right?)
The other, non-exploded half of his brain makes him yank himself free at the first possible opportunity. He feels like he's swallowed his tongue, and actually has to cough a few times before he can speak. "Elizabeth... this really isn't the time or place to..."
She doesn't look embarrassed. She looks thoroughly pleased with herself. "Just like I thought," she chirps, and sits down on the bed to fumble with her bootlaces. After a few different attempts to untie it, she gives up, strips off her jacket with one movement, and flops onto the bed with her boots still on.
Just like she thought... "What?"
She shoots him perhaps the wickedest look he's ever seen, and it sends his nerves everywhere tingling, like he can feel ghostly afterimages of every place her body brushed against him through his clothes.
"Aliens do kiss better," she reports, and turns away from him into her mattress.
"Hey!" No response. He shakes her shoulder. "You surprised me!"
And they're both laughing, and it feels good. It's nice to know she isn't always serious. He finds his hand brushing up and down over the bare skin of her arm below her short-sleeved red shirt, and he decides he likes this impulsive, intoxicated side of her.
Just for a moment, the impulsive, not at all intoxicated side of him wonders how far he could take this, if he could get away with smuggling her into a room where Ford and Teyla won't find them, if he could really take advantage of this situation without her hating him for it in the morning. He brushes her hair away from her face because he can, and thinks that, even though maybe he should have let her go off with that Lutterian who was so interested in her, he's glad she willingly came with him instead.
There's a knock at the suite door before Teyla pokes her head in.
"Lieutenant Ford requested first watch," she reports before settling herself on one of the other beds.
John looks back down at Elizabeth, who's smiling wistfully. The impulse to ravish her is mostly gone... but not quite. However, it's gone enough to make him spread a blanket over her and say "Good night."
"Don't worry, Major," she whispers, too low for Teyla to overhear. "I won't tell anyone about my scientific kissing discovery."
He snorts. "I told you, you didn't get a fair assessment."
Her eyes are heavy-lidded with alcohol and sleep. "We can have a rematch someday," she says with a yawn, and turns away from him to curl up under the blanket.
He rolls his eyes. "I'll be sure to remind you of that in the morning."
John ignores the raised eyebrow Teyla sends his way from across the room -- perhaps they weren't speaking as quietly as he thought -- and crawls into his own bed. Something -- maybe his ego -- really is bugging him about that kiss, and he wonders if maybe Elizabeth wasn't joking and he'll actually get a second chance at some point.
And he doesn't think it while he's totally awake, but just before he drops off he can't help but hope he won't have to wait long.