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Starring:

Jax/Angela, Lt. Col. John Sheppard

Co-starring:

Ronon Dex, Dr. Carson Beckett, Dr. Elizabeth Weir, Dr. Rodney McKay, Teyla Emmagan, Dr. Kate Heightmeyer

Special appearances:

Major Lorne, Dr. Zelenka, Lt. Laura Cadman

 1 ≈

          Late, late one night, I open my door after a sharp rap of knuckles, not expecting anyone, especially not him.

          I’ve already turned on some music to ease my mind and pain.

Slide - Dido

          Even Ronon knew I wasn’t looking for company and he really wanted to watch the next episode of Friends because Ross and Rachel broke up on the previous one. But I said: No. I had a rough day on the ice; fell on my ass too many times to think about without my complexion permanently changing to beet red.

          The I-zoola’s are amazing people and fast becoming Atlantis’s primary trading partner for fish and a special herb that staves off frost from crops, but they don’t seem to understand that pebbles on an ice lake make for lousy skating—seems skipping stones is a pass-time for the kiddies.

          Gawd, I hate kids. And what I wouldn’t give for a Zamboni.

          Major Lorne was especially cavalier, trying his best not to laugh at my tumbles. I really wanted to kick his ass when he sauntered over all manly-man and offered his hand in assistance.

          He’s quickly become Dr. Weir’s right-hand pilot when it comes to off-world negotiations. She’s one of my biggest fans aside from Dr. Zelenka, the sweetest man-candy in the universe, so when this opportunity to skate again came so soon after my last brush with everlasting joy, I jumped at it.

          Needless to say, I also leaped, tripped and skidded my whole body across a frozen lake in about ten seconds flat, right at the start of my signature triple Salchow that’s supposed to transition into a sit spin, not a face plant.

          It wasn’t until inspection on my hands and knees that I realized the fault wasn’t my old age—in 1994, I was an alternate for the Olympics team. By the ‘98 Olympics, I would’ve been considered ancient. Of course, anyone over 18 is supposedly too old in some sports terms, but I was going to try…until I nearly got dead and the United States government made me disappear. Lipinsky won that year…at the ripe old age of 15, if I remember correctly.

          Yep, I hate kids!

          The I-zoola’s find ice-skating mesmerizing and especially like listening to my music, which is quite eclectic, so the negotiations took place outside by the lake rink. Dr. Weir was the first one by my side and also the next person to fall on her butt and, therefore, the first one Lorne wished to help—out of duty, I’m sure. Personally, I think all the men—and some of the women—on Atlantis have a huge crush on the lady, but that’s just me. I hope she doesn’t bruise easily.

          So, for the sake of my bones, bruised flesh and muscles I took a long, hot bath, did some grooming maintenance and decided to spend the next twelve hours lying naked within my freshly laundered, Italian made Egyptian cotton 1020 thread-count sateen sheets. Expensive sheets are essential to daily life. My money manager, Jack, doesn’t understand my need to indulge my unlimited Earth funds on such things but sends me what I ask for. I spend a third of my time in bed, not necessarily sleeping since my nightmares tend to make me even tenser than sore muscles, but that’s why dvd’s come in handy. Might as well be as comfortable as possible. As an undiagnosed insomniac anyway, as long as I’m comfy and my mind’s occupied, I’m content.

          I was just about to toss aside my fluffy, soft with age, yellow-white striped JC Penny’s terry-cloth robe. This robe is the only item I refused to part with when the feds took everything else away. It belonged to my mom. Thinking about her makes me want to crawl under the covers and be melancholy. Reliving losing my parents only leads me to think about Charlie. I don’t remember anything about my time in the infirmary or the whole catatonic fiasco after getting the KIA notice. One minute I was howling in rage, tearing through my used shot silhouettes and the next I was in Jack’s embrace.

          Jack and Ronon.

          My family now. As long as I keep them in my head, I know I’ll never be alone. But brooding is a big part of who I am and if I’m not beating the crap out of the heavy bag in the gym, I ruminate on my own. The last thing I want to do is entertain.

          And yet, here he is!

          Sheppard’s standing in front of me, dressed in civvies and looking—oh so hot in light blue—a bit off-balance, like he doesn’t know why he’s here. A tell-tale remnant of the black eye I gave him two weeks ago—by mistake of course—still evident. He should never have gotten in the middle of a tussle between Ronon, me and my elbow.

          Oh, but the boy looks so good when he’s in pain! I’d been willing to kiss it and make it better, but Ronon didn’t think Sheppard would appreciate the effort at the time; mostly because the black eye wasn’t the worst of his injuries. I managed to land a solid kick to an even more tender spot.

          Could’ve kissed that better too.

          So, basically, he’s the last person I expected to see at my door, let alone stepping into my room without a word or invitation. Then he starts pacing near the bathroom on the other side while running a hand through his gorgeous bed-head, black hair. I bet it’s as soft as it looks. It’s not a big space, so he only has a few feet to maneuver in, but the energy bouncing off of him must need some outlet. He’s more wired than the Energizer Rabbit.

          Keeping my expression neutral, even though I’m kind of disturbed by his audacity of moving into my personal space without asking, very manly-man of him—damn that’s so hot!

          No! It’s not hot; it’s annoying—in a totally hot way!

          Gawd, now I need a cold shower and my sub-conscience needs to get out of the damn gutter! It’s all about managing the Id factor: the pleasure principle. Want. Need. Have. Oooo, those words sound so good with his name following them.

          Shut up, Jax!

          I do that a lot these days, talk to myself in the third person. Dr. Heightmeyer finds it intriguing but has yet to insist on a padded cell. She figures it’s my way of coping with all my trauma. Big drama queen, that’s me. And as annoying as Jax is, I still cling to her like a security blanket. Mostly because that’s how people know me here, but also because Jax is my surviving center, my strength, the fighter. Without her, I’d be a sniveling mess. And I hate to cry…more than I hate kids.

          On Atlantis, only a few select hi-ranking officials and one non-Earth resident know my true story. And of them, only Ronon knows the real me. At least what I let him see of the real me. He believes that Jax is nothing more than a mask that I hide behind to keep others at bay. He couldn’t be right and still so wrong.

          To be clear, I don’t have a ‘split’ personality, I have one mind…with divergent agendas—and attention spans—at times. Angela/Jax, Jax/Angela, really there’s only a slight difference. Discipline. Emotional discipline, really. Jax has it, Angela…not so much. I’m completely aware of my coping mechanisms as Dr. H. calls them. It’s just safer to be Jax…especially around him

 

Take My Hand - Dido

          But I must focus!

          Bring on the Ego and Superego, because I’ll need both to counteract those naughty Id impulses. I’m not a psychologist or anything, but I love to read and have the curse/gift of a photographic memory. It came in handy during my high school SAT’s, college GRE’s and the trial that destroyed my life. I remember everything I read, see or hear—and in a recent twist, physically feel, if I concentrate hard enough—as if it’s happening right now. Or now!

          Hah, I made a funny.

          Anyway, over the years I spent in witness protection; let’s just say I had a lot of downtime to increase my mental cache.

          I tighten the belt at my waist and cross my arms, staying near the door, though I let it close, uninterrupted. Tilting my head, I watch him, waiting for who-the-hell-knows-what. I’m completely in awe of this man. He makes the air sizzle by his mere presence—not to mention what he does to my hoo-ha without even trying.

          He rubs the back of his neck then lifts his hazel eyes towards me from under his brows, classic puppy dog look that always seems to make people lose their higher reasoning abilities. Well, not this girl. At least…not…while…he’s a witness to it.

          Truth be told, he has remarkable power over me; one look from him, even if it’s not directed at me, and I’m oooh-god-yes. Almost. There! A quick mental head-slap from Jax usually manages to pull me back to reality, and now seems like a good time for one. Ouch!

          “Jax,” he says softly, his voice unusually deep. “I mean…Angela,” he grins, exposing the dimples of utter destruction.

          “Sheppard.” I’m cautious to keep my tone and voice as neutral as my face. The way he’s dressed, how he’s all sheepish and boyishly gorgeous is a dangerous mix. Where’s Col. Sheppard? Him I can deal with, all business, no subtext, no…damned dimples. Something’s different here. The way he says my real name…it’s unnerving how many butterflies it sends through my belly and the immediate tickle a bit lower…oh yeah, he’s goooood.

          He sniffs and starts pacing again, only occasionally catching my eyes.

          I keep still, pretending to be relaxed when every muscle in my body wants to jump him, soreness and bruises be damned. Whew, thankfully I have an ironclad Superego to overrule that childish Id, not to mention a strong sense of I-never-want-to-embarrass-myself-in-front-of-this-man-ever-again! It’s kind of my motto.

          He quits pacing abruptly and holds up a hand as if it’s a stop sign. “Look.” He licks his lips. He’s got some great lips, full, kissable. “I don’t know how to say this,” he chuckles lightly.

          “Usually, words help.”

          This pulls him up to full height—damn he’s tall—and he narrows his eyes, seemingly amused by my dry but witty repartee. “Okay.” More lip licking obviously meant to drive me crazy or lull me into a submissive state. “I know you…like me.” His gaze dances around the room, briefly hitting mine before looking away again.

          Oh, yeah, there’s a real shocker.

          What’s he doing here? Can’t a girl live out her fantasies in her own mind without the fantasy police coming by in the form of said fantasy to stop the action before it’s even started? I haven’t gone to bed yet and already he doesn’t want me trying to dream about him. This sucks! As needed, Jax returns in full force. My spine straightens and my blood cools a bit, ready for a fight if necessary. I will defend my right to a proper sexual fantasy if I must.

          Taking a deep breath, I hug myself a little tighter, holding on to my imaginary Sheppard clone and I shrug as if there’s nothing wrong with a thirtyish young woman having an imaginary sex toy who just happens to look exactly like the most gorgeous man in the universe. “Lot’s of women like you, Sheppard,” I say as calmly as possible, adding a second, single shoulder shrug. “You’re a nice guy.” Nice guy, ha, that should hit him where it hurts. Oh wait, I already did that.

          “No…that’s not‒” He presses his lips together tightly. Closing his eyes, he starts again. “What I want to say is…ahh…I…like you…too.”

          Towabbawhohuh? My brows practically jump off my forehead, but I have no say in the matter. If they go flying about the room, it’s all his fault. He opens his eyes and flashes the dimples again, like a one-two punch my gut spasms and the tickle in my hoo-ha returns threatening to destroy even Jax’s restraint.

          “What?” I gasp.

          Naw. This can’t be real. He’s playing me. It’s some big joke. Ronon! Has to be. Well, I’ll show them. I can play just as hard. I give him my skeptical single raised brow, what Ronon calls my ‘don’t-fuck-with-me’ weapon. “You saying you have a crush on me, Sheppard?” Only Jax can manage saying that with an amused tone, a straight face, and not falling to kiss his feet…oooh, he’s got big feet…that means… Stop! If it’s a game of wills, he’s met the best on the playground.

          His brows wrinkle and his mouth scrunches up into the cutest little pucker as he tries to find the right words to continue this torment. “Well…not…exactly‒”

          Ah ha! Gotcha. See, that’s the problem with nice guys. They don’t like to lie. He even looks embarrassed.

          When he’s suddenly shifty on his feet and shoves his hands into his pockets, my alarm bells go off. I know what this is about. As much as I’d love to toy with him some more and have him make more of those adorable faces, it’s best to pull off the Band-Aid fast. It’ll sting me for a while, but, I’ve known worse pain. “Don’t worry,” I say coolly. “I’m not going to follow you around The City like some lovesick fangirl.”

          How about a woman stranded on an island with just him and a crate full of chocolate sauce?

          I mentally sneer at my little voice. “I’m too old for that.” But not too old for an invisible clone? Gotta draw the line somewhere. Since we got this whole fiasco straightened out, I tell Atlantis to open my door, but it stops halfway when Sheppard holds up a hand.

          “Wait,” he says. “That’s not…” he sighs heavily, rubbing his neck anew.

          I let the door close. Maybe he needs a massage and doesn’t want to ask because he’s afraid I’ll beat him up again. I’d never do that. Seeing him wrapped in the tiny joke towel I give him at the end of his sessions is more than enough incentive for me.

          “I kind of had a dream tonight.”

          He’s already been to bed? Hmm…Sheppard in bed. I wonder what he wears…

          “Actually for a while now…that…well, involves…you.”

          Huh?

          “And me…from…before.”

          “Before…?” I echo, dragging out the word as a question. Okay, no hyperventilating allowed. Just because John Sheppard said he’s been dreaming about me! Okay hyperventilating is called for, but not at this exact moment. I cross my arms, not hugging the clone so much as locking my hands down so I don’t rush over and tear his clothes off. That’s a nice shirt.

          He shrugs and makes another face. “As in the pheromone thing…before.”

          I barely feel my voice as it leaves my mouth. “You remember?” Why’d he get so lucky? I didn’t get to remember anything…except for those…hmmm…lovely multiple… get a grip!

          He takes a deep breath, runs his hand through his hair and chuckles lightly, nervously. “I can’t forget.”

          He steps closer to me and I’m so ready to pounce…but that would be wrong.

          Not wrong.

          So wrong!

          He’s talking, and I know I should be listening but my eyes keep seeing the top button of his shirt is undone, and there’s…ohgawdyes, dark chest hair peeking through. Mental sigh.

          Okay, so I’m a sixteen-year-old locked in the—not completely falling apart—body of a non-disclosed age…that I refuse to admit even to myself. I figure my eight years in government-funded captivity equates as, well, eight years of no birthdays, so I sort of moved forward in time without aging…at all! I don’t care if it sounds crazy, it’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

          Did he just say he can’t forget our hook-up? Stop ogling and listen to the man.

          “And that’s a problem. See. I’m getting distracted.”

          Did I hear that right? He’s distracted by me? “I’m…sorry?” Not at all! Nope.

          He starts talking faster; using his hands much the same way Dr. McKay does, but stammering like I’ve never seen. It’s really adorable. “No… I’m thinking this thing, this attraction wasn’t given…what I mean to say, is that these…feelings I’m remembering…it’s just that, we…you and I…haven’t had any closure on the topic. And I’m wondering…” he trails off, his embarrassment evident in the blush creeping up his neck.

          Omigawd. Oh. My. Gawd! I may not be the sanest woman in the galaxy, and I freely admit that, but I swear I just heard John Sheppard say he wants another shot at making my body sing.

          Remain calm.

          And what? The red zone is for the immediate loading and unloading of passengers only? Since when did Jax become a flight attendant? Remain calm, my ass. He wants me! If I could do it without embarrassing myself, I’d squee!

          Instead, I clear my throat, force the smile of joy from forming and give him my Jax-serious, narrowed eyes and wrinkled brow. “Sheppard?”

          He looks up with those puppy eyes. So want to pet him right now! “Yeah?”

          Restraint is key. That’s how I manage to keep a straight face and flat tone, even when asking this question: “Do you want to have sex with me again?”

          Please. Please. Please!

          “Well…I…” he shakes his head. “This was a bad idea.” He takes a step toward the door, but I step in the way, holding up a hand.

          You’re not getting away that easily, mister.

          “Let me get this straight first.” He’s dodgy but I catch his gaze. Those gorgeous hazel eyes look almost blue with that shirt…oooh, top two buttons openwhen did that happen? mmm definitely chest hair! Mental head slap… I’m so sick of abusing myself.

          It’s time to abuse mister manly-man; although, he’s not behaving like a ‘drag-you-by-the-hair’ manly-man. This is just some regular guy looking for a hook-up. A really scorching hot, regular guy. But even Angela can handle a regular guy. My Id chuckles with an evil laugh and I have to fight the grin.

          I lick my lips, not out of nervousness, but for the right reason: to make him think of kissing me, of course, I’m not a fool. “You have a theory that our attraction... or infatuation as Dr. Beckett called it, was not thoroughly explored and therefore left...what? Residual urges.”

          He nods, bows his head to the side and does the most adorable shoulder shrug. Ha! I’m not the only sixteen-year-old in the room. “Pretty much.”

          Yeah, he’s looking at my lips. Score! “And in your opinion, another…romp,” I chose that word very carefully and threw in a nod to accentuate it. “Would get rid of these urges so that we can get on with our lives and you will no longer be distracted.” Man, when did I start talking like Teyla?

          His mouth twists slightly and he dodges my gaze again. But he keeps checking out my lips. Score. Score! “Sounds ridiculous when you spell it out like that,” embarrassed laugh.

          Ooooh, could he be any cuter! He should be illegal. Now, how to continue with honor and dignity but without letting him in on the fact that I’ve given my invisible clone the night off in the hope that the real thing will stick around.

          “Well...” I say, raising that single brow again, “it might have some merit.” This time I flash a half smirk. “Theoretically speaking. And…” Should I say it? Couldn’t hurt now that I think about it. Go for it. “I never was a one-night-stand kinda girl.” Sheppard’s eyes narrow as he tries to decide if I’m playing with him or not.

          Like any woman could say ‘no’ to that mug and bod. Please!

          Still, do I want to take the chance that another round might tarnish the previous experience? I mean, there was alien technology involved, heightened arousal from the lust-o-rama gizmo. Maybe if we go at it, he won’t find me…well, all that.

          A warning label might not hurt. Let him know I’ve been out of practice…with a real-live partner anyway. It has been a long time.

          “But, still, you may want to reconsider,” I say slowly, keeping my tone flippant as I continue. “The last guy I had sex with—that wasn’t under some alien influence—told me I was a lousy lay right before he shot me in the chest. Not exactly a glowing personal reference.”

          Sheppard’s eyes widen in shock and something else seeps in, a tenderness that sends an electric zing straight to my hoo-ha. Oh man, he’s got some seriously sexy eyes on him. I can’t be the only woman he can do this to…can I?

          He’s closing in on me and my heart’s beating in my ears. He’s not looking away anymore. No more embarrassment. My mouth and lips are dry, but I manage to find my voice. “The first part, I can live without ever hearing again. And the second part...?”

          He’s right in front of me now, staring down at me with that melt-you-to-the-core gaze.

          Oh, yeah, just some regular guy, my ass!

          He cups my face in those amazing, warm hands, tilting my head so that our eyes meet. His aftershave tickles my nostril. He shaved for me? Did I just whimper? No, I couldn’t have.

          He’s looking at me like I’m an ice cream sundae with hot fudge and a cherry on top…and he’s very, very hungry. I’ve never been looked at like that before. It’s kinda scary. “You planning on shooting me, Sheppard?”

          Shut the hell up, Jax!

          “Call me John.” Then his lips are on mine, soft but demanding, tantalizing…pure passion and lust that’s what he’s offering up to me. And wow—major shout out to whoever taught this boy to kiss, he’s got some dangerous talent and‒

          Ohhhh my…when his tongue hits mine, I swear I see stars. 

Lose Control - Evanescence

           I sort of lose track of time, space and my robe shortly after. I’ll never understand his power over me—not just me either since Jax is me and I am her, where the hell does my self-determination go? In the back of my mind, I hear my Id laughing: lust is not an emotional response needing management, but a physical indulgence.

          I guess that makes sense. I’m not in love with this man. Though in all honesty…but Jax would never let that happen. I simply find him irresistible and on this, I am of one mind. He’s so pretty. And a great kisser…and…oh, screw it. I give up.

          I don’t know if I stumbled and hit the wall or if he pushed me against it, but there I am, trapped between two hard—oh yeah, definitely hard—places and I’m giggling. I never giggle. Okay, that’s a lie. I rarely giggle. And he’s smiling against my mouth, his hands caressing my cheeks and breath teasing my lips. “So, I guess you’re okay with testing my theory?” He kisses me again until I moan deep in my throat.

          “Strictly for scientific purposes, of course,” I mutter as I play my tongue over his bottom lip before gently tugging it between my teeth. He pulls back enough to look into my eyes and I see a little-boy gleam in his…like he’s just gotten the best toy in the world.

          Oh, crap…now I’m a boy-toy?

          His mouth covers mine again and his tongue starts doing all sorts of naughty exploring. Yeah…I can live with that.

          The man is all muscle, not bulky or over-pumped, simply chiseled, sculpted muscle that my fingers seek and grip after ripping open his shirt. Yeah, I did it, tore those last few buttons right off…such a bad girl when my Id gets involved. And I let my hands and fingers do the walking. He’s got an amazing chest and tight abs, but it’s his arms I adore. I’ve always had a thing for toned, strong arms. I push his shirt off and grip his shoulders, pulling him against me, wanting the feel of his skin on mine. But he has other ideas and so do his hands.

          Finally breaking the latest kiss that seems to last forever, he leaves me panting as he trails his hot lips and tongue down my neck to take up residence where his fingers are currently toying with my tender skin.

          Now, I’ve never really been fond of my upper torso, the excess baggage never looked particularly attractive from my perspective, too big, not perky enough and always managed to get in the way without a decent sports bra, but with the way he’s paying homage to it… ohmyyes… that… mmm tickles…I’m starting to have a new-found respect for my assets, especially when his mouth closes around me, gently sucking.

          My fingers dig into his hair pulling him closer. “J…oh…n,” I manage out of nowhere. I could have sworn my voice had been replaced by a cat’s purr. I’d never done that before…but hey, I’d never had a mini-orgasm from a guy simply looking at me either. I have a strong suspicion John Sheppard is a man of many firsts. And I so want them!

          He’s too busy to answer and simply, ‘hmm’s’ against my skin as his teeth tug ever so slightly on my…uh…oh that there…the vibration from his voice combined with the pressure and searing heat from his tongue sends me right over the mini-edge and my body shudders with pleasure—it has been a long time!  He grins between my breasts as he grazes kisses towards the next one.

          After a few seconds of pure bliss, my mind returns so I can finish what I wanted to ask, though my question comes out stilted because he’s still assaulting me so wonderfully. “Not to be rude... but...is this… you… being… Kirk?”

          “Fuckin’ Rodney,” he grumbles against my skin, his voice again sending that tickle deep down. But he pulls his warm mouth away and I do whimper. His eyes burrow into mine as he straightens and he presses himself against me, pinning me even closer to the wall with his arousal growing, rubbing into me. His chest hair tickles my breasts, an erotic sensation I’ve never known before. I want him to kiss me, but he’s just staring into my eyes, a bit angry it seems.

          With his hands on my sides, he easily lifts me higher so we’re at eye level. My feet no longer touch the floor and he urges my legs open with his knees, resting me against his hips. I bend my knees, clutching his waist and push the pads of my feet against the wall for balance. He’s still wearing his pants and the bulging fabric rubs my already tender spot and I gasp at the tactile feel of his confined hardness. I don’t realize I’ve closed my eyes until he says a husky, “Look at me.” And I open them. “Why would you think that?”

          I’m at a loss for words really, considering…everything, but the look in his eyes is not just tinged with anger but also a hint of sadness, a little boy who’s been scolded for something he didn’t do. I want to look away, have to look away, but can’t. And he’s waiting for an answer.

          “Let’s face it... you could have any woman in Atlantis. Or considering that Ancient chick from Proculus, the hottest in the universe for that matter.”

          Besides that, the rumor mill has him as the slut of Atlantis. I’m hoping like hell the rumors aren’t true. Most can’t be possible, I mean, where would the guy find the energy to be banging so many different people? Just by a time-management factor, alone, it’d be impossible.

          “Why me?” I ask. “Not exactly a challenge, you see.”

          His gaze softens and his left hand begins new tantalizing travels down my side and slips between our closeness, skimming over my belly, making me gasp in anticipation. “You just said it.” He chuckles deeply, spreading feather light kisses along my jawline. “Seems, I wanted to be with the hottest woman in the universe.”

          “Wow!” I laugh hard and bang my head against the wall. “You’re good!”

          “Rumor has it... so are you.” He slides his hand between my legs and my laugh chokes off into a gurgled ohmygawd!

          There’s a rumor about me being good? I’d never heard that. I know there’s one about me trying to kill myself…twice …and one about Ronon and me being this galaxy’s version of sex-crazed bunnies, but that’s a given, considering how much time we spend together and that no one seems to understand how I don’t find him as…a…stimulating…oh my what’s…he…ahhh.

          His fingers find their next target and start to move in slow, delicious circles. My grip on his arms tightens, fingertips digging into flesh and he grins at me. For the first time, I realize how fortunate I am to no longer work in the kitchen. Now that I’m the city masseuse—and quite busy at that—my hands are always soft and I keep my nails short. So maybe it’s fortunate for him since I tend to have a very strong grip and know my pressure points. Including one… right… there.

          He moans with pleasure as a shiver runs down his spine. He captures my eyes again. “Where did you learn that?”

          “What?” I ask innocently before pushing the button on his neck again. “That?” He moans louder and quivers again. With my other hand, I hit the opposite side of his neck. “Or that?”

          His breath catches and his eyes roll back for a second then he attacks my lips as I laugh with delight. Down below, there’s more pressure and a subtle flick of his thumb and…ohhhhh…I throw my head back, digging my teeth into my bottom lip so hard I’m sure to draw blood. Now it’s my turn for my eyes to roll back, but his free hand comes up and grips the side of my face; thumb caressing my cheek as his fingers slip into my hair. “Focus, Angela,” he orders in that husky voice. “Look at me.”

          Angela! He said it again. No. Call me Jax. She can handle you.

          My breath catches as my eyes lock back onto his. Okay, so my eyes aren’t exactly focusing… more like swimming through a hazy pool because those stars come back and start pulsing in my brain. The intensity of his gaze…oh boy, am I in trouble…makes my stomach flop as if I’d just taken a huge drop on a roller coaster.

          I love that feeling!

          I can’t take it anymore. I grab him with both hands and pull his mouth back to mine, dining on his lips, grazing them between my teeth, tasting every part of him with my tongue. I want to devour him and he knows it. And by the rumble he releases, I pretty certain he doesn’t mind. “So…we’re both…so good…” I sigh between kisses, on rapid-fire breaths. “We were…bound to…bump…” uhhhh…mmmm.

          “And grind,” He whispers teasingly against my lips, sending fire through my body.

          “Into…each…other?”

          His teeth catch my bottom lip with gentle pressure then he releases me with a push from his tongue. “It was inevitable.” His fingers suddenly stop their torment leaving me stunned, my mind dizzy. His eyes take on that serious, anger tinged gleam again and my heart slams into my ribs. “But I don’t like rumors.” He leans in, brushing his face against mine then pressing his mouth to my ear as his free hand leaves a trail of tickles down my right side. “I like you. I want you.”

          Then his fingers find a new destination, and my breath hitches at the intimate entry. Oh my it's been too long! He’s stoking me with every motion, making me pant and hum with desire. Muscles tighten as the pressure builds, until I see flames behind my eyelids, sending me into pulse-pounding oblivion. “Gawd Johnny!”

          Thank the Ancients for soundproof walls, that’s all I have to say.

          Okay even though the first was a mini, I’m counting that as two. What the hell is going on here? Not that I’m complaining. At all! But since when did my body become this orgasm machine? Back in my previous life, I’d be lucky to get one, not even in my dreams do I get multies. Now, either John Sheppard has some other ‘gene’ that makes this possible or there really is some remnant left over from the lust-o-rama device.

          “Say that again,” he whispers in my ear. Demanding.

          I’m breathless and finding it difficult to focus now that he’s finally freed himself of confinement and is slowly but firmly massaging his length against me. “Johnny?”

          “Yes,” he groans. “Again.”

          “Johnny,” I pant on a rush of air.

          He pulls back, gripping my eyes with his. “Again.”

          I smile as I hold his gaze and whisper hotly. “Johnny.”

          And swiftly, he’s inside me, hot and hard, and my head slams against the wall as the stars burst into novas. He grunts with satisfaction, capturing my mouth and slipping his tongue inside as his hands grasp my breasts, thumbs taunting me into a quivering frenzy; giving me time to adjust to his size.

          What’d I say… big hands, big feet. You can thank me later.

          Ignoring Jax, I clasp my hands behind his neck as I tighten my legs against his sides, noticing he’s still wearing his pants. That’s not fair, why does he get to be partially dressed…but the insane thought dies as he starts to move. Withdrawing ever so slowly only to return in a torturous long, hot invasion that makes my body ache for more. So, this is what 100 percent John Sheppard feels like…ohyes! I probably won’t be able to skate, dance—or hell for that matter—walk for a week.

          As the pleasure builds, my Id takes over. Want John. Need John. Must Have all of John! Trapping him between my legs, ankles crossing behind his back, I push hard against him, pulling him deeper. He breaks the kiss as a gasp catches in his throat at my counter-argument to his languid approach. I give him a sly half grin as a challenge.

          “Damn,” he mutters. His eyes are as glazed as mine, but he’s not lost yet as evidenced by the smile he gives in return. Pulling his warm hands from my flesh, he smacks them into the wall on either side of me, and pushes himself harder, slamming our bodies together, chest against chest, and planting his lips on my neck, grazing my skin with his teeth, down to a shoulder. It’s a fast, perilous ride, as we huff and grunt in unison. My head batters the wall—so worth it—with every powerful drive.

          It’s not long before an unbelievable, full-body quake erupts within me, sending hot lava through my veins, muscles spasm and relax—putting the earlier thrills plus that long hot bath to shame—and I collapse against him, his name catching in my throat. A moment later, his body trembles and he moans into my neck.

          But he’s not done with me yet. Somewhere along the way, I remember equating him with the Energizer Rabbit…massive understatement! Stamina is not something this man lacks. And… oh, what’s…?

          His strong arms surround me, crushing my body to his even as he roughly grabs my hair and yanks my head back so he can smother my mouth with his and suck out my soul.

          I lose the wall support and hold on to him as he maneuvers to the bed, guiding us down in tandem without so much as pulling out of the kiss. Oh yeah…he’s a god among mortals! The coolness of my sheets rub my back and John’s sweat-slick skin slides on top of me. Hmmm, die happy now. But, oh no.

          “He lied,” John whispers, his teeth tugging on my earlobe before locking his mouth to mine with an intense, hungry groan. What? Who-ooooh! He’s moving again, plunging deeper, faster almost violently working his way inside me. I try to raise my hips to meet his, but his weight keeps me down. Then his hands slip over my thighs, urging me to release the hold I have around his waist.

          I moan my resistance into his mouth, but he pulls away, looking down at me and says the two most dangerous words in the human language. “Trust me.” And he deploys the dimples of utter destruction and my willpower is forgotten. Sure, let him lead the way. And boy-howdy does he!

          He molds me to his desire. So many thrusts, each one more forceful, powerful than the previous, but every one of them hits me oooh right there! And I realize what he’s actually trying to do…the man’s gonna fuck me into an orgasm induced coma!

          Oh, what the hell. Why not? Can’t think of a better way to go…

          And then I’m gone. I know I screamed…don’t know exactly what I screamed, but there was definite volume on the back end of that one and then the universe exploded behind my eyes. I think I actually blacked out there for a moment.

          The tingles and joyful spasms ebb and I open my eyes—pretty much the only thing I can move at the moment—and I see mister manly-man—yep he’s definitely one of them—in all his finally unclothed, amazing glory as he stands over me, gazing at my pliable form with those hungry eyes and…holy shit…still very much aroused.

          What’d he do, take a Viagra just to make sure these urges never return? I mean, c’mon, give a girl a break…we can do this again some other time…again and again and…

          “That’s three,” he says with a self-satisfied grin.

          “Four,” I croak, my voice as weak as my newly muscle-free body.

          He shakes his head as he lays down, half on and half off me. “Nope…” he’s trailing kisses over my forehead and face down my neck to my chest again. I’m starting to understand men’s fascination with breasts now…especially what they can do to them if they have the talent. “Three.”

          I’m trying to figure out why it’s important. Is he running a tally? Does he have a pool going with some of the guys? What’s the big deal? He says three, I say four…seems like I’m the winner either way.

          He must have noticed my attention waning because his tongue stops doing that oh so lovely motion around my nipple and he looks up at me, grinning. “You had three last time.”

          Okay…? I don’t have the breath to say anything so I just raise my brows in question.

          He licks his way up to my collarbone then nips at my chin and plants little kisses on the sides of my mouth. “If we want to beat this thing…” He’s grinning down at me. “We have to do better than last time.”

          “Oh,” I manage, flashing a barely-there smile of understanding. Yep, definitely trying to kill me.

          And then he’s on me again, his mouth claiming mine in a searing kiss meant to send me straight to heaven. I try to reach for him, touch him, give him something of what he’s giving me, but his hands firmly grip my wrists and lock them over my head. At first I struggle, but it’s no use, I’m pretty much Jell-O now.

          “No,” he says firmly, gazing into my eyes with an unmistakable fire. One hand easily holds both my wrists in place as the other traces a finger over my forehead, around my sweaty cheek to my bruised lips. His fingers dance over my throat and for an instant I’m reminded of the Bugman attacking me in the corridor…wanting to do worse than kill me.

          John must have seen a flicker of memory in my eyes because he releases his hold on my wrists and his hand at my throat suddenly moves to my waist and he rolls his weight off me. As he pulls away, I see the fire in his eyes replaced with something else…guilt.

          My heart slams into my ribs with such force I think it might break bones. I clench my jaw, grinding my teeth, close my eyes and turn my face from him. He wasn’t supposed to know. I never wanted that thing to come between us…even though I never in my wildest dreams believed there’d be an ‘us’ to come between.

          I’m gonna kill Ronon!

          “He didn’t tell me,” John says softly, his hand lazily tracing zigzags over my flat belly.

          I hadn’t realized I’d said anything aloud. After a few moments of seething, I open my eyes, finding him hovering above with his hands on the mattress on either side of my head, legs planted between mine. The guilt remains, but not as overwhelming as before. He’s drinking me in with his eyes as he rubs against me.

          I’m raw and a bit sore… but I don’t care. I want him, again. And again!

          “Then…how?” I ask quietly, trying not to be distracted by the amazing feel of him against my skin.

          “I just remembered is all,” he says without meeting my gaze. He shakes his head. “I’m sorry.”

          Oh no, no mood spoilers in this room. We’ve got a record to beat. Now that my hands are free, I cup his face and force him to look at me. “Not your fault.”

          “Yes–”

          “John, nothing happened.”

          “But…I almost…I wanted to…hurt you.”

          “No, you didn’t. The virus was in command, not you. You stopped it. You saved me.”

          “But–”

          “No!” I leave no room for further argument. I use my eyes to dig into his mind and force him to see that I believe it wasn’t him that attacked me so he has no choice but to believe it as well.

          Then, I let my Id come out to play again, grinning as I return my arms overhead, linking fingers together so I don’t move, which won’t be too difficult considering I’m still pretty much Jell-O. “Your theory still has another test, correct?”

          It takes a moment for the guilt to leave his gaze, but as his eyes take in my apparent vulnerability, that adorable sideways smirk appears before he kisses me again: a long, luscious even innocent kiss that makes my brain fuzzy with renewed desire. He pulls back and stares at me, running his hands up my body, cupping my breasts before traveling back down to my legs. The fire quickly returns for both of us and he attacks my lips with new-found hunger sending all kinds of zings to my hoo-ha all over again.

          I’m so hopeless, it’s pathetic. But it feels so good! Gotta love that Id girl…she knows what she likes.

          Though the kiss is passionate and bruising, he chooses a different way to torture me this time. Slow, gentle, exceedingly tender, leaving me whimpering with pleasure and begging for him to pound my flesh to his will. He obliges eagerly and finally allows himself the powerful release that sends me spiraling into number five. Yeah, sue me. I’m still counting that first one.

1.5

          John stares at his reflection, not recognizing himself. Where the hell did that come from? He’s never behaved like that before. Never treated a woman so…he doesn’t even want to think about it.

          He splashes cold water over his face then grabs the hand towel. As he dries his eyes, he catches his reflection again only to quickly look away. Something indescribable came over him the moment he stepped into the room tonight. Seeing her freshly showered, standing in that ratty old robe, he felt overcome with hunger. Hunger only she could sate.

          He closes his shirt with the only remaining buttons available, reliving the last couple of hours in a few moments. Damn…it’s…he’s never been that intense, that insatiable before.

          He’s been feeling that way for a while, believing he had it over-powered. He buried it deep down and ignored the growing tension in his body. He tried to put her out of his head. Stay busy with work. Go on missions. But it never failed. Something would alert him to her presence. She never seemed to notice him, however.

          After a while, he started seeking her out. I’ve actually been stalking the poor woman.

          A week and a half ago, he found her alone in the Westside gym, dancing slowly to the most sensual music, an alluring vision of beauty and grace he wanted to caress, but he hid in the shadows of the corridor, not letting on that he was watching. Still, he got the impression she knew someone was there. When she finished, she looked around cautiously, on edge. He felt horrible for putting her on the defense after she’d been so relaxed, but he said nothing, stayed hidden.

          A few days later, he caught sight of her and Ronon sparring in the Eastside gym. They don’t use sticks, it’s strictly hand-to-hand combat. She’s so much smaller than Ronon and yet manages to keep her own, actually forcing the man to his knees with an arm twisted behind his back. John wonders how she did that but is afraid to ask because then she’ll know he’s been spying. Ronon won the match, but only because she got distracted and looked over her shoulder to see who was in the door. John couldn’t hide fast enough and she saw him. He avoided her eyes. Ronon took advantage in that instant and tossed her to the floor like a ragdoll. She’d gotten revenge, however: a solid head-butt that knocked the big guy silly for a few seconds.

          Three days ago, John followed her to the private room she uses for target practice. Again, he watched in silence, spying on her for no other reason than to see her in motion. She looks good with a gun in her hand. Not to mention how aroused he got seeing her throw the daggers with such precision. She has so many amazing talents; he doesn’t understand why Ronon’s not attracted to her. And yet, at the same time, he’s grateful. She seemed tense and watchful. She must have a spidey-sense because she always seems to know when he’s around. It’s unnerving as hell. But then again, he’s the one doing the stalking.

          So, he didn’t lie earlier. She has been distracting him; ever since seeing her skate on I-zoola two weeks ago. Something came over him that day. A wave of desire that’s been messing with his attention span. He thought he could bury it. Ignore all the impulses his body kept throwing at him on a daily basis. He thought he had it beat.

          Then he heard her confession to the girls in the poker game. After that...he was lost.

          And then tonight, the dream…or memory—whatever—returned, clearer than ever. Her flesh in his hands, the look in her eyes as she gazed at him with unrestrained passion, the trembles of her body as she climaxed. He wanted all of it again. Her name became a siren song in his head, refusing to let him sleep…ever again, if he didn’t act. He had to have her. Had to feel her. Just one more time. That’s what he swore. It’s infatuation…strictly physical. Some leftover chemical imbalance because of the Ancient device.

          This powerful lust drove him through The City, pushing him right into her room without so much as a word. By the time he got here, he was so agitated, he felt like he was going insane. John shakes his head. He can’t imagine what might have happened if she’d denied him.

          But she hadn’t. And she called him Johnny. He likes that for some weird reason. No one’s ever called him that before. He’s always been John. Or John-John to his mom. But never Johnny. It sounds so…juvenile. And yet when it comes on a rush of ecstasy…he really likes it. He really likes her saying it.

          John tosses the towel aside and steps into the bedroom. She’s facing him, lying on her side in the fetal position under the top sheet, lost to the world. She looks so young. So innocent. Who’d have thought?

          He’d shoot that guy who lied to her if he could. Of course, the asshole said that just to kill her a little more before bothering to shoot her. John knew she didn’t fall for it, though. She’s got skills, and she knows it. Though, if he’s right about the timeline, he’s the first guy she’s been with in eight or nine years.

          Damn! Nearly a decade! And here I thought three years was a prison in the making. Okay, two and a half, anyway.

          Still, he’s sure she only mentioned it as a way to play with him some more. And she’s good at that. His discomfort amused her and she didn’t try to hide it. She toyed with him, keeping him off-balance, making him work for everything.

          But at the same time, he gets the impression that she might have said it as a way to get him to leave, like a warning or hazard sign. There was a look she had, right before he kissed her the first time. A second before she asked him if he was going to shoot her, he caught the briefest glimpse of panic. But then it disappeared, replaced with steely power and determination. Not to mention a hell of a lot of passion.

          She’s a puzzle, that’s for sure. But he likes that about Jax.

          Or is it Angela?

          Who was he really with tonight? He calls her Angela because that’s her real name…but he’s not so sure if it’s really her. There’s a split-second change in her stature and especially her eyes when she’s one and not the other. Ronon calls it her Jax mask. It gives nothing away. Almost like a black hole. John has no idea how she feels or what she’s thinking from one moment to the next unless she tells him. But even then, he doesn’t know if she’s telling the truth. It’s impossible to know if she’s lying.

          He’s never been attracted to someone so inscrutable. She keeps him on edge which makes his stomach twist a bit.

          John moves to the side of the bed and stares down at her. So innocent. It makes his heart beat a little faster. He’s never known anyone like her. She’s tough but undeniably vulnerable, sexy but almost demure in her sexuality. She’s also extremely bright but refuses to let her intelligence shine. She’s a conundrum, an enigma and he’s drawn to that.

          His memory flashes and he remembers Jax lying on the gurney after collapsing in the mess. Her gaze was so open, so hopeful when she looked at him, apparently seeing her lost love in his eyes. And then a moment later, realizing her mistake and all that emotion vanished in an instant.

          It happened again when she started hallucinating in the infirmary and he managed to calm her down, tricking her into believing he was Ryan by calling her Angela. Then, boom, Jax returned threatening Beckett, of all people. Of course, it was right after the doctor stuck her with a needle full of sedative. That didn’t go over well at all.

          John finally heard her whole story from Gen. O’Neill a couple of months ago, after the shock of her half-brother’s death sent her into a catatonic state and the General’s visit managed to pull her back out. When he thinks about what Angela’s been through, it’s easy to understand why Ronon’s so protective of her.

          God, Ronon. If he finds out about this I’m so screwed!

          “Mom!” Angela shouts in her sleep, suddenly flipping onto her back, her face losing the innocence and taking on unimaginable pain. “Daddy!” She sobs, clutching the sheet to her chest. “...nooo...”

          John sits on the edge of the bed, but she doesn’t wake. She’s crying silently, whimpering. It’s heart-wrenching to see anyone in this much emotional agony. John traces a finger over her forehead, trying to smooth the wrinkled brow. “S’okay, Angie,” he whispers. “Everything’s okay.”

          She shakes her head, biting her bottom lip. “Don’t leave me…please,” she sobs. “Daddy…” Her begging sends spikes of pain into John’s heart, but it’s what she says next, in a hushed voice, that nearly stops it. “I’m scared.”

          John stretches out on the bed next to her, pulling her into his arms and letting her cry on his shoulder. “Don’t be afraid, Angie.”

          She whimpers and sobs some more. “m’all alone.”

          John holds her, whispering soothing words. After a while, she drifts out of the nightmares and rolls away from him. She doesn’t wake before he leaves.

₪†₪

Chapter Text

≈ 2 ≈ 

          It only takes four days for me to get back into my skates. Dr. Beckett’s checking on the I-zoola’s as part of the trade agreement and Dr. Weir offered me a chance to redeem my self-esteem. She’s even gone to the trouble of getting the ice cleaned up. So, it’s not like I can tell her ‘thanks, but no thanks’ because John tried killing me with sex earlier this week. Somehow, I doubt that would make her day. So even though I’m stiff and sore—and not just from the night of lusty activity—I’m lacing up my skates by the lake. But hey, I’ve got a high pain threshold and this is skating. Nothing gets between me and my blades now that I have them back. Not even naughty thoughts about a certain sexually talented man.

          Gawd, if they made that an Olympic sport…

          Besides, everyone knows sex is great for muscle tone, so I just consider it an extended workout…with an extreme endorphin rush.

Broken - Lifehouse

          There’s no audience today save the two soldiers on Major Lorne’s team standing guard by the jumper. The others, including Lorne, went with Dr. Beckett. So, instead of Zelenka’s amazing sound system, I have my MP3 player strapped to my arm, blasting into my ears as I slowly make my way around the ice. It’s silky smooth now. I have to wonder how Dr. Weir managed to pull this off. I must remember to thank her.

          Even though the tiny music box’s weight doesn’t register, having the phones in my ears might throw off my balance, so it’s another excuse for taking it easy and not trying any jumps or severe twists. Spins are out as well, considering how I don’t want the earplugs whipping out and smacking into my face. But it’s still a good deal. I’ve been restless and needed to get out of the city.

          My new-found ability to remember physical pleasure in excessive detail is kind of hard to deal with at times, especially if I think too much about what’s-his-name. I blame the Ancients and their ‘honeymoon’ device…even as I bless them for giving me the opportunity to take a stab at the man. He is so out of my league it’s laughable.

          Good thing I have Jax as my wing-man, because man-o-man, Johnny-boy would be a toughy to get over, that’s for sure. But since the whole thing with Ryan got totally screwed with a shot in the head, I’m not looking for that kind of hurt again. It’s not healthy.

          Besides, everyone knows that Sheppard’s head-over-heels in-love with Dr. Weir, so there’s no chance, Jax reminds me. Several times a day, in fact.

          He left sometime after I passed out from bliss, not that I mind. I was never good at cuddling even before my life turned upside-down. And I don’t like exposing someone to my nightmares if I can avoid it. I’ve been known to be…violent, in my sleep. That’s one of the embarrassing moments I’d prefer not to relive in Sheppard’s company.

          I’ve seen the Colonel in the corridors and in the mess as recently as this morning, but not Johnny—civvies John, that is—which is probably a good thing, considering how easily he gets me flustered.

          There’s a distinction between the two for me. Just as I distinguish Jax from Angie, there’s a difference between the Colonel and the man who tried putting me into an orgasm-induced coma. They are two different souls in the same gorgeous body. When he’s Col. Sheppard, I doubt he sees me; he’s on the job, his troubles and worries etched in his face and eyes. He has the whole world—galaxy—on his shoulders. I think it’s mostly the eyes that are different. Where Johnny gets a playful gleam, the Colonel has a hardness. Johnny’s a boy at heart, but the Colonel’s a tired man and the darkness he carries in those eyes haunts me.

          Because I’ve seen it in the mirror.

          There are times, though, when the distinction is fuzzier. I’ve seen him stalking the corridors late at night, wearing a tight black shirt and military pants, his handgun strapped to his leg, flashing the dimples-of-utter-destruction.

          That, is a dangerous combination.

          Ronon seems to know something’s happened. Two nights ago, he came for a visit and simply watched me the whole time he was supposed to be watching Friends. He usually gets a kick out of Joey and Chandler—swears they behave like a married couple—and he’s got the hots for Rachel, of course. But like the annoying brother he is, he kept pushing, wanting to know what’s different about me. And though I’ve got a great poker face, he reads me too well and knows when I’m lying.

          He’s the only one who’s ever been able to do that. Well…aside from my mom. She could always tell too. Not dad, though. Dad was putty…the big goofball. Gawd, I miss them.

          Stop feeling sorry!

          Anyway. I didn’t break under pressure, but I’m sure he knows something. And he keeps watching me. His attention is kind of claustrophobic, which I’m not good with, so I need space. Lots of space.

          And so I skate. 

2.5

          Something’s different, Dr. Kate Heightmeyer thinks as Angie bursts into the office fifteen minutes late for her weekly session. Dr. Weir called earlier to inform Kate that Angie had gone off-world to skate, so the doctor wasn’t concerned about the tardiness. Angie’s flushed from exercise, and possibly traveling in the puddle jumper considering her claustrophobia, but there’s still something else on her mind. “Good workout?” Kate asks.

          Angie drops lazily into the over-stuffed easy chair, tossing a leg over the side. “Yep.” She’s wearing black sweatpants and a light-yellow T-shirt. Her spiraled, black hair is tied up in a wind-blown ponytail with some strands matted to her sweat-stained face. She must have just gotten back and raced up here.

          “So, how are you feeling?”

          She shrugs. “Good.” There it is again, a flash of something in her eyes. Something…

          “Any nightmares?” Kate asks, watching her carefully.

          Angie shakes her head, pressing her lips together in a smug line. “Nope.”

          She’s lying, but Kate lets it pass for the moment. There isn’t a day that goes by that Angie doesn’t have nightmares. She’s admitted as much. “How’s work?”

          “Fine.”

          Kate tilts her head. “You’re exceptionally monosyllabic today. What’s going on?”

          Angie’s brown eyes lock onto the doctor’s and a chill fills the room. Kate doesn’t shiver though, recognizing the signal that Angie is using Jax to cover something. It’s a simple act of putting up a wall to keep others out. It’s just that this particular wall has a name. In the persona of Jax, Angie has cultivated a security system that permits no entrance, basically like when the city lock-down occurred…Jax is extremely tough to get passed, but not impossible.

          Considering how emotionally traumatized Angie’s been over the years, it’s no wonder she found a way to shut down her emotions. But in the end, the identity of Jax has done damage by not allowing the woman to trust and care about others or even herself for that matter. She’s put herself in dangerous situations more times than necessary and doesn’t seem to care if she gets physically injured or even killed. It’s a coping mechanism that makes her feel in command. One that Kate is hoping over time, Angie will realize she doesn’t need.

          “Have you thought more about what we discussed?” Kate asks, trying to open a line of dialogue.

          “Sure.”

          “And?”

          She shrugs. “I thought about it.”

          Kate leans forward in her seat, resting her elbows on her knees. Angie has to be her toughest patient. The woman spent too many years shielded from the world, forced into hiding by no fault of her own. The deaths of her parents right before her eyes shattered something within her, more so than being shot and almost dying herself. She lost the rest of herself years later when the man she loved died in her arms. Kate is amazed by this woman’s will to survive. She’s known others who would never have made it out alive, usually due to their own hand.

          “A journal is a good way to sort through thoughts and emotions,” Kate says.

          “Yeah, you mentioned that,” she smiles lightly. “I sort of started…I guess.”

          “That’s good. When?”

          She bites her lip, holding in another smile. “Couple nights ago. Just…happened. It’s more like I’m writing a story though.” Her brows wrinkle. “Is that weird?”

          “No. Whatever works best for you. Is it in third person?”

          “First.”

          Kate nods, that’s a good sign. “Anything you want to discuss in here? Not that you have to. As I said, the journal is strictly for your eyes alone. I will never ask to read it.”

          “That’s good.” A slight blush creeps into her cheeks and that flash in her eyes returns. Happiness maybe, it’s too brief to be certain. Angie shudders slightly and closes her eyes, wrapping her arms around her.

          “Are you cold, I can adjust‒”

          Her eyes snap open and she blushes again. “No…I’m fine, thanks.” She drops her gaze to her lap. “Just…need a shower.” They sit in silence and Kate watches her, waiting.

          Finally, Angie looks up. “What?”

          Kate smiles. “Something’s different about you.” The girl’s eyes widen and she catches her bottom lip with her teeth. “Angie?”

          “Yeah?”

          “Do you have a boyfriend?”

          “What!” She huffs and her mouth twists into a scowl. “No, of course not.”

          “Things between you and Ronon haven’t–”

          “Ewww!”

          Kate chuckles softly. “Yes, I’m sorry.” She pauses only a moment. “But there is someone.” Another shudder, and Angie hugs herself even tighter as the blush deepens. “You had sex,” Kate says and Angie’s brows shoot up.

          “How do you do that?”

          “Body language…and…I have been there.”

          “Right,” she blushes again, dropping her gaze.

          “So…how was it?”

          “Doc!”

          Kate raises her hands. “It’s not something to be embarrassed about. It’s actually very healthy. Your years of celibacy weren’t exactly part of your life plan, as you said. This new… development… is a good thing. Right?”

          She sighs and rolls her eyes toward the ceiling. “It was a one-time thing.”

          “Why is that?”

          She looks directly at Kate. “Because he said so.”

          “He did? And you agreed.”

          “Oh yeah.” Her luminous smile and husky voice intrigue Kate.

          “So, you’re all right with it being…casual.” Angie shrugs. “You’re sure you don’t want there to be more.”

          “More?” She chuckles softly. “I could always use that–”

          “No,” Kate says. “I mean…more of a connection. Emotionally.”

          Angie shoots out of the chair and stomps to the window. “You know I don’t…do that.” Her arms tighten around her waist. “Not anymore.”

          “Do what? Love a man?”

          “Exactly.”

          “What about Ronon?”

          She rolls her eyes back to the window. “What about him?”

          “You told him you love him, didn’t you?”

          “That’s different,” she snaps.

          “Why? Were you lying?”

          “He’s family.”

          “Like Jack.”

          “Yeah.”

          Kate makes a note to follow up on that tangent. Seems Angie is drawn to strong, protective men, in a non-romantic way, who may or may not be emotionally available of their own accord. Kate has spoken casually to Ronon, he’s not exactly open with his feelings. And then there’s Jack O’Neill. According to Samantha Carter—Kate’s long-time friend at the SGC—it took the man nearly nine years to admit his feelings.

          This association with the strong, silent types is considerably atypical for someone raised like Angie. Her relationship with her father, who she rarely mentions but clearly misses, was apparently very close. He openly showed his affection, even in public. He was a regular blue-collar firefighter who worked hard for his family and made sure she and her mom had everything they could need. Especially love.

          There’s always a sparkle in her eyes on the rare occasions she mentions her parents. She loved them dearly and their loss did more damage than Angie chooses to acknowledge. She was definitely daddy’s little girl. He was her hero. But she also adored her mother. The three of them had a very close connection that was stripped away in one violent moment…because of Angie’s boyfriend.

          So, this draw towards men almost exactly the opposite of her father probably stems from Jax. If they don’t open up to her, she can hold back as well. It’s another way to remain in the power seat and not be vulnerable to someone, just as it was with her and Ryan. She never admitted her feelings to the agent assigned to protect her for all those years and therefore never risked rejection. Then his death, which she blames herself for, sealed in her mind that romantic love is deadly.

          Thankfully she is open to familial ties…even those not truly by blood. It was her connection to Jack that saved her two months ago. She doesn’t speak of it, but the one-time Kate mentioned Jack’s visit, tears formed for a brief time in Angie’s eyes and she admitted missing him.

          Kate leans back in her chair. “How’s your friendship with Lt. Cadman?”

          She shrugs. “She’s all right.” Her answer is unenthusiastic. Not unexpected considering how closed off she is.

          “Have you spoken to her about the…event?”

          “No, of course not!”

          Kate nods. That would be a ludicrous thought for Angie…or more accurately, Jax. Sharing such intimate information could open her up to real conversation, real emotion, which terrifies her more than anything.

          Angie’s quiet, staring out the window at the deepening dusk. Kate decides to go back. “This man you were with. How do you feel about him?”

          Though she keeps her face turned to the window, Kate can see her in the reflection. Another shudder is followed by a silly grin capturing her lips. “He’s all right.”

          “Can you tell me his name?”

          “Sure.” She turns and smirks at the doctor. “But I’m not gonna.”

₪†₪

Chapter Text

Out of Control

 3

          Ronon catches me in the hallway as I leave Dr. H’s office. He’s all manly-man grabbing me by the arm and pulling me toward the transporter. “What the hell?” But he just grunts and drags me along. We reach his room quickly enough and he pushes me toward the bed to sit. I’m already tired from skating, not to forget my previous strenuous workout, plus I’m not so thrilled about Dr. H’s insights into my psychosis today. She’s far too perceptive. I don’t like that in people, generally.

          And I have a headache from hell, threatening to explode in my brain, leaving me a vegetable. But Ronon doesn’t seem to notice. He wants to rant…or beat the crap out of me…whatever’s faster. He gets like this when I don’t tell him stuff and he finds out on his own. He doesn’t like secrets.

          I sigh and fold my arms, by-passing the bed to lean against the wall nearest the bathroom, waiting for him to stop tossing his mane around like an aggravated lion. He snaps his attention to me and I swear his head might go flying about the room like a basketball. “Tell me it’s not true.”

          I roll my eyes and shrug then heave a big sigh. “Okay. It’s not true.”

          He grunts and growls, stomping in place. “You are lying.”

          “About what?”

          “You and Sheppard!”

          My brain hurts so much I can’t concentrate on how to get out of this, so playing dumb seems the only way to go. “What about me and Sheppard?”

          “Don’t make me say it.”

          I push away from the wall and try to make it to the door. “Okay.” But he’s instantly in front of me, blocking the exit.

          “I made a promise to Jack.”

          I don’t face him, but I do dart my eyes up and over, locking onto his. “What kind of promise.” I can growl just as much as he does.

          His hand rests on the back of my head and he gently tugs on my ponytail. “To not let you get hurt.”

          I face him now, releasing my arms and spreading them in one motion. “I’m fine. Don’t I look fine?”

          “You look like animal dung.”

          That deserves an elbow to the gut, but I seriously don’t have the energy, so I just glare. “What’s the rumor this week?”

          He crosses his arms and leans against the door. “No rumor. I’m observant.” He pauses and I wait. “You’ve been avoiding him.”

          My brows pretty much knit together. “No, I haven’t.”

          “Whenever he comes into a room you are in, you leave. If he’s in the room you are about to come in, you leave.”

          “Aren’t you in those rooms too?” I raise my brow in a challenge.

          His eyes narrow. “Yeah.” I slide my chin to the side. But he’s not buying. “No. No. It’s him. He did something to you. Didn’t he.”

          Crap! Now that you mention it big guy, yeah, he did something several times to me…all of them so goddamn memorable I can’t function when he’s in the same vicinity. Not that I’m about to spill all that to someone who can rip people’s arms off. “He didn’t do anything. I’m not avoiding him. I’m not avoiding anyone. I’m…busy.”

          Ronon cups my chin in one ginormous hand and tilts my head so he can stare down at me. “I know you’re lying. Don’t make me ask him. Because you know I will…and I won’t be nice about it either.”

          “Gawd!” I swipe his hand away and sit on the edge of the bed clutching my head in my hands. “I so don’t need this right now.” I push my fingers through my hair, pulling out the band holding it. “I just want to take a shower.”

          “Tell me and you can leave.”

          “Why is it so important to you?”

          Ronon kneels in front of me and again lifts my chin so our eyes meet. His intensity is clouded with worry. That’s not right. He’s not supposed to do that…not ever. That triggers guilt and I have no intention of feeling guilty about anything. “I want to make sure you are all right. If you tell me the truth, I’ll believe you. And I won’t have to do any damage to…someone.”

          That is so sweet. Here’s Tarzan waiting for permission to pummel someone for taking advantage of me. All I can do is smile and shake my head at him. “I love you.” It tumbles out in a giggle, but still tumbles out easily, which is so weird. But it is true. I do adore this massive house of a man. “It’s all good, Ronon. I swear.”

          “You are sure.”

          I smile again and get up. He stands as well and I wrap my arms around his middle and give him a tight squeeze. “Positive.” I pull back enough to strain my neck and look him in the face. “No injuries required. In fact, I’d prefer that.”

          Ronon kisses my forehead and chuckles. “Wow…you really do need a shower.”

          “Fuck you very much.” I push away from him, and he keys the door crystal. As I step out into the corridor, I glance back over my shoulder. He still looks worried so I smile again. “Hey,” I say softly. “Don’t you know happy when you see it?”

          He huffs and shakes his head slightly, his eyes looking out from under heavy brows. “That’s why I’m so worried.”

          I throw a mock glare at him then roll my eyes. “I can never win!” Then I head for the transporter that will whisk me toward my own room and long needed scrub down.

          As I make my way to the transporter, then down the hall, I ask Atlantis to pick a song from my collection that will go with my mood.

          It starts as soon as I enter my room and I almost laugh given what is waiting for me.

~ § ~

Addicted to You - Saving Abel

          So, it took four days for me to get back to normal, four days for Ronon to figure out that something happened between me and his boss…and the same four days for Sheppard’s theory to crash and burn. 

          When I open my door, he’s lying on my bed, wearing the black T-shirt of humina-humina-humina and jeans of oh-boy, hands clasped behind his head, and the dimples of utter destruction doing their worst. All I can do is sigh, roll my eyes and shake my head as I peel off my smelly T-shirt and drag myself into the bathroom.

          I strip down and turn on the shower, letting the water run over my fingers to make sure it’s hot enough. I glance back; he’s leaning against the door frame, arms crossed, eyes eating me alive…but no smile.

          “Well?” I raise my brows and his eyes catch mine. “You gonna scrub my back or not?” Then I step into the shower.

          Minutes later, John’s gloriously naked, standing behind me. He lifts my arms overhead one then the other and ever so gently wipes the washcloth over my skin. At the same time, his free hand’s sliding over my slick, wet belly, creating bubbles from the soap. This is much better than what I was expecting.

          As he joined me in the shower, he took the cloth out of my hand and simply said, “Let me.” So, I did. Who’m I to debate such a demand. I mean, really. He’s taking his time, intent on the job at hand, not even making an attempt at seduction yet. Though, there’s not much point in something like that…I’m obviously a sure thing.

          Yep, Slutsville here I come. Oooh, nice play on words. I giggle at my internal joke and John stops his task of washing my shoulders and the back of my neck. “What’s so funny?”

          “My little voice.”

          He leans down and licks the rim of my ear. The feel of his tongue sends a shiver down my spine. “You hear voices?”

          “Just one.” I turn my head slightly, catching his gaze. “What? You didn’t know that I’m crazy?”

          “Hot, yes,” he nips my earlobe. “Crazy…not so much.” He starts caressing my back with the cloth again. “So, what does this little voice have to say?”

          I giggle again. “It’s an inside joke. Very inside.” I am such a loon; I can’t believe he hasn’t noticed.

          “Ahh.”

          “You’re not scared, are you?”

          His mouth hovers next to my ear again. “Scared about what?”

          “That I’m crazy.”

          “Terrified.” He kisses the sweet spot just under my ear behind my jaw, making my nerves tingle to my toes and I shiver again. The cloth moves lower, slowly caressing every inch of my back. He stops in mid-swipe on my lower back and his fingers glide over one of my many still tender bruises along my side…then finds another. Grasping my shoulders, he gently turns me to face him, pulling me close, trapping my arms against his chest. “Did I do that?” he asks; eyes full of fierce concern.

          “You didn’t hear about my not so elegant ice encounter?”

          He smiles lightly. “I heard you fell…didn’t know it was so bad.”

          “Not so bad. Just bruises.” Then I grin at him. “Found something to take the pain away that same night.”

          He arches a single brow. “Really?”

          My fingertips glide over his chest. “Mmm hmm. A very powerful analgesic.” I raise my gaze to his. “Who knew it even existed.”

          “So. No more pain?”

          “Actually,” I pout a little, focusing my attention on his wet chest hair. “I do have a nasty headache.” Then I look up at him again. His face falls with disappointment. “Wanna make it go away?” I figure that’s enough incentive and I’m right on target.

          The first kiss is slow, tender and lasts for what seems like hours, though I have no concept of time when he’s nearby. As the hot water pulses against my shoulders, I slip my hands around his neck and he pulls me closer, sliding his arms around my waist, lifting me to my toes.

          Given our Olympic workout the last time, I’m all for a slow burn and that seems to be exactly what John has in mind. And though I did label him a manly-man last time, he’s of a rare breed, concerning himself with my pleasure above all else. I could so get used to this attention to detail.

          Later just having finished round two, still locked together, we lie facing each other on my bed, my right leg dangling over his hip. His fingertips skim over my arm as I gently tease his spiky, wet hair. “So, I guess my theory didn’t hold.”

          I laugh a little. “Guess not.”

          He locks his eyes on mine. “Are you okay?”

          “You mean in general or with our situation?”

          “Both, I guess.”

          “I’m good. You?”

          He grins, exposing the dimples. “Do you have to ask?”

          “You did.”

          “Yeah…but…”

          Oh, no he’s not. He’s gonna pull the, ‘but I’m a guy and this is what guys do and women are too nurturing and needy,’ blah blah blah. Geez, sometimes men just need a serious head slap. “John?”

          “Hmm?”

          “I’m not naïve. I knew exactly what you were offering that first night. No strings. No complications.” As in no pesky emotions, dear boy. He is just the cutest thing ever! Look at those puppy eyes.

          “And you’re okay with that?” His thumb slides over my bottom lip and I catch it in my mouth, playing my tongue over the tip, pulling a quiet groan from him. A moment later, he’s kissing me, our tongues caressing and dancing against each other.

          I repeatedly tighten and release my inner girly muscles around him until he breaks the kiss with a gasp. He starts growing inside me and I push him onto his back, lying on top of him, still messing with him as gently as possible…for the moment. “If I wasn’t okay with this…you’d probably be dead now.”

          His eyes widen considerably even as they start to roll back in his head from my internal massage. “Dead?”

          “Mmm hmm.” I bury my face in his neck, kissing his pulsing artery, nipping at his skin. “Ronon knows.”

          John’s hands grip my shoulders and he pushes me up. There’s slight panic in his eyes. “Knows knows or thinks he knows?” I smirk and plant a kiss on his pouty lips. He pushes me up again. “No, seriously…what does he know?”

          I rest my left arm on his chest, chin on the back of my hand and simply gaze at him as my right hand plays at his unruly hair. I search his face with my eyes, drinking in his beauty. Then I grab his gaze and hold it. “That I’m happy…as is.”

          “So…we’re friends with benefits.”

          My brows crease and I stick out my bottom lip, which his eyes immediately drift to. “I’m not so sure we’re even that.”

          “No?”

          “Let’s face it. We’re barely acquaintances.”

          “Naked acquaintances.”

          I flash a sly grin. “Bound to bang into each other on occasion.” And then I kiss him, still working my below the belt magic and he moans. His arms circle around my back, hugging me close. After a moment, I break the kiss, but not the massage. “This should’ve been broached last time…but…I got…hmm, distracted.”

          “Really? By what I wonder.”

          That makes me laugh. “Well…um…strictly for my personal health… you don’t happen to have any other naked friends or acquaintances…do you?”

          John grins, flashing his dimples. “Well, as the Kirk of Atlantis…ahh what the hell are you doing?!”

          I tightened my grip on him. See, all those exercises and stretches do come in handy. Good muscle manipulation is so important in everything one does. Kegels aren't just good for bladder control. Relax then tighten again. “Looking for an honest answer.” Throw in a flutter to drive him crazy.

          He groans deep in his chest. “Well, damn…” He trembles slightly. “You’re not gonna get any if you keep doing that.”

          Lifting myself up, I rub firmly against him and he moves within me, increasing his arousal. I catch his eyes, grinning wickedly. “So?”

          “Not at this time. No.” He chuckles a gasp. “I’d never have the energy.”

          “Yeah. Me neither.”

          Grinning, he rolls me under him, pressing me into the bed with his body and attacking my mouth as if I’ve just downed the last beer in the galaxy.

* § *

          So, the latest encounter with Sheppard…hot shower sex…hot bed sex…even more hot bed sex…not much else to mention except that we ‘defined’ our ‘relationship’ if it can be called that. Basically, we bump uglies whenever we feel the urge. It’s a dirty job…but he’s so damn hot… and yes, I’m that pathetic.

          Please, I’m making up for lost time here! Love the Id girl and her priorities.

          It’s strictly lust and passion. He’s just so damn pretty, I still think he should be illegal. Oooh, an illegal booty call, that sounds really hot!

          We don’t socialize in The City and rarely see each other on a day-to-day basis since I’ve got my massage therapy thing and he’s off-world or discovering new and exciting Atlantis secrets as part of his daily job. It’s a naked thing we do to fill a need. There’s nothing wrong with that. He certainly has a stressful job and needs some way to relax. And he’s very good at relaxing.

          I know he’s in love with Dr. Weir, as Jax continuously reminds me. I’m not an idiot. And someday the woman is going to wake up and smell the hotty. Oh, he does smell nice. Anyway, when that day comes, I’ll throw him down on the bed and screw him blind. Then I’ll send him off to the lovely lady as if he’s a candy gram and wish them all the best.

          I know I’ll miss his talents when he’s gone, but until that day comes, I’ve always liked Jell-O.

          Still. I’m rooting for real clones one day because every woman should know the unbelievable bliss that is John Sheppard.

 3.5

          “It’s like I’m there all over again, but this time…” Words seem to fail her and she shakes her head.

          Kate waits, giving Angie time to consider her thoughts. She’s slightly more open today, far more than the past two sessions. It’s been a tough month with her. She’s been more closed-off than ever, but at the same time, seemingly happier. Or at least content.

          Every once in a while, she gets a wistful smile and shivers almost imperceptibly. Though she doesn’t talk about it, Kate assumes the change is because of the non-boyfriend. It’s plainly obvious the one-night-stand didn’t stop at the one night and has been continuing for a few weeks now.

          Today’s conversation, however, is restricted to one topic: her recent nightmare, which has obviously disturbed her a great deal. This is a good sign. Kate’s been waiting for her to open up more about her subconscious fears. Angie admitted that it’s not the first time she’s had this particular dream. In fact, she’s woken up weeping on several occasions in the past month because of it.

          “They talk to me,” she says quietly, her hands fidgeting in her lap, eyes downcast.

          Kate waits again, but it’s clear she’s not planning on elaborating without some prompting. “What do they say?”

          “That’s the problem.” She looks up at Kate, her eyes filled with confusion. “I can’t hear it.” She presses her hand to her heart. “I know it’s important. I feel it’s important. But it’s all muffled by the gunshots. And Tony laughing at me.”

          “He’s laughing?”

          She nods, her voice bland. “He wasn’t the most sensitive guy, doc. It’s just my bad luck he was also a lousy shot.”

          “You really believe that, Angie? That you were the unlucky one?”

          Her eyes slide to her twitching fingers. “Sometimes. Hell, most of the time.” She darts out of the chair and paces off some energy. “Look, I know I’m feeling sorry for myself. I’ve gotten really good at it over time.” She tosses her head back. “Gawd! I hate this. I just…want…”

          Kate waits but gets nothing further. “What? What do you want?”

          Angie drops her cold gaze to the doctor and Kate can feel Jax has joined the discussion, effectively shutting it down. “A shower.”

          “I don’t believe that’s what you were planning on saying. Try again.”

          Her eyes narrow and she turns to the window, staring out over the water. She does this to avoid confrontation, with Kate…with herself. After a few moments, she sighs. “I get the feeling they’re trying to give me the answers to the universe or something.” She looks back at Kate and grins sheepishly. “But someone doesn’t want me to hear it.”

          “Someone. You mean a higher power?”

          Angie shrugs. “Maybe.”

          “Or,” Kate starts slowly. “You aren’t ready to hear it.”

          “That’s ridiculous. It’s my dream.”

          “Exactly.” Kate tilts her head, wondering if this is a good time to broach the subject again. “We could always try hyp‒”

          “No.”

          “It is an effective‒”

          “I said no.” Her arms cross protectively around her and she turns back to the window. Kate gives her a few minutes to calm down. Angie will start talking again as soon as she’s reined in her anger. Though it is the one emotion she does show, it’s still under heavy security.

          “They died instantly. No talking. Just…gone. I couldn’t even say…” She shudders. “Sometimes I think I hear my dad’s voice. How weird is that?”

          “Not weird. Natural, actually.”

          She turns; her face full of skepticism. “I highly doubt that.”

          “What does he say?”

          Her brows wrinkle. “My name. He’s calling to me…like it’s dinnertime.”

          “How does it make you feel…hearing that?”

          Her eyes get a far-off glaze and the tiniest smile lifts one corner of her mouth. “Safe.” In a split-second, the look is gone and she voluntarily shakes her whole body. “Well, that was melodramatic of me.”

          “Not at all.”

          Angie rolls her eyes and sneers, obviously amused by Kate’s indefatigable understanding. “Don’t you get sick of it?”

          “Of what?” Kate asks.

          “All the bitching? The whining? I could never do your job. I’d go even crazier.”

          Kate chuckles. “You’re not crazy, Angie. Full of turmoil, denial, steeped in depression, maybe… but not crazy.”

          Angie turns to the window again. “Damn,” she sounds disappointed.

          “What?”

          She shrugs a shoulder. “I was kinda hopin’ for crazy. It’d explain a lot.” She shivers, this time involuntarily and a blush creeps up her neck. Angie peeks over her shoulder at Kate then quickly looks back out the window.

          “How’s that casual fling going, by the way?”

          Angie slowly turns, staring down the doctor with a gaze full of awe. “How do you do that?”

          “What?”

          “Know exactly when I’m thinking about…him?”

          Kate smiles. “You don’t make it difficult. You may not realize this, but you embarrass easily.”

          “I’m not embarrassed.”

          “Maybe not consciously. But sub-consciously…you blush very quickly when you think about that…topic.”

          She’s surprised by this. “Yeah?”

          Kate nods. “I think I know why, too.”

          “Really? Impress me, Dr. H.”

          “It seems whenever you think of him…you get a memory of something…pleasurable.”

          Angie clenches her teeth, working her jaw. “Hmm,” is all she says, but her eyes narrow as she looks at Kate.

          “Is it part of your gift?” Kate asks.

          She licks her lips, deciding what to share. With a tilt of her head, she smiles coyly. “Let’s just say, my program’s been…upgraded.”

          “Really. How so?”

          “Alien intervention.”

          “I see. That must have been a difficult time for you. Losing control like that.”

          She raises a brow. “I don’t remember much.”

          “I’m surprised.”

          She nods and sniffs. “Join the club.” Then she waves a hand. “I’m over it. And God help McKay if he tries to pull something like that on me again.”

          “What do you mean?”

          “He’d better know exactly what it is I’m activating before I lay a finger on it or I will kill him.” For a moment there, Kate is certain Angie means that literally. Then the smirk reappears and the young woman returns to her chair. “So, how’s your sex life, doc?”

          “This session isn’t about me.”

          “C’mon,” she whines a little. “Fair’s fair. Let me see you blush.”

          Kate shakes her head. “Angie.”

          “Radek,” she says, grinning coyly. Kate’s heart rate increases without her consent and her cheeks get warm. Angie’s grin grows. “Gotcha.”

          “Very funny.” Kate shifts in her chair. “So…I take it your one-time thing has continued?”

          “We’re calling it naked acquaintances.”

          “Isn’t the term friends with benefits?”

          Angie huffs. “We don’t know each other that well.”

          “I see.” Kate watches her. “So, if you’re not friends, how did this happen?”

          “It was…” she smirks sideways. “Unexpected.” She heaves a heavy sigh and consciously shakes her body again. “Damn. It’s more of a curse, you know. Sometimes, it’s good to forget. Makes life easier. Not so…”

          “What?” Kate asks though she’s pretty sure she knows; she wants Angie to voice her concerns, give in to any emotion that she might have.

          She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. “I can still smell his aftershave.” She swallows. “He doesn’t have to be in the damn room and yet…he’s here! It’s…” Her head drops into her hands and she rubs her face. “Giving me a headache.”

          “How long since you were last together?”

          “Five days.”

          “Have you talked to him?”

          Her jaw slides to the side. “Haven’t seen him.”

          “Are you avoiding him? Or afraid he’s avoiding you?”

          She grins. “No. He’s a busy man. And I’m not some…clingy type. It’s a no strings policy. No complications. We agreed.”

          “And that doesn’t bother you, even a little?”

          “Why should it?”

          “Because, Angie, it’s not just a physical connection for women, there is emotion involved whether you want to admit it or not. It’s nature’s nasty trick on us. There are chemicals released, one in particular, that makes it almost impossible for a woman not to become attached. It’s the same as when a woman gives birth‒”

          “Oh, well. I must not have that.”

          “All women have it. It’s in the brain.”

          “Look, doc. I’m not exactly the poster girl for sanity. That means there must be something different about me…maybe it’s chemical. Whatever. I don’t get all…cuddly with people. Attachment’s over-rated anyway.” She chews on her lip. “Gets people killed.”

          “I thought you were past that.”

          Angie rolls her eyes. “Past what?”

          “Believing you curse people with your love.”

          “I must be. Told Ronon I love him. Told Jack. And they’re both still upright and alive.” She shrugs. “So, I’m not a curse. Doesn’t make romance a good idea.”

          Kate watches her closely. “So, you’re determined not the let John…” Oops. Kate realizes her mistake instantly and tries to backtrack. “This man‒”

          But Angie holds up a hand and her eyes blaze with fury. “Hold it! You couldn’t possibly have just guessed.”

          Kate sighs and leans in. “Actually, I did. An educated guess, but…it made sense.”

          Angie shakes her head. “How…what’d you do, just pull his name out of your ass?”

          “I read Dr. Beckett’s report about the pheromone incident.”

          Her brows crease and her eyes widen. “What?”

          Kate leans in again. “As your doctor, it’s my duty to know exactly what you have been through, whether you want to discuss it or not. He clearly indicated that you and Col. Sheppard‒”

          Her head shakes quickly. “He wasn’t there.”

          “But the report…you two paired off.”

          “I don’t care about the damn report.” Her eyes are cool and hard. “Col. Sheppard wasn’t there.”

          It takes a moment for Kate to realize exactly what Angie’s saying. The Colonel wasn’t there… but John was. She obviously distinguishes between the two. Very interesting…and telling in a way. Must come back to that later.

          “So...John and you‒”

          Angie huffs in surprise and disgust, shaking her head, then dropping it into her hands again and groaning. “This is so unfair!”

          “It’s also confidential, Angie. No one is going to find out.” She waits a moment. “But you do need to confront the issue at hand. Clearly, you’ve been attracted to the man for quite a while. And from what I’ve seen in your behavior when he’s returned from a mission even slightly injured…it’s not simply physical. You obviously have feelings for him.”

          She holds up a hand. “Not feelings, feelings. Feelings…as in…pleasure.”

          Kate nods. “But you have to understand something. Pleasure is tied to emotions. And no matter how hard you try to block yours, you still have them deep down. You need to let yourself experience them as well. It’s understandable that you’re afraid‒”

          She gets out of the chair and stomps to the door. “I’m not afraid of anything!” And then she’s gone.

          Kate sighs heavily. “Well, that could have gone better.”

₪†₪

Chapter Text

4

          Okay, so I’m stomping down the corridor, knowing I probably shouldn’t have stormed out of Dr. H’s office, but hey…she pissed me off. How the hell did she make that leap to John being my sex buddy? I mean c’mon what is she psychic or something? And if so, what the hell am I talking to her for, she should already know what I’m thinking and just fix me.

          Yeah, that’s right, it’s all her fault. You couldn’t possibly have over-reacted to the ‘a’ word, now could you?

          Shut up, Jax!

          And what’s up with her and that friggin’ hypnosis crap. She’s gotta know it’ll never work on me. As Jack’s fond of saying, “I’m not the cluck like a dog, bark like a chicken type.” How many different ways can I say ‘no’?

          Could work.

          I stop short, looking up and down the corridor. I’m completely alone, but I get the sense someone is around. That didn’t sound like a Jax thing to say. It was in my head…but different.

          Now I am losing it!

          I seriously feel like someone is watching me. It happens a lot in this place. Kind of like Big Brother is always on the lookout. It reminds me of being in protective custody, stuck in one of the fed buildings until they got me and Ryan set up in some rat-trap apartment.

          He always did what he could to make it livable though. He made dinner like a chef too. Gawd that boy could cook!

          And now my gut’s all clenched up, thanks for the trip down memory lane! I need something… intangible. I can feel it, but I don’t know what it is. Chocolate? No. Caffeine? Not allowed to have it anymore. Skating? Nah, don’t feel like it.

          What?! Yeah, that’s weird. I don’t feel like skating? Since when? Since this freaking head pounding refuses to stop! Okay, ignore it. It’ll go away; it always does sooner or later.

          But, still, I’m missing something. Ah hell. I think the doc’s wrong. I am nutsola. Okay, close the eyes and count to ten, maybe whatever it is will pop into my mind. One, two, three‒

          Suddenly I’m falling forward. Okay, I’m supposed to be this graceful athlete. Huh, not so much recently because I totally do a face plant in the middle of an Atlantis hallway because someone just rammed into me. It’s like I have no balance at all.

          Exactly!

          There it is again. That did not come from my head…it was put in there!

          “Jax!” Dr. McKay says as I roll over onto my back. He offers me his hand and I take it. “I’m…well…what were you doing just standing there?”

          Oh, so it’s my fault he plowed right into me?

          “Just standing there. What were you doing running through The City?” See, I knew someone was around. When I learned to sense others nearby, Ryan used to tell me my whiskers were twitching…like a cat’s. I kind of like that metaphor actually. Cats are solitary, slinky, mysterious… and allowed to be cranky whenever they damn well please. Cats are cool!

          “I wasn’t‒” he waves a hand. “It’s not important. Anyway, I’m glad I ran into you.”

          “Literally.” I’m still waiting for an apology, but I should know better than to expect one from McKay. He’s the kind of guy who should be locked in a room with a computer linked to his brain. No interaction with other people. I should call up Cadman…we can tape him to a chair again. I grin at the thought, which McKay, of course, takes as a sign that I actually want to speak with him.

          “Yes, well. It’s nothing urgent. I just thought you might like to know I finished translating the text about the…uh…Ancient‒”

          “Pheromone doohickey?”

          He snaps his fingers. “Yes. That. I really need to come up with a name for that thing. I miss Ford. He used to name things for me.”

          My brows cinch. “Yeah. That’s a good reason to miss him.”

          He nods, either completely ignoring or just not getting my not-so-subtle barb. “Anyway, it’s all good. It does exactly what we thought.” He cocks his head a little and his blue eyes shimmer with something he’s not saying…that’s not always a bad thing, but in this case, I’m not sure I want him holding back. “How are you feeling?”

          “I’m fine, why?”

          “No residual…I mean to say…you haven’t been…”

          “Spit it out, McKay.”

          “No nausea, weight loss, sleeplessness, fatigue or headaches, I take it?”

          Okay, now my alarm bells are going off like one of those screeching Piccolo Petes on the Fourth of July. “What?”

          He waves a hand again. “It’s nothing. Never mind.” He tries to skip by me, but I grab his arm and squeeze, making him wince. He pulls his arm free and rubs the spot. “Ow.” Such a wuss.

          “Why would you ask about that stuff? Are you telling me exposure to that thing’s gonna give me a brain tumor or something?”

          “Don’t be so dramatic, of course not. I don’t…think. No, they would have mentioned something about… Why? Are you having any of those...?”

          “No. Why?”

          “Oh, well, it doesn’t matter. I really have to go now. I have an important meeting. Not to say you aren’t important…what I mean to say‒”

          I wave a hand. “Save it.”

          He bobs his head. “Saving it.” And rushes down the corridor. Such a strange man.

          He’s not so bad.

          “What the fuck!”

          Who the hell is talking to me…in my head! Oh, gawd…what if that doohickey is driving me off the crazy cliff?

           I’m gonna have to get that report. Could’ve just asked but where’s the fun in that? Besides, McKay might wonder why and if he finds out I lied, he’ll run straight to Dr. Beckett and it’ll be needles all around for me. No thanks.

          It’s just a headache…a coincidence anyway. Right? He didn’t say anything about random thoughts coming from…well it does sound like me…in a weird way.

          No. I’m not losing the rest of my mind. I’m…

          I squeeze my head between both hands. My brain feels like it’s trying to escape from my ears and eyes! What that hell!

          I’d give it some thought, but my mind refuses to cooperate. I squeeze my eyes shut and rub my temples. Headaches, my ass. This is a full-blown migraine. If this is some kind of after effect of that damn thing, I’m gonna kill someone. Probably McKay!

          That unknown craving is still with me, but the headache’s getting worse so I move to the nearest transporter, intent on getting a nap. Maybe my insomnia is finally taking a toll.

4.5

          John leaves the infirmary after Carson gives him the all clear. His elbow doesn’t hurt but does look pretty nasty all bruised up. Teyla kicked his ass today…again. Good thing it wasn’t Ronon wanting to spar with him. His head couldn’t handle the beating. It’s bad enough he can feel the guy’s ‘evil eye’ on him daily, watching him carefully for any sign that he’s been doing naughty things to Angie. Mmm, Angie. I wonder…?

          The pounding in his head becomes a conga. Maybe I’m coming down with something. He’s been feeling sluggish for the past day, ever since returning from P3X-734. What a dustbowl. Nothing on that heap except sand and more sand.

          McKay was sure they’d find a ZPM there because he’d found the coordinates while working on something related to it. Apparently, the Ancients used the planet as their version of an alpha site. Unfortunately, whatever had been on the planet was lost, probably due to some cataclysmic event that remade the place into the Pegasus Galaxy’s version of the Sahara Desert.

          McKay’s trying to figure out where they might have moved to, if at all, before the planet changed.

          Something to worry about later. Right now, he needs a shower. Sand manages to get everywhere. And maybe a couple aspirin wouldn’t hurt. He should’ve asked Carson. No, bad idea. Carson knows John has a high pain tolerance, so asking for even the mildest aid would light up the Bat signal for the Scot. He might even want to run tests.

          John grimaces at the thought. He’s spent too much time in that place since coming to Atlantis.

          He heads to his quarters, walking faster as he gets closer until finally, he breaks into a jog. He hits the door panel and sees her sitting on his bed, clutching her head in her hands. She looks up and her face softens. The moment she rises, he’s on her. They’re all hands and lips, fingers and tongues. They tear off each other’s shirts in a frenzy of gasps, moans and grunts. Her bra falls to the side and his hands automatically fondle her. She’s so beautiful, warm and…his. He’s instantly ready for her. He grabs her face with both hands. “Tell me you want me.”

          “I want you,” she gushes, her eyes full of passion.

          And he kisses her hard, bruising her lips, taking her breath.

          He yanks her pants down and forcefully spins her then pushes her onto the bed. She lands on all fours, her pants trapping her ankles. He doesn’t even bother to finish undressing, he can’t wait. He unzips and releases himself. He has to have her now. John leans fully over her, his mouth against her ear and he growls with hunger. “You’re mine.”

          “Yes,” she gasps, her body trembling beneath him.

          And he takes her hard, fast with unyielding power. He can’t help it. He has to have her, as if his life depends on this moment, the feel of her surrounding him, taking him in. Grasping her hips, digging his fingers into her tender flesh, he repeatedly plunges inside but she doesn’t resist, she’s hot, wet and ready for him and that arouses him even more. She pushes against him, letting him in deeper…all the way. She’s his and no one else can have her.

          He knows something’s wrong with him. This isn’t right. This isn’t how he does things, how they do things. But he can’t stop. He drives hard, furiously. It…feels…so…good!

          Violently, he flips her over and she lands on her back, her breath catching. He tears her pants all the way off and then he’s on top of her, inside her again. His hands grasp at her breasts, squeezing and pinching. His mouth follows and he’s drowning in the taste of her skin, the smell of her body. He’s intoxicated by her screaming his name.

          It’s all about him. His pleasure. His release deep inside her.

          He can’t stop.

          Doesn’t. Want. To. Stop!

          Even as his mind yells at him that this is horribly wrong.

          “Johnny!”

          Her cry pushes him over the edge. “Mine,” he howls, collapsing on top of her, shaking with unimaginable pleasure, trapping her beneath his weight.

          Feeling her struggling to breathe, John rolls off and lies on his back. They both stare up at the ceiling, their rapid breaths slowing.

          “Well,” she sighs.

          “That was‒”

          “Different,” she finishes.

          John rubs his hands over his face. He’s still shaking. He can’t comprehend what just happened. How he let it happen. How she let him do that. He can’t look at her. He’s actually afraid to look at her. What if this changes things? What if she’s afraid of him now? He wouldn’t blame her. Couldn’t blame her.

          He licks his lips. He’s got cotton mouth so bad, he can’t even swallow. Without a word, he rolls off the bed, adjusts his pants and goes into the bathroom. He downs a glass of water then splashes more onto his face, rubbing his hands hard against his eyes. What the hell was that? Who am I? He can’t imagine what she thinks of him. He…God…what is wrong with me?

          “John?” He spins before he can stop himself. She’s leaning in the door, wearing his shirt, arms folded beneath her breasts, looking as gorgeous as ever, but her eyes hold something new. Worry. “Did I do something wrong?”

          How can she ask that? Of course not. It was him. All him. But none of that comes out; he just stares at her, trying to understand how she could be so calm after what he did to her, how he treated her like she was nothing more than his property.

          He turns from her, grasping the sides of the sink, his arms ache as he clenches all his muscles until they quiver with exertion. He can’t bring himself to look in the mirror so he hangs his head and closes his eyes tight.

          Time slips by as his brain twists and turns over the last fifteen minutes.

          Say something, you idiot! She’s waiting.

          He finally turns to talk to her but she’s gone. John goes into the bedroom. She’s not there.

          Shit!

          Her clothes are gone, but so is his shirt so he grabs another from the closet and rushes out as he pulls it on. The corridor is dark, The City set to slumber through the night. Only the evening patrol in the Gate Room should be up at this late hour.

          He heads for the transporter. He can’t be too far behind her, maybe a few minutes…he hopes. How long was I in there? He can’t be sure. Doesn’t matter. He’ll make it to her room and apologize, beg for forgiveness even. He doesn’t want her to be mad, let alone feel like she did something wrong.

          How can she possibly think that?

          Because that’s what she does. She blames herself for anything that goes wrong. It’s actually part of her charm, in a strange and annoying way.

          John runs his hands through his hair. This is so crazy. I’m acting crazy. His heart’s racing as he pushes the section that will take him to Angie’s quarters. He runs down the hall, the slap of his shoes the only sound until her door opens just before he arrives and music pours out.

Evanescence - Hello

          She’s standing in the frame, wearing her robe, arms crossed protectively around her middle. He slows as he gets closer, the look in her eyes inscrutable. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. But she’s waiting for him, expecting him even. He bows his head as he comes inside and she lets the door close.

          John drops heavily onto the edge of her bed, hanging his head as he rests his elbows on his knees. “Angie‒”

          She holds up a hand. “Jax, please.”

          He only thinks of her as Angie these days but he’ll call her whatever she wants. “Okay. Jax. I…how…” He has no idea what to say. He was so harsh…brutal even. “I’m so sorry.”

          “For what?” She asks.

          He lifts his eyes and sees her confusion. “How I just treated you.”

          She blinks. Once. Twice. Her brows crease and she slides her gaze to the floor then back up and locks it onto his again. Understanding flashes in her eyes and she opens her mouth to say something then decides against it. She bites her bottom lip then takes a step toward him and reaches for his hand. She links her fingers with his then straddles his lap. “I don’t know how to say this,” she starts.

          “Usually, words help.”

          She smirks at that then licks her lips, catching her bottom one in her teeth again. “You were exactly what I wanted…needed even.”

          It’s his turn to be confused, shocked.

          Her free hand rummages through his hair; he loves it when she touches him. It’s like tiny electric shocks through his body and sends blood rushing straight down. “Before you came into your room, my mind was screaming at me. I had this horrible raging headache…and the only thought I had was…” She shakes her head, pulling her eyes from his. “I can’t believe I’m going to say this.” John lifts her chin so he can see her. “I want John to just take me and fuck the pain away.” She blushes even as she grins. “And boy did you.”

          With all the activity, he’d forgotten about his headache too. He no longer had it.

          “Afterward…” She drops her eyes again. Her fingers slip from his and she plays with the collar of his shirt. “You were so angry. I thought…I don’t know what I thought. I figured I’d done something, maybe said something I didn’t remember.”

          John rests his hands on her waist. “I was angry. At myself.”

          Her eyes find his again. “Why?”

          “Because…I was afraid I’d‒”

          “What? Hurt me?” John raises his brows, nodding. Jax smiles lightly, shaking her head. “You can’t.” Her eyes narrow, holding his. “I would never let you.”

          She’s not just talking physically, that much is obvious by her piercing stare. He should feel relief that she’s so honest and so open to their complications-free arrangement or that she’s not afraid of a bit of animal in her partner—though he still doesn’t know where it came from—and that she’s not going to ask for more than he’s offering. But there is something about her statement that leaves him chilly.

          He really doesn’t know this woman. Can’t know her. Because she won’t allow it. And for some reason, that really bothers him.

          She’s watching him intensely. “You think something’s wrong with me. With us.”

          “What do you mean?”

          Shifting slightly on his lap, she tilts her head, considering him. She doesn’t seem to notice that her robe has fallen open, her rosy nipple peeking out, but he does…he can’t help it. And he can’t help the fresh desire starting to build inside him at the sight of her luscious skin. It’s calling to him. So he answers the call.

          She gasps as his mouth covers her free breast and he groans at the taste of her. She’s trying to say something but it comes out as a murmur. “He said…headaches and mmm.” The hand in his hair pulls him closer and she starts rocking in his lap, sliding against him. John pushes the robe off her shoulders, devouring her with his eyes before finding the next sweet peek to attack.

          “You are so good at distracting me,” she moans, both hands now in his hair.

          John leans back on the bed, smoothly rolling over until she’s under him. “Likewise.” He catches her lips for a long, slow kiss, letting his hands take care of the impeding robe. Then he strips quickly so he can get back to his explorations. He wants to know every inch of her body. And he plans on taking his time.

₪†₪

Chapter Text

5

Listen to Your Heart - Roxette

          I wake with a start, not unusual given how annoying those damned dreams are. I’m not crying, however, and there’s no residual wetness on my cheeks, which is a nice change. No, I’m not at one with my emotions, blah blah blah. Who the hell needs to be, anyway? I’m functional. I manage. And I have a great sex life.

          That’s a big plus in my book.

          I have a third appendage it seems. There’s a hand on my belly and it’s not mine. Slowly, I roll my head and see John sleeping soundly…in my bed…with me. Okay, that breaks the rules. There are no sleepovers, we agreed this is casual. It’s supposed to be casual! Damn, he looks so sweet when he’s sleeping. I could get used to‒

          No, you could not! Because this is casual. It’s sex, simple as that.

          Not earlier, if you ask me.

          Well, no one’s asking you, Id girl!

          She’s right though. As much as I hate to think about it, there was something different this last time. Something…more. John did… Damn, what he did to me, how he made me feel.

          He made me want to cuddle!

          Bastard!

          And his hand is still on me, touching me, keeping me warm and…

          Shit! I have to get out of here. I need air. Lots and lots of air. So, I slowly move his hand away and slip out of bed. I look back to make sure he hasn’t woken then I quickly grab my sweatpants and T-shirt. Screw the bra, I don’t have time. And I hate going braless more than I hate to cry…okay maybe not more than that…but more than I hate kids.

          I’m out the door and running barefoot down the corridor before I know it. I slam both hands into the wall next to the transporter and pound my fist against it. My heart’s racing and I can barely catch my breath. I’m light-headed too. This is not good. I’m having a full-blown panic attack! I’ve had enough of them to know the signs.

          Turning my back to the wall, I slide down and sit on the floor pulling my knees to my chest. My mind’s a jumble of images: John’s lips, his hands, his eyes. Damn those eyes! And his voice…gawd! Why did he have to say that? Of all things to call me…it’s not fair! He’s not being fair! I bury my face in my hands and slam the back of my head against the wall. Once, twice, three times is the charm. Dizzying stars burn in my brain.

          This shouldn’t be happening. I have no reason to be all…crazy right now. I just had an amazing sexual encounter. Beyond what we’ve done before, even though I didn’t turn to Jell-O this time, that’s not the point. It was…unreal.

          Yeah. And that’s the problem… he called you‒

          Shut up! Shut up! No one calls me that.

          Daddy did.

          When I pull my hands away, they’re cool with tears. Whatthehell! I swipe at my cheeks. I’m fucking crying! This is not happening to me. No way in hell. Something’s wrong with me. With both of us. It’s the only explanation. That device did something to me and I did something to him. I’ve done something wrong to John! Whatever it is, I have to fix it. Now.

          McKay!

          “Jax?”

          My eyes dart from looking at my wet palms to the half-naked man with the most magnificent chest and arms standing in the light of my door at the other end of an otherwise dark corridor. Damn. Getting up quickly, I step on the transporter and vanish from him and his…cuddling. 

5.5

          John opens his eyes. He’s confused at first then remembers where he is and reaches for her, but she’s gone. Probably in the bathroom.

          A slow smile curves his lips. That was something else. They were all eyes that time, staring at each other throughout. It felt like…they made a connection. Not just two bodies colliding, but actual people. For the first time since they started this thing, John really felt Angela in the room with him. Even if she prefers to be called Jax, he couldn’t help the sigh that escaped in the end. It’s just how he felt.

          Still smiling, he scrubs his hands over his face and gets up. He leans into the bathroom. “Jax?” But she’s not in there and his heart sinks, startling him. He really wants to see her, now more than ever. Wants to hold her in his arms as they fall asleep together. Which is really odd, considering their just…what are they really? I mean that was different; especially compared to earlier. But we’re still not even…

          Quickly pulling on his pants, John keys the door open, not knowing why until he steps into the corridor. He can see her in the dim light at the end of the hallway, sitting against the far wall, her hands covering her face. But what makes his heart flop into his stomach is the sound of her crying, very faint, but he catches it.

          She pulls her hands away and stares at them as if she’s never seen them before. Then she swipes harshly at her cheeks before staring at her hands again.

          “Jax?”

          She looks up at him, her face full of emotion, but he can’t tell what it is. Even after all these weeks, he still doesn’t know her well enough. She’s on her feet in an instant and disappears into the transporter a second later.

          Why is she always running from me?

          He saw the section she selected on the transporter panel, though he can’t understand why. That part of The City is where the labs are…

          Wait a minute.

          She mentioned something about McKay earlier. John rushes back into the bedroom and gets dressed then returns to the transporter.

          He spots her sitting in the dark, hovering over a laptop. John folds his arms, just relishing the view. He really enjoys a good stare now and then, even if he can only see her profile, she looks ethereal in the blue light from the computer screen, reminding him of what he said earlier. It rushed out as a heavy whisper before he lightly kissed her…my angel. He doesn’t even know where it came from. But it made her breath catch with a hushed whimper.

          “You do that a lot,” she whispers without turning.

          “What?”

          “Hover.”

          John strolls into the room and comes up behind her. “I don’t hover.”

          She looks at him then. “How ‘bout skulk?”

          John nods his head to the side and makes a face. “That, I do.” He leans in. “Why are you being all sneaky, breaking into McKay’s lab?”

          She turns her attention back to the laptop. “I didn’t break, I just entered.”

          “Then why are you whispering?”

          With a heavy sigh, she looks back at him. “Because it seems like the thing to do when you’re trying to be sneaky. Now, hush. I’m reading.”

          “Doesn’t he have a password on this thing?”

          “Yep.”

          “So, how’d you break it?”

          She gives him a cool stare. “I’m a genius.” John can’t tell if she’s kidding or not until she gives a half smirk. “I saw him type it in one time. Not brain surgery.”

          “So, what’s his password?”

          “SG1hotblonde.”

          “Ahhhh. Got it.” John looks over her shoulder. She’s in the middle of a text that looks kind of like… “Is that porn? Don’t tell me, McKay’s got porn on his‒”

          “John!” she hisses.

          He raises his hands. “Sorry.” He leans against the desk, facing her, his arms crossed, just staring again. After a moment, he tosses a glance at the screen then adds. “Looks like porn.”

          “Just because something has the word ‘sex’ in it doesn’t make it porn. What are you twelve?”

          He bobs his head. “Sometimes.” He closes the gap between them and pulls her long dark curls aside to kiss her neck. She still smells of their last encounter, sweet and salty, making his mouth water. “Sometimes older.”

          With one hand she pushes him away. “I’m busy.”

          John’s not deterred that easily. He moves behind her, both hands on her shoulders then dips his head to nuzzle her neck again. “Can’t help it.”

          She spins on the stool to face him. “Yes, you can. It’s called self-control, John…grab a dictionary sometime.” She tries to spin back to the computer, but he grips the seat with both hands, leaning down, his face so close to hers. Their eyes lock and he sees a spark of what he did earlier…Angela. But then she sneers at him and that vulnerability vanishes. He kisses her anyway. Seems like the thing to do. She responds by bringing her hands to his face and taking his lips with hers eagerly. There’s unmistakable hunger behind it, but also a gentleness she hasn’t shown before, maybe even a little timidity.

          John’s about to wrap her up in his arms and carry her all the way back to her room, but the moment his hands are free of the stool, she breaks the kiss and spins away from him. “Oh…” he groans. “That’s just plain mean.”

          She’s entranced with the computer again. “Embrace the pain, dear boy. It makes you stronger,” she says flatly.

          He decides to let her finish whatever has her so enthralled but refuses to stop touching her. He rubs her back and squeezes her shoulders. She’s very tense and getting worse by the moment. “Son-of-a-bitch!” She slams the laptop closed and jumps off the stool, out of his reach and stomps around the room. “I’m gonna kill him, I swear to God!”

          “Okay, when did we stop whispering? And kill who?”

          She looks at him with a mixture of frustration and pity before trying to storm by him and get out the door. But John’s too quick and he grabs her arm. Unfortunately, he should have learned his lesson weeks ago, but it somehow slipped his mind in those few seconds. Until she twists her arm around to grip his forearm, then in some ‘how-the-hell-did-she-do-that’ maneuver, his arm’s behind his back, wrist twisted at a painful angle, and he’s on his way to his knees.

          But she releases him without a word and he catches himself before hitting the floor. John rolls his shoulder several times to make sure it’s still attached. Then he goes after her. “Jax.”

          She stops halfway to the transporter, turns and holds up a hand. “Don’t John.”

          “What’s wrong?”

          “Just stay away from me. It’s for your own good.”

          His brows nearly collide with confusion. “Excuse me?”

          With a heavy sigh, she hangs her head and settles her hands on her hips. John takes a few steps closer, but she holds up her hand again. “I mean it. Stay back.”

          Even in the dim light, he can see the lethal expression on her face combine with the coldness in her voice. He stops instantly. “What’s going on here?”

          “Nothing. We’re done.”

          “But‒”

          “Like I said, it’s for your own good.”

          John shakes his head. “I’d like to make that decision for myself…if you don’t mind.”

          “Fine.” She folds her arms. “The report I was reading had to do with the Ancient device that…”

          “You mean the one that…?”

          “Yeah. Seems there can be some…adverse reactions if the device is used improperly.”

          “Improperly?” The lethal expression changes to what he believes to be sadness, or would believe if he could read her better. “What kind of reactions?”

          She clears her throat. “Nausea, fatigue, sleeplessness…oh and let’s not forget about the life-sucking headaches.” She must have read his reaction to headaches. “You too, I see.”

          “Yeah. Pretty bad after a couple of days.”

          She nods. “A couple of days without…us.” John nods and rubs his neck. She sniffs. “Yeah, I figured. See the little doohickey wasn’t created for…naked acquaintances or even friends with benefits. It’s meant for married couples. It’s meant for love.”

          “I don’t understand.”

          She huffs, shaking her head as if talking to a child. “It enhances the bond between the partners that keeps the party going…a long time. Since the people are married and most likely in love, that’s not a problem. An emotional connection counteracts the chemical imbalance somehow, letting them get on with daily life so they’re not in constant need of round-the-clock nakedness. Probably because they're attuned to being together every night. Whatever. McKay didn’t go into that part.

          “But without that connection, the chemicals overload the system, creating a continuous physical need for the other person. Once that takes hold, like after say a second time, it gets nearly impossible to break. The brain starts releasing mega doses of the ‘need sex now’ drugs…so basically free-will is all bye-bye.” She sighs again. “That’s why we can’t manage to keep our hands off each other.”

          John shrugs. “It’s not so bad.”

          Jax is not amused. “I’m a drug to you, John. An addiction. It’s the damn pheromones or something else even worse. Since it’s just physical, there’s nothing to counteract the chemicals getting released. The only time the physical bond can be interrupted is when a powerful emotional one is created…and that’s a bit too complicated for us.”

          “Is there anything else that can break it?”

          “Conception. And that’s never gonna happen.”

          He shrugs, playing up a smirk. “Contraception isn’t always 100 percent effective.” He’s being flip but this is getting too tense.

          She takes a step closer, her eyes dark and cold. “Mine is.”

          He just wants to take her back to her room and make love again.

          Hey oh, hold on! Make what? Since when did their sexcapades turn into that? John’s thrown by his own inner thoughts and shakes his head.

          “You never asked, so I figured Ronon told you.”

          “Told me what?”

          “I can’t have children.”

          He’s shocked by the intimate revelation. He should have asked. Why hadn’t he? “I’m sorry.”

          She waves a hand. “By choice.”

          Oh. “After that…time, Ronon just said I didn’t have anything to worry about. He didn’t go into details.” He takes another step closer. She’s like a magnet drawing him in. He wants to feel her skin under his fingertips, smell her hair, kiss…oh crap, she’s right! He is addicted to her. He steps forward, reaching out a hand wanting to do…say…something.

          Jax takes two steps back and he stops. “We can’t do this anymore. There are strings attached that neither of us want or need. It has to end.”

          “Why?”

          Her eyes widen in shock. “Why?” She laughs without a hint of humor. “Because I can’t do that to you.”

          Do what? Have amazing sex. So it’s an addiction…big deal. They’re adults. They can handle it. “Look. I get that there’s this…bond. But we’re great together. We like each other. It doesn’t change‒”

          “You’re thinking with the wrong brain, John.” That makes him stand up straighter. “This thing between us will only get worse. I can’t let that happen.”

          “Again…why?”

          “Because you should be with the woman you love. Not some stand-in.”

          Now he’s holding up both hands. “Whoa. What?”

          “John,” she says and there’s definite sadness in her voice. “I know you don’t love me…which is fine because I can’t…don’t want you to. And it’s quite clear you do love someone else.”

          John’s taken aback by that. “What or who are you talking about?”

          “Dr. Weir, you idiot. Everyone knows. You don’t hide it very well.”

          Elizabeth? She thinks I’m in love with Elizabeth? Wait, everyone knows? John can feel his face scrunching up. That’s ridicu…well, maybe not so much. Remember how you reacted when you thought Kolya had killed her? Or when you thought Atlantis had been destroyed by the Wraith… who were you most worried about never seeing again?

          But in love? He’s never been…there. Would he even recognize it if it hit him between the eyes?

          “I was all set to play bed buddies until she got around to noticing you…but even if that happens now, you won’t be able to go to her. And I can’t…no, I won’t let that happen. You’re too good for that.” She drops her head with a shake. “Too good for me.”

          “Jax‒”

          “No. It’s done. We have to end it now before you get hurt. I’m not good for you…for anybody.”

          Me? What about her. I heard her voice. She’s not happy about these adverse reactions, that’s clear, but having to break it off? He catches the look in her eyes when she lifts her face again. He can see a glimmer in them. Tears. He didn’t ask her why she was in the corridor crying. Maybe he doesn’t have to. Is she doing this because she’s…no that a stupid thought John, she just said it’s not possible. “So, what you’re saying is we just stop‒”

          “Cold turkey.” She nods firmly. “It’ll be tough, I’m sure. The ‘withdrawal’ whatever you want to call it, will be like going through detox.”

          “That doesn’t mean it’ll stop us…wanting each other.”

          “No…but it’s the only thing that comes to mind. We’ll just have to stay far away from each other. It’s a big city. I’m sure we can manage that.” She turns her back to him and hangs her head before taking a deep breath. “Goodbye Johnny,” she says quietly with a slight tremor in her voice.

          His heart thumps hard. “Where are you going?”

          “To find a big vat of chocolate to drowned in.” And she walks away into the darkness.

          John stands there, unable to move. His heart’s thudding in his chest and his mind’s whirling with the conversation. He knew it could end at any moment. Would end. They’d made that arrangement. Either of them could simply say stop and it would be over. He always figured it’d be Angie walking away because he did something stupid. In the past, his exes always left because he was too closed off. He couldn’t say what they wanted to hear. But in this case, Angie assured him that wasn’t going to be a problem.

          He remembers the look on her face as they…connected earlier. He didn’t catch it at the time, but for a moment, she had the same panic in her eyes that she had the first night before he kissed her. It lasted a lot longer tonight. She looked absolutely terrified for several seconds, but then it passed. And she smiled; a genuine smile that even hit her eyes. And he smiled too, feeling a wash of serenity flow through him. It had been an amazing union as if their minds were as close as their bodies.

          “You’re too good for that…Too good for me.”

          John’s chest hurts when he thinks about her saying those words. She sounded so lost. She’s not ending it because he doesn’t love her, or because he’s possibly—probably—in love with Elizabeth. Jax’s ending it because she can’t love him.

          Why does that bother me so much? It’s exactly what I was looking for. Casual. Fun.

          “I’m not good for you…for anybody.”

          “No,” he says out loud. “I don’t buy that for a second.” Turning back to the lab, John goes in and opens the laptop. He’s going to find a way to fix this. He has to.

₪†₪

Chapter Text

6

          Okay, it’s been less than twelve hours since I broke it off with John, and I feel great. Not just great, but really great. I went for a jog around The City, listening to my music, letting it pump through my blood.

Keeps Gettin' Better - Aquilera

          And suddenly, my muse returns. Yes! Christina Aguilera, Pat Benatar, P!nk even the soothing voice of the late, great Karen Carpenter… they always get me going. The songs play in my head over and over. They make my body move. My girls have never let me down!

          I turn around and head to the gym to create a new skate routine. I always like to dance the routine at least a dozen times to different songs until I find the perfect rhythm, the perfect beat, before trying it out on the ice. That way I don’t forget the steps and suddenly stumble. Once I get to the skating part, I tend to make changes, throw in a few more twists and spins, maybe a double or triple, but the actual footwork generally stays the same. I haven’t felt this rush of excitement in a long time. Not since I first got out on the lake on I-zoola.

          It’s this thing with John. I’ve been so tense, worrying…I know it had to be the addiction setting in. It’s the only thing that makes sense. But now that I’ve severed the strings, I feel free. I don’t understand it, but I’m actually…euphoric.

          I’ve always enjoyed working out, but the intricate details that put a routine together send me to a different place. My imagination feels unearthly like I’m a bird gliding through life with no worries.

          It’s better than chocolate. Better than… don’t go there.

          I’m not thinking about him. I’m not.

          Okay, I am a little. It was really difficult last night. I went back to my room, pulled the sheets off my bed and stuffed them in the hamper. And even though I remade the bed with fresh sheets, even a different color, I couldn’t lie down to rest. The panic attack still hadn’t released its hold on my heart and my brain was betraying me with memories of…everything.

          I grabbed my I-pod and went for a walk instead. Ended up on Ronon’s pier and watched the sunrise while listening to lovely orchestra music. It was spectacular, to say the least. I cleared my mind and just sat there enjoying the nature and the beauty of Atlantis as the pinks and oranges of the new day kissed The City.

          It’s my fault, I know. And I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I swear. I feel bad for John. I did this to him. Not on purpose, but does that really matter?

          I’m sure the cold turkey idea sounded harsh to him, but how else can we get each other out of our systems. I read the report…it’s not that hard to follow even with all the scientific mumbo-jumbo. Lust-o-rama device is evil. It’s an evil little rock-like thing that McKay is going to pay dearly for either in this life or the next.

          It was only intended for wedded bliss and disgusting amounts of gooey love, not strictly naked bliss. I don’t get all the chemical interactions and stuff…even if I read a whole library on it, I probably still wouldn’t understand it. Just because I can memorize something doesn’t mean it automatically makes sense. Science has never been my strong suit. All I do know is that I have to stay away from him.

          For his sake.

          You like him.

          Well, that much is obvious. I wouldn’t have been so eager to bump and grind with someone I didn’t like… no matter how hot he might be. I mean, let’s face it: Bates was a good-looking guy before the Wraith beat the crap out of him… but a total asshole; especially to Teyla and the other Athosians. Never would have let a dick like that touch me. Hmm… Good pun.

          You care about him.

          Of course, I do. John’s a nice guy. And in this case, I’m not going to let him finish last. He deserves to be happy.

          I mean, how horrible would it be for him when Dr. Weir finally realizes what she’s been missing out on and then he can’t go to his heart’s desire because of me. He’d end up hating me. And maybe I’m being selfish, but I don’t like it when people hate me. I’ve had enough of that for one lifetime.

          As I spin and leap through the air, I don’t know where this energy spurt came from, but it’s breathtaking and refreshing. I even manage a graceful backflip and ariel layout. My ariels have never been that spectacular, I always have that moment of panic that ‘hey, my head is near the floor, my feet are near the ceiling, but my hands are not out to protect me’ moment. But then I land on my feet and can’t help the smile. I just did a kick-ass flip.

          I feel great!

          Suddenly there’s applause and I spin, seeing Ronon in the door. I skip over to him like a little kid and give him a hug. “How was that?”

          He nods appreciatively. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

          “You should see it when I’m on skates. Very dangerous.” Actually, I never had the guts to try one while on skates. The massive head trauma has never been high on my list of experiences I need to try.

          “I bet. Are you hungry?”

          I nod side-to-side. “I could eat.”

          Surprisingly, he leans out in the corridor and picks up a basket. “How ‘bout a picnic on the pier.”

          I grin at that. “You read my mind.”

          On the outside, Ronon’s this big gruff warrior, Tarzan man. And I wouldn’t come up on him in a dark alley. But on the inside, he’s a puppy. A rough-housing giant horse of a puppy, but a puppy none the less.

          He spent seven years without companionship, always one step ahead of the Wraith. Even I had the feds to talk to once in a while. Not to mention Ryan’s company. He had nothing. The fact that he survived all that isn’t what’s surprising; it’s the fact that he’s now willing to share his time with me. I’m not exactly the nicest person to be around most of the time. And we did get off to a rocky start.

          But he kept at me until I gave into the fact that I liked him. He didn’t take my crap and was there for me when I needed him most. The fact that I remind him of his long, lost sister and he’s like a brother to me is beside the point. He’s good to me. Even when he’s kicking my ass.

 

6.5

          It’s been a while since he’s watched her dance. She’s been preoccupied with other things… another person for several weeks now. At first, he was concerned that Sheppard would somehow take advantage of her, but he should have known better. Angie would never permit that to happen.

          In fact, it seems Sheppard was the one on the pointy end of the sword. The guy looked truly pained when Ronon asked how things were going and Sheppard informed him that she had put an end to their arrangement. Ronon was tempted to ask for more details, but Sheppard wasn’t in the mood to talk about it.

          Ronon figured the best thing to do is talk to Angela, make sure she’s all right, so he can hold up his end of the deal with Jack. If Sheppard did hurt her in any way, he’s not getting away with it. She’s smiling a lot, almost giddy with energy and it doesn’t look like a cover.

          They sit in the sun facing each other. She curls her legs to the side and digs into the basket. “What’cha got?”

          “Something called tuna.”

          She grins. “I love tuna!” She pulls out the two sandwiches and hands him one. Then she grabs the water bottles and some fruit. “Grapes? You think of everything healthy.”

          “Actually…”

          “Teyla made the lunch,” she smirks and laughs.

          “How’d you know?”

          She pulls out a napkin that has: ‘Enjoy your lunch, Teyla’ written in ink. She laughs at his embarrassment. “It’s okay, Ronon. It’s the thought that counts. So,” she takes a big bite of her sandwich, chews and swallows. “What’cha want?”

          “I have to want something?” She nods, her eyes wide with amusement. He meets her gaze. “I ran into Sheppard this morning.” Ronon bites into his sandwich, enjoying the taste.

          Her brows rise. “Oh.” She eats some more while he waits for her to add to the conversation. “It’s not his fault,” she says quickly. “No pummeling necessary. It’s just…for the best.”

          “I thought you liked him.”

          “I do,” she squeaks. “That’s why we can’t see each other anymore.”

          “I don’t understand.”

          She sighs, sliding her jaw to the side and narrowing her gaze at him. “Remember the headache you got after the water balloon fight?” He nods. “We were getting them too.”

          “Why?”

          “It’s a withdrawal symptom. If we aren’t together practically all the time, we get…”

          “What about now?”

          “I don’t think it’s been long enough. Last one took two days to start, five to nearly kill me. I’m biding my time for the pain.”

          “Wouldn’t it be wiser just to stay together?”

          She cocks her head and wrinkles her brows together. “For the sake of sex?”

          “Because you care‒”

          Her hand shoots up. “No. It’s because I do that I’m letting him go. He doesn’t want me. He wants Dr. Weir. You know that as well as I do. You see the way he looks at her.” The next part comes out as a whisper, but he catches it. “How I used to look at Ryan, I’m sure.”

          “I’ve seen the way Sheppard looks at you as well.”

          “It’s chemical, Ronon. He’s not in his right mind. It’s not real.” She stuffs a grape into her mouth. “It can’t be.”

          “Who are you trying to lie to? You know I can tell when you are.”

          Her eyes widen and she coughs. “Lying? About what? I read McKay’s report on the doohickey.”

          “And?”

          “Kind of dry…too scientific. No real characters.”

          “Angie,” he growls.

          “It said I’m a danger to John, okay. Like an addiction to a drug or something. Unhealthy.”

          “What if you’re wrong?”

          “I’m not. Now, how ‘bout you stop grilling me and help me. The best way for someone to get over an addiction is to divert their attention from it. Talk to him. Tell him he has to tell Dr. Weir how he feels.”

          Now it’s Ronon’s turn to cough. “What?”

          “It’s important, Ronon. John needs to tell her. Otherwise, he’s just going to regret it.” She drops her eyes to the water bottle and cracks the cap. “I’ll always wonder ‘what if’. What if I told Ryan I loved him? What if he hadn’t died that day?” She sips her water then looks out over the ocean. Her voice is soft and he senses she’s holding back tears. “If he could’ve loved me.”

          Ronon touches her chin, guiding her face back so he can look into her eyes. “I don’t doubt that for a moment.”

          She grins again, but there’s sadness in it. He’s not completely sure it’s all for the lost opportunities with Ryan, however.

₪†₪

Chapter Text

7

          Lt. Laura Cadman is smart, funny and can kick some serious ass when necessary. We’ve never sparred hand-to-hand because I’m only trained in self-defense, she’s trained to kill…big difference. We met during the pheromone debacle and bonded over an urge to duct tape McKay to his chair. I’ve noticed he’s replaced it with a stool since then, probably just in case.

          We then managed to get all giddy and wet during a water balloon fight that ended…well, with us in rather compromising positions: me with John, of course, and Laura with Ronon. I even got her to call him Tarzan. Now that was funny. Nothing happened between them, they were found before that, which is probably for the best considering how screwed-up John and I are now.

          Afterward, the woman was unthrilled. She wasn’t mad at me, thankfully, more at herself for getting carried away by the lust-o-rama device. Another person not so thrilled was Dr. Beckett. He has a major crush on Laura, but it’s all good because she has a major crush on him. It’s really quite sweet when I see them together. Their eyes twinkle, literally twinkle at each other and they blush. So cute.

          Makes me wanna gag.

          Anyway, she threw her shoulder out and pinched some nerves in her neck when her squad got ambushed off-world. Something about the Genii having spies on every planet. Now, I never personally met the Genii, but I know what they tried to do and how pissed off and lethal Sheppard got during the storm. I got to help clean up the bodies.

          Yeah, that was a fun-filled day.

          Well, because of the injury, Dr. Beckett sent her to me for therapy. I like Laura, I really do. But she’s one of the biggest pains in my ass. She’s so friendly and open about everything when I give her a massage it makes me wonder if the woman ever shuts up.

          I generally like to work silently with a little background music like Enya or something else soothing and some incense to get the client relaxed. But Laura’s a bundle of energy and never seems to relax enough for me to get through a session without wanting to strangle her. In a friendly way.

          “He did the sweetest thing. It was like a real date. I mean a real one with flowers and dancing…all the trimmings. He set up this table on one of the balconies and there were Athosian wine and napkins. I nearly fainted.”

          “Please don’t tell me he was wearing a tux.”

          She giggles. “No. But he was in nice civvies.” She tries to lift her head from the hole in the table so she can grin at me, but I gently urge her back down. “I even wore a dress. Can you imagine…me…in a dress with heels? I had to borrow it all, of course.”

          “Of course. Let me guess. Maddog?”

          Laura laughs heartily. “Right. She’d have to be drugged to get into one.”

          “But not out of one, if the rumors are correct.”

          “You know, she starts most of those rumors herself. She likes being…a bad girl.” Laura tries to turn again, and again I gently settle her into place. “So, the dinner was gorgeous. I mean, almost too pretty to eat. But I’m not one to pass up a good meal, especially one that doesn’t include MRE’s.”

          “Of course.”

          And so it went, on and on and…gawd she can be worse than McKay. Okay, I’m being too hard on her. I enjoy the conversations really. It’s nice to hear about other people being happy. And when Laura talks about Carson, she’s obviously happy.

          Jealous, jealous, jealous!

          No, I’m not. I swear. Shut up, Jax.

          Once the massage is done, Laura sits up and stares right at me. “Do you know what? When we were dancing, I looked into his eyes and I swear…I was this close,” she holds up her finger and thumb with nothing between them. “To using the ‘L’ word.”

          Playing dumb, I say, “Lesbian?”

          She slaps my shoulder, laughing again. “No, the other one.”

          “Ah. But you didn’t.”

          She shakes her head, slips off the table and goes behind the Oriental Red Feng Shui Screen to change. Somehow Dr. Weir managed to get the beautiful screen aboard the Daedalus the same time as the tables. She never said, but I think it came from her own home and not from some order form. Laura’s still gabbing as she changes. “Naw. Too soon. Besides, I’ve never said it before. How am I sure it’s real?”

          This has me intrigued. “Well, what does it feel like?”

          “I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. I mean, we haven’t done…much of anything. He’s quite the old-fashioned man, you know. He gives me hugs and his arms are so warm and—not that I’m afraid of not being able to take care of myself—he makes me feel safe.”

          I busy myself with cleaning up, though I’m still listening. I have a session with Dr. H. in fifteen. When she said Carson makes her feel safe, I got a pang in my chest: a sharp icicle driving right through my heart.

          Jealous, jealous, jealous.

          “When he kisses me, my feet, hell my whole body seems to vanish, leaving only my lips. But it’s when he looks into my eyes. I get…” she trails off and I wait, but she just groans as if the words aren’t coming to her.

          “Butterflies,” I add softly, not really knowing why that comes out or where my mind is.

          She pops out from behind the barrier, tucking in her shirt. “Exactly.” She grins. “And it’s like I can see into his mind. And all I see…is me.”

          A little shiver runs down my spine and I take a deep breath to get rid of it.

          “You’ve been there,” Laura says softly, coming up in front of me.

          All I can do is shake my head. “Thought I was once.” Not so sure anymore? “I don’t know if he was.”

          “He never told you?”

          “He died.”

          Her hand lands on my shoulder but I don’t flinch because her eyes are so full of friendship and compassion for me. It’s been a really long time since I’ve had a close girlfriend. I miss it more than I like to admit. “And you never told him?”

          I can feel hot tears forming but I blink them away and shrug, busying myself with clean up again. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye. I never do.”

          Suddenly, both of Laura’s arms are around me and she’s got me in a tight hug. I’m extremely thrown by the gesture and don’t know what to do. There I am, standing like a mannequin with my hands full of towels at my sides and this woman is giving me a big squeeze.

          It’s very unnerving.

          Then she lets go, dropping that hand on my shoulder again. “We need to get you laid.”

          Omigawd! I burst into laughter like nobodys business. I’m actually tempted to tell her that it’s the last thing I need, considering the non-stop boing-a-thon that only ended four days ago, but my automated defenses stop the words before they’re formed. I just keep laughing, hard, tears cloud my vision. Laura joins me, which makes it harder for me to stop.

          There’s a throat cleared at the door making both of us jump and cutting the chuckles in an instant. “Colonel,” Laura salutes, becoming Lt. Cadman.

          “Lieutenant.” Col. Sheppard says, but his eyes are on me.

          Damn, has he always looked that hot in uniform?

          Not now, Jax.

          I look down at the towels in my hands and start cleaning up again. Laura’s bouncing on her heels; I can feel her gaze shifting between me and the Colonel. And there’s definite tension in the air. I just hope she doesn’t pick up on it.

          “Going off-world or just returning?” She asks because he’s standing there in full gear minus his P-90.

          “Going.”

          “Have fun.” He nods, flashing a polite smile. “Well,” she sighs. “I’ll just be going.”

          I watch them through my lowered eyes, trying to ascertain if she’s perceptive enough to see anything she shouldn’t.

          “How’s the shoulder?” he asks, finally looking at her.

          “Getting better by the minute.” She looks back and winks at me, then does the strangest thing with her eyebrows, like she’s motioning to the Colonel with them. My eyes open wide as my jaw drops and I shake my head as imperceptibly as possible. Laura’s eyes narrow on me and she flashes an impatient sneer then waggles her eyes back at the Colonel. With a glower, she huffs and then grins at me. “You should think about that…thing I said, Jax. Could do you a world of good.”

          “Bye, Laura.”

          She nods to the Colonel. “She’s got magic hands,” she whispers then slips out the door, letting it close behind her.

          “Yes, she does,” Col. Sheppard says to the closing door before turning his attention back to me.

          I shut my eyes, trying to put those last words out of my mind. I just found her as a friend. Do I really have to kill her so soon? I almost missed his response, it was so quiet. It makes my heartbeat jump a little.

          “Something I can do for you, Colonel?”

          He crosses his arms over the vest and tilts his head back, forehead creasing. “That’s a loaded question.”

          I toss the towels into a bin before turning to look him in the eyes. We’re on opposite sides of the room and yet it feels like he’s standing right next to me. Very disconcerting. “No, it’s not actually.” There, that wasn’t so bad. Jax can handle Col. Sheppard easily enough. No matter how hot he looks in uniform.

          What is it about men who carry big weapons? Now that’s a loaded question!

          “I wanted to see how you’re feeling,” he says firmly.

          “Don’t worry about me. I’m not your problem.”

          He stomps over a few feet, his eyes steely. “I never said you were.”

          I cross my arms and tilt my head. “Are we really going to do this? Because I have a meeting.”

          “Angie‒” I hold up a hand and he clenches his teeth. “Jax. I’m just asking.”

          “I’m good. You?”

          “Bit of a headache.”

          I roll my shoulders and start towards the door. “Sorry to hear that.”

          “Are you?”

          That stops me cold and I turn on my toes to stare him down. “Colonel‒”

          He strides over and stands in front of me. “John,” he pretty much orders. His eyes are harsh, angry, full of that darkness he lives through every day.

          This isn’t John.

          “Colonel,” I say again with as much coolness as I can muster even though my heart’s screaming like a banshee to run, run away, get out now. “Have a nice trip.”

          “Is that it?”

          I raise my brow. Obviously, the addiction is messing with him. I feel awful for any pain he’s in. Somehow, I’ve managed to push mine aside for the moment. Could be the massive amounts of chocolate I’ve been downing for the past few days. Then again, maybe all I needed was to exchange one endorphin rush for another. My routine is going really well and I’m very excited about it. I take a deep breath and let it out, channeling a little bit of Jack. “Don’t get dead.”

          He raises a single brow. “Nice.” He could give me pointers on being cold, that’s impressive.

          I’m not the most stable person in any room at any given time, but I’m usually the most contained. At least that’s what I keep telling myself, over and over and…oh hell. This man, in all his military garb, does things to me…Jax and Angie. I don’t get it. I don’t think I want to get it. It’s just there. It’s more than how regular guy Johnny gets to me. It doesn’t make sense, I know…and again, I’m stuck with the whole ‘I’m a lunatic’ theory. He exhausts me and my defenses.

          Shaking my head, I throw my arms out to the side, exasperated. I can even feel a lump growing in my throat. “What do you want from me?” I ask plaintively, like some whiny child. He stands up straighter and his face softens. The darkness in his eyes lightens just a touch. He’s stumped, totally caught off guard and with nothing to say. I nod in understanding. “That’s what I thought.” And I turn to leave.

          He grabs me by the upper arms and pulls me against him. His lips are on mine before I can utter a word. But it’s not a hard or bruising kiss. It’s tender, gentle. Then his arms slowly come around me, engulfing me in a tight, warm embrace. I don’t know how long we’re standing there. How long the kiss lasts. I don’t even realize that my arms have slipped around his neck until I hear Jax screaming in my head.

          Run now!

          I push away from him, breaking all contact and nearly fall over because my legs refuse to hold my weight for a moment. A scream of panic sticks in my throat. I’m trembling and don’t know how to stop. I gulp what sounds to me like a sob. That was almost…

          Don’t say it!

          How could he do this to me? He’s not being fair!

          I glare at him with every ounce of rage I can summon then swipe the back of my hand over my mouth. He looks a little lost, hurt even, but I refuse to let it get to me. “Col. Sheppard,” I spit his name. “Don’t ever do that again.” Then I’m out the door before he can respond.

          I let the door close before leaning against the wall for support. I know he’s going to be out in a second so I gather my strength and rush to Dr. H. office as fast as my wobbling legs will take me.

 

7.5

          Angie rushes in out of breath. “That bastard!”

          Kate’s out of her seat. “What happened?”

          She’s trembling as she stomps and paces around the office. Her eyes wild with fury and unshed tears, her face pale and sweaty. “Son-of-a-bitch!” She kicks a wall only to hop back in pain. “Ahh! See what he does to me? I can’t win. I tell him it’s over so that he can get on with his life…but then he goes and sends that man after me!”

          “What man? What are you talking about?”

          Angie hobbles over to the chair and drops into it heavily, slipping off her shoe to check the damage. Her pinky toe is at an odd angle and she gives it a good yank, there’s an audible pop as she puts it in the rightful place. “The Colonel just kissed me,” she hisses, seething with anger and leftover pain from the dislocated toe.

          “Col. Caldwell?”

          “Ewwww! NO.” Her upper lip curls. “Sheppard.” And she glowers. “Bastard.”

          Kate holds up a hand. “Okay. Walk me through it, Angie.”

          She shoots out of the chair, still favoring the injured foot. “Why do you insist on calling me that? My name is Jax. J—A—X. Why can’t you get that?”

          “Because it’s not really you.”

          “The hell it isn’t. You’ve known me for what, two months? I’ve known me for thirt…for a lot longer than I care to remember, actually. If I tell you my name, trust me. I know what I’m talking about.”

          She doesn’t like it, but Kate knows she won’t get anywhere if she doesn’t concede this much ground. It’s clear Angie is starting to lose some of that superior ‘Jax’ security if she finds it necessary for the sudden name change. She’s not as coolly collected as usual. “Fine. Jax. Col. Sheppard just kissed you. And it obviously upset you a great deal.”

          “Boy howdy!”

          “Why is that? Weren’t you and John‒”

          She holds up her hands. “Okay, let me lay it out for you, doc. I’m nuts…don’t argue the point okay. Where you see one guy, I’ve met two. Got it? One is a sweet, kind of dorky, math geek who just happens to have extreme talent in specific departments of pleasure. The other one is some soldier hero who likes to do dangerous stuff and save people’s lives. Two totally different guys…” She rotates a finger at her head. “In my crazy opinion. Are we on the same page now?”

          “Of course,” Kate says calmly. “Jax, why don’t you sit so we can talk?”

          “No,” she shakes her hands furiously, clenches and releases her fists. “I need to move. Is it getting hot in here?”

          “I believe you’re having a panic attack.”

          “No, really?” she drawls sarcastically. “Thanks for the insight, Doc. You’ve definitely earned your paycheck today.”

          Lashing out, sarcasm, panic attack. Whatever happened between the Colonel and her just a few minutes ago has opened a floodgate of emotions Angie’s not ready to handle. She grabs handfuls of her hair and pulls hard. “Ahhh! I was doing so well!” Kate’s by her side, trying to keep her from hurting herself. “Is he trying to make me crazier? I mean, that’s what guys do, right? They like to drive us right off the crazy cliff and laugh all the way home. It’s like a game to them or something.”

          Angie pulls her hands from her hair and allows Kate to guide her to the seat. “How do you mean?”

          “He kissed me.” It’s more of a sad sob than anything else. This time Angie sinks into the chair and drops her face into her hands. When she looks up, there are tears in her eyes. “Why would he do that? He knows it’s an addiction. Doesn’t he realize it’s hard for me too?” She swipes at the tears. “See this?” She shows her wet hand to Kate. “This is his way of getting to me. He’s trying to make me weak. Like…like…any other woman.”

          “Crying doesn’t make you weak.”

          The barely-there discipline is in her eyes, cold and hard…but there’s also something else starting to break through. “Yes, it does.”

          “Why was it so wrong of him to kiss you…as Col. Sheppard?”

          “Because!”

          “You can do better than that.”

          She opens her mouth to say something then stops, snapping her head to the side to avoid looking at Kate. “I don’t know.”

          “When did you break it off?”

          “Monday night.”

          “Why?”

          “Because it’s wrong.”

          “Why is it suddenly wrong?” Angie huffs then explains about Dr. McKay’s report, the addiction that can’t be broken and how she made the decision to quit now before John gets hurt. “So, you did it for him?”

          “Of course.”

          “Did he agree?”

          “He can’t…he’s under the influence of a drug. But he’s in love with Dr. Weir. How can he not know he’s in love with her? Is that even possible? Being in love with someone and not knowing it? This chemical thing is screwing with his brain big time. You’re a shrink. You know what addictions do to people.”

          “I do.” She’s seen her share of addicts. Never anything remotely like this, but if the report exists, she’ll get her hands on a copy and read it for herself. Just to be sure Angie got the information correct. “So, breaking up with him…”

          Angie shakes her head. “Was the only way.” Then she’s out of the chair again, her anger resurfacing. “And damnit we agreed! Either one of us could step back at any moment, no questions asked.” She stops, looks up at the ceiling then smacks herself lightly on the forehead. “That’s it.”

          “What’s it?”

          “He wanted to be the one to walk away. He can’t handle me saying no. It’s an ego thing, right?”

          “I thought you said it was an addiction.”

          She nods. “Well, that too. But the only reason for him to send in the Colonel was to…what seduce me into staying? I mean really. That’s totally uncalled for.”

          “Why would the ‘Colonel’ have an effect that regular John wouldn’t?”

          She flips a hand. “He…complicates things.”

          “How so?”

          She licks her lips nervously and Kate can see her hands shaking as she crosses her arms protectively around her body. “He just does.”

          “How?”

          She stomps on her injured foot, purposely shooting pain through her body. “Because he reminds me of Jack, all right?”

          Kate holds in a smile. Finally, something honest. She figured this out a while ago but was waiting for Angie to make the connection herself. The fact that she’s been having an affair with John Sheppard while avoiding Col. Sheppard was pretty telling in its own right.

          If the Colonel reminds her of Jack, who is a secondary father figure, then Angie has basically found a guy just like dad. That’s how it happens a lot of the time, especially when girls are close to their fathers. And Col. Sheppard’s basically a blue-collar guy in the military, though recently promoted, he’s The City protector. He saves lives while doing a dangerous job. Just like her real father did. Col. Sheppard’s a hero. Just like she sees Jack. Like she remembers her father.

          It must be terrifying for her to not be able to separate her feelings from one aspect of the man to the other. The ‘regular’ guy that is John Sheppard could be easily abandoned if things got too complicated for Angie to handle. But the hero, Col. Sheppard would not be easily forgotten. He’s too important to her—a link to her father, both her fathers—even if she refuses to admit it to herself.

          At least she’s done that part now. Kate wants to draw more out of her. Get her to face her fears of intimacy. “What exactly did Col. Sheppard do?”

          “Aside from a little chit-chat, he kissed me.”

          “Forcefully?”

          Her eyes shift. “Not really.”

          “Did you kiss him back?”

          Angie drops her gaze to her fingers pulling at the hem of her shirt. “Maybe…a little.”

          Kate leans her elbows on her knees. “So, who are you really mad at? John or yourself?”

          “Me…him…I don’t know. Yes, I do. Him. I’m mad at him.”

          “Why?”

          “Why?” she echoes her tone incredulous. “Because he did it on purpose. Like he knew I wouldn’t be able to resist him in all that military macho manly-man getup. And there wasn’t any playfulness in his eyes, you know. And the kiss was…it was…different.” She sticks a finger in her mouth and chews on her nail.

          “How do you mean?”

          “I don’t know.”

          “Sure you do.”

          “Damnit!”

          “An…Jax. Calm down.”

          “I can’t. I’m all,” she groans. “Agitated.”

          “I can see that. Try. Close your eyes.” She stands there in the middle of the room and does as Kate says. “Now, breathe deep, in.” She takes a deep breath. “And out,” and lets it out. She does it three more times as Kate prompts her. “Now…Angie, what were you feeling when Col. Sheppard kissed you.”

          An ever so soft sob escapes as she gasps, “Safe.” And silent tears slip down her cheeks.

₪†₪

Chapter Text

8

          I fall face down onto my bed and tell Atlantis to pound some Within Temptation into my head.

Frozen - Within Temptation

          No one will ever be able to convince me The City can’t read my deepest thoughts. She’s always spot on with the music… especially these days.

          It’s only been an hour since the…kiss-to-end-all-kisses, but it burned into my brain the instant it happened. Sometimes I wish I could cut that part of my mind away. It’d be so nice to forget everything. Forget Angela and Jax and all the others. Forget all the loss… Maybe start all over again as someone completely new, but with no memories of the past, no nightmares, no…

          John Sheppard.

          Exactly!

          I want to hate him, but I can’t. I can’t even be angry with the guy. He’s not in his right mind. That look on his face when I yelled at him…gawd, I actually feel guilty about that. What if it’s the last thing I ever say to him? Knowing the Colonel, he’ll probably get himself killed or start some kind of intergalactic disaster or worse. He’s kind of a danger magnet.

          You told him not to get dead.

          Yeah, well, I’ve told him lots of things. So far, he hasn’t listened so well.

          I know it’s my fault, not his. Not the danger thing, he does that just fine on his own. No, I got him into this pheromone mess because of that damned device and my inability to calm my over-reacting libido. It’s all me…and‒

          McKay!

          I clench my teeth at the thought of that…that…uhg I’m gonna kill that man.

          Now there’s a positive life goal.

          No, really. I’ve read enough books, spent enough time with the feds, I should be able to come up with any number of ways to take him out. Genius my ass. He’d never see it coming.

          Only if it looks like an accident.

          Of course, it has to look like an accident. I’m not stupid. I’ll have to do some thinking on this. He is a scientist, after all. It’ll have to be classy, but vengeful enough to be adequate. And unfortunately taping him to a chair again isn’t gonna cut it.

          That was pretty funny though. Maybe duct tape and a little electric—

          I can’t believe I’m actually contemplating murder plots!

          There is something seriously wrong with me. I’m a sniveling mess. Dr. H. finally got what she wanted, a whole lot of tears. I cried so hard I started hyperventilating. And I couldn’t talk anymore because I couldn’t breathe so I just dropped to the floor like a puddle of pudding—Tapioca pudding, all lumpy and gross. And then Dr. H. is all “there-there,” and “let it out.” I wanted to scratch her eyes out for encouraging such a show. It wasn’t helpful, it hurt.

          A lot!

          Maybe I’m PMSing.

          It would make sense, a whole slew of hormones flooding my system in combination with the chemicals from the addiction in my brain. That’s gotta be it.

          Explains the constant need for chocolate.

          Sure, it does. Plus, the random tears for no apparent reason.

          Well, you have a reason.

          No, I don’t. Neither Col. Sheppard nor John Sheppard is reason enough for me to break down and sob like some little girl who just skinned her knee. It’s pathetic. I’m freakin’ ass pathetic!

          So, get over it.

          And just how do I do that?

          Leave.

          I flip over onto my back and stare at the ceiling of my room. “What!” Leave? Where would I go? I can’t go back to Earth, there’s nothing for me. Plus, I couldn’t leave Ronon. He’d never get through life without knowing how Friends and MacGyver finally end. That’s a lot of shows to watch. Plus, I haven’t even introduced him to Firefly or Buffy and Angel yet. No, I don’t have anywhere to go.

          I can’t stay here. I roll off the bed and strip out of my ‘business’ uniform and get dressed for a hard-core dance session. It’s the only way I can think of staving off the soon to be brain-buster of a headache. Those things hurt worse than getting shot.

          And I know from where I speak.

          As I’m getting dressed, I catch sight of myself in the bathroom mirror. My eyes are puffy and red, my lips swollen and my face in need of some serious spray-on tanner. All I need is a sickle and black cloak to look like Death, really.

          Enough of this. I grab my MP3 player and head for the West Pier gym which is pretty much my place since no one else ever uses it. It’s a long walk from the transporter so I’ll get a warm-up jog in before dancing myself into an early grave.

          Now, there’s a plan.

          Maybe on the way back, I’ll stop in the Control Room and ask Dr. Weir when she plans on sending someone back to I-zoola. It’d be nice to practice the routine on ice soon. 

8.5

          The wormhole engages and Elizabeth hears Rodney over the radio. “What’s wrong?” She can’t understand him because he’s…laughing! She turns to the technician. “Lower the shield.”

          “Their home early,” the tech says with a wry grin.

          Elizabeth shrugs. “What else is new?” Downstairs, Rodney practically saunters through the gate, still laughing and turns to face Ronon and Teyla as they help John come through, obviously in a lot of pain. And John never expresses pain. She taps her headset. “Dr. Beckett we have a medical situation in the gate room.”

          “Ah, bloody hell. What’d the Colonel go and do this time?”

          “You’ll have to tell me. See you soon.” She ends the conversation with another tap then goes down the steps to join the team. “What happened?” John’s too busy grimacing and clenching his teeth to speak and it looks like both Ronon and Teyla are trying their best not to laugh as hard as Rodney. “Please tell me the negotiations didn’t‒”

          Rodney holds up a hand. “Everything’s fine, Elizabeth. It’s just that,” he glances at John. “The Colonel decided to take it upon himself to teach a few of the kids of MJS-513 how to play football.”

          Elizabeth’s brow rises and she tries not to chuckle. “He did, huh?” She presses her lips together tightly then forces a neutral expression. “I take it that didn’t go so well, Colonel?” John grunts in pain.

          Teyla cocks her head. “The children of the village are quite large, if you remember, Dr. Weir. Dr. McKay mentioned something about Summa Wrestlers?”

          She smirks and nods. “Yes, I remember.”

          “It was supposed to be touch only,” John moans. Rodney laughs again.

          “Excuse me?” Elizabeth asks.

          Rodney points a finger. “They tackled him. Four of them at one time.”

          Now both of her brows are up. “They could have killed you.”

          John’s forehead creases. “Didn’t they? I feel dead.”

          Just then the gurney arrives with Dr. Beckett in tow. He’s given the run down and John’s carefully hoisted onto the rolling bed. “Sounds like you threw out your back, Colonel. It happens sometimes as you get older.”

          “I’m not old,” he growls through clenched teeth.

          “Of course not.” Carson looks to Teyla. “How big were these lads?”

          “Quite large, actually.”

          Rodney holds his hands apart. “Big,” he says huskily, grinning from ear-to-ear.

          Carson orders the gurney to the infirmary and both Teyla and Ronon choose to follow their commander. “Ronon,” Elizabeth calls. He turns to her and she hands him a note. “From Jax,” she says, offering a slim smile.

          Ronon pockets the note then catches up with the gurney. Elizabeth hears John growl at Teyla and Ronon. “Go laugh at me elsewhere!”

          Elizabeth grabs Rodney’s arm before he can go after them. “What did you do?”

          He flashes an exaggerated innocent look that puts her on edge. “Me? I didn’t do anything.”

          “Rodney!”

          He shakes his head. “I swear. I just stood on the sidelines and watched…and laughed…and laughed…” He throws up his hands. “All right. I might have cheered too.” Then he’s hissing another laugh.

          She holds up a hand. “I get it. You do realize if he’s seriously injured your team is grounded for the duration.”

          “What…? Elizabeth!”

          She heads back up the stairs and he follows whining as usual. “That’s not fair.”

          “Perhaps not. But you must remember something, Dr. McKay.”

          “What?”

          She turns to face him with a superior smile. “No one else is willing to work with you. You did blow up a solar system, remember.” Then she heads to her office again.

          “Not the whole solar system,” he grumbles.

          “Sorry about that interruption Dr. Heightmeyer,” Beckett says as he proceeds the gurney into the infirmary. “Now, as we were discussing.”

          “Don’t you have‒”

          She motions to John and Beckett shakes his head. “They have to run him through the scanner, find out what’s ailing the lad. It’ll be a few moments.”

          “It’s about the pheromone device,” she says, following him back into his office as John is wheeled away. John lifts his head hoping to catch more, but sudden pain shooting down his legs makes him fall back again.

          So, the shrink is looking into the report? Great. By this time tomorrow, everyone’s going to know about him and Angie.

          Angie.

          He’s spent the last two days off-world feeling nothing but guilt. The football game was just his way of trying to get her out of his head for a little while. That look on her face. Stricken is the only word that comes to mind.

          After she broke off their arrangement, he went back and read the report. He didn’t see anything in it about addiction, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t true. Jax is extremely bright. She probably caught more of the medical and scientific stuff than he did. Besides, he can feel it. He knows she’s right. Just stepping into that therapy room the other day made him hungry for her. He hasn’t slept a full night since their last time together. And the headache is a not-so-subtle reminder of her hold on him. Though he has to admit it has been worse in the past. Maybe staying away from each other is a good idea. It worked for Ronon and Lt. Cadman that first day.

          But after their first encounter, they had been staying away from each other, not consciously or intentionally, but through daily routine. And what happened? John turned into a stalker.

          It’s odd to think about how everything got started. That day in the corridor, Jax was definitely the aggressor. Even when they finally got together, she put the moves on him. But this fling of theirs had been his idea. He certainly became the aggressor, in more ways than one. He still doesn’t like to think about that, no matter what she said, he should never have treated her that way.

          And then he had to go and kiss her. She liked it as much as he did. Needed it as much as him. But then she pulled away. Damn, she was pissed. He also caught that flicker of panic in her eyes. On some level, he scares her. He just wishes he knew why.

          The scan ends and they wheel him back to the central infirmary and pull a curtain around him. The nurse comes in to take his clothes, but he waves her off. “I can do it.” She offers to take his boots off and he lets her. When she’s gone, John struggles to sit up, his back throwing spasms of pain through his legs, like long icy needles. He starts to take off his vest and that simple motion of his arms makes his body scream, so he gives up and lies back down on his side.

          The curtain sways and Beckett appears with datapad in hand. “Well, Colonel, you’ve managed to do some damage.”

          “Well, if you’re gonna do a job, do it right,” he says through clenched teeth.

          “You have musculoligamentous injuries of the lumbar spine,” Beckett says.

          “That doesn’t sound good.”

          “Because it’s not. You also managed to tie up your sciatic nerve in some swollen muscle. You’ll be needing a painkiller and a muscle relaxant before we can relieve that.”

          “Is that necessary?”

          Beckett sets the datapad aside and folds his arms. “Why don’t you undress then and let me know.”

          John closes his eyes and shakes his head. “Tried and failed. Bring on the drugs.”

          “Good to see you know when not to fight, son.” He picks up the data pad. “They’ll be along any moment. Now. You’re going to need at least two weeks from duty, maybe three.”

          “Three weeks!”

          “Possibly four. Lower back injuries can become chronic, lad. You don’t want to cause permanent damage, do ya?” John frowns and grumbles to himself. Beckett nods. “I didn’t think so.” He makes some notes. “Now, you’re in overall good physical condition, so I don’t see a problem with your recovery being relatively swift compared to sedentary patients. However, you will be needing therapy. Three times a week for the first week and then we’ll go from there.”

          “I don’t need to see Dr. Heightmeyer for my back, Carson.”

          Beckett rolls his eyes and sighs. “Massage therapy, Colonel. Heat and ice, ultrasound, but no deep tissue massage until I give the go ahead.” John’s about to ask if it’s necessary but keeps his mouth shut. Then Beckett adds: “It should go without saying, but given the patient, I must…no strenuous physicality of any kind, including sparring with Teyla or Ronon. And you must refrain from any extracurricular activities involving the lower torso.”

          “Excuse me?”

          “No sex,” Beckett raises his brows. “Clear enough?”

          “I’m not‒” Beckett’s head tilt is enough to stop him short. “What do you know?”

          “Well, having just spoken with the lovely Dr. Heightmeyer regarding the pheromone incident, I’ve come to a bit of a conclusion about something.” He narrows his gaze on John. “You lied to me, Colonel. Flat out lied to your CMO.”

          “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

          “Of course. How have you been feeling lately? Any headaches? Unusual urges for a specific person’s unclothed company?”

          “Carson!”

          “I’ll take that as a yes.” The nurse comes in with a needle and two white pills. She injects the syringe into John’s arm and hands him the pills and a cup of water. He downs the meds that taste worse than chalky Lima Beans—really hate those—then lies back and waits for them to kick in and get him back on his feet. Beckett’s talking to the nurse. “We need a scan of the Colonel’s brain, as well.” He glances at John. “Just to make sure it’s still in place.”

          The nurse nods and leaves them. “What’re you up to, doc?”

          “Trying to find a way to save a young woman’s sanity, if you don’t mind.”

          “What?!” John sits up onto his elbows and instantly regrets it. He slowly lies back onto the pillow.

          “Hypothetically speaking. If a woman asks a man to leave her be, he should, don’t you agree? Otherwise said lovely lady might find it necessary to leave her home and her friends…just to get some piece of mind.”

          The painkiller starts playing havoc with his higher reasoning abilities and the muscle relaxant is turning his body into mush. “What are you saying, Carson?”

          “She ran away from home, Colonel.”

          “What?”

          “Jax. She left Atlantis. Gated off-world.”

          John can’t comprehend what Beckett’s saying. “When?”

          “Two days ago.”

          “Because of me?” Of course, because of me! What have I done now? Why didn’t I do as she said, just stay away?

          “Aye, son. To help you, it seems. So, I’m going to find a cure for your…addiction…so she can come home.”

          “Where’d she go?” Beckett shakes his head. John’s brows wrinkle. “So, you think it’s real. This addiction is real?”

          “I believe it’s quite possible, aye. The brain is a powerful computer, handling millions upon millions of data bursts and responses. We have only scratched the surface of mapping it. These chemicals that you were exposed to the first time are very potent. Had the two of you been honest with me the first time around, I might have been able to include the information in my research…prevented this from happening. What’s the worst symptom?”

          “Headaches,” he slurs. “When we’re apart.”

          “I’m not surprised.” Beckett touches John’s shoulder, but John can barely feel it. Beckett’s talking again, he sounds far away. “Tell me what happened. From that first time until now. Let’s see if we can fix this mess for both your sakes.”

          John nods, his eyes spinning in their sockets. “Whatever you need. She needs to come back.”

          “Good lad.”

          “If only to keep Ronon from killing me.”

          Beckett shakes his head. “And here I thought you were being altruistic.”

          John’s feeling good now. The pain’s ebbed and he’s able to roll onto his back. Beckett places pillows under his knees. “Nope…I’m selfish,” he says. “I like having her around.” He looks at the doctor. “Is that gonna go away once you fix me?”

          Beckett shrugs. “I don’t know lad. I really don’t know.”

₪†₪

Chapter Text

9

To the Moon & Back - Savage Garden

          Life on I-zoola is pretty mundane. I absolutely love it.

          There’s a communication gap since I don’t speak the language, but I’m learning to interpret easily enough. They use their hands a lot, very animated.

          Having been isolated from the rest of the galaxy for whoever knows how long has left them completely self-reliant. Apparently, they used to have a gate on the planet but once the Wraith made themselves known, their ancestors buried it. There’s no explanation for the space-gate being in orbit around the main planet, no one remembers life on that desiccated rock. None of that matters now, though. They are now allies. And very friendly ones at that.

          The tribe of people Atlantis has the trade agreement with is called Gullins and there are about 300 of them. Turns out there are several tribes on the small moon, but only the Gullins’ know of us. They are rarely in contact with the other tribes as they like to keep spread out so as not to draw attention from the Wraith.

          All the tribes live in large mountains on the planet; something about the ore in the rock that keeps the Wraith from knowing people exist here. And when I say large, I mean ginormous! Like the Egyptian pyramids maybe. There is one huge central cavern like an indoor swap meet. Tunnels lead from the ‘city’ to smaller ‘villages’ and those villages lead to family homes. The homes kind of remind me of the underground one’s on the planet Tatooine from Star Wars; where Luke lived, only instead of two suns, there’s none.

          The city itself bustles with life and activity and chatter. The villages are a lot quieter and each ‘home’ is like a two-story condo made of stone. It’s really cool. Literally cool, considering the climate outside. I doubt the temperature gets much higher than sixty in the caverns, even with all the people. Probably because heat rises and I’m talking big ceilings.

          The Gullins—and I imagine the other tribes—live off the land but manage to make their crops look like wild growth. It’s fascinating. They haven’t had a Wraith culling since the mother planet was destroyed but they still know of the danger, the stories are passed along in song.

          They don’t have technology as in electric, but they do have plumbing—thank God!—fire, and wax making for candles, pottery and the like. Somehow, they manage not to over-populate, but we haven’t gone into that. I’ve been given my own quarters in the matriarch’s home—which is a big deal considering how few rooms are available in these houses—and I’m being treated like some kind of princess.

          I hadn’t expected this reception, that’s for damn sure. I hadn’t planned on being here at all, really. It just sorta happened, thanks to a fairy Godmother.

          Ten days ago, following my workout, I did as I planned and went to the Control Tower. Dr. Weir was in the briefing room so I waited in her office. I was so exhausted I fell asleep on her couch. I woke rather suddenly to find her working at her desk. She hadn’t bothered to wake me when she came in.

          “You seemed to need rest,” she smiled. “It’s quite a comfy sofa.” I agreed, slowly getting my bearings as I sat up. She came over and sat in a nearby chair. “I take it you wanted to speak with me?”

          “I was just…wondering when‒”

          Given the only times I have ever ventured to her office, she automatically knew what I wanted. “We don’t have a scheduled meeting on I-zoola for several weeks.” She easily caught on to my disappointment. She curled her legs under her and watched me with those impenetrable green eyes. “Is there something wrong? Maybe I can help.”

          I shook my head. “No. Thank you, though. I was just hoping…to…get away. For a while.”

          Her gaze narrowed on me. “You mean an extended stay?”

          I nodded, cleared my throat. I don’t doubt my eyes were still a bit red from the previous cry fest and I know my face must have still been pale, so basically, I looked like crap and she could see it; besides the fact that I found it difficult to look her in the eyes; her being his beating heart after all.

          “Well, we did leave a radio with Hani. I could give her a call. Find out if they’d be interested in a visit.”

          My heartbeat increased ten-fold. She’d do that for me? “But…how would‒”

          She offered a small, sly smile. “I’m sure I could find someone willing to fly you over in the jumper. It’s not a long trip.”

          “Thank you, Dr. Weir. You don’t know how much…I need this.”

          Her eyes narrowed again. “I think I do.” Her brows arch. “Man trouble?” I could feel the blush in my cheeks. She’s far too perceptive for my liking. She offered a rather soothing, comfort grin. “I’ve been there. Sometimes we just need…distance.”

          I nodded again. “Yes. Distance would be very good.”

          She grinned again as she stood and clapped her hands together lightly. “I’ll see what I can do.” I got up too and headed for the door. “Jax?” I turned around. “Talk to Dr. Heightmeyer. Let her know, just in case. I’d like her okay on the matter first.”

          “Sure.” And that became my next destination. Dr. H. was a little more difficult to find. I actually had to track her down to the mess. I should have known; it was lunchtime after all. I’d been up all night, so my internal clock was thrown off. It felt like evening, not noon.

          She greeted me with a smile as I sat across from her. I told her what I wished to do and she thought about it for a moment. “Get some lunch and join me. I’d like to hear more before I make a decision.”

          So, I grabbed lunch and sat with her a while. I think she was more interested in seeing me eat than anything else. My eating habits have been less than stellar since I broke off with John. Once we finished lunch, she told me she’d go straight to Dr. Weir and give the go ahead. The only request she made of me was that I take my laptop and continue my journal. Not exactly a heavy burden for a caveat. Thankfully my battery is fully charged. I don’t plan on being here long enough for it to die. Of course, plans do change in this galaxy.

          Anyway, a few hours later, Dr. Weir showed up at my door, her smile friendly but professional. Talk about being able to keep people at a distance. She must have mastered that somewhere along the line. I just hope someday she lets her guard down long enough to see the man-treat bowing at her feet on a daily basis.

          “Hani is very excited about your visit. She’s hoping you will skate for them again.”

          “I’d love to, but…I’m only taking my MP3 player. They won’t be able‒”

          “That’s actually been handled…in a way. Dr. Zelenka would like to accompany you on the trip over.”

          “Dr. Zelenka?”

          She smiled. “He has a surprise for you and the Gullins.” She spread her hands as she does sometimes. “So, Major Lorne is ready to take you as soon as you’re ready to go.”

          I turned to my bed and grabbed my giant duffle then picked up my skates I’d left near the door. I didn’t say anything, just gave her a grateful smile.

          She nodded, also smiling. “Okay then.” She tapped her headset. “Major Lorne, ready the jumper, she’s on the way.” We walked to the transporter together and I could feel her eyes on me. “You know…if you ever want to talk…”

          “I thought that’s what Dr. H. is for.”

          She grinned. “I mean, to a friend.”

          I couldn’t meet her eyes. For someone so nice, she intimidates the hell out of me. I was worried she’d be able to see right through me. Somehow see exactly who I was trying to get out of my system. That might have hurt her and I couldn’t do that. “Thank you.” It was all I could think of saying.

          “Has something happened with Ronon? I know he’s spending time with Teyla…”

          Her question surprised me and I stopped in my tracks. “Oh, no. No problem. In fact, if you wouldn’t mind.” I pulled a note from my pocket. “Could you give this to him when he gets back? I don’t want him to worry about me.”

          It’s no big deal if she reads the note, it’s a simple so long, see you later, I need time away to think, we’ll watch Friends when I get back. He’ll understand, she shouldn’t. But I know she won’t read it. She’s not that kind of person.

          “You’re sure you don’t want to wait until Col. Sheppard’s‒”

          “No,” I said quickly at the sound of his name. Probably too quickly in fact. Dr. Weir got a strange look on her face like she was trying to figure something out—or had figured it out.

          We stepped onto the transporter and a moment later we were walking down the hall to the Control Room. She wasn’t going to follow me all the way, there was no reason. I was on the steps heading up to the jumper bay when I stopped and turned. “Dr. Weir?”

          She was halfway to her office. “Yes, Jax.”

          I knew what I wanted to tell her, I just didn’t know how to get the words out. She needed to open her eyes, see what’s real, be open to…him. But how do you tell someone that they’re missing out on something potentially amazing? That they’re letting life pass them by? Especially when other people are in the room and listening. “If something makes your heart beat faster…or gives you butterflies…you shouldn’t ignore it. Don’t you agree?”

          She had a quizzical look on her face, but what I saw in her eyes told me she knew exactly what I was trying to tell her. She’s a very intelligent woman. A worldly woman, in fact. It’s the whole butterflies metaphor…every woman knows that feeling and why we get it. After a moment she smiled politely. “I do.” She nodded once. “Enjoy your trip, Jax.”

          “Thank you, ma’am.” And then I raced up the stairs. I don’t know if she actually followed my advice, I’m not the most reliable source for that sort of thing. And the fact that she knows I’m running away from home to avoid some man must give her pause about said advice. But, I couldn’t not say something…she shouldn’t ignore anything…anyone that…hot.

          Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic deep…deeeeeep down. Or just hopeless. Whatever.

          Anyway, Major Lorne and Dr. Zelenka were waiting for me when I arrived. The Major was actually kind enough to ask me if I wanted to sit up front. Imagine that, me, a little nobody in the co-pilot’s seat. It made the hour-long ride in the sardine can a lot easier to handle since I could simply stare out into space. No walls to close in on me. Dr. Zelenka was in the back fiddling with something mechanical…kind of looked like computer speakers actually.

          We were greeted at the lake by Hani and her daughter, Mika. The teen instantly took my bag and whisked it away from my sight. I had my skates slung over my shoulder and those stayed with me. I wasn’t in the mood to skate at the moment, having had very little sleep and a hard workout, but Dr. Zelenka asked me to stay behind.

          I was right about the speakers. It took about fifteen minutes but with the Major’s help, he managed to hoist four of them up into trees around the small section of the lake I consider a skating rink. He then took my MP3 and plugged it into a makeshift outlet and suddenly I had surround sound. And not distorted, muffled, lost in the trees sound either. This was really good.

          “What about detection,” I asked him. “We don’t want to draw attention with electronics.”

          Dr. Zelenka cleaned his glasses. “They don’t give off energy until you plug in player. Even then it is with battery, so minute, I doubt would be picked up from a distance. But on safe side, remove player when you finish. Speakers will go unseen.” He pointed at the trees and I could not see the speakers or the wires.

          I almost fell on my ass running over the ice to give him a big hug. He is the sweetest man ever!

          “Where’s mine?” The Major asked as soon as I let the Czech go. Since he did help, I gave him a quick hug too and thanked him profusely for taking the time to fly me out here.

          “You’re welcome,” he whispered right into my ear.

          Okay, is it me or is there a normal hug time-limit for general strangers. It’s like the handshake time-limit…now I know that exists. Maybe I was just really tired, but I got the weird feeling that Major Lorne doesn’t have this time-limit installed in his brain. I was ready to let go, but he kept hugging me for a few extra moments, not a long time, like a couple of seconds. Was he copping a feel? I know I’ve been out of the dating game…well pretty much my whole life considering Tony was my first boyfriend...ever…and the last as it turned out. I’m probably just imagining it.

          Nope, he was copping a feel.

          You know, that Id girl hasn’t been wrong yet. Should I be worried? I mean, Sheppard‒

          Ah uh! This is a JS free zone from here on out!

          Right. Good catch, Jax. That man did say there’s a rumor going around Atlantis about me. Eww! What if Lorne thinks it true and…ewww. That’s just not right!

          Whatever. It’s over.

          Yeah, it’s nothing. So, they left and here I am sitting on my fabulously comfy sleeping cushion with the most amazing sheets—I’m no dummy, I brought my own—and keeping good on my promise to Dr. H.

          The first two days I didn’t skate even though I had the set up raring to go. As soon as Hani introduced me to her village and then showed me my ‘room’ I didn’t have enough energy left for one of those imaginary light bulbs that pop over cartoon heads. I sat on the bedding then promptly passed out. Seems I slept a long time too because the next thing I remember is Mika tapping my shoulder, and I think it was the next day’s dinner time. I don’t remember falling asleep or a single dream.

          Now that’s how to start a vacation.

          Mika is about sixteen and the eldest of the village children. She watches over the young ones most of the day. And by watch, I mean…in the house. And I so love kids. Let the sarcasm runneth over.

          Following my first conscious morning meal, I was assigned two tour guides: Shali and Lin—girl and a boy—about seven in age. They are quite chatty and easily grate on the nerves, but I’m a guest and I know how to be a gracious one no matter what Ronon’s eye rolls would say. They gave me the tour of the central cavern, introduced me to some folks and showed me the easiest routes outside to the lake so I could skate.

          My first day on ice was like a movie moment really. Shali and Lin sat in the snow; listening to the music and watching me practice my new routine. About an hour into the workout, it started to snow, light and fluffy flakes. I took pictures with my eyes, just relishing the beauty of the moment.

          Before we went back inside, I must admit I got a little giddy and started a snowball fight. Afterward, I showed them how to make snow angels. Before I leave this winter dreamland, I must impart my knowledge of snowman making, it’s only right.

          Mika has two younger girlfriends and they all like a few of the boys in the ‘city’ from other villages. I hear them chattering and giggling a lot, it’s kind of nice to see something so innocent, non-cynical. I just hope they don’t learn the harsh reality too soon.

          Boys are evil.

          I discovered this long ago, of course. But the lesson has recently been re-taught to some degree.

          Though I’m treated like royalty, I’ve spent much time outdoors just wandering through the woods, alone. Hani is very perceptive. In her own way, she informed me that she knows I’m sad about something. She understands I need my space and does not try to dissuade me from my walks, except to wear one of her coats. It’s made of some sort of animal fur and smells like wet dog, but it keeps me warm.

          I haven’t come across any wild animals, which leaves me wondering…where’s the fur come from?

          Last night I was sitting in my room being all girly and painting my toenails when I saw my curtain sway. Beyond, there were three shadows hovering nearby. I could tell by the soft giggling who was there. “Mika…”

          She pulled the curtain aside and peeked in, obviously worried I was mad at being disturbed. So, I smiled and waved for them to come inside and sit. The three girls were intrigued by my colorful toe nails and the polish, though not the smell of it, which made me laugh.

          So, I turned on some girl-bonding tunes and became big sister Angela.

Anthem - Superchick

          I taught them manicures and how to paint their fingers and toes by using Mika as my model. Kai followed my moves as she worked on Sison’s fingers. She watched very intently and seemed to pick it up rather well. While we played, they were talking rapidly about boys and I caught every few words, including Mika’s crush, a boy named Dre. Supposedly Dre is a hunk-a-hunk of burnin’ love that Mika cannot stop staring at. I nod my understanding. Yep, I’ve been there.

          That’s why I’m here.

          So, they chatted and I listened, throwing in my two-cents when I could. Once I finished with Mika’s nails and they were dry, she took up residence behind me and started brushing my hair with her fingers as Sison worked on Kai’s nails. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed having someone mess with my hair. It’s very relaxing…calming even. I know Dr. H. would want me to draw a conclusion about it, so here it is: Mom, plain and simple.

          It was our nightly ritual from the time I was a little girl until…well…I moved out. I remember sitting on the floor in front of the sofa with a bowl of popcorn or peanuts, whatever sufficed for a bedtime snack, watching TV at Mom’s feet. She would either be brushing my hair or putting it into twists, sometimes even a French braid, before I went to sleep. It usually put me to sleep. She had the most mesmerizing touch; long, elegant fingers, not a single callous, and her nails were always perfectly shaped and painted.

          Mom had been a concert pianist in an earlier life but gave it up to be a housewife and mother. I always wondered if she regretted her decision, but never had the guts to ask—or the time. Mom never let on that she was anything except ridiculously happy with me and daddy.

          Not that any woman could regret marrying him. Daddy was one of the good guys, not evil in the least. He always made us laugh, cooked a mean barbecue, didn’t yell or scold too harshly and always had time to give me piggy back rides—when I was a kid of course. He was a true hero in every sense of the word.

          I was maybe nine at the time, but I can still see Mom’s eyes full of worry when Daddy was late coming home from his shift at the firehouse. She kept staring at the phone and spinning her wedding ring around and around her finger. I crawled into her lap and wrapped my arms around her neck before kissing her cheek. “Daddy promised we’d go to the beach tomorrow,” I reminded her. “He promised.”

          And Daddy kept his promises. Mom knew this to be true and the worry left her eyes. Later when Daddy came home, he apologized for being late—something about the big red trucks needing maintenance—and Mom was so happy she cried. Yeah, Mom loved Daddy and he loved her. And I know she loved me and was proud of me. They both were.

          I just hope they forgive me.

          So, basically, the girls and I had a slumber party, though without so much slumber. We sat up all night playing at hair and nails and talking about boys.

          Damn that was fun!

          And JS never once entered my mind.

          Liar.

          Yeah, whatever.

          So, I’m stringing up my skates, getting ready to try the new routine et al…with an audience. It’s only Hani, Mika and the others girls, but still an audience. Hani wanted to invite everyone, but I managed to get her to understand this is a practice…which means I might fall on my ass and embarrass myself. I don’t know if she got that part, but she didn’t invite anyone else.

          I plug the music player into place and select the song. It took me a while to decide on one this time. Usually, I pick the music first and let it carry me, but this time the moves came first. It’s odd that it happened that way, but once I flipped through all the music on my MP3, I came across this one and it fit as if I’d chosen it first. Maybe I did, way back in my mind, but hadn’t realized it. Anyway, I’m not only a sucker for movie soundtracks, but 70’s and 80’s tunes as well. One of my favorites is Bananarama’s Venus. Classic girl power all the way.

Venus - Bananarama

          But since it’s widely different from the orchestra music I used last time, I didn’t want to startle Hani or the others into covering their ears and shouting ‘noise’ in their own language. So, I played a little of the song for them and they seemed to like it. I have to wonder if the girls would like Halestorm, Pat Benatar or Joan Jett…if they could understand the lyrics? I may just have to introduce them to some of the women of hard rock.

          I manage to get through the whole dance without so much as a hiccup or pebble on the ice. It’s such a rush the first time I do that. Not that any time after isn’t just as fantastic, it’s…dreamlike the first time. Sliding over the ice in my skates takes me back to a time when I was someone else. Before Jax or the woman in witness protection, but not just Angela Peterson, ice skater; Angela Peterson, daughter of Melinda and Greg Peterson…the littlest ice princess.

          From the time I was six, my parents had me in skates. They seemed to know even then that it was my destiny. That’s why they were so willing to put everything on the line to get me my dream.

Instead they lost everything because of me.

~ § ~

          I wake with a scream caught in my throat and my body drenched in sweat. I’d consider it life as usual, except for the fact that since I came to I-zoola, I’ve been nightmare free. Nearly three full weeks without a single dream.

          Until now.

          My pounding heart starts to slow and I take deep breaths as I wipe my face and neck. I should be used to the storyline by now. Not only did I live it the first time—though what happens in the dream is different from reality—I’ve been reliving it for years. But this dream refuses to release me. And tonight, it changed.

          As I knelt over my father, desperate to keep the blood from flowing out of his chest, he was trying to tell me something…but a shadow loomed over me, laughing behind me. I knew who to expect when I turned, knew what to expect…

          But I couldn’t have been more wrong. It wasn’t Tony aiming his gun at my heart, laughing at me.

          It was John.

9.5

          Carson checks the Colonel’s eyes with a pen light. “How’s ye headache, lad?”

          “Same.”

          “No better, no worse, then?”

          “Thought I covered that with ‘same’.”

          “Mmm. Techy.” Carson pockets the pen light and lifts the datapad to take notes. “Been feeling a bit moody, I take it then.”

          Sheppard clucks impatiently. “Suppose.”

          Carson considers the man sitting, or rather slouching, on the gurney. Dark circles have taken up landscape under his eyes, he’s got enough stubble to sand the entire city and then some and he looks to have lost a bit of weight, at least in the cheeks. “How’ve you been eating?”

          “The usual way, with a fork. You know, lift it to the lips and suck it in.”

          “Good to see you still have your sense of humor, Colonel.”

          “Not much of one. Please tell me I’m released to active duty.”

          “Aye, looks like you’re back is fully healed. But I am concerned about the withdrawals regarding the other topic.”

          “I’m fine.”

          “You’re suffering more than headaches, lad. Weight loss, sleeplessness. I can’t in good faith release you back to duty with this over your head.”

          “You mean in my head.”

          Carson nods. “For most people, the body builds up a tolerance for the chemicals that you and your lady friend have been subjected to. Unfortunately, that is not the case here.”

          “So, I’m a lost cause? Stuck to forever lust after one woman who clearly doesn’t want me.”

          Carson shakes his head and raises his brows. “I’d hardly say that, Colonel. Now, I haven’t spoken to the lass, but from what I understand, she’s doing whatever she can to help you break from her. I’d say that’s incredibly selfless, considering she must be harboring the brunt of the damage.”

          Sheppard looks at him with narrowed eyes. “How’s that?”

          He shrugs. “I cannot break privilege, of course, but I can readdress information you know. The Ancient device doesn’t work on men. Only women. Hypothetically speaking, if I chose to re-examine a specific female’s PET and MRI scans pre and post incident, I might have found that the Ancient device sparked extra activity in the brain, which is likely responsible for the enhanced pheromones released. Such a woman might be under the influence of a flood of hormones, especially testosterone, just as you.”

          “So, she’s going to get chest hair?”

          Carson grins. “Not likely. The hormones would remain in balance to assist with conception, though high enough to be conducive to heightened sexual drive. Such a woman would, hypothetically, be even more addicted than, say…you.” He nods. “Not to mention the poor lass would still be emitting intense pheromones…possibly receiving unwanted attention.”

          “So basically, she’s gonna get hit on wherever she goes.”

          “Aye. And probably won’t know why.” He nods again. “That kind of woman…must care an awful lot to take on such a burden…far from home, with no support from friends.”

          “Subtle.” Sheppard runs his hands through his hair. “Please tell me there’s a way to fix this. Carson, I feel like I’m dying…every day she’s gone…am I going crazy?”

          “No, lad. Let me know if this rings true. You’re obviously miserable when apart like you’re not complete. You get a rush of energy being near her. Either way, it’s difficult to concentrate. And being with her isn’t complete unless in ends in some type of sexual encounter.”

          Sheppard’s eyes widen. “Wow. Nutshell.”

          “Ah, the blush of new love.”

          “What!” Sheppard stares at him. “I’m not in love with Angie!”

          Carson smirks, shaking his head. “Who are you trying to convince, son?” Sheppard’s brows wrinkle. Carson considers the man. “It’s textbook, Colonel. Romantic or passionate love is characterized by euphoria when all is well, mood swings when all is hell, needed attention, obsessive thinking, and intense craving for the other person. Tell me I didn’t just describe you.”

          Sheppard just stares at him, mouth gaping, eyes barely blinking. “But…I’m not in love with Angie,” he says plaintively.

          Carson shows him the datapad. “Your recent brain scan clearly shows increased activity in the attachment center. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you had a spike of phenyl ethylamine in the limbic system once you lay eyes on her again. That blissful rush of love.

          Carson sees something odd in the data. “How long were you two involved?”

          “Almost two months. Why?”

          “Strange,” he says with a shake of his head. “See,” he shows Sheppard the data again. “This section here is long-term attachment. See all the yellow, that’s activity. It takes time to fill up. At least a year. Usually five or more.”

          Sheppard’s hands fist at his sides and his teeth clench, working the jaw muscles. “Carson, I’m not in love.”

          Carson shrugs. “That’s not what your brain is saying.”

          “Well, my brain’s lying. I don’t even know the woman.” Carson arches a brow and Sheppard glowers. “Other than physically.”

          “Textbook infatuation. Unfortunately, as I stated, your body is not growing bored, or accustomed to the chemicals as usually happens with this kind of situation.”

          He cocks his head. “What’s usual?”

          “Once the initial infatuation wears off, the subjects either move into attachment bonding, or love, or they drift apart. I’m not so sure you have an option, however.” He folds his arms. “From what Rodney told me of the translation, the device was intended specifically for married couples. As a romance enhancer and facilitator. According to the data, it is what they called a ‘soul-bond’ device.”

          “Soul-bond?” Sheppard drops his face into his hands. “That sounds…kinda long-term.”

          Carson nods from side-to-side. “As you may or may not know, the Ancients’ did not have anything like divorce in their time. ‘Til death do us part’ was taken quite literally. And from what I understand, they lived for a really long time. Possibly a hundred years, with one mate.”

          “What if the…subjects weren’t romantically involved to begin with?”

          “I don’t suppose they ever came across that…actuality. Or if they did, they didn’t put it into the literature.”

          Sheppard scrubs his hands over his face. He seems to want to ask something but is either too embarrassed or afraid to make the effort. Carson watches him. Sheppard rubs the back of his neck. “What if…” Carson waits. Sheppard’s eyes dart around the infirmary. “Hypothetically speaking…”

          “Okay.”

          “Say a man got caught in this infatuation…strictly because of the pheromones…”

          “Right.”

          “But that man was…unbeknownst to even himself…already in love…with a different woman.”

          Now, it’s Carson’s turn to gape. He’d never considered this eventuality; much like the Ancients obviously hadn’t. “Oh, dear.” Sheppard nods slowly, brows high on his forehead. Carson shakes his head. “Hypothetically speaking…this is unprecedented. May I ask who?”

          “Do you really need to?”

          Carson thinks on that a moment then realization hits him. Dr. Weir. Of course, the long-term attachment…they’ve been through a lot over the past year, that instantly bonds people, especially through life and death situations. “I don’t believe I do.”

          “So, you see how this can only end…badly.”

          Carson nods. “Actually, you should thank the lass for ending it when she did. Considering your conflicting emotions and elevated testosterone level.”

          Sheppard’s suddenly on edge. “Why?”

          “There’s a reason romantic love can’t last, John. You’d die from exhaustion. Lasting love induces safety, the sense of calm, peace, and stability. If that is threatened…”

          “I could become violent.” His eyes close as he sighs. “Blame her.” He looks at Carson again. “That’s why I scare her.” He claps his hands and rubs them together. “Well,” Sheppard sits up straighter. “There’s gotta be some kind of chemical cocktail you can give me to counteract what’s happening?”

          “No.”

          “C’mon, Carson. You created a virus that turned me into a bug. You can certainly get me thinking with the right…brain again.”

          “Low serotonin is the most important factor here. However, I’m not eager to try anything given the nature of the situation. Introducing another chemical could harm you.”

          He points a finger. “Antidepressants. Don’t they kill libido?”

          Carson nods slowly. “It can be a side-effect, but it’s not a guarantee. And even then…I could not in good conscience put you back on duty while increasing your serotonin level.”

          “Why not?”

          “It impedes judgment, Colonel. You make life and death decisions every day. If I prescribe an antidepressant, you’d lose the necessary insight to make hard decisions.”

          Sheppard nods. “More of a ‘maybe’ guy than a ‘get it done’ soldier?

          “Exactly.”

          “So, what can I do?”

          Carson shakes his head. “I’m sorry I can’t be of more help. Perhaps the lass is right. Maybe if you simply stay away from each other the effects will dissolve over time.”

          Sheppard nods. From the look in his eyes, however, he doesn’t believe it any more than Carson does.

₪†₪

Chapter Text

 

 

10

            Time seemed to stand still for me until I looked up and saw the puddle jumper landing. I knew they were coming, just not so soon.

            It’s been an amazing three and a half weeks away from real life. No demands on my time. Plenty of music and skating. Tons of new friends. I got to know pretty much everyone in the small village Hani and the girls live in. She may be the ‘Mayor’ of the entire tribe, however that works, but in the home village, Hani’s the baker and her husband is a mason. Basically, she ‘moms’ everyone. I haven’t felt so welcomed since I met Charlie and Lily.

            Which reminds me, I need to find out how Lily and the baby are doing. Jack’s been keeping me updated, but not exactly e-mail accessible on I-zoola. So, I have missed some…stuff.

            Dr. Beckett and a few agricultural scientists along with Major Lorne’s team arrived for their scheduled trade meeting and medical check-ups. The tribe is so big, Dr. Beckett’s team can only work through one or two villages per visit. So far, everyone seems very healthy here. Including me.

            Atlantis’s elegant metal and glass structure with its controlled temperature has always been so…comfortable. In contrast, the frozen moon that summer, fall, and spring forgot would suggest harsh living, but the people are not simply surviving. They’re thriving.

            Everyone drilled it into my head: stay warm. That’s the one thing everyone looks out for, keeping the heat in. And everyone watches out for each other. It is definitely a tribal community. No one I’ve met is ‘out for themselves’. It’s glorious. Also, I wasn’t a slug taking advantage of my host family the entire time. I got myself laughed at by the kids when they tried to explain the simplest chores to me.

            Everyone in the mountain tribe works, including the kids. Not some labor-intensive sweatshop like on Earth, though. Lin and Shali took me with them and their friends on their daily rock hunt in the tunnels that run deep under the base of the mountain. They treat it like a game. Finding just the right size, shape and composition determines how well they will heat in the fire and how long they stay warm. And again, they laughed at my lack of knowledge of something so basic for them. We had an awesome time.

            I think I need to invest some study in geology books.

            Now, it’s time to return to Atlantis. I’m sure I could ask Hani to stay and she’d welcome me with open arms, but I do have responsibilities back in The City. I pushed off my massage patients onto the nurses I trained, so I imagine they’re ready for a break. And Ronon’s probably stomping around and growling because he hasn’t seen the last episodes of season three of Friends.

            Before I leave, Hani and Mika request a skate show. As I look around the audience, it seems they’ve invited the whole village. It may only be 40 or so people but I haven’t been this nervous in a long time. Perhaps the nerves aren’t so much about skating as they are about returning home. I have that rollercoaster-flip-flop-stomach-drop feeling in my belly.

            Once the music starts, though, I’m no longer cognizant of outside forces. Only the music matters to me as it flows through my veins, into my muscles and gives my body flight.

            So, I skate to “Venus” one more time and they clap while Major Lorne and Dr. Beckett whistle their approval at my decidedly sexier skate routine—the song makes me work it! Mika, Kai and Sison cry as I say goodbye. They hug me three on one then individually. It’s amazingly sweet and makes me chuckle to cover the sudden tears in my eyes. I’ve had so much fun just hanging out and being girly. I’m gonna miss them.

            I left my bottle of purple “Love Shimmer” nail polish with Mika and have promised to send more as soon as I can convince Dr. Weir. I’m sure she’ll understand but if the SGC puts the kibosh on it, then poor Jack will have to go to the beauty supply store and send me a care package. Hell, he can get Sam to go, she’s always up for a nice shopping trip, especially when I’m treating.

            Either way, the girls should have a multitude of colors asap. I always keep my promises… something my dad taught me.

            I almost forgot. “Major,” I call to Lorne and he turns back to me before stepping into the jumper. “They don’t know what a snowman is.”

            Major Lorne looks at his watch and sighs. But it’s Dr. Beckett who rubs his hands together and grins, exposing deep dimples below mischievous blue eyes. “Then I suggest we show them, eh lassy?”

            We’re all freezing when we hit the jumper bay, but there’s a train of laughter from the whole group as we trudge out of the jumper. Major Lorne orders his team to shower and change into dry clothes before unloading the supplies and they quickly disperse as do the scientists. Dr. Beckett, Major Lorne and I keep laughing as we go down the stairs into the Control Room. Dr. Beckett kisses my numb cheek before reminding me I have to be tested and cleared within the hour. I nod my thanks and he takes off, waving and grinning.

            Dr. Weir stands at her office door with her arms crossed, mouth tight and one brow arched. Major Lorne and I stop chuckling abruptly as soon as we see her. She motions for us to come into her office. It’s after she sits behind her desk that a sly smile appears. Damn, she’s got a helluva poker face! She’d clean us out at girl’s poker night. “You’re late and…what’s the story with your clothes?”

            Major Lorne grins at me, his face still rosy from the cold. “Well, Dr. Weir. Something funny happened on the way to the puddle jumper.”

            I giggle and her smile widens. “Really? Do tell.”

            That’s when I step forward. “I’m sorry, Dr. Weir. It’s my fault. I…mentioned the kids had never seen a snowman before. So…”

            “Major? A snowman?”

            “Yes, ma’am.”

            I glance at him then look back at Dr. Weir. “But…I did happen to introduce some of them to a different winter activity.”

            She leans back in her chair, clasping her hands. “Let me guess. Snowball fight.”

            I tilt my head and nod. “They kinda…attacked.” Then I’m laughing again as I tell the story. I can’t help it. Seeing Major Lorne and his team pelted with ice had to be the funniest thing ever. They all stood statue-still with these dumbfounded looks on their faces. A couple of them even ducked into the jumper. It wasn’t until Major Lorne howled: “Retaliate!” that they returned. Since Dr. Beckett, the other scientists and I were also from Atlantis, we were drafted to serve the honor of the military.

            The joy on the kids’ faces and the laughter from the rest of the village as they all joined in made my year. I can’t remember having so much fun. Dr. Beckett and I didn’t last long. We were on the ground covered in snow. Mika and Kai were relentless in their attack on me. As were Lin and Shali. Sison went after Major Lorne with a vengeance. I’m pretty sure the fourteen-year-old has a massive crush on the manly-man.

            So, not hating kids so much?

            I can make exceptions. But no babies!

            “Please tell me you won,” Dr. Weir chuckles after I finish the tale.

            Major Lorne’s embarrassment is only trumped by the joyous glimmer in his eyes. “We got our asses kicked ma’am.”

            “Cheetah,” Ronon says from the door and in an instant he has me turned around and off the floor, his tree-trunk arms holding me in a tight hug.

            “Tarzan, I’m home.” I kiss his cheek.

            Col. Sheppard is right behind him, casually slinking into the office. I catch his eyes briefly but look away, my heart thumping painfully. Ronon lets me down but keeps a hand protectively on my shoulder. “You’re shivering.”

            I blow into my hands. “Well, yes, Mr. Obvious. I’m cold.”

            “How’d the skating go?” Dr. Weir asks.

            “It‒” I start, but Major Lorne interrupts.

            “Amazing. They loved her.” He turns to me. “You were fantastic. Really.”

            I’m thrown by his enthusiasm and compliments. “Thanks.”

            “I mean it. You’re really…beautiful…umm, I mean…what you can do with your body…” Lorne clears his throat, clearly embarrassed by his rambling.

            Okay, now I’m blushing. I can’t help it. It’s probably from the cold. Or from Ronon’s big goofy grin. Okay, maybe it’s a bit of modesty. I really don’t know. I do believe my teeth are chattering.

            “Yes,” Col. Sheppard’s husky voice joins in. Has he always sounded that sexy? “Jax here knows exactly how to use that body of hers.” The edginess in his tone instantly cuts the festivities. I slide my eyes over to him and he’s watching me with a predatory gleam. And I’m not the only one sensing his hostility.

            Major Lorne clears his throat again, nodding to Dr. Weir. “Ma’am?”

            She nods in return, dismissing him from her office. “Thank you again, Major.” Her eyes cut to the Colonel.

            Major Lorne catches my gaze as he heads out, flashing an embarrassed but friendly smile. He doesn’t look at Sheppard.

            “I need to change,” I say, moving past Ronon and heading for the door. “Um. Dr. Weir.” I look back, avoiding Sheppard’s eyes.

            “Yes.”

            “Could you see about supplying nail polish for I-zoola? Could be a decent trade product. Or a friendly gift.”

            She smiles softly. “I’ll look into it. Thank you. And it’s good to have you back. The time away seems to have agreed with you.”

            I give her a small half smile, my eyes automatically catching Sheppard still watching me, that painful thump hitting my ribs in double-time. Then I quickly turn and walk out. Ronon right on my heels, but I don’t look at him. “He hates me. Doesn’t he.”

            Ronon’s giant paw lands on my shoulder and he squeezes. We walk toward the corridor. “No.”

            I love Ronon, but sometimes…dense is a really good descriptive word for the lug. The moment I saw Sheppard, I knew my time away had done something to him. Worse than being near him all the time. I won’t pretend to understand it. All I know is that I’ve been pushing my pain aside, ignoring it to the point it doesn’t seem to exist, but he obviously hasn’t been able to. He must hate me, he has to. I’ve caused him so much hurt.

            I don’t know what I was thinking of staying away so long. I should have realized his symptoms would only increase.

            And seeing him again, feeling that chemistry between us just sizzling in the air. I just wanted to grab him, kiss him wildly and do all sorts of nasty things, right on Dr. Weir’s desk. Give Atlantis a big show.

            No, my distance theory just crashed and burned. I’m going to have to tell Dr. Beckett the whole sordid story. Maybe he can figure something out.

 

10.5

            Three days after her return, John finds Angie in the gym, kicking and punching the crap out of the heavy bag to some dark rock or heavy metal.

Devour - Shinedown

            She’s alone, which hasn’t been the case recently. Ronon’s been a never-ending shadow, like a guard dog. If John tried to go near her, Ronon steered him clear, even growled and flashed his canines.

            It’s his own fault. He was downright hostile when she returned. Simply hearing her voice as he approached Elizabeth’s office had him hard as a rock in seconds. Then seeing her face flushed and happy reminded him of the last time she looked that gorgeous. He’d been inside her, pulsing and pushing them both into unbridled bliss.

            Elizabeth had been decidedly sharp with him about his attitude once they were alone. “Colonel?”

            John turned away from the office door. He doesn’t know what’s wrong with him. He’s had women. His twenties were awash in one-night stands and casual club fucks that left him well-sated. The military tends to gather flocks of groupies who are only interested in fucking someone in a uniform. For a while it was fun. Easy sex isn’t something most guys turn down, especially when you’ve been away on missions. Get in, get off, get out…no left-overs, sometimes no names.

            But he’s in the shit now. There’s no letting go of Angie/Jax, whatever the hell she wants to call herself. It’s her being, her body that calls to him; makes him feel whole, sends him into…complete rapture. No other way to describe what she does to him. He’s never had it better than when he’s inside her.

            And the lack of intimacy has left him raging inside and out.

            When she left Elizabeth’s office without a word to him, John started following Angie, but Elizabeth’s tone made him stay. “What was that!” He looked at her, the narrowed eyes, tight lips. He’s never really seen Elizabeth pissed before.

            “What?”

            Her brows rose. “That comment.”

            Wild, irrational jealousy…desire turned to madness…take your pick, Liz.

            “It wasn’t very professional or nice. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were deliberately trying to embarrass Angela. Hurt her feelings even.”

            John shrugged. “Maybe you don’t know me all that well.”

            She leaned in, arms on the table. “What’s that supposed to mean.”

            “Nothing.”

            After a moment of watching him, she stood up, tapping a pen against one hand, walked around the desk and came to stand in front of him with arms folded. She leaned a hip against the desk. “I know why she went away. For the longest time, I figured it was because something had happened with Ronon.” Her eyes narrowed at him again. “But it’s you. She’s avoiding you.”

            John pulled his eyes from hers. He couldn’t fight the pumping of his blood, the anger that filled him as he’d entered the office, seeing her flirting with Lorne.

            Was she flirting? John takes a deep breath and slowly lets it out. Remember what Beckett said about the pheromones. “I’m sorry, Elizabeth.”

            “For what you said? Or for getting involved with her?”

            “Both.”

            She looked down at her hands clasped in front of her stomach, that pencil gripped between them. “Butterflies,” she said softly, to herself.

            “What?”

            She shook her head, tossing whatever thought she had right out. When she looked up at him, her deep green eyes seemed to stare right through him. “I’m not the one you need to apologize to.”

            John didn’t know what to say. Her expressions are just as guarded as Angie’s. She never lets her emotions out, especially not in public. But when she made the leap that he was the reason Angie left, Elizabeth seemed…saddened by it.

            Didn’t she?

            “It’s because of the Ancient device,” he explained quickly, giving her the highlights, leaving out the seedier details.

            She nodded once. “I see.”

            “But I’m not…”

            She held up a hand, stopping him. “It’s not important, John. You’re allowed a personal life.”

            He took a step closer to her and their eyes met. “I think it is…very important…for you to know.”

            Dropping her eyes from his, she stepped sideways and returned around her desk to sit. “You need to apologize to her.”

            John shook his head. “She doesn’t care‒”

            Then her eyes nailed his, holding firm, anger brewing. “Yes. She does. Too much, at times, for her own good.”

            John didn’t know what to make of that last statement. Elizabeth literally dismissed him after that. The anger in her eyes hadn’t abated, but he wasn’t completely sure it was aimed at him. She seemed upset, but more with herself. John knows Elizabeth well enough not to miss when the hold on her emotions manages to slip. There’s something more she didn’t say.

            So, here he is three days later, but no closer to finding the words he needs to fix things. John covers the door crystal with his hand and orders Atlantis to lock it. He doesn’t want to be interrupted, or physically assaulted by Ronon.

            Angie knows he’s in the room, her eyes flitted to him the moment he entered, but she’s not giving him an ounce of interest. Her attention on the music and the precision of each blow. Turning away from the bag, she quickly spins, slamming the heel of her right foot into it, making the thing rock with the force of the kick. The next kick reminds him of a Rockette, high enough to smack him in the face. Then she twists sideways and slams her flat foot at the bag with enough power to make the chain squeak in protest. After a few punches and elbow slams, she does the same kicks with the left leg, though not as powerful, it could still do damage.

            The music ends and she tugs at her gloves, pulling the wraps off with her teeth. John’s in front of her, offering his help, but all she has for him is a fierce glare. She shakes off the gloves, unwraps the bandage around her knuckles ignoring the spots of blood. She’s been working a while.

            Sweat trickles down her face and neck, a drop slowly flowing between her breasts, making his mouth water.

            “Jax,” he starts. She sucks in a deep breath, her chest rising in the effort. Her mouth sets in a thin line. “I’m sorry for what I said.”

            “Doesn’t matter.”

            He drops his head with a nod. “I think it does.”

            She shoves the boxing gloves into her bag and slings it over her shoulder. “No, Colonel, it really doesn’t.” She steps toward the door, runs her hand over the crystal, but nothing happens. “Unlock it.”

            “We need to talk.”

            Her shoulders droop. “About what?”

            “Us.”

            Her eyes close and she sighs. “There is no ‘us’ Colonel. There never was.”

            “Why do you do that? Call me John.”

            Her eyes snap open, locking onto his in an instant. “No.”

            “Why not?”

            “Because,” she motions to his clothes. “That’s not who’s here right now.”

            “I don’t understand.”

            “Color me surprised. Please, unlock the door.” John crosses his arms. She drops her bag at her feet. “Why are you making this so difficult? We had an agreement…if one wants out, then it’s over.”

            “That’s the problem.”

            “What is?”

            “Neither of us really wants out.” She flinches and he knows he hit a nerve.

            She spins and stomps over to the bench by the window. She sits heavily, resting her elbows on her knees. “That’s the addiction. It’s not real.”

            John kneels in front of her and this time she doesn’t try to move away. He picks up her hands, looking over the broken skin. “Do they hurt?”

            “I’ve had worse.” She slips her hands out of his grasp. He gets up and sits close to her on the bench, breathing in her scent. The sweat from her workout only teases him, reminding him of their more acrobatic encounters that leave them drenched. Damn, he’s hard again. Never takes much, just being in her presence, smelling her skin; those soft, heaving breasts make his hands itch to feel them, squeeze and pinch them.

            His eyes devour every inch of her as if he’s never seen her before. “It’s called a soul-bond, Jax. A lifetime thing. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

            She refuses to meet his gaze. “I’m sure Dr. Beckett‒”

            His hand brushes her hair away from her neck and she shivers from his touch. “He’s already looked into it. This whole time you’ve been away…”

            Now she does catch his gaze, her eyes widening, “There’s nothing he can do?”

            John shakes his head. One hand grazing down her back the other under her chin. She looks away but he gently turns her to face him again. “We’re stuck with each other.” He caresses her cheek, something he’s been dying to do for the past three weeks. Her skin’s as perfect as he remembers. “Is that so bad?” She closes her eyes, leaning into his touch. Her lips tremble and an almost inaudible whimper of longing escapes. John knows at that moment Beckett is right about her withdrawals being worse than his. Frustration, anger, helplessness flow from her.

            She brushes his hand aside and gets up, going to the door. Her willpower astounds him. She’s the strongest person he’s ever known. She tries to open the door again, but it’s futile and she knows it.

            Atlantis has a special bond with her, but John has it too. The City even started playing music whenever he stepped into his quarters after she left. It had to have come from Angie’s files, but for some reason, Atlantis wanted him to hear certain songs. It was as if The City missed her too.

            Though, by the choice of music…Atlantis obviously has a romantic side. And Angie’s music…very eclectic! Air Supply, The Carpenters and Five Finger Death Punch…really?

            “Please, let me go.”

            He’s in front of her, close enough to feel her breath on his face. Her eyes latch onto his lips then she looks down and away. He inches closer, his mouth so near hers, he can almost taste her. “I can’t…don’t you get that?”

            “Johnny…” she sighs, shaking her head.

            At the sound of his name instead of the calculated Colonel, he’s lost and kissing her. He’s gentle, tender, keeping a tight rein on his desire even though he wants to ravish her here and now. They’ve been apart too damn long. He can’t imagine how he got through the separation. He needs to be with her, a part of her. And she’s melting into him, letting him wrap her up in his arms, her hands roaming up his back, pulling him closer, igniting him to take it further. He deepens the kiss and she accepts with another slight whimper.

            Just like Beckett said, it’s a rush when they’re close. He can’t stop his heart from over-exerting, can’t contain his arousal and he doesn’t want to. His only thought is to be with her.

            He’s trailing kisses down her neck when she gasps a sob, something he’d never thought he’d hear from her: “No,” she says, her voice trembling. She pushes him away, though not with much strength. John pulls back and looks at her. Tears hover in her eyes and his heart thuds to a stop. “This…hurts,” she whispers.

            The pain in her voice stabs him in the chest. He lifts her chin, staring into her wet eyes, clearly catching despair…agony. And knowing how hard she keeps everything under wraps, never lets any raw emotion show, so much so that only the late-night murmurs in nightmares have any true value…this must be torture for her.

            I’m torturing her.

            She drops her gaze and the tears slide down her cheeks. “Please, Johnny,” she gasps, obviously fighting the urge to sob right in front of him.

            John sighs heavily. He releases her and waves his hand over the crystals and the door opens. Angie turns from him, but he grabs hold of her hand, linking fingers. “I don’t think I can stay away.”

            Her gaze locks onto his; forgotten tears slide down her cheeks; her hard eyes now dry—Jax is back in command. “Then I’ll leave again,” she says firmly. “And I won’t come back.” She pulls her fingers from his and rushes down the corridor, frantically wiping the tell-tale tears away.

            John stares after her. His mind and body screaming for action. But his heart’s thumping painfully in his chest again. The thought of her leaving…of never seeing her…never touching her. He shuts his eyes tight. I don’t think I’d survive that.

            He wants to be with her always. Fuck the addiction. They’re good together. He wants her, she wants him. That can’t be bad.

Is This Love - Whitesnake

            Atlantis’s romantic side strikes again when a song starts playing while John stands there, staring at the now empty corridor, desperately wishing she’d just appear in front of him and wrap her arms around him.

            Like Elizabeth did?

            He’d been overwhelmed when he’d beamed down from the Daedalus after surviving what he’d expected to be his final flight. Elizabeth hadn’t run to him, she’d walked over and shocked the hell out of him when she threw her arms around him and hugged him tight. At first, he didn’t know how to react. But once he wrapped his arms around her as well, he hadn’t wanted to let go. When Elizabeth pulled back, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. From her lips…he’d wanted to kiss her right then. Take her somewhere quiet and hold her some more. He’d come so close to dying…then so close to living without her. He couldn’t think about that then…or now. Doesn’t want to think about it.

            And it’s the same with Angie.

            John sighs. Crap. They can send me to a new freakin’ galaxy where I wake up these dreaded life-sucking vampires, have to mercy shoot my own commander, relentlessly put my life on the line to save The City and all the people in it without blinking and yet, I can’t manage to choose between two women?

            John looks up at the ceiling. “Got any suggestions, sweetie?” He waits but the song doesn’t stop or change to something new. John sighs, shaking his head. “Fuckin’ alien devices. I blame the Ancients, ya know.”

            Damn straight!

            What the hell? John looks around. “Atlantis? Was that you?”

            No answer.

            John shakes off the random thought. “I’m losing it… big time.”

₪†₪

Chapter Text

11

          Damn, I forgot my bag!

          Well, I’m not going back, that’s for sure. He’s still there, standing all manly-man in his tight black T-shirt showing off his pecs and those not baggy enough military pants. And what’s up with those lip-locks of his? Gawd, I need an icy shower after that.

          On that first night, it was so clear what he wanted, how he wanted me. Sure, he was gentle, but…a different, feverish kind of non-ape-man gentle. He made me want him every day, any way I could get him.

          Those eyes staring into mine, those soft lips, that sculpted swimmer’s body. I love that body, the power he wields. When he took me hard that day in his room, I was so hot and ready for him the moment I stepped into his quarters. I didn’t know how long I’d be waiting, but I somehow knew it’d be worth it. And damn if he didn’t crack open my soul when he growled: “Mine.” Gawd, the adrenal rush of letting him take me, of giving myself over to him. It shook me. The pleasure so fast and furious, spiked through me just as hard and fast as he did.

          That’s not what screwed me up later, though.

          It was when he threw in all that tenderness and warmth. And those arms around me…staying with me. Sleeping next to me. The cuddling! That’s what he wants now. All the time. Cuddling…intimacy.

          Damn! Damn!

          I start running as fast as my feet and legs can take me. Unfortunately, the sudden burst of panic-induced energy is short-lived and by the time I make it to the transporter, I have a stitch in my side, sending a sharp cramp around my lower back. I squeeze it with my hand, trying to massage it away but it doesn’t work. I’ll just have to let it fade on its own.

          So much for self-discipline.

          I’m not letting him get to me this time. If he keeps persisting…I’ll leave. Even if I-zoola isn’t an option, there has to be some other planet I can find. I’m not without resources, I can build stuff if I need to; maybe live in a tree-house.

          Without electricity? Plumbing? Without DVD’s? No Ronon to hold your hand. No contact with Jack? I’d hate it.

          Shut up, Jax.

          Man, how’d this get so complicated! I was so happy on I-zoola…

          Liar! I was miserable, only refusing to admit it. Denying every thought of him. Pretending there were no dreams…memories of him touching me…giving me the best sex of my life!

          Am I really willing to throw that all away, throw my whole life away just to keep John available for another woman?

          Yes.

          Well, that’s pithy, unrealistic, but pithy. What happened to fighting? I’ve never been the cowering type. Fighting is what I’m here for. It’s what I do. It’s what we do. You and me together. One mind, surviving.

          No, I’m tired.

          I step into my quarters and Atlantis hits the soundtrack.

Paralyzed - The Cardigans

          I’m too busy to pay attention, though. I swear Atlantis is in league with Jax. Pushing me to fight for John but right now, I don’t care. I can’t concentrate. My side hurts, my head hurts…my damn heart hurts. Knowing there’s a friggin’ AI that has access to my brain and is trying to tell me something isn’t what I want to deal with right now.

          I’ve got bigger problems.

          I strip and jump into the shower before I even turn it on. The cold water hits my face and I shriek a little at the chill. But it’s all good. Well, not all good. Perhaps cold isn’t the only way to go. So, I turn the nozzle a bit and let the heat scour away the mess that is my pathetic life.

          The last time we stopped fighting, catatonia set in. I won’t do that again!

          Shut up!

          I close my eyes and suddenly I’m back in the gym: John’s eager lips on mine, possessive and so damn talented! His tongue licking my top lip before slipping into my mouth, gently sliding against my own. The touch igniting fireworks in my brain and lust in my body just like that first night. He tastes like mint…cool mint and coffee. I can’t feel my feet anymore…just his lips against mine and I never want it to end.

          I open my eyes to break the fucking spell he’s got over me only to get them drenched with hot water. In reflex, I suck in air but also a lung full of the damn water. Great, now I’m gonna choke to death in the shower and he’ll never know…No. Doesn’t matter.

          Say it!

          My body racks with coughs and the next breath’s a painful but filling one. I’m trembling and my chest hurts from the near-death-by-shower. How embarrassing would that be? Salty tears flood my eyes and slide down my face as a result of the harsh coughing, not emotional ambivalence or heartbreak.

          Lying again. You’re so good at that these days!

          Stop it, Jax.

          Admit it now. Admit it to us! You’re in love with John Sheppard and have been for nearly two years, stupid bitch!

          No! I lean into the stream and let the water wash away the tear stains. It’s not true. I don’t do that. I refuse to do that to him.

          To him? What about us! Why give up the best thing to happen to us in forever? Why continue with this ridiculous self-sacrifice? Despite your name…you’re no angel. Never have been.

          I’m sobbing…and I don’t even know why. Really, is that possible, to start crying for no reason? It’s just so…crazy.

          Dr. H. is gonna have a field day. Hell, she’ll be able to write a book on my delusions.

          Here I am, having a fight in my own head with Jax who is actually me but I treat like a separate entity while harsh sobs renewed the tension from the earlier side-stitch. I fall back against the stall and slide to the floor, bringing my knees to my chest.

          Stop this! Get up!

          But I can’t. All I know is my chest hurts so much I feel like I’m being ripped in half. My stomach’s in knots but also fluttering in a nauseating way. And my mind keeps swimming with images of John, the sound of his voice, the feel of his hands on me.

          I brush my fingers over my lips and it’s him kissing me again. Any part of my body, I can feel him, where he’s been, how he’s touched me. And it all burns so beautifully. I remember everything to the point of pain. My forehead falls onto my knees and more sobs shake my body. I want to stop. I really do. I don’t know how to make it stop.

          Somebody, make it stop.

          Please.

          Somewhere far away, Ronon’s calling to me. I call back, but my voice simply echoes inside my head, like it’s bouncing around in my skull and not out where it belongs.

          I open my eyes and John’s standing in front of me. Then he’s got me pinned to the shower wall, kissing me, inside me, moving so wonderfully slow and deliberate, sending ripples of pleasure through my body.

          I hear Ronon calling to me again, but I can’t see him. I can’t see anything except Johnny.

          “Angie.”

          I’m fine Ronon. Light as a feather…but cold. Why am I so cold? John’s hot skin rubs against mine, tantalizing…all-consuming, embracing me. In the next moment, I’m snuggly warm, toasty even. But my body’s trembling and I can still hear the horrible sounds of weeping.

          That’s gonna kill the mood for sure. Whoever’s crying needs to get their own room. John’s got his hands on me, loving me. Making love to me.

          Shit! There’s that word again. Why does it send my heart into palpitations?

          Scaredy cat.

          “Angela?”

          What? Ronon! Can’t you see I’m busy? Don’t I rate some form of privacy?

          John’s eyes are on mine, trying to delve into my brain and steal my secrets. He’s smiling. That devilishly adorable grin with dimples-of-utter-destruction, but then something changes. His eyes grow cold, heartless, dark. He’s standing in front of me, no longer Johnny but Col. Sheppard in full gear. He’s aiming the P-90 at me. I want to look away but his eyes lock me in. I can’t move. Can’t speak. I call to him but he just stares at me.

          He wants to kill me.

          “Angie, wake up!”

          What? I turn, looking for Ronon, but I can’t see anything except John. Everything else a hazy white blur. Only he exists to me. Now, even I know that doesn’t make any sense.

          Ronon? Where are you? For that matter, where am I?

          John’s smile returns, but it’s ugly, it sends a flutter of fear through my gut. Not the rollercoaster-ride fear…actual I-need-to-run-and-hide fear. It’s harsh, angry…dangerous. “You did this to me!” he snarls. “It’s your fault.”

          And then he pulls the trigger, spending hundreds of rounds on my body. I stand there and take it. I don’t even fall over. I just stand there. I look down and see each impact exploding inside me like liquid fire, but I remain standing and he pelts me with more ammo.

          “Angie!”

          Finally, something bursts from my chest. It hangs in the air in front of me. A bunch of white crystals explode out. Hey, it’s like the Matrix…and I can see each individual crystal. They look like ice cubes…only each one has a face reflecting in it.

          Charlie, Ronon, Lily, Laura, Mom, Jack, Dad, Ryan…Johnny! The cubes finally drop to the floor and shatter at my feet. I’m not bleeding. Why am I not bleeding? Shouldn’t I be? He did just shoot me full of holes. Why am I spewing ice cubes?

          It’s so cold and my teeth are chattering.

          And then there are hands on my arms, rubbing up and down. Strong arms holding me close and I hear a distant heartbeat. Not my own, of course, because my heart’s lying in melting pieces on the floor.

          I look up and Col. Sheppard’s staring at me enraged. And suddenly I’m behind him. Not me, me…but another me. I see myself walk up behind him, glaring with the same amount of anger and…betrayal. The other me puts a hand on the Colonel’s arm. I tried to warn you.

          He glances at her and nods. “So you did, Jax.”

          Jax? What’s happening?

          So weak, Angela, Jax glowers. She taps the man’s arm then pulls away. Then he’s glaring at me again. And firing.

          Col. Sheppard wants me dead. That means John hates me. And Jax. Jax hates me too.

          Finally, I collapse to the floor in the icy pool left behind by the cubes. Sobs once again wrack my body, making me tremble. I bury my face in my hands, just letting the tears take me. I don’t know what else to do.

          I should just curl up and disappear.

          “I won’t let you,” Ronon says from behind me. I look over my shoulder, but only find more of the hazy white. No one there. No Ronon to save me.

          Always needing to be rescued, Angela, Jax spits. So pathetic. And she kicks me in the face, sending me onto my back hard. Then she nails me in the side, the pain exactly like when I ran down the corridor. She pulls her leg back to kick me again, but for some reason, her foot doesn’t connect.

          I lie on the floor, shivering, waiting for the attack, all the while I still feel warm arms about me, and that distant heartbeat calls to me, keeping me safe, even from…myself.

 

≈ 11.5

          Ronon’s outside her door, his hand moves over the crystal. As usual, there’s music playing as he enters. So far so good.

Frozen - Madonna

          Five minutes ago, Sheppard caught him on the way to the mess. The man didn’t look well, his eyes wild with energy, face pale and sweaty. “I need you to check on Angie,” he said nearly breathless.

          “What’s wrong?” The fact that Sheppard, of all people, was standing before him worrying about Angie triggered all sorts of alarms in Ronon’s head. Sheppard’s supposed to be staying away from her. Ronon made that very clear. “What’d you do?”

          He closed his eyes and licked his lips, running a shaky hand through his hair. “Just talked.”

          Ronon felt the growl growing in his chest and leveled his gaze on the other man. “If you only talked‒”

          Sheppard nodded. “She got upset. Let’s just say, I get the feeling she’s…very upset.”

          “What do you mean?”

          He shook his head, running the hand through his hair again. “It’s just a feeling, Ronon. Please. Check on her.”

          So, Ronon ditched the mess hall and raced to the nearest transporter to take him to her quarters. He figured he’d start there and if he didn’t find her, he’d check his room and then search her known haunts if necessary.

          It isn’t necessary.

          The door opens instantly, she didn’t bother locking it, an oddity given how private she still is. He pokes his head inside and calls her name. Running water echoes from the bathroom into the bedroom, so he goes in and leans his back against the wall separating the rooms. He crosses his arms and tosses his voice over his shoulder. “Angie? You okay?”

          Nothing. He tries again. Only the music speaks back at him. Taking a deep breath and bracing for an all-out shouting match from a very angry, naked woman, Ronon steps into the bathroom and stands next to the shower. “Angela!”

          A soft keening sound like an animal caught in a trap slams his heart against his ribs. Yanking open the shower door, Ronon finds her huddled in the corner, legs drawn up, arms wrapped tightly around them and her head on her knees, a ball of quivering flesh. “Angie?”

          She doesn’t respond, not even to look up. Ronon shuts off the shower, pulls her robe from the door and wraps it around her before picking her up and carrying her into the bedroom. Her weight barely registers in his arms.

          He lays her down on her side, she stays in that curled position, weeping. He pulls all the covers up to her shoulders as her body trembles from a combination of cold and tears. “Angela?”

          Still no response. He smooths her wet hair from her face; her eyes are shut tight. She’s murmuring something even as she continues to cry. Ronon can’t understand; it’s too soft. Kicking off his boots, he lays down facing her, wraps his arms around her, pulling her close to him, her wet head resting on his chest.

          “He wants to kill me,” she whispers, repeating it over and over.

          “Angie, wake up!” For a moment there’s nothing and then her body starts shaking violently. “Angie!”

          He should call the doctor. He should call somebody. But that would mean leaving her. He doesn’t have a headset; he only wears it when going off-world.

          The shaking subsides and she lays limp against him. “Cold,” she says, her teeth chattering. Ronon wraps his arms around her, holding her as close as possible.

          She’s crying again, a continuous, barely audible sob. And she’s still trembling, muttering the same thing over and over. “He wants to kill me,” her voice full of despair. After several more minutes, she adds: “Just curl up and disappear.”

          “I won’t let you,” Ronon says firmly, holding her tight and kissing her forehead. “Not a chance.”

₪†₪

Chapter Text

≈ 12

          I’m sitting alone in my room listening to another of Atlantis’ top picks from my enormous music collection. But the songs don’t start on time or end right. It’s little snippets of lyrics from different bands and singers. It’s getting frustrating. What is she trying to tell me? It’s like she’s got a remote and just channel surfing.

Torture - Berlin

          Yes, I think of The City as a she. She reminds me of me. Moody, temperamental and obsessed with John Sheppard.

          Finally, I latch onto a Berlin ballad and she lets it play through. I still don’t get the message, but I like the song or it wouldn’t be part of my playlist.

          “Angela…”

          I spin around in a white mist. “Mom?”

          My room is gone…what the…I don’t recognize this place. Not that there’s much to look at, just some fog or a giant white room only no walls. And there’s a breeze. Maybe it’s that misty planet Dr. McKay talked about that one time. Oooh, I always did wonder what that place would be like. Talk about being able to create your own life. That would be a trip. Too bad it would be a short-lived trip, though. The scenarios I could think up…

          “Angela…” her voice soft, dreamy. It reminds me of when she used to wake me for school with a gentle shoulder rub. Mom always had the gentlest touch and a voice to go with it. No wonder Daddy fell in love with her so easily. He once told me it was love at first sight. He must have been swept away by her beauty, grace, and voice. “I’m here.”

          And then I see her. She’s wearing a fancy, bright red dress and red high heels. Her long spiraled black curls rest atop her head, little tendrils gracing her neck and face. We share the same hair, naturally curly locks. Hers always looked so elegant, whereas mine…well, frizz doesn’t even come close these days.

          “Mom,” I gasp.

          She looks so beautiful against the white backdrop. Where are we anyway? It’s a dream, obviously. But not one I’ve ever had before. I feel warm, calm. Mom’s here, smiling at me the way she always did.

          Where’d Jax go? The Colonel with his P-90? What if they see her? My heart’s racing as I whirl around looking for them. I can’t have them see her. They’ll hurt her…take her away from me. Leave me‒

          …It’s that bloody Ancient device... That sounds like…Dr. Beckett?

          “Don’t worry, baby,” she says softly. Suddenly she’s in front of me, her warm hand on my cheek. Her fingers are as silky and delicate as I remember. “Mommy’s here.”

          I throw my arms around her, clinging to her like a silly child. But I don’t feel silly. I feel relieved and happy. And I’m crying because of that. “I’ve missed you so much.”

          …I don’t understand... That’s…Dr. Weir?

          Mom’s hand caresses the back of my hair and more tears fill my eyes: burning but so refreshing when they slide down my face. “I know,” she says, hugging me close.

          “Where’s Daddy?”

          “He can’t be here, baby.”

          “Why not?”

          “He doesn’t want you to see him…sad.”

          …It’s the chemicals being released…

          I pull back, my eyes locking onto her hazel ones. I’d forgotten we didn’t share our eyes. I got Daddy’s in the mix…dark, Italian brown. Dramatic eyes, Mom always said. She warned me they could be considered bedroom eyes and I’d have to be careful how I used them on men. That always made me laugh. “Why is he sad?”

          Mom’s hand rounds my face and cups my chin. “Because of you.”

          “Me?”

          Mom nods, her smile faltering. “You’re not the daughter he’d hoped for, baby.”

          …So you say…

          My heart nearly stops beating. “What?” There’s so much pain. I feel like I’m going to split in half. It’s like a full body blow right inside my chest. I’m shaking again. Trembling. “What?” I repeat, but it’s just a whisper.

          Mom pulls back from me, keeping me at arm’s length. Then she points over my shoulder. “She is.”

          …I do say because she said so.

          I turn my head slowly. I don’t want to see, but I have to. I have to know. And there she is, standing with her arms folded, dressed in all black. Dressed like death.

          Jax.

          …I don’t agree.

          She’s me. An exact duplicate, only…she’s not me. She’s hard and cold. She feels nothing. Daddy couldn’t want her. Could he?

          …Just my opinion.

          I shake my head wildly as I turn back to Mom. But she’s gone, vanished into the misty landscape. “Mom?” I spin in place, searching for her. I run through the never-ending mist. “Mom!” I spin again. “Mommy!”

          Jax is in front of me. Face it, Angela. No one wants you. You’re weak. Crying for your dead parents. Crying over John…a man who clearly could never love you. So weak. That’s why you never had Ryan. You could never have a man love you. Tony showed you that much. And you know it. You told John. You’re not worth it.

          “Ronon loves me.”

          Sure, he does. You’re his pet. He likes having someone follow him around, making him feel important. But he could never love you really. Not the way a man loves a woman. You’re not strong enough for him. For any of them.

          You’re just no good, Angela. Mom and Dad know it now. Of course, you had to get them killed for them to figure it out. Same with Ryan and Charlie. It’ll be the same with Ronon and John. They’ll figure it out soon enough…when you get them killed too.

          “No!”

          Why fight it. You know it’s true. Just go on and keep crying like a little baby. It seems it’s all your good at these days.

          Okay, that just pisses me off to no end. So what if seeing Mom makes me happy, not seeing Dad makes me sad, seeing John makes me want him ten different ways. I’m sick of taking Jax’s crap. Sick of apologizing for my damn feelings!

          She’s staring me down with that hateful glare. So I pop one off and deck her. She doesn’t go down, but she’s shocked to the core, I can feel it, because so am I. Usually, she’s the one smacking me around. This is so weird.

          She stands firm, rubbing her jaw. I raise my fist again. That’s some bitch slap, sweetie. She’s smiling at me. Knew you had it in ya.

          “What?”

          Jax circles me, looking me up and down, appraising me even. When you were six and fell down on the ice the first time. Who picked you up?

          My brows crease. Is this a trick? “Daddy.”

          Jax shakes her head. Okay, fine. The second time.

          “I did.”

          She nods. When Jacob White tripped you on the playground in eighth grade, what happened?

          I can’t fight the grin. “I broke his nose with a head-butt.”

          When you fell off the apex of the pyramid in high school and dislocated your shoulder…what’d you do?

          God. High school cheerleading? She’s bringing that up? “I cried.”

          Because it hurt.

          “Well…yeah.” That’s a given.

          Then what’d you do?

          I turn my head, watching her carefully as the memory returns. “Went to the ER. Flirted with the cute doctor.” She’s still looking me up and down like I’m something on an auction block.

          After that. After the recovery.

          “I went back to cheerleading.”

          And?

          Now I see where she’s going. “I got back on the apex.”

          Jax stops circling and stands in front of me, eye to eye. Hers are exactly like mine, only there’s a challenge in them. And when Tony Demarco pointed his gun at you, ready to kill you in an instant. What did you do?

          I shake my head. I don’t want to go back there. I’ve never wanted to go back there no matter how many times my brain takes me. Jax grips my shoulders and squeezes, painfully almost. What did you do?

          “I…I…” I close my eyes and take a deep breath, then open them and stare right at her. “I told him to fuck off.”

          She releases me and folds her arms. You didn’t beg for your life?

          I shake my head, not taking my eyes from hers. “No.”

          You didn’t run? Let him shoot you in the back?

          “No.”

          Jax tilts her head, eyeing me with that challenge. And during all this…where was I?

          My eyes widen and my jaw drops. I can feel the air going in and out of my lungs, but I’m so stunned, I can’t catch my breath. I’m dizzy and my heart’s beating so fast. So hard.

          Where. Was. I? She asks again, pointedly hitting each word.

          I shake my head. “Nowhere. You didn’t…exist.”

          Jax smiles. It’s a gentle, warm smile…so different. It’s Mom’s smile. She has Mom’s smile. Which means I have Mom’s smile. How come I never noticed that?

          Call yourself whatever you want: Pamela, Frankie, Tammy…Jax. They’re only names. They don’t make you…you…Angela.

          “I don’t understand.”

          Jax’s smile turns sly, into a smirk. You will.

          “Jax is a cool name,” Mom says. I spin, seeing her behind me. “Tough. Like a shield. Or body armor.”

          “Mom?” She fingers my collar. I look down seeing black clothes, Jax’s outfit.

          “Or a code name,” a deep male voice says.

          I spin again and bump into… “Daddy?”

          His arms engulf me with a giant hug, pressing his heart against mine. “Hello, Angel.” I can smell his aftershave. And his arms are so tight around me. I’ve never felt so safe. So loved.

          “Oh, Daddy!” I sob against him. 

≈ 12.5

          John’s only partially listening to Carson as he tells Elizabeth what’s happening to Angie. He’s too busy watching over the young woman who—for reasons beyond both their control—has become a very major concern for him. He’s grasping one hand as Ronon clutches at the other while she lies in the infirmary, wired up to an EKG and an IV.

          “It’s that bloody Ancient device,” Carson tells Elizabeth. “I should have seen it sooner. I’m so sorry.”

          “What is happening to her, Carson?” Elizabeth asks. John hears the worry in her voice. Elizabeth—like a lot of others here—has grown attached to Angie. She’s…well there’s something about her.

          Maybe it’s the pheromones.

          Yesterday, Ronon found her in the shower, completely unresponsive. He did his best to warm her and rouse her, but nothing worked. John had sent him there because he had a gut feeling something was wrong with her. He didn’t know where that idea came from, but he couldn’t get rid of it. He felt Angie in trouble. He just wishes he’d been wrong.

          “Her metabolism has gone haywire. And she’s lost weight.”

          John fought the urge to go to her himself, but that only lasted about fifteen minutes. He finally gave in and when he arrived at her quarters, he found Ronon on the bed with the weeping woman. He’s never seen Ronon so worried. Even when she’d gone into the catatonic state, Ronon still remained stoic, almost removed from the whole thing. But yesterday, John saw fear in the big man’s eyes.

          Fear for his sister. And a predominant hatred for John.

          “Her body’s expending more energy than she’s putting in. I’ve spoken with Dr. Heightmeyer and she did tell me the lass’ eating habits are, let’s just say, erratic. But with all the chemicals flooding her system, she probably hasn’t noticed a drag.”

          “I don’t understand.”

          Ronon carried her to the infirmary with John following close on his heels. Carson kicked them out moments later, though neither could leave the outside corridor and the doctor ordered them to get some rest. Like that was really an option.

          They stayed in the corridor all night, waiting; blame in Ronon’s not-so-subtle glare. If anything happens to her, John knows Ronon would feel righteous in killing his commanding officer. And part of John would welcome it.

          Carson finally relented and let them in an hour ago to sit with her. Elizabeth arrived a few minutes ago to get updated.

          Carson sighs heavily and that makes both Ronon and John look at him. “I daresay she’s had enormous amounts of physical energy. It’s the chemicals being released, they are essential to stamina.” Elizabeth nods and John’s breath catches when he hears the word. “The problem lies in the fact that a human body needs fuel to expend such energy. She hasn’t been putting in that fuel…or enough of it, anyway.”

          “Shouldn’t she have known? Been hungry at least?”

          “Aye. But you know the lass, Dr. Weir. She’s an exceptionally driven creature. I’ve never met the like…well, aside from you that is.”

          Elizabeth flashes an embarrassed smirk as she folds her arms. “Is she going to be all right?”

          Carson crosses his arms, glancing over his shoulder at the young woman. John follows the doctor’s gaze. She seems to be sleeping peacefully, at least. The weeping ended sometime in the night according to Carson. Her eyes do look a little sunken and her cheekbones pronounced, but otherwise, she’s just as beautiful as ever.

          Maybe I should kiss her. It always works in fairytales.

          Now that’s the most ridiculous thought ever!

          Though the kissing idea came to him, to John’s surprise, the last thing on his mind is sex. That’s a big deal these days, especially when he’s around Angie. Usually, his body gets in on the action before his mind can even focus. But as of yesterday—their last meeting—something’s different. He’s wondering if being apart really was the only way to help them and he just had to reconcile the fact in his mind. Put her needs ahead of his.

          When he realized how much he was hurting her, something snapped inside him. The thought of being the cause of her pain even in the slightest made him angry at himself. He beat the crap out of the heavy bag for a while. Until that twinge in his gut told him something was seriously wrong with her and he raced back into The City proper to find Ronon.

          Carson’s talking again. “Her heart-beat became erratic last night.”

          “What!” Ronon stands up, still holding Jax’s hand. John twists in his chair, echoing Ronon’s cry.

          The doctor nods. “Aye. We had to shock her back to normal rhythm. It wasn’t long…just a minute. But it’s never a good thing. As you know, Colonel.”

          John nods. “Hurts like hell too.”

          Elizabeth turns to him. “You remember?”

          “Yeah,” he scrubs his free hand over his face.

          “I have her on a high electrolyte IV, which I’m hoping will get her to wake up.”

          Ronon re-takes his seat, still watching the doctor. “You don’t know if she’ll wake up?”

          “You have to understand son, what’s happening to her is metabolic. That’s a very slippery slope to mess with. I can’t believe the Ancients didn’t add this to their data.”

          Elizabeth shrugs. “They probably never came across it. After all, the device wasn’t meant…”

          “For us,” John says firmly.

          “Mom?” Jax says softly. Her hand tightens around John’s. He glances over and sees that Ronon’s also getting the same response.

          John runs his hand over her forehead, ignoring the glare from the other man. “Wake up, Jax.”

          “Angie,” Ronon growls.

          John grimaces at him. “She doesn’t like to be called that.”

          “So you say.”

          “I do say because she said so.”

          “I don’t agree.”

          Elizabeth sighs and both men turn to her. “I doubt your bickering is the encouragement she needs.” She spreads her hands. “Just my opinion.”

          “Thought women liked to be fought over.”

          Elizabeth’s eyes narrow on him. “Masculine misconception, John.”

          John nods, dutifully chagrined. He glances at Ronon. “Sorry.” Ronon just grunts.

          “Mommy!”

          Her breathing increases and her body’s shaking. “Carson,” John and Ronon call at the same time then look at each other. John doesn’t back down this time. Yes, he understands Ronon’s protectiveness of her. But Ronon has to understand that John isn’t going away until he knows she’s all right. And even then…he might not be able to stay away.

          And John’s not so sure that’s such a bad thing anymore.

          Carson checks her vitals and listens to her heart. “She’s panicking.” He calls to his nurse. “5mg diazepam.”

          Her grip on John’s hand tightens and he winces as his knuckles get crushed together. Damn, she’s strong! “I think something’s pissing her off,” he tells everyone.

          “Nightmares,” Ronon says, not taking his eyes from her.

          The nurse returns with the shot, but Angie has already settled down. Carson checks her heart again. “Slowing…getting better.” He waves off the nurse. “Never mind.”

          She’s quiet now, though her brows crease in confusion. She shakes her head slightly, but not thrashing as she normally does. Her grip on John lessens considerably.

          Elizabeth looks to Carson. “That’s a good sign, right? She’s dreaming.”

          “Aye.” He turns to her. “I’m optimistic. As soon as she’s awake, we need to get some solid food in her. She’s going to have to make some changes in her eating habits. And I know she’s not going to like this, but I’m requiring at least a ten-pound weight gain and not just muscle. The lass needs some insulation on her as well.”

          Elizabeth’s brows rise. “Ten pounds? Really?”

          “Aye. I’d say this trade agreement with I-zoola could not have come at a better time.”

          Her brows wrinkle. “Why’s that?”

          “While on their planet, Jax managed quite well on the fish and grain diet. I’ve run my tests. There are substantial proteins and vitamins in their food. Plus, no added fillers like we’re used to on Earth.”

          “Daddy?” A moment later, though, she’s crying again. John looks up at Carson.

          “Happy tears,” Elizabeth says softly.

          “How can you tell?” John asks.

          She nods toward Angie. “She’s smiling.”

          He turns back to the young woman. Elizabeth’s right. Angie’s softly curved lips seem blissful.

          Elizabeth nods and clasps her hands together. “Good. Keep me informed.”

          John catches her gaze before she leaves. She pulls her eyes from his almost instantly and it makes him feel guilty and sad. He doesn’t want to leave Jax, but he knows he has to talk to Elizabeth. They’ve been doing the back and forth eye-thing for too long. He’s accepted the truth about his feelings for her. He can’t believe it took someone else to point it out to him, but there it is. It’s time he put everything out there.

          He’s seen the looks she’s given him. Not to forget the hug. They never spoke of it, but since then, things between them have been different: the flirting a little bit more serious; the silences on the balcony more fulfilling; the subtle touches on an arm or back a grateful reminder that they’re both still here.

          And he’s forever been attracted to her, since that first meeting in Antarctica. Have to face it, she’s a gorgeous woman. Even though he’s been affected by this thing with Angie, it hasn’t dampened his attraction for Elizabeth…or the fact that his heartbeat quickens when she comes into his sight.

          He releases Angie’s hand, laying it across her stomach and follows Elizabeth. He finds her in the corridor, leaning a shoulder against a wall, head bowed and her back to him. She must have heard the door open because her spine instantly straightens and she starts walking away. He catches sight of her hand as it swipes over her cheek.

          If he didn’t know better, he’d swear Angie was the one walking away from him—he shakes off the crazy non-sense image. “Elizabeth,” he calls softly.

          She stops but doesn’t turn around. He catches up to her. She doesn’t look at him as she speaks. “You should stay…wait for her to wake up.”

          John shrugs. “Ronon’s with her. He’s all she needs.”

          Elizabeth turns to him; the remnant tears on her lashes. “You can be so dense, John.” He’s taken aback by that and knows the shock is registering on his face. She smiles softly. “I wasn’t talking about what she needs.”

          John shakes his head. “I don’t understand.”

          Elizabeth sighs through her nose and closes her eyes for a moment. When she opens them, she motions at him: “Look at you. You haven’t slept. I doubt you’ve eaten. Unshaved and wearing the same clothes you had on yesterday.”

          “So, I’m lazy. What’s that‒”

          “No, John.” She shakes her head. “You’re worried. You’re afraid you’ll lose her. You’re in love.”

          “What?” Why is everyone assuming his feelings for Angie are more than…well, just more? First Angie breaks up with him because she says he’s in-love with Elizabeth, something he hadn’t even contemplated. After all their time together, all their angst and danger…believing each other to be dead, John supposes it makes sense. But then Carson and now Elizabeth insists he’s in love with Jax? Wouldn’t he be the first to know this sort of thing? Shouldn’t he?

          Then again…shouldn’t he have known about his feelings for Elizabeth too? All the time he’s spent watching her in meetings, hoping for a glimpse of her emerald eyes, a hint of a smile or even one of those sexy arched brows. Their banter makes his day, gives him a tickle in his stomach when he catches her off-guard. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him…and he’s only just now realizing it. He’d be lost without Elizabeth. Her strength and determination, her leadership and intelligence, even her stubbornness can make him feel happy.

          She’s the last person he looks to when going off-world and the first person he seeks out when returning. It has nothing to do with her being in command. It has to do with the fact that when he sees her…he knows he’s home. It’s as simple as that. Nothing here would have meaning, really. She is the heart of Atlantis. His heart.

          How could he be with someone else…no matter what the physical attraction? Elizabeth has always been there, inside him, since the beginning. She’s the reason he came here, the reason he took the risk. After that first meeting, even though he’d told Gen. O’Neill he had to think about it, he’d already made the choice.

          “I don’t know why you’re fighting it so hard,” Elizabeth says. “We all see it. Even Ronon. That’s probably why he hasn’t tried to kill you yet.” She laughs softly.

          See what? That I like her, that I’m ridiculously attracted to her? That I can’t stop thinking about her…or wanting her…talk to her…see her smile…?

          Who exactly am I thinking about? “Elizabeth. I told you I’m not in love with Jax.”

          “Angela.”

          He waves a hand. “Whatever. Whoever. I’m not‒”

          She takes a deep breath. “I saw you when I came into the infirmary, John. Sitting there, holding her hand, watching her. Wanting her. You can’t help it, I know.”

          Okay, so…he’s grown attached to Angie. She’s…god she’s beautiful and sexy…but that’s all there is to it. Like he told Carson. It’s just physical. Right?

          If that’s the case, why was I sitting by her side the whole night? Why am I willing to stand up to Ronon just to be near her?

          He shakes his head. “Certainly not part of any plan. It just… happened. Like everything else around here just happens.” John dips his head so he can catch Elizabeth’s eyes. “But I’m not with her right now, am I? I’m with you. Why were you crying?”

          She doesn’t look at him. “I wasn’t…I…” Words fail her as she shakes her head. John lifts her chin with a finger. Elizabeth’s mouth sets in a tight line. “It’s a difficult situation…the burden of command. Perceptions, protocol.”

          He drops his hand to his side and tilts his head back. Ah. Protocol. She’s the leader and he’s her second in command. That sticky little thing.

          She looks him in the eyes. “Col. Caldwell.” He bristles at the mention of his superior’s name. That man is going to be the bane of his existence, he knew it the moment he met him. The moment he saved my life?

          The guy is just itching for an excuse to get Atlantis militarized. To take control. To send me packing.

          As if reading his mind, Elizabeth says, “Atlantis needs you, John. Needs us both.” She shakes her head again. “But…you need some stability…even here. Someone to look forward to seeing…”

          “I have that.” John grasps Elizabeth’s hand and puts it to his lips. A gasp escapes her, but she doesn’t try to pull away from him. She trembles at his touch. He knows it’s not fear. He likes that he can elicit such things from her. “I can’t be in love with Angie. Because I already am…with you.”

          There he said it and the moment he did, he felt it as truth. He’d never told a woman that before and now he knows why. All these years of holding back, it’s because he’s been waiting…for her. For Elizabeth.

          She closes her eyes and stifles a sob. “As much as I want…” She looks at him, her eyes full of sadness, pain…a lot like Jax. “It doesn’t matter. You’re bonded to her, John. She needs you. And you do need her.”

          He shakes his head again, this time pressing her palm against his lips and gently kissing it. “I only need you.”

          Now she does pull her hand away, but to caress his cheek, running her thumb over his mouth. “You have me, John. Always.” He’s so ready to take her in his arms and kiss her, but suddenly she turns and walks away.

          He stands there not knowing what to do. He’s never been this indecisive before. Half of him wants to run after her, make her clarify exactly what she means by that. He has her? How exactly if she’s walking away from him. If she’s so worried about Caldwell and protocol…how can they be together? Why is she pushing him towards Angie?

          The other half is pulling him right back to the infirmary, to urge Angie to open her eyes and smile at him the way he adores. To take her in his arms and straight to bed, hold her through the night and tell her everything’s going to be all right. Convince her they should be together.

          John turns and bangs his forehead into the nearest wall. What the hell is wrong with me? Is it possible to be in love with two women at the exact same time? Not that he’s saying he’s in love with Angie, because he’s…

          Oh, hell…stop lying to yourself! He knows what his heart does when he’s around Angie… it’s exactly what it does the moment Elizabeth walks into a room or raises an eyebrow or grins at him slyly. Sometimes it’s like they’re the same woman and then other times…

          This is fun!

          “What the hell!” John looks around. He’s alone in the corridor. Who the fuck just said that? He’d swear he heard a giggle too. “Atlantis…if you’re in my head, get out right the hell now.”

          Ooops.

          “Fuckin’ A!” Someone has to be messing with him! John sighs and bangs his forehead against the wall again. He needs a shower. He needs a meal.

          He needs to get his damn head on straight.

          Women!

          They’re gonna be the death of me.

₪†₪

Chapter Text

13 

            Déjà vu. So sick of this shit.

            Wake the hell up, lump!

            I wake rather slowly, which is so not me. Usually, I’m jerking awake, suffocating from nightmares, my heart drumming some insane beat through my body. Well, this time is different. The subtle beep of a computer…or something drags me out of the darkness, like an alarm clock almost. And soft whispers—though I can’t tell who’s doing the talking or what they’re saying—pull at me.

            I open my eyes and I don’t know why or how, but I’m in the infirmary staring up at the white ceiling. Wow, that’s a weird design…the ceiling looks like a cat’s eye. Funky. I notice my hand isn’t my own and I roll my head to the left where Ronon grins at me. I smile back. “Hey,” I say, my voice a bit muffled and my throat scratchy. “My usual haunt, I see.”

            Ronon leans over and kisses my cheek. “Feeling better?”

            My stomach rumbles. “Kinda hungry actually.”

            “Good,” Dr. Beckett says, pulling the curtain aside. “That’s what I want to hear.” He taps his headset and says something about a food order.

            I sit up very slowly and Ronon pushes an extra pillow behind me. “What’s going on? Last thing I remember…” Crap! The shower! I narrow my eyes on Ronon. “You didn’t.”

            He shrugs. “I had to.” He raises one hand. “I didn’t see a thing, I swear.” I don’t believe him, but at the same time, I do. That’s the thing with us. We may not be blood-related, but if anything happened…the thought is just…yucky in big bold letters. I know it doesn’t make sense, he’s a hot, towering man of muscle. But he’s so…Ronon.

            I look to the nice doctor. “You gonna explain?” And he does, telling me I’m the victim of the lovely lust-o-rama device yet again. That damn thing is gonna kill me, I just know it. “So…am I okay?”

            “Let’s get some food in ya first. Then we’ll see. You’re going to have to make some changes, Lass. I’m creating an eating schedule for you to follow. You must keep it up. I don’t want to see ya back in here…ever if you can help it.”

            Not by choice!

            Ignoring that weird not-Jax voice in my head, I nod. “That’s a good goal. I’ll try to keep it.” The doors part and my heart skips a beat until I see it’s Dr. H. Who was I expecting? John, maybe? Not likely. I did tell him to get lost, in no uncertain terms.

            “He was here all night. Same as me,” Ronon says.

            “What?”

            “You were hoping to see Sheppard.”

            I shift uncomfortably in the bed. “No, I wasn’t.” Ronon raises a single brow, narrowing his gaze at me at the same time. I roll my eyes. “Maybe a little.”

            “How are you feeling?” Dr. H. says. She looks all kinds of pretty today. Must have a date with Dr. Z later.

            “Better, according to Dr. Beckett. Sorry if I put anyone out. Wasn’t exactly a plan or anything.”

            Dr. Beckett pats my leg. “We know that, lass. Like I told ya. I should have seen this coming.”

            I wave him off and flash a smirk. “Not blaming you. So, this…metabolic thing. It’s gonna be on-going?”

            “I’m afraid so.” Dr. Beckett nods. “You’ve had a shift in your brain chemistry. I don’t see it returning to…”

            “Factory standards?”

            He grins. “Exactly. It’s nothing to worry about, as long as you eat in a timely manner. And I want you to gain some weight. Which means some junk food might be necessary.”

            I grin at that. “Junk food? This coming from a doctor?”

            “Well, there are many junk foods that have beneficial side-effects, in moderation.”

            “Chocolate.”

            He nods. “That is one.”

            “Pop tarts? No…marshmallows.”

            “Hmm. I’ll give you a list. Try to steer clear of the bad cholesterol though. Don’t need to work your heart too hard.”

            That reminds me of my dreams and the ice cubes. I look at Dr. H. “Something weird happened.”

            She sits on the edge of the bed next to mine. “What?”

            “I had the strangest dream.”

            She settles in, crossing her ankles. “Why don’t you tell me about it.”

            “Want me to go?” Ronon asks.

            I grin at him, give his hand a squeeze. “You do look like animal dung.” He wrinkles his nose at me which only makes me smile more. “You don’t have to stay. I’m good. You should get some sleep.” He squeezes my hand then gets up from his stool, leans over and kisses my forehead. Our hands don’t part until he’s too far away for me to keep touch. “Ronon.” He’s still watching me in that protective way that always makes me feel special. “I knew you were with me. Thank you.”

            His smile is huge and his chest pumps up. “That’s what I’m here for, Cheetah.”

            “That’s my Tarzan.” I laugh.

            “Now. Tell me about the dream,” Dr. H. says.

 13.5 

            Ronon catches Sheppard in the corridor. He’s carrying a tray towards the infirmary, obviously Angie’s food. He raises a hand and Sheppard stops a couple feet from him. The Colonel’s clearly wary. “Sheppard.”

            “Ronon.”

            “She’s awake.”

            He motions with the tray. “I figured.” He licks his lips. “So…is this going to be a problem?”

            Ronon shakes his head. “I don’t have a problem…as long as you don’t make one.”

            “I’m just bringing her food.”

            “She’s falling for you, Colonel.”

            Sheppard’s whole face scrunches up in disbelief. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

            Ronon huffs. “I’m not as…uncivilized as you might like to believe. I’ve seen it before. I’ve seen what it can do to a woman if the feelings are not returned.” He lifts his chin. “I made a promise to Jack.”

            “General O’Neill?”

            Ronon nods. “If she gets hurt…by anyone…I take action.”

            Sheppard swallows hard, drops his gaze and nods. He bites his bottom lip. “I’d have made the same promise,” he says firmly then latches his eyes onto Ronon’s. “I’m not out to hurt her. That is a promise.”

            Ronon nods. “Fair enough.” Then he starts down the hallway again. “But if you do,” he tosses back without looking at the man. “I’ll tear your arms off and beat you to death with them.” He grins when Sheppard clears his throat.

            John almost drops the tray. Ronon probably could tear his arms off and beat him with them. Damn, what a thought! Well, it won’t be necessary. While getting cleaned up, he came to a decision. No matter how hard it is, how many symptoms he might have, he’s going to stay away as she requested. That’s what he plans on telling her right now.

            The fact that he really hasn’t had any symptoms…not even a headache since he kissed her yesterday didn’t really factor into his decision. Well, maybe it did a little. After all, if the headaches are gone, doesn’t that mean his brain is back to normal? That the addiction is over? He should let Carson know.

            The curtain’s closed around her bed, but he can hear Dr. Heightmeyer’s hushed voice. “How do you interpret what happened?”

            There’s a rustle of fabric, probably the bed sheets. “Well…I’m thinking it was pretty straightforward. Don’t you?”

            “I don’t think Col. Sheppard wants to kill you.”

            John jerks at that. He sets the tray down quietly, tempted to push open the curtain, but changes his mind and turns to the door instead. Still, he doesn’t open it. He stands there…waiting. He knows he shouldn’t be listening. It’s wrong, on so many different levels. But…she thinks he wants to kill her?

            “Yes…well, no… I know it was just a dream image, but… You didn’t see his face. Somewhere in my subconscious…yeah, I believe it. I think he really blames me for all this. I did cause everything.”

            “On purpose?” Angie doesn’t respond. John wishes he could see through the curtain. See her face. “You care about him.”

            “Too much, I think.”

            Is Ronon right? Does she have…

            “Is there such a thing?”

            Angie laughs but there’s little humor in it. “From me…yes.”

            That’s it, either stomp in there and say something or leave. Stop spying. It’s not right and it’s not fair. John swipes his hand over the door crystal and steps into the hallway. He doesn’t move far enough out for the door to close so it stays open. If I leave the tray, they’ll know someone was here listening.

            John picks the tray back up and clears his throat, announcing his presence.

            “Who’s that?” Angie whispers. A moment later, Dr. Heightmeyer pulls aside the curtain. Angie stares at him with wide eyes. “Jo…Col. Sheppard.” She glances at the doctor then back at him. “How long have you been here?”

            He motions to the closing door. “Just now.” He holds up the tray. “Someone ordered room service.”

            Angie’s smile is full of relief. Dr. Heightmeyer nods, pushing the curtain around the bed. John moves in, setting the tray on Angie’s lap. “We’ll talk later,” Dr. Heightmeyer says. She nods to John, offering a professional smile then heads out the door.

            Angie pokes at the meatloaf on her tray with a finger. John quirks a brow. “They said Beckett was specific about what to send up. Lots of starch and protein.”

            “Great.” Her upper lip curls as she eyes the mashed potatoes and gravy, yellow corn and a dinner roll, the sweet kind that he likes. Grabbing the knife and fork set, she pulls them apart.

            John grabs a couple of ketchup packets from his shirt pocket and sets them on the sides of the plate. She smiles. “Thanks.”

            He grins. “My pleasure.” Now she stabs at the potatoes with the fork, mixing the gravy into the white fluff. Since they got the mainland crops going, the expedition no longer has to struggle through chowing down on dehydrated potatoes. The Athosians have made great work in growing them.

            John bounces on his feet for a moment then claps his hands together lightly.

            She takes a bite of the mashed potatoes, then nods side-to-side in acceptance. “If I’m keeping you from something…” She motions to the door with the fork.

            “No, I’m good.” He bounces some more. She looks so…adorable sitting there making faces at the food. John realizes he doesn’t even know what she likes to eat. What’s her favorite color? Where’d she go to college or did she?

            And suddenly, he really wants to know these things. He wants to see her making more of these silly faces at food as she pokes at it. He needs to know everything about her. It’s like his whole body is on fire wanting these answers. Wanting to know her.

            Maybe Elizabeth is right. Maybe he does need Angie. “Would you go out with me?”

            Okay, where did that come from? That was nowhere in the decision. Not even a blip on the ‘decision’ screen.

            Jax must be thinking the same thing because she’s staring at him, mouth open, fork halfway inside, eyes wide. She blinks a couple of times then closes her mouth around the food and slowly swallows. She sips her drink. All the while, her eyes stay locked to his. “Excuse me?”

            Exactly! I clearly remember planning to stay away…

            …It’s not a bad idea. John leans against the empty bed. “You know…dinner, a movie…a date.”

            She wipes her mouth with the small napkin. “Is this a joke?”

            John shakes his head. He’s beside her in an instant, leaning down and kissing her lightly. “I was really worried about you,” he says, catching her gaze and the surprise in her eyes. He was really worried. He just hadn’t wanted to admit it to himself.

            She smiles nervously. “That’s me…big drama queen.”

            John brushes the back of his hand across her cheek. “I think we should consider our previous deal null and void.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “The rules have changed,” he says softly, searching her face, her eyes, seeing things he hadn’t before. A softness in her eyes, a warmth that wasn’t there previously. “And it seems…so have the players.”

            Then he’s kissing her again, gently catching her bottom lip with his teeth before gliding his tongue over it. She trembles slightly but she kisses him back. Before it gets too heated, John pulls away but keeps his face close to hers so he can feel her breath on his lips. “I’m not going to hurt you. Promise.”

            “You should know by now‒” Her brows crease ever so slightly with concern as her eyes stay on his and her hand comes up to his cheek. “I’m not worried about me.”

            John grins. “Then there’s nothing to worry about.”

            She swallows hard, watching him. Her eyes full of emotions he can’t yet discern, but the familiar wall doesn’t come up blocking them either. Something has happened since they last spoke, last kissed…for both of them.

            “Okay,” Angie smiles lightly.

            John’s grin grows and kisses her again; keeping it chaste. He locks their gazes. “How’s your head?”

            Her brows wrinkle in confusion. “Um...Fine.”

            John nods, raising his right brow. “So’s mine.”

            After a moment, realization dons on her, glimmering in her eyes. “Oh…” she says breathlessly. A moment later and her eyes widen and she sighs another, stronger: “Oooohhhh.”

₪†₪

Chapter Text

14

          Dr. Beckett released me after only one more night in jail…the infirmary. He’s obsessed with the new caloric intake plan he’s put me on; sending me straight to the kitchen to visit with my old work buddies, food schedule in hand. I’m also to keep a supply of protein bars on hand at all times as well as take a daily multi-vitamin.

          Not to mention the ten pounds he insists I gain! Just please don’t let it be in my ass. That’ll throw a whole wrench into my triples.

          This is really a pain. I’ve never kept a regular eating schedule. I prefer eating when I’m hungry. But that seems to be the whole problem. I don’t eat when I’m hungry. So even if I can run, dance or skate faster than the other kids, I’m kind of like a Cheetah—not that one—the big cat. I get spurts but once the energy dissipates, I’m pretty much Jell-O.

          Who knew that wiggly substance would come in so handy as a metaphor?

          He also requires me to inform him of any sudden bursts of energy, especially if they leave me feeling euphoric or dizzy in their wake—I’m pretty sure I can rule out any workouts I might have with Johnny, however. Those are supposed to leave me euphoric and dizzy.

          Damn, I can’t stop the silly grin that’s been plastered to my face since he asked me out on a real date.

          It’s been three days since my infirmary visit and I’m still waiting to hear from John about the particulars of our ‘date’. Man, did that come out of left field. I know I should have said no…but I couldn’t. Didn’t want to. I’m so sick of feeling guilty because of what happened. Yes, in most likelihood, the two of us were probably never meant to be together. And yes, I know he’s in deep with Dr. Weir. But I can’t fight it anymore. I want the man constantly.

          Some addictions you just have to learn to live with, I guess. This one’s gonna be a real burden. Oh yeah, constant naked bliss…that’s harsh.

          Well, as of yet, there hasn’t been any nakedness or bliss. We’ve spent some time together, in public places only, like the mess; occasionally touching digits, but no kissing or anything else for that matter. John’s made it pretty clear he wants to start fresh—as in completely sex free—to see where this friendship leads. Basically, it’s another one of his theories and though the last one didn’t go as planned, he might be on to something this time.

          Still want to strip him naked on a moment’s notice, though.

          Yeah, I don’t think that’s gonna change, ever. The man is scorching. But, I still have my memories to keep me…less anxious when I’m around him. Hey, I managed with the invisible clone for a long time before the real thing came around. I can deal for a while.

          When I woke up in the infirmary I had this strange feeling. Not unfamiliar but at the same time completely foreign. I can’t say it out loud let alone write it down, but I’m pretty sure why my headaches abated when I went to I-zoola. I wasn’t completely dishonest with myself when I was there. I did have a great time and I didn’t have nightmares…until that one. But I hadn’t been paying attention either. It was the dreams that did it to me. Dreams of John…smiling.

          They made me happy. I even caught myself giggling as I woke up. That’s why I was so content on I-zoola even though I missed him terribly…he already had a hold on me.

          I shake off the thought, it’s still too much to handle and I don’t want to jinx it. And I’m not being negative or overly sensitive. I’m realistic. My track record isn’t the best. And I’m kind of a bad luck magnet for other people.

          Maybe not in this galaxy.

          I can hope. The whole Jax thing still rings in my head and the dream of my parents—I didn’t tell Dr. H. about that one, I can figure it out on my own pretty good. I must have been really starting to lose it for my subconscious to take on the actual role of Jax and try to beat some sense into me.

          Pretty scary, really.

          At least it worked. I think.

          Yeah, I still chat with myself…in fact, I’ve decided that Jax is not only my Id girl but also my subconscious. She wants what she wants when she wants it and that’s just how it is. But she also protects me.

          But there’s still a niggling part in the back of my mind telling me Jax is dangerous…to me. It’s a small part of my little voice. For all I know, it’s Jax playing games—though I know she doesn’t really exist, never has—something in me is Jax: hard, cold, and full of rage. I really don’t want to bring that part out…ever.

          What if it could take over, completely?

          A shudder runs through me at that thought. It’s not possible, I’m sure. No one can lose themselves over to someone who doesn’t exist. I mean, I’ve read about multiple personality disorder, but that only happens to kids, not adults. And sure, I’ve done the whole dissociative thing, but it was completely non-violent well, except for the fist through the window and the piece of glass at my jugular, according to Ronon, I just sat there, staring.

          Okay, enough of this. I simply have to shake it off. I have clients to knead into dough and a snack to scarf down.

          And a date that needs specific details to get me closer to bliss.

          “I hear you had a bit of a meltdown,” Laura snickers. “Mr. Man, Ronon Dex had to save you from a horribly cold shower?” She wobbles her brows suggestively. With a sigh and a roll of my eyes, I point her to the Oriental Screen to change out of her clothes. “Come on. You gotta give me something.”

          “He’s my brother.”

          “Well, sweetie, you’ve got one hot brother. Plus, the way he watches you. Mmm, that is intense.” I point to the screen again. Laura shakes her head. “Always looking to get people naked, Jax. You should look into treatment for that. Or, at least, find a new hobby.”

          “Oh, I have.”

          “Really?”

          “Yeah…it’s called homicide. Wanna play?”

          Laura giggles from behind the screen. “So…I see you’ve taken my advice.”

          “Which would be?”

          “A scrumptious Lt. Colonel seems to be at your beck and call these days.”

          The smile returns; it’s kind of a reflex whenever I think of John. I’ve reconciled the fact that Col. John Sheppard is Johnny, darkness and all. Besides, the Colonel part is so hot. Whew! Have to fan myself a bit. But beck and call? “I wouldn’t say that.”

          Laura comes around the screen wrapped in a towel. “No. I did. You’re too quiet about such things.” She sits on the table but doesn’t lie down right away. “I caught you in the mess…” She wiggles her fingers at me, grinning slyly. “Holding pinky fingers under the table.”

          I open my mouth to protest but nothing comes out because I know she’s right. The blush and the impending silly giggle come out without my permission.

          “Ahh. I knew it!” She improvises a mini dance wiggling from the waist up on the table. “Jax got her man uh huh, Jax got the man uh huh uh huh.” Laura tosses her carrot top head back and groans with delight. “Mmm, this is gonna kill Maddog!” Then she laughs. “Her poker face is gonna suck for a month! Gimme a high five.”

          I lift my hand, palm out and she slaps it. “Wait. Maddog likes Sheppard?” The laughter comes unbidden, uncontrollable.

          “Dr. Morgan does too.”

          “Kat! God, is every woman hot for this man?”

          “Please!” Her smile is huge. “Some of the men too.” She lays face down on the table. “If this place was one of those orgy houses in Ancient Greece, we’d all be dancing around naked, feeding him grapes.”

          That gets me really rolling. I’m laughing so hard tears cloud my vision. Laura’s good for that, making me laugh. The image of John in a toga being fed grapes is…damn, that’s hot!

          “Okay,” Laura throws her arms out to the side of the table, flapping them a couple times then lets them drop to her sides with a slap. “Magic finger me.”

          “I am sorry to take up time,” Dr. Zelenka says as I work on his lower back.

          “That’s what I’m here for, Radek. Besides. I owe you for the speakers on I-zoola.”

          “That is so much my pleasure, sweet lady. Seeing you bruslit ohromující I get husí kůže.”

          I have no idea what he just said, but it sounds so pretty I smile anyway. I’m sure it was nice; he’s always nice to me. “So, how’d you hurt your back?”

          “Proklatý kamínek blocks from the chrám…uh temple on PXT-705. I lift…but I do not stand, I fall over instead.”

          “You must bend you’re knees, Radek. Or better yet, get a marine to bend his or her knees for you. You’re a scientist, not a heavy loader.”

          “And this is what I tell Dr. McKay…but does he listen?”

          I shake my head as he says a long “Nooooo”.

          Lots of noise about this new temple zips through the city. It seems to be on everyone’s mind. All the scientists are excited about the discovery. None so much as Dr. McKay of course. Apparently, this unknown monument was a possible beta site for the Ancients during their war with the Wraith.

          Col. Sheppard’s team didn’t find the site, however, which means Dr. McKay must be all kinds of put out that he wasn’t on the research team from the beginning. However, he is now, to everyone in The City’s pleasure because he’s been gone for two days, leaving us all in peace. Except for Dr. Weir who keeps getting ‘urgent’ calls from him for supplies.

          After cleaning up, I open the door to leave the therapy room for the night, an arm strikes out in front of me and there’s a beautiful green and yellow wildflower pinched in a rather masculine hand. I stopped myself just in time from striking out in defense. A moment later, John spins away from the wall and stands in front of me, grinning. He’s wearing the dangerous combination of black shirt, standard BDU’s and dimples-of-utter-destruction. So yummy. “For the lady,” he says with an exaggerated bow.

          I’m stunned. I actually have to cover my mouth to keep from giggling with delight. He’s so adorable. I firmly keep my smile in place as I take the flower. “Why thank you, kind sir.” I can’t believe I said that with a straight face.

          He bends an arm, offering it to me. “Would the lady care to take a stroll before supper?”

          I nod once. “The lady would.” Me, a lady…now that’s something Laura would get a kick out of. I drape my arm through his, we link elbows and I rest my hand on his forearm. He walks at a languid pace. I lean over. “So, is this it?”

          “Is this what?”

          I motion with the flower. “The date.”

          “Oh, that…” He smiles to himself. “Let’s see where this corridor takes us, shall we?”

          “Oh, there you are!” Dr. McKay says as he comes around a corner at us. I take a deep breath and let it out hard.

          John does the same but adds a groan. “Here I am, Rodney. What do you want?”

          “Not you Colonel. Jax.”

          My brows shoot up. I glance at John then look back at McKay. “Me?”

          He motions as he turns. “Come with me.”

          I don’t budge. I’m not ready to trade down so quickly. I mean, Sheppard’s wearing his black shirt for gods’ sakes. Plus, this could be the date. The first of many I’m hoping. And I’m not about to let McSnarky screw it up.

          He notices I’m not jumping at his order and stops with a huff, lifting his chin in that superior manner I find so annoying. His arms fold as he turns back to stare down his nose at me. “You’re needed on PXT-705.”

          I scoff with a smile. “Hah. Bite me.” McKay’s clearly struck by my tone. His brows wrinkle and some of the steam seeps from his puffed-up chest. John pats my hand as it rests on his forearm. I take that as a sign of encouragement. “I’m a masseuse, doctor. I work on Atlantis. And as of five minutes ago, I’m off-duty.”

          John grins, flashing dimples. “So am I. So, if you don’t mind…we have plans.” With that, we start walking, by-passing McKay who spins in place to watch us go.

          “Plans? What! This is important.” He shuffles up behind us. Tension tightens John’s arm then shoulders and neck. McKay manages to get ahead of us and stop us mid-stride. “We’ve uncovered a control panel…of some sort. It needs to be activated.”

          John taps McKay’s chest. “So…go activate it.”

          McKay sighs and rolls his head. “I’ve tried. Don’t you think I’ve tried? No one can get it working. I need someone with innate control over the gene. Someone…like Jax.” He raises a finger. “Or you, Colonel. Either or, doesn’t matter to me.”

          “You know I have a mission tomorrow, Rodney. Minus one team member.”

          “Which leads me back to my first choice of…Jax.” His smile is slim but holds that frustrating haughty ego.

          “He hasn’t even finished the translation yet,” I complain to Dr. Weir.

          She crosses her arms and raises her brows at McKay. “Is that true, Rodney?”

          “Well,” he waves a hand in the air. “Partially…yes.”

          I toss a grin over my shoulder to John who’s waiting outside the closed door. He wasn’t invited into the pow-wow by yours truly because I didn’t want Dr. Weir to think he was coming to my rescue…and therefore thinking I would use him against her.

          I offered the woman solid advice to go after the man…gave her plenty of time too. And she did nothing. I can’t feel guilty any more. I can’t deny that I want him as much or more than she does. After all…she didn’t go after him, did she?

          McKay’s fumbling through an explanation of why he needs me to go right now, but it all comes down to one fact. I hold up my hand in his face. “Ancient lust-o-rama device. The gift that keeps on screwing up my life. Remember that little debacle? Hmm. I warned you.” I point a finger so close to his nose his eyes cross. “Never again.”

          “But‒”

          “No!”

          Dr. Weir shakes her head. “Rodney…Jax is a civilian…not a scientist. She can’t be forced into service outside her parameters.”

          “But that’s why she’s here,” he whines.

          I cover a chuckle. “Not really.” Dr. Weir shoots me a look that tells me to keep quiet on that front. So, I smack my lips together and stifle the grin.

          Dr. Weir raises her hands. “How ‘bout this. Rodney, you stay on Atlantis to finish the translation while the archeologists continue excavating. As soon as you complete the translation, Jax will join you at the site. I understand the temple is only a fifteen-minute walk from the gate.

          “But that could take days.”

          Dr. Weir flashes a half smirk. “Then I suggest you get started.”

          “And how can I be certain she’ll actually come when I need her?”

          I take a deep breath. “I promise to track my ass all the way out there to start your little doohickey once you can tell me exactly what it does…and if there are going to be any side effects.”

          “It’s just a control panel.”

          I nod, glowering at him. “Yeah, and that pretty opal rock was just a communications device according to you.”

          “Well…I wasn’t completely off.” I glare at him and he huffs stiffly. “Fine.”

          I grin at Dr. Weir. “I’ll be sure to pack the duct tape.” Then I glare at McKay again. “Just in case.”

          Dr. Weir covers her mouth and coughs to kill the laugh. McKay sneers at me, but I grin and head out the door to where John is waiting. “I’m starving.”

          He grins, full dimples and I nearly melt right then and there.

 

14.5

          John glances through the glass door into Elizabeth’s office as Angie argues against Rodney. She’s got some serious lungs on her.

          Elizabeth didn’t look the least bit upset to see him arrive with her. And Angie surprised him by relinquishing his arm the moment they came down the corridor. He questioned her with a look, but she smiled softly and started to walk ahead of him. Then she refused to let him come into the office to help argue her point. He’s not used to standing on the sidelines like this.

          Angie flashes him a quick grin over her shoulder and he relaxes. It’s not like he went to a whole lot of trouble for the night. But he has been looking forward to it since he suggested they have a real date. Of course, keeping hands off over the past few days has been all kinds of difficult. He just needs to be in her vicinity to be overcome by wanting her. But as she once said, that’s what self-control is for.

          And chaperones.

          Angie doesn’t know it, but John’s scheduled a sort of double-date to try and keep their hormones in check. He talked Ronon and Teyla into joining them for dinner in the mess—not terribly romantic, but that’s kind of the point, he wants to learn about Angie, not seduce her…yet—and the movie later. John even picked a chick-flick from the new stash of DVD’s brought back from Earth.

          She finally comes out of Elizabeth’s office, smiling slyly. “I’m starving.”

          John grins and ushers her away, not realizing for a moment that he has his hand on the small of her back. She shivers subtly from the touch and he gets a flash of memory from the last time they were together. He has to mentally scold himself as he takes a deep breath and calms his racing heart. This is going to be tough.

          Ronon and Teyla are already seated when they arrive in the mess. They’ve chosen a table on the deck overlooking The City and ocean below; away from the noise of the dinner crowd. John leads Angie to the chow line, his hand again landing at the small of her back. She turns slightly to him, looking up with wide eyes. “You do realize this is killing me,” she says huskily.

          John closes his eyes for a moment and breathes through his nose. “Not just you.”

          They grab trays and get in the buffet line, Angie in front of him. She ladles some food then turns to him again, her eyes locking on his. “So, on the first date, it would be…wrong.”

          Even if the smoldering gleam wasn’t in her eyes, sending all kinds of jolts through his body, he’d know exactly what she was getting at. “Not…wrong. Just…okay, yeah, wrong. For us.”

          She nods, catching her upper lip with her teeth then sighs. “Self-control?”

          John nods. “Exactly.”

          They join Ronon and Teyla, sitting side-by-side, their thighs grazing each other is enough to heat up John’s libido. Damn, what she does to me!

          As in the infirmary, Angie pokes at her food a little before digging in. It’s not bad and she doesn’t make a face, but he notices she’s taken large portions of everything and before eating her eyes open wide and she sighs. “If I get fat…blame Beckett.”

          Teyla and Ronon exchange amused glances. “Have you been feeling well, Jax?” Teyla asks.

          John does a double-take on Teyla until he remembers she doesn’t know about Angie’s story. It’s getting harder for him to call her Jax when he no longer thinks of her by that name. But given the secrecy she still lives under, John has to remind himself to do just that. Besides, she did ask him to call her Jax during their intimate meetings. Someday he hopes she can cast aside her past life in witness-protection and just live as Angela Peterson. He knows everyone on Atlantis would love to meet Angie.

          “Better. Not hungry though…which I’m guessing is the whole point. But, I still have plenty of energy to dance and skate.”

          “You should see the…ariel?” Ronon says, looking to Angie as he pronounces the last word.

          She nods. “That’s not in the skate routine, sorry to say.” She bobs her head. “I’m too chicken.”

          “I have not seen you dance or skate,” Teyla sighs. “I look forward to such a day.”

          Angie smiles at her. “Soon, I hope.” She pokes at the sliced white meat that looks like slimy chicken then she turns to John. “What’s the one junk food you miss most out here?”

          “Pizza,” he says easily. “With everything on it.”

          She shoves a huge bite into her mouth and chews. Her face takes on a dreamy quality. “Mmm,” Angie hums. “Pepperoni and pineapple.”

          John watches her. “What are you doing?”

          “Eating pizza,” she swallows flashing a satisfied grin.  “No mushrooms…extra sauce,” she adds a wink.

          “Right,” he nods. “Or anchovies.” That sounds really good right now. “You can do that?”

          “Do what?” Ronon asks.

          “Substitute memory for what I’m actually eating.” She nods to the side. “Comes in handy, especially with the green vegetables Dr. Beckett insists I eat a lot of from now on. They always taste so bitter to me. Only way to scarf ‘em down is to substitute.”

          “Weird,” John says softly. Her smile falters and he instantly qualifies his statement. “Not you…just…that must be weird. In a cool way.”

          “Good catch,” Angie grins. “Doesn’t always work, but sometimes, I get lucky.”

          “When did you learn to do this?” Teyla asks.

          Angie eats some more and bobs her head again as she swallows. “College.”

          “Oooh, interesting topic,” John adds, nudging her elbow. “So, Angie…what sorority did you pledge?”

          She chuckles. “Just because I was a high school cheerleader doesn’t automatically make me a sorority sister.”

          “I still can’t get over you being a cheerleader,” John sighs trying his best not to re-imagine all those naughty thoughts that plagued him the first time he gleaned this information from her the other day. “Thought you’d be a shoo-in.”

          She shrugs. “No time, even if I had the inclination, which I never did. Besides, I was too young…they would have hated me.”

          “Too young?” Teyla asks.

          “Yeah… I...ah... graduated from high school early.” She motions to her head. “Memory came in real handy with that.”

          “What age?” Ronon asks.

          John leans forward. After all the questions and all their time together, he still doesn’t know how old she is. She’s never offered and though he’s tried to wheedle it out, he hasn’t been successful. John’s starting to worry he’s robbing the cradle with this one. After all…she was heading for the Olympics in ’98…teens do that.

          Oh, man…what if she’s younger than Teyla? I’m a dead man.

          She doesn’t seem to notice his thought process though because she answers the question quickly. “Fourteen.”

          “Is that young?” Teyla asks.

          Angie nods. “Earth kids usually graduate at seventeen or eighteen.”

          “I see.”

          “Aced my SAT’s and entrance exams... Got a full ride to University of Southern California.”

          John chokes on his drink. “USC?” She nods and he nods with her. “Oh... Good... I mean... great school.”

          Angie blushes prettily.

          “Full ride?” Ronon asks.

          “She didn’t have to trade for it,” John says.

          “Oh…like a present,” Teyla says. “Yes?”

          “Yes,” Angie nods.

          “What was your major?”

          She narrows her eyes at John. “I think it’s someone else’s turn to ask a question.” John gives her his best puppy dog face and she shakes her head, but smiles. “Math, English and Political science.”

          Now his brows shoot up. What? “Three majors. Really?”

          She nods as she takes a drink. “Mmhmm. Math comes easy to me, helps with dance and skating. English because I considered being a book editor since I love reading so much and PolySci…thought maybe I could use Math and English to clean up the political corruption that plagues the US. Plus, it looks good on the bio for the Olympics.” She looks to John before he can ask another question. “When did you decide to be a pilot?”

          “The first time I rode on Space Mountain.”

          “I love roller coasters!”

          John’s grin hurts his cheeks it’s so big.

          “So what movie are we viewing this evening?” Teyla asks as the four of them stroll into the rec room. Ronon and Angie are carrying two bowls of popcorn, poking at each other with their elbows, just like regular siblings. John’s the last one in and places a handwritten ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door before letting it close. He signed the note Lt. Col. Sheppard just to be on the safe side. “It’s a romantic comedy,” he says, picking the DVD up off the table.

          Angie eyes him suspiciously as she sets the popcorn down. “You like romantic comedies?”

          “Well…I figured….you‒”

          Angie grins. “That I’m a girl.” John nods and shrugs a shoulder. Her smiles widens. “Why don’t you pick something you’d like to watch.”

          “I do…want to see‒”

          That single brow arches. “John?”

          He grabs the box from the corner and digs through it. “They’re all pretty old. The PTB on Earth don’t like to spend a whole lot on these things…hey…Alien.”

          “Cool,” Angie squeaks and he does a double-take on her. She shrugs as he stares. “What? I can’t be a sci-fi fan? I’m living on an alien planet in a whole new galaxy…doesn’t get more sci than that.” With a big grin, John grabs the movie and gets it set up to play.

          “What’s this about?” Ronon asks as he drops heavily onto the sofa near the middle, already stuffing a fistful of popcorn into his mouth.

          “You’ll see,” Angie slides a sideways smirk to John with a quick shake of her head stopping him from giving away any of the plot.

          John nods, grinning to himself. Before the movie starts, he opens the ice chest he stashed earlier. “Beer anyone?” Both Teyla and Ronon take one, so does John.

          “Oh,” Angie says. “No thanks.”

          John’s brows rise. “You don’t like beer?” Important life issue. Good to know.

          She shakes her head, her upper lip curling a just a little. “Sorry. Got any sodas or water?”

          John grins, pulling out a couple cans. She chooses a Dr. Pepper with a satisfied smile then plops onto the sofa next to Ronon. Teyla sits on the other side of the big man which leaves Angie’s left side free. John hits play then turns off the lights before joining the others.

          The couch is pretty big, but as soon as John sits down, Angie scoots away from Ronon so she can prop her feet upon the big man’s knee and leans into John. She glances up. “Do you mind?”

          John smiles, taking a sip of beer. “No.”

          Her brows rise. “You’re sure. I could always‒” she starts to edge closer to Ronon but John grabs her around the waist with his right arm and tugs her close to him. “We’ll be fine,” he whispers and she chuckles lightly. John catches a smirk from Teyla to Ronon. As the movie starts, he whispers into Angie’s ear again. “Okay, what I’ve learned so far. You’re a closet geek who doesn’t drink.”

          She looks up at him again, this time with wide eyes. “Oh…I like to drink…just not beer.”

          “Really?”

          “And not tequila.” She waves a hand. “Unfortunate margarita incident in college thing.”

          “Do tell.”

          “Shhh. Movie’s starting.”

          As they watch the movie, John notices Angie is more interested in seeing Ronon and Teyla jump at various scary parts, which they do, though both try stoically to hide their reactions. Alien is a classic horror flick for that exact reason. Plus, the creature’s awesome. Whenever Ronon gets a good shock, Angie giggles silently. “That’s not nice,” he whispers.

          “Are you kidding me?” She whispers back. “It’s better than the movie. And I love this movie.”

          Both of them catch sight of Teyla nearly jumping into Ronon’s lap at the end when the alien attacks Ripley. Her hand flies to clutch her heart as well. When the credits roll, Teyla sighs heavily. “Who knew such creatures exist!”

          “They don’t,” Angie says. “It’s movie magic.”

          “Magic?” Teyla asks.

          Angie wrinkles her brows at John and bites her bottom lip. “You wanna explain special effects, or should I?”

          “Special effects,” Teyla says. “This is what that other movie…Galaxy Quest explained.”

          “Exactly,” John says with a grin. He’s glad she remembers. The last conversation lasted longer than the movie itself.

          Angie slips her feet from Ronon’s leg and leans over to touch his arm. “Ronon? You’re awfully quiet.”

          His brows are tightly creased and his jaw muscle twitching. “I would not have beaten that creature,” he growls with a hint of anger.

          Angie raises a brow towards John, smiling slyly. “Me neither, man,” John says, patting the guy on the shoulder as he gets up to turn on the lights. “Aren’t you glad we only have to battle the Wraith?”

          Ronon nods firmly. “Yes.”

          “Do we have Aliens?” Angie asks full of hope.

          “There are more?” Teyla asks, her voice a bit shaky.

          Angie nods enthusiastically. “Sequel. Totally cool. The Marines kick ass... or try to.”

          “Not the Air Force?” Teyla’s brows shoot up as she looks to John.

          John makes a face and nods. “I’m sure the Air Force would have done just fine.” He smiles at Angie. “I’ll look…for next time.” She grins and nods. “So,” he starts, settling back onto the sofa. “Tell me about this college incident involving tequila.”

          Angie tells the story in such a way that even Teyla and Ronon are able to picture exactly what happened. She equates tequila to the Athosian spiced wine, though not in taste, only after effects.

          John holds up a finger and his brows knit in confusion. “Didn’t you say you graduated high school at fourteen?” Angie nods, her eyes filling with amusement. John watches her carefully. “And when did you graduate college?”

          “I just turned seventeen.” Her smile is small but playful.

          Okay, so she graduated college before entering witness relocation…which didn’t happen until ’98. Add eight years…so the youngest she can be is 25. Not too terrible…cradle robber! “And what year was that? You’re graduation year.”

          “Hhmm…you know…?” She clucks her tongue. “Can’t seem to recall that particular information.” Her smile is slim and her eyes full of challenge.

          John decides to change tactics for now. “And this…tequila incident happened…when?”

          “Senior year.”

          John narrows his gaze at her. “How’d you get so drunk…being underage?”

          “Oh, that…” She quirks her mouth into the cutest pucker. “Fake ID.”

          With mock indignation, John says, “That’s illegal, you know.”

          “How do you think I met Tony?” She tosses a glance to Teyla. “My first boyfriend was a cop.”

          Teyla’s eyes widen. “Cop? Oh, law enforcement?”

          Angie nods, but her smile has lessened with the mention of her boyfriend and Ronon’s not thrilled by the name either.

          Wait a minute…first boyfriend was the cop…that shot her? That means she’s only been with one other…

          Oh, boy. John shakes off the thought. He clears his throat and hopefully the slight tension in the air. “So, what was the date of birth you used?” Angie grins again and shakes her head slowly, playing with him. She’s not going to give up her age anytime soon. It’ll probably be the one secret she never voluntarily gives up.

          Maybe he could work it out of her…one of these days he’ll have to try that. He has his ways of making her...say things. Before getting carried away with the memories of a naked Angie, John decides to give up on the conversation for now. He shrugs and concedes the point about tequila being evil. “I can’t drink it either,” John says. “Similar incident.”

          Angie’s brows arch and a sly smile plays at her lips. She glances at Teyla and Ronon then back at him. But it’s Teyla who asks the question that turns him red and makes them all laugh. “You celebrated with many women, sang karaoke and hit on men as well?”

          “No…what I mean…” He turns to her for help. “Jax, c’mon.”

          She holds up her hands. “You dug yourself into that one, Sheppard.” Her eyes twinkle with delight, it’s a look he hasn’t seen before, but one he hopes to see again. He laughs at his own expense. He hasn’t been this relaxed in ages. He feels like all the weight of the galaxy has been lifted from his shoulders for a little while and it’s really nice.

₪†₪

Chapter Text

15

          Okay, it took me three dates to figure the man out, but now I’ve got his number pegged.

          Date number one went amazingly well, in my opinion. We learned tons about each other, plus, ohmygawd, we have so much in common it’s funky. Love of rollercoasters, action-packed flicks, good books—though, he’ll never see me pick up War & Peace—and food preferences. He did kind of wrinkle his nose at my pizza toppings of pepperoni and pineapple. Dad didn’t like that combo either, but I got it from mom and two against one…Daddy always gave in.

          Memories like that, make me giggle…sometimes snort a laugh.

          I think my folks would have liked Ronon and John. Mom would have had them kneeling at her feet while she elegantly played the piano while Dad would have put Ronon on his fire team, probably rushing into those blazes with the most hot-saves a fighter could get. And John would’ve been piloting one of the choppers, either dropping suppressant loads or rescue from rooftops.

          I may not have been on the whole John-n-me bandwagon from the get go—except for the fleshy parts because we so rock in that area—but now I’m convinced some higher goddess has blessed me with this man.

          Don’t jinx it!

          Right. Forgot who I am for a moment.

          Anyway, date number two went off without a hitch. John’s surprise double-daters also made a cameo, but this time they left right after the movie. I think it had something to do with Ronon needing to beat the crap out of something or someone. He got a little upset during the movie, Aliens, when everyone found out about Burke being a futuristic version of the sociopathic, money-grubbing politician/lobbyist, Ronon was with Hudson on killing the guy right away…then he got especially pissed when Hudson got taken down by an alien under the floor.

          At the end, when Ripley came out in the power-walker to kick the queen’s butt, Ronon actually growled: “Yes!”

          It was so funny to watch and hear him, he gets so into the movies! John had to cover my mouth because he instinctively knew I’d burst out laughing. I got him good, though. I tickled his palm with the tip of my tongue. That’s probably why later he moved away from me as quickly as possible while trying to discreetly adjust his suddenly too-tight jeans. He purposely dressed in civvies for the night. Those jeans and a tight, white T-shirt sculpted to his chest just added to my aggravation. I’m all for this get-to-know-my-mate ‘dating’ thing, but this abstinence policy is beyond frustrating.

          Teyla, of course, went with Ronon leaving John and me alone…all alone…but in a public place where anyone could walk in at any given moment. As soon as our chaperones were gone, John made a bee-line for the far end of the sofa, putting his feet up next to mine. The only thing we touched was shoes and even that seemed terribly sexy to me after all this time of not doing anything else. Damn, I miss his hands, his lips, his…I miss his everything!

          I want the man naked like now.

          Two nights ago, date number three was just the two of us. We had dinner in the mess as usual then went for a romantic walk around the city holding hands and chatting about silly things, like what kinds of cheers I did during my two-year tenure as a high school cheerleader. Or if it’s possible to do a 360-degree flip with a helicopter like I saw in Blue Thunder. John says no, something about not enough thrust. But he liked that movie too.

          A couple of hours later we ended up at my door. I made all kinds of openings and invitations, this being the ‘third date’ and all those rules back on Earth. But the man refused to go along. Since when did he become the master of restraint? He kissed me and I let him have it. I know he wanted to come in as much as I wanted him to, and yet…he left.

          Two days I’ve been thinking about that kiss! Two days I’ve been going out of my mind wanting him…but no… He had to go off-world on some mission to get all dirty and sweaty and…he looks so hot covered in dirt!

          Well, like I said, I figured the man out. I know what I have to do to get what I want. I have to make plans. Good plans. Special plans. Something he cannot say ‘no’ to. So, I called in reinforcements. It’s the only way to go with these sorts of situations.

          Laura couldn’t believe it when I asked her for help. She nearly fainted when I told her exactly what I needed. Then she jumped up and down clapping for a good five minutes. That woman never runs out of energy!

          Teyla couldn’t stop giving me that knowing smile she has. I didn’t want to offend her with my colloquial Earth language, but Laura didn’t have a problem telling the Athosian woman exactly what I was up to. “She wants to have sex tomorrow night.”

          At first, I think Teyla was a bit thrown, possibly thinking I meant it to be with her. But then understanding flashed in her eyes. “With Col. Sheppard.”

          “Of course, with John,” I said, glancing back at Laura.

          “The problem is,” Laura started. “He’s being…uncooperative. So, Jax here needs to give him some incentive.”

          Teyla’s smile widened. “You wish to mold him to your will.”

          “We use the word ‘seduce’. But I like the way you think,” I grinned.

          Her brows arched considerably. “This will take some planning.”

          Laura and I exchanged glances. “Exactly.”

          Teyla can be a single-minded machine sometimes. I like that about her. I wonder if Ronon does. “Teyla?”

          “Yes, Jax.”

          “Has there been any…molding between you and Tarzan?” I glanced and smirked at Laura, then turned back to Teyla. “Do you have a secret name for him yet?” In her usual manner of deflecting questions that could be potentially embarrassing, Teyla tilted her head and raised her brows, but said nothing. So, I persisted. “C’mon. Is his will yours?”

          This got me a piercing stare of ‘mind-your-own-business-or-I’ll-kill-you-with-my-pinky-finger’ so I waved a hand and told her “never mind.” Laura nudged my arm and when I looked at her, she winked and nodded, giving me the impression she was mentally saying: oh yeah, they’ve done it…a lot. Which made me snicker under my breath.

          A moment later, we were back on task. Teyla is nothing if not forgiving. She had some ideas about one area while Laura called in the big guns…meaning she went to get help from Dr. Beckett. I, however, had the hardest job of all.

          I dragged myself to my room at the end of the day ready to collapse onto my bed in defeat. I couldn’t believe I failed. Both Teyla and Laura caught up with me during my travels throughout the city and told me everything was in place. I almost pulled out my hair when I had to confess I didn’t live up to my end of the deal.

          Laura wrapped an arm around my shoulders, gave me a big squeeze and guaranteed me I’d persevere…I still had until tomorrow night to find exactly what I needed. I should not give up hope.

          Surprisingly enough, as I stumbled into my room…I found what I’d been searching for all day lying neatly on my bed with a note attached. ‘Embrace the butterflies’ it read in fancy handwriting. I spun around, knowing no one was in my quarters, but I was so dumbfounded that someone…some woman had managed to get in here—Atlantis is my girl, she wouldn’t let just anyone in my sanctuary—and left me such a beautiful gift, my jaw hit the floor.

          I raced to Laura’s quarters and dragged her back to mine to show her and she squealed with delight. “Ohmygod this is perfect!”

          There wasn’t a signature on the note, leaving Laura to wonder who my benefactor could be. I have a sneaking suspicion, and I’m taking it for what it appears to be…her blessing.

          Even Atlantis has been helping me, it’s so weird to think that, but how else can I explain the music selection that was generated onto its own playlist: Date Night. A playlist I didn’t create.

For All We Know - The Carpenters

Believe - Elton John

Somebody - Depeche Mode

          It’s unsettling and exciting at the same time. A truly unique artificial intelligence thinks I’m a great match for her favorite person.

          So here I am, waiting for my date to make his appearance. Teyla and Dr. Beckett were quite clever in their efforts to keep him from me all day while Laura helped me get ready. I’m even wearing makeup, thank you very much.

          There’s a click in my ear and Laura’s voice comes in loud and clear. “Operation ‘Willpower Overload’ is a go,” she whispers with a chuckle.

          “Copy that.” I smile and take off the headset, hiding it inside the vase of wildflowers on the table. I quickly strike a match and light the candles. Then I wait.

          It’s not long before his shadow looms in the doorway.

 15.5

          Laura’s leading him down a corridor toward the South Pier. She’s barely spoken since they left the transporter, except to tell him to stop fidgeting.

          John’s been searching for Angie all day, only to be headed off by someone in the process. It took a while, but realization finally hit him between the eyes when Lt. Cadman showed up at his quarters dangling a burgundy tie in her hand. “Courtesy of Carson.”

          John looked her over quizzically. “You do have a white dress shirt, correct?” She asked as if knowing the answer already. He nodded and she said, “Good. Black slacks and a jacket to match?”

          “Yes…why?”

          She cocked her head slightly. “I’m just curious…what made you bring that to the Pegasus Galaxy?”

          He shrugged. “I brought all my clothes when we came back from Earth. Why pay for storage?”
She nodded in understanding, but there was a new smile tugging at her lips. A sly smile she couldn’t hide. John watched her for several moments. “What’s going on?”

          She held up a hand. “Please, sir, no questions. Would it be possible for you to follow my orders for a short time tonight?”

          John narrowed his gaze at her. Obviously, she and Angie were up to something, but he was eager to play along. Whatever this is, it took some planning. “Just this once, Lieutenant.”

          “No rank tonight, sir. Call me Laura. I’ll be your host.”

          “Okaaaay.” He raised a brow.

          She glanced at her watch. “Could you be ready to leave in forty-five minutes?”

          “Leave? And go where?”

          She smiled politely. “You have a seven o’clock dinner reservation, sir. Trust me. You don’t want to be late.”

          John glanced at his bedside clock. Forty-five minutes would make it six o’clock, which means it could possibly take an hour to get to his destination.

          And that’s exactly how long it took them to walk to the South Pier. About ten or fifteen minutes ago, Atlantis’s romantic side kick into full gear, playing love song after love song.

          Laura remained in the lead, forcing him to take the walk slowly so as not to get ‘mussed up’ as she said. “Mr. Sheppard,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes. “You have a strong heart, am I correct in my assumption?”

          “Yeah…as far as I know.”

          She smiled broadly. “Good.” Then she started walking again. “You’re gonna need it.”

          Dinner reservations on the South Pier…needing a strong heart? What are you up to, Angie?

          Unfortunately, Laura was quiet the rest of the way, until she made him put the tie on ten minutes ago. He feels like he’s choking. He’s never liked ties. He keeps pulling on the knot, trying to loosen it, but then it gets messy and she stops to straighten it in for him. She holds out her hand. “Relinquish your headset, please, sir.”

          John’s not sure that’s a good idea. “I have to be‒”

          “Should an emergency occur, we have protocol in place to retrieve you in a puddle jumper.”

          “Really.”

          “Dr. Beckett is on standby should the need arise.”

          “Carson, huh?” John shrugs then hands over his headset. “So, it’s a conspiracy.”

          She doesn’t say anything, but her eyes shimmer with amusement.

Crashed - Daughtry

          A few yards from the door that leads to the actual pier, Laura holds up a hand, stopping him in his tracks. She turns her back on him as she clicks her headset and says something he can’t quite make out. After a second, she faces him and nods once then motions to the door. “You’re on your own now, sir.” John takes a few steps towards the door when: “And, Mr. Sheppard?”

          John turns. “Yeah?”

          “Remember to breathe.” Then she grins mischievously and starts walking back the way they came.

          What the hell’s that supposed to mean? John shakes his head then goes to the door. It slides open at his arrival just as Daughtry hits the chorus of the song as if on cue. ‘I crashed into you…’

          John’s heart nearly explodes from his chest like in a cartoon.

          He doesn’t notice the sky full of stars and the music floating through the air fades as his pulse pounds in his head. He’s light-headed. He might even pass-out from shock. Remember to breathe. Yeah, John…that’s some good advice.

          Standing not ten feet from him is the most beautiful woman he’s ever set sight on. Her dark curls piled high onto her head, leaving long spirals about her face and neck and she’s wearing a form-fitting Mandarin dress or Cheongsam…he hasn’t seen the like since his time in Beijing. It’s nearly the color of his borrowed tie, though with a floral design weaving throughout in black stitching. Not that he knows a lot about dresses…but he does know what he likes. And John has always been fond of those form-fitting silks best found in China. He looks her over head-to-toe. Head to high-heeled shoes!

          He looks back up, catching her gaze. And she smiles.

          God, she’s smiling. He didn’t think she could torture him more but that smile…he just might have that heart-attack after all. He has to will his feet to move. It takes a moment but he’s finally able to get some motion and he makes his way to her side. In those heels, she’s nearly as tall as him. They’re practically standing eye-to-eye. He’s shaking his head at her. “You look… amazing,” he gushes. Her smile brightens sending delicious, thrilling tendrils of electricity straight through his libido.

          Angie links her arm through his and leads him to a candlelit table with two place settings covered by silver lids; he has no idea where she got those. There’s even a tablecloth! John’s finding it hard to process the whole scene, but mostly because he can’t take his eyes off his date. He hurries around the table to pull her chair out for her. “Thank you,” she says softly.

          He takes his seat across from her. “You’ve been busy,” he says, grinning so much he’s sure his face will freeze that way.

          She raises one brow suggestively. “I had an important goal,” she says then picks up a pink jar of Athosian wine and pours their drinks.

          “If it was to take my breath away…you succeeded.”

          She grins again, demurely dropping her eyes from his for a brief moment before catching his gaze again. “Okay…I had several goals.”

          John’s not so sure he can handle another one of her shocks, but he’s all for trying. She removes the cover from his plate, revealing dinner. A gleeful chuckle escapes: “Turkey sandwiches!”

          She nods side-to-side, revealing her own sandwich. “Couldn’t get pizza…sorry.”

          Small packets of potato chips are the perfect side to the still cold sandwiches. How’d she manage that? He mentally nods, puddle jumper. “This is...perfect.”

          They eat and drink, talking about all the things they have in common and finding out more of what they don’t.

          John’s not surprised to learn Angie isn’t a football fan or ever intends to be. She is surprised to find out he’s secretly into watching ice skating. Angie knowing how to ride a motorcycle makes it hard for John to get the image of her in some sleek leather outfit out of his head. He tells her how he managed to get sucked into coming to Atlantis—minus the parts about Elizabeth. And then she tells him about the first time she saw him at the SGC and her opinion of how everyone reacted to his presence. The way she describes him actually makes him blush.

Almost Paradise - Eric Carmen

          After they’re done eating, she reaches across the table and takes his hand. “Dance with me?”

          It takes him a moment for the music to register again. Having been so distracted by the goddess before him; so intoxicated by her and their conversation, he almost forgot they were outside. Once he gets her in his arms the evening feels complete. They stare into each other eyes as they move, his left hand pressed into her lower back, her right on his shoulder, their opposites gently clasped together.

          “Wow,” she chuckles. “You’re good.”

          She giggles as John dips her dramatically. “I have my moments.” As he has her bent backward, he grazes a kiss against her neck, catching a whiff of perfume. When he pulls her back up, they’re eyes lock again. He’s beyond ready to kiss her but decides to spin her away, making her laugh again, at least until her heel gets caught and she nearly stumbles. John catches her in an instant and her arms go around his neck.

          “That’s the only thing high-heels are good for,” she says with a smirk.

          “What’s that?”

          Angie tilts her head, “The rescue factor,” and then she kisses him.

          He’s been a good boy for far too long and she seems to be agreeing with him a hundred percent until she suddenly pulls out of the kiss, leaving him hungry for more. “Isn’t it a beautiful night?” She asks looking up at the sky. John doesn’t notice. All he can see is her. But she’s pulling away from him, and there’s a cool emptiness where her warm body once resided.

          She shivers slightly and he whips off his jacket, draping it around her shoulders. “Suppose we should go,” she says softly.

          John motions to the door with a tilt of his head. “Nice night for a stroll.”

          Angie pours the remaining wine into their glasses then sits and takes off her shoes.

          “What are you doing?”

          When she gets up, she’s dangling the shoe straps from her fingers. She hands him his glass then picks up hers. “It’s a long walk back. I’m not so eager to break my leg,” she grins. “That’s not one of my goals.”

          John frowns. “How are we supposed to hold hands if yours are full?”

          With a sly half-grin, she drops the shoes onto the chair then takes his free hand. “I have to come back to clean up anyway.”

          So, they sip their wine as they walk hand-in-hand back to the city with Atlantis keeping them company in the corridors by playing more music. John stops Angie several times to taste her lips. They stand there, making-out for what seems like hours, simply enjoying each other.

          She’s leading them to her quarters, and John has a suspicion about one of her goals. It’s about time! He’s been trying so hard to get her to make the first move. The last three dates have been so frustrating. Even though all this was his idea and he enjoys the ‘wooing part’ he didn’t want to be the aggressor again. Finally, she picked up on that.

          Once they reach her quarters, Angie kisses him quickly on the cheek then slips her hand from his and takes his empty wine glass. “Goodnight,” she says softly.

          John’s jaw drops. What?! Wait a minute…what was all this tonight if not…what the hell was all this?

          It’s payback! She’s getting me back for that kiss the other night. Has to be. She’s trying to kill me.

          “Are you all right?” She asks, watching him carefully.

          He’s sure disappointment’s written in bold letters on his forehead. “I’m good. This has been…”

          “Fantabulous?” She grins, sticking the tip of her tongue between her teeth.

          Oh, yeah, she is trying to kill me. “Exactly.”

          Angie waves her hand over the crystal and the door slides open, Atlantis starting another song.

Blind Faith - Warrant

          “Oh…shoot. I forgot to clean up,” she says with a pout and sets the wine glasses on the desk next to the door. She turns to him with a full-blown grin, removes his jacket from her shoulders and sets it over the desk chair.

          John’s jaw drops for probably the hundredth time tonight. Her quarters have been re-arranged and lusciously decorated with colorful, silky materials hanging from the ceiling around the bed. Flickering candlelight plays over the walls and the faint aroma of vanilla makes his mouth water. “Wow,” he sighs, looking down at Angie with wonder. “You’re a girl!

          She smiles slyly at him. “Sometimes.” Then she’s pulling him into the room by his tie. The door slides closed behind him and he reaches back, ordering the lock to engage. Just before guiding his lips onto hers, she adds in a husky voice, “Sometimes I’m older.”

          John’s beyond relieved, he didn’t know how he was going to make it to his room without spontaneously combusting from the fire she lit tonight. Seems Angie has no problem being in the driver’s seat and he has no problem enjoying it.

          He rests his hands on her hips, urging her body closer in line with his. She smiles against his lips. Slowly, her fingers work at undoing the tie, taking all the time in the world, actually.

          Then she starts in on his shirt buttons one by one, all the while plaguing him with soft, sumptuous kisses, occasionally darting the tip of her tongue into his mouth or against his sensitive lips, teasing him.

          His hands have desires of their own, roaming over the silky sheath that’s keeping her perfect warm skin away from his touch. He only has access to her bare arms and neck. He runs his fingers up her arms, tickling light, trying to elicit a shiver before cupping her face and pulling her in for a deeper kiss.

          But as he tries to encourage more, she shrugs away. She locks her eyes on his and smiles, running her tongue over her bottom lip. She doesn’t say anything, she doesn’t have to. The way she’s looking at him, tells him all he needs to know. She’s going at her own pace and he has no choice but to follow along and suffer through each excruciatingly pleasurable second.

          His shirt’s unbuttoned and she tugs it free of his pants then gently pushes it off his shoulders. He’s wearing a T-shirt underneath and he grips at it to tear it off but her hands on his arms stop him. Then she lifts the T-shirt up, driving her hands underneath it, caressing his chest and stomach with her flat palms, her fingers spread wide. John’s heartbeat kicks up a notch as his breathing staggers.

          As she lifts the front of his T-shirt, she brings her mouth to his stomach and up his chest, grazing him with feather-light kisses.

          “J..ax…” he groans as all his muscles tighten with anticipation.

          She looks up at him with a smile in her eyes then places a finger over his lips to quiet him. A moment later her mouth dances over him again, tongue tangoing with a nipple. John nearly loses it…but remembers Lt. Cadman’s: “Remember to breathe.”

          Well, as good advice as that was a couple hours ago…not as easy to accomplish right now.

          Angie’s hands work the T-shirt up higher until she lets him strip it off over his head. Then she pulls his mouth down upon hers again. Her warm hands attack his chest once more only to descend at a leisurely pace to the edge of his trousers. Her fingers work on his belt and ever so slowly pull it free from his waist. Angie holds it out to the side and lets it drop.

          With her hands on his waist, she turns him then backs him up until his legs bump the bed and with a gentle push against his chest, he drops onto the mattress. “Are you trying to seduce me, Jax?” he asks with a smirk.

          She grins, again poking the tip of her tongue between her teeth. She sits on his lap, pressing her hands against his shoulders so that he lies back onto the bed and she’s hovering over him. “There is no try,” she chuckles softly.

          The kiss she plants on him this time takes his breath and most of his control away. Her tongue teases his and she nips at his bottom lip. At the same time, her fingers dig into his shoulders before gliding over his exposed skin again. Her mouth travels from his lips over his jaw, down his neck, teeth nipping at his skin, tongue burning a hot trail towards his stomach.

          Self-control…self-control…make it my motto for…Fuck! What’s she…

          He lifts his head in time to see her grin wickedly at him. She’s got his zipper trapped between her teeth and she’s pulling it down.

          That has to be the hottest thing I’ve ever seen!

          But then she’s gone. She’s taking off his shoes and tossing them toward the door where they hit with a dull thud. The socks go next; she twirls one over her head like a stripper might. He laughs out loud and she jumps on him, straddling his waist.

          Her dress has two hidden slits, one on each side and they part over her bare legs…his hands instantly go to the found flesh. But as he tries to skim under the material, she bats at his hands. Settling on him, pressing her heat into his trapped hardness makes him groan deeply at the contact. Death by seduction…catchy title. Probably be on my headstone.

          She’s staring at him with utter amusement and determination. Her hands go to her hair and she pulls out two slim sticks, the motion instantly releases her curls and they fall about her shoulders. She is a goddess, it’s the only explanation. She has complete power over him. He’s helpless to resist her.

          Of course, any heterosexual man in his right mind would be crazy to do so.

          Angie folds herself over the top of him, rubbing the silky dress against his chest as her hands find his hair and her mouth covers his again. John wraps his arms around her, pulling her closer. His fingers dive into her luscious curls. Moments later he’s rolling them over and trapping her beneath his weight even against her murmured protest. He just wants to feel her, hold her and kiss her for as long as he can.

          She gives in. But as soon as John’s hands start to roam over her, she pushes him off and slips out from under him. John crashes face first into the bed with a frustrated groan. Angie takes a deep breath and straightens the skirt of her dress. “That was interesting,” she sighs, touching up her lips a little.

          “Here lies Lt. Col. John Sheppard. Killed by a tease.” He growls, rolling himself over onto his back. “They will investigate, you know.”

          She has her back to him and glances over her shoulder, flashing that wicked grin. “You’re not dead yet.” The faint sound of a zipper gets him to sit up. She’s deliberately easing down the fastener on the side of her dress, slowly exposing only a glimpse of flesh beneath and his breath catches.

          Someone knocks on the door making them both jump.

          “So sorry to disturb you, young miss,” the heavily accented Dr. Zelenka calls through the door.

          Angie looks at John, eyes widening. “I thought these rooms were soundproof,” she whispers. John shrugs and raises his brows. So did he.

          “How can I help you, Dr. Zelenka?”

          “Can you speak up…I can’t hear…”

          Angie leans into the door. “How can I help you?”

          “So sorry, Jax. Is Dr. McKay. He needs you on PXT-705…saying translation is finished.”

          “Can’t he wait until tomorrow?” John asks quietly.

          Angie replays the question through the door and Zelenka replies: “Unfortunately, is tomorrow there. Planet is twelve hours different.”

          She turns to John, her brows wrinkle with frustration. Eager to fulfill her goal, he offers: “I doubt a couple hours would matter.”

          But then Zelenka adds something that lands Angie’s forehead right into the door. “Dr. McKay wishes you remember…you promised to go when he called.”

          She motions for John to unlock the door. Everyone now knows they’re dating, but they don’t want to show anyone…everything. She takes a deep breath and zips up her dress to John’s ultimate dissatisfaction. He grabs both his shirts, swipes his hand over the door control, then hides in the bathroom before she opens the door to Zelenka. John peers around the corner.

          “He had to remind me I promised,” she growls at the Czech.

          “I am forever sorry,” Zelenka shakes his head, pulling off his glasses and cleaning them quickly. “For you as well, Colonel.”

          John sighs as he returns to the bedroom. He only had a chance to pull on his T-shirt, but who cares anyway. He drops heavily onto the bed. “This sucks!”

          Angie tosses him an ‘I’m sorry’ and adds: “It’s only a few hours, I’m sure.”

          “Actually.” Zelenka holds up a hand. He looks terribly embarrassed by the whole situation. “Dr. McKay said you to pack for a couple days.”

          “Days?!” Angie and John echo together.

          “Seems excavation crew found something…more. And though more needs uncovering, Dr. McKay does not want to wait for your going and coming.”

          “No one likes to wait on coming,” Angie growls, sliding her eyes to John with another sorry look.

          “Don’t I know it,” John hisses.

          Zelenka returns his glasses to his face, mumbles another apology then rushes away as if he’s afraid one or both of them might try to kill the messenger.

          Angie grumbles about scientists and their discoveries. She pulls out her duffle and tosses in some clothes. John comes up behind her, wraps his arms around her waist and hugs her from behind, he’s still hard and rubs himself against her perfect ass while gently kissing her neck. The tension in her body melts away as his lips connect with her skin, but just as quickly, she regains her composure and groans. “I had to promise.”

          John chuckles, trailing kisses behind her ear. “It’s not written in stone.”

          She spins around to face him. Her lips attack his hungrily for several moments, but she breaks away and stares at him. Passion and lust glimmer in her eyes. “I keep my word, John. It’s all I have.” And she starts packing again.

          As his heartbeat slows—though the tension in his body is beyond repair—John nods his understanding. “I’m going to kill McKay.” With a grunt, Angie pulls a piece of paper from the desk and hands it to him. He unfolds the sheet. “What’s this?”

          “Ways I’ve already thought of…and discounted.”

          John hangs his head, laughing.

₪†₪