It takes a moment for Elizabeth to remember why she is staring at a flak vest and a pair of boots. The memory of the previous day comes back and she closes her – John's – eyes again.
John doesn't appear to be awake yet. She stretches the kink out of his/their neck and wonders if Rodney has gotten anywhere with fixing the dart so they can get out of this mess.
She is staring up at the ceiling when she notices an unfamiliar sensation. She frowns, and then closes his eyes again.
"Oh no," she thinks. "Not that."
She opens John's eyes a tiny crack and peeks. "Oh shit."
Elizabeth stares, unable to not look for a minute. There is a small tent in the front of John's boxers and it's unspeakably surreal that she can feel what it is like to have an erection, much less to be in John's body feeling this way.
She wonders if he's been dreaming something to cause this state or if he always wakes up like this.
She curses again to herself. John is going to wake up, with a hard on, while they are sharing a body.
The thought has no more occurred to her than she hears him make a noise. She abruptly lets go of control and buries herself away. She has no idea if she'll be able to fool him or not. They aren't sharing every thought or feeling – thank God for small favors – but there is a whole new level of awareness, unsurprisingly.
Elizabeth knew her military commander was more tightly wound underneath his casual exterior than most people guessed, but yesterday she could feel the tension knotting his shoulders to the point of pain. Of course, that might have been from sitting helplessly in the infirmary while Carson and Kate frantically tried to adjust their combined medical knowledge and Rodney and Radek rewrote a few physics books.
At least it is only one-sided awareness. Selfish, yes, but Elizabeth's dignity is far more protected in this situation than John's. If they'd been in *her* body... she doesn't even want to think about it.
She can feel John blinking, yawning, waking up. His hand moves to his crotch and he starts to scratch and Elizabeth is seized with an unholy desire to laugh when his arm freezes. She wills herself not to give any sign of being conscious – rather like holding a hand over her mouth except she has no hands, or mouth, at the moment.
John remains frozen for a minute, probably trying to determine whether she is awake. She feels it when he becomes conscious of the warm pressure of his hand still resting on his erection and he snatches his hand back quickly.
The sensation lingers in her mind, though. She thinks of Teiresias, the Greek seer who lived as both a man and a woman who said women had more pleasure in sex than men. It would be an interesting experiment, to be able to feel what it was like for a man, from the inside.
Oh dear God. She hadn't just thought that. She hadn't. Intellectual curiosity is one thing but this was John she is inside of right now. Her military commander, her friend, someone she has to work with every day, and whatever latent appreciation she might have for his body - and yes she could admit that because it was casual admiration and nothing more, dammit - this entire experience is already awkward as hell, and here she is thinking of the only way to make it worse.
Then she remembered last night before bed, John asking her to sing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" because he had to use the bathroom. She punished him by singing "It's A Small World" instead. They were stuck in the bathroom an extra ten minutes because he swore he couldn't get his business done while she was singing that.
After he suggested a bunch of Johnny Cash songs she didn't know, they compromised with Sam Cooke.
So perhaps there wasn't much that could make this situation worse.
John lies still, and she can't hear what he is thinking, but their morning problem doesn't seem to be getting any better. In fact, it's getting worse. John clenches a fist in the sheets and Elizabeth decides the time has come to admit she is there.
She concentrates on imagining her voice sounding as sleepy as possible. "Morning."
"Morning," he says, trying for casual and failing.
She's unable to resist teasing him just a little, "Sweet dreams?"
It's odd feeling the blush coloring his face. "Something like that."
She yawns, letting him off the hook. "It's okay, John. It's not like I've never woken up in bed with a man before. I'm familiar with the routine."
"No, but you've never woken up with me before. I mean, like this," he rushes to add. His cheeks get even hotter.
Hmm. "Is it always that big?" she asks, then berates herself for being evil and heartless.
"Elizabeth!" His voice almost squeaked there.
"I'm sorry. That just slipped out."
His voice gets very quiet. "No."
There is a silence that could only be described as "painfully awkward."
John rests his arm over his eyes, probably the better to make sure she doesn't see anything. "I have kind of a thing," he admits.
"A thing?" she keeps her mental voice carefully neutral.
"For, uh, watching. And being watched."
Why does it not surprise her that John Sheppard has a kinky side? "Audiences?"
"Well, not like Yankee Stadium. I just-"
"I get it."
"I woke up and remembered you were here with me and-"
"I really do get it, John."
He sighs, glaring down towards his lower body. "Sometimes it has a mind of its own."
Elizabeth can't help laughing at that.
"This is one of those conversations I never thought I'd have with my boss," he observes, and she's glad to feel some of the tension fade a bit.
"I wish I could give you some kind of privacy."
"It's not your fault."
"I know, but I'm intruding on you in a way I'm certain Emily Post never covered. It's not fair," she frets.
"It's not fair to you, either" he points out.
"I promise I'll keep my eyes shut while you shower. I'll just be sitting over in the corner thinking about other things."
"I'm not sure a shower is the best idea right now," he frowns.
"Not even if the water was cold?" she can't help asking.
"That only works to a degree, actually."
"Oh." She waits but he doesn't say anything. "John?"
"Unless..." he doesn't finish but she feels his eyebrows go up and she knows the expression he has on his face. It's his most dangerous one, the one he uses to talk her in to things she would never in her right mind consider.
Fortunately for her, she can't see his face right now. "John," she says sternly.
"It would definitely take care of the problem," he points out.
"It would redefine inappropriate."
"Come on, Elizabeth. You can't tell me you're not curious."
"That's beside the point-" she snaps but he cuts her off.
"I knew it!" he crows.
"John, we can't do... that."
"No one will know."
He is quiet for a minute. "I guess it would be like having sex with each other."
"Except with only one orgasm instead of two." Elizabeth wishes it were possible to bite her own tongue right now. Maybe Kate and Carson missed some kind of side effect of this situation that is making her insane?
"So what do we do?"
"We just sit here until it goes away."
"And try to think of something else."
"Kavanagh. Bates. Denis Rodman in drag."
"I'm just trying to help." Her help doesn't seem to be working.
"You know, if our positions were reversed-"
"If we were trapped in my body we wouldn't be having this problem. I wake up needing to pee," she tells him.
His whole body shakes from laughing. "Elizabeth? Have you considered that we've not only gone past the TMI line, we've blown about a thousand miles beyond it?"
She can feel him grinning as well as hear it in his voice. "I know, I know, but we have to make some kind of effort at containing this situation. For both our sakes."
His voice grows more serious. "I'm not embarrassed, you know."
For a moment she dearly wants to tell him she's been awake the whole time. "Yes you are," she contradicted.
"Ok, I'm a little embarrassed, but it's mostly because I don't want to make you uncomfortable."
"John, I'm stuck in your body as a guest. All of this is uncomfortable."
"You know what I mean," he chides quietly.
She sighs. "I do, and I appreciate it. And I don't want you to be uncomfortable either. Not any more than is strictly necessary."
"You're probably right."
"Thank you for admitting that. For once."
He ignores the bait. "So we're not going to...?"
She rolls her eyes, or at least thinks about it. "I'll tell you what, if we're still stuck like this after a couple more days, maybe you can wear me down."
He get up and stretches and Elizabeth forgets her promise to keep her eyes shut for a moment. Damn.
"Would it be wrong for me to hope Rodney can't solve this today, then?"
"I'm closing my eyes now. And sticking my fingers in my ears."
"You don't have any ears right now. Or eyes. And I'm good at navigating but I do need to see if we're going to survive the shower..."
Elizabeth makes sure her long-suffering sigh will be audible to him.
There is no way she is admitting she's actually looking forward to the shower.
The third morning, her resolve breaks.
She wonders if the seizure they had the previous afternoon caused brain damage for them both.
They've settled into a manageable daily routine. John goes to briefings she absolutely cannot miss and keeps mostly quiet, although he still interjects commentary at key moments when she has to struggle not to smile. Meanwhile she stays out of the way while he trains with Teyla or runs drills with the staff. At the least, Elizabeth thinks she's picked up a couple pointers from that. But the stress of the situation is wearing on them both and the growing familiarity of being trapped together this way is not making mornings less interesting.
John groans, waking up, and after at least three days (it could be more; she hasn't brought it up), apparently he's suffering from serious sexual withdrawal. Embarrassment already shifted to acceptance and is now rapidly heading for frustration.
She never really bought into that whole "so hard it hurts" thing but now, well, she realizes it's not b.s.
John sighs and buries his hands under the pillow. She can feel the way his jaw is clenched and the tension is bothering her too now.
"Good morning," he says as neutrally as possible.
"Just get on with it already."
He blinks. "Elizabeth, look, I know what I said-"
"It's starting to drive *me* crazy, alright? I'd rather have some peace, especially if we have to go through one more day like this."
There is another pause and she feels his right hand move restlessly under the pillow. "You're sure?"
"You're not going to be all weirded out when we get back to normal?"
"Of course I am, but not because of this, specifically."
He still doesn't move and Elizabeth starts to get impatient. She considers taking control for a moment, figuring once they got going he wouldn't stop. That she would even think that only proves to her how completely out of control this situation is.
He has another question, instead. "And this isn't going to affect us? Our... working relationship?"
"No." She pauses now. "Things are going to be weird, John, but this has nothing to do with how we work together." She can't help but chuckle. "I'll still respect you in the morning."
She expected him to basically shove his hand down his pants and get on it. John surprises her by trailing his palm over his stomach and then stopping.
"You sure you don't want to drive?" he asks.
Elizabeth wishes again that she had some way of burying her face in her hands.
"That's weird. I think I can feel you blushing."
At first, it is excruciating.
There is no way for her to hide her eyes or step away politely. Her only sensory input is coming from his body, and it's somehow even harder to ignore the sensations despite that fact that the body is not hers. She wishes she could go, give him the privacy they both deserve, but all she can do is feel.
The sensations are coming entirely from his groin, all the energy in his tightly coiled body flowing straight there. She can feel that energy moving, building, and he starts breathing more heavily.
John already needs to come, badly.
She can't hear what he's thinking. It's strange to be feeling this from within him and not have any idea what he is imagining. Who is he thinking about? Is he picturing someone touching him? She wants to know, and at the same time she doesn't. But it's crazy, to be this close to him and still not know.
She manages to distract herself for a bit contemplating the metaphysics at work: is it even possible for her to feel aroused when she's merely an unwanted presence inside of his mind? She has no corporeal being at the moment. Nothing she's feeling is actually hers, is it?
John moans and metaphysics go out the window. That sound, the way he sounds...
If she had her own body, her spine would have melted from that sound.
Of course, if she had her own body, she would be able to close her eyes and not see the shifting fabric over his hand. She wouldn't be feeling the pleasure radiating through his body at every touch. If she had her own body she would be able to leave him in this terribly intimate moment, instead of feeling exactly how aroused he is, how his calluses feel on his erection, the heat being generated by the speedy movement of his hand, the way the need is almost painful within him.
She's abandoned all pretense of trying not to pay attention. There's no way she could turn away from this, body or no body.
He's keeping his eyes open, she realizes, looking at his crotch.
It's because she's there. He wants her to watch. He's excited because he's hoping she's watching him do this to himself.
She thinks "Oh God" so loudly she fears he heard it. His hand starts to move even faster.
If she had her own body, she knows it would be tense and tight now, her core growing wet from seeing and hearing and smelling this. She would be picturing all manner of things. She would be wanting to be the person doing this to him. If she had her own body.
She doesn't have her own body. She has nowhere to hide and she can't tell if the way she feels is simply mirroring his physical reactions or if something of her is responding to sharing this with him.
John gasps, and his hand tightens and the dam breaks. It's a quick, fierce rush that leaves him gulping air and Elizabeth dazed by the singular power of his orgasm.
There's a horrible, stabbing longing within her, corporeality be damned, at the sound of her name on his lips in this moment. She knows she should be composed. She should be polite, ask if it was over, convince him that she was at least trying to do the right thing. But he wanted it, and right now she can't bring herself to lie to him.
"Yes?" she whispers, and it seems to her that even silent her voice sounds husky and slightly broken.
"Are you ok?"
"I... I'm fine."
He draws in a deep breath, his hand resting motionless underneath his shorts. "Are you freaking out?" he asks worriedly.
She laughs a little. "No. I'm okay. Really." She thinks about biting her lip before adding, "That was definitely an interesting experience." She hopes her voice doesn't sound as eager to him as it does to her.
"It was a little, uh, fast."
"You've had a difficult few days."
She concedes his point by not answering.
"Who has it better?" he smirks, but she can feel even from here that it's lazy with post-coital satisfaction.
She wishes badly for a mirror.
"You are probably the only person in history who can definitively answer this question."
"Well," she hedges for time, trying to compose her thoughts, which were stuck on "John" and "orgasm" and the low, sexy timbre of his voice that she's sure will be haunting her dreams for months, if not years. "Each side has its advantages, I guess."
"Ever the diplomat," he rolls his eyes. "Come on, be honest."
The images in her mind are so vibrant, memories colliding with fantasies that are only a few minutes old, she's afraid he'll see them somehow. She fights to normalize her voice. "Objectively? I still think women."
John sighs. "I wish I could know that myself."
Too distracted trying to get herself under control, Elizabeth nearly doesn't hear him.
"I wish I could know that with you."
He didn't speak that aloud. She's sure of it. But it's not her thought, not even her wish, so it had to come from him. He thought it for her only.
This has to end, is all she can think. They can't do this. They just can't. There are too many reasons to name. She has to get out of here, out of him, back to herself, back in control.
In the quiet, she tells him gently, "We should probably get cleaned up and go check in."
He nods, getting out of bed slowly. She feels a slight ache in his muscles as they go to the shower and has a fleeting image of how his back would look from the bed as he moves.
John pauses, "Elizabeth? Thank you."
She can't resist. "Well, I'd say it was my pleasure, but..."
He chuckles, turning on the water and removing his soiled boxers.
Elizabeth closes her eyes.
It is late afternoon when John speaks to her silently again. "Elizabeth? Can you hear me?"
"Are you alright?"
"I'm tired," she answers. It's more than tiredness, though. She's not sleepy but her mind feels full of wool. Everything feels far away, including him, and that frightens her.
"You've been very quiet today," he begins, sounding worried and cautious.
She doesn't want to talk about that morning. Possibly ever. She's too confused and it's impossible to think about it clearly when she can still feel his every move. If they get out of this, and she has about a year to put it in some perspective, maybe they can talk about it then.
But she's growing more certain she doesn't have that kind of time.
"It's getting harder to make you hear me," she confesses. "It's taking more effort than it did before."
The knot she can feel in his stomach tightens further. They are waiting in the infirmary for Carson's latest round of tests. The headache that had started yesterday, before the seizure, is back full force and there seems to be nothing anyone can do about it.
Rodney hasn't slept in nearly a day. Zelenka says they are close to figuring it out. She doesn't think Radek has slept either.
"Just hang in there, ok?" John says this aloud as Carson approaches with Kate.
Elizabeth doesn't know if John notices the look on Carson's face, but she recognizes the worry and frustrated helplessness, neither of which make her feel better.
"I'm afraid the news isn't good. The human body wasn't designed to support two conscious minds simultaneously."
"Elizabeth says it's harder for her to speak to me," John reported.
"Can she still take control?" Kate asks.
Elizabeth feels that strange sliding sensation as John lets go. They've become adept at switching over the past few days, but no matter how hard she tries, she can't take over in his place.
There is a moment of silence before John comes back. "She can't," he tells them, rubbing his eyes. Their headache just spiked with their efforts and deep down Elizabeth is starting think they've run out of time.
Carson and Kate look from John's wincing to each other. Kate, looking more upset than Elizabeth has ever seen her, speaks quietly. "We're afraid of what the toll of this is doing to Colonel Sheppard. I think one of you may have to let go completely, otherwise his body will not be able to handle the strain."
John's head snaps up in alarm. "What happens to the person who lets go?"
There's no answer, but it's hardly necessary. The four of them all know what's happening.
"No," he snaps. "We're not there yet. We just need to give McKay a little more time. He and Zelenka are almost finished."
"Colonel-" Carson starts but John glares.
"We're not there yet," he repeats, his voice cold. There it is, the unyielding streak of stone that is always lurking under the surface. Elizabeth finds it comforting right now, though there have been plenty of times when she's cursed his stubbornness.
Carson backs down, and he and Kate step away, leaving them alone.
"Don't say it, Elizabeth."
"John, I'm not going to linger here until it kills us both."
He's silent a moment and she feels the restless shifting of his limbs. "I'll do it."
"No, John." she says firmly.
"No, Colonel. Consider that a direct order."
A small smile crosses his face. "What makes you think that's going to help?"
She chuckles. "It's worth a try? John, this is your body. You're supposed to be here. There's no reason to believe what's happening to me won't stop even if you can let go." She concentrates with all her might on an image, of her hand reaching out and taking his. She feels a slight shiver go through him and knows her message was received. "I do appreciate the offer though."
She does. She knows it is part of John's nature to do anything in his power to help his people, no matter the cost, but this price is too high. She can practically feel his mind racing, trying to come up with some way out of this, some way to save them both. The tension in his body is palpable and exhausting. She tries to calm him by pointing out, "Nothing personal, but I'm not sure I want to spend the rest of my life in your body."
"Plus, how in hell would I ever explain this to Jack O'Neill? Or the President?"
He laughs out loud at that, and Carson and Kate glance their way, but they have become inured to the "look at the crazy people" expressions over the past 4 days.
"Don't give up yet. McKay will come through." "We can't lose you, Elizabeth."
His voice sounds distant for some reason. Elizabeth gets an impression, of his hand squeezing her own back, before he fades out completely.