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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."

"Oh."

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'm sorry."

"For what?"

"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."

"We will."

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?

He snorts.

"So what do we do?"

"We just sit here until it goes away."

"Oh. Okay."

"And try to think of something else."

"Kavanagh. Bates. Denis Rodman in drag."

"Denis Rodman?"

"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."

"Really? Cool."

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.

"John?"

"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?"

"Yes."

"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.

"Elizabeth."

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."

"We've had."

She concedes his point by not answering.

"So?"

"Hmm?"

"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?"

"Yes."

"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.

"John-"

"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.

"Elizabeth-"

"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."

"Hey!"

"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.

Chapter Text

They are in the lab, standing before the wreckage of the dart, when Elizabeth can hear again. "John?"

"Elizabeth?" he sounds stunned.

"What happened?" She can see Carson, Kate, Rodney and Radek, frozen and staring at them.

"I can hear her," John tells them. "You disappeared. I couldn't get you to answer me."

Carson is there, hand on John's arm. "What's the last thing she remembers?"

"We were in the infirmary. You were telling me not to give up yet."

His voice sounds slightly strangled. "That was two hours ago. We're about to try. McKay and Zelenka think they have the system fixed."

Radek pushes his glasses up nervously. "We could still use more time to run more tests-"

Rodney turns on him. "A minute ago you said we were ready to go."

"Yes, but now that Dr. Weir is back, we could run another test with the mice-"

"We may not have time. What if she disappears again and for good?" Rodney snaps back.

An edge comes into Radek's voice abruptly. "As long as Colonel Sheppard can hear her, we have a little more time. We should not gamble with Dr. Weir and Colonel Sheppard's lives unless we have no choice."

To Elizabeth, the voices start to fluctuate like a radio signal and she calls to John, a warning note in her voice, "John, I don't think we have time for this."

Rodney is arguing with Radek. "We don't have a choice. We've hooked the crystal up from the gate. There's no point in going over the simulations again and Elizabeth could fade away at any moment. You really want to call a time out so we can kill some more of Carson's mice-"

John says "McKay" just as Elizabeth thinks, "Rodney" in an identically irritated tone.

Rodney shuts up and he and Radek glare at each other for a moment.

John looks at Zelenka, "I - we both appreciate your concern, doc, but I don't think we do have any more time. Let's just get on with it," John says to Rodney.

There is a silence as the scientists return to setting up the machine.

Elizabeth doubts her eyebrow raise will translate silently, but she gives it a shot. "Just get on with it?"

John flushes. No one else notices but Elizabeth smirks, dearly wishing she could see the red on his face.

"Tell Rodney and Radek I said good luck."

"Elizabeth says if you screw this up, you're all fired."

She rolls her eyes and John straightens, looking somewhat apprehensively at the dart.

"John? I should probably make a confession. In case this doesn't work."

"What?" he sounds somewhere between anxious and suspicious.

"I peeked."

 

***

 

Every muscle in her body feels like it's throbbing.

Elizabeth pauses stupidly. Something was wrong...

Her body.

She cracks open her eyes and sees familiar curving lines from her breasts and legs. She wriggles her toes and sees movement at the far end of the bed. She stares in shock for a moment, unable to process being able to move without worrying it was killing someone.

Her eyes drift up and she sees Rodney and Radek sitting against the wall. Rodney has his arms folded across his chest and appears to be asleep. Radek has a hand propping up his hand, staring morosely at the floor.

They look terrible, she thinks.

"Elizabeth?" She turns her head and realizes Carson is standing over her. "Can you hear me?"

She tries to speak but it comes out as a groan. Carson is examining her, checking her pulse and looking into her eyes. "How do you feel?"

She dry swallows a couple times. "Awful?"

There is a rush of air. Rodney, Radek and Kate have gathered around her bed, looking relieved.

"What happened? And water?"

Kate turns and holds a cup up for her to drink from. Carson's hand rests against her arm – she can feel warmth on her skin and the sensation overwhelms her momentarily. "It worked. Hooking the gate crystal up to the dart separated you from Colonel Sheppard and we appear to have you both back where you belong."

Elizabeth straightens involuntarily. "Is he-?"

She never finishes the question. Kate steps aside. John is lying in the bed next to her. "He's still unconscious, but his scans show no brain damage of any kind. He should be fine," Carson assures her.

Elizabeth stares for a second. John doesn't look much better than Rodney or Radek. It's strange to be seeing him from her own eyes again.

"You'll be happy to know I don't see any physical damage to you either," Carson pats her arm, the gesture somehow both comforting and commanding. "Though I imagine you'll be with us overnight, so I can make sure you rest." Elizabeth knows an order when she hears it.

She looks at her two scientists and smiles. "Thank you. Both of you."

Radek blushes a little at her gratitude, but Rodney bounces, as he always does when he's especially proud of himself. "It was nothing, really, just rewriting any number of laws of physics and finding a way to interconnect two completely incompatible pieces of alien technology, one of which was completely foreign to us."

Carson steps in before Rodney can really get going, "And Elizabeth isn't the only one around here who needs rest. I'm ordering you both to sleep for the next 12 hours." He makes a herding motion with his hands, shooing the physicists out.

Kate squeezes her shoulder and goes, following Rodney who nods to Elizabeth and leaves, muttering at Carson, "Yes, well, now that the day has been saved, again, I could use a sandwich and a power nap."

Radek rolls his eyes at Rodney and Elizabeth smothers a grin.

Alone, for the first time in many days, Elizabeth settles into the bed. She looks over at John, watching him sleep for some time before her eyes drift shut again.

***

When John appears at her door at midnight she blinks stupidly for a moment.

Has it only been a week? It felt like months, maybe years had passed. A simple out-of-body experience sounds almost quaint compared to the past few days of chaos and crises.

She steps back and lets him in, glancing briefly around the corridor to make sure no one is there. She hates doing it - it makes her feel like there's something illicit going on.

John is standing in the middle of her quarters, his hands in his pockets. She can see the nervousness in him, though, in his posture, the unconscious movement of his arm at his side. After all, she knows his body language now, better than anyone else ever will.

Elizabeth folds her arms over her chest and leans against her desk. "So."

"I figured we should, you know, talk."

She nods. "There hasn't been much time lately."

"I know. It'd be nice if the universe would give you a couple days off after a near-death experience."

He would know.

There's another awkward silence between them.

"I kind of miss you," he blurts out. Seeing her expression, he waves towards his eternally messy hair (he does comb it, she knows; it takes a lot of effort to make sure his hair looks this disorganized), "I mean, having you in my head like that. I'm not... I usually like having space, you know? But it was... nice having someone there to talk to all the time."

Of all the things she might have been expecting to hear him say right now, that wasn't on her list. It's amazing that he can still surprise her like that. "You miss my off-key Sam Cooke impersonations?"

"OK, maybe not that part."

They both relax a little. "John, you can always talk to me. You know that."

"I do," he nods, then fixes her with a look. "But this was different. You were different. It was like I could hear all the things you would never let yourself say out loud."

She narrows her eyes, anxiety making her heart start to speed up. "You couldn't hear everything I was thinking, right?"

"No, but I guess I was hearing more than you say in public."

It's impossible for her to feel annoyed, given that she was inside of his body for four days. He was the one forced to share things he never wanted to. She has no right to feel exposed.

John grins. "You're a smartass. I think you might be worse than me."

"I doubt that's possible," she rolls her eyes. "Look, John, I wasn't exactly at my best during those days-"

He waves a hand, chopping the air between them. "Don't do that."

"Do what?"

"Don't go into Dr. Weir mode with me."

"What are you talking about?"

John straightens slightly and she knows that he's simultaneously trying to explain and contain his temper, and the depth of that knowledge only reminds her of things she's not sure she wants to think about yet. "You stopped playing the fearless leader with me for a couple days. And I'd prefer it if you stopped pretending it didn't happen."

"I'm not," she protests, a spark of anger making itself felt.

"Look, I get that out there," he waves towards her door. "In front of everyone else, there's a certain way you have to be for them. But right now, it's just you and me."

Elizabeth moves restlessly, but there is nowhere to go. "What do you want from me, John?"

For a moment he just looks at her, and she can hear how he sounded on that one morning, the memory dazzlingly clear. Her body begins to warm and she can't help it, she looks away from him.

John steps forward but he just takes her hand. "I know it was uncomfortable, but don't try to shut me back out, okay?"

His fingers tighten and she squeezes his hand back instinctively. Elizabeth stares down at their intertwined hands for a minute. "I'm glad it was you. Not that I would want to go through that again, or at all, but if I had to get trapped like that, I'm glad it was you." She looks up to find a strange expression on John's face. He looks relieved, surprised, and something else she can't quite place. "As awkward as it was, I think it would've been much worse if it had been someone else. Someone I didn't trust as much."

His eyes widen slightly and she realizes what the other emotion is: pride.

"I don't know. I thought maybe it would be easier for you with someone who... was more strict about boundaries," he finishes, awkwardly.

She smirks a little, and his lips twist in a self-deprecating smile. "No, because there's no way I could've maintained that distance for four straight days. The walls would've come down and that just would've complicated things even more."

"Well, I'm glad to be of service-" he stops short and they both laugh again. "Everything we say to each other is going to have a double meaning now, isn't it?"

"Hasn't it always?"

He chuckles and lets go of her hand and she knows that is the only conversation they're going to have about what happened, at least for now. She's relieved and disappointed at the same time, but mostly grateful. She doesn't know what to think about it yet, and is definitely not ready to find out what he's thinking.

John tilts his head slightly. "So, we're ok?"

"Yes," she says and then is interrupted by an enormous yawn. "But we're very, very tired."

He turns to go, stretching his arms behind his back, and she pulls her eyes away from his body. John pauses on his way out the door, "Oh, and Elizabeth?"

She can guess what's coming but she says "Yes?" anyway.

"Someday? Reciprocity is only fair."

The lascivious smirk on his face makes her blush brighter than her shirt, and the intensity in his eyes makes her shiver, but she returns the smile and tells him, "Someday, John."

***

 

Epilogue

 

She has waited two long years for this.

They had sex for the first time barely a week ago. Fast, desperate sex, while John muttered in her ear that he was never letting her off-world again because he thought he'd lost her for good this time and he couldn't take it any more. Elizabeth just clung to him more tightly, because she'd been afraid too, terrified that she would never see him or her home again

But she'd escaped, she'd come home, and John had grabbed her tightly in front of everyone in the gate room and Elizabeth buried her face in his shoulder and realized she no longer cared what people would think, and she didn't want to deny this any more.

After Carson released her, John came to her quarters to check on her, as he had done hundreds of times, except that night he never left.

Tonight is the first night in this week of quiet looking and unsubtle smiling and discreet touching and hurried sex that they've had any real time to themselves. John is gloriously naked and wrestling with her pants, trying to get her zipper undone, and they are both laughing and a little giddy from the process of getting him out of his clothes. Finally she is free and he crawls up her body, pressing her down on her bed and kissing her soundly.

She could kiss him all night, she thinks, biting his perfect lower lip and running her fingers through his hair. But they have been waiting so long, and she's learned not to waste opportunities.

John allows her to push him flat on his back. She stretches out next to him. The angle won't be precisely the same, but she wraps her hand around his erection gently and he gasps.

She has replayed that morning in her mind so many times over the years. Her hands don't have the same feel his do, she knows, but she keeps her grip loose, stroking slowly, mimicking the memory as closely as she can, and his hips twitch into her touch.

She watches her fingers moving up and down, remembering how incredibly good his hand felt on his cock, the way the tiniest touch sent pleasure racing through him, the desperation building when he needed so badly to come. She trails her eyes over his body, along the thick hair over his stomach and chest, the new scar running across his ribs, up to his face.

He is watching her. As she strokes faster, one of his hands twists in the sheets. The other reaches out and touches her face. His hips start to thrust into her hand, but he keeps his eyes on her.

Elizabeth stares back at him, tightening her fingers, watching his response. She knows him, and she knows his body in a way none of the women who've come and gone in the past two years could ever know him. This truth has given her a darkly possessive comfort from time to time. Right now she wants him to remember that she can give him something no one else can.

John moans, and the sound has been with her so long she's forgotten the power of it by half. Her body aches from it, and she nearly stops, nearly climbs on top of him, but after two years of waiting to do this to him with her own hands, she's not going to stop until she makes him come.

It doesn't take long. Her knuckles brush against his balls, her thumb caresses the tip of cock, exactly as she remembers, and John shouts and explodes over her hand.

Elizabeth leans her forehead against his as he breathes. John turns, nuzzling her cheek. "That felt familiar."

She shrugs, "Must be natural talent."

He smiles, a lazy, happy smirk that isn't quite like any of his other smiles. She's catalogued most of his expressions and this is one she's never seen. Or at least never been able to see. She has to kiss him again, feel his amazing lips against hers. John's fingers twist in her hair and he pulls her half on top of him, his other hand running along her body. She moans a little as he fondles her backside, rubbing her hips against his instinctively.

John flips her onto her back and then hovers above her. The hungry expression on his face goes right through her, turning her knees to water and making her body throb without having to touch her.

"It's your turn, Elizabeth."

Her mouth goes dry and she licks her lips. She's known this was coming too, and she nods.

John gets up and wipes himself off, sitting down in her chair. Elizabeth looks at him, lithe and naked and sitting with his feet propped up on her bed and his arms crossed, casual as if he were in a meeting. Her hands trail over her stomach but his voice interrupts.

"Take the rest of your clothes off."

Her eyebrow goes up. "You weren't naked."

"You were inside of me," he retorts.

She yields, sitting up enough to undo her bra and toss it aside, then wriggling out of her panties. She makes a point of holding them out and letting them fall to the floor.

John's eyes never leave her body.

She lays back down, one hand brushing against a bare breast. Her nipple is already tight and she circles it with her thumb for a minute. Her other hand slides over her stomach, back and forth, moving lower until she presses her palm against her crotch. She doesn't move otherwise, just holds herself.

"I've thought about this so many times, John," she tells him. She hears him take a deep breath. He is staring at her hand as her finger begins to work its way between the folds of skin. "Ever since that day, I've fantasized about you watching me like this so many times. Or about doing this to you. I don't think I've touched myself without thinking about you since then."

Her finger has found her clit and she circles it, her body throbbing and wet already. "Either you were touching me or I was touching you, making you come because I know how you like to be touched. I would get so turned on thinking about getting my hands on you."

She hears that electric groan from him again as his hand shifts to his lap. The sound goes into her and seems to vibrate through her body, raising goose bumps all over.

"I've imagined you watching me. You would come into my quarters late at night and not say anything, just stand there, staring at me until I take my clothes off and finally keep my promise." John's kink is watching, hers is talking. He already knows this. He figured out quickly that telling her the things he's wanted to do to her will drive her crazy. But he didn't know she also likes doing the talking. "I've imagined it was you touching me, your hands all over my body. I've imagined you fucking me until I pass out."

John gets up and moves to the foot of the bed, and she knows he wants to see her, wants to be able to see how she touches herself. His eyes rake over her, lying wide open in front of him, drifting from her fingers up her belly, her other hand still fondling her breast, to her face.

In her peripheral vision she sees his arm moving. He's hard again, and touching himself. She wants to feel him inside of her, but for two years she has been dreaming of this and she knows he has too and all their patience deserves this moment.

The words begin to desert her now, her finger rubbing urgently at her clit as the orgasm rises inside of her. Her hips begin to buck against her own hand and she arches her back. She's so close, and they've waited so long for this.

His chest is moving rapidly with his breathing, and his eyes can't seem to settle on what part of her to watch.

"John," she whispers, and his eyes meet hers. "I want you... to see me."

Pleasure rolls through her and she gasps and curses under her breath, writhing, naked and exposed before him and not caring because it's John, because they've been through everything and she knows him and he knows her and they've been together for three years, even if they didn't realize it.

Before she can get her breath back, John is stretched out above her. He's completely hard again, rubbing his length against her slowly. "I was thinking about you," he whispers. "That morning, in my bed, I was thinking about you, touching you, making love to you. You were right there, so close to me, watching me, and I couldn't touch you or look at you."

He kisses her so hard her lips will probably be bruised. She doesn't care. His hands are playing across her body, and the longing in his voice makes her ache with something far beyond any mere physical need.

"I'm here, John," she tells him when he breaks away. "I'm here."

Another harsh, possessive kiss and his knee pushes her thighs farther apart and he thrusts into her smoothly. Her hips meet him as he takes her hard and a little rough. She has to push him away to get her mouth free because she needs to breathe and John bends, biting her neck and murmuring in that low voice that makes her spine liquid, "You're mine, Elizabeth. Wanted you for so long. Mine, and I'm never letting you go again."

Her nails dig into his ass, urging him to go even deeper and another orgasm tears through her, making her sob. She can only hold on to him as he shakes and moans and comes inside of her.

He kisses the mark he made on her neck gently as they come down. "Sorry about that."

"Will it be visible?" She can just picture Rodney noticing a bite mark on her neck and then trying to pretend he hadn't.

"Probably." He pulls away to look at her. "Is that a problem?"

She grins. "No."

They kiss again, slow and sweet this time. John doesn't seem eager to move off of her, and she runs her hands over his back, for some reason not minding being underneath him. "So," she asks, grinning. "Worth the wait?"

John puts on a show of thinking hard.

Elizabeth narrows her eyes at him. "What?"

"Well, we could've been having sex every night for two years instead of waiting and taking cold showers."

"You told me cold showers don't work."

"I said they don't work every time," he counters.

She pinches his ass. "That wasn't the question."

"Was it worth waiting for?" he repeats. His hand comes up and touches her cheek. "I would've waited ten years."

Another kiss, and he slides off her and settles into the bed, arms holding her tightly.

"Only ten years?"

"Everyone has limits."

There is silence for a moment. John toys with her hair.

"I wasn't ready."

"I know. I would've waited until you were."

Elizabeth closes her eyes, leaning against him.

"But I'm glad I don't have to wait any longer." He sighs. "I still wish I could know what it's like for you, like you did with me."

"Well, you never know. Maybe someday we'll find a way."

"Without anyone nearly dying." John's arms tighten around her.

"Yes, please." Her cheek twitches. "Though you might have to resign yourself to only being inside of me the old-fashioned way."

His chest shakes under her as he laughs. "I'll find a way to live with it. Meanwhile," his hand slips between her thighs and she gasps. "You could describe it for me."

His fingers begin to move and she tells him.