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What are friends for?

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The task force of Atlantis had been off world for a week, on an unpleasant planet through an unsuccessful mission, and they were desperate to get home, if only to take a nice hot shower.

Unfortunately, they had to wait for a few hours longer because the Stargate was not working, hence everybody was tense and moody, particularly Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard. No one dared to talk to him anymore.

No one but Teyla. She wanted him to realize why he was unfamiliarly cranky.

"You miss her, don't you?"

"Who?" he grumbled, displeased.

"Dr. Weir."

"Sure. I miss her just as much as I miss everyone from home."

"No, Colonel. I think you miss her most."

He lowered his eyes and checked the safety of his weapon. "What gave you that idea?"

"The way you look at her, smile at her, care for her, the way she makes you furious..."

"It's not what you think. I just..." he argued and stopped talking, unable to find the proper words to explain his feelings.

"Do you ever intend to tell her?"

"There's nothing to tell. We're just friends and..."

"I see. You don't love her then?"

"What?!" His head jerked up in surprise. He almost dropped his gun. "Who said anything about love? It's not love. It's just..." Once again he couldn't find the proper words. A crush? A fling? A desperate need for company? "... not right. She is the leader of Atlantis. It wouldn't be wise to get..." He flushed. Shut up! "...to get involved."

Teyla showed her familiar soft smile. "Who says this is only your decision? What about her?"

"What about her?" he said, squinting.

"Well, she is madly in love with you and..."

"She is not!" he blurted out, clutching his gun. Crap! He looked around to check if anyone of the team had heard him but nobody seemed to be bothered by his stupid outburst.

Ronon was resting with his eyes closed. Well, after what he had pulled off on this mission, John thought grimly, it's no surprise he's exhausted. McKay was poking at the small fire they had made to keep warm. Finally silent, if only for a minute.

"She is," Teyla said kindly. "Ask anyone you want. McKay, Beckett, Dr. Zelenka..."

John gaped at her.

"...everyone knows but you."

In dead silence they stared at each other.

"Elizabeth loves me," John croaked at last. No, no, no. That can't be true, right?

"Yes, she does."

He inhaled sharply, and his heart skipped a beat. Elizabeth loves me. Me! How did this happen? I'm never the man...

"So, what is your plan?"

"Huh?"

"How will you handle the news?"

"I don't know." That was the truth. He didn't.

"But..."

"Teyla," he growled.

"Fine." Teyla shrugged. "It is your decision." She stood up and walked over to Ronon. She sat down next to him.

John sighed. Yeah, sure. He missed Elizabeth. He missed her terribly. Not seeing her pained him physically. I have to do something. It's about time. If she really loves me then... I need to man up and make a move. Yeah.

*****

As always Elizabeth was the first one to welcome them home as they stepped through the gate. The team excused themselves right away, even Rodney left shortly after giving just a brief report to Elizabeth. Only John stuck around, savoring the beauty of her face and voice.

Elizabeth beamed at him. "It's good to have you back safe and sound."

"Ermh... yes, it's good to be back." John licked his lips. He could barely look at her.

"What's wrong? Did something happen?"

"Nothing unusual. Why?"

"You appear... somehow... different."

"I'm just tired. Let's talk later. Say, at dinner." Whoa! That was fast. You're quite the man with the plan, John.

She blinked. Twice. "Well... yes, John. If you'd like to."

"I do." He gave a slight smile. "May I pick you up at 1900 hours?"

"And where are we going, Colonel?" she said, definitely excited.

"Well, I thought I cook for both of us and we'll eat in my quarters."

"Oh." One simple soft sound. Her green eyes widened.

"Do you mind?"

"No. Not at all. I just didn't know you can cook."

"I learned early to take care of myself."

"I see." She hesitated, as if she wanted to say something else, kneading her hands. John turned as mute as she was, his eyes focused at a spot below her left ear. The seconds ticked by.

Some of the people rushing by stopped and stared at them. One woman giggled. Elizabeth and John didn't notice. Their eyes seemed to be locked for eternity. Without words they told each other everything they needed to know.

Carson Beckett broke the tension at last. "Colonel! I ordered the whole team to get some sleep. Why are you still here?"

"I - I have to...," John stammered, patting his gun.

"Right. See you at seven," Elizabeth said, recovering. "Go and get some rest. You look beat." She hurried up the stairs to her office then, though she was looking back over her shoulder once.

He watched her leaving. "I am, sweetheart. I truly am," he murmured. Yeah, it's time to make a move. It's better for the both of us.

"What did you say?" Carson said, frowning.

"Uh... nothing important. I might be delirious from the lack of sleep. Excuse me." John hurried off, relieved to escape further questions and the curious looks of everyone.

*****

Five minutes past seven Elizabeth got served dinner in John's quarters. The small table she was sitting at was decorated nicely with candles, a few red blossoms and a plate of potatoes eastern style.

"It smells delicious, "Elizabeth said, inhaling.

"Thank you. It's nothing fancy. Just dig in."

She smiled and took the first bite. "Mm. Tasty." For a few seconds she chewed the spicy food. "Do you ever regret coming to Atlantis?"

"A few times, like when meeting the Wraith Queen," he wisecracked, winking at her.

"I get your point."

"Do you want to know how I made up my mind to come here anyway?" he spluttered before he could change his mind.

"Sure."

"I flipped a coin."

"I see."

"No, you don't. The coin voted against going to Atlantis." He paused for a moment, remembering the crucial moment. "But I decided to come here anyway."

"Why? What made you change your mind?"

"You," he said, brimming with love. He got up and moved around the table.

Elizabeth put her fork down and looked up to him. "That's a joke, right?"

"No, it isn't." John bowed down and kissed her lightly on the lips.

"John," she whispered, charmed.

"For you, Elizabeth. Isn't it about time to take our changes and move our friendship to the next level?"

She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down. "It certainly is. We thought you'd never ask."

His jaw dropped. "Who is we?"

She laughed. "This look suits you."

"Elizabeth..."

"Who do you think asked Teyla to give you a push in the right direction?"

"You did not."

"I certainly did. I'm the leader of Atlantis."

"I..." John couldn't believe it. She had planned this all along? She had made the first move?

She silenced him with a kiss. When he was able to breathe again he had forgotten what he had wanted to say.

"The whole thing was mainly Rodney's idea," she said with sparkling eyes. "He complained there was just no living with you anymore. Something had to be done..."

"That is...," he started but was cut off.

She kissed him for a very long time. In the end she snuggled up to him, looking satisfied with herself. "Radek even disabled the Gate for a few hours to-"

"He did, did he?" He freed himself from her embrace. "I'm sorry, Elizabeth. I have to leave you alone for a few minutes to kill all my friends." He rushed out.

Elizabeth leaned back in her chair. Knowing John's temper this wouldn't take long. She shouldn't tell him about Ronon's part in the whole plan though.

Or Carson's.

Not yet.