He watched her for a moment, analysing each facial expression in an attempt to determine whether she actually was busy, or whether she was, perhaps, playing Solitaire again – as he had found her doing on several occasions since they arrived in Atlantis. Her brow was furrowed, so she was definitely concentrating, but apart from that, she wasn’t giving anything away.
Deciding he didn’t want to disturb her, just in case, John was just turning to leave when Elizabeth moved.
She put down her computer, closed her eyes and let her head fall back against her chair. Shocked, when he saw the bruises on her neck, John stepped backwards – and collided with a scientist who must have been passing behind him.
“Sorry, Doctor” he muttered, bending down and helping her collect the files she had been carrying.
“It’s okay, Colonel. I wasn’t looking where I was going,” she said, offering him a bright smile.
John nodded and handed her the files he had gathered then, standing up, turned to find himself face to face with Elizabeth.
“Is everything okay?” Elizabeth asked, glancing first at John and then past him to the Doctor, who simply smiled and nodded and then continued on her way.
“Just a minor collision,” John joked. “No need to get the police involved.”
Elizabeth laughed a little then settled it into a warm smile. “Not to sound like a broken record but… how are you feeling?”
John smiled. “Perfectly normal, thank you.”
Her smile widened. “Glad to hear it… Shouldn’t you be resting, though? It’s very late,” she commented as she led him into her office; into more privacy than standing in the control room with the few staff who were on duty overnight.
John shrugged. “I didn’t really feel like sleeping.” Elizabeth’s smile instantly fell into a look of concern, so he quickly continued. “It’s nothing to worry about,” he assured her. “I just had some things I wanted to do first… Some people I wanted to see. To apologise to.”
She nodded, understandingly, leaning on the front of her desk, and motioning for him to sit down.
He remained standing. “I’ve spoken to Teyla, stopped by the infirmary – I didn’t mean to keep Doc so busy…”
“They’ll all be fine… I’m sure they didn’t need you to apologise. They were just doing their jobs…” She paused, eying him curiously, no doubt sensing the real reason for his visit. “Is there a reason you won’t sit down?”
He glanced away from her, summoning some courage for the task he needed to complete, and his eyes caught the window by her office door.
He forced a small laugh to try to ease some of the air of seriousness that had crept in since she started to be suspicious of him, and quipped: “I see you got a new window.”
When he turned back, Elizabeth was standing. “John, you don’t need to apologise to me,” she said, pre-empting his contrition.
He fixed his eyes on hers, hard with sincerity. “Yes I do.”
She cocked her head to one side slightly, ready to argue her point, and he caught another glimpse of the marks on her neck.
“You weren’t yourself, John – ”
“That’s no excuse.”
“It’s a damn good excuse! And the only one I would let you get away with.” She smiled as she spoke – clearly she was also trying to lighten the tone of the conversation.
His guilt wouldn’t let him follow her lead, though. He had hurt her – she bore the proof of that. “No excuse is good enough!” he practically shouted.
She raised an eyebrow, and her tone changed to match his. “Is that what the others told you? The men in the infirmary?”
“They wouldn’t – ”
“Okay then. Teyla. Did Teyla tell you that you were right to apologise because it was all your fault? She wouldn’t be afraid to tell you the truth. She’s not military.”
“What happened with Teyla was different… I hurt you!”
Elizabeth frowned. “Didn’t you hurt Teyla? What were you apolo– ”
“Not physically – ”
The volume of her voice dropped suddenly, but her tone slipped into ‘expedition leader’ mode. “What did you do to her?”
“Don’t change the subject – ”
“If there is a problem between you and Teyla, I need to know about it.”
“There’s no problem… We sorted it out.”
“Is it likely to arise again?”
“You seem pretty certain… Can you be that certain?”
“Because I know that I won’t do it again.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because it isn’t something that I want to do.”
“Yet you did it this time?”
“I wasn’t myself!”
When she smirked, he realised what he had just said. He had been so enthralled in their argument; so determined to defend himself, that he hadn’t seen where she was leading him.
“Oh, you’re good,” he said, lowering and shaking his head, but unable to stop himself from smiling.
“I know,” she grinned, leaning back against the desk again.
He lifted only his eyes to look at her, and she smirked again, her eyes sparkling.
His expression straightened again. “I hurt you, Elizabeth.”
She shrugged, still smiling. “I was never very fond of that window… This one’s better. It’s more shiny.” Her eyes twinkled as she said ‘shiny’ and it took all his strength not to give up there and then.
“You know that isn’t what I’m talking about,” he said, quietly.
Elizabeth’s face became more serious, but she retained a small smile. “I know that you’re back to normal… That we’re not going to lose you… And that’s all that matters.”
He stood up straight again, capturing her eyes in his stare once more. “So the bruises on your neck don’t matter?”
She shook her head. “If they bothered me, I would have tried to cover them up.”
John stepped towards her, his eyes lowering to her neck. “They bother me,” he said, reaching out his hand and trailing his fingertips over the coloured areas. He felt her tremble beneath his touch and withdrew his hand quickly. “I’m sorry, I – ”
“John,” she interrupted him, taking hold of his hand with hers. “You don’t need to apologise to me.”
“I could have killed you!” he said, tersely, his hand gripping hers tightly.
“But you didn’t,” she said, softly, gently stroking the back of his hand with her thumb.
“You should have killed me when I told you to… I told you it would be better for the both of us!”
“John!” she was serious now, and she dropped his hand, forcefully. “There are no circumstances under which losing you would be good for me! … And if I’d have killed you then, you wouldn’t be here now! So quit being melodramatic! If you insist on apologising, fine! But that’s the last of it. I’m not discussing this with you anymore!”
John stood still, shocked by her outburst. “Are you finished?” he asked with a smirk, after she was silent for about thirty seconds.
She nodded curtly. “Did you get my point?”
He smiled. “Apology accepted?”
Slowly a smile spread across her face. “You don’t give up, do you?”
“Ah… But that’s why you love me,” he teased.
Elizabeth cocked her head to one side again, and her smile slowly grew, and she spoke quietly. “Well… It’s one of the reasons.”
He was sure his heart stopped. His eyes definitely did widen, and he found that he was unable to formulate a clever response. She was joking. Right?
“So,” Elizabeth continued, voice returning to normal level. “You and Teyla?”
Her eyes had found his, and in them he saw uncertainty swirling with hope. He held her gaze and said: “There is no me and Teyla,” hoping that his answer would also convey something of his feelings for her.
For a while she just continued to stare at him, as if processing his words and formulating her next move, then she suddenly broke the eye contact, looking down. “I’m glad to hear it,” she said a second later, seemingly back in ‘expedition leader’ mode, and she walked round her desk and sat down.
John frowned, confused by the mixed signals she had been sending him, and unsure as to whether their conversation was over - somewhere along the way he had lost track of where he was up to with getting her to accept his apology.
And then she smiled at him. And he smiled back. And at that moment, that was all that mattered – that she would smile at him, no fear clouding her beautiful face; and that he could smile back, human again.
“Get some rest, John,” she said, softly.
He nodded and turned to leave, rethinking his departure at the last moment, and turning back. “So, just to clarify things - you’ve forgiven me?” he smirked
She grinned the Elizabeth Weir grin he loved so much while shaking her head slowly. “Good night, John.”
He offered her his own grin, and stepped out of the room. “Don’t work too hard, Doctor,” he called over his shoulder, “… those card games can be stressful!”
He smiled at the staff on duty as he passed by them, and as he stepped into the transporter he felt himself relax for the first time in days. She’d forgiven him – at least, he’d decided to conclude that she had; it was getting too confusing – and, though he would never forgive himself, she’d made it easier for him to move past it.
Because she’d given him something else to think about.
She loves him?