Opal (oparu) wrote,

Title: Exchange
Recipient: anuna_81
Summary: John doesn't want to go home for Christmas. Possibly because his birthday is right before.

"I'd just sit around and watch TV," John admitted finally as he stared across Elizabeth's desk at the wall behind her. "I never ask for leave because I don't have anything to do there. If you want, I'll take it and go to the mainland, or fly a jumper around for a few days."

She still wasn't used to her new office near the conference rooms. Carter had to keep the big office, and though she'd apologized profusely, Elizabeth still missed the view. "I feel lost on Earth," she replied softly wondering if that was really his problem. "I don't have much of a purpose there either."

"You visit your mother," John reminded her softly. Nervously turning and reorienting the things on her desk he sank back into his chair.

"Do you?"

"She can't tell I'm there," his said and his eyes flashed up for a moment but there were no answers in them. "Dad and I, well--" John stopped and his lips rolled inward nervously. "Not much there anymore." His chair creaked slightly against the floor as he pushed it back. "No one else really."

"Hard to keep friends when you're part of a secret government base in another galaxy?" Elizabeth's attempt at levity made him smile weakly.

"Hard to keep them alive when there are conflicts and skirmishes," he sighed apologetically. The movement of the stone against the surface of her desk was the only sound for a long time. "Can I take a jumper?"

"I think it would be better if you spent some time on the mainland," Elizabeth answered in her sterner tone. It was too harsh for the moment, she realized as John started to stiffen across from her. "If you want to trade your time for time later, I can let you do that. I'm sure there are quite a few people who would like to get home for the holidays."

"I'm supposed to, right?" he asked rhetorically as he left the stone on her desk and pulled his hands back into his pockets. "Are you leaving?"

Elizabeth shook her head slowly and dropped her hands into her lap as well. "Christmas isn't a big holiday in my family," she explained to his patient gaze. "My mother would rather I came home for other holidays."

Shrugging slowly, John relaxed slightly in his chair. "You and me then?"

"Rodney's been talking about a skeleton crew, just over the holiday," Elizabeth replied beckoning him over to the other side of her desk so he could see Rodney's proposal on her computer screen. "Dr. Kusanagi volunteered to stay and almost immediately Dr. Zelenka agreed to join her. We'll shut down most of the city and activate the cloak. Most of the expedition will only be gone four days."

"Sounds simple enough," John agreed as she tried not to notice the hand on the back of her chair and what his accidental touch was doing to her neck. "Wanna watch a few movies? Slack off from our duties and eat popcorn?"

"No sports movies," Elizabeth insisted lightly lifting a hand to stop him from protesting. "You'd spend the whole thing trying to explain what was going on in the first place."

"So it's a date?" John asked as he left the desk and started lazily for the door. He was smiling again and Elizabeth couldn't help wondering how she'd managed to do that.

"If you want to call it that," Elizabeth retorted cooly refusing to look up from the computer until he coughed into his hand. "What?"

"I heard you went on a date with Mike Branton," John prodded at the sore spot before he actually grinned and started to walk away. "And Chuck said you smelled nice." Turning back to her, he fumbled a bit adorably. "Nicer than usual I mean."

"I'm not even going to shower for you," Elizabeth promised indignantly.

"Sounds like a challenge," John said, smirking as he leaned lazily into the doorframe. "Pajamas and unshowered?"

"I'll call in a favor and see if I can get us beer," Elizabeth added to the date that wasn't. "Twenty-one hundred?"

His nod was quick, nearly finishing the conversation. "You're on."

"And John?"

He stopped again and gave her that funny look that she could never really read into.

"Why didn't you tell me it was your birthday?"

John grinned as if she'd caught him stealing cookies with Rodney in the middle of the night. He met her eyes for a long moment before sauntering slowly away. Staring after him, Elizabeth wondered just what she was going to do alone with him in the city.

She spent most of the next day seeing people off. Rodney was taking Teyla and Ronon to Earth, and Ronon was taking it remarkably well. He'd kept his Earth clothes from his last visit and the SGC had provided both him and Teyla with parkas appropriate for an Ontario winter.

Teyla waved up to control as she left. "Please keep the city intact," she teased with a huge smile. "I believe it is also customary to suggest that you be good."

"I will be," John drawled from the steps. "Can't speak for her though." He was slumped on the stairs in a pair of worn out jeans and a faded t-shirt. The writing on the shirt was funny enough to make Rodney look up at her with a strange expression before he waved and went through the 'gate.

Elizabeth was pretty sure the pajamas were coming out as soon as everyone left but it was nice to see him relaxing, even if he was still in the city. Her clothes had gone back to Earth before her rescue, and the only thing she had to wear that wasn't her uniform were standard issue military pajamas. The growing suspicion in the rank and file was that Colonel Carter had a hand in the new uniform selection.
Their pajamas fit better, were a notch above what they'd been, and the new uniforms themselves were more comfortable.

Elizabeth usually tried not to get involved in the gossip in the city. Carter seemed more than capable of heading off rumors about her and the general, although, she was in Washington with him for the holiday.

"Got you something," John started from behind her, surprising her away from the control panel.

"It's your birthday," Elizabeth protested as he nudged the box towards her.

"I'm unconventional," he quipped and removed his hands from the cardboard box.

"You got this in the mail," Elizabeth realized as she looked over the box. "I thought it was a gift."

"It is a gift," John teased smugly tucking his hands into his pockets.

"John--" her protest died as he nodded to the box again.

"Just open it," he insisted as he turned away to start shutting things down. Only the mess hall, main science lab, the quarters of the skeleton crew and control needed power and Zelenka was implementing the shut down program he'd designed with Rodney. "Everything looks good."

Elizabeth ignored him and opened the box. He'd opened it once, but the contents were still neatly folded. Pulling it out of the box, she found a dark blue, zip front sweat shirt, most definitely not military issue. Beneath it were three t-shirts in pink, green and pale blue; finally on the bottom were two pairs of pajama pants one was black with gold hieroglyphics patterned on them and the others were dark blue with tiny airplanes.

Holding out the airplanes, she raised an eyebrow at him. "You got me pajamas?"

"Did you have any?" John asked lazily in return as he leaned against the console. "I thought you'd like 'em."

"Airplanes are more your style," she pretended to protest as she took off her jacket and traded it for the sweatshirt. "They're lovely."

"I was going for cute," John admitted with a smirk. "Dinner?"

Dinner was quiet and even with her box on the edge of the table, the room seemed painfully empty. Zelenka and Kusanagi were eating in the lab, but they'd left them a lantern on one of the balcony tables. Spaghetti was one of the better MREs and they had real bread. The wine was German, and strictly forbidden, but it seemed to be a gift so neither of them said anything.

Elizabeth's lips were already tingling when she disappeared into her quarters to change. The green t-shirt just had a leaf and a 'fair trade coffee' logo. The blue one had another airplane and the pink one just read "death cannot stop true love". Elizabeth pulled that one on over her bra and the airplane pajama pants. John was going to have to explain that one.

John met her in the hallway, guitar slung over his back, some kind of care package under his arm and wearing skull and crossbone pajama pants and a black t-shirt that read 'viper pilots do it in space'.

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow and started to laugh. "Where'd you find that?"

"Rodney got it for me as a birthday gift," John answered shrugging as he nodded his approval. "Shower?"

"Nope," Elizabeth admitted sheepishly reaching for her hair. She'd pulled it back into two pigtails and John seemed to find that as amusing as she found his shirt. "So what's this from?"

"You're going to find out," John insisted as he tapped his laptop. "'Princess Bride' because it's a crime you haven't seen it. 'Kingdom of Heaven' in case you want something more intellectual and 'Wolf Creek' if you want to have nightmares."

"I successful got beer," Elizabeth offered as she shook the box in her hands slightly. "I think he sent Guinness, I hope that's okay."

"Did you bring spoons?" John teased as he hooked his laptop into the projector. "For the beer," he explained as she looked questioningly at him. "General O'Neill?"

"Still feels bad I was missing for so long," Elizabeth teased as lightly as she could. "He said I should make the best of it."

"What else is in there?" John wondered as he called up 'Princess Bride' and started skipping through the previews.

"Your present," she replied playfully keeping that away from him as she handed him a beer. "Popcorn?"

John nudged a bowl on the couch. "Made it myself," he said as she eyed the box in her hands. "When do I get to open it?"

"When it's your birthday, in three hours."

"Almost two and a half," John whined realized she wasn't going to relent. "All right. There are Christmas cookies in here, Mrs. Beckett put me on her Christmas list."

"Her Christmas cookies?" Elizabeth's eyes widened in surprise. "John you could have traded them for- I don't even know."

"See they're too good," John explained as he offered the box. "Once you have one, you kinda want to keep the rest." When she didn't take one, John pressed a chocolate covered morsel into her hand. "Now this is one of the best movies ever made--"

Four empty bottles of Guinness sat on the table next to the half-empty bowl of popcorn. Elizabeth could taste peppermint from the cookies on her lips as she opened another two beers.

John was watching the clock as he tuned his guitar. "Half an hour?"

"Yeah," she insisted as she kept his present to herself.

"Care if I sing?" he seemed at ease with the guitar in his lap but his voice was shy.

"I've been curious," she admitted as she took a sip of the bitter beer.

"Hopefully not too much," John said dryly before he started to play. At first the song had no words and his delicate fingers danced over the strings. It was beautiful and haunting but after he started to sing she couldn't look away. It didn't matter what the words were, and by the middle of the song, she realized she didn't even speak the language.

John's eyes, which had been closed while he was singing, flew up to her face and rested there as he finished the song.

"John--" she sighed and stared at him as she tried not let her eyes tear up. "Where did you?"

"Teyla taught me that," he offered lazily putting the guitar down and reaching for the box of cookies. "It's a father promising to always find his children, no matter what happens. Kinda sad, but the chords are really neat and--"

If she hadn't have been drinking, she never would have kissed him. As it was, he tasted like butterscotch and Guinness and the stubble on his chin tickled her cheek.

"Is that my birthday present?" he asked shyly with his hand still against the back of her neck.

"I think that was just an extra," she whispered smiling shyly because she could still taste him on her lips. "This is actually for you."

John took the small wooden box from her hands and stared at it for a moment before he figured out how to open the catch. Inside was her silver pocket watch. "I gave this back to you," he protested as he stared at her.

"I want you to have it," Elizabeth insisted as she pushed his hands closer. "My father used to make me feel safe and after he died I kept it."

"I don't think I understand," John murmured as he lifted it out of the box.

"Happy Birthday," she replied without letting go of his hands.


"Sing for me?" she asked when her eyes started to sting again.

"What?" John asked breathlessly tucking the watch away into his pocket.


Before he picked up the guitar, he reached for her cheek and held it thoughtfully. John studied her for a long time before he silently moved in to kiss her. This time, she knew exactly that he tasted like.
Tags: fic, gift!fic, solstice fic

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