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Author's Chapter Notes: Somewhere, Sheppard was packing a picnic and the thought actually made her smile.


They were late back. Nearly ten hours now.

They’re always late back.

Not without calling in. Unless McKay’s done something stupid, or they’re in a firefight, or they’re dead, or-

Elizabeth clamped her hands over her ears as if she could physically shut out the internal voices that were driving her crazy. Pushing away from her desk, she picked up her portable tablet and strode out of her office and into the control room.

‘Any news?’ she asked Pierson who was sat at the main controls.

He shook his head, ‘no ma’am.’

‘Activate the ‘Gate, dial in and we’ll relay a message via the MALP again. If we don't hear back, we'll send the twelve hour rescue.’

‘Yes, ma’am.’ Pierson started punching buttons, but his gaze slid up and watched Weir as she walked away to stand at the balcony overlooking the Gateroom. She was tense, he could see it in the set of her shoulders. She was worried about her flagship team, they all were, but the rumour was that she worried about Jon Sheppard more than any of them.

It was none of Pierson’s business, he wished them luck as long it didn’t interfere with the running of Atlantis. Besides, no one knew when they would see Earth again. Or if. It had been almost eight months now, and there was no word, not on a ZPM to get them back, nor word, nor ship from Earth. If the commanding team of Atlantis were pairing off for the foreseeable future, maybe he should think about this place as more than a job. Maybe he really should consider it his home-

Maybe they all should.

A sudden flurry of activity across the console broke into his train of thought. ‘Dr Weir!’

She spun, frowning. ‘What is it?’

‘Incoming wormhole!’

She strode over as the Gate spun behind her, the co-ordinates lighting up fast. A wormhole formed and Pierson switched on the iris a split second before the event horizon appeared.

‘Do we have a GDO signal?’

‘Yes ma’am. It’s them.’

A sigh of relief ghosted across his shoulder. ‘Open the iris!’ She walked away, her steps taking her towards the steps before she changed her mind and smoothly switched back to the balcony. Below her the wormhole spat out its passengers. Teyla, Ronan, Ford, McKay, two of the science team.... She tensed, clutching the rail until Sheppard stepped through. All of them were muddy, right up to the eyes, but appeared unharmed.

The first thing Jon did when he stepped into Atlantis was look up. There she was, in her severe uniform of black and red, her fingers curled tightly around the rail, worry creasing her brow. He let out a breath and gave a nod to let her know everything was okay before following his team to the showers. The debrief could wait, but Elizabeth could see that, even from a distance.

He wondered if she’d thought about them since he’d asked her, almost a week ago, to take the risk with him. But from the worry etching her brow, one thing was clear- they couldn’t go on like this.

An hour later, Sheppard met her on the steps leading down to the Gateroom. McKay was already badgering the scientists they’d taken with them and poking the artefacts they’d recovered. Teyla, Ronan and Ford had other duties, so he could see Elizabeth alone.

‘Hey,’ he stopped in front of her, looking her directly in her eyes.

‘Jesus, Jon,’ Elizabeth hissed quietly. ‘Ten hours overdue, what were you thinking?’

‘We were caught in a mudslide, the radios still aren’t working. I sent them to maintenance for repair. What did you expect me to do, Elizabeth, send smoke signals?’

‘No, I-‘

‘You were scared, in case something had happened. To me?’

‘Concerned,’ she shot back, ‘for the whole team.’

‘I’m heartbroken,’ he replied, grinning laconically.

‘Liar,’ she replied, unable to maintain her anger in the face of his amusement.

He sobered up, looking at her thoughtfully. ‘You know this can end. You can just give me an answer, and this won’t happen again.’

‘You won’t be overdue again?’

‘No. You’ll stop worrying so much. We have something hanging over our heads Elizabeth, unresolved issues. It makes everything else a burden instead of a daily duty.’

‘Who told you that? Heightmeyer, or have you been reading Miller’s women’s magazines again?’ she asked caustically.

‘Magazines of course, much better for pithy psyche advice,’ he smiled, tucking his hands in his pockets before he took them out and ran one through his hair, tousling it even more than usual. ‘So?’

She regarded him for a long moment, but if the truth were told, she had been thinking about this the entire time his team had been overdue. The worst thing, the absolute worst thing about Jon never coming back had been the fact that she had never answered his question. She had never given them a chance. It hung over her like the Sword of Damocles, her biggest potential regret, and she ached to cut it down and put it aside.

‘You do realise we’d have to keep this from everyone, and even if the Expedition adapts, what about when we makes contact with Earth?’

Jon grinned, realising he’d won the battle. ‘I knew you’d say yes,’ he responded, his hands reaching out to grasp her arms, for a second he meant to kiss her but he remembered where he was and squeezed her lightly instead before letting go.

‘I haven’t said yes!’ her indignant voice was a little louder than she would have liked to admit.

‘But you were going to,’ it was only half a question. He tilted his head, giving her that flyboy charm again and she threw him a mock frown. ‘Ye-es,’ she capitulated.

‘Told ya,’ the grin was there again, and for a moment she thought he might try and kiss her again. Instead, he stepped back, tucking his hands even more firmly in his pockets. ‘I’ll see you later then,’ he said, raising an eyebrow in her direction.

‘Debrief tomorrow at 0800,’ she shot after him, determined that he wouldn’t get away with everything. He nodded, headed for the store rooms and workshops. She watched him go, blowing out a puff of breath as she contemplated what she’d agreed too. Most likely whatever it was would burn out between them in a matter of months; by stalling it, she was just making matters worse. But still, something inside her hurt at the thought. She brushed it aside, she had work to do.

It was another three hours before she heard from him again. An email popped up on her system, and she opened it. It had three short lines:

Picnic. East Pier, left dock overhang
1pm Sunday. Just you.
Jon

That was it. Weir bit the inside of her lip and wandered if they should meet somewhere so publicly. It was Friday now, and Sunday had been designated downtime for every member of staff that could be spared. But she had said it, she had meant it, and now she had to stand by her word.

Left dock overhang.... It rang a bell. Elizabeth pulled up a schematic of the station. The left hand dock overhang was where one of the supporting columns had been damaged and not approved for use yet. She clicked on the area, and the last report Jon had filed, half hour ago, popped up, along with half a dozen archived conversations. The repairs had been done, the dock was safe, and best of all, Elizabeth hadn’t ratified the report yet and only she or Jon could release the restrictions on the area. Jon’s report finished with the recommendations that, since the work had been extensive, she should personally inspect the area.

‘You devious-‘ she snapped off the rest of her words as McKay stalked straight into her office without bothering to knock, ranting about some incompetent in his team. Elizabeth sat back to listen, waiting for the right moment to interject and bring Rodney down off his high horse so he could start making sense. Sunday was looking more appealing by the minute.

The day in question dawned light and perfect, the blue skies stretched beyond the horizon, and the sea was calm, deep and inviting. Across Atlantis, plans were made for the day, and the mood was light and cheerful no matter where Elizabeth walked. Somewhere, Sheppard was packing a picnic and the thought actually made her smile as she made her rounds before heading to her office to clear some paperwork so she could enjoy her afternoon off with impunity.

She met Carson in the hallway a few hours later, heading off on a minor medical call out, he said. He almost walked past her, but took a second glance and realised the brunette with the seagreen blouse and the black linen pants wasn’t another member of the Expedition but Elizabeth Weir herself.

‘My, don’t we look nice!’ He grinned from ear to ear. Carson was one of the most likeable members of the expedition; he always had time for everyone and forgave McKay, one of his closest friends, his constant misdemeanours in the area of friendship, a field at which McKay was not adept. ‘Are ye off on a hot date?” he drawled in a heavy Scottish accent.

‘Who told you that?!’ Elizabeth looked shocked, freezing in her tracks and Carson’s mouth dropped open in suprise.

‘No one. I was joking. I was right. Who is it?’ He jumped on her bowled over defenses before she could mount a sensible counter argument. Carson grinned as he watched her hesitate, wondering how to word her answer. He waved her off. ‘None o my business,’ he bowed slightly, stepping aside to wave her on her way, ‘have a lovely afternoon, Elizabeth,’ he said, lifting his eyebrows mischievously.

‘Thank you, Carson,’ Elizabeth replied demurely, walking away.

‘You smell nice too!’ he called after her helpfully.

‘Shut up, Carson!’

His laughter rang in her ears as she walked away, praying the burning in her cheeks was something she just felt, not something that every member of the Expedition could see in her face. She headed for the nearest transporter, tapping the control panel as the doors closed behind her. In a flash of light, she found herself within minutes of the East pier. When she stepped outside, in the cool, fresh breeze, she breathed a sigh of relief. The pier was deserted, most people would use the Southern pier today to catch the sun and do a little picnicking of their own. The catering staff had worked flat out the past two days, packing up requested lunches and providing a buffet this morning that would cater for the whole day. She would have to thank them personally for making today possible for everyone else.

She made it to the overhang, but before she reached it, she could already hear the clink of glasses. Jon had reached the pier before her, and as she rounded the corner, the gasped in surprise. Laid out was a large blanket, probably sneaked out of supplies, with a basket packed with food and in a wastepaper bin, shiny and clean, sat a bottle of Athosian wine nestled into ice. In the centre sat several small glass jars, each with a candle inside, already lit and throwing off the shade of the overhang. On the other side of the blanket, Jon stood in a black shirt, jacket and a pair of jeans. He still wore his combat boots, but they’d been polished to a high sheen. Elizabeth fiddled with the locket at her throat, and bit her lip to keep herself from smiling too wide.

Sheppard walked round the blanket, hands tucked laconically in his pockets, his cocky, flyboy grin firmly in place. ‘Lis’beth,’ he said, by way of greeting.

‘Jon,’ she replied.

It was a smile to die for, he decided as he reached her, taking one of her hands in his. Gently he tugged her closer, taking a step forward himself until she was stood so close, he could feel her body heat. ‘You look beautiful,’ he whispered, lifting her hand to his lips to kiss the back of her fingers.

Her smile changed, from sunshine bright to warm, glowing gently. ‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘This looks amazing, you look-‘

‘Good enough to eat, I hope,’ he interrupted. He lifted his other hand, turning her chin with two fingers until she was looking right at him. ‘You do,’ he promised, dipping his head to kiss her. As badly as he wanted her, he held back, keeping it light and lingering. Her arms wound round his neck, and would have pulled him closer if he hadn’t moved away.

She would have been disappointed if she hadn’t seen the grin on his face. He took her hand and pulled her down onto the blanket, reaching for the wine. ‘We have all afternoon. No interruptions, no emergencies. Just us, and this,’ he added, waving a careless hand at the wide expanse of ocean spread before them.

‘No guarantee on the lack of crisis. McKay’s in residence isn’t he?’

‘Teyla’s handling him. And I lied to Grodin, told him you needed some downtime, and only to call in the event of catastrophic failure of all systems or an attack by Hive ships.’

‘That’s not funny, Jon,’ she rebuked, giving him a shove with her shoulder. ‘Teyla knows?’
‘Uh, yeah... I was going to tell you about that. She caught me, uh, packing this all up,’ he handed her a glass and looked moderately guilty but she fairly sure that look was contrived.

Leaning back on one hand, she held up the glass and spoke, ‘okay then, spill it, Jon Sheppard.’

He grinned, leaning in for a moment to kiss her again. This time, he forgot his sense of delicacy and went in for the kill. The presence of fragile glassware and candles stopped him from pulling her down onto the blanket altogether. Instead he broke away, and recalled the conversation he’d had with Teyla less than an hour ago.

She’d caught him packing the picnic. He’d tried to talk his way around it, ‘it’s, uh, a formal, diplomatic, uh, picnic!’ He’s finished the sentence awkwardly and it sounded like bullshit, even to his own ears. Teyla had raised one golden eyebrow and made a non-committal noise.

‘Okay, fine, I’m taking Elizabeth for a picnic. I’m packing the candles and wine as a surprise.’

‘You... and Elizabeth?’

‘Yeah,’ he was suspicious of the disbelieving note in her voice. ‘We’re just getting to know each other a little better, that’s all. We have command of Atlantis, it’s important that we learn to rely on each other instinctively. She’s not a soldier, so we have to find other activities that engender team spirit but allow for a good work balance.’

‘Major Sheppard,’ it was never good when Teyla turned formal on him. ‘That was as rehearsed and contrived a sentence as any I have ever heard. Are you courting Elizabeth?’

‘Woah there, we’re, uh, we’re just getting to know each other better that’s all.’

She nodded, his story making some kind of sense, finally. ‘I am surprised, that is all.'>br>
‘She likes picnics.’

‘I meant, her lack of judgement. There are many on Atlantis far more suited to the role of Elizabeth’s partner.’

‘What! Who?’ he had demanded almost instantly.

Teyla had simply laughed that rich, warm laugh of hers at having aroused his jealousy. ‘So, you care for her. Good. I would not like to kick your ass, Jon Sheppard.’ She stepped forward then, her expression suddenly serious, laying both palms on his shoulders. ‘You are allowed to have feelings, Jon, I know you and Elizabeth try your hardest to maintain a calm demeanour, especially during emergencies, but you are allowed to let go. Atlantis will not crumble and no one will judge you. You are both immensely liked and respected, amongst my people and your own. They would rejoice to see you happy.’

‘Thanks, Teyla.’

‘You are welcome. Now, if you will excuse me, I have some plans of my own to attend to...’

He smiled as he recollected Teyla’s words. ‘I didn’t realise I had my own doubts until she said those things. I thought that maybe we might disrupt Atlantis by doing this, which is why I asked you to come out here, away from everyone. Maybe the world wouldn’t crumble, and I’m glad Teyla knows about us, but I want to stop it there. I don’t care if they’d throw us a five star party, I don’t want an audience, not yet.’

She smiled in pure relief, ‘I’m glad. I’m not comfortable with an audience Jon, and when you picked this spot, I realised you understood that.’

‘No second guessing then?’

‘None,’ she replied, and the warm glow was back. She took a sip of the wine, but it was all she managed. Jon reached and removed the glass from her hand, placing both down and, carefully navigating the candles, he joined her on her side of the blanket. He pulled her down, onto the blanket and into his arms. ‘We can talk later,’ he murmured, and she barely nodded before his mouth met hers and all conversation was forgotten for a long time.

She was glad he had brought a second blanket, Elizabeth realised. He sat propped up against one of the columns, and she sat between his legs, leaning back against him so they could both see the ocean. The wine and food had been dragged within reach and he had wrapped the spare blanket around them both against the stiff seabreeze.

Other activities might have diverted their conversation, but Elizabeth found she was quite content with the comfortable silence that lay between them, broken only by the occasional murmur or query. Jon had one arm wrapped possessively around her waist and her curls spilled over his shoulder. Every so often she would feel him brush a kiss against her hair or her skin, and she would find herself turning into him, seeking more physical contact.

The sun light changed, the sun moving across the sky and the shadows deepend. Although she was loathe to leave, Elizabeth made the first comments about moving. Sheppard’s reaction was predictable.

‘Nope.’

‘What do you mean, ‘no’?’

‘I said nope, not no,’ that was predictable too.

‘I heard you Jon, but we need to-‘

‘Relax. We need to relax Elizabeth. God knows, we both need some time out, and I can’t think of a better way to spend my RnR. Teyla will call, or Grodin, or Pierson, or, God!, even McKay. If the Wraith were coming, we’d have seen them by now, and then we’d call us in.’

‘Funny,’ she responded. ‘I don’t want to neglect my duties.’

‘We’ve been out here about four hours, Lis’beth. I won’t let anything happen to Atlantis. Or us.’

‘I know you won’t, but-‘’

‘Shh, then trust me,’ he murmured, leaning down to kiss her once more. ‘We’ll go back soon, I swear. Scout’s honour,’ he added, deviously.

‘Were you ever a scout?’ she enquired suspiciously.

‘You never know,’ he muttered, shifting them both further down on the blanket. ‘Half hour?’ he asked instead

‘Half hour,' she agreed, settling back against him.

It was longer than that, Elizabeth realised as they packed up the picnic. Jon was looking pretty smug with himself but had promised to wipe the expression off around the city, and his team members. Elizabeth rolled the blankets together, and he reached out, taking her hand and kissing the back of it, like he had done when she arrived.

‘You go first,’ he told her, I’ll follow in a while.’

She nodded, kissing him one last time. ‘Briefing at 0800 sharp.’

‘If I don’t see you before then,’ he murmured.

‘Jon Sheppard, are you planning to compromise my honour?’

‘I’ve already done it,’ he responded, grinning that cocky grin of his. Elizabeth laughed and walked away, heading for the city and the transporters at the eastern end. He gave her a ten minute headstart and then headed back himself, transferring to two different portals to break his trail. He headed for his quarters, the memory of the afternoon still warm in his mind.

They were watching television. Trust Jon to sneak DVDs into his bag on the trip out here. She'd already seen that Johnny Cash poster and wondered what else he'd considered "absolutely essential". Next time they were alone, she would ask him that question, the desert island one. Who and what he'd take.

Me, her subconscious prompted with a smartass answer. She nearly blushed but managed to stop herself, apparently Jon Sheppard was rubbing off on her more than she cared to admit.

Teyla was perched on the edge of a chair, her expression slightly dazed as she tried to take in the concept of television, let alone the complicated sporting rules that were being flouted before her eyes. When Elizabeth interrupted them, she looked almost grateful, equiring if there was a problem but receiving a negative response.

'Are you sure?' She sounded almost desperate. 'No Wraith attacks? Genii plots? New planets that need recording?'

Elizabeth grinned widely, shaking her head and looking actually regretful. 'I'm sorry, Teyla, but no.' Reaching over the back of the chair, she stole a handful of popcorn from the bowl sitting in Sheppard's lap and popped one into her mouth. It was still warm and buttery.

Jon looked up, finding her gaze and giving her a quick smile before coming over all indignant. McKay made a comment about the game, Ronan asked where the weapons were, Teyla laughed and Elizabeth grinned down at the tousled head as Jon's attention was diverted. She leaned over, grabbing another handful before walking away. Behind her a popcorn fell uselessly to the floor, completely missing its intended target. She flashed a glance over her shoulder and found him grinning at her. She laughed and left, heading back to her office.

Behind her, Sheppard turned back to the game and his team. Beside him, Teyla dropped a hand on his arm and squeezed gently, flashing him a quick smile of approval. She was happy for them but best of all, Elizabeth wasn't avoiding him. He was afraid she might, after what happened last time. He knew she'd taken the plunge, opened her mind and her heart, but after Sunday he was afraid second thoughts might steal in.

They hadn't. It had been a few days since they'd been alone together and it had been driving him crazy, Maybe tonight he'd drop by her quarters.


Chapter End Notes: Video: Link to "I knew you'd say yes" scene, "hot date" scene and picnic scene (1:15/2:45 to 1:42/2:45)

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