TITLE: "Cutting it Close"

AUTHOR: Little Red

RATING: PG. Sex, alcohol and gambling are mentioned in passing.

CATEGORY: John/Elizabeth friendship/UST.

SUMMARY: Pretty much all their bad ideas start out this way.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to A.j. for the beta and for the title suggestion "My Kingdom for a Flowbee," which really deserves to go to a fic funnier than this one.


***


"Why do I get the feeling I'm going to regret this?"

John laughs at that, but it doesn't do much to set her at ease. "Come on, Lizzie," he chides. She'd turn around to glare at him for calling her that -- no one save John and her brothers has called her Lizzie since she was six years old -- but she figures she'll minimize any potential disaster by staying stock still. "What could happen?"

It's too late to object, of course, since she's already sitting in the chair in the middle of his quarters with a tarp spread underneath her. She almost got out of it when Doctor Beckett refused to let any of his surgical scissors out of the medical bay but John managed to swipe a pair of industrial ones from one of the engineering toolkits. Besides, if she backs out now he'll never let her forget it. For all she knows he really does know what he's doing -- the man has come out with hidden talents before.

She is so going to regret this.

"All right." She closes her eyes. "Go ahead."

She tries not to shudder at the sound of metal slicing through her wet hair. The first cut is over quickly, like a bandaid getting torn off, and then it really is too late to turn back.

"Um," he says.

"Oh, God."

"No no! It's fine."

"TWO inches. Remember?"

Pretty much all of their bad ideas start out this way. One of them starts complaining about something over a shared meal in the mess hall -- in this case, how she hasn't let her hair grow out below her shoulders since elementary school and it's driving her bonkers -- and the other one will come up with a poorly thought-out suggestion that will seem brilliant for the five minutes it takes them to actually begin acting on it.

This is how that lamentable never-to-be-repeated talent show came about. This is why they have a makeshift bowling alley (regulation-sized, although why Ford knew the measurements for a bowling lane off the top of his head is anyone's guess) in one of the empty Ancient food storage bays in section 12, three galaxies away from the nearest actual bowling ball. This is the reason for those three weeks of utter confusion after staging a poker tournament and not specifying that people weren't allowed to bet each other's duty shifts.

This is how they ended up having sex. Drinking themselves stupid in his quarters on a night when they were both feeling lonely and depressed seemed like a good idea at the time. If she remembers correctly -- something that is not at all guaranteed -- he asked her "What could happen?" then, too.

She really did used to be the sort of person who thought everything through. Even in her time off. Even when the potential consequences didn't amount to anything too worrying. She is still steadfastly wary of his impulsiveness in all professional situations -- and thank God for that, since it's saved his life a half-dozen times already -- but off-duty she finds it surprisingly easy to let herself get caught up in it.

She would tell him he's a bad influence on her, but he would appreciate it too much.

"Elizabeth, relax," he says, one hand resting on her shoulder that has apparently tensed all the way up to her ear without her knowledge. Snip. Snip. "I used to cut the hair off my sister's dolls all the time."

Ha, ha. She feels sorry for the sister -- if John's this much of a holy terror now, she can only imagine what he was like at eight or ten. The image would be pretty adorable if that same overgrown ten-year-old wasn't currently in the process of shearing her. "That's what I'm worried about."

"You worry too much," he responds automatically with a dramatic snip that makes her flinch. It's a common theme in their working relationship -- he says she worries too much, she says he doesn't worry enough.

Unfortunately, she's usually right to worry.

Not that he admits that.

And he's gotten awfully quiet and focused on her hair, which is really just as concerning as when he was haphazardly chopping away at it and telling her to relax.

"... John?"

"It looks good!" he promises brightly.

He set the chair up so there wouldn't be a mirror in sight, of course. Clever man. "Just tell me how bad it is."

There's a pause. It doesn't sound like he's still flailing the scissors around, so she risks reaching back to touch her hair. It's definitely shorter than it was (and he so overshot the two inches she made him swear to in his attempts to even it out). It doesn't feel horribly lopsided, but he's being quiet, and that's always a bad sign.

"John?"

"No one will be able to tell."

She turns around to glare properly. He looks crushed. And adorable. And guilty. And a little afraid.

"All right, I need a mirror." She drops the towel from her shoulders and heads for the bathroom.

He hovers in the doorway rather than following her in, and she suspects he's staying out of swiping range. "Really. It'll look fine when it dries. Your hair does that... curly thing now."

She would explain that frizzing wildly in the perpetual humidity isn't exactly the same as curling, but suspects it's a distinction that would be lost on him. She usually likes that about him.

She examines her hair in the mirror. It's not terrifying. It probably wouldn't be irreparable, if there was anyone out here to repair it. It's very, very short.

"You said you knew what you were doing," she reminds him. If she evens out the front...

"It's not like anyone here knows how people wear their hair on Earth," he suggests. "They'll think you did it on purpose."

"I do spend most of my time with people who are actually from Earth."

"Well, they'll think you're... trying something new."

"No, they'll think I'm an idiot and let you to cut my hair," she corrects with a sigh. It will grow out. She can always start borrowing hats from Ford; he seems to have a handful of them that he wears in rotation.

There's a moment of silence. She can see him shifting behind her in the mirror, and lets him squirm. Finally, "How mad are you?"

He even looks like the ten-year-old kid facing maternal wrath after ruining his sister's favourite doll. That look has probably saved him a lot in his time. "I'm still thinking about it."

"It really won't look that bad if you can fix the front part." He sounds genuine, but it's probably still self-defense. "You look nice with short hair."

"Compliments aren't going to help you, Major."

"Your hair doesn't matter. You look fine."

She turns away from the mirror -- too depressing -- and faces him. As predicted, he can't keep feeding her compliments and keep a straight face.

He winces. "I really am sorry."

He looks so completely contrite that she pretty much has to clench her jaw to keep herself from consoling him. She ignores the way he's almost pouting, bargains with her features, and manages to raise an eyebrow a little.

"I'll give you my dessert rations for a week."

Eyebrow.

"A month."

Other eyebrow.

"Until it grows out?"

It's nice to know that, even after all this time and for all his casual bravado, he's still a little afraid of her. "All right. You're forgiven." She heads for his dresser and roots through drawers until she finds a clean handkerchief she can use as a bandana. "AND you're not allowed to laugh."

He snickers at her new folky headdress despite her warning and she flops down on his bed in only slightly exaggerated frustration while he tidies up the hair on the floor.

"You really do still look nice," he says as he pushes the chair back to the desk. There's something shy in his voice that's almost never there, and she doesn't think he's still just saying things.

That's... interesting. Not entirely unexpected, maybe. Huh. All she can come up with in reply is, "Thanks."

He grins at her and scrubs a hand through his hair a little nervously, but doesn't take it back.

So, maybe this isn't a total loss.

And she has another idea.

"So... when do I get to cut your hair?"

*end*

AUTHOR'S NOTE part the second: "You know, if either of them show up on the show with stupid haircuts, we now have fanon as to why." - A.j.

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