Title: Suspension

Author: Little Red

Rating: R/NC-17

Category: Sheppard/Weir. Angst. Romance.

Spoilers: None. Set a few years in the future.

Summary: She knows this is her fault.

***

She never plans to be here.

Elizabeth tells herself every time that it's the last, that this is a weakness she and her command cannot afford. She believes it, too, believes that she really is saying good night when she parts ways with John Sheppard on the command level, congratulates herself for showing no chinks in the armor of her resolve.

When she shows up at his door, minutes to hours later, he never turns her away.

"You don't need to knock anymore," he tells her, whispering into her hair in deference to neighbors who might overhear. His breath against her neck makes her shiver.

She doesn't argue, doesn't say she does need to out loud, but she continues to wait outside for admittance every night. This isn't a relationship. It's an affair of convenience, and one that shows astoundingly bad judgment on both their parts. In places it feels like something more, when he spoons against her back and asks about her day like he wasn't there to see it himself, when she wakes him from his nightmares because she recognizes the subtle difference in the way he breathes, when they have sex and she keeps her eyes open.

The rest of the time, when it's obvious what this is, when she wants to be able to promise that she'll be back the following night, or to cuddle with him on the couch when the crew watches a movie together, or to scream out his name without fear of what the thin Atlantis walls will hear, Elizabeth feels hollow and needy and unstable. She can't afford that.

She is late tonight, more determined than usual to stay the course alone, and he is rumpled with bed but not with sleep when she arrives. The sheets on the right side of the bed, her side, are relatively smooth and unslept-in. He crawls back into his side and moves his book aside while she pretends it isn't obvious that he was waiting up for her.

"Elizabeth," he says when she hesitates. He sounds tired. "Come to bed." He adds, "Please," and doesn't quite manage to keep all the emotion from his voice.

She turns down the sheets and sinks into the mattress facing him, feeling warm and relieved at the smell of him even as her stomach ties in knots.

He kisses her, gently, too gently for a thing they're doing because they are lonely and isolated by their command positions and very far away from Earth. He shifts closer and rubs a hand down her back, hesitating just on the outside of pulling her to him.

"What do you want?" he murmurs into her mouth, asking if she came for sex or just to sleep next to someone who understands. Her eyes prick and she knows this is her fault.

They separate just enough to see each other. He looks like he will do anything she asks, and that power terrifies her, like the power she has over the lives of men and women and Athosian children does. She doesn't know what he sees when he looks at her, if he thinks she is cold and heartless to use him this way. Following the strange logic that she will feel less if she feels more, she slips a leg between his and kisses him.

She knows how all his pajama bottoms fasten now -- this one with a button and a drawstring -- so she doesn't need to open her eyes or stop kissing to undress him. Her fingers take up the slack for her blindness, and she feels like her body is committing every hair on his legs to memory, every dip and swell of muscles and scars all along his body as she strips him bare. He's strong, she is reminded by the dense thickness of his arms and legs, and she wonders why he has never taken her, never thrown her up against a wall and made her pay for what she is doing to him.

She knows he's in love with her. He is passable at hiding it and she is good at pretending not to see when they are across the briefing table or have the business of Wraith between them, but she knows. He holds her tighter when he thinks she's sleeping, whispering things he never says when she's awake enough to throw them back in his face. He smiles too widely on his return from off-world travel, meeting her eyes where she waits on the balcony with an openness she doesn't see unless they've been separated.

He has agreed to the strict boundaries between their personal and professional lives because she hasn't given him a choice, but she notices lapses more and more. He worries too much about her safety in interplanetary negotiations and doesn't always manage to keep personal emotion out of their disagreements over mission policy. He argues more and more desperately about protocol and alien politics whenever she tries too hard to pull herself away from him at night.

He still accepts the occasional offers of young, female guests of Atlantis, though she has caught him looking at her before he goes off with them, like he's giving her a chance to object. The only times he comes to her bed rather than waiting for her to decide to come to his are on those mornings, when he still smells like another woman through layers of soap. He crawls in beside her and breathes her in and holds her in the place of apologies he can't say aloud when there is nothing to apologize for. There are no transgressions against a relationship that doesn't exist.

She kisses him more deeply, exploring the soft, familiar inside of his mouth, tangling her tongue with his. His hands hover over her shoulders, brushing light touches against her sleeves almost by accident, and it takes a while before his fingers drift down to the hem of her t-shirt to start to remove her clothes. They take their time now, and though it makes her cringe because it feels so much like making love and less like a sanity-saving fuck between consenting adults, it is so much better.

She lets herself hum, deep in her throat, as he pulls her t-shirt up to her arms and sets his mouth to one of her breasts. His hands come to her sides, holding her in place as he sucks at her skin like she tastes different every time. She gets her hands into his hair, scratching his scalp in the way that makes him purr when his mouth isn't otherwise occupied, and she thinks her palms have missed the feeling of soft, male hair against them, even if it has only been one night.

John takes his time with the skin he has but finally pulls back and lets her peel off her shirt. Her skin is cool in the air where his mouth was but he closes the gap quickly, meeting her body with his as he finds a spot on her neck to kiss. One hand returns to her breast and he plays with her nipple almost casually with his thumb, dragging this out as long as he can, like he hasn't yet decided what to do with her.

To encourage him, she grasps his hardening dick in one hand. He moans into her throat and the sound is so weak and helpless that she shivers.

"Elizabeth..." he whispers her name, gripping her waist through her sweatpants and reflexively moving his own hips to generate friction against her hand. She thwarts him where she can, pulling away and trailing too-gentle fingertips up and down his length and around his balls, kissing away his protests until he's left gasping. She knows this about him, knows that his nerves don't know what to do with teasing, has learned that he's just as turned on by slow torture as he is by being thrown down and roughly kissed and all but mounted.

It's all right to know this about him, she rationalizes at times when she can think better. If they're having an affair that's all about the sex, the sex should be as well-done as possible. She can love making him beg. She can love the look on his face when every inch of his body wants her. She shouldn't think about it when she's alone, shouldn't let that image of him panting and sweaty on his back with eyes and words only for her and God distract her from reports she's organizing, but sometimes she slips and it's all she can think of.

He's on his back now, hips twitching to keep from bucking off the bed as she toys with giving him what he wants, with pumping him with her hand or squeezing his balls while she sucks his tongue into her mouth, before pulling back again to tease with a thumb gently circling him or tentative fingers all over like she's fourteen years old and has never seen a naked man before.

He moans her name again, shoving a hand past her elastic waistband to grab blindly for her clit in an attempt to make her want him as badly as he wants her. She's wet from his few previous fumbled attempts to distract her from her plan, from the feel of him growing harder in her hands and from watching him lose control. He's handling her now, exploring as well as he can with clothing constraining him, his movements made erratic and ill-controlled by her relentless assault on his ability to keep it together.

His fingertips slip in and out of her easily and she bites back an incoherent, wanting sound. She has to get out of these pants, has to let him at her, but she isn't done with him yet and, though she is here after she swore she wouldn't be, she has some self-restraint left.

"You're playing with me," he practically mews, eyes screwed shut like he's in pain.

She lets him go, suddenly feeling dirty for his hand between her legs, past guilty into horrified for how she's using him.

John's eyes fly open. He's too far gone, brought to the brink of orgasm and back again too quickly and too often in the past half-hour to be able to think through what he might have said or why she's reacting the way she is. But she is reacting, and he knows something is wrong and reaches for her.

She takes the shaky hand he extends towards her. It would be beyond cruel to leave him now without explanation, though it's possible she has done worse. His hand tightens around hers and she squeezes back without conscious thought, drawing something from his need that makes her own feel less lonely.

She has to let go of his fingers to strip off her pants, and the space between them feels like too much. She's on her back before she lets herself think about it, sucking in a deep breath as she watches him watch her. There's a question in his eyes, a surprise borne of so many nights with her starting on top, but tonight she doesn't need that control and doesn't even care if she comes, just wants him inside her.

They don't usually talk much while they have sex because it's hard to find words that fit, but he moans "Want you" into her ear as he arranges himself into position on top of her. She knows he means it. Her whole body shudders as he tests her readiness with fingers and adjusts her legs with his hands, telling her where to go. It feels good, open, with her thighs spread wide and her feet around his back and it feels so much better when he starts to push into her.

She lets herself moan as she's stretched and filled, forcing herself to watch his face, to notice the fluttering of her internal muscles around his dick by the way that sensation plays out across his features. The feel of him slowly moving out and in is too much, too right, and forbidden thoughts fly through her brain. She wants him to say her name again, to call her Elizabeth like this until she can't remember the way it sounds for him to call her Doctor Weir.

A sound she made must have come out more like a sob because he stops. "Are you okay?" he asks. She smiles, tentatively, and he smiles back, bewildered and horny.

"Fuck me," she says. She's said it before, but never this quietly, and she thinks she means something else.

He crushes his mouth to hers and thrusts at an angle that makes sparks go off behind her eyes. They moan incoherencies into the safety of each other's mouths as the last of their momentum builds, and when she comes unexpectedly she clings to him so hard she leaves marks.

She doesn't even realize that he's found his own release until she is landing back on solid ground. His labored breathing in her ear is reassuring when she's too spent to worry, and she revels in the way it feels to have him softening inside her and how his body weighs her down.

They're quiet for too long. It's hard to breathe beneath him, but she doesn't ask him to move. She doesn't know what will come out if she starts attempting words, and from his silence she infers that he feels the same.

She decides to try for his name. "John." The rest tumbles out without planning, the words she has been thinking for four months now. "I shouldn't be here."

His fingers ball in the sheets around her. He nods slowly, and when he pulls out of her and moves to her side she is left feeling empty and cold and lost.

"I didn't mean-" she cuts off her retraction for being untrue. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay," John answers.

It seems too simple for her to pack herself up and go now, like this is too whisperish an end to an indiscretion that should have taken them both down in flames, but there it is.

She pulls her pants over sticky thighs without shaking too much and tries not to think about all the nights she will have to sleep alone. She has to reach over him to grab her shirt, and he touches a hand to her ribs as she does.

"Stay."

Vulnerability sits uneasily on him, and she wonders if that's why this is the first personal request he's ever made of her.

She wants to stay. She loves the way he smells after sex and the way he's always holding her when they first wake up in the morning, no matter how much they tossed and turned and kicked each other awake during the night.

"I shouldn't." The words come out in a whisper, but they can both still hear them.

He quirks up a hopeful smirk, the one that brings her right back to the cocky Major who all but turned down her offer to go on a mission to another galaxy, the one yet to be tempered by command and loss and three hard years. She finds herself holding his hand without knowing who reached for whom.

"Just stay tonight," he offers. She knows that every night she doesn't say no entrenches them further until for all the self-restraint in the world she won't be able to walk away painlessly.

She agrees, "Tonight," and helps him arrange the sheets. He tries to pull her flush against him, practically teetering on his edge of the bed, and forces a joke about avoiding the wet spot that relaxes her enough to laugh. She thinks he deserves so much better than this, than the way she is now, as she cups his stubbled chin and kisses him good-night before turning her back to him to fit against his body when he sleeps.

"I like you here," he confides in her ear once they're settled, the tension in his arms around her telling her this admission isn't easy for him, especially when he has very little evidence to say she will react well to it.

She presses his hands against her heart and tries not to cry.

---

Author's Note: I love Tammy. She is bestest beta ever. I'm also blaming Amanda, just because. I also now feel like I owe Janeway and Chakotay some credit for accidentally mooching off their angst.

Liner Notes: Fic was inspired by "I've Been Slipping" by Over the Rhine (not so much *inspired* as *beaten over head by in the wee hours of the morning*, really). In the beta-ing aftermath, I realized that "Damn Love Song" by Kris Delmhorst actually makes much more sense and is, really, scarily appropriate.

*send feedback to little red*
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