Title: The First Ten Years

Author: Little Red

Rating: R for a graphic sex scene.

Category: Sheppard/Weir. Romance. Christmas fic.

Spoilers: Nothing important or plot-related. Something from "Home" is mentioned.

Summary: The first year, John notices that she is quiet at Christmas.

Author's Note: In our first official act as the founders of the Society for the Proliferation and Defense of Fluff, Christi and I decree that it is never too late for Christmas fic!

Credit: Tammy is beta-GODDESS. There are no words for how good she is at this. *bows down*

Dedication: for A.j., who has been owed this one since the pilot.


***

The first year, John notices that she is quiet at Christmas.

Grodin and Ford mastermind the holiday festivities, rallying the troops to hang makeshift decorations all over the control room and enlisting the Athosians to distill something that will serve as eggnog. Elizabeth goes along with it all, smiling bravely at one and all and doing her best to encourage any activity that will distract the members of the Atlantis expedition from thinking too much about home.

She says nothing when the crew begin exchanging anecdotes of their family holiday traditions. He says nothing, either, but that's because there is very little unique about yearly complaints of debt and depression, of hated relatives or a box of presents perfect for a boy two or three years younger arriving a few weeks late from his father.

"What's wrong?" he asks her when her cheerful facade slips a little.

Elizabeth was toying with the pendant around her neck with one finger but pulls her hand away as soon as he speaks. "Ran out of Pegasus Eggnog," she answers, displaying her empty mug.

She never tells anyone anything about herself if she doesn't have to. He suspects she hasn't always been like that.

Elizabeth goes off to refill both their cups, and he watches her go.

***

The Atlantis Christmas tradition of alcohol and not much else seems to have taken hold, because the following year they find themselves all in much the same place in the control room with cups in their hands.

The same stories get told in a slightly different order. He knows Elizabeth a little better this year, knows that she's from Michigan and that she took dance lessons for twelve years and that her father is a footnote in one of the college football history tomes that's still sitting in his mother's house. She still doesn't offer a complete Weir family Christmas story, but she chimes in with a wistful "we do that too" when someone else mentions a yearly family snowball fight. Boys against girls.

One of the scientists, a geologist from Alabama, initiates the caroling, and after enough pints of indeterminate alien brew, others join in. John knows the first verse to most of the songs, especially the ones that get most overplayed in department stores, but he doesn't plan to sing them. Elizabeth sees right through his insistence that he has forgotten the words to Jingle Bells and chastises him with a gentle glare until he obligingly mumbles along.

Even if it sounds awful, it's better than silence. When they are all together like this -- and nearly everyone is there, regardless of their religious affiliation, since this is more about community than faith -- it is obvious how many have been lost during the year.

"We should invite the Athosians next year," John suggests during a break in their off-key harmonizing.

Elizabeth smiles -- not a smile of happiness, but one of common understanding. "Remind me," she says softly.

He slips his hand around one of hers out of comfort or drunkenness or loneliness as the others begin to cycle back through their limited holiday repertoire. She doesn't squeeze his hand or even look at him, but she holds on through the rest of Silent Night.

***

The Atlantis year is a few months longer than the Earth one, and the third Earth-calendar Christmas falls in the middle of the hot summer. They hold the party mid-day and leave all the doors open to the air outside. John spends the morning shuttling willing Athosians in from the mainland for the festivities, and the control room this Christmas is filled with noise and people and the smell of ocean salt.

Teyla has taken an active interest in human holidays and rituals over the course of the year, and John enjoys teaching her. After three years of knowing him, she has gotten better at following his explanations about Earth culture, even when he forgets to footnote foreign concepts like after-Christmas sales and the importance of flying reindeer.

Because the event is so well attended or because they had all managed to get home to Earth by a one-time miracle of technology earlier in the year, the holiday cheer feels genuinely cheerful this time around.

"Candy canes are the best part of Christmas," John says to a pack of interested Athosians, and he notices how Wex's eyes widened in excitement. The kids -- growing up disturbingly quickly, but still kids -- learned about this magical thing called candy when they had still lived in Atlantis proper.

"And mistletoe," Ford chimes in, casting what would have been a painfully obvious glance at Teyla if Teyla wasn't being equally painfully oblivious.

"Is that a kind of candy, too?" she asks.

John leaves Ford to explain that one and drifts to the other side of the control room where Elizabeth is busy proving that she can recite the entirety of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas from memory.

"'... and to all a good night.' See?"

"Well, it's not like we can check to see if she got it right," McKay points out, but he claps along with everyone else as Elizabeth takes a dramatized bow.

With everyone making the rounds to talk to Athosians they haven't seen since the planting season a month or two earlier, it isn't long before he has Elizabeth to himself.

"Impressive," he says. "Is that what they teach you in graduate school?"

She grins, wiping her hands on the skirt of her Athosian-style sundress. "My mother loves that one. Whichever one of us could say it through without mistakes got to open a present early on Christmas Eve." Her smile widens. "I always won."

He's smiling, too. "I'll bet."

"So, what were you telling the Athosians about?" She leads him over toward the punch bowl and ladles the drink into both their glasses. The moonshine is a lot better this year -- a fruity wine his team traded for a few months earlier and managed to hide away until this party.

"Stockings. Christmas trees. Candy canes. Ford's explaining mistletoe to them right now."

Her eyes twinkle with a deviousness he loves in her. She doesn't show it often, but he suspects there's always something wicked going on in her head. "I'm sure Teyla will appreciate that."

"Too bad we didn't bring any along. Essential mission supplies."

"Grodin cut some out of paper," she points to the Stargate, a few meters away. "It's not the same."

There are indeed a few paper leaves strung to the top of the giant stone ring. He has no idea how Grodin managed to get that decoration up there without killing himself.

"Close enough," he says, and steals a kiss.

***

He remembers that it's Christmas four or five days into their incarceration.

It's only the two of them -- him and Elizabeth -- in the dark, cold cave that doubles as a Tolarian cell. He still isn't sure how they managed to get separated from the rest of his team after the negotiations Elizabeth came to mediate between the two nations of this planet went explosively sour. He's had plenty of time to think about it since being captured and tossed in here, brought out only for the occasional interrogation session. He can only hope the rest of his team made it to the Stargate in one piece.

Elizabeth hasn't stopped worrying about Atlantis, about what the city will do without them. He worries about that too, distantly, but is a lot more afraid that the next time their captors show up to drag Elizabeth away they'll execute her -- or worse. There isn't enough light to see, but he thinks he can smell the way one of the guards looks at her. Though he has screamed himself raw insisting that she doesn't know anything, that he's the one with the tactical information about the other side and extensive weapons knowledge, the Tolarians still seem to prefer dealing with her.

"I'm okay," she always tells him, gripping his hand. He can feel stickiness on her fingers that has to be blood. It's pitch black in their cell, deep underground and without any source of artificial light, so he can only evaluate her injuries by touch and by the strength of her voice. She has taken the worst of it, and he's pretty sure her ribs are badly broken by the way she screams whenever two Tolarians hold him down and a third forces her to her feet. He doesn't think he'll ever get that sound out of his head, and he forces himself to focus on how her breath doesn't have the sick whistle of a punctured lung and that she isn't in immediate danger of dying. At least, not from injury.

"Think they'll wait for us to throw the party?" he asks to distract her from what hurts and keep her awake -- he can't tell in the dark, but he worries she's got a concussion by the tired way her words sometimes slur.

He's never letting her off of Atlantis again. If they make it through this, he doesn't care how much rank she tries to pull on him or what kind of benefits they might get from a successful off-world negotiation. She's going to sit and rot in her office whether she likes it or not, and the closest she's ever going to get to this kind of danger again is when she stands on her balcony to watch them come home through the Stargate.

She whimpers. He thinks it's meant to be a laugh. "I'd hope so. You're the only one who knows where we hide the alcohol."

He brushes her hair back, careful to avoid the places he knows are hurt, and gently kisses her forehead. "We're getting out of this," he promises.

They do. It seems like everyone in the expedition who knows how to point a gun is part of the rescue mission -- a dangerous concentration of manpower resources that neither he nor Elizabeth would have condoned -- and they're back in Atlantis by New Year's.

Elizabeth is still laid up in the medical bay the night of the belated holiday party. A stream of well-wishers, human and Athosian, stop by until Doctor Beckett throws a fit about her need to rest and locks the doors.

John's injuries were a lot less severe and he's been up on his feet for a day already, but he has become such a fixture at her bedside that Beckett forgot to kick him out with everyone else.

"You can go to the party," she tells him. "I'm pretty tired."

Instead, he offers to watch over her so that Carson can go. There's a series of threats about not touching any of the equipment and a promise to return in no more than half an hour, and the doctor is gone.

"Are you feeling okay?" He eyes the drip of painkillers that's been making her a bit loopy.

"Carson said not to play with that," she reminds him with a smile.

He's holding her hand. He isn't sure he's let go of it at all since returning home.

He doesn't say I love you, but he thinks it. "Merry Christmas."

***

They should be at the party, should have been for the last hour and a half, but there is no way in hell John Sheppard is about to give this up for anything.

Elizabeth is naked on his bed, limbs spread wide and open and like everything he wants. She waves him off from tackling her again just long enough to grab a drink of water from the glass she keeps on her bedside table. Even the shape of her throat as she swallows and the trail of escaped water droplets over her already sweaty skin is impossibly sexy, and when he can't wait anymore, he pounces.

She yelps out a laugh, coughs once, and the rest of the glass of water ends up spilled between them. He's kissing her already, too taken with the feel of her against him to notice the cool liquid as anything other than added sensation, and she kisses him back. He can tell she's smiling. He loves that.

"We really should go," she teases into his ear, wrapping one leg around his.

His hands find her sweet spot easily with the months of experience he's got on her, and she doesn't even try to hold back her moan. "Really?" Now he's teasing. "Sure you don't want to just stay here?"

"God, John..."

He's the one trying to make her crazy, but he's pretty sure she could make him come at the sound of his name if she really wanted to. He pushes aside her wandering hands -- those hands have done quite enough already -- and steels himself with whatever distractions he can think of. The average cost per pint of the rich alien brew they managed to trade for at the last minute. The six hundred freaking twigs of something-like-pine that Teyla talked him into stringing together for decoration. The words Elizabeth tried to teach him for 'Twas The Night Before Christmas.

She reaches for his cock again, slipping her long fingers between their bodies when he isn't paying attention, and he bites his own tongue to stay focused. He's going to make her come first if it kills him, no matter what other ideas she might have in mind.

Elizabeth's back arches off the bed as she cries out something between a whine and his name, and he can tell she's getting close. She's beautiful, God, and only more so when she's like this, naked and uninhibited and wanting him.

"John, dammit-" she starts to struggle, eyes a bit wild and dazed, and he knows exactly what she wants. His body is in complete agreement, and he almost shakes with relief as he can finally put all his mental distractions out of his head and just focus on her.

She comes on the first thrust, as soon as he's buried all the way inside her, something incoherent and undeniably feminine on her lips, and he feels like a sex god when that happens. She's panting now, gasping for steady breath even as she smiles.

"Want you," she breathes, even though she already has him, and his whole body shudders. She beckons him to lean closer on the next thrust and gently bites his earlobe before whispering, "Happy holidays."

She tightens around him without warning, and he's gone. He doesn't know what he said when he lost control, but she's laughing gently as he comes back to earth and rests his forehead on her shoulder, kissing her skin.

"We should really shower and go before they send out search parties," Elizabeth says. It doesn't take her long to regain coherence after sex.

He doesn't want to move. Ever. She is warm and beautiful and smells perfect when her skin is damp with this kind of exertion. "They won't notice."

Her hand comes up to stroke through his hair in exactly the way he likes, the way that can always melt him to her will. "We don't have to stay long," she bargains.

"Only because you want to so badly." He always bows to her negotiating skills in the end. "Consider it a Christmas gift."

She smiles, and this is a different smile, one that seems to reach right inside him and take root in his chest. "It's just what I always wanted."

***

Thanks to a ZPM, a generous offer from Teyla to mind the store, and a last-minute, shyly issued invitation, John finally gets to see the Weir family Christmas.

Elizabeth has been absent without official family leave for five years, and she is consequently almost smothered to death with hugs and questions and compliments on having let her hair grow out. John stands awkwardly in the doorway of their kitchen for only about fifteen minutes before he's absorbed into the family as one of their own.

She introduces him as a colleague, but her mother still arranges for them to sleep together on the fold-out couch and her brothers still give him threats that are at least half (he hopes) in jest. Her father forgives him for sleeping with his grown daughter after John rattles off as many Michigan State statistics as he can come up with (all of them, of course, before the 2004 season). He spends hours listening to Andrew Weir's stories of being a State benchwarmer in the glory days of Bubba Smith and George Webster and Harold Lucas. Elizabeth watches from the doorway for a few minutes, and she smiles at him in a way he's never quite seen before.

She is different on Earth, more alive, like the part of her energy that's always devoted to waiting for the next incoming wormhole has been freed up for other things. He likes her like this, likes the way she stares at him in bed and doesn't have to be thinking about anything else. He watches her with her mother, with her brothers, with the nieces and nephews she hasn't seen in far too long, and wants to be part of this.

"I'll go with you," she offers on Christmas Eve, after the rest of the house is asleep. The twinkling light from the tree in the corner dances across her face. "To see your family. If you want."

He hasn't wanted that, doesn't want her to see the parts of his life he has happily avoided in the Pegasus galaxy, can't risk her seeing something in his mother and father that's also in him. "We could just stay here," he offers instead. "I like your family."

One corner of her mouth twitches in a smile, and she nods, slowly. "Okay." She squeezes his hand beneath the covers, and he knows he'll change his mind. Going home might be different with her in tow. He might be different.

He kisses her, wants to be closer to her, but she breaks away by shaking her head. "We can't. The kids might sneak in to check out the presents."

Another kiss. "Want to sneak into the garage and make out in your dad's car?"

She has told him stories.

Elizabeth gives his shoulder a playful shove before she turns around and snuggles under the covers. "Go to sleep, John. Presents at six in the morning, remember?"

John grumbles a bit in feigned protest, but finally settles down. Elizabeth slides willingly into his arms and he holds her as she falls asleep.

The traditional Christmas snowball fight -- boys against girls -- gets everyone outside while the turkey is in the oven. Elizabeth is already covered with snow after a calculated attack from her brothers and nephews when John chases her away from the main field of battle and tackles her into a snowdrift.

She's laughing in his ear even as she shrieks about the cold, beaming and red-cheeked and easily the most beautiful thing he's ever seen.

"I win," he declares, threatening her with a fistful of snow.

Elizabeth knocks his hand away defiantly. "I'm just setting you up," she declares. "Watch your back, Colonel." Her cold lips practically attack his for a kiss.

"Lizzie!" Her brother is yelling for her -- her whole family calls her Lizzie -- but John ignores the commotion.

"I love you," he says, feeling his whole body somehow both tense and relax with that admission.

Her eyes widen for a moment, but it isn't with surprise. She has to have known this, even if he's never said it sober before. For an instant he thinks she's going to cry, but instead she wraps her arms around him through layers of winter coat and kisses him like she's never going to let go.

"HA!" There's a chorus of triumphant screams, one or two "ew!"s from the younger generation, and he and Elizabeth are summarily blitzkrieged with snowballs.

She's laughing, hiding behind him when they jump up to retaliate, and he's happy.

***

"You can't tell me it's my fault."

Teyla arches an eyebrow and finishes sipping her tea before answering him. "I did not accuse you of anything."

She's right, of course. It isn't particularly fair to vent his frustration at her in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, but she's his target by virtue of having been in the mess hall when he came in for coffee.

"Elizabeth blames me." He isn't sure of that, really, but she was angry as hell when Stargate Command recalled her to Earth. It took seven years and a new administration to decide that the scientific information being gathered from Atlantis itself is no longer the most important mission of the team and to officially militarize the expedition. The changes have been called "temporary" and "provisional," but if things don't change back home, things here could easily get worse instead of better. He's even surprised that they let him and Ford remain here in command, given the way the SGC is cleaning house.

Elizabeth was angry about a lot of things, and, like Teyla is now, he just happened to be the closest target.

"I do not believe that she truly thinks you are at fault for what happened."

The coffee tastes terrible. "I should have fought harder." And the fighting shouldn't have been with her. She was the one who made the decision to go along with it, to go back Earth-side and try to change their minds. He was angry, too, at her even though it wasn't her fault. He couldn't figure out what to do instead. Cutting themselves off from Earth completely would have certainly been possible -- one accidentally misplaced ZPM and no one on Earth would ever know -- but that reaction would have been extreme, even for him.
He fantasizes about their first year here, totally cut off and dependent only on each other. The sense of community was stronger then. All the personnel changes with the recent orders have affected the mood considerably, and without Grodin here, the will for a holiday party seems to be gone. John certainly doesn't have the drive to force one into existence by himself.

"I should have said something more. Done something."

It has been six weeks already, to the day, but her absence feels even more pressing and desperate than it usually does.

"You still can. The Generals on Earth will listen to anything more you have to say." Teyla pushes her tea mug aside and skewers him with a pointed look. "Have you decided what to say to Elizabeth in your message?"

Trust Teyla to get right to the point. Scarily enough, she has become even more perceptive during her pregnancy.

"What can I say?" He has been trying to record a short message to her for Christmas transmission back to Earth for two days now. She won't be at Stargate Command to receive the message live -- a thirty-second communique isn't worth her giving up her family Christmas -- and he feels strangely uncomfortable about relaying anything personal through a telegram courier.

"You can tell her that you love her," Teyla suggests. "Or that you miss her. Or that you are sorry. If those things are true."

"Yeah." He doesn't want to be doing this. This is more long-distance relationship than anyone can possibly be expected to stand. He thinks, and not for the first time since having to re-learn to sleep alone, that he could have resigned or begged a transfer. He could have gone back to Earth with her. She asked him to stay. He wanted to stay; Earth isn't home anymore. He just wants her here, too, wants things on Atlantis to be the way they were before news of the command change came through the Stargate. He means that both professionally and personally.

"She is not so angry with you that she will not be happy to hear from you," Teyla reminds him gently. "I am sure you will come up with something."

He walks Teyla back to her quarters -- Atlantis is certainly safe enough for her to walk through when it isn't under attack, but something about the idea of an unborn child has kicked his chivalry into high gear -- before going back to his own to think.

Elizabeth left most of her things here, even though the new Lieutenant General in charge of all Stargate-related operations told her not to count on a return trip. He isn't sure if she did it for herself or for him. That her nightgown is still here tells him that she hasn't given up, that she'll wheedle and bully and beg the entire American government until she gets Atlantis back the way it needs to be.

That he keeps her nightgown on her pillow instead of in a drawer or a box means something, too.

It's finally the scheduled contact time -- a decent hour in Colorado, if not here -- and he makes his way to the command center. When it's his turn, he says the only thing he can think of.

"Come home soon."

***

"Ready?" Elizabeth leans over his shoulder and closes his laptop.

He looks up at her, blinking a few times to clear his head of the year-end reports and endless inventories they've both been wrestling all week. This is her job again, of course, but he was in command for almost half of this Earth-calendar year so there is still plenty of paperwork that he's responsible for organizing. He remembers now why he was more than happy to give this desk and this office back to her. "I didn't hear you come in."

"You're slipping in your old age," she teases, draping her arms over his shoulders and kissing his neck. She smells of perfume -- something she only wears on special occasions when they're this far away from any convenient source. The artificial scent reminds him of Earth. "Come on," she continues. "You can finish this in the morning."

He catches her hands in his and studies them, tracing her long, slim fingers. He doesn't think he's ever seen her wear rings. "All done with the decorations?"

"Mmm. The tree looks great this year. Peter brought a glass star back from Earth with us."

"He was thinking about Christmas that long ago?" Everyone recalled to Earth during the politically-motivated "restructuring" who still wanted to return has been back for six months. It has taken almost that long to recover from the prior months of bad ideas and "special personnel" assigned from Earth. The repeated Wraith attacks haven't made that job any easier.

The personal recovery took a long time, too.

He never wants to go through that again.

Elizabeth slips her hands free. "I got you something, too."

"On Earth?"

It's her desk, so he isn't surprised when she pushes one of his knees aside and reaches into a drawer for something. She hands the package to him before sitting on the edge of the desk.

"I probably shouldn't have waited," she says. She has always been more patient than him.

He shakes it, studying the outside for clues. It's book-sized and wrapped in plain paper. "Not Dostoyevsky."

He finished most of War and Peace while she was gone. She told him no one reads the whole thing, that the boys in her college literature seminars always skimmed the peace sections to get back to the war, and the girls the opposite. She once quoted memorized passages to him in the original Russian, foreign syllables learned fifteen years ago rolling easily off her tongue even as she apologized for her accent, and all he could do was stare at her.

"Not Dostoyevsky," she agrees, "though I did think about it."

He tears off the paper and feels five years old again, staring at the cover of a new and updated book of sports statistics for all the years he missed. He's lost in the pages for a few minutes, picking out familiar names and teams amid the overwhelming rush.

"And..." her voice and hands interrupt him as she digs in the wrapping for something he missed and emerges with a data storage device. "All the best games. You can watch them before you read the book if you want to be surprised. I had my dad look them up for me." She's smiling almost as widely as he is, and laughs when his eyes drift back down to the open pages of passing yards and new league records. "I'm never going to see you again, am I?"

"This is..." He tugs one of her hands and she willingly bends forward for a brief kiss before pulling away. He can't stop staring at her. He feels like he's seeing more than Elizabeth right now, like she's showing him a whole possible future without even realizing it. "You're incredible," he says.

She smiles softly under the compliment and squeezes his hand back. His heart pounds, the way it used to do every time she touched him, before her presence in his life and his bed became something common that he can rely on.

"Should we go?" He sets his gifts and the wrapping paper to one side.

"Sure. We should get there before the punch is all gone."

John has to hug her first, once they're both standing, and when he breathes in, he can pick out the clean smell of her skin through her perfume. He likes that better.

"Are you going to show a Christmas football game tomorrow?" Elizabeth asks. "A new Atlantis tradition?"

"Maybe," he says, taking her hand to lead her downstairs.

All through the party he doesn't let go.

***

"You have got to be kidding me." Elizabeth's dress is already soaked through as she pushes him out of the way to try the door herself. "How could it have locked?"

John sputters a bit in the rain and tries to pry off the casing from the control panel to the side of the door. "It's never done this before! The rain must've short-circuited something." This isn't much of a rainstorm, really -- not even worth canceling the annual Christmas festivities -- but it's the only excuse he can come up with on short notice. Unless McKay's still mad at him for letting Teyla's almost-two-year-old son play hide-and-seek with the new personal cloaking shield last week, but really, if anyone can be blamed for what happened, it's the Ancients for faulty craftsmanship. Besides, he thinks that having Teyla come after him was punishment enough.

Elizabeth raises a disbelieving eyebrow, peering over his shoulder. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"

"What? Of course!" John insists, right before a dramatic spark shoots out from the center crystal and fries the control panel with a disturbing sizzle.

When he turns around, Elizabeth is bent over the bottles of alien wine they had come out here looking for. For a second he thinks she's hurt or furious until she looks up and pushes her hair out of her eyes.

"I can't believe we're stuck out here," she gasps out, laughing almost hysterically.

"They'll come find us," John points out, huddling closer to her. She's in a sleeveless dress for the holiday, and while their situation might be hilarious, it's also pretty cold. "They'll run out of alcohol eventually."

"I can't believe you stashed it out here." He can tell she's rolling her eyes without even looking.

"Would you have found it?"

"Well, now I know," she points out, leaning against the wall to the side of the nonfunctional door. "You'll have to find a new secret hiding place." She's starting to shiver, and he maneuvers himself between her and the wall to wrap his arms around her. "A drier one, maybe?"

John laughs into her rain soaked hair. "Well, if they forget about us, at least we'll finally get our honeymoon." Not that a railed-in pier on the far side of the city is much of a place for a honeymoon, but they've been married over a month and still haven't gotten the chance to escape for more than a day at a time. At least this has an ocean view, as depressing as that view is during a downpour.

"Not a chance." Elizabeth reaches down and picks up one of the bottles from his hidden stash. "Toast?"

Between the two of them and a random bit of scrap metal that is in no way an actual corkscrew, they manage to get it open. The alcohol is sour-tasting and not particularly good when not disguised in Ford's mystery punch, but it's warming and worth it for the hilarious visual of his completely bedraggled wife drinking straight from the bottle on a rainy pier, three hundred billion light years from her long-abandoned university tenure track.

"To Christmas?" he asks her.

She nods, takes a shot, and makes a face. She cuddles closer to him, and he yelps when a stream of water from her hair pours down the front of his shirt collar.

"To Christmas," she agrees. "And at least it isn't snow."

***

It's a proper Atlantis holiday party, and John can't help but notice how right everything feels.

"We should tell them," he whispers in Elizabeth's ear. She's sitting between his legs on the stairwell, watching the party begin to warm up.

She nudges his leg with her elbow. "That's bad luck. You can't tell people too soon."

"Is this another crazy Weir family tradition?" With all the stories she's told him, he figures he's lucky she turned out as normal as she did.

Elizabeth frowns over her shoulder. "It's common sense," she says, and for a moment the memory of some of the things she has been saying since they first started to discuss children pierces his giddy haze. She's not as young as she would like to be. Her job is stressful and occasionally dangerous. She has been exposed to a lot of strange things in the past eight years, any one of which could cause unpredictable complications, though Teyla and all of the others have been lucky so far.

He squeezes her shoulder. "Everything will be fine," he promises. He isn't sure when he became the optimist in this relationship, but there it is. "Carson won't be able to keep the secret. I want to be the one who gets to tell everyone."

Elizabeth is smiling up at him now, more than a little bemused. "I didn't expect you to be quite this excited." She reaches up one hand and threads her fingers between his. "I just want to be with this for a little while before everyone else finds out. It's important."

He nods, squeezing her hand back. Her fingers are still bare -- he put in a good search for a ring, but apparently it had never occurred to anyone in the Pegasus galaxy to decorate their hands and their monthly shipment from Earth sadly doesn't include jewelry. The Athosians exchange special ceremonial necklaces instead -- "marriage collars," Ford calls them -- and John didn't mind going local with that particular tradition, at least until the next time he gets back to the Milky Way.

"I'll try to contain myself," John promises. "But..." he kisses her neck, right above the braided collar, "... people are going to wonder why you're not drinking alcohol."

He can almost hear her rolling her eyes. "I am not that bad."

"Of course not."

There's music playing. They are spared the traditional off-key stylings of their fellow expedition members by Grodin having smuggled some commercially produced holiday music back with him after his latest shore leave. The part of John that gets nostalgic almost misses the bad caroling, but this is a lot easier on the ears.

"Want to dance?" A few couples -- all of which contain at least one Earth-born member -- are moving slowly to what sounds like Frank Sinatra.

"I'm fine here," Elizabeth says. "You can, if you want."

He's fine here, too. "I'm good."

He's content to watch the others from the stairwell, murmuring the occasional observation into her ear. It occurs to him that this will be the last Christmas they spend like this, just him and Elizabeth, but he thinks -- he hopes -- he's ready for that.

She leans her head back against his chest. "Nice Christmas this year."

She might just be talking about the party, about the Sinatra and the real (if powdered) Earth eggnog and the proper pine-like Christmas tree brought in from the mainland.

Those things are nice, too, but they aren't the most important.

John has all he wants, and he's pretty sure this will always be enough.

*end*

*send feedback to little red*
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