Spoilers: Season 2, up through The Long Goodbye
Notes: Prompted by seldear's Nothing to Prove and... well, a lot of things. Read it, I'm sure you'll be able to figure it out.
“This isn’t a competition, John,” says Elizabeth, which is stupid because of course it is. He doesn’t tell her that, naturally, because she might throw her fork at him and also because taking her comment seriously would mean everything on his team would change.
He hates feeling this way about one of his own. In probably any other circumstance he would like Major Terry Bell, despite the fact that the guy is a Marine. He’s hilarious, he’s another college football freak and he follows orders (which, considering John Sheppard’s history, one might not consider a pro, but his perspectives have changed since becoming Atlantis’s military head). And yet these are the circumstances, and there’s no way around it, and he’s trying very hard not to hate Bell. But it’s a challenge.
He and Elizabeth are sitting in the mess, ostensibly eating dinner but in actuality going over mission reports that have fallen by the wayside lately. With the arrival of the Daedalus and the infusion of fresh blood from Earth – most of them transfers from the SGC who’d wanted to go through with the first group – the number of offworld teams doubled almost overnight. Some of them are focusing solely on hunting down ZPMs; woe to those poor souls who so often bear the brunt of Rodney McKay’s frustration. Other teams are looking to expand the city’s food options. Some are dedicated to exploring diplomatic options with suspicious people, xenophobic people, and any other people who subscribe to the Pegasus Galaxy’s prevailing attitude about ‘fairness’. And Lt. Torres’ team gets sent to all the crappy planets that nobody else wants, because nobody in the expedition really likes Lt. Torres.
Since coming to Atlantis, John has been shot at innumerable times, snacked on by a huge nasty bug, nearly blown up in several situations, shot at some more, turned into something disturbingly close to the aforementioned huge nasty bug, and most recently possessed by a crazy-ass alien consciousness. There are few perks to this hazardous occupation, one of which is being able to cherry-pick his teammates and his assignments. That way, he reasons, he has nobody to blame from himself.
He sneaks another look across the mess, despite the fact that he knows better. Nothing has changed in the last sixty seconds; Teyla and Bell are still sitting there, sharing a slice of chocolate cake, leaning in towards each other. From this angle John can’t see Teyla’s face, just Bell’s; the Marine is grinning like an idiot, gazing at Teyla with distinctly puppy-dog-like infatuation. Judging by the musical laughter that floats over from their table every few minutes, Bell’s attention isn’t unwelcome.
John has no one to blame but himself.
He’d been trying to do something nice for Teyla; taking their expanded resources into consideration, he’d assigned one team to be responsible for the welfare of the Athosians on the mainland: shuttling them to and from the city when they wanted to trade off-world, maintaining the flow of necessary medical supplies, overseeing new growth and development, and so on. He’d picked two airmen he knew were dependable and personable from the first shift of expedition members, a no-nonsense RN Carson had personally recommended, and Bell, because his SGC file had been as close to impeccable as humanly possible.
Upon further reflection, maybe he should have ensured that Bell wasn’t especially good-looking, or single. Unfortunately for John, the guy is both.
Fortunately for the Athosians, the guy is good at his job. He might have been resentful of the assignment, feeling that he was being underutilized, but nobody has had any complaints: not his team members, not any of the Athosians he’s talked to, and certainly not Teyla.
At first he’d been able to rationalize the time that Teyla and Bell spent together; they were both liaisons between the people of Earth and Athos, and John knew that Teyla’s concern for her friends and family was second only to her desire to see the Wraith threat ended. And there was nothing particularly scandalous about having meals together; he was eating with Elizabeth tonight, had had lunch with Ronon while they discussed American vs. Satedan weaponry, shared breakfast a couple days before with Laura Cadman as they devised more ways to torture Rodney on their off-times.
But John is pretty sure that Bell is no longer meeting with Teyla to discuss Jumper schedules or new requisition forms. Their relationship seems to have progressed beyond that.
Elizabeth gives an exaggerated sigh; John realizes he’s been spacing out while she’s been talking. “Do you want this one?” she asks him pointedly, obviously repeating herself, sliding a folder across the table.
“Nah,” he says. He knows he’s sulking, and he doesn’t like it. “Torres can have it.”
Elizabeth purses her lips, glances in Teyla and Bell’s direction, and says nothing.
She’s waiting for him, at the door to his quarters, when he gets back from a late night run through the city. A solo run, this time, although he won’t mention the reasoning to Ronon; his pride can only take so much wounding right now.
“Teyla,” he says uneasily. “What’s up?”
Her expression is stony. “Why were you watching me tonight?”
“Uhh.” He doesn’t really have an answer for that.
She lifts her chin; John tries not to notice how her hair slides across her bare shoulders, sensual and inviting in the muted light. “Did you think I would not notice?”
Well, actually I didn’t. John smiles fixedly at the male botanist who happens to be passing by at that exact moment; the scientist raises his eyebrows and gives John a mock, two-fingered salute. “Um, this might not be the best place…”
Teyla follows his gaze, sees the hastily retreating botanist’s back. She crosses her arms. “Then we should go somewhere less public,” she says tartly. “But I expect an answer, John.”
He squirms, looks around for an easy escape, considers the possibility of one of Bell’s friends overhearing this conversation and reporting back, and opens the doors to his room with a huff. “Fine,” he says as she stalks past him. “But I’m just going to warn you… I’m all sweaty and being in an enclosed space with me is probably not what you want to do right now.”
He follows her inside, using the towel around his shoulders to give his face a good, long wipe. When he dares to look again the doors have closed, throwing them both into shadow, and she’s still looking at him with daggers in her eyes. “Well?”
He throws the towel into the nearest corner and sighs. “I wasn’t watching you. I was watching you and Bell.”
She looks displeased, but not actually surprised. “Why?”
“Why? Because… because I’m a guy,” he says hotly. “And we do stupid things sometimes. And I don’t actually know all that much about Bell, and… and…”
Smooth, very smooth.
A little of the anger seems to have gone out of her eyes, but in the darkness he can’t be absolutely sure. “Terry is a good man.”
“I know,” he says lamely.
“I would not associate with anyone I did not believe was worthy of my friendship.” She sounds almost puzzled now.
She steps a little closer, into a shaft of star- and city-light that falls in through his window. “Ronon suggested it, but I did not believe him.”
“That you were jealous.”
Jealous. It’s an ugly word, but one that fits into the word-sized hole in the pit of his stomach. “You’re my friend,” he says, even more lamely.
“That has not changed since I met Terry,” she points out, now sounding a little uneasy herself.
“What happened when you were infected was not some aberration,” she interrupts. “And Thalen was not completely dishonest. You… desire me.”
He wonders why she sounds so bewildered, so taken aback, as though the thought of being coveted by a man is strange and altogether new to her. Maybe even a little alarming. Then again, he never seems to see this type of stuff coming either.
“So does Bell,” he says, by way of deflecting blame, and then realizes that he could have at least tried to make a more eloquent response.
She holds the silence for a long moment, turning her face so that the light doesn’t hit it. Her hands clench and unclench at her sides. Maybe she’s just realized the kind of situation she’s put herself in. “I see,” she says at last, quietly. “I believe I should go.” And before the final word is even out of her mouth she’s moving, stepping quickly around him, slipping through the parting doors.
He’s frozen with indecision for a second, then moves without really thinking about it, catches up to her in two steps, grabs her wrist at the third, pulls her back into the open doorway, pulls her body against his. Kisses her.
Her body goes rigid for a second, not unlike the way he thinks he remembers when he kissed her before. But this time she knows he’s himself, or at least he hopes she knows, and she must know because there is no resistance – and she could put up a highly effective resistance, he knows – because she slowly relaxes, lets his hands slide around to her waist, tilts her head to deepen the kiss, presses her palms against his sweat-damp back. John wonders dimly… if he tugged her back into his room, let the doors slide closed, how would she react? Would she panic and bolt… or would she come willingly?
He’s always liked the cropped tops that expose so much of her skin. Now he loves them.
Someone’s boot squeaks against the floor. They both jump apart, guiltily.
Terry Bell is standing in the hallway, grimacing.
“Oh,” he says.
Teyla’s mouth falls open. Bell has turned and vanished before either of them can come up with an Ann Landers-worthy response.
John mostly just wants to kill the guy for interrupting the moment. But that’s Little John talking, and not Lt. Colonel Sheppard. He thinks maybe he should go after Bell and explain, but he’s seen the Major in hand-to-hand training, and anyway he’s not sure what that explanation would be.
Teyla gapes for another moment, then turns and leaves. In the opposite direction.
Bell requests Weir that he be allowed to complete his tour aboard the Daedalus, citing ‘personal differences with Atlantis staff’ when asked why. Weir okays the transfer without so much as consulting John, but she knows anyway. So does he.
Teyla spends a couple of days on the mainland, but returns well in time for their next scheduled mission. She says nothing about what happened, although he notices that she begins to wear more concealing tops.
John fills the empty position on the Athos team with Lt. Joy Torres. He catches Torres and Teyla eating dinner together one night, wonders belatedly if Torres is a lesbian, and then wonders if it is physically possible to kick your own ass. In any case, the relationship between the two seems strictly professional.
Maybe Ronon trips him on purpose the next time they go running together, or maybe it is an accident like he claims. All six times.
Rodney… it’s hard to tell when he’s annoyed. He’s always annoyed.
Mostly things just go on like normal. Although that’s not saying much. Not around here.