Title: The Mystery of Attraction (1/1)
Summary: Attraction is not a choice.
Beta read most brilliant by fififolle
Attraction, he decided, was weird and random and made no sense at all. He guessed that was how it was meant to be, maintaining some air of mystery about the whole thing, but it was completely bewildering at times.
And even to him it was a mystery as to why the new girl so specifically caught his eye, even though she wasn’t prettier, taller or skinnier than any of the other women on the base. The rules of attraction, whatever they were, were clearly lost on him, because the girl was okay but not exceptional and yet he couldn’t help but look.
Not that she really was a ‘girl’. He hadn’t seen her personnel profile but he guessed that she had to be in her early thirties, backed up by what Rodney had called her ‘impressive stats’; educated at Cambridge and had taught Princeton in between various worldwide field assignments. She couldn’t have done all of that if she was just out of college.
She was a brunette. He’d always liked brunettes. Maybe that was why he’d hesitated momentarily the first time he’d seen her walk by, his insides feeling like they leapt just a little and his gaze involuntarily following her down the corridor as he moved aside to let her pass.
Ronon had grinned at his reaction and Rodney had just looked skywards, dramatically rolling his eyes.
“She’s an intelligent woman,” he scoffed bluntly, “She won’t be interested in you.”
John had learnt long ago that if you took offence at everything offensive Rodney said then you’d have to spend your entire life being sore at him, and so he let the barb pass, instead asking who she was and trying to sound as nonchalant as possible about it.
He supposed he should know, what with being military commander of the base, but there were so many civilian personnel now, and the relative ease of travelling back to Earth allowed them to change so often, that he’d given up trying to keep track of them. If he had to work with them, then he’d be interested in their names. Or it seemed, if they caught his eye.
She was a professor of Ancient Languages apparently, brought to the project to head up a team whose job it was to assist in the translation of the Ancient and Wraith languages and the variations in dialect that the expedition were increasingly discovering. John could definitely see the usefulness of that. After all, it made sense to have a bunch of specialists rather than to expect every scientist to learn how to do it when they had around million other things they could be concentrating on. Apparently this new team were working on a piece of translation software too. A kind of intergalactic Babel fish that anyone could use.
He had to admit, she didn’t look much like what he’d expect a professor of Ancient Languages to. He somehow imagined that title came attached to an old man, with a greying beard, glasses and a tweed suit, not some young, attractive woman. Or attractive to him, it would appear.
Her name seemed to fit though. Dr Evelyn Jones. He didn’t like it very much. Sounded kind of stuffy. Although he did grin at the notion that they had an archaeologist called Dr Jones working with them to which Ronon frowned, perplexed as to why that should be funny, and Rodney pointed out that she was an anthropologist.
She was the one granted the dubious honour of working with Rodney, mainly because he asked for her whenever he came across a bit of text that he decided he was too busy to translate. He could just about understand Ancient, at least the bits he needed to, but he seemed to have decided why bother when he could ask an expert. And since he was the most important scientist on the base, he should have the most expert expert at his disposal.
John often saw her in Rodney’s lab when, usually because he was bored, he popped along to see what the scientist was doing. She’d be sitting at the far desk, back to the door, totally engrossed in what she was working on and never even realising that he’d come in the room. Which was, in some ways, a damn pity but it did allow him to look at her a bit more closely without the embarrassment of being caught out.
One thing he began to notice over time was how polished she was. Her hair always seemed to be just right, fingernails looking like she had a personal manicurist, make up subtle and neat, clothes always looking immaculate. She was like the Stepford scientist and it made him a bit uncomfortable, giving him odd high school flashbacks. It was like having a thing for the head cheerleader but being terrified about approaching that perfect exterior in order to ask her to the prom.
But, he reminded himself, in the end he had asked her. And he may have got a punch in the nose from her boyfriend for his troubles, but at least the hot girl from the second tier of the pyramid had sat with him until the bleeding had stopped. He’d gone with her instead and that hadn’t turned out too bad.
He grinned at the memory.
“What are you smirking about?” Rodney snapped, seeing him standing in the doorway.
“I wasn’t smirking,” John reasoned, walking in to the room and taking an interested look around, “I was reminiscing.”
“Well go and do it someplace else,” Rodney bit back, sounding harried, “I’m busy.”
But Rodney always insisted he was busy and so that didn’t put John off. Besides, with Dr Jones sitting at the back of the room maybe this time he would have a chance to talk to her. The only person likely to punch him in the nose was Rodney for interrupting her work and hence holding him up, but that was a risk John was willing to take. Besides, he was pretty sure that Rodney hit like a girl.
“What you working on?” he asked, picking up some sort of gadget lying on the desk and turning it over in his hands.
Rodney snatched it away from him as though he was a kid messing with something he shouldn’t.
“Something I don’t have time to explain to you,” he insisted, before turning his back on John, perhaps hoping that if he ignored the Colonel, he’d get bored and go away. “Evie, have you finished that yet?”
It took John a moment to figure out that he was talking to Dr Jones. Evie? Now that he liked. It was kind of cute.
She held her hand up, asking for a moment as she scribbled something down, thought process in mid flow. Rodney’s patience had very short limits though.
“Oh come on,” he exclaimed, hands on hips and looking to the heavens, “It’s only a couple of paragraphs! It can’t be that difficult.”
She whirled sharply round in her seat to face him.
“In fact,” she pointed out in brisk challenge, “early Ancient dialogue is exceptionally difficult, Rodney, but if you’d like to attempt to translate the millions of years old language any quicker, be my guest.”
Her accent threw John a little. He’d known she was British from the patch she wore on her uniform, but she didn’t sound how he’d imagined. Although he probably should have guessed that she’d sound just as polished as she looked. She was a Cambridge graduate after all. He imagined that place was kind of posh. He was surprised though at just how venomous a good accent could sound when the speaker was angry.
God help him, but he kind of liked it in a weird way.
Rodney probably knew she had him stumped there. It was unlikely that anyone on the base could translate it any quicker than she could and certainly not McKay.
“Well maybe next time I should ask for Chloe Baxter instead,” he pointed out with a huff, “At least she doesn’t answer back.”
Evie rolled her eyes and returned back to her work.
“Actually that’s because she’s got her IPod plugged in and isn’t listening to a word you say,” she pointed out nonchalantly, “She says that if she just nods and says ‘Yes, Doctor McKay’ when it looks like you’re talking at her, you don’t seem to notice.”
John snorted a laugh whilst Rodney looked indignant, blustering for a comeback which he couldn’t find.
“Now, now Rodney,” John scolded lightly, “Be nice to the lady. I’m sure she’s doing a great job.”
She glanced up and half smiled back but was too busy working to take much notice of him, which disappointed John a little because he wanted her to notice him, as sad as it sounded. He watched for a moment as she ran a hand back through her hair, every strand seeming to fall back into perfect place as it slipped through her fingers. It made him nervous.
Rodney caught the direction of John’s glance and rolled his eyes. “Don’t start that,” he warned.
John feigned ignorance, saying he had no idea what Rodney was talking about, but still left before the situation became embarrassing.
As days passed, he tried to ignore the fact that he kept looking at her, telling himself that he wasn’t and she just happened to be in his line of sight a lot. He was not watching little things like the way she turned strands of hair around her finger when she sat there thinking, or the way she bit her lip whenever someone was talking to her and she was waiting to get a word in edgeways, or the way she ran her fingers over her coffee cup in meetings.
But when he caught himself studying the curve of her neck from across the control room he could have slammed his head down on the nearest desk. That was a bad sign, he couldn’t deny it.
It was late one evening when he found her, alone, in Rodney’s lab. He’d been studiously trying not to think about her, telling himself it was an insane little crush and it would go away if he gave it time. The sensible part of his brain almost got him to leave before she even noticed he was there, but the part more intrigued by the mystery of attraction made him step further into the room.
He didn’t know if she was ignoring him or really was too engrossed to notice he was there, but she gave no acknowledgment that he was, even when he walked right up and leant back against the desk beside her.
Maybe she was hoping that if she pretended she hadn’t seen him, he would go away. But, he decided, it would be more embarrassing to just slink off than to try and strike up even what might turn out to be an awkward conversation.
She glanced up at him and nodded, “Colonel.”
It was briskly formal. He didn’t like it, but ploughed on anyway.
“I was looking for Rodney,” he explained, which he had been before this opportunity had presented himself.
“Well, he’s not here I’m afraid.”
“I can see that.”
She sighed, and he couldn’t tell if she was exasperated at him or at the work she was attempting to do. Either way he didn’t care as she sat back and looked at him, giving him her full attention.
Her hair was messy, tied back in a loose pony tail with stray strands hanging about her face. Her eyes were tired and there were hints of smudges underneath them where she’d rubbed at her mascara. Her clothes were casual, a tee shirt and jeans with none of the strict smartness of her uniform.
He really liked it and suddenly he felt more at ease around her than he ever had.
“I’ve never seen you in your civvies before,” he pointed out, all easy charm as he nodded at her, “You look nice.”
She huffed a disbelieving laugh, “Don’t be silly. I look an utter mess.”
“I think you look...casual.”
She shook her head in amusement but there was a kind of fondness there that spurred him on.
“How long have you been here?”
She gave him a wry smile as she stretched her arms up and rolled her shoulders, trying to work the kinks out of her back.
“I don’t know,” she replied, only half joking, “What day is it?”
He gave her an understanding smile. “He’s working you to the grindstone, huh?”
“Oh, you know what he’s like,” she said lightly, trying not to sound like she was complaining too much, “He does prefer things to have been done yesterday. He doesn’t seem to grasp that we can’t all be his level of genius.”
“I don’t know, you’re pretty smart,” he pointed out and then, when she looked at him curiously, wondering how he knew, he added, “So I hear.”
“I’m good at what I do,” she said with a shrug, “I’m happy enough with that. Besides, I’ve always found those who are exceptionally smart to be rather...tetchy.”
He grinned a little, knowing exactly what she meant.
“You know what you need?” he announced, standing up straight, “Coffee.”
She nodded, stretching her legs out and circling her feet to get the blood moving. “Well, if you’re offering, there’s a pot lying around somewhere.”
“No, from the commissary. Come on. You need to get out of that chair before you end up as a permanent part of it.”
She looked at him curiously, studying him with almost as much interest as she had the alien text she had been deciphering. He didn’t know what she was thinking but whatever she decided it seemed to go in his favour so he didn’t ask.
“Fine,” she said with a sigh, admitting defeat as though he’d twisted her arm, even though she’d taken little persuading, “Just ten minutes. I don’t want to have put up with the bitching if Rodney gets back and finds I’m not here.”
He smiled as she stood. He still didn’t know why he liked her. He just knew that he did.
“You leave Rodney to me.”
“Oh, my hero,” she exclaimed with some sarcasm.
A part of him enjoyed the notion anyway.
Rodney was going to go crazy, he realised and part of him was still saying that the best way to deal with a crush on a co-worker was to ignore it and wait for it to go away. But, he decided, at the moment he really didn’t care. After all, it wasn’t like he had a choice, right?