Title: The Difficulties of Romance
Spoilers: Fairly general ones for parts of season 3 and 4.
Theme: Five stages of love - Romance
Summary: Romance isn’t dead, it just needs some work...
Beta read by the fastest beta in the West, fififolle
Having anything like a relationship when you were living in what pretty much amounted to a colony, John had come to realise, wasn’t easy.
It wasn’t the logistics of it that were the problem; there were plenty of women around for a start, and one in particular that he liked. There weren’t any rules preventing it either, no regulation that said that military personnel couldn’t fraternise with civilians in that way. He actually knew several soldiers who had significant others amongst the scientists. Hell, there’d even been an engagement or two.
No, the major problems came from some of the practicalities involved and also his uneasiness at his private life being not so private any more.
Atlantis was, first and foremost, a research station and it wasn’t exactly designed with their downtime in mind. Yeah, there were things to do but it wasn’t like anyone had gone out of their way to make it a social hotspot. He seemed to spend most of his free time either sparring with Ronon or hitting golf balls off one of the balconies, neither of which were exactly hot date material.
He also didn’t like the idea that it was next to impossible to keep anything a secret in this place. Not that he was embarrassed to be dating her. She was cute and smart and funny and he knew that there were probably a fair few guys who wished that they were in his position. No, he just didn’t want people gossiping about his personal life. He was a private guy, and the idea that everyone would know what was going on made him distinctly uncomfortable. Even with an expanding and changing staff, everyone still seemed to know everyone else’s business and he didn’t like it. Or at least not when it was his business.
But, despite this, he was still resolved to take Evie on a proper date. It was about time. He’d been flirting with her for weeks, getting to know her a bit, seeing if she was interested. She seemed to be, although she’d said nothing in particular, and he was determined to find out where it could lead.
He wasn’t exactly sure where that determination came from. He liked her a lot and that should be a good enough reason, but he knew there was more to it than that. A longing for a bit of normality maybe. He was definitely becoming more aware that Atlantis may be home for the rest of his life, or at very least until he retired. And whilst he was mostly fine with that, he missed some of the little things from Earth; jogging down by the river, going to watch a football game, movies, malls, parks, bars, going on dates...
Some of the junior members of the linguistics team giggled and whispered when he walked into the department. He tried to tell himself that it was simply his presence that sent them so girlie, but he pretty much knew it wasn’t that that had them so interested.
“She’s in her office,” a blonde one said, grinning knowingly at him. He still hadn’t gotten around to names yet.
“Thanks,” he replied, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible and keeping his pace unhurried. Like he wasn’t trying to escape the lion’s den.
He felt more relaxed by the time he’d shut the door and perched himself on the edge of Evie’s desk. Asking her out didn’t seem nearly so scary in comparison to running the gauntlet of her giggly co-workers.
“You survived then?” she asked brightly, looking up at him with an amused grin, nodding at her door.
“Oh, they’re sweet,” she said, brushing the matter aside, “They act about twelve years old, but they’re sweet all the same.”
She’d relaxed a lot, he realised, since her first few weeks in Atlantis, seemed more at ease here now. But he supposed the transition to life out here was bound to be stressful for anyone and it wasn’t surprising she’d taken time to settle in.
“They just like to gossip,” he concluded with a wry smile.
“So I’ve noticed.”
He almost followed that up with a ‘so let’s give them something to gossip about’ but that would have led to him giving in to the urge to kiss her and he was really trying to ignore that. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to – God, did he want to – but it didn’t seem right without them having at least one proper date first. And he wanted to do things properly.
Who said romance was dead?
“Are you busy?” he asked instead, steering his mind away from kissing before it got him into trouble.
“Insanely,” she said with a regretful sigh, “So, if this is just a social call, it really isn’t the best time. I’m trying to avoid distractions.”
That last statement was full of clear suggestion and he had to admit, he loved it when she flirted with him like that. It made him feel good inside and the old ego boost wasn’t too bad either.
“Actually,” he said, injecting as much confident and easy going charm into his voice as he could muster, “I came here to ask you out on a date.”
He wasn’t exactly nervous about asking her. He could tell that she liked him. But it still didn’t quell that slight thrill of excitement inside. It was an odd feeling, a different kind of danger to the one he lived with every day, and he’d missed it.
Although he couldn‘t say he’d ever missed the kind of sick embarrassment he felt when she laughed at the suggestion.
It took her way too long to realise that he wasn’t joining in on the joke.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, face instantly falling, looking mortified, “You’re serious.”
“Well, yeah...,” he mumbled, wondering when the ground was going to do as he’d wanted and swallow him up, “I like you.”
It sounded kind of pathetic, but it was true. And he knew he was out of practice at this whole dating thing but he’d been convinced she felt the same. Surely he hadn’t read her that wrongly?
But then one of her hands was resting on the back of his, thumb subconsciously stroking across it, as though trying to reassure him he’d been right all along.
He really wanted to believe her because her skin on his felt so good.
“I wasn’t laughing at that,” she explained, “It’s just...well it’s not like you can have a proper date in Atlantis, is it?”
His mood instantly brightened, relief spurring him on as he saw hope once more.
“Sure you can.”
“What,” she scoffed, still seemingly amused by the idea, “with all the fabulous nightlife we have to offer?”
He grinned at her, shaking his head, “If you’re not interested...”
He went to move but her hand dragged him back.
“I am,” she said, smiling too, knowing that he’d been baiting her and that that was exactly what he wanted to hear. “Alright then, surprise me.”
There was a hint of challenge in that. He liked challenges.
“Meet me at my quarters, eight o’clock tomorrow night.”
“Your quarters?” she questioned teasingly as she stood and headed over to a stack of files, “That’s a little forward, don’t you think?”
“I’ll be the perfect gentleman,” he promised, crossing his heart with a finger.
He made it to the door before a flash of impulse kicked in and he went back, kissing her on the cheek, hand resting on her waist just for a moment.
He left on a high, not even noticing the gossiping girls.
John couldn’t remember the last time he’d put so much time and effort into trying to impress a woman. He guessed it must have been with Nancy, when they were first dating, but he often found it difficult to remember the points in their relationship before the arguments and angry silences had started. Which was a damn pity, because his marriage hadn’t been all bad and it was a shame that the bad times seemed to override the good.
He hadn’t had any long term relationships since then. There’d been girls and he’d gone on dates, but more often than not his job had meant nothing had come of it. Especially when he’d been posted to McMurdo. The Antarctic wasn’t exactly a hot dating scene.
Nor was Atlantis, he supposed, with its fairly limited number of inhabitants. And he wouldn’t have really put any serious thought to it six months ago but a lot of things had happened since then.
Life was way too short and things could change so quick.
This was his life now and he didn’t want it to be completely dominated by his job. As noble as it was to commit yourself to a cause in that way, it was a lonely path to tread.
He didn’t want to be alone.
A knock on the door pulled his thoughts away to more cheerful things.
“Hey,” he said, opening it to see Evie standing there with a definite curiosity. He’d learnt pretty quick that, as hard as she tried to pretend otherwise, she was inquisitive to a fault and he was playing on that now, blocking her view as she none too subtly attempted to peer around him. “Close your eyes,” he instructed.
She laughed at little, perplexed, “Excuse me?”
“Come on,” he implored, “Don’t ruin the surprise.”
She looked kind of sceptical and so he decided to sort it himself, moving behind her and placing his hands over her eyes.
“Oi,” she complained, although it was clear she didn’t mean it.
“Trust me,” he insisted with a smile.
He tried to ignore how good she smelled as he began to walk slowly forwards, essentially pushing her along with him.
“Please try not to walk me into any of the furniture,” she pleaded, a little nervously.
He just smiled again.
“You look really nice, by the way,” he pointed out, almost into her ear, standing a lot closer than he probably should.
He thought he felt her shiver slightly and decided to believe that was because of the warmth of his breath on her neck. He liked the idea that he had that kind of effect on her.
“Okay,” he said, stopping her in what he thought was the best spot, “Take a look.”
For a moment, when he pulled his hands away, she looked genuinely ope- mouthed stunned. Genuinely taken back. Then she smiled, warm and delighted.
“Oh, that is very good.”
It had taken a bit of rearranging, but by moving the furniture about, attaching a large white sheet to one wall and borrowing a projector, he’d actually managed to make a fairly good attempt at a movie theatre.
“That’s not all,” he said, grinning, “I have popcorn too.”
She laughed. He had a feeling that she was impressed.
“You really are just an old-fashioned romantic at heart, aren’t you?” she teased, prodding him in the ribs with her elbow.
He rubbed his hand over the back of his neck in a manner that screamed self-consciousness.
“Yeah, but don’t tell anyone.”
It only confirmed what he already knew - that he was on to a winner - when she declared ‘Batman Begins’ an excellent film. Which was very cool, even though she refused to be drawn on how much Christian Bale had to do with that.
Not that John cared when he was the one sitting on a sofa with her.
When he shifted closer to her side and slipped an arm around her shoulders, he tensed a moment, waiting for her reaction. He took the fact that she seemed to settle against him as a good sign.
By the time he had his other hand resting on her leg, she was pretty much snuggled into his side, totally at ease and it felt great.
His fingers drew lazy circles on the bare skin of her arm. He hadn’t felt like this in a long time. He’d completely forgotten that it was about the only feeling comparable to flying a two hundred mile per hour jet.
He was confident when he leaned in to kiss her, and even her fingers on his lips, making him pause, didn’t knock that. He knew in his gut that this was right.
“I thought you said you were going to be a gentleman,” she reminded him softly, teasing.
She was a damn tease, he’d learned that much about her too.
Despite her words, he shifted closer to her, feeling the sofa underneath him move and tip him even nearer. He knew it had to be a good sign when even the furniture was conspiring with him.
“I am. It’s just that we are sitting at the back of the movie theatre. It’s kind of expected.”
One hand slid behind her and he ran in down her back, tracing the length of her spine, remembering what the gentle curves of a female body were like.
“It’s the front row,” she pointed out.
“It’s the only row,” he corrected.
His hands slid back in her hair, fingers caressing her neck, taking his time. After all, you only got one go at a first kiss.
He hesitated, lips so close to hers, feeling the warmth of her breath on his face.
The first brush was soft and experimental, the heady sensation of a new mouth against his making him take a juddering breath. There was tension too but that eased away within moments. And then he was kissing her slow and gentle, like he’d never done anything else.
Kissing, he knew, was something totally under-rated until you were doing it. Because, when the kiss was really good there was nothing else. Whatever else was going on in your life, in that moment you weren’t thinking about it. That girl and her lips were your entire universe and everything else was forgotten. A still moment in time when you didn’t consider past or future, just all that was happening then and there.
A blissful escape.
He sighed softly against her lips as they momentarily parted. This was so right.
And so he kissed her again, willingly lost to the peaceful oblivion of the moment.