peanutbutterer (peanutbutterer) wrote in langford_u,

In Sickness (John/Elizabeth)

I've been lurking here a while and very much enjoying the community.  While reading s Pedagogy, I was hit with a writing bug.. and it has forced me to de-lurk! *cringe*

I hope I'm not stepping on any toes... this fic was inspired by John and Elizabeth's couch conversation.

Title: In Sickness
Author: Peanutbutterer
Rating: Anyone


John Sheppard had once heard that when women spend enough time together their cycles align.  Staring out across the sea of cranky, impatient and irrational faces that currently comprised his Math for Girls class, he decided that this might not be far from the truth.  In what he could only attribute to Friday afternoon restlessness – at least until he could gather more evidence in support of his newest theory – John had wasted the last hour of instruction repeating himself, breaking down the most rudimentary problems, and utterly disproving the maxim that ‘there are no stupid questions.’  He resolved then and there to discreetly probe Carson as to whether ‘the cycle theory’ could have any basis in medical fact.

 

Yet even in the face of such insurmountable odds (and hormones), John still couldn’t wipe the shit-eating grin from his face.  He was down right giddy and he liked it.  Classes were done, office hours were over, the weekend was here, and Elizabeth Weir owed him a slice of cheesecake.  What more to life could there possibly be?

 

With a little extra bounce in his step John made his way down the hall, past Peter’s empty desk, and knocked once before grandly swinging open Elizabeth’s door.

 

“Hey, Eliz—” The cheerful greeting cut short as soon as he caught a glimpse of the figure before him.  Her normally flawless suit was wrinkled and her jacket was askew.  Her curls were frizzy, her face was white, and he was pretty sure that she was shivering.

 

“You look like crap,” came out before he could sensor it. 

 

Tired, red-rimmed eyes looked up at him askance.  “Thanks, John.  So kind of you to say.”

 

Her deceptively casual response and unassuming tone didn’t fool him; if there was one thing he felt confident in judging it was Elizabeth Weir’s appearance.  “I’m sorry,” he faltered, “but… did you get hit by a truck?”

 

With one more warning look, Elizabeth rose from her chair and wearily began putting files in her briefcase.  “You really ought to talk to Hallmark.  I think you have a future in the greeting card business.”

 

“You know,” he drawled lazily as he leaned a shoulder against the doorframe and folded his arms across his chest, “that’s not the first time I’ve been told that.”

 

“I’m just a little tired,” she explained. “I was up all night coughing.”

 

As if on cue she began to cough – loud, raspy, horrible noises that John was surprised could come from such a small frame.

 

He cringed sympathetically as she clutched her chest.  Elizabeth, that doesn’t sound very good.”

 

“Really,” her voice was scratchy, “I thought it was sexy.”

 

John crossed the room and pressed the back of his hand to her forehead.  His brow furrowed in concern. “You’re burning up.”

 

She brushed him off with a wave of her hand. “It’s just hot in here, John.  Stop babying me.”

 

“It is not hot in here Elizabeth.  It’s the middle of February,” he argued.  Cupping her cheek he tilted her face so that she couldn’t avoid his eyes. “You’ve got a fever.” 

 

She opened her mouth to argue the point but was instead hit by another violent fit of coughing.  John watched helplessly as she crumpled limply into her chair.  He placed his hand on her back and began to rub gentle circles in a futile attempt to sooth her. 

 

Elizabeth finally regained her composure and stood.

 

John gave her an appraising look.  “You’re right,” he said after a moment, “that was sexy.”

 

Taking advantage of her momentary speechlessness, he grabbed her briefcase and inclined his head toward the door.  “Come on, let’s go.”

 

Not having the energy to argue with him, Elizabeth simply followed directions.  “Where are we going?”

 

He ushered her out of the office and into the hall.  “I need to make one quick stop and then you’re going home.”

 

“Why don’t I just go home now?”

 

“Because I insist on escorting you.”

 

 “Please,” she countered, petulant.  “I’m perfectly capable of caring for myself.”

 

John sighed and turned back toward her.  “Don’t make me fight you, Weir.  You’re scrappy, but in your weakened state I think I could take you.”

 

She appeared to consider that for a moment before finally rolling her eyes and trailing after him.  “And what is this one stop?”

 

John snagged her keys.  “I have to ask a colleague a question regarding my Math for Girls class,” he answered vaguely, locking the door.

 

She fixed him with a stern expression.  “That name is so inappropriate.”

 

He didn’t answer, smiling mischievously before grabbing her hand and dragging her down the hall.

 

~~~

 

“John,” she blurted testily, “why are we at the Medical Center?”

 

He shrugged, unfazed.  “I told you.  I need to ask Doctor Beckett a question.”

 

If that look was any indication, she wasn’t buying it.

 

“Seriously,” John put his hands up defensively, “I promise I am not going to say anything about how deathly ill you are.  I’m just doing a little research.”  He tried his best puppy dog pout.  The fact that Elizabeth was eighty percent helpless against it was one of his most closely-guarded secret weapons.  “Come on,” he cajoled, “we’ll be out of here in a jiffy.”

 

Grudgingly, Elizabeth followed him into the infirmary where they found Carson Beckett packing up his things for the day.

 

John jumped up onto one of the empty beds and swung his feet back and forth like a little boy.  “Hey Doc, have you got a sec?”

 

“Doctor Sheppard, Doctor Weir,” Beckett nodded.  “What can I do for you?”

 

“Well,” John began, scratching his chin thoughtfully, “I was teaching Math for Girls this morning, and something was bothering me.”  He glanced over at Elizabeth.  She looked eerily pale and was clearly trying to hold back another round of coughing.  Maybe he wouldn’t have to drag this out as long as he had originally thought.  Clearing his throat, he attempted serious, “I was wondering if you could tell me more about the female menstrual cycle.”

 

The choke that came from Elizabeth broke her precarious control.  A fit of hacking sounds erupted and the force of her own violent coughing finally drove her onto the bed beside John, doubled over with her hand on her chest.  Beckett immediately grabbed his stethoscope and pressed it to the exposed skin above her silk tank.

 

The doctor listened for a moment before querying, “How long has this been going on, lass?”

 

She shot John a fierce glare that told him she knew exactly what he had done and that he would suffer the consequences later.  At least he had the grace to look chagrined.  Finally turning her attention to the doctor, she reluctantly answered the question. 

 

“Since yesterday.”

 

“Fever?  Tightness in your chest?  Shortness of breath?”

 

She nodded.

 

“Phlegm?”

 

She nodded again.

 

Elizabeth, I thought you weren’t sick?” John managed with the perfect amount of fretful false-surprise.  She punched him in the arm.

 

“Sounds like acute Bronchitis.”  Beckett pulled a small bottle from a nearby cabinet and handed it to Elizabeth.  “Cough suppressants.  Take some acetaminophen as well and get plenty of rest.”

 

Still scowling, she glanced at John briefly then turned her gaze to the bottle of pills and nodded sullenly. 

 

“Thanks, Carson,” John jumped off the bed and patted him on the back.  “You’re a peach.”

 

Beckett rolled his eyes and grabbed his bag.  Following Elizabeth and John out of the room, he switched off the lights and closed the door behind them.  As they walked down the hall Beckett raised one eyebrow. “Now John, what was it you wanted to know about menstruation?”

 

~~~

 

“You didn’t have to drive me home, John,” Elizabeth said as she climbed out of his Jeep and stepped onto her driveway.  “I’m coughing, not blind.”

 

“Hush, you.”  He put his hand on the small of her back and guided her into the house.  “I’m dusting off my gentleman skills.  They’re a bit rusty.” 

 

They shed their coats and shoes in the entryway and, after a break for more coughing, John led her upstairs to her bedroom.  He opened up her dresser and pulled out a pair of flannel pajama pants, a cotton tank-top and some fuzzy socks.  He was only slightly disappointed he had found the pajama drawer on his first attempt. 

 

She quirked an eyebrow as he handed her the stack of clothing.  “What, you’re not going to dress me too?”

 

A hungry warmth settled in his stomach, but he quickly clamped it down.  “Not tonight…business before pleasure.”  Congratulating himself on the smoothness and suavity of his response, he turned on his heel and called over his shoulder, “Come downstairs when you’ve changed.”

 

John found a can of chicken noodle soup and began heating it on the stove.  When it was ready, he poured a bowl, filled a glass of water and grabbed two Tylenol.  He headed into the living room and found Elizabeth already curled up on the couch under a blanket.  She looked utterly exhausted.

 

He handed her the pills and water.  “Take these,” he instructed.  “Did you take the cough suppressant?”

 

Her smile was soft and quick.  “Yes, Mom.”

 

“Cute.”

 

In a remarkable display of maturity, she stuck out her tongue.

 

“Eat some of this,” he ordered, giving her the bowl, “then you can go to bed.”

 

“Thanks,” she smiled, blowing on a spoonful to cool the liquid down.

 

“All in a day’s work, ma’am.”  He flopped on the couch beside her, clicked on the television and began flipping through channels.

 

“John, we are not watching Sci Fi.”

 

“I hadn’t –“

 

She cut him off with a pointed stare.

 

Hiding a grin in his shoulder, he tossed her the remote and stood up.  “Fine, fine.  Pick out some girly show if you must.  Sedge and I will be back in a bit.”

 

At the sound of her name, Sedge bounded into the room and began panting heavily.

 

“I was going to say you didn’t have to walk her, but I’m afraid that now you’ve gotten the poor girl's hopes up.”

 

“Finish that soup,” John said, gathering the leash and struggling to calm Sedge enough to be able to reach his collar.  “Be back soon.” 

 

Elizabeth twisted to glance back at Sedge, then looked up at John.   “Oh Jo-ohn,” she called in a singsong voice, “don’t forget the plastic bag.”

 

When she smiled at him like that he’d willingly do clean up duty for a week.  “How could I forget my favorite part?”

 

~~~

 

By the time John and Sedge had returned from their outing Elizabeth was fast asleep.  Quietly approaching, he could just make out her rumpled hair and closed eyes in the evening light that filtered through the window.  It took all of his resolve not to drop an oh-so-gentle kiss on her lips.  Instead, he kneeled next to the couch and hesitated a moment before making his move.  With all the stealth he could wield, John slid one arm beneath her back, the other behind her legs, and lifted.  Just as he reached a full standing position his bundle began to squirm.

 

“What are you –” she didn’t quite manage to finish the sentence before a wave of coughs sent her sputtering.  He held her for a moment, not feeling nearly as guilty as he should for attempting to carry her without asking first.  Eventually the words ‘put’ and ‘down’ somewhere in the mess of hacking caught his attention.   Reluctantly, he loosened his arms, letting her slide down his body until she stood before him.

 

Looking thoroughly rumpled, Elizabeth admonished, “What on earth were you doing?”

 

Forcing an innocent expression just in time to meet the glare she sent his way, John shifted his weight on the balls of his feet and shoved his hands into his pockets.  “Isn’t it obvious?  I was going to carry you to bed.”

 

Her gaze turned considering and just the slightest bit indulgent.  “You could have woken me, John,” she pointed out.  “You don’t have to be a hero.”

 

With the feigned stiffness of offended dignity he scoffed loudly.  “Ah, there’s where you’re wrong m’lady.  It would be selfish of me to have these magnificent powers and not use them for the greater good.  Can you imagine if Superman had one day decided to no longer save people?”

 

She made a show of rolling her eyes, but a hint of a smile tugged at her lips.  “I fail to see the correlation.”

 

He winked.  “You’re just not trying hard enough.”

 

“Regardless,” she began as she headed toward the stairs, “you could have just woken me.  I’m fully capable of walking for myself.”

 

“You sure make a lousy Lois Lane,” he mumbled under his breath before trotting after her.

 

~~~

 

Elizabeth was asleep again when John stepped into her room with a glass of water.  The sight of her dozing peacefully against her pillow, cuddled tightly into her blankets, gentled his heart and he took a moment to absorb the feeling.  The tenderness he felt while he watched her had long ago stopped taking him by surprise, but this was a side of Elizabeth he had never before seen.  In sleep she looked so vulnerable.  His chest tightened, barely resisting the pathetically strong urge to crawl under the covers, wrap himself around her and hold her through the night.  He snuffed the notion almost as quickly as it came.  He was a mathematician.  His world revolved around logic.  And logic told him that if he wriggled under Elizabeth Weir’s sheets he would be on the receiving end of a good, hard slap.  That was not something that their friendship (nor his pride) could take.

 

Instead, he leaned in to kiss her gently on the forehead and, with a final caress of his fingers along her cheek, he switched off the bedside lamp and retreated into the hallway.

 

Once downstairs he walked through the house, methodically turning off lights and checking the door locks.   As he gathered the blanket from the couch and began folding he heard the faint sounds of coughing coming from upstairs.   He glanced at the door, then back to the couch.  She would probably appreciate some breakfast in the morning, he reasoned.  It would be silly to go home now, just to return in a few hours time.  And this way he would be here in case she needed him.  Convinced, he stretched out on the couch and spread the blanket over himself.  Besides, John resolved, he would be up long before Elizabeth woke.  She would never even know he had stayed.

 



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