Title: Both Feet Back Onto the Ground
Continuity: Post-The Long Goodbye, immediately following on Burn Clear and Steadfast (read that one first!)
A/N: Many thanks to raisintorte for looking this over for me! (And for her helpful suggestions.) ;) Any remaining mistakes are entirely my own.
Still pressing on
Arm over arm
Still trying to get both feet back onto the ground
-The Beautiful Side of Somewhere, The Wallflowers
Both Feet Back Onto the Ground
"Elizabeth," he says, stepping back, reeling her back in through the door and closing it. "Elizabeth," he says again, and his voice is sandpaper rough. "Stay put."
- Burn Clear and Steadfast
Elizabeth stayed put, clinging to Mack in the hazy late afternoon sunlight. When she opened her eyes, she could see the dust motes floating in the stripes from the window. She turned her head away from them and pressed her mouth against his neck. His pulse was racing and she hoped that meant she was still arousing him, even in the face of their current turmoil. She pressed her lips to the tendons of his neck, letting the very tip of her tongue trace the tight line.
His entire body tensed against her and he lifted his head.
"Mack," she said, reaching to touch his cheek, or maybe his shoulder, some way to re-establish contact, to restore the connection.
He caught her hand before she made contact, fingers curling around her wrist and thumb pressing into her palm. Pain flared, her red and abraded skin sending heat up her wrist and down all five of her fingers. She bit down hard on her lip before she could cry out, but Mack's eyes flickered from her face to her hand and gentled his grip instantly. He lifted her hand and examined the palm, then twisted her wrist to check the knuckles that were still a little swollen from punching his Marines.
"I told you that you should be practicing more," was all he said. He turned and walked toward the wall that hid the bathroom, still cupping his palm around the back of her hand. When she hesitated, he just tugged at her wrist and said, "C'mon."
She wasn't sure if they were going to the shower or if there was a ridiculous Marine Corps tradition of giving a swirlie to your best beloved when she kissed another guy while under alien control -- there was certainly one for every other imaginable reason -- but she let him lead her into the small bathroom.
"Up you go," he said, patting the counter and pulling open one of the inset drawers. Elizabeth did, pushing herself gingerly to sit on the countertop next to the sink. Mack glanced over, eyes assessing.
"I'm fine," she said pre-emptively as Mack resurfaced with antibiotic cream and some cotton gauze. "I have all that in my room," she observed, amused.
"And you're obviously not using it," he snapped, squirting antibiotic onto his first two fingers and touching her palm to tenderly, she couldn't even really feel his skin.
"Mack," she said softly. "You don't have to take care of me."
"Well, somebody needs to," he said, flipping the top of the tube closed with his thumb and throwing it down on the counter, the only visible sign of his pent-up anger.
Elizabeth pressed her teeth against her lower lip and counted to ten in English, Ancient, and Latin. When she glanced up, Mack was still standing motionless, staring at the counter. Elizabeth lifted her hand to touch his bare shoulder but realized her palm was still damp. She pressed it against her dry palm to spread the cream in and that got his attention.
"Don't do that," he said. "It'll hurt."
"It's not that bad," she said, feeling her temper flare again. "Give me a little credit, Mack."
"Credit?" he asked, and turned on her with an intensity that did nothing but make her more angry. "Which dumb-ass amateur mistake do you want credit for? Fucking around with stuff you don't know what it does again? Getting yourself hoodwinked by that Phebus bitch? Picking goddamn Sheppard as your little playmate? What were you thinking, Elizabeth? This city rolls over and spreads her legs for that joker. There wasn't anyone else in that room you could have convinced her to send Thelen into?"
"I don't know what Steven told you," Elizabeth said hotly, "But at no time was I ever in control of my body and that includes the time she fooled all of you into thinking I was speaking."
Mack drew in a tight breath, his jaw squaring up and his eyes going hard. He flicked his gaze away and took her wrist in his hand, gently, despite his expression. He centered a square of cotton over the worst of the chafing and secured the edges with tape, fingers efficient but not quite as brusque as she could tell he was trying to be.
Elizabeth blinked, the pieces sliding into place with an almost audible click. "But you didn't know that, did you?" she said slowly, and it wasn't really a question. "All you knew before Phebus knocked you out was that I asked John to take on Phebus's husband and then saw us - " The realizations piled up faster and faster in Elizabeth's head.
"Do we have to go through this again?" Mack snapped as he glanced at her other hand and seemed to decide that it was better left to heal on its own. "Phebus pulled one over on all of us, I got it the first time around."
"I didn't want to kiss Sheppard," Elizabeth said, the full depth of his resentment finally dawning on her. "But she wanted to kill Thelan and I was not going to let her - "
Mack turned, grabbed the back of her neck, and dragged her into a kiss before she could finish her sentence.
Elizabeth had long since decided that whoever claimed couples should never go to bed angry had never been in a relationship with Mack Sumner. Going to bed angry was fantastic. And never once were they still upset when they finally drifted off to sleep. She wrapped her arms around his neck, crossing her arms at the wrist to keep pressure off her hands.
Mack gripped her hips - not gently, but she didn't want gently - and pulled her into the solid heat of his body. Elizabeth hooked her legs, aching through the quadriceps and calves, around his hips.
"Bed," he muttered against her mouth, sliding his hands under her ass and boosting her up. He shouldn't be lifting her, not so soon after being released from the infirmary with a concussion, but protest would be futile and would only hurt his feelings further. It wasn't far to the bed anyway, and instead of rolling her down on her back, he sat on the edge of the bed, letting her kneel over him and run her unbandaged fingertips across his broad shoulders, down his triceps, around to his biceps, and over his pectoral muscles. It felt odd not to use her whole hand, made her fingertips more sensitive, and when she pushed Mack flat on the bed, he went easily.
He used to smile at her indulgently and say, "You know those things don't work the same way as yours," when she touched his nipples, but she never missed his breath catch in the back of his throat, and she didn't miss it this time, when there were no words to mask the shift in his inhalations.
Elizabeth lowered her mouth to the notch of his collarbone, kissing the hollow and dragging her mouth along the rise of the clavicle. Under her, Mack lifted his hips, grinding up and groaning as she pushed her hands down, over his ribs and down to his stomach. He shivered as she pressed her mouth to the center of his chest and then turned her head to lick and then close her mouth over the small, tight nipple. He cupped his hands around her shoulders, gently, barely touching her, and trailed his fingers down her spine and back up to her neck, weaving them into her hair. Elizabeth lingered, letting his skin rise in goosebumps under her tongue, teasing him longer than was necessary to arouse. He was gasping beneath her, chest rising and falling under her mouth as she worked her way languorously down to his stomach where she tugged open the button on his expedition trousers and pulled the zipper down.
"'Lizabeth," he rasped, the first vowel lost in his throat as he arched against the bed.
"Sit up against the wall," she said, pushing herself up on already shaky arms and finding the floor with her feet. There were no headboards on their beds in Atlantis, not like the thick slab of sturdy oak that bracketed Mack's bed back in Colorado Springs. Elizabeth found herself wishing for that bed, because he was going to need something to hang on to when she was through.
Together, they got his pants and shorts down his legs and cast them to the floor. "You, too," Mack said, tugging open the snap of her trousers as he sat down on the bed. She pushed them off her hips and they dropped to the floor. Mack sat back against the wall and nudged her hip with his knee. Elizabeth hooked her thumbs in the waistband of her panties and pushed them all the way to her ankles, bending at the waist before kicking them away. She straightened to find Mack leaning against the wall and she crawled up on the bed to kneel between his legs. "You're not done yet," he chided her gently.
She smiled and dragged her shirt over her head slowly, letting him wait for each inch of skin. His eyes were appreciative when she pulled her head through the collar and shook out her hair. She tossed the shirt over her shoulder and leaned forward to tease a kiss from his mouth. He kissed her back carefully, almost gratefully, and pushed the straps of her bra down her shoulders. Elizabeth opened her mouth, tasting his mouth more deeply as she pushed into his hands, feeling them, big and hard with gun calluses, slide over her shoulder blades and his fingers manipulate the clasp. Dragging away from his mouth, she knelt up, letting him pull her bra off as she backed away. The pads of his fingers stroked temptingly over the swells of her breasts as she pulled away, but she didn't push up into his palms - this was his time.
Mack's eyes flicked down to watch her as she closed her hands on his hips and slid down, resting her forearms on the top of his thighs. His cock brushed between her breasts as she moved lower, and she heard him grunt low in the back of his throat. She licked the head first, tasting his skin, more intense, concentrated there than other parts of his body. She did like doing this, even though they didn't often. Mostly, because he liked it too.
Elizabeth slipped her elbows down to the bed, to take him deeper in her mouth, to bob her head from the tip of his cock to the root, and sliding her hands lower to cover what her mouth couldn't.
"God, Elizabeth," Mack grated out, crumpling the coverlet between his fingers before lifting his hands to her shoulders, flexing his hands over her tight muscles. Elizabeth didn't answer him, just slipped into a rhythm that let her pause for breath and to run her tongue down the underside of Mack's cock before swallowing him down again. She felt Mack's fingers weave into her hair, gathering the curls at the back of her neck, but not pulling, not even coaxing, just stroking down the back of her head, lightly and sweetly.
Elizabeth loved the way he touched her, had since the first time he'd reached out and tucked her hair behind her ears. She found his hands to be a good balance - not perfect, but often close to it - of gentle and uncompromising, and capable in his confidence.
She shifted her hands, taking him deeper in her mouth and sliding one hand between her legs. She was slick already, hot and slippery as she worked her fingers against her most sensitive parts as she touched him the way she knew he liked, the way she'd learned would make his breath choke up in his throat and his eyes water with pleasure before he squeezed them closed.
"Are you touching yourself?" he asked hoarsely, surprising her.
Elizabeth opened her mouth and backed off enough to wink and to say, "Yes," and, "Come in my mouth," before sliding back onto him. She could feel him shudder under her as her words sunk in. Mack fucking loved to hear her talk dirty in bed.
But then he said, "Would rather come in you," and his eyes blue-hot when she looked up to him. Elizabeth closed her eyes and took him deep one last time, pulling off slowly, in case he wanted to change his mind. He didn't stop her though, so she let his cock rest naturally against his stomach and moved up the bed on her knees until she was straddling his lap. He rested his head back against the wall to look up at her and then she felt his fingers between her legs, searching, finding, and sliding in deep, then sliding out to guide in his cock as she settled on top of him. They were nose-to-nose and Elizabeth could smell herself on his hand when he brought it to his mouth and sucked on his fingertips. She shifted on him and took a deep breath as he settled deeper, centering herself. "I'm not lasting long like this," he said apologetically, touching her breast with a warm, dry hand and damp fingers.
"I just want to feel you," she whispered, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and pressing her lips to his cheek, his jaw, the corner of his mouth, which tasted like her. He slid his arms around her in a tight hug and like that, securely anchored, she started moving on him. Small shifts, lifting and sinking, rocking her hips without much of a rhythm, just a desire to feel his body against hers, and the head of his cock against that hot, swollen spot inside her. His mouth is on her forehead, her temple, hot wet kisses pressed to her skin.
Elizabeth's climax was anything but - warmth suffused her body, forcing out the tension, and she melted against him, closing her eyes against the tender look in his eyes. "'Lizabeth?" he asked against her cheek when she stopped moving and clung to him. He was still hard inside her and even though her body was replete and heavy, his muscles were taut and she could feel his heart beating hard and fast where she was pressed to his chest.
"Did you just - ?" he asked roughly, the question echoing in the subsequent silence.
Elizabeth tilted her head and kissed him, breathing, "Yes," against his mouth and grinding down hard on his lap.
Mack grasped her hips, hard enough to leave marks, and pushed up into her, meeting her hard and quick, and then he buried his head in her shoulder, her hair muffling his cathartic groan. She held him through the aftershocks, carding her fingers through the fine hairs on the back of his neck and rubbing the knuckles of her unbruised hand over the finely trembling muscles of his back.
"Okay?" she asked when he lifted his head and he nodded and motioned that she should move off him. She did, drawing her legs under her and keeping a measured distance between them until he slid down on the bed and snagged a pillow to tuck under his head. Then, she moved down carefully next to him, leaving just enough space to let him reclaim his orientation.
At least until he turned his head and smiled and said, "What the hell are you doing all the way over there?" She went willing when he hauled her closer, his arm around her shoulder tight, obdurate, even.
Elizabeth reached up and touched his forehead gently, her fingertips skirting the edge of the bandage at his temple. She'd made hard choices the day before, cold choices, out of desperation, and she'd do it again if it meant she could knew they would keep him living and breathing. "I just think you should know," she said, before her voice choked up weirdly and she had to clear her throat, "that if I had been in my right mind, I would have happily dragged your unconscious ass to the infirmary."
The corner of Mack's mouth turned up in a smile and she stroked her thumb down his face to trace the lines at the corner of his mouth, putting into the gesture all the tenderness they hadn't shown during their lovemaking. "Whatever happened to division of labor?" he asked.
"Whatever happened to substantive equality?" she countered.
"You and your big words and fancy concepts," Mack complained without heat.
"I'll remember that the next time you start talking about Marine Corps Doctrinal Warfighting Forward Deployed Deterrence," Elizabeth said, leaning up to press her mouth against the other corner of his mouth. She was starting to feel the ache and throb of her overtaxed muscles again, and a deep lethargy that came from the feeling that maybe everyone would work out after all, after hours of tension and discontent. "Are we okay?" she asked quietly, laying her cheek on his shoulder. "I want us to be okay."
She felt his hand rub over a particularly tight knot in her right shoulder - from hunching it and tilting her head to the side when aiming her weapon, Phebus's weapon, she thought - and then slide up to tangle through her hair. "Yeah," he said gruffly. "We're okay." It wasn't quite true, she knew, not just then, not just there.
But it would be.