Title: One to Let Go
Rating: Adult (explicit sex)
Pairing: Weir/Sumner, Pre-Atlantis
Summary: "May take two to tango, but boy it takes one to let go."
- Letters from the Wasteland, The Wallflowers
Notes: Many thanks to miss_porcupine and lilac_way for audiencing this when it was making me kick things, reccea for a lengthy and difficult beta in one night, and my whole friends list for listening to my whine this week. Pbbt, and it's one of those days: silentfire came up with Sumner's nickname in another post. Thanks!
One to Let Go
Colonel Carter had suggested Elizabeth use the gym after hours, when there were fewer people around. Naturally, Elizabeth had felt prickles of righteous indignation at the idea that she should have to limit her use of a public facility to times when men were less likely to observe her and promptly scheduled her first workout for the most populated timeslot.
The eyes are more curious, more assessing than lecherous, but Elizabeth finds herself distinctly uncomfortable with the attention directed at her. The weights on the barbells are too heavy for her and even after several minutes of dragging twenty-five pound weights off each end, the item she wants to use still carries fifty pounds too much weight.
"Can I give you a hand, ma'am?" a young guy asks her, beaming, and Elizabeth suddenly feels old and wretched.
"If you promise never to call me ma'am in the gym," she says wryly and lets Aiden Ford haul off the metal disks like they weigh nothing. "I appreciate the help, thank you," she says when he's done, and swears to never subject herself to this again.
If she were younger, if she still had points to prove, she would go again and again, challenging their eyes, establishing her right to be there. But she isn't and she doesn't, and she concedes that maybe Sam Carter is right -- if she wants peace and privacy for her workout, it's better to block out her own time. At least, she thinks wryly, Aiden Ford hasn't hit on her. As it is, she's going to have to check with Colonel Sumner to make sure the two Marines who asked for her number know that she is slated to be head of the Atlantis expedition and is probably ten years older than either of them.
Elizabeth runs four times a week, but osteoporosis has long plagued the women of her family so she knows better than to skip her weight training regime for too long. As the weeks until dial-in shorten and Elizabeth's hours grow longer, though, she finds herself eating lunch after lunch in her temporary office, sandwiches acting as paperweights for increasingly larger stacks of paperwork, staying later and later as the sky darkened outside Cheyenne Mountain and the hallways dimmed inside. The only thing shrinking is the stack of personnel files as the promise of the adventure of a lifetime loses ground to the fear of a one-way trip to nowhere.
She records the video to Simon the week before they're scheduled to leave. It's cowardly. It's avoidant. And she has to do it that way because she's afraid that if he asks her to stay, she won't be able to say no. She's in her office until 9pm -- 2100 -- that night, staring resolutely at the title of Rodney McKay's first doctoral thesis until she has to admit that there is no chance in this lifetime that she'll ever know what the hell that dissertation is about and hopes it will never be life-or-death information.
With a sigh, she flips the file closed and tries to toss it across the desk, but Rodney's classified CV is twelve pages long and backed by enough paperwork and intelligence that it doesn't fly far. Elizabeth rubs her eyes and wanders down to the gym, stopping by the locker room to change into yoga pants and a t-shirt and to grab a towel. She manages a good ten-minute warm-up and a few stretches and is comfortably ensconced on the butterfly press when Colonel Sumner walks into the otherwise empty room, eyes sharp and regulation PE gear pressed.
Elizabeth raises an eyebrow and wonders if the man even irons his underwear. "Good evening, Colonel," she says with a nod, and then exhales as she pulls the weights together. She holds the position for the count of three and inhales, the air filling her chest as she releases slowly.
"Evening, Doctor Weir," Sumner says courteously, straddling the nearest stationary cycle and checking his own watch. "Working late this evening?"
"We only have a week left," Elizabeth says, anticipation on the tip of her tongue, but Sumner just nods and stretches his arms as he pedals.
They work out together silently, almost companionably, but Elizabeth stays wary. Sumner is old-school military, much more rigid than Jack O'Neill, and has already stood his ground on several matters of personnel and supplies. He's the sort of man she has railed against since college and she's fairly certain that he will challenge civilian command of her expedition at least once during their tenure in Atlantis.
The bar across the bench press is still empty so Elizabeth finishes her work on the butterfly machine and crosses the room to add twenty-five pounds on each side before Sumner stacks the weight higher than she likes. She's come to dread dragging weight off that bar.
"Can I spot you?" his voice asks from above her and she almost bobbles her first rep.
"Of course, thank you," she says. She doesn't usually bother with a spotter, but she also knows better than to turn down the offer. It's foolish to turn down any safety measure.
His hands hover, not touching the bar, as she pushes out a dozen reps and settles the barbell back into the rack. He doesn't say a word as she counts out thirty seconds of rest and then grips the bar again, pushes it off the rack and brings it back down to her chest. Twelve more reps, easy, and the barbell is back on the rack. She's pretty pleased. Sumner hasn't had to touch the bar once.
"That's too light for you," his quiet, gravelly voice says from above her.
"It's the same weight I always use," she tells him, flexing her hands and preparing to start her third set.
"You're not pushing yourself," he says. His voice is steady and amused but not judgmental. Elizabeth suddenly understands why he was picked for her expedition, why Jack O'Neill told her that the military decisions were out of her hands. She wants to please Colonel Sumner, to work harder for him, make him proud, and she doesn't even like the man. So this is charisma, she thinks. Nothing she hasn't seen before but she's always had her defenses up, been ready to combat charm and guile in negotiation.
"All right," she replies, feeling a little like she's stepping off a cliff. He looks down at her, upside-down, and it's late and she wants to giggle. "Push me."
He nods and steps away and she can hear the clink of metal against metal as he stacks more weight on the barbell. She turns her head to watch his hands fitting the extra disks on the bar.
"Ready?" he asks her, taking up position behind the bench again.
"Ready," she confirms, wrapping her hands around the textured sections of the bar and pushing upward. The barbell is heavy, almost uncomfortably so, but she lowers it carefully and pushes back up. Her shoulders and biceps burn but she lowers and lifts the weights again.
"Good," he says softly, approvingly. "Keep going."
She watches his hands hover an inch below the bar as she pushes it up and eases it down. Her breath is coming harder and she feels her face turn red as she strains for the tenth rep.
"Come on," Sumner says, a little bite in his voice, a little disapproval. "Don't wimp out on me now, Doctor Weir."
She frowns and shoves at the bar and it goes up, her elbows locking defiantly.
"Good, good, don't lock your elbows, c'mon, you've got two more," Sumner says, words tight and clipped.
Elizabeth sweats out most of the eleventh rep before Sumner's fingers touch the bar, drawing lightly upward, taking some of the weight from her. He lets her take all of it on the negative and waits until the bar tilts on the twelfth, her right arm stronger than her left, before spotting her the rest of the way. He makes her bring the bar back to her chest before he lifts it back to the rack, taking the weight as easily as his P-90.
"How you feel?" he asks, sounding smug.
Elizabeth sits up, arms shaking, and sweat running down the side of her face. She avoids looking at him by picking up her towel and mopping herself off. "Well, I guess I felt that," she laughs, a little nervously.
"Good," he says, and it's not smug, it's satisfied. There's a subtle difference with Sumner and she decides that she likes it. Satisfied and smug sound the same in Simon's voice. "Spot me?"
"Oh," she says, her hesitation audible. "I wouldn't be able to -- "
"Sure you would," he says. "Once is no big deal when you're in a better position." He's already sliding off the smaller weights he put on for her and adding two twenty-five pound disks on each side.
"Well, I'll do my best," she tells him, having no other real choice.
He nods and takes her place on the bench, face tight with concentration and arms tight with exerted strength.
He doesn't need her help.
He pumps out repetition after repetition, set after set, until she isn't even moving her hands under the bar anymore, just letting them float above his head, his grim, strained face.
And then her stomach growls.
"Oops, excuse me!" she says quickly, moving one hand to press against her belly.
Sumner's face creases into a smile and he barks out a laugh. Whatever rep he's on is forgotten and he racks the weight and sits up, rolling his neck as he chuckles. "Skip dinner?" he asks.
"I had a sandwich," she says, but no, that was lunch, and she realizes he's right -- she did skip dinner. "Okay, maybe not."
"You're not a vegetarian or anything, are you doctor?" Sumner has a rueful smile on his face and that makes her curious.
"No," she says, because she gave that up after grad school. She gave it a go for four years, but she really hates tofu and after skirting the definition of underweight for most of that time, she'd decided that she would like her breasts back, thank-you-very-much.
"Look," Sumner says, picking up his towel and slinging it over his shoulder. "I've got way too much food for a man leaving the galaxy in a week. How about you come over and help me eat some of it before I have to pitch the lot?"
Elizabeth bit her lip. In contrast, she has next to nothing in her own rented apartment and she hates the idea of wasted food when she's walked through streets filled with starving children, their bellies distended from malnutrition. It's late and no one will know and she's sure she'll share more than one meal with the colonel once they're in the Pegasus galaxy with only two hundred other people.
"All right," she says. "If you'll let me bring the wine. A friend sent me a bottle when I got into town and I don't think I want to bring that as my one personal item."
Sumner inclines his head. "It's a date," he says.
"Oh," Elizabeth says, alarm flashing in her veins. "No, I'm sorry, I didn't mean -- "
"Figure of speech, doctor," Sumner says, sitting down on the weight bench with a twenty-pound dumbbell and starts doing curls. His eyebrows lifts and she thinks he looks amused, even without smiling. "You can relax."
"Sorry," she says, feeling silly. "You took me by surprise."
Sumner just nods and goes on about his workout. Elizabeth watches the muscles of his arms flex under his olive green t-shirt and wonders why she feels a little disappointed.
Showered and dressed in clothes that haven't been worn for sixteen hours straight, and clutching the bottle of white wine Jack O'Neill had sent when she got into town -- the accompanying note had offered her command of the Stargate Program in five languages and her return card had turned him down in ten -- she knocks on Marshall Sumner's bungalow door.
"Good, you're here, come on in," he says, sounding more relaxed and younger than he ever had around Cheyenne Mountain.
She nods and smiles and steps through the doorway, glancing around at the décor of the tiny house. Sumner has changed into khakis and a dark pullover sweater. He looks a bit damp around the edges though his hair is dry -- but then, did a brush cut like that really need much drying? -- and he smells deliciously like soap and wood and some faint aftershave that makes Elizabeth want to bury her nose in his sweater and close her eyes and inhale until she can't take in any more air. Instead she nods to the row of metal beer steins lining his mantel and smiles. "Your collection?" she asks.
"I was stationed in Germany for four years," he says. "Can still ask for every kind of brew at the village pubs when I go back to visit. I've been doing most of my beer drinking from bottles, these days." He takes the wine from her and checks the label. "Must be a good friend. Can I pour you a glass?"
The wine is already chilled, since it has been sitting in Elizabeth's refrigerator next to a bottle of orange juice, a package of American cheese, a loaf of bread, and a container of butter. Grilled cheese works for breakfast, dinner, or midnight snack, and Elizabeth doesn't spend much time off-base anyway.
"Thank you, yes," she says, glancing around again before following Sumner into the kitchen.
"I didn't ask if you were bringing red or white, so I haven't started dinner yet," he says without a hint of apology, bringing out a corkscrew and applying it expertly to the bottle. He eases the cork out with a quiet pop and pours the wine the right way, keeping the bottle away from the rim of the glass, filling the glass two-thirds of the way, and stopping the pour with an upward twist. He hands her one glass and holds up his own. "What should we drink to?"
Elizabeth smiles -- it's easy here, in Sumner's cozy kitchen, away from Cheyenne Mountain and the struggles over personnel and supplies and standard operating procedures. "To finding Atlantis," she says, offering up her glass. "To the lost city."
The corners of Sumner's mouth turn up. "To finding the lost city," he agrees, and taps his glass against hers, the glass ringing in the otherwise quiet house. The wine is really quite good, which is no big surprise, and Elizabeth glances over the rim of the glass to see Sumner watching her with his steady blue gaze, and that is a surprise.
"So," she says, setting her glass aside and pressing her hands together. "What's for dinner? Is there anything I can do to help?"
"You can be company while I cook," Sumner replies. "Chicken all right?"
"Chicken sounds marvelous," Elizabeth says, pulling out a chair at the oak block table and sitting down. "I didn't know you cooked."
"Self-defense," Sumner explains, pulling a pan of chicken breasts out of the fridge and sitting it next to the stove. He ignites the gas in one burner and starts assembling ingredients as the cast iron skillet heats. "You eat in enough Marine Corps mess halls, you learn how to boil you own water. Anything else is gravy."
"Looks like some tasty gravy," Elizabeth observes a after a few minutes of watching him throw butter, white wine, and a palmful of chopped shallots into the pan.
Sumner just grins in response. "Do you like mushrooms, doctor?"
"I love them," she says, tilting her head to watch the pan as he brings a bowl of them out of the fridge and begins slicing them down.
He throws them into the simmering mixture, adds the chicken, and puts a lid over the whole thing. Elizabeth watches him throw some hot water and spices into a second pot and, when that boils, add rice. He isn't what she expected. He isn't the same man who has sat in briefing rooms with her over the past several weeks and argued about every detail of the military and logistical aspects of the expedition. She has never liked military solutions and she has never been fond of military men but she's coming to appreciate the one who is now sitting down across from her, draining his glass of wine.
Once the supply manifest had been finalized, Sumner had assigned the task of transport to one of his sergeants. They don't know how much power the ZPM can supply and how long Rodney can keep the wormhole open, so Sergeant Brozoski has harnessed the scientists into carrying their own scientific equipment with the argument that they won't want Marines carting their delicate machines through the wormhole, and estimates the entire procedure at eighteen minutes.
"More?" Sumner asks, holding out the bottle of wine.
"Oh, thank you, yes," Elizabeth says absently, holding out her glass for him to refill. In her head, she's busy organizing the dozens of tiny details she still has to address the next morning.
"I don't suppose I can change your mind about Major Sheppard?" Sumner asks, carefully filling his own glass and setting down the bottle.
"You've made your objection to Major Sheppard's participation known, Colonel," Elizabeth says, sipping from her wine and promising to save the rest to drink with dinner. "We have no one else who can manipulate the Ancient technology the way he can."
"And I understand that," Sumner says evenly. "But this is where I'm coming from. I've been allocated a certain number of assets. Those assets are Lieutenant Ford's platoon and one executive officer. By classifying Major Sheppard as a military asset, I am giving up an executive officer with fifteen years of Marine Corps training behind him."
"I would think," Elizabeth counters, "that Major Sheppard would be an asset in and of himself by providing some diversity to your team."
"I'm not arguing that Sheppard knows his stuff," Sumner says, tapping the bowl of his glass with his thumb. "But Sheppard's stuff is in the air and so far as we know, we got no use for a pilot."
"So far that we know," Elizabeth says. "If we get there and we do find...aircraft, or...other things? Does anyone on your team have flight training?"
"No, they don't," Sumner says evenly. "And before you ask, no, I do not have anyone who can manipulate the Ancient technology to the degree that Sheppard can, either. I'm not arguing the need for his presence. If we find ourselves in need of defending ourselves and Atlantis has a chair like the one at the Antarctic base, I do not want to depend on Doctor Beckett to power our first line of defense."
"I don't understand," Elizabeth says, trying to keep her perspective balanced. "According to Major Sheppard's record, he rates expert on both rifle and pistol, same as you, I believe. His commanding officers have said that he can fly anything he sits in, which I think would be something you'd want to have on hand."
"Let me see if I can explain," Sumner says, swirling his wine and taking a sip. "Major Sheppard acted in express defiance of a direct order."
"He got that special ops team out," Elizabeth says, feeling like a broken record.
"And I'm glad he did," Sumner says. "I'm glad for them and I'm glad for their families and I'm glad for Major Sheppard and his crew. He was operating with inferior intelligence, under enemy fire, in enemy territory and he endangered his own life, the lives of his crew, and a multi-million dollar helicopter. He got lucky that time, but I don't want to see this become a pattern. I've seen men like this, men who think they know best and what happens in the end is that they get people killed."
"I'm not sure what you want me to do," Elizabeth says. "You admit that Major Sheppard is an asset to the expedition, but then you tell me he's dangerous."
"I don't want him as an XO," Sumner says. "I don't want him undermining my authority in the field with his defiance of regulations and his personal evaluation of what's important and what isn't. We're not going for scientific curiosity. My men keep up morale by meeting the high standards set by the Marine Corps and I don't need him sending them the message none of that matters."
"All right." Elizabeth nods, finally realizing how foreign the military really is to her. "What if I assigned him to the command team? He carries a gun, he answers to his rank, but I give his orders."
"It's not ideal," Sumner says grudgingly, drinking from his glass. "But it's fair. And I appreciate it."
"And I appreciate your candidness, Colonel." Elizabeth smiles, hoping to break the uneasy tension that hangs in the air along with the scent of simmering wine and mushrooms. "If he gets too out of control, I'll assign him to Rodney's lab. That should straighten him out in no time."
Sumner chuckles. "You're an ornery woman, Doctor Weir," he says, standing. "The chicken should be about done."
"Call me Elizabeth," she says on impulse, warmed by the wine and his easy response to her joke. "There's no need to stand on formality tonight."
"Elizabeth," he says, dividing the rice onto two plates and spooning chicken and wine sauce over the top. "My friends call me Mack," he says, bringing the plates over and setting one in front of her.
"Is that an invitation?" she asks, unfolding her napkin and smoothing it in her lap.
"If you're so inclined," he says, sitting down and topping off her glass of wine. "Sorry there's no vegetables. Seemed kind of wasteful to get fresh when I'm trying to clean the place out."
"Mushrooms are close enough," Elizabeth says, thinking of her American cheese and butter in her own fridge. She slices off a piece of chicken and stacks rice and mushroom on top of it before sticking it in her mouth. The chicken is so tender it nearly falls apart in her mouth, the mushrooms are fresh and wine sauce tingles on her tongue. "This is delicious," she says in amazement.
"You don't have to sound so surprised about it," Sumner -- Mack -- says.
She looks up, cheeks flushing. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply -- " But then she sees the ironic lift of his eyebrow and knows she's being teased. "All right," she says, taking her lumps in good grace. "I see how it is. But for throwing something together before leaving the galaxy, I'm very impressed. You missed your calling."
"Hardly," Mack -- and it's funny to think of him like that -- says, tasting his own dinner. "Hm. Not half bad, if I do say so myself."
"So...Mack?" she says, trying out the name.
He responds with a lift of his eyebrows.
"Did you pick up that nickname in Germany?" she asks. "One too many viewings of Die Dreigroschenoper? Did they call you 'Mack the Knife?'"
"Picked it up from my dad," he says with a smile. "Marshall was a family name on my mother's side and Dad was never too keen on it. Guys I hung out with weren't real big fans of Berthold Brecht. But some of the kids 'round here seem to know it." His smile is conspiratorial. "I hear I'm 'Mack the Knife' when I'm riding them extra hard."
"And you don't mind?" Elizabeth asks, secretly pleased that he knows who wrote The Threepenny Opera.
"Nah," he says, shaking his head. "They're good kids. It's natural for them to vent. I certainly did enough of it when I was still wet behind the ears."
They lapse into silence as they eat, and Elizabeth can't help but glance up at her host every few minutes. She's never liked military men, finds them too traditional and narrow for her tastes. But Marshall Sumner, against all odds, knows German opera and cooks and manages to smell good and be funny and respectful all at once. Her stomach tightens in a familiar shiver.
"So," she says, to distract herself from her embryonic crush, "Have you decided on your one personal item? One of your steins?"
"I figured maybe something a little more practical," Mack says, scooping a forkful of dinner into his mouth. "Not much use for beer stein on a dry expedition."
"It's not officially a dry expedition," Elizabeth says, pausing to draw a piece of chicken off her fork. "We've just never announced otherwise. The scientists are much more concerned with getting just one more computer and one more piece of scientific equipment on board, and there's only so much alcohol anyone can carry through the gate on their person."
"They'll have a still up and running inside of a week whether you make it dry or not," Mack agrees, scooping up the last of his rice on the side of his spoon. "Good call. No use making unenforceable rules. I'll make sure to keep an eye on things, keep it from getting out of hand."
"Thank you," Elizabeth says, more for the compliment on her decision than his promise to police the flow of booze. She hasn't gotten much -- as in any -- praise from him in past discussions and the matter-of-fact sincerity surprises her.
"So what are you bringing?" he asks, pushing his plate away and leaning back in his chair. Under the kitchen light, his sweater is a dark green, the same color as the trees visible from the windows.
"As my one personal item? Haven't decided yet," she admits. "I told Rodney he couldn't bring his cat, so I guess I have to leave my dog on Earth."
Mack smiles. "What kind of dog do you have?"
"She's a mixed breed," Elizabeth tells him, thinking fondly of Sedge, running around Simon's huge yard and being spoiled to pieces. "She's about eighty pounds, though, so I couldn't bring her anyway, not without knowing there were places for her to run around. I'll miss her."
"She got someplace to stay?"
"With a friend," Elizabeth says. Sedge is really more Simon's dog than hers these days. She's been away for months, working with the SGC, and before that, her frequent assignments have taken her away from home more than they've let her stay. It had been easy to move in with Simon, parking her boxes of things in the spare room, when she's so rarely there to share the space.
She doesn't know why she doesn't call Simon by name.
Mack nods and pushes his chair back. "I'm going to clean this place up. Why don't you go out to the living room and I'll join you when I'm done?"
"Oh, let me help," Elizabeth says quickly, tucking her napkin under her plate and standing up.
"I've got it," Mack says, steering her into the living room, which has rustic wood paneling, a fire going in the fireplace, and an overstuffed couch. "You know how we old Marines get, everything in its place. You settle in and I'll just load up the dishwasher."
"All right," she says, taking the wineglass he hands her, still half-full. "If you're sure." And of course he's sure. He's the kind of man who never wavers, even if he has doubts.
She perches on the edge of the couch and sips her wine, but she doesn't want to sit still and the trappings of the room draw her curiosity. Finally, she stands and walks over to the fireplace to look at his collection of steins. Several bear seals, telling her of their region of origin, and some have words etched deep in the metal. Elizabeth's German is still good, but the messages aren't personal, just slogans or mottos.
A sword hangs horizontally over the mantel, shining and curved against the wall. As she gazes at it, Mack steps up next to her, deliberately audible, holding his own glass and the wine bottle.
"Is that your Mameluke?" she asks, pleased to remember the name of the traditional Marine Corps sword.
"It is," Mack says, setting his glass on the mantel. "First presented to Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon by a Turkish prince for services rendered in the First Barbary War. Tripoli," he adds, placing his hand over hers to hold it steady as he pours more wine into her glass. "Every Marine officer carries one as part of his or her dress uniform."
"It's beautiful," she says, watching his face instead of their hands. "Maybe you should take it with you."
"I've thought about it," Mack says, chuckling ruefully and releases her hand -- her glass, she tells herself.
"Do you mind?" she asks, gesturing at the walls of the room.
"Not at all," he says, picking up his own glass again and carrying it and the wine bottle to the coffee table in front of the couch. It's a honeyed oak color and bare but for a magazine and a few pieces of mail.
Elizabeth wanders slowly around the room, sipping her wine and taking in the woven blanket on the wall, the pair of maracas, a simple clock that, on closer inspection, turns out to be a beautifully restored antique, its perfect time a testament to precision German workmanship. There are pictures of Marshall Sumner with friends, with different units, all in beautiful locales, blue sky and endless stretches of desert or grass or mountain spoilt by the trappings of military occupation.
One picture catches her eye -- a narrow street with high buildings, the walls scorched and pocked with impact craters. The road ends at a tall clock, and splits away into two other streets, both lined with buildings strong with column and arches.
Parliament Square, she thinks, her fingers smoothing over the heavy gold frame -- and it is gold, she realizes, this pictured honored for reasons she'll never really understand.
"When were you in Beirut?" she asks, thinking that she already knows the answer.
"Fall of '83," he says, much closer than she'd thought. His breath ruffles the hair over her ear.
"I'm sorry," she says, wrapping her free arm across her body and squeezing her shoulder. She would really rather reach out to him, touch his shoulder but she's not sure if he'd allow it.
"We lost a lot of good men that day," he says. "I wasn't much older than Lieutenant Ford is now. I went out for a run."
At that, she twists her head around, that apparent non-sequitur telling her more than all the therapy sessions in the world. Now she can reach out, touch his shoulder, squeeze lightly.
He looks sober but not maudlin as he says, "Octobers are always bloody. But I guess you should know that."
"Good thing we're leaving next week and not next month then," she says with a gentle smile. She waits for the corners of his mouth to turn up and for him to incline his head before she changes the subject. "Where else were you stationed?"
Mack quirks a smile and runs one hand through his hair. "Spent a tour in Korea," he says. "The women were pretty, the food was good, the duty was a bitch."
"I'd imagine," Elizabeth says, turning away and continuing her circuit around the room. Her smile comes easily as she touches an open fan with the very lightest brush of her fingertips. Silk. "I was supposed to be in Beijing earlier this year for talks about the DPRK's weapons program, but I ended up in Antarctica instead."
"I think you got the better end of that deal," Mack says, sitting down on the overstuffed couch and resting his right ankle on his left knee. "I spent a little time down at Gitmo."
"No souvenirs?" Elizabeth asks, looking around.
Mack grins. "Not the kind you display," he says and she knows he's speaking of smuggled cigars.
"Is the base just as unpleasant and barbaric as they say?" she asks, because in all her travels, she's never been sent to Cuba.
"Pretty much," he says. "But I bet they don't tell you about the view." He nods at one of the photos on the wall. "Sunset on Windmill Beach. Whole thing's a recreation center or something now, but when I was there, it was nothing but beach."
"Where's the windmill?" Elizabeth asks, looking at the photo of purple and pink-streaked clouds falling over a golden sky. Dark rocks stud the choppy water.
"No windmill," Mack says. "Don't know why they call it Windmill Beach, but there's never been a windmill there." He leans back on the couch and she walks around the coffee table to join him. "Went to Japan for a bit. Never really got used to it."
"I've visited Japan," she says, curling up next to him. She kicks off her boots and tucks her feet under her. "Not for work, though. I've been to the Middle East a few times. And I got to go to Ohio," she jokes.
"For the Balkans?" he asks, immediately picking up on her admittedly small role in the Dayton Peace Accords.
"I was just a junior Foreign Service aide at the time," she says demurely.
"Everyone starts as a grunt," he says, reaching for the bottle of wine.
"I shouldn't," Elizabeth says, cupping her hand over the top of her glass. "I have to drive home and I need to be at Cheyenne Mountain for the 0830 briefing -- "
"I've got a spare room if you want to crash," Mack says, taking her glass away and emptying the last of the bottle into it. "It's damn late. You probably shouldn't be driving the mountains in the dark anyway."
Elizabeth sighs, feeling warm and a little lightheaded. She has drunk too much wine and she doesn't care. She props her elbow on the back of the couch, bumping Mack's arm as she overbalances. "Thank you," she says. "I appreciate that." She isn't slurring her words -- yet -- but she is exhausted and she's just as happy not to have to get back in the car. She leans her head on her hand and takes a sip of the remaining wine.
Mack smiles a little at her and nods, and she's struck by the raw character in his face, the twinkling eyes and twitching mouth that reveal a much better nature than Colonel Sumner had exhibited at the SGC at any point in the past five weeks.
"It's my pleasure, ma'am," he drawls, just as boneless and tired as she is.
The shared gaze lasts a moment too long so she smiles back and asks, "Are you excited? To go to Atlantis?"
The corners of his eyes crinkle. "Yeah," he says. "We must be crazy. Going off to another galaxy on the drop of a dime."
"We must be," she agrees, taking one last sip of her wine and then handing her glass to him. "Here, finish it off," she says, and he does, tilting the last of the pale gold liquid into his mouth and setting the glass on the coffee table.
Elizabeth watches the tendon of his neck stretch as he reaches and when he sits up, she makes her decision.
"Penny for your thoughts," he invites, knuckles brushing against the hand she has curled on the back of the couch.
She leans forward and presses her mouth against his. He doesn't touch her at first, not dragging her close, not pushing her away. Then, his hands come up, fingers tucking her hair behind her ears, once, twice, before it stays.
Elizabeth puts her hands on his shoulders, reaches out and buries her fingers in the soft green wool. She feels like she's floating, spinning, and he's there, solid, grounded, with her and not slipping away under her fingertips.
Broad thumbs stroke up her jawline, tilt her chin up, and she goes with it, opening up to him. His mouth is warm and wine-sharp, strong and sure and a little foreign.
She thinks of Simon and tries not to, tries not to compare, doesn't want the guilt.
Instead, she moves forward, pulling him to her as she slips onto his lap. He exhales harshly against her mouth as she settles her weight on his thighs, and then he pulls back a little.
Elizabeth opens her eyes and looks up into his, softer than she's seen them before, concerned.
"Elizabeth," he rasps, touching his thumb to the corner of her mouth, "this is a bad idea."
"I know," she says, releasing his sweater. She does know, her brain isn't broken, it's just working differently and she wants to blame it on the wine but it isn't, it's her and for the first time in entirely too long, she has made a decision based on instinct instead of logic. "But we make this mistake now or we make it later -- and we may not be able to afford it later."
Marshall is watching her, guarded eyes and parted lips and she's afraid he might protest, so she kisses him again. She cups his face in her palms -- smooth, freshly-shaven, but not soft, and kisses him, kisses him the way she's always been afraid to kiss Simon, with everything bubbling up inside her.
He has three inches on her, and he uses them to hoist her up, lift her as if she weighs nothing. He stands like he's practiced, like he's done drills on this, his hands under her thighs keeping her jerked up against him. It's a little awkward and she feels a little silly, but he doesn't seem inclined to stop kissing her long enough to get to bed, so she lifts her legs, shifting against him -- he's hard -- to hook her legs around him, ankles crossed behind his back.
"Sure you want to do this?" he asks against her mouth, leaning his forehead against hers. His eyebrows lift up in a question but the rest of his body language screaming yes, yes, yes.
She brings his mouth back to hers, the smell and taste of him familiar now, and kisses him deeply, past the chicken, past the wine, 'til there's nothing but the taste of him on her tongue.
He groans, low in his throat, the vibration filling her mouth as he turns and walks down the dark hall and kicks the bedroom door open. The overheads are off but the small lamp on the bedside table casts a wash of gold across the room.
Mack plants one knee on the bed and rolls Elizabeth down so smoothly that all she feels is the blankets coming up under her back and shoulders. He pulls back to press kisses to her chin and neck, working his way down her throat to the shallow curve of her collarbone and the triangle of skin revealed by her blue, silk blouse. Cool air kisses her skin an inch lower as he undoes the first button and then he covers the exposed patch with his mouth, warm with a wet dip of his tongue.
Elizabeth shifts her hips against the bed, stroking her fingers through his soft brush cut. The short hairs tickle across her palm as he undoes another button and moves further down her chest.
"The hell is this?" he asks, another button down.
Elizabeth glances down and sees that he's exposed the scoop neck of the camisole she'd put on under her blouse to make the silk fall more smoothly.
"It's a -- it's called a camisole," Elizabeth says, pushing herself up on her elbows and plucking at it. "It -- "
"It's in my way," Mack growls, leaning down and pressing a kiss to the exposed swells of her breasts. He pushes himself up on one arm and makes short work of the rest of her buttons. "Let's get that off," he says, sitting on the edge of the bed and pushing the blouse off her shoulders. His fingers are calloused against her skin, drawing goosebumps down her arms.
She reaches for the hem of the camisole herself and watches his face as she draws it up her torso and over her head. She tosses it to the side, shaking out her hair and smiling at his appreciative expression. "Like what you see?" she asks, taking advantage of the surge of confidence his gaze evokes to do a little teasing of her own.
"That I do," he murmurs, drawing her to him. He kisses her mouth, warm and direct, and brings his hand up to cup her breast through her bra, sweeping his thumb over the tip. She shivers at the touch and clutches at his sweater, thinking that he really does smell marvelous.
She tugs at his sweater, determined not to let him sweep her away. He backs off with a smile that looks nothing but pleased, and pulls his sweater over his head and tosses it on top of her camisole. His chest is broad and freckled and his arms are solid with muscle. He cups his hand against the blue silk and lace over her breast, massaging and sweeping, this time so she can watch. Elizabeth's breath catches in her throat and her stomach draws up hard. She licks her lips and watches his hand move on her body until she can't stand wanting his hand on her bare skin any longer. Her bra has a back clasp, not ideal, but she gropes behind her, unconsciously pushing her breast into his hand as she fumbles the clasp. She shrugs down the straps and lets him draw the lace cups away.
Elizabeth has never quite grown out of being that too-skinny, awkward girl with arms and legs too long for her body, but over the years she's grown comfortable with her body and at least grateful that she isn't gaining weight in her hips and thighs like most of her friends. Now, though, she feels a flash of self-consciousness at being so exposed in front of someone new, someone unknown, someone she works with and suddenly wonders what on earth was she thinking?
Mack has a hand on her again, warm and tough, and then he's kissing her, his chest pressed skin to skin with her, bearing her down to the bed, and when she gets there, Mack's mouth moves with her, licking her neck, kissing her collarbone, taking her breast in his mouth and teasing with his tongue until she's forgotten that she's ever been nervous. She arches into his mouth and squirms into the bed until he brings steadying hands to her hips and drags his mouth down to her stomach, teasing around her navel in tiny nips and licks, and then he glances up at her before slowly unbuttoning her trousers and sliding the zipper down.
She watches his hands work and lifts her hips to let him tug her pants down to her knees and then push them off entirely.
"Pretty," he says, stroking one finger just under the edge of her panties, blue and trimmed with lace to match her bra. "Women," he adds, eyes glinting mischievously. "Gotta match up everything." He strokes quickly between her legs and she realizes how wet she's gotten during their foreplay. "Mind if we get rid of these?" He's already working them down so Elizabeth lifts up again and lets him draw the silk and lace off her body. He casts them to the side and settles between her legs, opening her up gently and ducking his head to kiss and lick at her.
Elizabeth settles back and closes her eyes, feeling a little lost. She can reach down and pet at his hair, but otherwise there's no real way for her to participate. She's never been good at sitting still and she's never been good at letting people take care of her, and she doesn't like performing on demand. She can already tell she's not going to come this way and she doesn't want to deal with the frustration of trying.
She pushes herself up on her elbows and looks down at the top of his head. "Um," she says awkwardly. "It doesn't always -- I mean, that doesn't always work for me." Marshall looks up, questioning, and she feels herself flush. "I mean it's nice, it feels very good. I just...thought I should...let you know."
Marshall quirks both eyebrows. "You in some kind of a hurry?" His mouth is flushed, damp, damp from her, and he looks so earnestly concerned that she has to smile.
"Well," she drawls, "I might be going to another galaxy next week."
Marshall waves a dismissive hand. "You got time," he says. "Let a man have a little fun. You just lay back and think of Atlantis."
Elizabeth giggles -- his surprising good nature is infectious -- and she slips back down on the pillow and tries to relax and just enjoy what he's trying to do for her. He's broken her building anxiety and her affection for him surges. She reaches down and brushes her fingertips over his temple as his mouth traces back and forth on her inner thigh, tasting her with darting licks and soft kisses.
"So what's the deal with this, anyway?" he calls up from between her legs, before pressing his mouth against her briefly. "You like something a little harder?"
Elizabeth opens her mouth to stutter out some sort of embarrassed denial when he trails one finger right over everything and she shudders.
"Yeah?" he asks softly, making it two fingers and adding a return stroke. "That seems to be working better."
She bites at her lower lip and nods, closing her eyes as she feels his mouth join his fingers. The vague sensations have her shifting against the bed, frustrated and impatient. Mack nudges at her knee so she slides her legs up, opening a little more, and feels the soft brush of his hair against her inner thigh. Determined strokes and then his fingers are sinking deep inside her and all that unfocused sensation is coiling together and thrumming in her pelvis. Mack increases the pressure and she picks up the pace, rushing him. It isn't long, this time, before the tension squeezes inexorably toward release. Mack seems to sense her increasing urgency, or at least is paying close enough attention, and meets her thrust for thrust, sliding in deep and twisting his fingers until she comes apart around him, wet and desperate, her legs shifting restlessly against his shoulders. She falls back on the bed, breathless, as he disengages carefully, pressing kisses from the crease of her leg to the inside of her knee before pushing himself up on his arms and rolling off the bed.
Elizabeth closes her eyes, her breath coming fast and heavy. She feels, rather than sees, Mack finish stripping and move up next to her on the bed. His square, calloused hand slips between her cheek and the pillow and then his lips move against her skin.
"God, you're beautiful," he murmurs, his mouth moving with purpose from her face to her throat.
She reaches out blindly, her fingertips finding the puckered skin of a scar on his shoulder, the curls on his chest, and one tight nipple before stuttering down his stomach -- rounding out with his age but still hard with muscle -- to press her palm over his cock. He inhales roughly against her neck and, encouraged, she rubs the head lightly and closes her fingers around him.
He kisses her shoulder, carefully, as if he might lose control otherwise, and says, "You up for a little something more?"
Elizabeth nods, words still choking up in the back of her throat. She reaches to stroke the back of his neck with her free hand and rubs her thumb over the head of his cock. "Yes," she manages, finding her voice. "I'd like that. Very much." She's aching for him now, hips lifting as she strokes him with increasing urgency.
"Hold up," he says, pushing himself up on one arm and reaching across her to the nightstand.
She was injected with an IUD two days ago, along with all the female scientists going through the wormhole. Sumner didn't put any female Marines on his roster and probably doesn't even know, but she doesn't tell him. They've been tested within an inch of their lives and come up clean but she appreciates this nod to the traditions of casual sex. It makes this all feel a little more normal, a little less surreal and lets her hand fall to the side so he can roll the condom on.
"All right," he says, moving back over her and she lifts her knees, drawing her legs up on either side of his hips. A smile quirks at his lips and he says, "Let's do this." He hooks one hand under Elizabeth's thigh and pushes up inside her.
She realizes then that no matter how open and relaxed she is, she still isn't ready for him. He's raw and intense and when he slides inside her, he pushes her leg up to brace against his forearm and somehow that makes the angle sharp and deep and perfect. She arches against the mattress, wanting him deeper and wanting him away and then his arm slides around from her leg to the small of her back and he's whispering, "I got you. I've got you," and he does.
Elizabeth hooks her leg around his waist, keeping the angle sharp, keeping him flush against her as he rocks into her body. His mouth moves against her neck, pressing damp words into her skin. He pushes right there, right in that spot that's still too sensitive, and suddenly, it's too much. She pushes at his shoulders, but cinches her leg closer and brings the other one around. He braces himself above her, looking down, concerned. The first warm flush rolls through her and its mildness is a relief, but then the rest hits and she can't stop shuddering and grabbing blindly at him, her eyes closing against the sensations, until he presses his mouth down over hers and swallows her gasps.
He doesn't stop kissing her as the tension leaves her body and she falls back onto the pillow. Instead he follows her down, slowing his rhythm into long, lazy strokes, dragging it out, waiting for her to catch up again. She smiles against his mouth and slips her arms around his neck. It doesn't take much to set the thrust of her hips to his and it's an odd feeling of harmony with someone she's been at odds with more than she hasn't. Maybe, she thinks in an odd moment of whimsy, they should have done this weeks ago. She runs her hand through his hair, nipping at his lower lip, and soon he's tense and groaning against the side of her face, his body pressing frantically into hers, her name echoing in her ear.
It hurts a little when he rolls off her, like something's missing and she tries to gather herself before the traditional debate of whether she should go or how they should sleep and if she's even on the right side of the bed. He doesn't crowd her and she appreciates that, but he does rest one hand on her stomach and lightly strokes around her navel with his thumb. It feels like an invitation so after a minute, she closes her hand over his and scoots back and onto her side, curling under his arm.
"Is this okay?" she asks, just in case, because she's always been a proponent of verbalizing her intent.
He closes the space between them, spooning up behind her and when he speaks, it's into her hair. "This is pretty nice," he says softly and she relaxes against his chest and feels safe enough to sleep.
When Elizabeth wakes up, his hand is tracing lazy circles on her stomach. She pushes back against him, feeling the hard lines of his body pressing the length of her. He slides his hand down between her legs and teases her while whispering in her ear, alternately dirty and sweet. She comes, clenching around his fingers as he tells her how sweet her skin tastes. He brushes her sweaty hair back from her face and strokes down her trembling side as she comes down. Then they make love on their sides, spooned together on the bed, his leg tucked up under hers. She can feel the hard muscle of his quadriceps against the underside of her thigh. When they're done, she turns over, her cheek nestling in the coarse hair on his chest as she drifts off to sleep.
When she opens her eyes again, her cheek is on his pillow and she's alone in the double bed. She rolls over and stretches, pushing her arms over her head and pointing her toes. She's sore, a little achy, and her skin is tender and pink in places. She feels fantastic.
There's a blue flannel robe at foot of the bed and after a moment of due consideration, she slips it on. It's too big, of course, so she wraps it tightly around her body, cinches the belt in a double-knot, and turns up the sleeves before wandering into the kitchen. A pot of coffee and a clean mug -- red and gold with 'USMC' stamped on it, of course -- sits on the counter but there is no sign of Mack. Elizabeth checks the window, but his Jeep still sits in the driveway and her rented car hasn't been moved. She pours herself a cup of coffee and warms her hands on the mug. The early fall days are still fairly nice, but the mornings are a little nippy. She sits down at the kitchen table and pulls her feet up on the chair, the edge of the bathrobe keeping her toes warm. She wonders if this is him giving her room to clean up and leave and thinks that maybe she should take it. Marshall Sumner is a professional and she has no doubt that he'll keep his face neutral and his words impersonal but there's no way she'll be able to forget his gentle expressions and mischievous smiles any time soon.
She's halfway through that first cup of coffee -- the second can wait until she really needs it; Rodney is hosting a presentation on powering Atlantis by naquadah generator later in the morning -- when Mack comes through the door, dressed in sweats and running shoes, still panting a little.
"Hey," he says, sounding almost surprised. "Morning run," he explains unnecessarily, rubbing a hand over his hair. "Bit of a habit." He picks up a half-filled mug sitting on the drainboard and tops it off. "How'd you sleep?"
"Good," she says, a little too loudly, a little too cheerfully. "Really good, thank you." He hasn't come over to kiss her and she isn't sure if she's relieved or disappointed. It was a one night thing, she's sure of that, but it was a good night and she isn't entirely ready to let it go.
"Good," he said. "That's good." He takes another sip of coffee. "So, you up for some breakfast or do women not eat in the morning anymore?" He raises his eyebrows at her as he sets his coffee cup aside and opens the fridge.
"I wouldn't want to impose or overstay my welcome," Elizabeth starts, unfolding herself and standing up.
"It's breakfast, doctor," he says, emerging from the fridge with eggs and bacon that he sets on the counter. "Not a marriage proposal. Though I gotta say, if this trip does turn out to be one-way, I'd like to put my claim in early." He grins and crosses the room to sink his hands in her tousled hair and kiss her.
"What was that for?" she asks, a little too breathy for her own comfort.
The skin around his eyes crinkles. "I like the way you look in my bathrobe," he says, and then swats her lightly on the ass. "Go on and get some clothes on while I get breakfast ready," he suggests. "We'll set tongues a-wagging if we both come in late."
"All right," she agrees, knowing he's right, but on impulse, rises up on her tiptoes to kiss him one more time.
"What was that for?" he asks when she releases him.
"Now I know who to tap for a good cup of coffee in the Pegasus Galaxy," she says, winking at him as she scoops up her mug and swishes down the hall. She even manages not to trip over the hem of his robe.
He has a man's bathroom, a bottle of drugstore shampoo and a bar of Safeguard in the shower. He put out a towel, but nothing else. She takes a hot shower anyway, finger combing out the tangles in her hair as the water rinses away the suds. She rubs the bar of soap between her hands until she gets lather, and smoothes it over her skin. Mack's hands had been sure and capable as they glided over her skin the night before and she luxuriates in the memory. She strokes slippery fingers between her legs. Sensitive nerve endings prickle back at her and she smiles and moves on. She's well-satisfied and still high and tingling from it.
Rinsed clean, she turns off the water and blots her still-tender skin with the towel. She finds some gel in the cabinet and combs a little into her hair, just enough to keep the curls back and brushes her teeth as well as she can manage without a toothbrush. Mack left her clothes stacked on a chair in the bedroom and they're still in relative order. She shrugs her shirt on over her camisole and leaves it unbuttoned. She carries her boots to the kitchen and finds Mack setting out plates of scrambled eggs and bacon with a stack of wheat toast on the side.
"Hey," he says, looking up when she walks in. His face breaks into a smile. "I didn't know how you eat your eggs, but everyone likes 'em scrambled, right?"
"Well, I certainly do," she says, walking up to him and wrapping her arms around his neck for a kiss. His hands skim her side as he obliges, tasting strongly of coffee.
"Careful," he says, rubbing his knuckles under her chin. "We'll mess you all up again." He holds out her chair and pours her orange juice and another cup of coffee.
"Guess this is the last we'll be seeing of this for a while," she says, sipping at her orange juice. "I bet the SGC has never had to prepare for a citrus-free expedition before."
"I can't believe you let McKay take orange juice off the manifest," Mack grumbles, taking a defiant swig of his own. "That man's out of control and you don't have a Siberia to send him to if you can't handle him."
"I can handle Rodney," Elizabeth says, poking her fork into her scrambled eggs. "And he really is as smart as he thinks he is."
"More's the pity," Mack says around a mouthful of bacon.
I can handle everyone, Elizabeth thinks, chasing eggs around her plate. You and John Sheppard and Rodney McKay and Carson Beckett... and a familiar knot begins to tighten in her stomach. She thinks of Simon, waiting back in Virginia, getting his videotape in a week, when she's already gone and really, hasn't she already gone? She's committed to doing this and here she is eating breakfast with another man after spending the night in his bed and she wonders when she'll have finally jumped off enough cliffs to be satisfied.
She blinks and glances up when she realizes Mack has folded his hand over hers and is rubbing his thumb over her knuckles. For a moment, she wants to be insecure, to admit that she's pulled together this expedition in six weeks and with six days to go, the prospect of so many different personalities, all in conflict and quite possibly no way to contact Earth, she's having a crisis of confidence in her abilities.
But those are her abilities, she reminds herself. Her life has been devoted to bringing people to agreement, or at least to compromise, and if she can do that on an international scale, she can deal with two hundred and eighteen scientists and Marines.
What she can't do is compromise her own position to Marshall Sumner. Until Rodney fails to engage a stable wormhole or the MALP telemetry reports inhospitable conditions, she is in charge of the Atlantis expedition and he is under her command.
So she turns a bright smile on him and says, "I think dealing with both Rodney and John Sheppard is the very definition of pushing myself."
Mack -- Sumner, she thinks, she needs to get used to calling him Colonel Sumner again -- chuckles, but his eyes are sharp and knowing, and he squeezes her hand before drawing his own away. Elizabeth feels their masks slip back into place. The click is almost audible.
They finish breakfast quickly and quietly and Elizabeth insists on helping him load the dishwasher.
"Well," she says when the last plate and fork are rinsed out and tucked away. "I should get going. I need to change before I go in and, well, it's almost seven-thirty already."
"Yeah," Mack -- Marshall -- Sumner, says, leaning on the counter. "I've still got to shower up and -- I'll walk you to your car."
"Thank you," Elizabeth says, sitting down to tug on her boots and then picking up her purse, which she had left by the door. The sunlight is blinding when Colonel Sumner opens the door and Elizabeth hopes her sunglasses are still clipped to the visor in her car. His hand brushes the small of her back as he walks her the twenty feet to her car and they stand there, squinting in the sunlight and suddenly awkward. "I...I think that..." she founders, dragging a hand through her hair.
"Look." Sumner squints at some point over her left shoulder and presses his teeth against his lower lip. "It would be completely inappropriate for us to be romantically involved on an expedition on which we play the key roles that we do," he says roughly.
"Yes," she says slowly, trying not to be stung. It's harsh but it's true, and she knows it. "It would." She certainly doesn't need him to vocalize the boundaries between them and she's almost convinced herself that the hurt she felt came from that insult alone when he speaks again.
"But if, for some reason, we're still on Earth come Friday night? I'd like to take you out to dinner," he says. "Can't cook, won't have any food, but I know a few decent restaurants and then maybe we could go dancing somewhere."
I have a life, Elizabeth doesn't say. I have a life with Simon and Sedge and my job she thinks and looks into Marshall Sumner's face and thinks, and I'm giving them up to go to another galaxy with this man.
She can't tell Simon about Atlantis in person, she realizes, because she's afraid he'll ask her to stay and she will. She's afraid he'll ask her to stay and she won't.
The biggest surprise is that it isn't a surprise. It's just how things are and if there isn't going to be an Atlantis, well, maybe she needs a change anyway. Maybe she needs another cliff.
"You dance?" she asks, curiously delighted.
"No, ma'am," he replies. "But I'd sure like to watch you."
Elizabeth feels herself flush but she smiles back. "It's a date."
The picture that inspired this is an outtake from Rising. It's on Gateworld here.
The Mamaluke is the traditional sword carried by Marine Corps officers. A picture and its history can be found here.
On October 23, 1983, a suicide bomber with a truck full of TNT drove into the USMC headquarters at the Beirut airport. The Marines were there to keep the peace during the Lebanese Civil War. Details on this attack can be found here.
The DKRP is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - North Korea. In April of 2004, the DKRP, the US, and the People's Republic of China met in Beijing to dicuss North Korea's weapons program.
Anything else...feel free to ask. :)