Disclaimer: not mine, making no money, please don't sue.
Pairings: John/Teyla, John/others
Word Count ~970
Stages Of Flight
John slides his fingers across the displays and dials, peers out over the dash, through the bug-spattered windscreen to the propeller at the nose. He pushes buttons and flips switches to see what they'll do, never mind that the plane is off and grounded, going nowhere, chewing no sky. Sitting in Harry's old biplane, he turns dials and dreams of the sky.
Being a pilot is mostly theoretical at eight.
At fifteen, being a pilot is within his reach, but he's not thinking of flying right now, with Lenore Simpson's hands on his ass and his hands up her shirt, groping her breasts. Everything's hot and breathy out in the California summer, and sweat beads on her skin, salty and sweet to the taste. Her lips are soft and taste of the unknown, and he drinks in her flavour like sweet tea or cold lemonade. John knows all about planes, but he's not knowledgeable about girls - not yet.
Flying has instinctive and natural, something that he's learned to do without thought, something he's good at. It's a way to rebel against his father, a way to find himself - to lose his himself in the mission. And, at one level, flight is a safe exhilaration - one where John is in control, in command.
Women are an unsafe exhilaration - one that John still hasn't worked out. Oh, he knows his way around a woman, but the relationship part isn't easy. Even with Nancy, he's not always sure of himself. Nancy, who's so much what he should want - so much what he does want in a way, whose kisses are tender and slow, and taste of fine wine. He kisses her like they've got all the time in the world, and at twenty-four, they do.
But a part of him is still up in the air, soaring on currents Nancy will never understand.
He's free of his marriage, but he'll never be free of the sky. There are horizons that can't be reached, limits that mankind will never fly; still, a part of John dreams of things he can't have, won't have. Home, security, someone to come back to, who'll always be there. As he rolls out of another pilot-groupie's bed, his mouth - her mouth - tastes of old, faded dreams.
Out in the velvet darkness, he looks up at the sky and the faint arrays of stars visible through the light pollution of Southern California. He's thirty-three, and it's a new century, a new millenium, the dawning of a future age. But just as the stars conceal the emptiness of the sky, so John's career hides the emptiness of his life.
He's looking for something more - maybe someone more.
He just hasn't found it - or her - yet.
In the 'jumper, the silence is weighted.
The kiss he usually turned away so he wouldn't have to witness didn't happen, although the farewell was still friendly. As Teyla settles in the passenger seat beside him, the questions linger on John's lips, although he doesn't voice them. They're not his questions to ask, but they push against him, an aerodynamic pressure that might lift his wings - or might ground him.
They soar over the land, back towards the Gate, back to the still re-settling city of Atlantis.
"We are not together."
He blinks, takes his eyes from the windscreen. Flying a 'jumper is almost effortless, he doesn't need to give his attention to piloting. "Did I ask?"
"No," Teyla says. "But you should know. My arrangement with Kanaan was for the year after Torran's birth. Beyond, if it was necessary or if we wished to continue."
"And you don't?"
"We decided it would be best to complete the arrangement as we first agreed."
Is she disappointed and hiding it? Relieved and not showing it? It's Teyla; even after four years, she's hard to read. And why's she telling him? Is this a cue? A clue? Because John wants to say that bird has flown, that whatever he might have done a year ago - whatever candlelight he might have dreamed amidst the rubble of Michael's planet - was a year ago.
Things have changed.
She dials the Gate, he takes them through. They're greeted in Atlantis by Mr. Woolsey, and John takes the 'jumper up to the bay and parks it with a thought.
He turns forty this year; the start of middle age - and he feels it in his bones, in his blood, in the injuries that just keep coming, year after year in the Pegasus galaxy, against the Wraith. But in his blood, he also knows this city - Atlantis - is home. And all the people in it are his family.
He found his something. He doesn't need a someone. He never has.
Still, he catches Teyla at the edge of the cargo bay, the merest finger catching her sleeve, and takes her face between his hands. Eyebrows lift in a question, and her lips twitch. "This is unusually reckless, John. Even for you."
"You can push me away now if you want," he tells her, and his engines rev with the burn for liftoff - that moment when the bird is about to take to the air, and fly or fall.
"No," Teyla says, and one corner of her mouth twists up in a smile that is at once both gentle and self-mocking. "I would like to try this, John."
Then there's no smile, no twist, and no words - just lips moving against lips as John savours the taste of crisp air and fresh flight, of sunlight and maturity, trust and friendship, and all the things that are indefinably and yet indeliably Teyla.
And John's flying in ways that have nothing to do with wings, on winds that have nothing to do with currents of air.