Summary: The commencement of crak!AU fic of Gen!X!Sparky! from August of 2006. ZOMG!
Disclaimer: The proper owners and holders of this property are not me. Therefore, in order to cover my sole asset of tequila and various sundries, please don’t sue me. And the dude in the fic calls her 'Liz' cos he's stoopid and dumb.
A/N: So, a few things first. This is a continuation of Timing AKA the Crak!AU!Generation!X!Verse of flailing/rudderless Sparky where I tried to make them 'just friends' in the attempt to fight my fanciful fangirlyness of the shipper persuasion. I think you may need to read that first to understand this cos that fic is nine months old. And seriously, internet time is like dog years on crack. D'oh! And it's supposed to be in the 90's hence all the references to certain places.
Also, Xenos means stranger, either culturally or ethnically, and/or a familiar who has become a stranger, or vice versa, in Greek... just in case anyone was wondering and if my research is correct. If not, ignore that last part. Beta'd by the wonderfully talented alianne.
Elizabeth was about to make her humiliation public. Public meant in front of people, a lot of people. Some of those people were the most influential people that could help or hinder the next five years of her life. She was going to call off her wedding today and look into the faces of hundreds of those who were expecting a freshly graduated, put together twenty-six year old Harvard Law student to step into adulthood.
But first she had to face the man who was ready to commit his life to her as she stood on the threshold of destroying all that. And sure, she had a maid of honour to do all that for her but if she was going to face the music, she was picking the playlist.
“Hi,” Elizabeth whispered as she attempted to skirt around the lavish floral decorations to reach Graham without exposing herself to the audience.
His surprise went without saying.
“Hey,” his brow furrowed in bewilderment. “Uh, honey, aren’t you supposed to be coming down the aisle from there?”
“I need to talk to you about that.” She tried to belie the obvious with an uncomfortable smile.
“Okay.” More confusion flooded his face. “What is it?”
“Can we... I need to talk to you.”
She didn’t want to sound desperate because she knew with perfect clarity what she was doing, why she was doing it and how she was going to do it. Then again, nothing in her life ever went exactly as planned.
Movement caught her eye. It was John sneaking into the back of the hall. That would be the second time today she damned his timing. She tried to refocus a little too late. Graham caught her look and followed it. Hurt flashed across his face.
“Is that why you need to talk to me?” He asked defensively.
“Yes. No. I mean, not him. Me. I need to...” None of it was coming out right. So she stopped.
“We need to talk,” Elizabeth stated.
He relented and followed her out after excusing himself before the assembly of friends and family.
“So talk,” he demanded once they were outside.
“First,” she started, “I want you to know that this is not because of you or anyone else but me. This is about me.”
“No, don’t. Just hear me, okay? And don’t think or judge or weave theories, just, listen.”
He didn’t understand, but for her he’d try.
“This - who you think I am, what you want me to be - is a lie. I’m not the one who prepares you dinner before you get home or presses your shirts the night before work.”
“I’m not asking you to be.”
“Graham, please just hear me. This life you want for us, it’s beautiful and nice and all the things any woman would want. And I thought it was for me too, but it’s not. I want to see the world.”
“Not the way you want me to. Not on a three week cruise in the Mediterranean or holed up at the Christopher in Saint Bart’s. I need to see it in the minefields of Cambodia and Argentina. I need to see it in the mass graves of Kosovo. I need to see it in the faces of those I want to help if I want to be of any good to anyone. I couldn’t do that if I were your wife. It wouldn’t be fair to you or me. Do you see?”
“You want to help the world and be in the thick of its dangerous and horror-filled glory therefore you won’t marry me because you can’t have somebody worrying about you all the time. You know I’m trying not to judge here or assume but it seems like you would be free of all this trouble if your last name were Sheppard.”
“No! Now you listen and hear what I’m saying. No less than three days ago were you more worried about letting John know we were getting married than if you should have azaleas or lilies in your bouquet. Two years you haven’t spoken to him and on the eve of the biggest day of our life together you call him. You call him. And he comes running. Two years.”
“That’s not how it happened. I didn’t ask him to come. And this is not about John. This life, it...”
Her frustration manifested in unshed tears.
“It doesn’t belong to me. I’m not here. There’s no room for who I am or what I need to do with it. I don’t want to be the one to miss my calling.”
“And what is it that’s calling you? What’s telling you that I’m not that life?”
“I don’t know,” she answered without thinking.
“I do,” there was a certainty in his tone. “... and so does he.”
Graham waited for a rebuttal. There was none she could provide.
“I think,” he said after watching her inner debate swell and ebb across her features. “It’s time for you to stop running from that.”
So maybe she didn’t know what, why, or how she was going to do things. Her life was not going to pull through for her on that end. It was going to bully her around until she danced to its song choice. Elizabeth wished like hell that one thing would go right. Just one. Something she planned and from beginning to end was successful. To come out on the other side and say ‘mission: accomplished’.
The control she was barely holding on to yielded a torrent of tears.
“I’ll make the announcement.”
“Graham, no, I should-”
He cut her off when he placed her hand in his.
“Let me fall on this one, okay?”
“I can’t let you do that,” she managed to pull herself together. “I’m the one doing this. It should be me.”
She was determined. Not only was it the decent and proper thing to do, there was redemption to be made for the pain she was causing and would cause.
“No,” she found understanding and resolve in his look upon her face. “I knew and I didn’t pay attention. I couldn’t hear you. I didn’t want to. I want you all to myself and maybe it’s because I love you too much... or too little. I don’t know. I wish I knew. If I knew you like he does, I wouldn’t have foolishly waited around for the inevitable.”
“I’m sorry,” she began to apologise.
“Don’t be sorry for love Elizabeth. I’m not. I don’t love you like he loves you, but I’m not sorry for it. He dares you to live, to move. I just want you by my side, always.”
He gave all he was worth into their last kiss.
“I think you should take this,” Elizabeth whispered as she removed the opulent ring gracing her finger. “Give it to somebody who won’t break your heart.”
It was with a bittersweet smile that he took back a promise of forever and walked out of her life.
~ * ~ * ~
“What’re you gonna do now?” John flung a rock sideways across the water’s surface making it skip.
“I don’t know.” Elizabeth was sitting in her usual fashion, knees drawn to her chest as her arms encircled her legs. “I guess I have to return all the gifts.”
“What?” He skipped another rock. “You’re not even a little curious to see what people thought you might not need?”
“People usually buy newlyweds stuff they’ll never need. Champagne flutes, fine China, a blender...”
He skipped his last rock and sat beside her.
“That’s not true,” she defended. “My parents still use the blender my great aunt Dearie bought them.”
“Your mom uses it to chop up steak for the dog. I don’t think your aunt envisioned Riley sitting poolside drinking a sirloin margarita.”
Elizabeth chuckled at the imagery of that scene.
“You’re probably right.”
“So,” he calculated his pause. “You interested?”
“Aw, c’mon, you know you wanna know.”
“I know a way we can open them without ripping the paper. I’ve been doing it since I was five.”
She was almost more curious to see how he would manage that than to see what was inside the wrapping. She didn’t need anymore reminders of her failure to commit peeking at her through shiny paper and curled ribbons. She knew it was John’s way of distracting her from that derision by mocking the people who pretended to know what she needed. So she considered as he got restless with anticipation of her answer.
“Fine,” she acquiesced.
“Great,” he smiled. “Come on, I’ll get you home. But first I have to return this tux by five.”
“I’m sitting on a rented coat?”
“Oh, don’t get all high and mighty on me princess. You didn’t give me enough time to find a decent tailor. I had to improvise. Besides we can get pizza and beer if I get my deposit back. That is of course if your bony ass doesn’t cake any more dirt into it.”
He dodged her oncoming slap at the last second.
“My ass,” she punctuated with a hit on his shoulder. “I’ll have you know is not as bony as it used to be.”
“Ow. Okay, okay. Sorry, I believe you. I’ll throw in a movie for that one.”
“Then we can open my ‘not presents’.”
“As you wish,” he grinned and then helped her up in a grandiose fashion.
“We are not watching that movie again.”
“That’s alright. You can read it to me as I engage in some gift pirating.”
~ * ~ * ~
Tape proved to be a much tougher contestant than expected.
“I thought you were an expert at this sort of thing?” Elizabeth took a swig from her beer.
His tongue was sticking out of the side of his mouth as if he could will the adhesive off the paper. She waited another minute.
“We still don’t know what’s in that box,” she teased.
“Shh, you’re distracting. What did Rodney do to this tape?”
Irritated he set it aside.
“Alright, end of round one. So far we got a crockpot, toaster, a toaster oven, a coffee maker, and a king size bedspread, some baby shoes and...”
“See what I mean. You’re never gonna use this stuff.”
“I know how to use a crockpot.”
“I didn’t say you didn’t. I said you’re never gonna use it. But I have something for you that you would use.”
He went quiet. Elizabeth could see the struggle he suddenly put himself in.
“What is it?” She was almost afraid to ask.
He went over to his backpack and pulled out an envelope.
“You came here all the way from Argentina to give me a present?”
He didn’t answer as he sat next to her and traded her beer for it.
“What is this?” She knew what it contained and was terrified at the reasoning for it.
“I don’t want to.”
John had never seen her laid so low before today and he had never seen her so doubtful until she had that envelope in hand.
“Why not?” He solicited an answer.
“Because... if it is what I think it is, you came home for something I can’t give you right now.”
“That’s not what I want from you. And that’s not what I’m offering. Open it.”
With hesitation carved into every inch of her, she unsealed it.
“It’s roundtrip. You were gonna have three weeks off anyway so why not use it for yourself?”
“You can’t...” Elizabeth could feel her trepidation, a strange thing she had never felt before with John. “How did you know if you came back I would call it off?”
Turnabout was fair play and he felt the same amount of nervousness she did, if not more.
“I didn’t,” he chuckled timidly. “But I had to try. I couldn’t lose you.”
They were both left in want of word. At this moment any feeling acted upon would get them into trouble. John decided to take himself out of the equation and stood under the pretext of getting another beer. Then remembered he was holding one.
“You don’t have to,” Elizabeth affirmed.
“Yeah, I – I do. I should.”
John swept a hand of emotion through his tangled hair and proceeded to swallow as much courage he was capable of in one gulp then steeled his determination.
“Truth?” he asked.
“Truth,” Elizabeth concurred.
“I need you in my life, because without you, it sucks. I don’t need all of you. Not yet. I don’t have the right to ask you for that and I won’t until you’re ready for it. But I need you as a friend, at the least. At the very least. That’s it.”
They’ve been here before and maybe they weren’t ready for it then. It was love. They just had to figure out what sort it came from. It just wasn’t all that easy. That was the nature of their relationship after all, that something in between, a stranger of familiarity.
But it wasn’t going to be all or nothing like it was in the last round with him. He assured her of that. She could believe him. It lessened her worry, her concern.
“Okay,” she accepted.