TITLE: "Mornings After"
AUTHOR: Little Red
RATING: PG-13 for mention of s-e-x
CATEGORY: John Sheppard/Elizabeth Weir. Friendship. Romance.
SPOILERS: Uh... the characters exist? General spoilers garnered from the only episode that has aired so far. Set in a potential season two.
SUMMARY: He doesn't usually sleep well the night after a mission.
DEDICATION: A.j. and Melody
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wanted to be first.

John Sheppard wakes up to a warm body and, somehow, relaxes a little more.

He doesn't usually sleep well the night after a mission, although he never really noticed the pattern until Elizabeth asked him about it.

"Doesn't everybody?" he'd asked, though even on his own team he's alone in that. McKay sleeps weirder hours than anyone he's ever met, but when he does sleep, he sleeps like death (and has the bruises on his sides to prove it from when he has to be kicked awake for his watch). Teyla seems to have a unique ability to put troubling thoughts out of her head when she lies down, and he supposes that's necessary where she's from. Ford could probably conk out right there in the control room -- hell, he's actually seen the kid sleep standing up before.

His theory on his own post-mission sleep patterns is physical -- too much leftover adrenaline and a messed-up circadian rhythm from spending time on different worlds with different periods of rotation and correspondingly long or short lengths of day. (Ford and McKay have been arguing about whether or not to call it 'planet-lag' or 'gate-lag' for almost the whole eighteen months they've been out here; John could care less but is still a little weirded out by the fact that Atlantis' twenty-eight hour day now feels normal to him.)

Liz's theory -- she always has a theory, and he knows it by the intelligent flicker in her eyes even when she doesn't choose to share it aloud -- is that his scattered nightmares and occasional worried insomnia come from a lack of closure. The official mission debrief doesn't happen until the next morning so Ford and Teyla can sleep like normal people and McKay can do... whatever McKay does. Liz has taken to asking him to fill her in ahead of time. He's still not sure if she's only pretending to be interested as a way of helping him, of letting him talk out all the decisions still rattling around in his head under the guise of giving a report, or if she's only pretending to help him because she's too curious to wait another ten hours to know. It's probably a bit of both. Most things with Liz settle somewhere in the middle.

She's in charge, but she tends to let him make his own judgment calls. They're lovers, sometimes, when they've had too much to drink or have spent too long alone, but mostly they're friends. She's a woman, and is in all the right ways, but she doesn't really seem like one.

That last one sounds like it should be an insult, but it isn't (and McKay and the others disagree with him, but they don't know her as well as he does). She knew what he meant when he told her that, and the very fact that she took it the right way without further explanation proves his point. Women are strange, and she isn't.

Elizabeth shifts next to him, bringing a delicate hand down to scratch at her knee before it disappears back up to face height. She's awake and reading, probably one of the stack of thirty reports she fell asleep to last night -- sprawled upside-down on his bed with her computerized notepad dangling precariously from her fingers -- after they went over the mission. The occasional click of a next-page button the way she taps it is a sound he would probably recognize anywhere at this point (and identify it as unique from anybody else working with a notepad). She's always reading something.

She has also shucked her pants at some point during the night, and with the way the bedding is draped -- wow, he really does hog the sheets -- he's got a nice view of long legs stretched out almost to the end of the bed. Her toes twitch slightly whenever she clicks to the next page but otherwise she doesn't move at all. Even without military training, she has the ability to be completely still and quiet when she wants to be.

Her underwear is faded red and tempting, and he tugs the elastic of the waistband back with one finger just enough to snap it against her skin.

Liz turns her head far enough to acknowledge him with one eye. "Morning."

It's nice that she's still here. It's probably selfish of him to have let her stay doing busy-work in his quarters and keeping him company while his head did weird post-mission things. She tends to be so exhausted after his team comes back that he wonders if she sleeps at all while they're away from home.

He's sure she wouldn't do it if she minded. She doesn't always fall asleep here, but he likes it when she does. She fits easily against his body and even though she babbles in her sleep sometimes about things that might sound literate and intelligent if they came in complete sentences she doesn't keep him awake. She doesn't wear perfume and washes her hair with the same regulation shampoo as everyone else, but the ordinary way she smells reminds him in his sleep that he's back in Atlantis and doesn't have to keep his senses or his brain on high alert.

She has gone back to reading, which he translates as meaning they have plenty of time before the debriefing. It's only just beginning to grow light outside -- he's still planet-lagged and has no idea what her excuse is. He lifts his head to peer over her shoulder and hazards a guess based on the sheer length of the words in the on-screen text. "McKay?"

"Weiss, actually," she names one of the mechanical engineers. "An analysis of the Ancient water-filtration system in section 19. I can bore you with it if you like."

"That's okay," he says, still sort of asleep, content to lie snuggled against her warm, t-shirt-clad back while she ignores him. He could love a woman like this someday, he thinks.

He drifts in and out as she works through the report, waking whenever she moves a little to type in an annotation or hit the buttons that allows her to connect remotely to the small corner of the Atlantis central computer system where their information is stored. He falls asleep for real because at a certain point he wakes up and she has put the notepad down and turned over to watch him.

"I read your report," she tells him. He finished and uploaded it after she fell asleep.

They already talked about the mission last night, so this is more just to inform him than to invite commentary. She knows it got messy out there, in a way that can never quite be adequately explained in bullet points without seeming crass. Their people came out fine, but a lot of the locals didn't, and a lot of them were children. He knows it would have been worse if they weren't there and is working on not second-guessing himself and his decisions.

"Anything you would add?"

She shakes her head. He also told her about Kariya, the young woman who brought him food and wine and offered herself to him before it all went to hell, but even though she made it through the raid fine -- clinging to his jacket so tightly he almost couldn't fire his gun -- it feels wrong to joke about it this time. Like they always do, Kariya asked him to come back and he will, to bring more supplies after the ones they left have run out in a few weeks, but even he's starting to realize the hollowness of the half-hearted promises he makes them. Kariya and the others that Liz has goaded him into notching into one of the tables in the mess all seem to need things from him. He isn't sure if these are things he should have, but he doesn't and doesn't see his interest in any of these girls holding long enough for him to come up with something to give back to them.

Elizabeth touches a hand to his face, almost cupping his ear, and gives him half a smile. She can always tell when he's beating himself up. As his commander she tries to argue it out of him, but here, as a friend, she usually just waits it out. "I'm glad you're back," she says.

Suddenly it's not all about him anymore. "You shouldn't worry so much."

"It's most of my job," she explains, matter-of-fact.

"It's bad for you."

She laughs. "No. It'll be bad for me the day you don't make it back in one piece."

His hand settles at her waist and he nudges up the hem of her shirt enough to stroke her skin with his thumb. He feels like he should be making her promises, the kind of groundless it's okay he gave Kariya the night before her village was attacked, but Elizabeth knows the score and knows him too well to allow pat responses.

"I won't get killed on purpose," he says with a smirk.

"Acceptable."

"And you really should sleep while we're out there. It doesn't help us one way or the other."

She doesn't have to answer because the harmonic chimes that are the Atlantis version of centralized alarm clocks begin to ring overhead.

"I set that," she says. "Before the meeting I've got to shower and meet with Beckett about... something," she shrugs, and he unconsciously mimics the gesture because he knows how secretive the good doctor can be before unveiling something that's meant to be fantastically interesting.

She crawls over him to grab her jacket from the opposite side of the bed and he thinks about kissing her neck when it's right above his face, but it seems unnecessary. She's up and looking around for her pants before he can talk himself into it.

"Don't forget your notepad," he warns and she flashes him a grateful grin as she snags it from him.

"Thanks for the bed," she calls from the open door.

"Anytime," he says, and means it.