Title: Quiet in the Morning Author: A.j.
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis, John/Liz, but lazily.
Rating: Whatever Parental Guidance Suggeste for Over 13 is now, for one use of the word fuck. Okay, two now.
Notes: It kinda sucks, but.Eh. Mostly for Qwirky because she's all sicktastic. smooch

Summary: Earth feels different.

Earth feels different than he thought it would.

Stretching slightly on his toes, John looks over the mostly deserted beach and breathes in deep lungfuls of his homeplanet. The wind is warm and smells faintly of fish and the hibiscus that line the path from the hotel. It is a beautiful sunny morning in paradise - also known as Maui - and he is taking advantage of the early hour to familiarize himself with the area. Just doing a little recon. Sure.

Reality was, his body clock is still too skewed from the longer Atlantis days. Add to that the normal jet-lag from a ten hour flight and two weeks worth of briefings and interviews, and you get a John Sheppard who is wide awake by five a.m. local and not in the least hungry.

Even so, he'd been shocked to roll over earlier and find her side of the bed empty.

It had been a little disconcerting - given that when he normally woke up to an empty bed, alarms were usually blaring, or she had an early meeting, or she was in the shower - but not a huge problem. A short search of the bungalow had turned up a missing swimsuit, beach wrap, and beach bag. They were on vacation after all.

Three weeks of leave. Three long, perfect, gloriously empty weeks of leave. For all five of them.

People probably thought it was strange for he and his team to go on vacation together. They'd been kept in pretty exclusive company on Atlantis for the past two years. He'd seen these people every day for a long time. Surely he should be climbing the walls trying to get away from them. Even General Hammond had raised an eyebrow when he'd approved the leave requests.

But really, that had been why he'd requested it in the first place. These were his people. He'd taken care of them for so long that not doing it would have caused more problems than just dragging them along and putting up with their whining.

Of which there'd been surprisingly little. Sure McKay had gone on for nearly the entire plane trip about how this was a horrible idea and that he had to have his epi-pen just in case someone slipped orange juice into his rum. But he and Ford had been laughing and coming up with increasingly silly drink combinations by the time they'd all stumbled into the lobby, Teyla floating behind them in something of a sensory overload cloud.

Additionally, it was a pretty big resort, and he hadn't actually seen the rest of his team for more than five consecutive minutes over the last four days. He's sure they're having fun, but surprisingly, he can't quite work up the desire to track them down and check.

A lot of that has to do with the woman he's just stumbled across.

Less than a hundred feet away, Elizabeth is stretched over a wooden lounge chair, sunglasses on, reading something.

Her limbs are long and a lovely golden color against the faded wood of her chaise. She is relaxed and beautiful like this. He knows that if he walks over to run a hand through her hair and kiss her forehead that she will smell of sweat and seawater and of the sweet oil Teyla gave her for her last birthday.

It's enough to stop him in his tracks.

He wonders, some days, how he came to be at this place in his life. Just what cosmic balance he tipped that he could be standing here, at this time, with these people.

Metaphorically speaking.

He's on vacation from saving the world. He lives on another planet and routinely fights alien bad guys with guns and lasers and space fighters. He's Han-fucking-Solo, complete with Princess Leia, Luke, Chewy, and C-3PO. Although, there will never ever be a time in his life - under pain of torture or not - where he'll compare Chewy and Teyla aloud. There are many quick and nearly painless ways to commit suicide. Comparing a woman to a 7-ft walking hairball isn't one of them.

Not really the point.

John is incredibly lucky, and knows it.

In the distance, Liz shifts around. He takes a moment to study her in the plain daylight. Her hair is longer than the day they first met. Curly and brushing her shoulders, it's picked up brighter red highlights from the constant exposure to the sun. She looks healthier than she did the day they arrived. The good food and enough sleep are doing wonders for her. She is beautiful and light.

He misses her when she's gone.

And that says more about how he's changed than anything else ever could.

So Earth feels different. It's still home, but 'home' in the same way your parents' house is home after you've been three years in a new apartment. Sure, you know where the cups are, but the towels are in a different spot and have been in a different spot, and were moved without any of your input, and you don't really care - except that you do - because they're not actually your towels anymore.

John chuckles at his own logic and starts moving towards Liz. As he gets closer, he can see the stack of paperbacks spilling out of her bag and onto her towel. It is a little detail that is so incredibly her that it takes a minute for his grin to ratchet down from 'stupid' to merely 'giddy'.

Earth is different. Everything is different. But somehow, that's okay.

Because when he leans over and kisses her forehead, she beams at him and smells like seawater and sweat and the sweet oil Teyla'd given her for her last birthday.