This story is 3rd in the Liberabit Series and continues directly on from "De Fide".
It wasn't the first time that the Daedelus had arrived in the middle of the night. But it wasn't often that John had the chance to study the city from this position, high above it where he could see the early morning fog rolling over the ocean from the mainland and the bright lights of Atlantis looking as though they were suspended in the air, over the motionless, opaque sea. It was, in a word, beautiful. And he took every last moment he had, to watch it as the ship moved in to land.
Patting Caldwell on the shoulder as he passed, John silently thanked the man for late night chess matches and the comfortable rapport they'd established, over the years they'd worked together since the Trust infilitrated Atlantis. He was grateful to Steven, for being able to hold a conversation with him and never stepping close the question of where he'd been on his unscheduled trip back to Earth and the two weeks he'd been incommunicado. Steven didn't seem to think it warranted explanation, John had returned no worse for wear and swarms of UFO nuts hadn't paraded on Cheyenne Mountain, so all was fine.
Throwing a smile Novak's way as she passed him his duffle, John chuckled, throwing it over his shoulder as she blushed profusely before breaking out into a bout of uncontrollable hiccups. Still laughing, he headed down the docking ramp as it opened slowly onto the pier, smiling as Woolsey who stood by the doors, hiding a yawn behind his hand. It didn't hesitate to ring home for John, how Elizabeth had always looked so bright-eyed whenever greeting the Daedalus at these ungodly hours. But then, he reasoned, she'd probably not even been to bed yet, and hadn't had to deal with dragging herself from sleep.
He shook Woolsey's hand as the man made his way across the pier and threw a 'Welcome Back' to him, when he disappeared through the doors, heading straight for his quarters. He was abundantly thankful that he didn't have to walk too far to a transporter and then, barely had to stumble twenty meters in the darkened hallways of the sleeping quarters, to find his room. He had to tip-toe a little, as he made his way past Teyla's rooms, having remembered that Torren was quite a light sleeper and wouldn't hesitate to scream bloody murder if he was disturbed.
Letting out a breath when he was around the corner and out of ear-shot, John grinned and slipped into his silent room, letting the darkness embrace him as the doors closed behind him. He dropped his bag there, just by the door and as he moved towards the bed, removing his shoes and clothes as he went, he was grinning by the time he got there.
He didn't know quite how she did it, but ever since Elizabeth had made her way back into his home and into his heart, everything around him just seemed so much more beautiful. The room itself, now looked like the kind of place where actual human beings resided and he couldn't fault the two white orchids that she loved so much, that stood on top of the cabinets, because she kept them so beautifully that they really looked stunning. She liked to sleep with the windows open and he hadn't thought that to be the best idea when she'd first insisted upon it, but looking down at what was before him now, he decided it had to be the best idea she'd ever had.
The night on Atlantis was warm and if he thought about it, just a little humid. He'd stripped down to his boxers, leaving a trail of clothing from door to bed, and already he was feeling a little sticky. They had the two small beds pressed up against each other - John had thought himself quite bright for coming up with that, regardless of the fact that more often than not, he'd awake to a numb side from sleeping on the crease - and they'd pulled the beds right in front of the window. Elizabeth was fast asleep, and it never ceased to amaze him, that she really had it in her to sleep a full night. She was curled around his pillow wearing a white camisole and white boy-leg shorts with the stark sheets twisted around her legs. With the moonlight and the glowing white curtains blowing in the window, he couldn't imagine a woman ever being more beautiful than she was right now.
"Hey," She muttered, as he slipped into the bed and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her back into his chest.
"Shh," He soothed, kissing her behind the ear. "go back to sleep." There was silence for a moment, as she snuggled herself closer to him and hugged his arm tightly, curling her fingers around his and holding his hand to her belly. It was a peaceful silence that enveloped them and John was just about to drift off, when she spoke again.
"Is she alright?"
Letting out a breath, John felt her hair tickle his nose and he smiled. "Yeah, she's alright. She misses you," He felt her hug his arm tighter and he smiled against the back of her neck. "but she understands."
"I miss her too."
"I know," He whispered, brushing his thumb over hers. They were silent again, neither sleeping now but talking just seemed to drift away for a while. Elizabeth's eyes had opened and she was looking across the room at the Johnny Cash poster hanging just behind the terracotta pot he'd given her for her birthday that first year, resting on the small table.
"She wanted me to give you something," He started and Elizabeth's breathing deepened a little and he could feel her heart pick up it's pace.
"Oh?" It was a quiet sound, barely even a word and he smiled, because she wasn't about to show too much emotion. That wouldn't be her way.
"Yeah," He as grinning now, letting go of her to roll over and reach down to his pants that were curled into a pile on the floor. She rolled onto her back, watching his lean muscles ripple in the moonlight whilst he practically crawled his upper body across the floor in order to avoid leaving the bed.
She had to smile.
Laying back into the pillows, she grinned when he rolled back over and rested on his elbow, looking down at her. "God, you're beautiful." He studied her in awe, raking his eyes over her and deciding that if you could market moonlight, she'd be it's poster-girl. She blushed, curling her fingers around the back of his head and letting them crawl through his thick hair with a wistful smile. "Here," He grabbed that hand, pulling it down between them and turning it over as he ran his fingers across her knuckles. "She told me this was your grandmother's," He said, carefully slipping the elegant ring onto her finger. "and I thought that for now, you could wear it as something sentimental and then later," He trailed off as he noticed her breath hitch and her fingers grip his hand tightly.
"John," She breathed and he smiled, honestly, shrugging his shoulders.
"I just thought that later, it could mean something else."
She smiled warmly, pulling his hand back down to her stomach and rolling onto her side so that he could wrap his arms around her again. He rested his cheek against hers, completely embracing her and she breathed him in with a feeling of contentment she hadn't felt in a very long time. They lay there for quite some time, saying nothing. They were just there, laying in the alien moonlight simply breathing, simply being and he felt about as complete as he could get. About as satisfied as he thought he could ever be.
But then she spoke, that breathy voice that bordered on awake and asleep where she was whole-hearted and honest and unguarded, that voice where she was unbiased and uninfluenced and about as far from confused as a person could get and he could hear the smile on her lips as she whispered one word as though it came on the breeze itself.