Lt. Col. John Sheppard kicked his feet up and sipped the last of his coffee as he sifted through the various reports on his desk. Aside from a brief encounter with a certain arrogant scientist, it had been a quiet day in the city. He couldn't even bring himself to be annoyed with Rodney McKay's snapping insults since he knew full well they were fueled by frustration and lack of sleep.
Yep, relatively quiet day. John sighed, frowning slightly at a reported discrepancy in the weapons inventory manifest. Though relatively speaking, that doesn't say much. Better make a note to look into this tomorrow. He set down the report screen and decided to go for a walk.
His feet took him to the control center balcony. The dim bronze lights from the city sparkled in a spreading of amber across the waves. Atlantis sat floating like a golden crown atop the sea, with Sheppard standing at its pinnacle. A soft sea breeze found its way up the tower and tousled Sheppard's hair, brushing past him on its way across the dark expanse of water.
"You know, every night it looks this way," said a female voice behind Sheppard, "but somehow it's always magical."
"Definitely one of the more scenic places I've been stationed," Sheppard agreed without turning around, "You're up late, Dr. Weir."
Dr. Elizabeth Weir shrugged with her eyes, "To be honest, I got started reading the new database files that were uncovered in the archives yesterday, and I guess I lost track of time."
"Fascinating stuff, huh?" Sheppard leaned on the railing and tilted his head toward Weir.
"The Ancients were experimenting with so many things! Not just science, but architecture, art, even socio-political structuring," Weir sighed breathlessly, "so much of their work is still only beginning to be understood. Things that could change the way we look at life. Things that could someday solve many of the problems on Earth, even the galaxy!" She paused as Sheppard gave her a knowing look. She returned his look with a sheepish grin, "yes, I admit, it is fascinating."
Sheppard nodded, "Good, I'm glad you're enjoying yourself."
"What about you?" Weir asked.
"Oh, yeah, I just love being a lab rat for Rodney," Sheppard drawled sarcastically, thinking of his earlier experiences in the science lab.
"You left the lab hours ago," Weir pointed out.
"Just finishing up some paperwork," Sheppard replied, "got the weapons inventory today." He unconsciously rubbed an eye.
Weir eyed him searchingly, "It's kinda late in the day for that, isn't it?"
"Well, it was so juicy, I just couldn't put it down," Sheppard flashed her a lopsided grin.
Weir raised an eyebrow.
"What?" Sheppard asked.
"Are you okay?" she frowned.
Sheppard's eyes narrowed, "Do I look…not…okay?" His eyes flicked to his hands, then back to Weir's face.
Weir shook her head, "It's nothing. You just look really tired."
"I am a little," Sheppard admitted.
"Maybe it's time to call it a night, huh?" Weir suggested.
"Yeah," Sheppard gave the city one last look before tossing a tired mock-salute in Weir's direction, "Night, Boss." He turned and left Weir alone on the balcony. She watched him leave, then she, too, bid the sleeping city goodnight.
Fresh white light tried to pry itself into Sheppard's eyes. But how could it be morning already? He'd only just gone to bed! Groaning inwardly, he covered his face with one hand and went back to sleep. It was probably too early to get up yet. After all, his alarm hadn't gone off. He thought he could hear Beckett and McKay somewhere far off, trying to tell him to wake up. He mumbled to them that their research would have to wait a few more hours and then he turned over.
The next time he opened his eyes, it was dark. At least, the lighting was dim. He was also not in bed, but standing up. Confused, he tried to focus on the room. Sheppard was vaguely aware of blurred faces around him before he collapsed.
Once again, light forced itself under his eyelids. This time, Sheppard didn't fight it. Whatever was going on, he wanted an explanation! He struggled against what felt like a heavy weight on his chest and sat up. A glance around revealed that he was lying on an Atlantis infirmary bed surrounded by panels.
"What is going on?" Sheppard asked, annoyed to find that his voice sounded weak and scratchy.
"He's awake!" exclaimed an excited voice that he didn't recognize. A totally unfamiliar female face peeked around one of the panels. The face blinked at him, wide-eyed.
"Colonel Sheppard," the person breathed reverently.
Sheppard stared back. He started to swing his legs over the bed, "Where's Beckett?"
"Beckett," the young woman repeated, as if she didn't often speak the name, "Doctor…Carson Beckett?"
"What other Beckett could I mean?" Sheppard squinted at her. Something was very wrong here. Everything seemed different.
"I'm sorry, sir," the woman continued to stare and speak in a hushed tone of voice, "he didn't make it."
Sheppard shook his head, "What? What happened?"
"I know you're disoriented, that's understandable," the woman shook when she spoke, never once meeting Sheppard's eyes, "you've been asleep for a long time."
"How long?" Sheppard demanded, unable to keep the annoyance from exploding out of him.
"Three hundred and twenty-eight years, Sir," the woman replied.