Title: "Lullaby #101"
Category: coda, Sheppard/Weir
SPOILERS: Seige III
Summary: Sleep you little soldier boy, with your ear against the wall; you have held that rifle all of your life, now it's time to let it fall.
Dedication: A.j., who somehow convinced me not to set this in a bed with more nakedness. *evilly forwards blame*
Liner notes: Kris Delmhorst's 'Lullaby #101' (yousendit) didn't really influence the fic, but enabled me to write headers.
Three hours after the Wraith leave, two and a half days without even a five-minute rest break, and John Sheppard is too exhausted to sleep.
It's eight in the morning, for one thing. Light is streaming in through every window and the interior lights are twice as bright now that they have full power. He's so strung out on caffeine and adrenaline that he has no idea if he's coming or going. Dead or alive.
Yeah, that's the real kicker.
One of them, anyway.
John has walked by his quarters three times and hasn't been able to open the door. He'll be out as soon as he lies down, he thinks, and he can't help feeling like the Wraith will return the second he relaxes.
He grabs food instead, and more coffee. The mess hall is far too bright, so he retreats into an adjoining lounge where Elizabeth occasionally meets him for a meal, if the matter at hand is too sensitive to be discussed in the main room. They had breakfast and lunch here nearly every day for the two weeks leading up to the Wraith attack, planning and sharing information and trying not to take out their nerves on each other. The furniture is more comfortable here than in the mess proper -- couches and coffee tables, arranged in a square -- but more importantly, it lacks windows.
He touches the wall panel on the way in and the lights lower, blessedly, to the point where he can barely see anything but shapes.
The coffee is vile, brewed hours ago, and his stomach turns with too little food and too little sleep. He sinks back into the couch opposite the entrance instead -- it'll be a while until he can sit with his back to doors again -- and leaves his meal on the table in front of him. He wonders how long he's had the headache he can only now just begin to feel.
Probably since he nearly died. Or thought she had died. Or since the city had been attacked again, Everett, the Deadalus, Ford...
The door slides open and he jumps. He squints against the light, but can still instantly recognize the figure.
"I thought I might find you here." Elizabeth steps in far enough for the door to close behind her. A painfully tired smile is evident in her voice.
He wants to ask if she needs him for something, if everything's okay in the city, but conserves the energy to take another swig of coffee. She'll tell him anyway.
She doesn't. "I've been wanting to sleep for three days," she confesses, joining him on the couch. "For two weeks. And now?" She sounds almost on the edge of tears, but that has to be exhaustion.
It unnerves him anyway. Unnerves him as much as the way she looked at him when he beamed back to Atlantis, right before she violated all his expectations regarding the stoic Doctor Weir and hugged him close. She looked like he was throwing her a lifeline in the middle of the ocean, and he doesn't know what to think about that. He knows even less what to think about the way, for ten or twenty seconds, the universe seemed to become so small around him that there were only two people in it.
"I know the feeling," he says around the coffee mug, unsure if the caffeine is even making a dent anymore. His hands are shaking -- that's something, anyway. "You should sleep."
"So should you," she replies, equally uselessly. Then, "You deserve it, John."
Her voice is weaker than normal, but so full of genuine pride and gratitude and relief that it's almost hard for him to listen to. He can't see her face properly in the low lighting, and so to him, she looks exactly the way she did before he boarded that puddle-jumper in the first place.
He doesn't think anyone has looked at him that way before.
"Elizabeth, I'm sorry."
She frowns. He can't see it, but he knows it from the tilt of her head. "For what? John, you couldn't have stopped Ford. You tried."
That twists into him, because he shouldn't be sitting here warm and caffeinated when a member of his team is somewhere in Pegasus turning into God-knows-what, and worse, that wasn't even what he meant.
He doesn't really know what he's apologizing for, since they saved the city. It just feels like he should.
Without warning, there's a tentative brush of fingers on his forehead, and his heart almost stops. He can't say anything, only closes his eyes, drunk on exhaustion and feeling like, in one gentle stroke of disheveled hair from his sweaty brow, Elizabeth Weir has thanked him far more than she ever could with words.
His whole body is shaking, and not from the coffee. He wants her to touch him like this, all over, like that will be the only way he will ever truly know that he survived, that an Asgard-enhanced deus ex machina really plucked him out of that cockpit in time, that he's really still alive.
That she's still alive.
"Elizabeth." He doesn't know what he's going to say, only has to get out her name.
She says it for him. "I thought you were dead."
"No," he promises. He means it to sound flippant, but it doesn't at all. "Still here."
Elizabeth pulls her hand away and he sighs, trying not to will it back, but he's too tired to properly censor his thoughts. He didn't know he felt this way about her. Or he did -- completely, totally did -- and just hadn't quite realized it. Needed to be three days' worth of exhausted first. Needed to go through that.
She plucks the coffee mug out of his hands with a remarkable gentleness, resting her fingers on his for a long moment as if to ease the transition. Before she can sit back all the way, he touches her cheek, just as tentatively as she touched him, like they're waiting for more bombs to go off.
They don't move much. Her forehead is an inch from his, her fingers sliding slowly through the hair behind his ear, over his jaw. His thumb finds a spot on her neck where he can feel her pulse, fast and strong.
They breathe there, slowly, for a long time, just barely out of contact. His nose touches hers after a long minute without his even meaning to. Her breathing pattern shifts, interrupted by something that isn't quite a giggle or a sob, and he kisses her.
John thinks, again, that he might be dead, that he would never have the chance to feel like this in his own life. He doesn't mind.
He's the one who breaks it, more overwhelmed than he can deal with in his war-wearied state. Elizabeth rests her head against his, temple to temple. This time he's the one who hugs her, pulling her as close as he can, and it stuns him to his core that he can feel her shaking.
"No more coffee," she whispers, drawing away only slightly. He hopes she's not crying. "We've got to sleep."
"Stay here," he begs before he even thinks about it. He's only thinking about comfort, about how warm she is, about staying close to her in case he wakes up in the night alone and thinks one or both of them is dead.
"John, we have to sleep," she argues, her voice breaking on three days awake. "In beds." She doesn't mention the hard day they will face tomorrow, but it's implied.
"Sleep on that couch," he tells her, indicating the adjoining side of the square.
Elizabeth agrees without argument. He feels better knowing neither of them wants to face total solitude in their empty quarters after the past three days.
He positions himself with his head close to hers and begins, unconsciously, to count her breaths. "Good night," he offers.
She reaches a hand across the empty space between them, and he meets it. They hold on until they fall asleep.