Title: "Intermission"

Author: Little Red

Rating: PG

Category: Sheppard/Weir friendship/UST

Spoilers: None!

Summary: Stealing a moment.

Author's Note: liminalliz pinch-beta'd for me, and I adore her. Distantly inspired by MsPooh's friendship-vid, because it made me want more friendship fic. This is, of course, for A.j., who ALWAYS wants more friendship!fic.


***


Elizabeth Weir finds Major Sheppard sleeping in the lounge.

Credits from one of the twenty-odd movies they brought with them are scrolling down the video monitor. He's sprawled uncomfortably in a position that'll probably have his neck out for days.

It doesn't take her long to identify the reason he didn't respond to McKay's earlier radio transmission. The radio earpiece they all wear -- hers feels all but grafted on nowadays, to the point where she'd feel naked without it -- is lying next to him on the couch. He must have knocked it loose in his sleep.

Not exactly an emergency, she smirks. Ford had been immediately concerned, and if John had been out of radio contact for a few hours longer, she probably would have authorized sending out a few actual search parties, but at the time she had merely reminded everyone that they were all tired and in need of a break. Really, she just had a hunch that he was fine. It's almost disturbing how much she relies on her intuition nowadays -- more disturbing if she acknowledges how her moments of intuition are often specifically related to John Sheppard. She doesn't like the idea that she has developed and honed a Sheppard-radar, even if it has had numerous practical, professional applications in the past.

His team gets into a hell of a lot of trouble on a nearly weekly basis. It helps to have the occasional hunch about their state and location.

Or, apparently, to have hunches that lead her to finding him in the video lounge.

"John," she calls, as his position looks truly painful and she's sure he'll sleep better in his quarters.

He snuffles, shakes his head, but doesn't wake up. He mumbles something that sounds an awful lot like "Be there in a minute," and she can't help but smile, even if it's mostly a smile of sympathy. He has been running and shooting and piloting almost non-stop on half a dozen missions in the past week alone, and she knows he must be exhausted.

He looks different when he's asleep. Younger, and obviously more relaxed, but there's something especially nice about seeing him without the subtle, everpresent edge of defensiveness in his expression.

It's not really polite for her to be watching him sleep, but that's exactly what she's doing. There's something adorably innocent in his features, something that makes her want to sit down next to him and cradle his head while he rests. She doesn't tend to think of his face as particularly kind or sweet or hopeful when he's being belligerent in a mission briefing, but then, she has long suspected he'd be quite a bit different around her if she wasn't standing in a role of authority.

That idea appeals to her. She likes him, either in spite of their professional differences or because of the effort they've both put into resolving them. She can't help but wish that there was a nice, easy way to take off the leader hat long enough to just be around him like this.

Or... maybe he's never like this, at least, not when he's awake. His defensiveness may come in different colors when he's with Teyla or Ford, with his peers or subordinates rather than authority figures... but she has observed him with other people and thinks that he's not completely open with them, either.

John huffs out a sigh, and the sound jolts her free of her thoughts. She realizes that she has been standing there staring for a long time -- long enough that, if anyone were watching, she'd have to explain herself.

She has a feeling that he'd snap awake if she called out his rank in that voice, but he looks happy and so it seems cruel to shake him out of it so abruptly.

Instead, she takes a seat next to his head on the end of the couch.

"John..." she says again.

He smiles, literally dreamily, and it gives her a sinking feeling in her stomach that's entirely too pleasant.

Yeah. She mostly wants to be friends with him, because she suspects he'd understand her and treat her in the totally normal way she longs to be treated after so many months of uninterrupted leadership, but that face wouldn't be a bad thing to wake up to.

She tries, "Sheppard," but the attempt is half-hearted, as her voice is still too quiet to actually wake him.

He frowns and mutters a string of syllables she can't parse. It's not like he's making any sense, but it somehow amuses her considerably that he talks in his sleep (and that he sleeps like a log). That, and this really might be the closest she's come to a non-work-related conversation in far too long.

Her hand finds its way to his hairline of its own volition, and she can't help trying to smooth down an errant spike of hair. She brushes her fingers across his forehead, tracing faint worry lines that lie in a different pattern than her own but probably spring from similar causes.

He turns his head into her hand, and she freezes. He smiles in a way that looks truly comfortable despite the angle of his neck and hums something so contented that for a second -- more than a second -- she forgets and wants this to be real. She wants to see him relaxed and unguarded around her in more than just a chance, exhausted encounter.

And then he speaks, nuzzled into her skin, not quite nonsense. "... smell like..." and he all but sighs, "Elizabeth."

And suddenly, it's way too real.

He knows what she smells like, and that knowledge and that smile and that wistful tone of voice -- if sleep-talking can be ascribed emotion in the same way as normal speech -- all mean something.

"John, wake up." Her voice is still quiet, but firmer, and he sniffs a few times and blinks opens bleary eyes.

"Mmm?" He's still mostly asleep, and she knows this because -- even though his head ends up craned at an even stranger angle -- he turns his cheek closer into her palm.

She pulls her hand back. "Rise and shine, Major."

More blinking, and then he turns his head and hisses out a groan of pain. "What happened?" he asks.

"Rodney couldn't reach you on the radio," she says. "I had a hunch you might be here."

He struggles up to sitting. "'s everything okay?"

"Yes. He just wanted you to stick your head in an Ancient device to see what it did," she reports with a smirk. "He drafted someone else when you didn't answer. You're off the hook."

John awkwardly rubs at his neck and, because she's sitting right there and it would almost seem strange not to, somehow, she swats his hand away. "Here, let me."

He's still disoriented from sleep or he might have reacted with surprise, but instead he only makes a pleased moan in his throat as her fingers go to work. His muscles are knotted and tight, clearly from more than just an hour or two of awkward sleeping. He shifts how he's sitting, slightly, to give her easier access to his neck and shoulders with both hands.

It is so wonderfully good to feel warm skin that is not her own, and it makes her realize with mild horror how long it has been since she has been touched.

Not sexually, even. Just... touched.

John drops his head back slightly. "God, you're good at that."

She ignores the spark of something like electricity that curls all through her at the tone of his voice. "Practice," she replies. She's still speaking softly, like she doesn't want to wake him completely out of his lingering drowsiness with real conversation.

"With boyfriends?"

She doesn't know why he asks it, but what she can see of his face looks too blissed out from her attention to his knotted shoulders for it to be a calculated, leading question. "And co-workers."

"Shouldn't let it get out," he quirks a grin she can hear more than see, "or you'll never get any work done." He's quiet for a moment, then sighs deeply. "Not that it wouldn't be worth it."

She snickers. This feels good. Warmth is seeping into her from the points of contact -- his skin is at least a few degrees warmer than her own, but she's always had cold hands -- and it feels... normal. This is something she would have done before she became Doctor Weir, Head Of The Atlantis Expedition instead of just Elizabeth Weir.

Maybe taking off the leader hat isn't such a dramatic move, after all. She should use her Sheppard-radar to ambush him in his sleep more often.

"Good movie?" she asks, noticing that the monitor has automatically shut itself off.

"Mmm. Seen it before."

"I figured." The Atlantis equivalent of new media entertainment is a movie that got somehow misplaced for a few months and fell out of circulation.

"Nice break, though. Don't have to think for an hour."

"That sounds good."

They're quiet for a comfortable few minutes, but soon she realizes that her massage strokes are slowing and, if anything, the muscles beneath her hands are growing tenser.

"I..." John's more awake now, she can tell. Even though she's the one who started rubbing his neck without invitation, he sounds awkward. "I should probably go check on McKay."

She draws her hands back into her lap. They ball reflexively into fists. "You should sleep, Major."

He visibly starts a bit at his rank, and that somehow reminds her of the way he breathed her name -- like maybe it wasn't the first time he'd talked to her in his sleep. She wouldn't have expected that. And though it might not mean anything -- and if it does, she should be far more concerned than she is -- the thought is making her quietly happy.

"I caught a few winks. And got a massage." John looks guilty more than rested, but it's kind of hard to tell. The exaggerated carelessness in his expression is back, smoothing over genuine emotion. "I'm good."

She refrains from pressing the issue. She doesn't want him to take it as an order -- not that he ever takes those, but she knows he's always aware of them. "Okay."

He tosses her a smirk and gets up, arching his back and replacing his radio earpiece before turning to head back to the control tower.

She selfishly doesn't want him to go. She's enjoying this unplanned break from reality. It's healthy, she reminds herself, to want human connection beyond professional respect.

"John..."

He turns. He doesn't quite meet her eyes, and for a moment, she's actually afraid to ask. If she has crossed a line he isn't comfortable with, this will only make it worse.

She asks anyway.

"The next time you take a break for a movie... invite me?"

He grins at that -- a totally honest, completely unaffected smile that makes her want to laugh for worrying at such a silly request.

"Sure," he nods. John goes to walk away again, but pauses to raise an eyebrow at her. "I'll hold you to that."

Elizabeth feels like the air around her has gotten lighter and easier to breathe. "I'll look forward to it."

After he leaves, she gives herself a few seconds to just sit on the couch and smile.

Then, break over, Doctor Elizabeth Weir gets back to work.


*end*


*send feedback to little red*
back to Atlantis index - back to the badlands