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Nightwatch

Feedback: Please.

Acknowledgements: Kat, as always.

Note: written for sga_flashfic's City exploration challenge.


CARSON sleeps on his stomach, hands splayed out on the bed that is too wide for just one person, always appearing to search for something that’s just out of his reach. He’s not snoring, exactly: It’s more of a soft, almost purring sound. Carson never sleeps lightly. With him, it’s always all or nothing, no half measures. When he sleeps – which has been seldom enough over the past few weeks - he sleeps deeply. If she stays long enough, she sometimes hears him talk in his sleep. If she’s really lucky, he laughs - full-blown, stomach-shaking laughter. It’s one of the most endearing things she has heard since she set foot on Atlantis.

AIDAN is different. He’s a tosser, shifting and turning and never once still. Maybe he’s making up for the forced calm of the day. He, too, talks in his sleep - but never whole sentences like Carson. She can hardly ever make out what it’s about - sometimes she catches the name of his grandfather, sometimes a name of a girl. It makes her smile and she always makes sure to adjust his blanket before she sneaks out.

MIKO is as calm during the night as she is during the day. With her dark hair fanning out across the bright sheets, her mouth slightly open and her hands next to her face she has both an openness and yet a kind of serenity she hardly ever displays in the light of day. Usually, Miko appears to be at one with herself during the night, calm and balanced. It’s only sometimes, during vivid dreams, that there’s a name on her lips. Elizabeth smiled when she found out it was Rodney’s.

RADEK snores. Softly. He also always sleeps to music - his room is never entirely still. He once explained to her that the constant hum of Atlantis made him uneasy and that he needed something to drown out the sound. She’s heard him play everything from Led Zeppelin to Smetana during the night. When she is lucky, he will smile, speak fragmented Czech. He looks younger when he smiles, younger when he sleeps. It doesn’t happen too often, but from time to time, she allows herself to brush some of that wayward hair from his forehead. He makes small contented noises she chooses to ignore, and sometimes he leans into her. All the same, it doesn’t stop her from stealing another casual touch before she leaves his room.

TEYLA appears calm on the surface. Nevertheless she is nothing like Miko when she sleeps. During the day, Teyla’s whole being is one of control, yet in her sleep, that control slips. Her sheets are tangled, she takes up all the room the bed has to offer. Sometimes she sprawls sidewise, sometimes she lies with her head where her feet should rest. There always is the scent of extinguished candles in her room, mingled with something floral that might be a mild sedative in the form of a herbal smoke. It’s moments like these - when the cold sterile environment of Atlantis clashes so sharply with the warm, earthen colours of the Athosian trinkets Teyla brought with her - that Elizabeth realises with a pang of guilt that Teyla doesn’t belong here. It’s then that she understands that the missing bond to her people must feel like a severed limb to Teyla, that the loss of a connection to actual soil is harder to bear than the loss of her planet. In her wild moments, Teyla thrashes violently. She never speaks, but she always intimidates Elizabeth, if only because she never knows whether Teyla is dreaming of the Wraith - and how many of her dreams are true.

RODNEY is curled in on himself. He has an extra pillow he’s hugging protectively against his chest –for warmth or for the feeling of something that will diffuse the feeling of loneliness is something Elizabeth hasn’t yet figured out. She wonders if his cat back home slept in his bed. He, too, snores; he’s louder than Radek, but not loud enough to be jarring.

He had almost given her a heart attack the first time he’d bolted up in the middle of the night while she was by his side and then rattled off a mind-blowingly difficult theorem to her, only to wave a hand dismissively before sinking back to his bed and sleeping on.

His mind never shuts down. She watches his eyes move rapidly in REM sleep and wonders if he’s even dreaming in equations.

Sometimes he seems to dream about the happenings on Atlantis. He grinned in his sleep after the first time Sheppard let him fly a jumper. He never lost the frown the night after Chaya. The night after Kolya, he’d been still - curled into a tight ball, face tense, even in sleep. It had worried her. That night, she had done something she had never done before - had run long, soothing touches down over his arms and shoulders, petted his hair, stroked his cheek like she remembered her mother doing.
Seeing how he leans into that maternal touch now, how much he craves it when his brain doesn’t interfere still breaks her heart sometimes. Soothing by petting is a routine she has learned only here, but enjoys. On earth, she never had children. Now she has dozens, and Rodney will always be the problem child she nevertheless looks at with the most fondness when no one is watching.

JOHN sleeps soundly, at first. Until he enters the REM phase, he’s calm, his body relaxed under his looming life-size Johnny Cash poster which has managed to give Elizabeth a fright or two during especially moonless nights.

When she enters today his eyes are still and his breathing is low and even and calm. He never stays that way. When the first dreams come - when his eyes start to move under his closed eyelids - his whole face grows tense. Lines appear on his face; lines he’s too young to have. He’s much more vulnerable in the pale silver-blue moonlight: no defenses , no smiles to diffuse questions, no way of running. He doesn’t curl in on himself like Rodney, isn’t protecting himself. The only protective gesture she’s ever seen him make was a hand shielding his face. A few times before she has wondered if she ought to wake him, but she never does. The dreams are his and she has no right to be here in the first place.

John doesn’t speak in his sleep. He gnashes his teeth - something that’s much more unsettling than Teyla’s thrashing or Rodney’s equations or Carson’s soft keening during a bad dream. The sound carries well in the high room and sounds alien.

She has tried many nights to do for him what she does for Rodney and so many others, but she has never dared to touch him - had always worried what would happen if she actually did. Perhaps his nightmares would take a turn for the worse. Kate Heightmeyer had once told her that waking someone from a deep dream wasn’t advisable.

But tonight feels different. Her instincts refuse to be governed by her mind and take over when she hears him gnashing his teeth and sees him shifting under the sheets - motions that threaten to be frantic but still reigned in, as though even in sleep he’s controlling himself.

It’s an arm first. His skin is warm under her hand, the hair on his arms a familiar male rasp. Tiny touches at first, a thumb gliding in small circles; she’s testing the water. He doesn’t wake and she becomes more secure in her actions, runs a hand up his shoulder, soothing, calming, giving strength.

She touches his chest and then she knows nothing but motion and heat and cold and steel. She lands on her back and feels a body impact with hers just as the cold steel of a gun is pressed into the skin of her temple. She chokes, stops breathing, heart slamming against her ribcage and she can feel the muzzle’s pressure.

His eyes are dark and unreadable in the moonlit room. His weight presses her into the mattress, body taut. His face is open, but it's what she reads there alarms her. It’s dark, wild and uncontrolled. Wanting, despising, raging, needing, knowing. Knowing too much.

"They’re mine, Elizabeth," he finally says and takes the gun down, rolling to his side. And despite the fact that his weight is off her, she still can’t breathe.

"Don’t bite off more than you can chew."

His words reverberate in the room. She starts to shiver uncontrollably and sits up jerkily, moving away from him. Her heart still beats too fast and she grapples with the thought that what she saw in John scared her. More than the Wraith or the numerous other threats here in Pegasus.

"Get some sleep," he says, softly, his breathing now even.

She flees his room, forgetting dignity.

 

JOHN'S soothing touch on her shoulder the next morning when no one's looking comes as a surprise: a gentle back-rub that’s a stark contrast to his behaviour the night before. “Tomorrow night’s watch is mine.”

 

 

Finis


 
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