Summary: Shep/Weir - When the lost return, sappiness ensues. AU (see notes), hints of S/J
Warning! AU ! I can't call them spoilers (well, OK, one for Tao) because I'm just going to create my own setup scenario.. it may bear resemblance to some ep summaries.. but hey, all the movie writers steal from past movies.. I refuse to feel bad for using replicators and Carter! g
Rating: PG13
Disclaimer: I ain't got no money, and nobody'd be daft enough to pay me for this.

AN: many many thanks to finnstardust for Betaing so well and helping me on my road through SGA-land. Please don't blame her for Carson's speech, she recommended I tune down Carson's accent... I just really like talking Scottish.. and reading as I expect to hear it... but if it drives all readers nuts... just let me know kindly and I will stop. Really I will... well, mostly (g)... I'll tryyyy
AN2: AU. I am not a fan of the show in general. I don't know most of the plots and I've forgotten half the established canon from SG1. This started as just a picture in my mind.. but then the picture started talking and moving and my long lost muse went for a run (make that a marathon).
AN3: man this has gotten long. I'm not planning to get into the background plot, so there will be unexplained statements here and there. If they are too annoying... let me know, I'll see what I can do

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Here I declaim my version of history
- OK, so sometime shortly after Tao (ep 0314). something happens (I'm not writing that part of the story!) that causes Weir to end up prisoner of the replicators.
- The IOA refuses a military man in charge of Atlantis but OKs Carter on account of her being a scientist and the US mil OKs her on account of her being Carter of SG1 and a colonel. So Carter is in charge, Sheppard is still second in command.
- I'm not up on SGA knowledge, so I'm extrapolating from fics I've read and whatever tech I like and fits the plot - if you see something 'wrong', let me know, I might find a workaround.. or just note it as a piece 'my world'.

-

Goto Chapter 2

Chapter one

Sam watched Colonel Sheppard walk away from her office, trying to reconcile the smirking rebel that had been described to her with the grim old man she'd just spoken to. It didn't take a genius to do the math, much as it saddened her to think of lost opportunities.

"How did that go?"

Sam tensed, bracing herself for another encounter with her old nemesis. "About as well as I could expect McKay." She didn't bother turning from looking over the gateroom.

"I.. I just wanted to say.. well. I wanted to explain about.." McKay came to stand next to her, gesticulating hesitantly as he tried to explain something so non-scientific. "What I'm trying to say is, he doesn't trust people. Anyone. I'm not sure how that became the case but.. she was the only exception." Sam finally turned to face him, saw him shake his head, eyes lost in the past, "Somehow she got in. Right from the start I believe. And I don't think he even realized that he'd given her his complete personal loyalty." McKay met her gaze, quietly serious for once. "I doubt he's ever going to give it to anyone else, especially after the way this ended."

"McKay! Its not over yet." She knew first-hand what a disservice to your troops counting them dead ahead of proof was. And the fickleness of the universe wasn't to be dismissed either.

He nodded. After they'd stood quietly a few minutes he almost smiled. "You've probably read about that little incident with the ascension machine.."

And here it starts, she thought. Egotistical McKay; incoming. "Yesss, McKay."

His gaze shot back to hers, dismayed. "No, no, I wasn't... It's just... the first time they were both in the room with me. After I started reading people's minds.. I'm glad I already knew how they felt about each other.. because otherwise, I'm afraid I might not have been able to keep from teasing them. They were both so..." There was a real smile playing on his face.

Sam felt a quick smirk lift her own lips. "Please leave it at that, McKay. I sympathize with your having it in your head, but I don't need to share it."

"No. But..." The usually animated scientist stopped, back to looking sad and beaten. "I'm glad I can't read his mind now."

Sam took the time to focus on the man, thinking she might actually have to start liking him. She wondered if Sheppard was the first real person to befriend McKay. "Yeah."

"Do you think... do you think there's any chance she's still... sane? Out there, somewhere?"

"I don't know McKay. I think I have to hope so."

-
2 months later

When Major Lorne radioed that his team had found Weir, Sam managed to beat back the shock and call for medics in the gateroom just before the man stepped through the horizon, carrying a shockingly familiar form. She could only pray Atlantis wasn't facing a replicator of their old leader. Or worse.

She hurried to follow the medical team and debrief her people.

"She's as well as a could 'a' hoped colonel. Underfed, dehydrated, exhausted, her muscles showin' signs o' no eno' movement fer too long. None o' it permanent and otherwise unhurt. Right na' me worst worry is emotional trauma. She's too quiet colonel." Sam nodded, understanding what the doctor was refraining from saying; it was a long time to be tortured by mind-reading machines. Lorne came up to her and she nodded her thanks to Beckett before turning away.

Carson walked to his new patient, torn between joy at seeing her again in such good shape and worry at the wounds he couldn't even see, let along heal.

"Ha' 'r ye feelin' Elizabeth?"

Elizabeth turned her head from the wall to look at the doctor. "Tired, weak, sore." It didn't matter what she admitted, they could easily take it from her mind and she didn't feel like a fight right now. If they'd let her avoid it.

"So."

Elizabeth once again turned from the wall to face the room, wondering why she wasn't imagining McKay in charge of Atlantis.

Sam wasn't sure where to start. They knew where she'd been. It didn't matter what she'd told the replicators. And Lorne had already told Sam where she'd been found.

Remembering the report she'd been writing before Lorne came in, she decided to try a trick from Jack O'Neil's bag: talk to the patient about anything but work.

She grabbed a stool and pasted as true a smile as she could manage on her lips. "I just finished writing up my request for permission to build a nursery on Atlantis." No reaction. "It's a good thing Teyla's been working out so well as a staff officer; Ronon's been around the expedition too long, he's being as protective as one of our men." This time her grin was a lot more real, thinking of the calm Teyla dealing with her suddenly overprotective mate.

Dr. Weir blinked briefly. "And they want to stay on Atlantis?" Her voice was faint and dull, but Sam took encouragement from her willingness to react at all. "I suppose next you'll tell me Cadman actually got Rodney to go on a date."

Sam watched Elizabeth Weir's flat eyes wander the infirmary indifferently as Sam continued to tell her more about the personnel changes in Atlantis, answering the odd question the doctor asked, waiting for a question about the one person the woman had, according to all she'd heard, been closest to. The scientist in her started going over the options; she had to have some idea of what was up before she could decide what to do next. Finally a likely answer presented itself.

"Oh. That's why you're not asking about the colonel." Their eyes suddenly locked. "You believe we're the replicators and you don't want them to know about him." Sam's sympathy and understanding were immediate and unconditional, she remembered all too well what the replicators could do with ammunition like that.

She got up, decision made. "I'll go and recall him. He's out playing escort for some scientist. I thought it would be safe even for him and I didn't want to let him know about this until you were awake."

Sheppard listened to the men wrangling in the old temple, his eyes and head moving instinctively to keep watch, as they'd been trained. There was a faint voice in his mind making snarky comments about the scientists, even admiring the beauty of the clearing, but he didn't pay it much attention. It'd gotten puny over the weeks and he couldn't let himself care about it.

He did his job. Day in and day out. That's all he had to do. The deal he'd made with himself and the universe. Live another day.

His radio crackled to life. "Colonel Sheppard?"

His brow wrinkled briefly, not really caring why Colonel Carter was calling ahead of time. "Sheppard here."

"Everything on schedule?" Now he did frown; it wasn't like Carter to micromanage.

"Yes colonel, no surprises."

"Glad to hear it. I'd like you to come in."

He rolled his eyes, anticipating the whining he'd have to listen to. "The kids aren't going to like that, colonel."

"I didn't mean the team, Colonel Sheppard. I'm sending someone in to replace you. He should be there shortly. Carter out."

Blinking in surprise and faintly wondering if he should be concerned at being summarily and without explanation recalled, he shrugged it off and went about alerting his people about the change in plan. He'd watch for trouble, he always did. Just another day.

Sam stood in her office, watching her people scurrying below, seeing the noticeable increase in smiles and cheerfulness in general, reminded again of how badly losing a commander affects everyone. She realized she'd somehow allowed herself to assume that Atlantis just happened to hold a lot of reserved, grim people, not making the essential connection that she'd only met them after they'd lost a respected leader and friend. She chided herself for the foolish lapse in judgement: not a good first step as commander.

She heard the gate start to dial and focused on where the event horizon would be, thinking of another of Atlantis' soul-wounded. Her second in command was one that she had never forgotten was grieving. In a lot of ways he reminded her of her colonel when she'd first met him; still grieving for his son, eaten by guilt. Blank-eyed and cold. At least Sheppard didn't seem to have suicidal tendencies, most likely because he still saw rescuing the doctor as a possibility and his duty. Or finding out for certain that she was dead...

She shook her head; at least she didn't have to worry about what would happen at that point anymore. All she had to do was convince Weir that this was the real world. Just another day in the Stargate program. She started walking down when she heard him get confirmation to come through, readying her explanations.

John stepped out of the wormhole, automatically focusing on Elizabeth's lookout point, not yet having managed to break the habit of seeing her. Before the pain could resurface, he felt Atlantis reach out to him. His eyes widened in surprise as he felt the city, mentally dancing around like a 5-year-old, exuberant with news. Before he could even start to figure out what was causing the sudden communications, the city tagged on one more piece to its message. Elizabeth's face; paler, thinner, more tired, but none of that mattered as much as the immediate sense of her location the city attached to the image.

Sam yelled when she saw him take off at a dead run down the hall, the doors flashing open before he was anywhere near. "What the hell?"

"I think the city told him."

She spun on McKay, suddenly standing next to her. "The city? I didn't think it could actually talk to him."

"Well, maybe talk is the wrong word. He's described it as getting 'feelings'. But I know that look on his face, it's the one he gets when Atlantis decides he needs to know something that he hasn't asked for."

"Beckett!" Grumbling under her breath, she started calmly down the hall as she paged the infirmary, not really worried about trouble so much as what would happen when Dr. Weir called the colonel a replicator.

"Aye colonel?"

"Sheppard took off at a dead run before we could brief him, McKay thinks the city somehow clued him in, so we're assuming he's on his way to you."

"Very well, a'll be on da lookout."

Shaking his head in annoyance, Carson thought of motioning the infirmary guards to the door. He took a moment to read buried anticipation and longing in his patient's eyes, the lessening of fear in her posture. Thought over Colonel Sheppard's behaviour the last couple months and decided there wasn't any real danger. Maybe some overturned equipment... but then if the man was a little out of it and decided the guards were attacking him, Carson rolled his eyes and turned back to be at the door himself.

A few minutes later, the colonel appeared in the doorway and stopped, staring at Elizabeth across the room, conflicting emotions racing over his features. Carson reached over as calmly as the years on Atlantis had taught him, and took the gun out of Sheppard's hand without encountering resistance. "As far as we kin tell," speaking softly and still moving calmly, he managed to get the vest off the man, "she's the real Elizabeth Weir, and she seems as well as can be expected. In need of TLC more than anythin' else."

The colonel blinked at Carson a couple times, then he was moving, reaching her bedside in a few strides and freezing again.

He wanted to reach out and pull her into a hug and never let go... but his mind was confused. Was he allowed to do that in reality... it'd been so long with only dreams where he could hold her, or where he had nothing to hold. The memory of their relationship and its limits took some effort to be resurrected. And still he couldn't decide which instinct to go with. Was this real? The change was too sudden. Too good to be real.

Elizabeth had seen him arrive, and though a part of her was still afraid this was a replicator trick... he looked so lost that her hand automatically reached for him, the buried instinct to take care of him finally allowed free reign. When he broke his stillness enough to grasp her fingers, she couldn't help herself and pulled, the touch so familiar that she needed even a dream of him closer, momentarily deciding that if it resulted in more agony for her, it would still be worth it for the burst of emotional strength John always gave her.

The touch of her hand was enough to break the loop John's thoughts had gotten stuck in. He remembered now. Follow Elizabeth; that was the way. He interpreted the weak tug on his hand and reached down to hug her. When he felt her arms lock around him and her breathing hitch on a sob, the tidal joy finally rising through him brought some of his old reflexes along. He pulled her up into his arms, feeling her far too light weight, sat himself on the bed, unaware that he was laughing softly, and cradled her in his arms. A hand curved around her forehead as he tucked her into his shoulder, her breath on his neck healing unknown wounds in his heart, the other arm around her waist, holding her chilled, weak body as close as he dared as she cried quietly.

Part of him, the higher functions of his brain, were still frozen in shock, couldn't accept the reality of Elizabeth. Alive and safe, in his arms. The rest of him was waking with a roar and wanted nothing more than to tighten his muscles and pull her as close as humanly possible, find a hidden corner of Atlantis and clutch her like a drowning man, not let anyone near, keep her to himself, keep himself to her, no pain, no fear, just drown in peace for once in his life.

Not another day. The day. Still hiccoughing laughs, he compromised by pulling his legs up, resting his head on hers, bending himself to be as wrapped around her as he could be. If he couldn't see the world, it couldn't see him; a child's escape, but it still felt safe. And she was within his cocoon; doubly safe.

Neither noticed when Carson drew the privacy curtain around them, hiding them from view of the smiling guards.

Elizabeth slowly pulled herself together, wondering why she believed this reality all of a sudden. Taking a final deep, though still shaky breath, she lifted her head, swallowing hard not to cry again when she focused on John, lifting his own head from where she realized he'd been leaning on hers. It felt like a lifetime since she'd seen him, seen the crooked grin that was just starting on his lips and the laughing warmth in his eyes that even the glisten of water there couldn't hide.

Her eyes widened. "I feel warm!" Her hands had ended up clenched in his shirt and she opened them, palms pressing into his warmth, smiling suddenly. "The replicator ship was always cool, the chill just settled into me and I could never warm up.." Now she could feel it, feel heat soaking into her skin from every point of contact. Without thinking, she turned her body, feeling him help. Wrapping herself around him without a thought to propriety, bending her head to shelter back into his shoulder. She shuddered at the warmth all along her front, his hands running up and down her back to keep that warm too.

She laughed, hands grabbing onto his back and shoulder and holding on, suddenly convinced that this was real, that this safety wasn't just in her mind. John was holding her, murmuring in her ear that she was safe, he wasn't letting her go, his body curving to wrap around her even more. She was home.

He couldn't remember being all that tactile, but he couldn't seem to stop himself now. His hands kept moving, smoothing over every expanse that he could remember being allowed. His cheek and chin brushing the top of her head. It might not have been like him before, but he needed it now; every cell in his body wanted to be reassured that she was okay. That he hadn't forever lost the only person who saw something worth fighting for in him.

He would have felt guilty and selfish and likely stopped if he hadn't felt her doing the same. Felt her hands touching him, light and careful; felt her nuzzling him, like a kitten searching for the warmest spot. Been reminded of a hundred and one times when she had touched him in the past; to soothe, to restrain, in relief. Knowing he was free to indulge was almost as sweet as knowing she was back. He only hoped, now that he was starting to think straight, that he could force himself to let her go again. The uncertainty that came with the thought, with not having her literally within his hold, made him grip her tighter, deliberately shutting his mind off.

He had no idea how long they'd been absorbed in reassuring themselves and each other, minutes or hours, when she took a deep breath, then snorted a laugh and lifted her head with a jerk. He quirked his eyebrow, smirking at her, clearly asking for an explanation, more than willing to play as long as he could keep holding her.

"Sorry," she hesitated, knowing that if she said what she was about to say, their relationship would change. She remembered enough to know there was not a chance that John Sheppard would let it pass, irregardless of the situation. As she still hesitated, watching him watching her, her hand reached up, a stray thought overruling her native caution. Or tried. And then she really had to laugh at herself.

As much as he loved seeing her happy considering all she'd been through, her sudden laughter, unexplained, worried him. Before he could voice a question she stopped.

Still smiling, her weak arm got her fingers as far as his lips, breath catching at the intimacy. She shook her head, making a decision. "I'm okay." Her voice was quiet, still rough from disuse. "I just realized that I missed your hair, of all things." She ignored the fire slowly lighting his eyes, the newness of this path leaving her nervous. "I worked so hard to keep thoughts of you away from my mind, away from them, that I started to lose the memories." She hurried over the grim recent past, glad for the reassurance of his tightening hold on her. "I realized that I wanted to reach up and... touch." she lost her nerve and sped up. "But then I was too weak... and that was just too much irony after all this time and I couldn't help but laugh. And I snorted before because I'd just caught myself breathing in.." She signed as that same smell, in the final accounting, still made her feel too good to go back to her old physically aloof relationship with him. "You."

Sheppard fought the elation that made him want to do something over the top and inappropriate to the situation, he clenched his jaw to keep quiet, kissed the fingers still on his lips. Knowing he had to have a goofy smile on his face, he nodded his head until her hand bounced up in his hair, closing his eyes and resisting the urge to start purring as she splayed her fingers, massaging his skull on the way. If he'd known she could do this to him just touching his head! He choked between a laugh and a growl when she tugged gently, letting his usual spiky mess comb through her fingers. This time the exuberant 5-year-old in his mind was himself, doing a singsong: 'Elizabeth wants me. Elizabeth wants me.'

Elizabeth tried to be good and resist taking more advantage, but the blissed-out look on his face was impossible to pass up. She'd missed how young he made her feel, actually carefree sometimes. For just a few moments more, she wanted a bit of fun, and peace; escaping the bad memories and uncertain future.

She'd never liked being held in someone's arms, always feeling too tall, gangly, and it required just too much trust. But she knew she was secure here and felt only stronger for his hold on her. Certainly strong enough to play with him, even strong enough to let him protect her for a while.

After all, faith in John Sheppard was something she'd learned the hard way; through years of conflict, comradeship and affection. She knew he'd lay down his life before dropping her, trusted his judgement in himself and his interpretation of his environment to guide his reactions. She was completely secure as long as she let him hold her. Yet she also knew he would let her take her safety out of his hands if she demanded it. Having this man stand with her allowed her to feel delicate and safe, yet strong enough to defend Atlantis against any takers. She shuddered to think what she would have done alone. Never safe, never a moment away from responsibility, no one to trust with her city, no one to discuss her judgement; she had a vision of a woman, hard and brittle, old far before her time, with no joy left to take pleasure in what she'd accomplished.

No; she was very glad she'd followed her instincts and fought to have the maverick as her second. Huffing a quiet laugh at what some people would say if they could see his expression now, she swallowed a giggle and concentrated on memorizing what his weak spots were. A master negotiator always kept note of ways to get through people's guards, she thought with a mental grin.

She ignored the fact that she was in a public place, had no job, no residence and no real idea of what he wanted out of this. She loved him, that she knew, had faced a long time ago, and she was making him feel almost as good as he made her feel with one of his warm smiles. That was a good way to pass the time until she was ready to carry on with whatever the future was to be.

"You're very quiet."

He kept his eyes closed but tilted his head, realizing he'd hardly said a word the whole time they were together. He spoke as she found a sensitive spot, slurring as he lost the track of his thought for a second. "Liz'beth," he opened his eyes, blinking a little sleepily at her, "I've gotten out of the habit I guess." He quirked a small smile, "It'll come back."

The unvoiced fact that it was losing her that had silenced him was there in the ghosts flitting through his eyes. She let her hand slide down to cup his cheek, feeling his stubble chafe the sensitive skin as he leaned into her palm. She kept her voice soft, wishing she was strong enough to raise herself and kiss his pain away. "I'm sure it will."

"So you admit you like my chatter, eh?" There was that proud puppy grin. If someone had told her how much she would come to need it to stay sane, she'd have been insulted. Now she just laughed and slid her hand back onto his head, cutting off the teasing in the most satisfying manner she could never have imagined. Oh yes, blissful John was a sight to gladden the worst beaten of hearts.

Even through the half groggy haze Elizabeth had got him in, John heard the curtain get pulled back and the military step of his commander approaching, but he refused to budge.

He was where he intended to stay, there was no consequence that would make him change his hold on Elizabeth. So long as they didn't try to take her away from him, they could batter him with anything. He tightened himself around her and reminded himself not to let her get concerned.

"Colonel."

One of his eyes could see Carter and glared, but he didn't respond otherwise. "John." The faint remonstrance in Elizabeth's voice didn't budge him either. She wasn't serious, just reminding him to mind his manners. He remembered well what her actual annoyed voice sounded like.

Elizabeth felt him tense, heard Colonel Carter approaching and prepared herself. It wasn't in her nature to hide from confrontations. They had to be faced to be won. Normally John was just as quick, but in this case she could almost hear him mentally growling, wanting to ignore the invader. She shook her head when he refused to answer, chiding him gently and realizing she'd have to run this negotiation without verbal help from him.

Watching the interaction with a bitten back grin, Sam changed her mind about the thread of the conversation. "I just wanted to let you know I've put you on extended personal leave and Major Lorne temporarily in charge. You can let me know when you're ready to return to active duty Colonel Sheppard. I'm afraid I do have to let Earth know you're back Dr. Weir, but I'm sure I heard Dr. Beckett say you should stay here until he's convinced you're fit."

By the time she was done, both of Colonel Sheppard's eyes were watching her, still wary, but he looked less like a junkyard dog on the prowl at least. And Dr. Weir looked relieved at the reprieve; relaxing once again into the colonel's protection, looking like tiredness was winning over her again.

Sam nodded and turned to go, at the last moment remembering another detail of her own time on a replicator ship. She caught a blanket off the shelves and went to drape it over the drowsing doctor, careful to move slowly and broadcast her intentions to the man guarding her. She made sure she was outside the infirmary before starting to giggle at the picture she'd caught of Sheppard zoned out with bliss before the sound of her approach had distracted him. Now she could believe the stories of his character.

The smile was firm on her face as she decided Dr. Weir was definitely showing signs of fighting form. If the woman could already rein the colonel, Sam had no doubt that between them the couple would get themselves back on their feet in no time.

"Dial up Earth please, sergeant."

Once the horizon was up, Sam sent in the Atlantis ID and opened a video channel, smiling cheerfully at General Landry nodding to her.

"Afternoon, general."

"Colonel. Problem?"

"No Sir. Or, at least I have every hope not. I'm afraid I need to get in touch with General O'Neil. I was hoping you could put in a call for me."

"Of course. Sergeant..." Before he'd even finished speaking, Sam held back a laugh as she heard Walter telling him the line was ready. It was good some things didn't change.

"Carter?" O'Neil looked worried at the unscheduled contact. "Bit of an extreme long distance call don't ya think?"

"Yes Sir. I thought you'd like to know we've found Dr. Weir. Alive and fairly well."

"How well?" The tense response reflected years of dealing with all the weirdness that the Stargate attracted.

"It took her a while to believe this was more than another replicator nightmare, but she seems on track now."

The general's shoulders relaxed a notch and a brief smile quirked his lips. "And in what condition is the dragon that's guarding her?"

"Defencive, general, but she forces him to be approachable."

His grin was real this time, taking several hard years off his face. "I don't doubt it. And I suppose this call means you'd like me to be the one to pass on this mixed blessing?"

Sam smirked at him. "The cost of wearing the pretty stars, Sir."

He snorted inelegantly. "I think we'd all be better off if you wore them."

"I may yet Sir."

"Smartass." Their shared smile challenged the loneliness they both faced. "I assume you took him off active duty?"

"Yeah. I wasn't going to move him from her side without her help." She rolled her eyes, "Didn't seem like a good precedent to set."

He shrugged. "I know if the woman I was nuts over reappeared after missing for two months, I certainly wouldn't let anyone from any galaxy anywhere near. No matter what their rank." The intensity in his eyes belied the smile on his lips and she knew she was blushing. "When are you coming home for a visit by the way?"

Sam laughed softly at the apropos comment, "You're the one with the influence. You tell me."

When he felt the body in his arms go limp, John lifted his head and realized she'd fallen asleep. He looked up and kept his voice low. "Carson?"

The doctor came through the curtain and saw his patient sleeping.

"Catch the blanket willya?"

"Aye laddy."

Once Carson had the blanket off Elizabeth, John slowly shifted his grip, then turned and lay down on the bed on his side, holding her in the same position. He looked up at Carson, half challenging any disapproval, only to see the man smiling softly as he covered them both with the blanket.

"Ye sure ye dinna want ta get rid o' some o' that equipment colonel?"

"I'm fine Carson," He felt Elizabeth automatically burrow into him and bent his head to finish nestling them together. "I'm not going anywhere."

"Aye laddy, a can see that. Good night." He walked away, glad the man was finally getting some rest, glad the demand for sleeping aids had already gone down from everyone in the city.

As consciousness returned, she could hear an odd snuffling sound right in her ear and a slow pounding reverberating around her. She opened her eyes, waking, confused as to her location. It took more moments to identify what she was looking at as skin... and a uniform top that was achingly familiar. As she slowly raised her head to confirm the foggy idea of where she was, the arms she hadn't realized were holding her shifted with her movement, snuffly snore hitching and changing speed before resettling.

By the time her eyes lifted to his face, her mind had cleared enough to pick the memory path to follow. She remembered the replicators. And coming home. And she realized she hadn't had such a wide goofy smile on her face in many, many years. Watching John Sheppard sleep, seeing how strangely well behaved his hair looked after sleeping on it, and...

Carson's quiet voice intruded, "Mornin' lass. Yer lookin' right better than the last time ye woke."

She looked over John's shoulder at the smiling doctor, and replied as softly as she could to avoid waking her holder. "I'm warm and safe, Carson, does wonders for the disposition." She was too content to bother being circumspect with their old friend.

"Aye, that it does. How's the tiredness?"

Her eyes widened for a moment, "Uh!" She tried a breath. "I don't think I've been this rested in years."

Carson rolled his eyes but refrained from lecturing. "Aye, well, that'll do wonders right there. How 'bout the weakness?"

She lifted her arm, still feeling like a lead weight, and grimaced. "Still there."

"And the soreness?"

"Not so bad, I think warmth is helping."

"Like as not. Hungry?"

"No." She cuddled closer to John. "I'm fine."

Carson felt his lip twitch. "Aye, lass. Let me know when 'e wakes sa ye can both get some food in ya." He turned away and re-closed the privacy curtain, a spring in his step that had been sorely lacking lately. It was very good to see her not only here, but cheerful.

"You knew I was awake." His breath wisped the hair on her forehead as he bent his head to touch her skin in something that could have been a kiss. Hands once again moving slowly back and forth on her back, unconsciously reassuring her now that he was awake again.

She sighed happily. "Yes. I just wanted to stay here. I'm so warm."

As she nuzzled deeper into his chest, he took a deep breath and released it slowly, keeping his arms tight around her, enjoying not feeling bands of pain squeezing the air from him for the first time in a seeming forever.

"So. Did you sleep well?" He rubbed his chin in her hair, the soft tickling strands lulling his senses half back to sleep.

The fingers of one of her hands had managed to tangle in the hair above his ear, actually making him purr in contentment, too drowsy to keep the reaction inside. "Yes. Actually," she knew she sounded surprised, "I didn't have nightmares!" He heard her small giggle of relief from pain and smiled; this was the way to wake up. To pleasurable sensation and no bad memories. Maybe the universe wasn't such a bad place.

"You snore." She said it softly, the intimate knowledge cherished even though she couldn't help wanting to tease.

He wanted to start replying to the teasing, but feeling her snuggle up made him promise himself he'd revisit this delightful accusation when she was in a more playful mood. There'd be time later to play... his smile grew. Time. They had time. He wrapped himself back around her and decided to just feel until someone forced him to think again.

"How are they doc?" Sam knew from Beckett's cheerful face that whatever the news was, it wasn't bad.

"Der fine. Slept for a good 12 hours, both o' 'em needin' it. A caught Dr. Weir awake and she actually seemed happy. Still weak, but a'm sure it'll pass once she starts eatin' and gettin' around more."

She nodded, "So they're still sleeping?"

Carson hesitated. "Weeel..." he sighed, "Nah, I reckon der awake. But all things considered, a reckon ev'n awake-resting is no bad thing for them. A'm sure the colonel will insist on bein' fed soon or late."

Sam smirked quietly; that had sounded like another colonel she once knew. When homesickness loomed, she shook herself and got back to work. "Let me know when they're up to and willing to talk, will ya doc?"

"Aye colonel, will do."

AN: Chapter 2 is well on its way, pray my muse doesn't get stuck in another galaxy... I know I do! lmao, which is a sign if ever there was one that I watch way to much scifi! g