prowler_pilot: (JA joy)
[personal profile] prowler_pilot
Title: Air and Water
Fandom: SGA
Pairing: John/Liz UST.
Rating: PG
Summary: Unable to go to sleep, Colonel John Sheppard heads down to the pool for a late night swim.
A/N: For [livejournal.com profile] vickysg1, who gave me the prompt insomnia months ago


John adjusted the strap of his duffel bag on his shoulder as the transporter doors slid open. He stepped into the silent passageway and lights turned on, sensing his presence. His steps echoed loudly off the walls as he walked towards his destination.
They had discovered the ancient pool only fairly recently, in a part of the city that had been left long unexplored because of its lack of laboratories and facilities. It was close to a number of bigger quarters, which they had hypothesized were destined to families, rather than the smaller quarters the expedition occupied, closer to the control tower and the jumper bay.

At this time of night – it was well past one a.m – the corridor was completely silent. It would have been eerie, if not for the familiar buzz of power coursing through the city, and the sound of waves crashing against the not-too-distant south pier. By that time, the control tower was uncharacteristically quiet as well, only a skeleton crew keeping a watchful eye on the consoles above the gate room. Even Elizabeth had been nowhere to be seen when he'd stopped by for a last check before coming to the pool. At least she was getting some well-deserved rest, or so he hoped.

He hadn't been so lucky that night. He had turned in fairly early after a couple of rounds of chess with McKay – which he'd won, to the scientist's dismay – but found he could not put his mind to rest. He tried picking up his copy of War and Peace from where it laid abandoned on his nightstand, but he was just too wired up to relax with a book. So he'd slipped on a pair of swim trunks beneath his uniform pants and found his way to the pool, hoping that a bit of exercise and the soothing coolness of the water would do the trick.

The pool was bathed in a dim light when he stepped into the warm room. The stained glass in hues of greens and blues depicted underwater scenes. The reflection of the water on the glass, and the full circles of the moons outside gave a realistic quality to the images. Decorations such as this were hard to come by in Atlantis; they occasional reminders that people, families, children, had once lived serenely and in peace in the city, before the war with the Wraith.

John sighed and dropped the duffel bag to the side of the pool as he toed off his boots and unbuckled his pants.
A splash from the pool startled him and made him suddenly realize that he was not alone. His eyes scanned the water until he saw a dark figure moving in the middle lane, arms and head smoothly breaking the surface at every stroke.
He watched as the mysterious swimmer reached the end of the lane, and, with a graceful and well-practiced movement, turned and resumed swimming in the opposite direction. A woman, he thought as the swimmer moved directly under the light, and he caught a glimpse of a small, lithe body in a black one piece, red swim cap and goggles. Whoever she was, she was no amateur, he noted as he watched her glide through the water in even, strong strokes.

He slowly stepped out of his pants and took off his shirt, his eyes always on the woman in the water. He trained fairly often in the water, mostly to give his joints a break when he was not offworld getting his ass kicked, and the form did not seem to belong to any of the regulars he saw during the day. She would not have gone unnoticed. Maybe she was one of the new marines, or a scientist who preferred to have the pool all for herself so she wouldn't have to mingle with the military.

As he bent to retrieve his own swim cap and goggles from his bag, he saw a pile of discared clothes and boots, a bag and a robe sitting on the steps near the lavatory. It was hard to tell in the dim lights of the room, but the rumpled t-shirt lying on the standard gray pants and jacket looked a suspiciously familiar shade of red.
Elizabeth? Could it be?

He had always thought, when he basically forced her to take basic defense training, that she was not as sports-averse as she played out to be. A bit clumsy in the martial arts maybe, that was for sure, but she looked too toned for someone who allegedly spent her most of her waking hours sitting in front of a screen.

Intrigued, he adjusted his swim cap before he gingerly sat on the side of the pool and dipped his legs in the water, letting his body get used to the colder temperature before diving in. His movements must have caught the woman's eye, because suddenly there were a gasp, a loud splash of water, and a cocked head loking straight at him.

“John?” The very familiar voice echoed off the walls of the room. “Is that you?” She pulled her goggles up to rest on her forehead, and he eventually recognized Elizabeth's questioning green eyes.

“Yes, uh, it's me. Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you.” He scratched the back of his head uncomfortably, somehow feeling like he had intruded on something he was not supposed to be a part of. “I was not expecting anyone to be here at this ungodly hour.” He offered her a sheepish smile. “I couldn't sleep and thought swimming would help me unwind.” He blurted out, feeling as if he owed her an explanation for his presence there.

She seemed to pick up on his embarrassment – of course she would – and an eyebrow arched delicately, the ghost of an amused smile playing at the corners of her lips.
“You don't have to apologize, I was not expecting anyone here either. Hang on.” In a flash, she disappeared under the surface. John saw her form glide beneath the lane lines and finally, she came up a few feet from him.
She pushed herself out of the water a little, resting both elbows on the edge of the pool. She looked at him with a glint in her eyes that suggested that she was in a good mood, and probably not upset by his intrusion on her privacy.

“So, where did you learn to swim so well?” He asked.

“I joined the swim team in junior high, and continued training regularly until I started my PhD. Life got a bit to hectic after that. I started going abroad on diplomatic missions and couldn't keep up anymore.” She shrugged. “I always made sure to hit the pool whenever I could, though. So you may understand how glad I was when the marines discovered this little gem.” She smiled. Pool or not, it was an exquisite room.

“Do you come here often? We've never crossed paths before.” He probed, curious.

“I try to swim at least twice a week. Usually very early in the morning or very late at night. If I've ever had company here, then they did a good job of keeping it to themselves.” She sighed. “It helps me focus more than anything, so I try and do it as often as I can. You know, when the world's not ending.” Her eyebrows shot up and she shared a look with him that he knew all too well.
While he did share the responsibility of the expedition with her, she had political and administrative duties that left her stuck in her office and buried in paperwork on most nights and supposed 'days off'.

Unwilling to sour the mood by bringing up boring reports or worse, the IOA, he went back to questioning her about her past. Always on the brink of destruction, they lived in the present and it was all to easy for him to forget that the woman before him had not always been the leader of the Atlantis expedition.

“Did you ever compete, back then?”

She nodded, beaming. “Yes. I wasn't going to make the Olympics or anything, but I wasn't bad.” She pushed back from the edge of the pool with her feet, unable to keep still.

“I can see that.” His eyes were immediately drawn to the newly exposed spray of freckles on her chest, glistening under the light of the lamp overhead. Disappearing beneath the hem of her swimsuit, it seemed to match the tiny dots that peppered the bridge of her nose and cheekbones whenever she spent any time outside under the sun. He forced himself to look away before she could catch him staring and followed her gaze to one of the painted window panes depicting whale-like animals swimming in the depths of the ocean.

She sighed. “I was always attracted to water,” she added absently, “I guess it's my element, in a certain sense.”

John could not doubt her words. She had been the one to tell him once that she could no longer fall asleep without the sound of the ocean soothing her overworked mind, but her fascination with the floating city of Atlantis and the ocean of Lantea were obvious to everyone who worked in close contact with her. He knew that when she was overwhelmed by whatever this galaxy had thrown at them, she would find solace on the balcony outside her office. He had found her there many times, staring out into the ocean as if engaged in a deep conversation only she could hear.

He smiled softly down at her, “That, I already suspected.” He reiterated, his voice lower this time. He watched, surprised, as a slight blush crept up her neck into her face, and she ducked her head demurely.

“Yours would be air, no doubt.” She mused.

“I'm a flyboy through and through.” He smirked as he slid, not as gracefully as he would have liked, into the pool. He gasped softly at the coolness of the water against his skin. His discomfort must have been visible on his face, because the glint he could never interpret – was she flirting with him? - was back in Elizabeth's eyes. “Oh, that you definitely are.”

“Having fun at my expense, uh? This water's freezing.”

“It won't be after you start swimming. Actually,” she regained the edge of the pool and hauled herself out of the water, “I'm going to leave you to it. I have a meeting with the botanics group at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning and I should really try and get some sleep.” She grimaced at the thought of the upcoming day of meetings as she released her hair from the swim cap and squeezed the excess water out of her curls.

John's eyes trailed up her body as she went to retrieve her robe, taking in the shapely legs and gentle curves he'd long suspected were under the unflattering cargo pants she wore day in day out.

“I could take you surfing next time we're on Earth.” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop himself.

Elizabeth spun on her heels to face him. “Tell you what. If we ever do get enough vacation time to get to California while we're on Earth, I'll take you up on it.”

“I'll take that as a promise!” He called back as she disappeared into the washroom to change. He sighed and pushed himself off the wall of the pool, exploiting the momentum to fall into a leisurely backstroke.

Thinking about what he had discovered about Elizabeth tonight, he smiled to himself. However, he had come down here to find a way to fight insomnia and was going to leave with an image of his boss's retreating figure in a tight swimsuit. And those damn freckles.
He reached the end of the lane and made an awkward u-turn before picking up his pace. He could wear himself out physically, but sleep would not come easily that night.
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