Title: Time Difference
Summary: The contemplation of silence is an unusual pastime.
A/N: written for maevebran who wanted a midnight meeting at the SGC.
There was quite a time difference between Atlantis and Earth, not even taking into account the fact that the days of the two planets weren’t the same length in the first place. On the few times she’d been back to Earth on arranged visits, Elizabeth had always had a choice. She could leave in the middle of the Lantean night, and arrive with an hour to go before her briefing to the IOA, General O’Neill or, on one occasion, the President. Or she could choose to arrive at some ridiculously hour of the morning Earth side, and hang around on base till her first appointment.
Every time she’d chosen the latter. It wasn’t that she was unsocial, and wanted to avoid seeing people Earth side. There were two reasons why she chose the latter option and one of them was social; she liked to be able to say goodbye to her expedition members. She knew even if she left at half midnight Sheppard’s team would stay up to say goodbye, probably more than just them. But she didn’t want to be a bother to them.
The second reason was a little unusual; she really liked the SGC at night. She liked Atlantis at night too. There was just something about places like these, that during the day gave off the impression that they never closed and the people never slept, when really, secretly, they did. Something comforting about sitting in a mess normally filled with people who save the world on a regular basis, and knowing that right then they were in their own homes, just taking a moment to breathe. The only other people she had found who truly understood this, were the ones who sat in the mess with her or bumped into her on the balcony at night as she watched the city slumber.
Because of the difference in day length, the time variation changed. Today, the gate technician welcomed her with a rather cheeky “Welcome to Earth, Dr. Weir. Please set your watch back twelve hours,” making it 23:51. Not quite the middle of the night then.
She briefly reported to the infirmary, where they happily confirmed that she was not infested with parasites and took a blood sample just to double check, before heading over to the mess where she tended to wait out the hours before her meetings began. Sometimes she would check the base logs, to see if anyone she knew or got along with was still hanging around at this hour but that normally wasn’t the case.
When she arrived, she didn’t touch the coffee, or look for cake. She wasn’t there to raid the place for a late night snack or enough caffeine to get her to the end of the shift. She was there to listen to the non-silence; the humming of machines, echoing footsteps from the hall and the occasional murmuring and chink of crockery when she was joined by those on duty.
“I wouldn’t have imagined you as the kind of person who would just sit and stare into space.”
The voice interrupted her contemplation, but she wasn’t bothered by it. In fact she was pleased.
“Elizabeth,” he said as he took the seat opposite her. “You’re here for a meeting with Jack aren’t you?”
“And then I have to give a brief report to the IOA,” she confirmed. “Hopefully brief enough that they won’t even have time for questions at the end. I’ve politely requested Colonel Caldwell beam me onto the Daedalus at 14:00 exactly no matter where I am.”
“Then I think you better make sure you aren’t in a crowded shopping centre, we’re running low on cover”
“I get the point,” she smiled. She wasn’t really sure why Daniel was here, he had probably just stumbled upon her in the mess because he was already on base, working on some fascinating translation that certainly couldn’t be left till the morning. Though the two of them had a thousand and one things they could talk about, when she found herself face to face with him at moments like this she could never really think of what to say. It was like she became flustered, or something. Rationally she had decided she was a little afraid of his intelligence, even though she wasn’t exactly dumb herself – there were of course other explanations for her nervous behaviour but she wasn’t willing to acknowledge them.
As if he sensed her inability to choose a topic, Daniel launched into conversation, “Sometimes I like to just come down here at night and see the place when it’s quiet. It’s so peaceful you wouldn’t think we fight off enemy incursions every other week.”
She stared at him in surprise, but Daniel apparently took her look for one of bafflement, “Yeah, I know, it’s strange, but.”
“No,” Elizabeth cut him off, now smiling broadly. “It’s just, that’s the exact reason why I always choose to arrive here in the middle of the night. I was just a little surprised, I wouldn’t have taken you to be the kind of person who can just sit down and stare into space either.”
“Normally, no,” he confessed, “but the SGC at night is the exception to the rule you could say.”
They both smiled at each other, in the way friends do when they are sharing a thought about some secret pleasure, or private joke. They would always have this, this unusual little habit in common. Would always know they could go to the other and say what they had learnt by contemplating silence. So Elizabeth decided to do just that.
“Atlantis is beautiful at night,” Elizabeth ventured. “I’m not sure how much of it you really got to see, you were on a mission after all.”
“I can imagine, though I’d prefer to see it for myself.”
“You can stand on the balconies, and just listen to the water. And you think, at that time, minus all the people – it would be the only thing you hear. It would literally drown out everything else. But the whole city seems to have this never ending energy about it, and you can just hear this hum, this buzz, not quite like the machines you hear when you sit here. It’s like; it’s like listening to the city breathing.”
Now he was the one looking at her, but not in bafflement, not in surprise – his look was one that was much warmer than those emotions. One of affection and one that was making her feel flustered again.
“I hope you get the experience that some day,” she just about managed to get out.
“So do I.”
Elizabeth glanced at the clock on the all to find it was now quarter past one, and was surprised so much time had gone by.
“It’s so late, what are you doing here anyway?” She asked, hoping he wouldn’t take it as her trying to get rid of him.
“I heard you were coming.”
Elizabeth gave up on trying not to be flustered.