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The awkward tension that hung between Weir and Sheppard didn't lessen with Caldwell's exit from the infirmary; in some ways, being alone in the wake of his teasing reminder of the kiss made the tension thicker, heavier, stretched to a level of discomfort that Weir and Sheppard had never had between them before. It lingered between them -- nervous, uncomfortable, tense -- until Sheppard laid aside his palm pilot and dozed off, his light snores a counter-note to the soft hum of the hybrid medical equipment that filled the room.

Once Sheppard had drifted away into sleep, Weir finally felt herself begin to relax, left to the solitude and relative silence of her own mind. At other times, in other circumstances, she might've been worried by the way her mind refused to concentrate closely enough to create solid thoughts and feelings and opinions but, at that moment, she was relieved by it.

When she'd shared her mind with Phebus, there'd been too much of it all. Now, as herself, as only Elizabeth Weir, she didn't need anything but the tranquility and security of her own consciousness.

*

Like Sheppard, Weir must have fallen asleep because the next thing she was aware of was the sudden shifting of her bed as new weight was added to it -- someone was perched on one side, lightly balancing a bit of their weight on a narrow stripe of the bed. Close, she noticed, but not too close.

Blinking the muzziness away from her eyes, Weir carefully twisted her position, turning so that she could see this new arrival. Even as she moved, she felt like she was moving through water; not so much an actual physical feeling but a manifestation of her dream-leaden mind, still dusty with the wispy cobwebs of bad dreams that she knew she'd been having for awhile. Struggling against her sluggish brain, Weir moved through it until the air around her normalized and she could see who sat on the edge of her bed, watching her with careful, appraising eyes.

It was Caldwell.

Surprisingly, he wasn't in the sweater she always associated with him but the service shirt wore underneath it was present, as well as rest of the uniform he never seemed to be without. She'd asked him about it once but she'd never gotten a straight answer and she'd worried at it for days, wondering why he never...

It took a moment to realize that her mind was wandering and she was drifting back asleep. Caldwell's hand on her elbow pulled her back into the land of the awake, if not completely alert.

"How are you feeling?" he asked her, his voice warm and low and concerned. He didn't remove his hand from her arm quickly, letting his fingers linger over her skin.

"Fine," she said automatically, but at the knowing look on his face amended, "Better now that she's gone. Things are still very -- surreal at the moment."

Caldwell nodded understandingly. "It'll pass. Things will look better and more clear soon. After you've had enough rest."

His dark eyes trailed away for a moment and Weir couldn't help but wonder what he was reliving in his own mind at that minute, what recent specters Phebus and Thalen might have conjured up for him. She turned toward him a little more, her sheet-covered knees bumping against his leg that was settled on the bed's edge.

She nodded, hair brushing against the pillow. "It hasn't quite all went away," she admitted. "Those feelings of imprisonment and anger and..."

"...and utter helplessness," he supplied when she faltered, voice trailing away into the silence. When she nodded her agreement again, Caldwell's fingers brushed against her arm again, offering a physical comfort when words failed him as well.

Weir regarded him with solemn eyes. "It was so short a time for me -- and John," she stated, her voice steady but hushed, not wanting to wake the sleeping man in the bed next to hers. Caldwell leaned in closer as her volume dropped. "But for you, it was so much longer..." She reached out and laid her hand over the one of his that rested on his knee. "I can't imagine what it must have been like."

"Yes, you can," he disagreed gravely, utterly serious. "You and Sheppard both can. I wouldn't wish it on anyone," he told her. "Least of all, you."

That brought a small smile to the surface and its delicate curve softened Weir's features, smoothed some of the severity from them as she searched his face with her eyes. "I know that, Steven," she told her, her tongue lingering over his given name, a small secret between them that it ever passed her lips.

Something softened in Caldwell's face in answer to hers. "It'll get easier," he promised. "It'll...fade. Given time. And perspective."

"But mostly time?" she asked, gently teasing, squeezing his hand.

"Mostly time," he repeated, nodding.

She sobered a little. "I -- Phebus did terrible things."

"Dex will understand," he assured her. "Just like you understood that I wasn't the Goa'uld."

Weir almost opened her mouth to remind him of some of the trouble she knew he was having, the sideway glances and the general uneasiness from both his crew as well as those in her expedition. She stopped herself before the words tumbled out but he must've read it in her face because he said, "Dr. Novak has made it her personal mission to help my crew and yours become...re-acclimated...to me. Knowing what I do of her tenacity, I'm sure she'll be successful given the time to implement her 'master plans,' as she calls them. I'll gladly lend her your services if need be."

She shook her head, laughter bubbling. "Thank you for the offer, but no," she said. "I think I'll pass."

"You might not be able to," he warned her, deadpan. "Dr. Novak is highly persuasive. You may have no choice."

Weir was still chuckling at Caldwell's wry humor when she noticed that he was watching her intently, more focused and meditative than she'd never seen him be. She watched curiously as he lifted his hand, gently disentangled from hers, to brush the mussed tendrils of her hair away from her face, knuckles brushing against her cheek as he slowly pulled his hand away.

He shook his head, taking in her wide, green eyes and questioning expression. "I think Phebus had it right," he told her.

"No," she told him quickly, reaching for his retreating hand, cradling it between her own. "I didn't think that. I've never thought that."

"I know, but she was still right," Caldwell said quietly, watching Weir as she said traced a thumb over the curve of his, her fingers curling around his larger hand, flitting over the roughened palm and knotted knuckles. "I am hopeless."

Weir looked up from their entwined hands at that, the warmth and amusement in his voice at odds with the words themselves. She noticed his eyes -- heated, like his words, lingering, like his hands -- and saw the traces of softness still evident in the lines of his expression, in the planes of his face as he looked from her face down to their clasped hands.

"Oh, I don't know," she murmured invitingly, watching him as intently as he watched her. "You're far from hopeless."

Weir smiled at him and he answered with one of his own, his eyes still dark and warm as he regarded her. There was a flash of determination in them that made Weir momentarily wonder but as he leaned in closer to her, his hand coming up again to caress her face, her confusion faded as her awareness heightened and then he was kissing her, obliterating any echoes that might have lingered of the way Sheppard's lips had felt against hers when Phebus had pressed them to Thalan's.

When they broke apart, Weir was still smiling. "See? Not hopeless at all."

Caldwell smiled at that. "It's nice to have my faith restored," he said dryly and she was chuckling again.

He touched her face once more, fingers running through her loose hair even as he rose to his feet. "I'd better go," he told her. "Beckett will be here to run me off soon and I still have a great deal of paperwork to finish. Kisses are extraordinarily troublesome."

"I hope not all of them," she replied, eyes bright with mischief.

"Troublesome in their own way," he said, a little more serious but still warm, still affectionate. He gently ran his thumb over her bottom lip before he finally broke away. "I'll be back later," he promised.

She nodded. "Preferably with something to entertain me," she warned him. She cast her eyes meaningfully over at Sheppard's sleeping form. "Colonel Sheppard isn't very good at sharing his toys."

"Well, I'm sure I can find something to bring you that'll hold your interest," he assured her. Weir couldn't help but raise her eyebrows speculatively and be intrigued by the subtle innuendo in his voice.

"I'll be waiting, then."

Caldwell paused at the door, glancing back at her one more time. "Elizabeth," he said, giving her a nodded farewell before he continued on his way out.

A moment later she heard the muted sound of his voice speaking quietly with Beckett, too far away for the words to be distinct; but the rich timbre of his voice washed warmly over her, even as it was occasionally broken by the lyrical cadence of Beckett's accent.

It was a soothing sound, more soothing than the hum of Ancient-Earth medical equipment or even the even and steady rhythm of Sheppard's snores. Weir settled comfortably in her bed and focused on the dim echoes, letting it lead her away from thought, from worry and back toward the dreamy twilight of sleep.

*

A few hours later, when Sheppard woke up thanks to McKay's arrival in the infirmary to check on him and report on Ronon's status, he glanced over at his boss fondly as he pulled himself into a sitting position, idly wondering what she was dreaming of that left her smiling in her sleep.