Elizabeth rubbed her temples and gazed into her lukewarm coffee, wishing that she could shut her mind off for five minutes. She reminded herself that she loved her job, that she was good at her job, and that she shouldn't complain. She certainly shouldn't have been surprised that things were a little stressful. At least they weren't under attack, for once. Paperwork and personnel reviews weren't nearly as bad as a wraith invasion.
Logically, she knew all of these things, but emotionally? Physically? She was exhausted. If only she could find the damn off-switch for her brain and have a few decent hours of sleep.
Such was life in command.
She took a s mall sip of her coffee, but grimaced and pushed the mug away when the liquid sat cold on her tongue. She wanted more, she really wanted more, but the effort to walk across the empty midnight mess hall for a fresh cup just seemed like entirely too much for her. You were never this lazy on Earth, Logic chided. Emotion firmly reminded it of the stress Elizabeth was currently under. Logic returned that mental stress should not have any noticeable influence on Elizabeth's legs.
Elizabeth groaned and fisted her hands in her hair. Great. Now she was arguing with herself. One more thing to keep her awake at night.
The sound of footsteps made her look up. Teyla was crossing the mess, a tray balanced in her hands. She gave a gentle smile as she set her load down. "Tea?" she asked, sliding gracefully into the chair opposite Elizabeth's. "It's fresh."
"Thanks," Elizabeth mumbled, giving her friend a tired smile. Her very awake and alert friend. She swore mentally. She must look like crap compared to Teyla.
"Can't sleep?" the younger woman asked, handing her the first steaming cup.
Elizabeth took it gratefully. "No, I've been busy with reports and files and personnel reviews, and more reports. It's a never-ending, vicious cycle that doesn't allow much down time."
"I can understand how stressful that must be."
"It's only for the month," Elizabeth said, more to reassure herself than Teyla. "Then, hopefully, I'll be done with the majority of this until next year. What about you? It's late, and you don't have a mountain of paperwork waiting. Shouldn't you be resting?"
"I just returned from New Athos this afternoon," Teyla explained. "My body has not yet re-acclimated to time here."
"Oh, that's right." With all that had been on her mind lately, Elizabeth was starting to lose track of the little things, like New Athos and its significant time difference. "Gate-lag."
Teyla smiled and nodded. "What is the deep of the night here on Atlantis is mid-morning there."
"That must be brutal."
"It does not last long."
Teyla sipped her tea, and Elizabeth followed suit, savoring the hot drink. She noticed that there were several more cups on Teyla's tray beside the teapot as well as cream and sugar, though to her knowledge the Athosian didn't generally require either. "What are the extra cups for?" she asked casually, counting three.
Teyla shrugged a slim shoulder. "Always be prepared," she quoted with a smile.
Elizabeth couldn't help but laugh. "Okay, who is the boyscout?" she asked.
"Major Lorne," Teyla replied fondly. "He spent most of his time on New Athos regaling the children with stories. He became quite popular; I imagine it will crush John's ego when he finds out. And speaking of Colonel Sheppard..." She smiled over Elizabeth's shoulder, right before John jogged over and sat down beside her, spinning his chair around and straddling it.
"Hello, ladies," he said, flashing his 'charming' smile as Teyla poured him tea. "It's a little late to be having tea parties, isn't it? Not that I don't enjoy a good cup of tea." He winked at Teyla.
The expression on her face was only vaguely amused. "I believe you'd call it gate-lag."
"And I am taking a break from paperwork," Elizabeth explained. "And what are you doing up, John? Shouldn't the military leader of Atlantis be getting his proper eight hours?"
Sheppard snorted. "Yeah, name one time that any one of us has slept for eight uninterrupted hours outside the infirmary."
"Granted. But still, it's quiet now; shouldn't you be trying?"
"Now Elizabeth, if I didn't know better, I'd think that you were trying to get rid of me."
"I couldn't sleep," he admitted. "I decided to go for a run, clear my head; and my stomach led me here for a sandwich. Speaking of, either of you want anything while I'm over there?"
Teyla politely declined, and Elizabeth too shook her head. "The tea is fine; but thank you."
"Your loss," Sheppard shrugged, heading for the cooler. But he came back with a tray loaded with sandwiches and grapes, and dished out to the two of them before himself. Seeing as it was a gentlemanly gesture, Elizabeth chose not to comment.
She was maybe three bites into her sandwich when Rodney wandered in. He offered a distracted wave, but didn't approach them until he'd filled a tray with jello cups. He sat down beside Teyla and distributed several cups (not the blue ones) around the table, claiming several sandwiches at the same time. Teyla poured him tea.
"There's no lemons in this, right?" he asked, sniffing the steaming brew cautiously. "Or ginger? You might not know it, but I've recently developed this adverse reaction to certain spices where I –"
"There is nothing in this that you are allergic to, Rodney," Teyla assured him. "It is perfectly safe."
"I did slice a lemon in your sandwich, though," John deadpanned.
Rodney frowned at him. "Oh, haha. Funny, Sheppard. Real funny."
"I thought it was."
Elizabeth was starting to sense a pattern in their arrivals. She decided to direct her inquiry at McKay, remembering his terrible poker face. "I guess it's safe to assume that you couldn't sleep, either?" she asked casually.
Rodney looked up at her and blinked. "Hm? Oh, no. I never sleep much; I was working on some equations for that gate bridge that Colonel Carter and I have been discussing."
"Yeah, he saves all of his sleeping for when he's on missions," John smirked. Rodney threw a grape at him.
"...Did you three plan this?" Elizabeth asked, only partially to keep the verbal jabs from turning into a full-fledged food fight. She wouldn't have put it past them. "This all seems rather convenient."
A glance passed between the three of them. "I don't know what you're talking about," Sheppard began.
Just then, Ronon walked in, taking a seat beside McKay and filling a plate. He looked up when he noticed Elizabeth watching him. "We thought you could use the company," he rumbled with a rare smile, before devoting his attention to his food.
At least the rest of them had the decency to blush. They buried themselves in cups and hid behind sandwiches, and Elizabeth had to try not to laugh. A smile wormed its way out, anyways. For all of their failed subtlety, it was really very sweet of them; and their embarrassment was amusing.
She met Ronon's eyes. "Thank you, Ronon," she said with a genuine smile. "I appreciate it."
He swallowed his mouthful of jello. "Don't mention it."
Needless to say, there was little sleeping or paperwork done that night; but somehow, Elizabeth's exhaustion was gone.