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Author's Chapter Notes:
Spoilers: Set before 1x05 "Suspicion".
Disclaimers: Neither Stargate Atlantis nor any of its characters belongs to me.
Notes: Thanks to Rose Wilde Irish for the beta and title suggestions.
Originally published on February 14, 2016.

John wasn't sure what to make of the recent reports: a thief was somehow entering locked rooms and stealing single items of clothing and, bafflingly, random pieces of paper. Apparently a scientist's watch had disappeared as well, but overall the 'stolen' objects were mundane in nature. There were too many reports for all of the items to have simply been misplaced, but security footage of the living areas revealed nothing. John was at a loss at how to proceed; he might be the military commander (by default), but the Air Force hadn't prepared him for petty larceny investigations.

Perhaps talking to Eliz- Dr. Weir would give him some ideas. She had left the matter to him, but he'd hit a dead end, and two heads were better than one and all that.

'If you're going to work with her, you need to get over your crush on her,' John told himself as he headed toward her office.

It was a mantra he had repeated to himself several times a week over the three months they'd been in Atlantis. So far it was working. Or at least he thought it was. He hadn't said, done, or implied anything untoward to Elizabeth (Dr. Weir). He knew he still harbored the crush, but lately, he hadn't needed to remind himself about its unprofessionalism quite so often. Still, a fresh reminder now and again couldn't hurt.

He climbed the steps to the control room and immediately noticed her absence through the glass windows. A nod from Grodin told him that Elizabeth was on the balcony.

As John passed through the doors, he called, "Dr. Weir-" He stopped short in surprise at the scene before him. "Dr. Weir, what are you doing?"

Elizabeth was leaning partway over the edge of the balcony, one hand gripped on the rail, the other on the post, apparently looking at something below. Although he was getting a pretty great view of her backside, her unexpected position made him nervous - a mixture of "was something wrong? had she seen something?" and "if she leans forward any further..." worries.

She pulled herself straight up and looked back at him, a bright smile on her face. "Major Sheppard! Come take a look."

Nothing bad then. He relaxed slightly. Somewhat bemused by (and drawn to, he reluctantly acknowledged) her excitement, he joined her at the railing.

She pointed to the bottom left. The angle forced him to lean over her shoulder, awkwardly brushing against her side. She didn't protest or comment, so he ordered himself to ignore any inappropriate thoughts that their close proximity was creating. He distracted himself by scanning the area she was pointing at, wondering what he was looking for. Before he could even finish the thought, he spotted it.

In a little alcove to the side, a vibrantly-colored creature was busily building itself what John could only assume was a nest. It had shimmering, long feathers that collected in an enormous tail, a curved neck, and some type of lithe antennae extending from its head. After a few seconds, the beautiful bird gave a satisfied sound - appropriately melodic - and flapped its multi-hued wings.

"Wow," John breathed. "That's amazing."

He had seen some alien animals already, mostly domestic farm animals and some woodland fauna; apart from that damn bug a few months back, the animals his team had encountered hadn't looked too different from the animals of Earth. This bird, though, seemed like something from a myth or a fairy tale. Surely there was a bird somewhere on Earth that could rival the colors and elegance of the alien one that he beheld now, but he also wouldn't be surprised if there was nothing like it in the entire Milky Way.

Elizabeth voiced his thoughts: "It's beautiful. I've never seen anything like it."

He heard awe in her words, and he was reminded of how she had looked after the city had risen to the surface; he was sure that same wonder was on her face now. They had come to Atlantis to explore and learn new things, and it was surprisingly easy to forget, what with being stranded from Earth in a galaxy full of space vampires, that there were beautiful discoveries to be made too. Sometimes even in their own backyard, so to speak.

"Do you know anything about birds?" John asked, his eyes still on the alien animal.

"Not much," Elizabeth said, "and alien birds even less. We have some zoologists on the expedition, one with experience in ornithology." Sensing his confusion, she clarified: "Birds." She continued, "The scientists are only beginning to scratch the surface of what's in the Ancient databases, and not much information on Pegasus wildlife has turned up yet, outdated as it may be."

"It couldn't have been here before," John mused. "The city was underwater for thousands of years. Even with the shield, I doubt it could have survived that long without food."

Elizabeth nodded in agreement. "If that's true, that probably means there's land nearby. I wonder how far it flew."

Trying to sound casual, John said, "Once we figure a way to get the jumpers out, someone should do a little reconnaissance of this planet."

She turned her face to give him an appraising look. "Any excuse for a joyride, John?" she guessed, questioning his motives.

It was a little disconcerting how well she could already read him (come on, the jumpers were cool), but he replied innocently, "You make me sound so irresponsible, Doctor. I always fly the speed limit. Safety first."

Her amused smile was pretty, and he felt that stupid little crush resurfacing.

(And he was interested in finding out if there was land close by, but he wasn't about to admit to her it was because of beaches and surfing.)

The sound of beating wings gained their attention; a second bird suddenly appeared, as colorful as the first, swooping down to the nest. The first bird greeted its mate happily with more charming, melodious notes, and John wondered if they were songbirds. He noticed then that the second bird was carrying something blue in its beak. The 'something' looked suspiciously like-

"Is that a shirt?" Elizabeth asked. "You don't think..."

Everything fell into place. John recalled that two of the 'victims' had mentioned leaving their windows opened, and John suspected that, due to the warm weather on the planet, the rest of them had done the same. He hadn't given much thought to that detail, as a human thief could hardly scale the walls and spires of Atlantis to take advantage of open windows. An avian thief, however... He could see that Elizabeth had reached the same conclusion.

The two birds joyfully tore the shirt into scraps, using the strips of cloth to furnish their nest.

"I'll e-mail everyone a notice to keep their windows closed," Elizabeth sighed. "Until the babies are born anyway."

Right. Of course there would be baby birds. At least some of Earth's finest cotton, polyester, and paper pulp would go to a good cause. (And the watch. Maybe the birds wanted something shiny?)

"I guess you won't be alone out here for a while," John said, nudging her shoulder gently.

Even in the span of three months, he and most of Atlantis had come to think of this balcony as Dr. Weir's. Others (usually the crew of the control room) used it on occasion, but out of respect, they never did so when Elizabeth was there. They all knew it was a place of respite for her.

"I don't mind good company, Major," Elizabeth said, glancing up at him.

Before he could fully process that, her gaze returned to the two birds that were now nuzzling each other in their new home. She added lightly, "Though I'm sure the zoologists will want to monitor the birds for the next few months. And once word gets out, everyone else will want to come see them, too. You're right, it might get a little busy here."

She sounded so wistful, John found himself promising, "Tell you what. If I find another uninhabited balcony, I'll let you know."

Elizabeth turned toward him, blinking. He returned her look with sincerity, hoping he wasn't blushing.

"Thank you, John," she said after a long moment, and the small smile she gave him made his secret embarrassment worth it.

Clearing his throat, he pulled away from the railing - and Elizabeth - and looked at his watch. 12:30.

"You up for lunch?" John offered casually.

"Why not." Elizabeth stepped back from the railing as well. "I can drop by Dr. Sanders's office and tell her about our discovery."

"'Our'?" John repeated in confusion as he followed her inside. "I didn't discover anything."

"You were there," Elizabeth said simply, descending the steps. "Close enough."

John narrowed his eyes thoughtfully at her. Any other member of the expedition would have been thrilled to get all the credit, especially since... "You just don't want them to name the birds after you," he realized, his eyes brightening. "Come on, Doc, it'd be cool. Something like 'weirians' or 'weirons' could work."

Elizabeth gave him a look that said she was unimpressed with his suggestions. "And you say Lieutenant Ford can't name things?"

He was completely undeterred. "What about 'weirrots' or 'weirgles'?"

"Major, you're just adding 'Weir' to existing bird names."

As they passed one of the labs, John thought he heard McKay complaining about losing another shirt. 'Hmm. Maybe...'

But the thought was immediately forgotten as coming up with obnoxious bird names was clearly much more important. "Oh, how about 'weirverns'?"

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