Rating: Adults Only For Graphic Sex, Adult Situations and Violent Imagery
Category: POV Vignettes; Angst; Non Con (see warnings)
Pairings: Caldwell/Sheppard (AU); Dex/Sheppard/McKay; Lorne/Sheppard; Sumner/Sheppard/McKay (Mensa Universe AU); Mitchell/Sheppard
Warnings: Dubious Consent (#1 & #2) and Non Con (#4)
Notes: I spent days brainstorming possible scenarios for Kimberlite's Secret Santa request -- and concerned that I wouldn't finish the story I started on in time, I've pinch-hit myself. The first is the background from the section I wrote in the real fic and then cut. If/when it gets done, it'll still be inspired by Kimberlite's request.
For the 2007 SGA Secret Santa Fic Exchange
5. Burning Bright between the Return 1 & 2
(There's nothing ever wrong but nothing's ever right; such a cruel contradiction)
"Man, I still cannot believe you let the Medocian's call you a poser," I began the absolute second the stargate spit us back out into the Earth's gateroom; I'd had to listen to it being used as a title for those same three days, after all. And not make any comment in case I insulted our hosts. It had been damn hard to keep my tongue.
Jackson turned my direction, his habitual expression of frustration and confusion firmly in place. "It's posser, not poser," he corrected and yeah, maybe his pronunciation was the tinniest bit different when he said both words, like the way some Japanese words change their meaning with how long you hold the vowel, but I'd bet good money that anyone who saw either word here written down would agree with me.
"It means 'revered one' to the Medocian's, the 'one to be guarded'," Jackson started in with remarkable enthusiasm.
So easy to wind-up, but so hard to get mad at.
"I suppose it could be an off-world shift modification of the Medieval Latin praeservāre, or' guard beforehand'. Poser or poseur if you prefer," he continued with a nod my direction as the gate shut off behind us, "is instead a French word from the late 1800s meaning 'one who practices affected attitudes' and that draws back to the Old French word poser or 'to put or place' based on the English translation of the word pose from the Latin pōnere --"
"I'm not sure I'd be making too big a thing out someone else's nickname, Shaft," Sam interrupted the linguistics lesson that would have gone on for hours if we'd let it.
"Hey, Shaft is a cool nickname," I started in hopes of deflecting, or that perhaps she didn't know the true etymology of my nickname. "I still can't decide whether Samuel L. Jackson made a better Shaft than Richard Roundtree --"
"Definitely Actor Samuel L. Jackson in the case of the character, but Actor Richard Roundtree's storyline made the better movie," Teal'c informed us in his this-is-the-definitive-answer voice, with his peculiar way of making someone's name all one word once we began to turn our weapons over to the waiting SFs.
Huh. No General Landry waiting up the observation booth with Walter, who just waved us on.
"Only those movies are not where the nickname comes from, right, Cam…shaft?" Sam piped up again.
And she gave me a smile that I maybe wanted to punch out had she not been, well, a woman. Not that she couldn't kick my ass on the gym floor, but that's partly because she's been at this field work a few more years than I have, and mostly because my pappy taught me never to hit a girl and so me thinking of her solely as a soldier instead of a woman isn't all that natural.
Since everything looked normal, I figured the General was off checking on his daughter or something, and he'd just meet us there in her infirmary for a short version of the debrief to tide us all over.
"Your nickname comes from a pole attached to an irregularly formed disk?" Jackson cocked his head in my direction was we headed out. "What's it's supposed to represent, your body and your head?"
"Hardy har, har," I gave my own toothy grin that was all promise and not one of the happy ones. "Camshaft is just the default nickname by those people too lazy to think." I shot Sam a look of victory even if it wasn't that good a put down.
I then sighed when no one looked like they believed my last jibe. "If you must know, the nickname on my bird was Buck, after the character the other Cameron Mitchell played on TV when I was five years old. My mama's favorite movie was Carousel and she wasn't about to name me Billy or Jigger Mitchell."
"Ooh, Jigger. I could get behind Jigger --" Sam started in again at the elevator. "Couldn't you, Daniel?" she asked Jackson.
"Don't you fucking dare," I snarled and aimed a mock punch her direction -- after making sure it was only my team present, and not some officer or big wig from Washington or the IOA lurking around before threatening her. I had enough trouble keeping the Brass off my back without added a Conduct Unbecoming just because we were letting off a little steam in public.
Sure our last mission had been three days sans Ori, and the Medocian leadership had said they'd rather fight than submit to the teachings of Origin. But they hadn't said they'd rather die than submit, and I was pretty sure I wasn't just caught up in Daniel's semantics here. The majority of the Medocians were going to roll over and show their bellies at the first sign of an Ori Prior. I'd bet the farm on it.
That not only meant one less world to stand up to them, but also one more world of worshippers the Ori could absorb to generate their freaky half-ascended powers and use against the rest of us.
I was still confident we were going to win the war against the Ori, just as we had the Goa'uld and the Replicators. What I wasn't sure about was how many other civilizations would still be standing when it was all said and done. Especially when there were folk like the Lucian Alliance out there, not even waiting until the dust was settled before swooping in and causing trouble in their own right.
Sam didn't even flinch; she knew what my pappy had taught me as well as I did.
"Jigger Mitchell," Teal'c rolled around on his sonorous tongue. "Lieutenant Colonel Jigger Mitchell."
"No!" I protested loudly just as we crossed into Carolyn Lam's territory. Too loudly going by the cross look I got from one of Doctor Lam's nurses.
I aimed my country smile her direction, but then I got a good look around me. No General Landry here, either. What there was, however, was a passel full of Marines; all sporting a wide assortment of bruises, contusions and on one, what looked like a broken arm.
"What in the hell happened here?" Sam asked, her eyes wide in surprise since the base wasn't on lock down and the SFs protecting the gateroom didn't look particularly perturbed.
"Someone let Vala put too much soap in the laundry again?" was my contribution. Our occasional team member from off-world had had some problems that direction during her first month here on Earth. As I remembered, some five young airmen and marines had ended up in here when the entire laundry section flooded and the soapy water caught a contingent just coming off a pick up B-ball game in one of the nearby gyms. Sergeant Siler ended up with a broken tailbone after that little fiasco.
"You didn't hear?" the nurse took a step our direction, her face holding onto her frown instead of enjoying our reminiscing of what had actually been one of the better times with Vala trying to acclimate.
"Hear what?" from Sam.
The nurse looked around quickly, her voice dropping to something a little above a whisper. "It's Atlantis. The expedition was recalled the evening of the day your team left. Something about the original inhabitants coming home and kicking them out." She made it sound like gossip, but nurses were damn good for that.
"General O'Neill is still there with some pencil pusher from the IOA --"
Had to be Woolsey.
"-- overseeing the transition and return of our property, but the entire Atlantis mission personnel have all been recalled home."
"The Ancients have returned to Atlantis?" Trust Jackson to focus on the one thing that probably matter least, at any rate right now.
"There was trouble with the evacuation?" In any case Sam got what was really important.
Atlantis was here, but O'Neill was not.
The nurse shook her head. "These are our marines. Most of the personnel from Atlantis were released on leave for a month pending reassignment, but the military commander has been asked to stick around for a formal debriefing with the IOA and members of the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs and Homeland Security. So for the past day and a half, Joe --"
"You mean Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard?" I raised my brow. I had a pretty good idea where this was going. Figured I was going to be called upon to deal with it too.
She nodded. "He's been in the gym whenever he's not eating or sleeping or filling out reports." She looked a little scared and a little thrilled and more than a little enthralled -- same way most of the nurses looked after Jackson. I'm not sure Shep noticed it anymore than Jackson did.
"He's been going through marines like they were --" She gave us a quick grin and a shrug. "Like they were nurses."
Tee-fucking-hee. At least it only looked like she wanted to giggle.
"Indeed," Teal'c observed, and of course he'd be interested in someone who could trash Marines or Special Force Airmen. It wasn't like there really was anyone here on base who could give the big guy a run for his money, either in sparring or wrestling.
Trouble was, I mused, I didn't think Sheppard was really looking for sparring partners. At least not for one of those friendly, if maybe testosterone heavy, matches that two marines or airmen or a zoomie and a grunt occasionally got in to, seeing who could be King of the Hill. This looked and sounded a lot more like Sheppard was playing for keeps. Not actively trying to hurt someone, but he was taking his anger out in what I imagined was his only viable option if Landry wasn't letting him leave the Mountain. No doubt Shep would continue to beat down anyone until he was finally called to debrief, or until someone managed to beat him down. I figured Sheppard was actually hoping for the latter more than the former, even if it would eventually get him out of here for his own leave. If you had physical pain to deal with, you didn't have to feel the emotional hurts.
I could try, but I reckoned I couldn't come close to imagining the depth of pain John Sheppard had to be feeling right now. If you were in the Big Air Force, that meant transfers and temporary detached duties as well as redeployments. Being shuffled around was part of the job. But I'd only ever been kicked out of an old squadron because I'd gone down in a battle and had to spend a good nine months in recovery while they went on without me. Course, that had eventually led me to getting command of SG1, so it wasn't like I'd been sent to the ass-end of nowhere or something while my buds all became aces -- or a body count.
Now Sheppard, from what I'd understood from the grapevine, had had exactly that last bit happen once already. I'd heard he fucked up somehow in Afghanistan by the Big Air Force's way of thinking, and gotten himself exiled to playing chaperone to seals and scientist down in Antarctica. But that had eventually led him to O'Neill's attention and then Atlantis, so silver lining and all that. Except by everything I'd seen in my short time visiting there, Atlantis had been Sheppard's 'coming to God moment', not just another reassignment.
Sure it would hurt if I lost this team. But assuming no one died or anything, that I'd got promoted out of field work like O'Neill, or one of the others did, well that's what we're supposed to be doing anyway, right? Always learning and forging onward, earning promotions, going big time…
Yet I was thinking it wasn't the losing of his command and suddenly having to be just one of the guys that had Sheppard down in the gym taking on all comers (although that would suck in its own right). The dude hadn't only lost his command and his team, though. He'd been kicked out of his home and basically lost his fucking family. Ain't no way that wouldn't be a shot to the gut. When you added on Sheppard's misplaced guilt for bringing the Wraith down on the Pegasus Galaxy (just a few years early and it wasn't like he'd known), and what I'm sure also felt like running out on promises made even if it hadn't been his choice to leave, this was one guy who wasn't going to integrate back into even military life, not even the SGC easily, much less integrate into being back on Earth.
For all intents and purposes, every member of the Atlantis expedition -- at least the guys who'd been there from the beginning -- had gone native and none more so than Sheppard. And now the Brass were expecting him to pick up the pieces of a life left behind almost three years ago and act as if nothing was wrong.
Landry and Lam and whoever else's bullshit idea it was to keep Sheppard in the Mountain for the transition would only be getting what they deserved if Sheppard managed to put every fucking Marine and SF out on sick call.
I gestured for the team to proceed without me and turned to find a quiet place where I could make a call. With Landry missing and us not getting any call to schedule our debriefing, I could only conclude that the General had been called away or was already having to play suck up to someone from the E-Ring. And if anyone would know when, where and for how long, it'd be Sergeant Walter Harriman.
A couple additional phone calls got me all of my answers and the beginnings of a plan. SG1 didn't hang out together nearly as much as I'd envisioned when I'd gotten us together, and so it wasn't strange when I begged off the after mission wind-down at the local bar before we'd all split for the night to go home. I think Sam knew in general what I was up to, Teal'c probably too -- or I was imagining that nod and pleased expression on his face as if I'd just performed a trick as they and Jackson headed up and out. I wasn't sure Sam would go so far as to see if she could actually find McKay and meet with him in person, but I knew she was going to call. I've no doubt she'd be volunteering to take my place if she didn't have that connection to the expedition's head scientist, just as I figured Teal'c would have done something if I wasn't showing an indication that I'd take care of it with Sheppard.
It didn't matter that none of us really knew our Atlantis counterparts (other than Sam and McKay). They were still one of the gate teams, one of us, and that meant we had a bond and an obligation. We'd all read the senior staff's mission reports from Atlantis, just as I'm sure they read many of ours. Even if that was a false familiarity, it was still something that gave me a little insight in to how they had to be feeling right now.
I was just hoping to be a friendly face for Sheppard, someone sympathetic but not pitying or even worse -- smug. If Sheppard wanted to beat me up too, I could live with that. But I had a better idea of how to work off anger, and I was pretty sure Sheppard would agree. If I could get him to listen to my idea.
I'd put off my after mission shower anyway, just in case.
I had to fight my way through a ring of on lookers to get my chance. I hadn't really believed Sheppard had been fight -- sparring -- for two and a half days straight; he wouldn't still be on his feet if that were the case, even if he was as strong and put together as Teal'c or his own big guy… Ronon? But a quick check of the security log showed he'd certainly been coming in for a couple of hours each morning, afternoon and evening, sometimes working with the weights and other equipment as well as this volunteering for a little one-on-one self defense and field maneuvers.
The crowd and line of volunteers waiting for their own chance against him spoke of both good and bad things. I'd no doubt that most of the guys were here out of respect and a truly looking for a chance to pick up some pointers from someone who'd survived an even more brutal warzone than our own -- who'd survived it for a couple of years without the type of breaks we had, like being able to go home at the end of a mission. Probably some of the folks here were just curious too, the same way they would be if O'Neill had found himself in the same circumstances and similarly acting out, or like any time Teal'c took to the mats in a public room. Me, well, no one came to watch or challenge me in particular, but then I wasn't a Rock Star yet, even being the leader of SG1. That was still O'Neill's team --or Daniel's -- and I was just the new kid. Like Jay Leno to O'Neill's Johnny Carson.
What I was worried about were the smug ones. The ones who'd maybe gone to Atlantis and hadn't made the cut, or the ones who had been turned down without getting out of the gate so to speak. The ones who thought that maybe Atlantis had been the Major League and that coming back to the SGC was being sent down to the Minors. While I believed that was indeed what Sheppard was feeling, it wasn't going to be in the same manner as some of these guys. The ones who were looking for their shot at the champ.
So, expecting any one of those scenarios, what I hadn't imagined would be Sheppard being the one taking instruction. His partner was a member of SG17, Khepri Badawi, one of our international members on loan from Egypt, who looked a lot like that actress from Hercules and Firefly, although a couple of inches taller. If I wasn't mistaken, they were performing a form of Tahtib, with the people closest clapping out the beat instead of there being the traditional drums. I was reminded that Sheppard had practiced a form of stick fighting regularly with the just as lovely and deadly Teyla Emmagan, who had been one of two aliens on his gate team and now left behind in Pegasus.
This wasn't really even a close approximation of what I'd had a chance to look in on a couple of times during visits to Atlantis. And while Sheppard was getting corrections from Khepri, it was obvious that he wasn't a stranger to this form of stick fighting, that this was more a refresher course for someone who'd been learning something different over the last three years.
And duh on me, that I was surprised. I knew Sheppard had spent time in Afghanistan. Undoubtedly he'd spent a good deal of his career in the Middle East before Antarctica and Atlantis. Picking up a skill in Egyptian stick fighting (or dancing, since what they were doing now wasn't like any fighting I'd ever seen), would have been a natural for someone with a reputation for making friends with natives as easily as Sheppard had.
I wasn't sure if my arrival ended the festivities or if they'd just come to a natural end, but suddenly they were both nodding at one another and stepping back. I got a slight dip of his head in acknowledgement of my arrival as Sheppard handed his four foot stick back to Khepri. The two of them exchanged a few words and quiet smiles, and both accepted a towel and a bottle of water from a couple of the closer Marines. From the sheen and sweat stains they were both sporting, I imagined they'd been doing this for a while, but neither of them were breathing particularly heavy, and Sheppard's expression was a lot closer to something resembling peace that I was expecting.
For a moment I debated just suggesting a beer and dinner when we got close enough to hear one another in the crowd that wasn't so much dispersing as separating into groups looking for new entertainment or activities.
"If they're finally ready for me, they'll have to wait until I get a shower," was Sheppard's way of greeting me. "I doubt the Chief of Staff of the Air Force is going to be favorably impressed if I show up like this." He wasn't heading over to pick up a gym bag like Khepri had, so I figured he was heading out to shower near the team lockers instead of the gym facilities.
Whatever calm I might have thought I'd seen on his face at the end of the Tahtib dance, it was gone now. The lines of tension around his eyes and mouth that had replaced it told me I had made the right call.
Landry deserved a swift kick in the butt for leaving -- and leaving Sheppard like this -- without bothering to get word back that there had been a stay of execution for a couple more days. The Brass due out from Washington had decided they wanted to speak to Landry and Doctor Weir first, without their maverick problem on hand and so the initials meetings and debriefings were taking place in Washington before they were all going to fly out here to Colorado. And no one had bothered to mention any of this to Sheppard.
I couldn't kick Landry, but I sure as hell could hit Walter upside the head when next I saw him.
"No, hey, it's not that. I got a hold of Landry about my team's debrief and he asked me to pass on that you've been sprung until Tuesday at oh-seven-hundred. Walter's drawing up your forty-eight hour leave papers even as we speak." Landry hadn't said anything of the sort, but he had sounded a bit distracted when I'd reached him. Probably figured I would take care of it anyway, since I had really called him on Sheppard's behalf.
"Thanks," Sheppard gave me nod. "You didn't have to come tell me yourself, but I appreciate it. Your mission went okay?"
I nodded. "Three days of their rubber chicken equivalent, but any mission that doesn't end up with me running for my life, and hiding from the Priors is a good one in my book."
That earned me another nod and a bit of a smile that was understanding and commiseration and even a touch of envy I suspected. We made our way through the corridor and back down a couple of levels, and if people gave us a wide birth, I expect we were both going to chalk it up to our combined manly odors and not Sheppard's actual presence.
The Medocians served a mean banquet, but they weren't real big on the soap and water themselves; relying on powders, perfumes and changing clothes just like good old medieval Europe.
We hit the lockers. The rest of my team had vamoosed, and Sergeant Siler was the only other person present, although from the white paper slip into the grill of Sheppard's locker, it did look like Walter had come and gone.
"You got any civvies?" I asked as we both began to pull out a change of clothes. Colonel Ellis wasn't going to mind if we showed up in jeans, since we'd be changing once we were beamed on board anyway.
Sheppard shot me a dark look that had me frowning and growing even angrier -- and feeling stupid. I hadn't given much thought to O'Neill and Woolsey staying behind on Atlantis, but Nurse Lowachen had as much as said the expedition was pretty much sent to Earth with just the clothes on their backs. No doubt Sheppard's personal belongings were either still packed and in quarantine, or were still sitting in drawers and a closet in Atlantis. I bet he didn't have more than his BDUs, maybe day uniform and some sweats now that I thought about it.
He was probably sleeping on base too; one of the VIP rooms if he was lucky, but more likely an empty office with a cot that had been brought it. And eating in the commissary. Shit, I definitely had to get him out of here.
"Hey, I've got a spare pare of jeans if you want them," I offered, starting to give him a look to make sure he hadn't lost any more weight, and got a pretty big eyeful of tanned and bruised flesh as he skinned out of his damp shorts and jock and tossed them into the bottom of his locker.. Of course he would have taken some hits himself to put all those men in the infirmary.
"If you wouldn't mind dropping me off somewhere like a mall," he started as he wrapped a clean towel around his neck, "I can pick up some stuff --"
Oops. Guess I should mention that I'd already made plans for us both. "We can do that after --"
"I appreciate the chance to get out of here, Colonel, but I --"
"Not Colonel. I answer to Cam, to Mitch --"
That got a big wince from him I should probably find out about if we're going to end up spending some time together.
"-- or even my old callsign, Buck," I finished with a thought to my recent conversation with my team about nicknames. "But I don't answer to Colonel when I'm off the clock. Or from a friend," I offered.
Sheppard gave me a once over that I did my best to not make it look like I was using my towel to cover anything. He wasn't actually looking, but damn, I was still reacting. This was so not the place, assuming I had any sort of shot anyway. The smile I got was maybe the first real one I'd even seen on him, not that the smirk I was used to wasn't attractive in it's own right.
No, ignore attractive! Even if this new smile has again done away with the fine lines he's been carrying.
"I'll go with Cam, then. And you know, it would be nice to be called John for myself," Sheppard widened that smile before it started to turn rueful and whatever else I didn't see as he turned away and led us into the showers. "Sometimes I used to think Elizabeth and Carson were the only ones who even knew my given name," he tossed back over his shoulders.
I heard that. The SGC actually had an abundance of O-5 officers compared to other deployments, but most of them were Marines, and there were still so many more who either outranked you or saluted you. Surnames, nicknames or rank were used interchangeably ninety percent of the time, and it was hard to even find someone you could call by their birth name.
Conversation was over until we were clean and drying off. I realized I still hadn't told Shep -- John my big plan.
"If you're up for it, I've scheduled us for some requals in night flying about half an hour from now," I said casually as I towel dried my hair.
The smile I got this time was all little boy and pure lust, and it was a damn good thing I'd decided on sweats myself out of sense of brotherhood. They still wouldn't hide enough, but at least they would stay comfortable until I got myself under control. And fortunately John took to drying his own hair after he'd pulled his own up (going commando, and I guess I had better get him to that mall sometime soon), and I got away with it again.
Three days with only spit baths and no one else but my team even bothering with that hadn't done much for my sex life -- I hadn't even been up to masturbating despite having gone without a couple more days earlier. John -- no Shep was probably safer -- was attractive, sure, but not enough to out myself and maybe destroy the best gig I'd ever get in my career.
"If you're trying to become my new best friend, your only real competition is McKay, so you don't really have to try this hard," was I think what he said as he tugged on a black t-shirt.
"So I should have just suggested pizza and beer?" I said, pushing my own head up through the neck of my tee.
"I probably would have said no," John said more seriously than the conversation had been heading. "I'm lousy company right now and a real lightweight when it comes to alcohol since they only thing the science and botany labs were producing were a pink colored paint thinner and a decent kerosene substitute. I can just see me running off at the mouth after a pitcher, and Tuesday I'd be coming back for my court martial, not a debrief."
"Well, be nice to Colonel Ellis, since it's his birds we're going to borrow." I decided to interpret his indiscretion concerns to be regarding mouthing off about the Brass than anything I might be hoping he was talking about.
Between Buckley, Peterson and the Academy, I could have been talking about F-16s, Chinooks, Hueys, Blackhawks, gliders or any number of trainers. He was probably figuring we'd be going for one of the copters, since that had been his ride of choice even though I knew he had a familiarity with the F-16s, and those had been mine before the SGC. And I was figuring he'd, unfortunately, have plenty of time to requalify on any of those in the months to come. So I'd called in a favor for a much bigger treat.
I'd grabbed up a jacket and saw John pulled out his leather uniform one, sans patches, and that threatened to make me all angry and stupid again. "You ready?" I asked instead of staying something worse. I assumed he was; it wasn't like he had much else to take with him.
Since John hadn't been let out of the Mountain yet, I was betting Walter hadn't even pulled any petty cash for him. I added a bank ATM to my list of where we'd need to stop by after we were back from the Apollo.
Running a quick comb through his hair that did nothing to tame the spikes and cowlicks, John nodded and followed me out the door. Once we made it to the surface, he took a deep breath and stopped for a few moments, just to look up at the sky full of stars.
When he noticed me watching, he ducked his head and shrugged. "Sorry. It's stupid, because it really doesn't feel like home anymore, but it's --"
"I understand, John. And we've still got time if you need some more."
That got me a puzzled look, but I don’t think he clued in yet.
"Nah, I'm good."
I grinned, took a step closer to him and then touched the earwig I hadn't left in my locker. A quick tap and, "Apollo, two to beam up."
Since I had already arranged with Colonel Ellis for access to a couple of the F-302s for the evening, he had us transported directly into the flight bay. And was waiting there to greet us.
I had to have taken John off guard, but he showed little evidence of it and actually snapped a salute when Ellis came forward. Not wanting to look bad, I did too, although from the look Ellis shot me, he knew I exactly why I had.
"Colonel Sheppard, welcome to the newest ship of the Tau'ri space fleet, the Apollo," Ellis said. "I understand you boys want to borrow two of my F-302s."
I nodded. "Considering we never know when we'll get a chance to get some hours in, and all three of us just happen to be in station right now…"
Ellis had to know about Atlantis' recall, but with Sheppard looking like a kid in a candy store… well, no one normal liked to rub salt into wounds.
"I can give you two hours, gentlemen. Don't engage the hyperspace engines, avoid running into any asteroids it you go out that far, and try not to blow anything up that will get you noticed back on Earth. We will monitor you as a matter of course, but otherwise, your time and route are your own."
"Aye-aye, Skipper," I snapped off another jaunty salute and then shoved John toward the ready room, where there would be flight suits prepped for our use.
"Thank you, Colonel Ellis," John finally spoke.
"You're welcome. I do have an ulterior motive, however, that I should fess up to," Ellis stopped us both mid-step.
We turned. I probably had a wary look, but Sheppard just looked resigned. Like there was always a catch when he was involved.
"Nothing too dramatic, gentlemen. I just wanted to ask, your schedules permitting of course, if you'd be willing to offer a little flight instruction over the next few weeks. I've got a squadron full of nuggets coming on board in seventy-two hours, and neither the Daedalus nor the Odyssey are thinking they have the time or pilots to spare from their own training regime to really get a training program started."
Now that was something I didn’t think to arrange, but is sounded like the perfect fit for Sheppard to get acclimated to the SGC again. If Ellis and I both suggested it, Landry might even go for it. I was pretty sure there was a gate team tagged for Sheppard too, but this would be better in the short term.
It would be fun, too.
"My time is Landry's, but whenever he's willing to cut me loose, I'm all yours Colonel." John beamed.
"Daniel's got some sort of research thing he needs to do for the next few days, so my schedule's probably open too," I offered.
"Then show us what you've got, gentlemen. If you run your onboard cameras, I can get someone in the Mountain to integrate the footage into the sims to get them started."
This time he dismissed us to get ready, and the crew chiefs got us into the gliders. I even had an idea for this part of the evening.
"You willing to play follow the leader?" I asked over our internal communications system. "I've got a plan."
"Lead on, McDuff."
My plan was sightseeing over Mars. In the F-302, we could get there in time to take in a few of the sights: the Olympus Mons, the Hellas impact basin and the landing spots for the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. John stayed quiet and content following right up until we got to the Valles Marineris and then I suddenly found myself eating his dust.
As I pilot, I'd been less than impressed with the pod race from Episode One, but had fallen in love with the original speeder bike chase in Return of the Jedi and was still the reigning champion on the '83 arcade Star Wars Death Star trench in the goofy golf arcade back home. Trouble was, I hadn't really ever imagined what it would be like to actually participate in either chase. I mean sure, I'd done dogfights against Death Gliders over Antarctica and some fox and hounds against the Lucien Alliance and the Ori, but Sheppard was absolutely fucking insane.
You would think that something that was 4,000 kilometers long, 200 kilometer wide and up to 7 kilometer deep, we wouldn't have been in any danger. And if we'd just been doing a easy flyby… But Sheppard had his F-302 above the red line for such maneuvers and if he took his eye of his controls for even a second --
"I thought you wanted to play follow the leader," John crowed over the comm. unit.
"First lesson my mama taught me was that just because the rest of the lemming jumped off the cliff, I didn't have to," I shouted back, even as I kicked up my own speed.
I'd been told John was a hot shit pilot, had actually known about him for years before the SGC, because someone who really was this good developed a reputation in the Big Air Force that in turn the rest of us were held up to. (At least until the golden boy got a little tarnished.) It was one thing to know, intellectually, but it was quite another to be a witness to it. Suddenly all of the exploits we'd read about in the Atlantis AARs made a shit load more sense, and maybe weren't all that much hyperbole by biased Marines, scientists and civilians.
I knew I was good, but John was Maverick and Ice and Chuck Fucking Yeager all mixed together, with maybe a little Anakin Skywalker thrown in.
"So do you want to make a pool on how many of the nuggets crack up when they do one of these runs in a sim?" John's laughter in my ear brought out my own during one of the flips and we made the run a couple more times.
The laugher was better than the adrenalin that was bubbling in my blood. I was so fucking glad I'd thought of this.
"And how many puke," I suggested. "Whoa there," I interrupted myself when my sensors showed John missed one of the twists by mere meters. Fuck. "Look at the time. It wouldn't due to get Ellis mad at us for coming back after curfew."
It was close enough to when we needed to look at getting back to the Apollo that I could call it without having to acknowledge he'd nearly screwed the pooch and maybe he should be done. I'm not sure where we stood regarding time in service rank-wise, but at least here in the Milky Way, we were equals except I had SG1 and so that made me top dog over any of the teams. And, whereas in Pegasus, he'd commanded the whole base on the military side, so even if I'd been a full bird Colonel, he could have given me orders when it came to calls about Atlantis. If we'd done any joint missions to, since his team was the primary. I was the one who arranged this flight regardless, so I figured that gave me a little more authority too.
John shot out of the canyon without protest, and once again followed me home. Except for some heavy breathing from the both of us that quickly evened out (his first), there wasn't any noise over our comm. system until we were approaching the Apollo. A quick check to make sure they were ready to receive us and then we put these beautiful little gliders to bed.
"You ready for that pizza and beer now?" I asked as we stripped out of the flightsuits and back into our sweats. We'd both need to take showers again before being allowed out in public, but I figured that would make it easier to talk him into a pair of my jeans anyway.
John nodded and it wasn't just his eyes that were glowing with happiness. I'm not sure I ever wanted anyone more than John Sheppard in that moment of exhilaration and gratitude and absolute peace with himself. I could only hope he'd attribute the flush that I knew was body-wide was from my own rush over what we'd just finished.
"I'd say I'm buying, but I haven't had a chance to get to my account yet. I'll pick up breakfast?"
His look was so guileless, that for a moment I didn't believe I'd heard what had just been offered. I flat out stared at him for a moment, sure that I looked every bit as idiotic as I felt, and I thanked God that pilot changing rooms didn't have cameras and mic pick-ups.
That earned me the smirk that I best knew him for, and an open glance up and down my body, zeroing in on the wood I was once again sporting. Busted. Not just now, but obviously earlier.
Looks like I won't have to do much convincing to talk him out of my borrowed jeans.
(Title and lyric from Shinedown)
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