Carry On

by Domenika Marzione

It is, without a doubt, the most bizarre double not-date that he's ever been on. And that's even counting the time Holland made him play wingman with those Italian twins who turned out to be lesbians.

"Would you like a refill, ma'am?" the waitress asks and Teyla looks up, smiling broadly. "Yes, please," she says and holds up her empty glass.

"You'd better slow down on that stuff," John tells her. "It's got more sugar and caffeine than you think."

Athosian morning tea is an assault to the taste buds as well as the senses, but there's native stimulants and then there's Mountain Dew. And a hyper-caffeinated Teyla is a sight he's not sure the SGC -- or Colorado Springs as a whole -- is ready for.

"Also, adults who like Mountain Dew are pretty rare," Nancy Clayton adds with a grin, stealing another french fry off of Yoni's plate while he stabs ineffectively at her with his fork. "It'd out you faster than anything else."

Yoni mutters something, but whether it's to Clayton or about Teyla or Mountain Dew, John can't tell. Yoni's been alternating between trying to be seriously grumpy and looking vaguely terrified at being left in Clayton's clutches for the afternoon and John would almost feel bad for him except he knows that Keller gave Clayton the contents of her wallet and told her to take Yoni out somewhere, anywhere, and don't bring him back until tomorrow because otherwise he was going to get all of them fired.

The waitress returns with Teyla's fresh Dew and a new iced tea (no sugar) for Yoni and while the latter is being handled, Clayton takes the opportunity to steal more fries.

"Why didn't you get your own?" Yoni asks, not even bothering to defend his plate anymore. Clayton got some kind of salad, the kind that's acceptable in a burger joint with Broncos memorabilia lining the walls because it's really just a few leaves of iceberg lettuce and maybe a few other vegetables for color and a lot of steak.

"Because if I got fries, I'd eat them," she replies, as if the answer were obvious. "Everyone knows that food off other people's plates has no calories."

Teyla, who normally doesn't give a rat's ass about calories, perks up a little. "Really?"

"Sure. Brown food, broken food, anything required to even out a platter, the last piece of anything... "

Teyla grins slyly, getting the joke. "I shall have to keep that in mind," she says and John sighs because he's just lost the one person on his off-world team who doesn't consider his food to be theirs.

The crowd at the table is maybe a little different than he's used to, but lunch has been fun and not just because this visit to Earth has been mostly less than that. They aren't here to get yelled at or anything so overt; the SGC is as passive-aggressive as any other military bureaucracy and has chosen their butter knives by which to inflict their thousand tiny wounds. Woolsey, to no one in Atlantis's real surprise, has met this challenge head-on, and is deploying his staff with a fine eye toward obeying the letter of the IOA's demands while flaunting his disregard for their spirit. Which is why every time Rodney sees John in the halls of the Mountain, he smugly holds up fingers to indicate the latest count on the running tally of egos he's trampled upon. Yoni is annoyed to be here and is making everyone at the Mountain aware of that fact; Rodney is having a ball and doesn't want to leave before he's collected his full measure of scalps. If Ronon had decided to join them, he and Rodney would be grunting like cavemen to each other in warrior satisfaction.

"Should Major Lorne not have been here by now?" Teyla asks, reaching out with her fork to delicately remove a french fry from John's plate.

"Hey," he protests, since unlike Yoni, John has intentions of finishing his fries. He looks at his watch; it's 1430 and, yeah, Lorne should've at least called by now because his meeting was at 1130 and these things don't take that long. "He probably got hung up. He'll call."

No sooner does he say that then the cell phone in his pocket starts to buzz and John opens it up with a "Hey," because even if he can't see the number ("Restricted") he knows who it is. "So?"

"So," Lorne answers and John can't help but grin.

"O'Brien's," he tells Lorne. "Get here before Safir runs out of fries."

"I'm not sure I'm prepared to share," Clayton says. "Even with Major Lorne."

Yoni, who is the only other person than John who knows what Lorne's been up to all day, merely shakes his head and fastidiously eats his pickle, which he's been more diligent about defending than his fries. Watching Yoni eat Earth food on Earth -- prepared by civilians theoretically hired because of some facility at such and not just by servicemen without either the luck or training to get out of doing it -- is really no less entertaining than watching him navigate his way through alien chow or whatever the marines have concocted. Which in turn can often be more foreign than what is offered off-world.

Lorne shows up while they're working on their pies, still dressed in the monkey suit but obviously past the point where he's worried about being rated on appearance. His gig line's still straight, but he's got a little of the wild-eyed look of someone who has spent the last few hours facing down an inquisition. He waves wanly when he sees them and deftly avoids the hostess as he crosses the room and pulls a chair from the next table.

"Beer," he tells the waitress who'd trailed behind him on his approach, making a gesture with his hands to indicate a glass the size of an oil drum. "Please."

The waitress has clearly seen her share of run-through-the-wringer military personnel and nods. "Care to wash anything down with it?"

Lorne orders a burger with onion rings.

"Mazal tov?" Yoni asks once Lorne has taken his first long draw off his beer.

"Mazal tov," Lorne confirms, unable to hide his smile behind his pint glass.

"For what?" Clayton asks warily, since the only meetings anyone's been in for the duration of their Earth visit have been various degrees of combative and she knows Yoni well enough to believe that he'd congratulate someone on destroying their debate opponents.

"For getting promoted to Lieutenant Colonel," John answers smugly. He is perfectly aware that he had little to do with getting Lorne promoted -- he wrote a glowing letter, of course, undoubtedly the best he's ever crafted, but he also knows that the promotion board probably thought surviving John's command was the real merit. But the details have nothing to do with it.

"Why didn't you say something?" Clayton asks Yoni, hitting him on the arm. "That's not nice."

"Congratulations," Teyla tells Lorne feelingly. "I am very pleased for you."

"Yeah," Clayton agrees, still giving Yoni the stink-eye. Yoni, of course, is ignoring her. But he's smiling a little nonetheless.

"Thanks," Lorne says with a happy sigh. "I'm a big boy now."

"Or not," Yoni says, chasing an errant sour cherry around on his plate. Clayton hits his arm again, but everyone else chuckles. Even Lorne, who shrugs agreement.

"What's the plan?" John asks, since after the euphoria comes the backlash. The Air Force doesn't give without also taking.

"Short term, nothing changes," Lorne replies and John is pleased to hear his own relief echoed. "Longer term, they want me back here."

John nods, since this is within the bounds of the options they'd discussed. At the high end, actually, since both of them had expected that Lorne would be recalled to Earth as soon as he swapped his gold oak leaf for a silver one. "They fighting over the slot?"

The Marines, still cranky as ever about a battalion of marines led by Air Force officers, want someone in a command position in Atlantis and everyone knew that they'd make their move as soon as a slot opened up, which was going to be Lorne's because if John is going to make bird colonel, it isn't going to be below the zone.

"Yep," Lorne confirms, smiling gratefully at the waitress, who has brought the still-steaming burger and onion rings in record time. "Which means I should have some time."

John thinks the Corps will win and that they'll have however long it takes for Radner's number to come up on his own board for promotion to O-4; Polito's already got his date, but Matt wants to go back to Earth. Dave's the Atlantis careerist out of the current crop.

"Think we can get it expedited to before we leave?" John asks. "I think ending our time here with a party wouldn't be a bad thing."

"It'd be a victory dance in the end zone," Clayton replies, not sounding especially bothered by that.

John turns to Lorne. "Feel like spiking the football?"

"Hell, yeah."

feed me on LJ?


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11 October, 2008