Home Field Advantage

by Domenika Marzione

Sam's been in Atlantis long enough to have a decent sense of when she's being treated as an obstacle by either the civilians or the military. She's not quite at the point where she can always tell, or even when she can to be able to tell why or how, but that intuition is growing day by day that she wakes up in this city on the sea.

People seem to have accepted that she's not out to undo everything Elizabeth Weir did, that she's not out to replace Sheppard, that just because she doesn't let Rodney run wild doesn't mean that she's going to impose new limits on what kind of trouble Science Division can get itself into. Her authority is respected, if not always unchallenged, and she has managed to convince the city's residents that she is happy to let them be themselves rather than imposing the SGC's order from above. But that's different from belonging and, in turn, why there are still plenty of times when people choose to go around her rather than through her to get what they want.

Which is why she's maybe a little suspicious when she starts seeing coordinated MWR disbursement requests from both the civilian committee (for the city as a whole) and the one in Little Tripoli.

"A Superbowl party?" she asks Lorne, since she's been here long enough to know that he really has earned the nickname The Wizard of Oz.

Like the Wizard of Oz, however, Lorne always looks a little disgruntled that she's peeking behind the curtain by coming into his office unannounced, even though he hides it well. Elizabeth never went into Little Tripoli unless invited, but Sam refuses to treat the complex like a place she has to ask to enter. She's got as much right to be there as anyone else in uniform, male or female.

"They're starting that already, ma'am?" Lorne asks mildly in return, looking at the calendar on his wall. It's not even Halloween and, apart from knowing with certitude that the Dolphins and the Rams are not going to Phoenix, Sam doesn't see how anyone could be seriously contemplating the big game now. "I suppose I'll be getting the paperwork soon, then."

Sam cocks an eyebrow as she sits down, since she wasn't expecting Lorne to actually give her a straight answer -- or that "yes, it's really all about football" was it. In terms of treating Sam like an obstacle, Lorne is the most respectful obfuscater Little Tripoli could provide. He gets away with it because he doesn't try to bullshit the really outrageous stuff, instead working on how there really is a rational method behind the madness, and his easy-going, down-to-earth approach to the ridiculousness of military bureaucracy and the particular insanity of marines makes it hard to get angry at him when Sam realizes after the fact that he was lying (by omission, usually) to her face. But he's not lying now, at least she's pretty sure.

"I hadn't realized Atlantis went all-in for the NFL," she says.

Lorne rolls his eyes, acknowledging the unlikeliness. "They even did something the first year, apparently -- you'd have to ask Sheppard or someone else who was around. But the marines were pretty gung-ho on having a viewing party the first year we were all out here and then they reserved the main movie theater and it sort of snowballed from there. It was probably the biggest social event in the city last year -- at least in terms of scope and actual attendance by all walks of life."

There's more to the conversation besides verifying that the marines really are ordering eighty bazillion chicken wings for early February and it's not some thinly-veiled attempt at getting materiel out of the SGC, but Sam leaves Lorne's office secure in the knowledge that this really is going to be a Superbowl party.

She's not sure whether or not to find the whole thing hilarious or be offended that nobody thought to ask her for help. She'd be willing to abuse her authority for the sake of football and tailgate parties.

"This is well below our pay grade," Sheppard assures her when she intimates as much during one of their informal meetings. "I don't think Lorne's even involved beyond doing whatever it is he does to make sure the questionable items get loaded onto the Daedalus. I don't really know what the civilian MWR committee does, but it all seems to work out. Doctor Weir never had to wade in either for peacekeeping or to yell at the folks back home."

Sam accepts the answer -- Sheppard is a far crappier liar than Lorne. But she still keeps an eye on the documents queued up for compression into the databurst versus what she is given to authorize. What she sees is a large-scale blowout-in-waiting that is well-coordinated to fly under the radar of any budget types looking to trim unnecessary expenditures from an already lean expedition. Especially so considering that all of the military-side paperwork is signed off on by the various lieutenants serving as logistics officers and, on the civilian side, by the G-2 types who tend to populate the MWR committee.

With the default chaos level of Atlantis running pretty high, she eventually gives up her bureaucratic voyeurism -- especially as she starts to fall behind on her own paperwork -- and so it's very much a surprise when she sees a note from Sheppard in her inbox regarding the party, now on the official city calendar for six weeks hence.

"You want to give the marines booze?"

Sheppard shrugs. "We already give the marines booze," he replies. "Or, at least, we don't stop them from making their own. But beer and football go together and we make them go without too much of the normal shit already. Plus this way they don't start resorting to crap like spiking the punch."

He says this with a tone in his voice that makes Sam think that the marines have, in fact, spiked the punch at some point.

"The marines make booze?" she asks instead. She knows about the civilian bootleggers, at least most of them, and that its use and sale is fairly strictly controlled considering it's all below board. There's Otkharev's rotgut and there's Brown's prized gin and she knew someone was making beer, but hadn't realized that the marines were in on the game, too.The military was under different restrictions here than the civilian population -- or at least under closer scrutiny.

"It's officially a rumor," he says with a careless gesture that she knows better than to take at face value. "There might be a few vats of beer brewing in one of the classrooms in Little Tripoli. Nobody's ever gone to verify the rumor because we've had one incidence of public drunkenness in four years and that was off of some crap someone brought back from another planet."

According to the email, everyone -- military and civilian -- is to be restricted to two pints, kept track of through hand-stamps. There'll be near-beer available, too, but Sam is told quite confidently that the soda, arriving in quantities and varieties not ever seen in Atlantis otherwise -- will be more popular. Sam agrees to the two-beers-per proposal after coming across a calculus joke scrawled on one of the applied math lab whiteboards that involves how to maximize the volume of booze poured into the plastic souvenir footballs she knows have already arrived to be party favors.

Superbowl Sunday on Earth is the first weekend in February; the party in Atlantis is scheduled for the following Sunday after the video arrives in the midweek databurst. There are warnings throughout the city -- and especially in Little Tripoli, where they are voiced as naked threats -- to not spoil anyone else for the game if you somehow got the score already.

Superbowl Sunday in Atlantis is... like nothing Sam was prepared for. There are multiple tailgate parties -- most people don't care whether the Giants or Patriots win, but there are partisans on each side -- and the entire city seems to smell of barbecue instead of salt-water. The folks at the SGC were thoughtful enough to include the entire pre-game show, so the projector cranks up in the early afternoon in the main theater and people are encouraged to wander in and out as they please.

She finds Rodney on line for chicken wings. "Get the hot wings sampler," he tells her. "But don't let them dare you into the Nuclear Option. You won't have feeling in your mouth for a week."

The game itself is simulcast both indoors and out -- there are too many people to fit into the theater and most of the best food options are out on the pier -- and Sam ends up watching it with Sheppard and Teyla outside on Athosian blankets. Teyla seems to have picked up a working understanding of the game from Sheppard, who is nonetheless disappointed that she's rooting for the Pats.

"You're an NFC kind of dame," he tries to convince her before it starts. "People from G-2 root for the AFC."

"Tom Brady is quite handsome," Teyla replies. Sam thinks she does it just to make Sheppard splutter.

Nonetheless, she doesn't seem too put out when the Giants triumph in the end.

Atlantis smells like barbecue for a few days afterward, but the upbeat mood in the city lingers longer. It's a welcome respite from the usual for as long as it lasts.

feed me on LJ?


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1 February, 2009