She found him at some hole in the wall bar a full forty-five minutes from the base. Well, she’d found him thanks to Colonel Carter and John’s personal locator. There wasn’t anywhere on the planet he could hide from the SGC. She watched him for a moment, torn by the worn look of him. He was dressed in a pair of loose jeans and Air Force t-shirt that had seen too many days. The image so didn’t fit with the man who owned his own plane and liked to stay in hotel suites that came with personal butlers. But Laura had learned along the way that John Sheppard was a set of beautiful contradictions that made him practically perfect.
She walked to the bar and slid up beside his stool and offered the man beside him a small, tight smile. “Drinking your troubles away, soldier?”
John glanced her way, his eyes dark but sober. “Nah, it takes more than a few shots to take me down these days.”
“Long way from the base.”
“Yeah.” He held up two fingers to the bartender and then looked around the bar. “Sometimes a man has the privilege of finding a bar in the middle of nowhere where he can drink really good bourbon and talk with men he’s never met and will never see again.”
“Is this male bonding then?” She asked amused.
“No that requires football or outdoor cooking.” He pushed one of the delivered shots in her direction and upturned his.
Laura sighed and tossed back the shot without complaint. It burned nice and good along her tongue and down her throat. The men on either side of them offered grunting compliments on her ability. “The General is worried about you.”
“Not so worried… if he were really worried he would have come along himself to collect me.” John motioned to the bartender. “This is Frank. He owns the place. Joel to your left and Phillip to your right. These boys have been keeping me company.”
She tilted her head and watched him with tired eyes. “Well you know how it is – we get state-side a few days and the higher ups like to make sure we got our legs before we go wandering off on field trips.”
“This sweet thing in the Air Force as well?” Frank asked with a grin.
Laura raised one eyebrow at the bartender. “This sweet thing is a United States Marine.”
His expression changed slightly and he gave her a sober nod. “Ma’am.”
John sighed. “Why do Marines always get that? And I get Top Gun jokes?”
“I have no clue. Top Gun was about Navy pilots and you’re much better looking that Tom Cruise.”
“What about Val Kilmer?” John frowned at her.
“No one is better looking than Val Kilmer in Top Gun,” Laura responded as she tugged at his hand. “Come along, Colonel, you’ve got debrief at 11:00 hours tomorrow.”
“Yeah, that’s fifteen hours from now.”
“Yep, that gives us just enough time to find some tawdry motel between here and the base and fuck ourselves stupid.”
“Christ, Laura, you’re like the best thing on this whole planet.”
“Just the planet?”
“Okay, okay, the whole galaxy. I swear.” He slid off the stool and grinned. “Maybe two galaxies. I’ll check around and get back to you. Maybe do a survey.”
“I thought you said a few shots couldn’t take you down?”
Phillip snorted, Joel laughed, and Frank said, “He’s had fifteen.”
“Jesus, John.” Laura frowned at him.
“Hey no frowning.” John tapped her lips gently. “Frowning does not lead to the hot sex I was just promised.” He pulled out his wallet and turned to the bartender.
“No, sir, you’re money is no good here.” Frank gave them both a shrewd look and then nodded. “Thank you both for your service. There’s a bed and breakfast a few miles down the road – not very tawdry but it’s tucked out of the way and the owners are good people.”
– – – –
“I had to get off the base for a while,” John admitted as they entered the room.
“All these months, I’ve watched her, sparred with her and watched her spar with Ronon. I knew about the gun and knife lessons with Evan. I knew how much conditioning Ronon had done with her – I think on some deep level I knew what she was capable of.” Laura shrugged out of her jacket and dropped it into a chair as John fell back on the bed. The bed and breakfast was tucked up on the side of a mountain and was probably the most romantic place she’d ever been to in her life with a drunk Air Force Colonel.
“But she isn’t like us.”
“No and I never wanted her to be,” Laura rubbed her face with one hand and then ran her fingers over the raw skin of her wrists. “I keep wishing it had been me, that he’d chosen me because then there wouldn’t be that haunted look in her eyes. This isn’t like the first time… when she killed that guy that stabbed Evan. It’s different.”
“There is a world of difference between killing with your bare hands and using a gun.” John sighed and sat up. “I’m really not that drunk you know. I’ve spent so much time getting friendly with natives who serve one-fifty proof spiritual wine that I would have to drink a whole bottle of bourbon to get wasted.”
She walked to him and crawled into his lap without another word. “So what you’re saying is that you are up for the mission that has been laid out before you, soldier?”
He ran his hands down her back and cupped her ass. “One of us will leave this room much more stupid than when they entered my hand to God.”
– – – –
“How is she?”
Ronon met Jack O’Neill’s gaze without flinching. It took a lot because this man meant as much to Jennifer as he did and he’d learned recently that the General’s approval meant too much to him as well. “She slept for a few hours and now she’s in the infirmary making herself a nuisance but neither Lam nor Beckett have the heart to kick her out. All three of them had no problem kicking me out, however.”
Jack nodded. “When I saw you training with her I have to admit it was irritating – and I wanted to make you stop.”
“Over the years I’ve worked with more civilians than I ever thought I would – saw them go from scientist to soldier in what seemed like a matter of minutes it seems. I hated watching it in Daniel. I mean I really hated it. Christ, he was a soft academic brimming with idealism and a true passion for knowledge when I first met him. Now he can plot the extermination of an entire race of ascended beings without blinking an eye and it never even cross his mind that maybe we should try a peace summit or something.”
“I’ve seen it happen a lot on Atlantis,” Ronon admitted. “And I never wanted it for Jennifer but I couldn’t leave her vulnerable. I learned that lesson early on, O’Neill.”
“I’ve read the mission reports. After the first kidnapping I almost recalled her. If I’d thought for a moment that she would let go of Atlantis I would have. But it was obvious from her emails that she was in love with the city and…” Jack sighed. “With you.”
“I’m not what her father would have wanted.”
Jack snorted. “You are exactly what her father would have wanted. Exactly. Richard Keller was a hard ass with a kill sheet as long as yours—the real one not that overwhelmingly huge number you say in front of her because you think it’s reasonable. He fought in every major battle on this planet for the last thirty years and managed to do his fair share of kick ass with the Go’uld and in the Ori war until his ship was destroyed. He knew about you – she included you in letters to him. We both knew what was coming on that front and he never disapproved. Richard figured that any man that could out run, out gun and out kill an enemy like the Wraith on his own for seven years would do everything he could to keep his woman safe and that’s all any father wants for his daughter.”
“I didn’t do a very good job of protecting her yesterday.”
“Of course you did. If you hadn’t trained her… I don’t even want to think about would have happened to her before the missed check point had us all scrambling for a rescue. Minutes in the hands of an enemy can scar you for life.”
– – – –
John didn’t know what he expected but when the door opened and he was stunned to find Teyla laughing and on the phone. Her eyes widened with pleasure and she motioned him with one hand – the phone tucked against her ear. She motioned him inside with one hand.
“Mother, I’m going to have to go I have company. Yes, I look forward to your arrival tomorrow afternoon. I can not wait for you to see the baby.” Teyla motioned John to follow her and he caught sight of Torren in a playpen. She said her goodbyes and put the phone down on a table near the door. “John, it’s so wonderful to see you.”
John accepted her traditional greeting with a sigh of relief as their foreheads met. “I’ve come to rescue you.”
She laughed. “Really? Again?”
“Yes, from phones, Earth…” He glanced briefly at the television and shuddered. “And Sponge Bob.”
“Torren enjoys it.”
“We’ve been fighting the IOA for months to get you and Carson back.”
“I know.” She patted his cheek. “We are aware of your efforts and Richard’s emails are starting to become as legendary as Rodney’s memos.” Teyla motioned him to sit. “I miss Atlantis and my people but I have to believe that Torren has a better chance of a life here than he ever would elsewhere. Here, Carson and I can provide him with a family.”
“You were on the phone with Caron’s mother?”
“Yes, you can imagine how this has been for her. Carson hates lying to her about everything but in the end we believe it would only increase her grief and he has a difficult time dealing with his own status as it is. It is a constant battle to keep everything on even ground but I believe that I’ve made myself clear when it comes to both my husband and my son.”
“Your husband.” John cleared his throat. “Your husband?”
“Well, yes.” Teyla smiled. “At least, in all the ways that matter to Carson and I. We’re having to make some adjustments to my status but we hope to have a legal marriage within the next few months. General O’Neill is doing his part to make it happen. They are creating an identity for me here on Earth… it’s all very complicated but I trust Sam and the General to take care of everything.”
“So, huh, how did you make yourself clear?”
“The last time one of those people at the SGC mentioned running tests on Torren and Carson – I lost my temper and broke a few of his bones. No one has mentioned tests on them again. They are all very polite to us now.”
“Well, you know…” John laughed softly. “I know how you feel about people and their manners.”
Teyla frowned. “It’s really not too much to ask of anyone.”
“So, you want to stay on Earth?”
“No, but for now it’s for the best. Especially with this recent development… all of those women and children. I know that Carson feels it’s his duty to stay here and help the survivors. Also, there is his mother to consider. I can not think to take her son from her now when she’s spent the last two years mourning him.”
“And you don’t want to return to Atlantis without him?”
“We’re a family, John. I could no more leave Carson behind than I could Torren. Whatever path we take in the future, it will be one we take together.”