A/N -- Here's the end. Just a little one. It's not really a wrap-up, more a "life goes on" thing, but...anyway, hope you like!
CHAPTER TEN: BACK ON THE HORSE
"Hey," Sheppard turned in the pilot's seat, looking over his shoulder at Rodney. The scientist stopped typing away on the laptop connected to the ship's systems for a moment, glancing back at him, then returned to his work. Over in the navigator's chair, Ford looked up from the book he was reading.
Teyla, Dr. Zelenka and Dr. Travis were all in the back of the puddle jumper, asleep on the floor.
15 hours was a long time.
"You busy?" Sheppard asked.
McKay's eyebrows shot up, the only sign that he was listening as he continued to type.
"I mean," the major rephrased, "can you stop what your doing, or leave it alone for a while?"
"Leave it alone?" McKay repeated, pausing again and looking at the schematics he was building. He was in the middle of creating a computer model of the ship's life support systems, for use in the future as a sort of instruction manual. He looked back at Sheppard, "Why?"
"It's been almost a month, that's why," Sheppard replied. "Time to get back on the horse."
McKay grimaced, his jaw muscles flexing. Almost a month. Had it been that long? They were headed out to the satellite again, and though his rational, stubborn, conscious mind knew he had to do this, to check out the satellite as the one most capable of interpreting its systems, his subconscious mind had been screaming at him ever since Weir posed the idea. And yet…here they were. Nine hours into the trip. And Sheppard wanted him to try flying again? Just like last time? Who the hell did the major think he was?
"I'd rather not," he replied, finally.
"If it were me," Ford suggested casually, adding his two bits, "I'd want to learn how to fly these things better."
Rodney favored him with a dark look. "I can fly one of these things just fine, lieutenant, as you may recall. I got us home and back once, did I not? When Sheppard was hanging out with Keras and the other kiddies? "
Ford shuddered, remembering it quite clearly. "Yeah. I also still remember those trees you denuded. And that poor bird—desperately flapping away, trying so hard to get out of your way…."
Sheppard laughed loudly, he couldn't help himself, then clapped a hand over his mouth and threw a worried look towards the back of the jumper. Luckily, none of the three sleeping people moved.
Rodney followed his gaze, then stood and walked to the bulkhead door. With a touch of his hand to a panel, the door separating the front from the back closed.
Sheppard's smile disappeared a little. "Will they be able to open it again from their side, if necessary?"
"Sure," Rodney shrugged. "Teyla knows where it is. Besides, Zelenka's back there, remember?"
"Oh," Sheppard pursed his lips, "right. I forgot. Glad Zelenka's with us."
Rodney nodded, returning to his seat. In a moment, he was typing again.
"McKay," Sheppard stated firmly.
McKay's fingers continued to fly.
"McKay, come on. You need the practice."
The scientist paused, and closed his eyes.
"It's too soon, major," he stated finally, speaking through clenched teeth.
"No it's not. Come on. Besides, my fingers are beginning to ache."
McKay looked back at him, "There is an auto-pilot function, you know. You just have to be in the ship—you don't have to fly it the whole time if it has a planned trajectory."
"I know," Sheppard said, looking down at the panel before him. "But I like the control."
McKay gave a tiny smile. "Because it's your ship," he mocked.
"Exactly," Sheppard admitted cheerfully. "Though, to be honest, she has yet to make me as happy as my first car." He sighed, "It was a great car."
"Oh?" McKay turned more fully in his chair, and Ford perked up again. "What kind of car?"
Sheppard shrugged, "I'll tell you," his eyebrows waggled, "if you take the controls."
McKay's expression fell, but not completely. Curiosity was a powerful motivator.
"All right," the scientist stood, "get out of the way."
Sheppard grinned, releasing the controls and stepping away from the pilot's chair. Ford stood up to shift to Teyla's chair, and Sheppard sat in the navigator's seat. McKay sat down gingerly in the pilot's chair, and, with a moment hesitation, took hold of the controls.
Sheppard ignored the tension filling McKay's frame, and leaned back.
"A 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback," he said. "It was even Highlander Green."
McKay's face split into a huge grin, turning to stare at the major with bright eyes, but Ford looked puzzled.
"Bullitt style?" McKay asked, almost reverently.
"Better believe it baby!" Sheppard's eyes practically sparkled, seeing the same excitement in his friend's eyes.
"Bullet Style?" Ford asked, blinking curiously at the two men. "Like a gun?"
McKay laughed, and Sheppard shook his head.
"Bullitt. B-U-L-L-I-T-T. One of the greatest movies ever made," Sheppard informed him.
"With the best car chase scene ever filmed," McKay added, his eye bright. "It set the standard. Steve McQueen in his dark green Mustang, which was all about muscle in those days, chasing a Dodge Charger through the streets of San Francisco. No chase music, no special effects, just the cars, their huge engines and McQueen's gritted teeth as he bent that wheel." He shook his head, glancing out towards the empty space outside for a moment, at the "star" he had chosen as his guide, before turning back, "Fantastic!"
"I loved that car," Sheppard sighed wistfully. "I got it used, of course, fifteen years old, but the guy who sold it to me had been 'maintaining' it. Still roared like the devil." He shook his head, "Damn fine car. I used to dream I was Steve McQueen."
"What happened to it?" Ford asked.
Sheppard grimaced, "Got crushed by a pickup at a light. I had the green. I gunned the engine. Truck ran the light in the other direction…I ended up in the hospital for three weeks. But that wasn't nearly as devastating as learning my mother had the car totaled and sent to the scrapheap. We weren't rich enough to repair it, I know, but still…." He sighed.
"Three weeks," Ford shook his head.
"The scrapheap?" McKay sighed, focused on what he felt to be the more terrible fact. "God that must have hurt."
"It did." Sheppard shook his head, then perked up, "Until I bought my next car."
McKay grinned, glancing once more out the window, adjusting the controls a little, "Can I guess?"
Sheppard grinned at him, "Go ahead."
"Um…let's see…mid-80s by now, right? Um…give me a hint, movie or TV?"
The major's smile grew wider, "TV."
"The General Lee."
"Nope. Good guess though. I would've loved having one of those."
"Nah. Too expensive. Face had a great car though—remember the white corvette?"
"With the red stripe!" McKay laughed, and Sheppard nodded. In the background, Ford just kept a light smile, vaguely catching the reference to the A-Team, but mostly just listening.
"Um…okay," Rodney moved a little in the seat, "mid 80's…stupid teenager without any money…."
"I was 20 actually."
Sheppard chuckled, not looking at Ford's grimace. McKay clicked his tongue, then grinned.
"Ford Gran Torino."
"On the money!" Sheppard laughed.
"Great car!" McKay adjusted the controls again, then looked at Sheppard, "Red?"
"Ford Gran Torino?" Ford just looked confused.
"Starsky and Hutch?" McKay replied, glancing at him over his shoulder.
"The 70s cop show?"
"He doesn't get it," McKay shared an identifying look with Sheppard. The major chuckled andpropped his hands behind his head, tilting his head at the scientist.
"So, what was your first car, McKay?"
"Well, like you," McKay adjusted the controls again, "I had no money. But," he shifted again, "I figured I could fix anything, so I went to the dump with some friends and, for a hundred bucks…." He trailed off, "Um…am I going the right way?"
Either he or Sheppard called up the map, showing that, yes, not only was he going the right way, but, amazingly, he was going in a straight line.
McKay's smile was huge, inordinately pleased with himself, and Ford had to laugh at that. Sheppard just nodded.
"So, first car?" Sheppard repeated, peering at the scientist.
"Oh," McKay turned the screen off and glanced back at him, "1977 Black Pontiac Trans Am."
"Smokey and the Bandit!"
"Thought you'd appreciate that."
"Very nice. Shame I didn't know you then. We could've raced."
"Yeah," McKay said the word, a hint of wistfulness in his voice, "maybe." He was well aware that, had he and Sheppard known each other in high school, there was next to no chance that they would have been friends.
Sheppard's grin faded a little, perhaps coming to the same realization, then came back strong. McKay was still smiling faintly, staring out the front of the jumper. The scientist's grip on the controls tightened a little. Ford felt the change in atmosphere, and glanced at the major. Sheppard met his lieutenant's gaze for a moment, then leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees.
"Hey," the major said.
"Yeah?" McKay replied.
"Speaking of Steve McQueen…you know that young Travis guy?"
"Um," McKay arched an eyebrow, "I should think so, since he's camped out in the back of the jumper."
"Does he remind you of that actor…the one who played the politician in Bullitt?"
McKay pursed his lips, "What…the red headed guy? With the eyes?"
The scientist pursed his lips some more, then looked over his shoulder at the closed doors, then back at Sheppard, "Yeah…he does." He nodded soundly, "Just like him. Good call!"
"Who?" Ford asked.
"The Man from U.N.C.L.E. guy," McKay replied. "And he was with Steve McQueen in another movie. Played the same kind of standoffish, slightly cowardly counterpoint character to McQueen again. He was the gambler in that one, didn't come through until the end, when he got all heroic..."
"Right, right," Sheppard nodded. "Why can't I remember his—"
"Robert Vaughn?" Ford said innocently.
McKay and Sheppard both turned, shock on their faces. McKay's face broke first, busting forth a grin that Ford couldn't help returning.
"Yeah," the doctor said, "How do you know him?"
Ford shrugged, "I like westerns. Lots of guns and blowing things up. Makes me happy."
Sheppard burst out laughing, and McKay quickly joined him. They were laughing so hard, neither noticed as Ford did that they had veered off course, no longer going in a straight line.
But the lieutenant didn't say anything, enjoying the mood too much. After all, he knew they'd get back on it soon enough.
They always did.
Thanks for reading! Oh, and part of this goes to Terri, who reminded me of the first show I ever wrote a fic for--The A-Team. I also have to acknowledge NT, because she read and fixed this all first and because I wouldn't have posted anything at all without her. She blames me, but it's really all her fault (natch!). I also have huge crushes on both the young Steve McQueen and Robert Vaughn (Bullitt's one of my favorite movies as well as, ahem, the other one). I would also sell my soul for a Bullitt styled Mustang.