Title: Next Step
Author: Angel Leviathan
Spoilers: Anything, everything, all of season 2 so far.
Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis, characters, concept, etc, aren't mine.
Notes: Set during the time spent on Earth before Intruder. I think this just stemmed from noticing that Elizabeth seems to have a pretty good relationship with John, Carson and McKay. But WS still crept in anyway.
She wasn't quite sure why she had agreed to be the one who went forth and purchased recreational supplies for the Atlantis mission. At the time it had seemed like an interesting idea, after her rather depressing weekend of moving her possessions into storage and quickly finding somebody willing to buy her car for a half decent price. Elizabeth had spent the past two days cursing herself for being a fool; she told him to let her go: what right did she have to march back into Simon's life and think everything was going to be fine? She hadn't wanted to spend another day in 'their' house. So she'd left it, and him, and wondered when the new woman of his would take her place in his house as well as his bed. When she was handed a credit limit and a distraction, she hadn't thought to say no. She was just passing from the bitterly cursing (both him and herself) and insulting (solely him, if only in her mind), angry stage into the 'just get on with life and forget' phase and thought hey, why not?
Elizabeth hadn't expected to find herself in a sports supply store with John Sheppard, Carson Beckett, and Rodney McKay, 'discussing' tennis versus baseball and what the most popular sport in Atlantis was. Well, she supposed she'd semi-invited them. Carson had been concerned about her, having not seen her crack even a barely enthused 'brave' smile in a good while. Then she'd made the mistake of waving the credit information in front of John, he'd made comments about women and shopping, and then Rodney had decided to go along too, if only to make sure they purchased something for the 'more intellectual' amongst them, which had earned him three unimpressed mock glares. She hadn't fought them and had actually been quite touched that they were all concerned (it was the 'don't leave her own her own, try and make her laugh', three prong attack that gave them away, even if none of them suspected their cover had been blown) and yes, despite the fact that they were having a rather loud and embarrassing argument in the middle of the store, she was having fun. Simon who?
"And what if you buy all this and then somebody demands to know where the hockey sticks are?" McKay demanded.
"I'll say 'go to the mainland and break a large branch off a tree'," John replied, smirking.
"And I'll say I'll have nobody swiping pointy sticks around whilst I'm on duty," Carson countered.
"Alright, enough!" Elizabeth raised her voice.
They all stared at her like errant children.
"We can't get enough for everybody in…Shinyville…" she met John's gaze and bit down on her bottom lip to stop from laughing. It had been his idea to substitute 'Atlantis' for 'Shinyville', thinking they'd not only get asked questions, but possibly get institutionalised if they went around shouting about and mythological city and taking themselves very seriously. She suspected he'd made up such a ridiculous name on purpose, "…to play every sport under the sun…"
"Some people are sure to bring their own equipment anyhow," Carson shrugged.
"So," she began again, "Football. Baseball. Tennis," she caught the glower on Rodney's face, "and some hockey equipment. Clear?"
"Crystal," the scientist perked up considerably.
John frowned, "…Can you really order us around out here?" he shot her a half smile.
"Probably not," Elizabeth wandered past him on her way to the counter, "but somebody has to control you children."
"I am hurt and offended."
"Hurt and offended?" she looked back over her shoulder at him, smiling, "Wow, I was just going for offended."
"Wait, wait, wait," Carson interrupted, "We can't carry all this."
"A doctor of voodoo and you figure that one out?" McKay taunted.
"You know, nobody said you had to make it back to Atlantis…" John thought aloud.
"Aye, and nobody said I have to treat you next time you nearly bring the roof down on your head."
"I'm getting it sent to the base," Elizabeth called back to them.
They all frowned at this.
Transaction completed, she rejoined them, "What?"
"…The SGC…?" John said, voice low.
"Well, how else do supplies get delivered? It doesn't have a sign saying 'stargate here, big secret military operation'," she whispered, "And Landry said it was the easiest option. Anyway, where to now?"
He paused in thought, "…Think we can get away with games consoles?"
"I don't see why not."
"Oh yes, very mature," Rodney answered.
"Hey, I know you have all those games on your computer. They're hidden under all the work folders. I knew even you couldn't fill a forty gig hard-drive with just work."
He flushed, "They're educational…" he followed them from the store, "Wait a minute, how do you know?"
"Leave your laptop running and unguarded; expect consequences."
"Expect invasion of privacy!"
"Just be glad I didn't find anything else on there. I hate to think what we've got floating around the city intranet."
Elizabeth grimaced, "Thank you for that lovely thought."
"Some of us have to use that thing on a daily basis, ye know," Carson exclaimed, shaking his head. So far, he didn't have a brilliant track record with the Atlantis Intranet. He was sure it was out to get him. He always had to type in his password at least five times before it even accepted him as a valid user, and after all that it, it usually threw him off every five minutes thereafter.
"Some of us are going to crack down on what exactly that intranet is used for…" she muttered. She turned her attention to the shop they were entering, frowning at a cardboard cut out of a rather scantily clad woman, "I knew there was a reason you all wanted to come in here…"
"I'm perfectly happy with the present female company," John glanced back over his shoulder at her, half smile on his face, hoping to provoke some sort of reaction from her.
She wasn't sure whether to slap him or hug him, so she settled for catching up with him a pace and nudging him gently.
"Last time I saw one'a these, a child I was treating had the indent of it in his forehead…" Carson frowned, glancing at an X-Box controller.
Elizabeth stared round at all the games and different systems they ran on, "…Maybe this is a bad idea. We could start a personnel war with these…"
Rodney shrugged, "Most people have their own laptops. If they're desperate for a game, I'm sure, er, somebody…could convert them to PC…create some emulators…which, of course, is illegal and I personally have no idea how to do," he glanced round at his three companions, who looked suitably interested in the idea, but clearly knew he was lying about the 'no idea' part.
John coughed, "So…if we bought some of these…'somebody' could do what you said?"
"I'm sure they'd, er, look into it."
"I'm so glad I have a multitalented staff," she looked up at the games across the walls again, "…Don't we do enough," she lowered her voice, "shooting and running without some of these?"
"Fantasy violence can be therapeutic," Carson replied.
Elizabeth frowned, "I wasn't expecting that answer from you…"
"Well, I'd rather have people shooting something on screen than going a little crazy when they meet the real enemy. Or taking it out on each other. Don't you agree?"
"Let's just grab game packages and some extra computer software-" John began.
"On the software thing," McKay wandered off in the direction of the PC section.
"And then we can say we didn't censor anything or chose what we thought was appropriate, or just what we wanted," he finished.
"Good idea," she nodded.
"You're sure we've got all these thousands of dollars they gave you?" Carson looked worried for a moment.
Elizabeth nodded, "I think they're trying to make up for the fact that they could have been sending us to our instant deaths when we first dialled for the city…"
"I'm sure not complaining about that…" John muttered.
"And besides, before the attacks stepped up, it was getting pretty desperate back there, entertainment wise. People's books were doing the rounds, people were making playing cards out of spare cardboard, I think some even resorted to spin the bottle at one point…"
A guilty look that flashed across John's face instantly told her he'd probably been involved in one or two of those games. Interesting. She filed it under 'blackmail material' and pushed the thought aside.
"So, we want to buy, say, two of each of these here consoles?" Carson could still see the poor kid he'd treated in the back of his mind. Though, judging from his behaviour toward his little sister, and the girl's temperament, he'd probably deserved it.
"And a crap load of controllers. And those adapters to hook up extra controllers," John nodded.
"Am I going to find you boys in close proximity to these consoles on a regular basis?" she questioned.
"You may never see us again," he teased.
She feigned delight, "Let's get more."
"I have the feeling Rodney's going to break the bank…or at least the Air Force's generosity…" Carson began, on seeing the scientist approaching with an armful of varying sizes of boxes.
"What else do we have to buy?" John asked.
"Anything we think people will want," she replied, with a shrug, "Anything to keep them entertained in their off hours. Its not as if they can just switch on the TV. So…books, DVDs, some CDs, board games… Anything we can think of. And anything that's not on the food supplies list that people are going to want."
"You got the list?"
"There was nearly a chocolate riot a few weeks ago…" Carson evidently didn't think of it as a particularly fond memory.
"There's 'some' in the supplies. Though I suspect a lot of its in ration bars."
"So, more," John nodded, "…Alcohol?"
Elizabeth smiled, "I got permission for 'some'. But I don't know where the line between 'some' and 'a lot' will be drawn. And there's things like cosmetics and," she glanced at John, "hair gel," she was convinced his pack must've been crammed full of it, "that people will want. I don't see the USAF seeing those as the essential supplies they sent."
Rodney tried to dump his armful of boxes into a basket, "We have to buy make-up?"
"Well, not you personally, unless you want to," she teased.
Carson checked his watch and went to pick up a couple of console boxes, to get them scanned and sent along with the other supplies, "We'd better get moving. We've still got a lot of shopping to do."
"Where next?" McKay questioned.
"Book shop," Elizabeth replied. She shook her head and smiled slightly; if they'd had an argument over sports supplies, she dreaded to think what would ensue over reading material.
She was only mildly surprised to find John lurking in the classics section, after a half hour of wandering through the store, utterly lost, despite her love of reading. Before, she'd only been shopping for herself, sometimes reading material and course books for students, but never for an entire, multinational, city. She'd considered throwing some ISBN numbers at the staff on the checkouts, to see if it was possible to get some issues in other languages, but then, which languages and how many? Maybe it was better to stick to English and not risk offending anyone.
John looked up at her, distracted, "Hey."
"Hey," Elizabeth peered down at the title of the book he held, "…Okay, you reading War and Peace, I can vaguely understand…"
"I'll hope that's not a dig at my suspected level of intelligence…"
"But The Odyssey?" she finished.
He shrugged, "My mom used to read this sorta thing to me when I was a little kid. Not the book, but, you know, the myths and legends, remembered off the top of her head," he smiled, "and altered if she thought the endings were too violent," he closed the book, "Thought it might be time to read the real thing."
"You might want to throw it across the room before you're finished," she warned.
"You read this?"
"When I was a student. I read a book from a friend's course and he read one from mine, neither of us understood why the other was studying what we were…" Elizabeth shrugged, "…I still didn't understand when I was finished. I don't think he did either."
"Well, maybe I can torture you with this again one day," he grinned, "Where're the others?"
She glanced around, "I think we lost Rodney to the crime section."
"Rodney's into crime fiction?"
"Apparently so. I think Carson's off secretly laughing at some medical text books. I think he likes knowing he's a few years, or galaxies, ahead."
"What're we doing about the books thing?" John began to walk away from the shelf, book still in his hand.
"I thought of ordering multiple copies of the top twenty or so. At least then we get a mixture. The USAF already sent the most up to date text books in most fields, as of now. Maybe get the top five of specialist sections just to keep people entertained?" she wandered along beside him.
"Sounds like a plan."
"I've heard people saying they wouldn't mind learning a few things about fields other than their own."
"Get people to hold lectures or something when we aren't being shot at?" he proposed, "I wouldn't mind revisiting highschool chemistry," he glanced around, "But don't ever tell McKay that."
Elizabeth laughed quietly, "I wont. And hey, maybe you could teach some math."
He shot her an oddly confused, and perhaps apprehensive, look, "…We'll see."
She let the subject drop, not wanting to pry, and just nodded. By this time, they had wandered into the crime section, and discovered Rodney surrounded by a pile of books.
John frowned, "McKay?"
He looked up, almost guilty expression on his face, "Yes?"
She looked closer, "Are you reading the last page of those?"
McKay hesitated before replying, "…Maybe."
"Why?" the Colonel asked.
"Doesn't that ruin it?" Elizabeth questioned.
"This way, you know who did it, or get some idea, and then you can see what they're doing the whole way through," he explained.
"…I didn't think that was the point of crime fiction…" John finally answered.
"Do you read crime novels?"
"Well then," McKay paused, "I'll bite back the particularly scathing remark on seeing you have an at least partially intellectual book in your hands."
John sighed the sigh of a long suffering companion, "…What was that about a scathing remark…?"
Elizabeth smiled and touched his arm, "I'll be right back. I'm going to find Carson. Then we can order and get out of here," she looked down at McKay, "Even if you do know what happens, don't tell the rest of us."
"I'm sure I'll be able to restrain myself."
"I'm sure I wont," John looked as if were tempted to pull the bookcase over onto his friend.
"Play nice, boys."
"And how exactly are we going to get away with that as 'recreational'?" Elizabeth crept up on John, discovering him in the alcohol aisles of the wholesalers.
"You said we could get away with alcohol…"
"You said 'some' and 'lots' might be the same thing…" he countered. John smirked as a thought passed across his mind, "And I really hope I don't have to explain how this could be 'recreational'."
She grimaced and pretended to be disgusted with his filthy mind, "Now you're definitely not getting away with it."
"Just what can I get away with?"
A thought that followed what she suspected had been his made her blush slightly, "Presumably some bottles of wine and spirits, not something that deliberately declares its main aim is to have you wasted in five minutes," she was quite proud of herself for providing a coherent answer.
"I stand corrected."
"Can't we hide it in the medical supplies and say its medicinal?" he proposed, grinning.
"I don't think so," Elizabeth answered. She paused, "…Though I doubt they'll protest if you take it in your own belongings."
He pretended to be shocked, "Doctor Weir, did you just condone the purchase of this lethal bottle of alcohol?"
"Maybe I did," she started to walk off in search of Rodney and Carson, "Maybe I didn't," she smiled over her shoulder.
She discovered Rodney in the next aisle, looking at bottles of wine. She pulled the list of what she'd thought they needed from the stores from her pocket as she approached him, mentally ticking off most of the list. They'd left alcohol and foodstuffs until last.
"Are you nearly finished?" she asked.
"I've got the numbers and names of some bottles to order," he nodded, "How about you?"
She shrugged, "Just been wandering. I'm leaving this to you three."
"Not a drinker?"
"Not really. If its there, I'll drink it, bars, meetings, if there's a party or something, you know. If a label says a wine is pretty good, then I'll buy it, but I'm no expert."
"I'm sure he intends to have half the city with a hangover when we get back," Carson's voice was heard from further down the aisle as he approached them.
"Ah, you've run into the Colonel then?" she smiled.
"Just what is he procuring?" McKay questioned.
Elizabeth shrugged, "It doesn't really matter. We can only try. If the USAF says no, then they say no. I shouldn't think they'd object to wine and spirits."
Carson nodded, "I don't know about you, but I'm starving. How about we go find a restaurant?"
At that moment, she heard John's voice again, "…I can't get away with a case of JD, can I?"
It was when they'd finally found a decent restaurant, and she was staring absently at a glass of white wine, that Elizabeth realised that she was truly relaxed for the first time in what felt like months. Worries about the city in their absence, and for Ford, still lingered at the back of her mind, but they seemed quiet, pushed away, and despite the extraordinary lives they led, it felt as if she was just having a meal with good friends. Which was what they were, she smiled softly, even if she did have to pull the 'leader' card officially, in Atlantis.
She glanced around, startled out of her musings, "Yes?"
"I don't mean to be indelicate… but is there a particular reason you've been so…down…the past few days? I don't mean to pry, you don't have to answer," it was Carson who spoke, quietly and hesitantly.
She shook her head, "…Its fine…" and then a further realisation hit her. It really was fine. She might have been behaving in the manner in which she thought she should have, having split up with her partner, but… it had been over long before their relationship had 'officially' ended. Even before she had stepped through the Stargate for the first time. If he had truly been the one she loved with all her heart, wanted to spend the rest of her life with, why would she have risked her life, and their future, by going to Atlantis? Her leaving had been the final step toward a separation that she should have seen coming a long time ago. Perhaps she had thought that being a professional, and being an adult, meant that the passion in a relationship was no longer there, whoever she was with. She'd felt more alive fighting to keep Atlantis running than she had in her years with Simon. And that should have told her something. Elizabeth took a sip from her glass, "My partner moved on whilst I was away. He met somebody else," she put the glass back down with a half-hearted shrug, "I told him to let me go. I was stupid to think…" she shook her head again and looked up, "I'm sorry if I had you all worried."
"Man's an idiot," Rodney answered, pretending great interest in his beer and not making eye contact with anybody.
"And you're not stupid," Carson insisted.
John remained silent, staring at his bottle of beer, and appeared to be lost in his own thoughts.
"Anyway," Elizabeth tried to change the subject, "Just how much did we spend today?" she winced in anticipation of a dreadful total.
"A little under eight thousand dollars," now John did speak.
"You know that for sure?" Rodney glanced across at him.
"I kept a total. Maybe I should teach math," he shot a wry smile at Elizabeth.
"Maybe you should," she agreed.
"Eight thousand dollars…" Carson grimaced.
"The limit was ten. Let's hope they appreciate the two thousand we didn't spend."
"…Maybe we should spend it anyway…" John proposed, grinning deviously.
McKay played along, "Any movies we should see whilst we're here? Gadgets to buy? Exhibits to see? Hockey matches?"
"Maybe a world tour or something. Not as impressive as Pegasus, but it'd be a start…" Carson added.
Elizabeth laughed as they all began to talk animatedly about the different ways they would spend the two thousand if they could. Because it was fine. And because she wouldn't have given up Atlantis, or the wonderful people she'd met through the mission, for the world. And who knew what would happen in the future? Maybe she'd find somebody already close to her to love, make her feel alive again. She shot a glance in her second in command's direction and chastised herself immediately. She took another sip from her glass and began to explain just how she'd spend the money, had she the chance, laughing all the while.
But maybe not never.