NOTES: Written for the 'Food and Architecture' challenge at the sgaflashfic LJ community. And because I love my team.
John Sheppard was hungry.
This often happened after a mission, particularly the ones where, due to planetary rotation differentials, his team arrived back after the relevant mealtime.
They'd skipped dinner. At least, he had. McKay probably had some ration bars hidden somewhere, Teyla had vanished without a trace, and Ronan was last seen in the showers drowning himself. The man had an affinity for hot water that was practically obscene.
According to his watch, it was about 2200 Atlantis time.
The mess hall staff usually closed up around 2000 hours. Oh, some stuff was left out for the scientists who forgot about such trivial things as mealtimes in favour of tests and Ancient artifacts that might or might not hold the cure for cancer, but none of the good stuff.
John was hungry for the good stuff.
And he knew it was in there.
He'd waited a couple of hours to let the scientists go in and fetch their snacks. Patient observation over a period of months had taught him when the mess kitchens would be 'busy' and when they were 'quiet'. And about 2200 hours, everything was silent. In strict Earth hours - not counting the extra four or so hours that Atlantis' planetary rotation added to the day - that made it about midnight, Earth-time.
The coast was clear.
There was no real reason for John to sneak through the halls like James Bond in a Russian facility, except that it was fun. He really didn't have enough fun these days; it was all serious things. Not that serious things were bad, just that there were times when even a grown man felt like being a little...silly.
Of course, he felt really silly when he turned around one corner and found himself facing Teyla across the corridor.
She stared at him for a moment, her eyes flickering beyond to the corridor behind him. "Is everything all right, Colonel?"
He straightened up from his half-crouch, rubbing one hand over the back of his neck. "Ah, yeah, Teyla. Everything's fine. I was just...hungry."
"I see." There were momenst when John strongly suspected Teyla was laughing at him behind her careful formality. "And you were on your way to the kitchens?"
"At a running crouch." Okay, so she was definitely laughing at him. He could even see the little up-twitch of her mouth in the shadowy corridor.
John eyed her. "What are you doing out here anyway?"
Now her mouth really did curve in a smile. "I was on my way to the kitchens. For a midnight snack." She tilted her head to one side. "Don't let me keep you from your...passage to the kitchens. I can walk there at my own pace."
John huffed. The woman was laughing at him. "I'll walk," he said.
"No, no," she assured him, waving a hand at the corridor. "Do not let me keep you from your...activity, Colonel." This time, John's glare broke her mock-solemnity into a soft laugh.
"I'll walk," he repeated and fell into step beside her. They walked in silence until the next set of doors when John felt compelled to break the quiet. "Where did you go after the mission? I stopped by your room to see if you were up for staves, but you weren't there."
"Lieutenant Belcourt expressed a desire for company during her meditational exercises this evening."
"Ah." That explained why she hadn't been in contact through her earpiece. "Well, because you vanished, I've just spent the last few hours going through my paperwork instead of staves practise."
"Did not Dr. Weir say that you were late with several reports?"
John glared at her. "No. She said that she wanted to see them on her desk at the first available opportunity."
"So they were late."
"They were not late!"
Teyla had evidently been taking lessons from Weir. The look she gave him was distinctly teacher-ish - as in 'Don't try that shit on me, young man!'
The corridors were deserted at this hour and they moved briskly through the city.
As they walked into the mess hall, John frowned. Someone was already in the kitchens, moving around with little thought for silence. He didn't bother to motion for silence; Teyla was about as quiet as they came. She kept level with him, but her path took her wide of his, so they were approaching the door from different angles.
There were voices talking, heedless of the two people sneaking up on them.
"...you do know that I can't have anything with citrus in it, don't you?"
John frowned briefly at Rodney's question. He frowned even further when Ronan's voice answered with dry patience. "I know."
With a slight huff, John pushed his way into the kitchen area, noting that there were a lot of things out on the benchtop and that Ronan had a throwing grip on one of the chopping knives as he came in. "What are you guys doing?"
Ronan looked from him to Teyla and back to him, and grinned. "Same thing you are."
"We're having a midnight snack," Rodney said. "Ronan has offered to cook something. By the way," he added in Ronan's direction, "you do know that Sergeant Doran hates anyone messing up the arrangement of her kitchen, don't you?"
The big man turned, knife in hand. "I know." He then proceeded to start chopping up the things he had on the benchtop, wielding the knife with the same kind of competence with which he approached shooting or physical fighting.
John sat down at the bench beside Rodney, and wondered if there was any weapon the man couldn't use. "So what's Ronan making?"
"A recipe from Sateda," Rodney explained.
"Without citrus," Ronan added dryly.
"Look, if one drop of that stuff could kill you, you'd be careful about what you ate, too!" Rodney protested.
"Nothing wrong with being careful," Ronan noted, turning with the knife in his hand. "Repetitive on the other hand."
Rodney scowled, eyeing the knife. "Don't threaten me, Ronan."
The Satedan looked surprised. "Do I look like I'm threatening you?"
Teyla laughed as she paused at the bench where John and Rodney were sitting, then subsided with a sigh when all three men looked at her. "Ronan, you have a knife in your hand. They consider that threatening. Rodney, if he were threatening you, the knife would be at your throat."
Ronan shot Teyla a grin and a shake of the head. John translated it as 'where did you find these people?'
"Satedan recipe, eh?" John asked, deciding that they should get back to the topic at hand - namely the midnight snack. Which looked like it was going to become a midnight feast. "Are you going to make enough for the whole class?"
"I can," Ronan said and kept chopping.
Okay, so indirect didn't get you anywhere with Ronan Dex. John was still getting used to that. "Then do. Please."
"Do you require any assistance?" Teyla asked. It occurred to John that maybe he should have asked that as well instead of just sitting down ready to eat.
John reminded himself that terse was the new black as well. "Okay. So, why are we all up at this hour anyway?"
"Well, I don't know about you, but we arrived back too late to have dinner," Rodney reminded him.
"You could have gone to bed," Teyla observed, leaning forward so she could see Rodney.
"Without any supper," John added.
Rodney glared at them. "I'm not going to bed without eating something first! Besides, I wasn't going to go to bed at all. Sergeant Ramsey's finally gotten somewhere with the chair and we're going to do some tests."
"And does Sergeant Ramsey know that the tests are going to be done tonight?"
The scientist puffed up with irritation. "Of course she does! I told her yesterday. Or was it the day before that?"
"Did you happen to follow it up today?" John asked. Most of the personnel would be comfortably in their beds by now.
"Why would I do that?"
"Because she might have gone to bed," said Teyla.
"We arrived back pretty late. She might have assumed it wasn't on anymore."
Rodney paused. "Why would she do that?"
"Well, I don't know, Rodney," John said. "Maybe she wanted some sleep?"
There was a certain amount of comfort in their bickering, a familiarity that was only reinforced by Teyla's occasional comments, and a question or two from Ronan. It was, John had to admit, a bit like sitting at a table with his family, about to have dinner.
Except that the meal Ronan set down in front of them as his watch numbers crawled towards midnight didn't look like anything John had eaten before.
A dozen chunks of meat steamed on one side of the plate, and clumps of cooked vegetables were brightly arranged around a small container of a white sauce in the middle.
Rodney was staring at it with the look of a man who wanted back his MRE of indeterminate origin. "You want us to eat this?"
Teyla picked up a cube of one of the vegetables they'd found to supplement their diet. "And this is a Satedan dish?"
"Yep." Ronan watched her. So did John and Rodney.
She looked at all three men, dipped the vegetable into the sauce, and took a bite. A thoughtful expression appeared on her face as she chewed it, so John figured it couldn't be all that inedible.
"It is an unusual flavouring," she said.
"It's edible?" Rodney got a hard look from Ronan for that comment. "What? I'm just asking..."
"Try it for yourself," Teyla advised as she reached for the next piece.
John glanced at Rodney, then at Ronan and shrugged. By now, he was really hungry, and Ronan's expression was practically a dare. So he took a chunk of meat, dipped it into the sauce and ate.
It was a bit like lamb, and the sauce seemed to be something with mint and yoghurt in. And it was edible.
Rodney watched him, and John indicated the plate. "'S good," he managed.
Rodney didn't look convinced, but beyond John, Teyla sighed. "Just eat, Rodney."
"And if it kills me?"
"Then we shall be forced to rouse Dr. Beckett from his bed to rescuscitate you," she said.
"McKay. Eat." John pointed at the food and got a dirty look.
There was almost a pause in everyone else's eating as Rodney picked up a hunk of meat, gingerly dipped it in the sauce and nibbled on it with extreme caution. Then he blinked and went wide-eyed and put the whole piece in his mouth.
Ronan smirked. "Good?"
Rodney had no issues with eating after that.
They ate in mostly silence, surprisingly uninterrupted by other people coming in for their bout of midnight munchies. When John commented on this, Rodney mentioned the supplies of cotton candy and potato chips that someone had smuggled on board the Daedelus during their last supply run.
John stopped eating in horror. Candy that he hadn't known about? "Why didn't I hear about this?"
"Oh, it wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that you claimed half of the last cargo of junk food."
"Only on behalf of the military personnel!"
"And who, might I ask, are the people who save the collective asses of the military personnel every time something pops up with relation to the city's technology?"
John pretended to think about it. "That would be the military personnel, too."
"What? That is so--"
"Dr. McKay! Colonel!"
Teyla broke through Rodney's protests as Ronan pointed at Rodney's plate with one finger. "Eat."
Rodney scowled. "Who are you? My mom?" He must have seen the gleam of amusement in Ronan's expression, because he immediately put up his hands. "Don't answer that!" With a great, gusty sigh he returned to his meal.
"So there's no candy left?"
"Relax, Sheppard," Rodney waved a piece of meat at him. "Weir saved us some. I think. At least, I'm pretty sure she did."
"She'd better have!" John declared. He turned to Teyla. "Cotton candy is what you have in those ferris wheels I told you about." That discussion had been a long time ago - over a year, now.
"Is everything all right, Colonel?"
He nodded. "Yeah. Fine. Just thinking that we've been in Atlantis for a year."
"It has been a busy year."
"You could say that."
So it was an understatement. Possibly the understatement of the year.
John figured he should be kinda burned out by now. Oddly enough, he wasn't. His life had changed so much since General O'Neill had sat down opposite him one morning at McMurdo and point-blank asked, "Why'd you go back for them?"
And the biggest change wasn't his location. Atlantis was just another posting. Granted, it was looking like it was going to be a posting for life - however long that turned out to be - but the city was cool and the ships were great to fly, and the technology was...well...gadgety.
The biggest change was the people who belonged to him. The people John belonged to.
He glanced around at each of his team-mates, caught their eyes with expressions ranging from: "Do I have something on my face?" from McKay to "You rang?" from Ronan and including the slight smile Teyla gave him, as though she was well aware of his thoughts and comfort.
He regretted losing Ford. The young man had been family of sorts, and his absence grated on John - all the more after seeing Ford's cousin back on Earth. They would get Ford back; get him back, get him off the enzyme, get him home. John owed Aiden that much.
In the meantime...
John had family.
Not a perfect family - not by a long way. But family nevertheless.
It was a good feeling and he ate the rest of his meal with a stupid grin on his face.
They ate all the way down to the end of their plates, with Rodney even cleaning out the remainder of his sauce from the dish. John exchanged a grin with Teyla as she propped her hand up on her head by her plate.
"So," Rodney said when he'd finished scraping up the remains of his dinner. "what's next?"
Ronan bared his teeth in a wolfish grin. "You get to clean up."
- fin -