Title: Sometimes It's
Not The Space BattlesAuthor: A.j.
Summary: Everyone keeps their sanity somehow.
Notes: Written for icarusabides in the Sheppard/Weir ficathon. She wanted a BsG/Atlantis crossover with Mom/Dad. This started as something else entirely and then took a hard right turn. Hope you enjoy it, sweetie, even if it probably isn't what you'd hoped. Love to Lyssie who beta'd and told me it wasn't tripe, and to the lovely people who got snippets as I tore my hair out about this thing for close to two months. (I LOVE YOU, HYA!!!!)
The first time John ever saw an episode of Battlestar Galactica, he was eleven years old. He and his cousin Cal had begged and pleaded until John's mother had agreed to keep the channel on ABC for the evening. The marketing blitz had been intense, for the time. The pilot had been expensive and the commercials had been enthralling to two pre-teen boys. Especially two boys who'd begged and pleaded with their parents for sixteen separate viewings of Star Wars the previous summer.
So there he'd been, eyes wide and flat on his stomach staring up at the tiny color set in his mother's living room. And just like Star Wars, it had been a whole new world. He'd come back week after week. Totally fascinated with Vipers and mechanical men. His mother had liked Apollo – "Such a good boy," she'd whisper pointedly in his direction – but his hero had been Starbuck. The hard flying, hard playing pilot had been invincible and perfect in his imperfection. Dirk Benedict's face had gone up all over his bedroom walls, sharing space with Han Solo.
And John'd been there, every Sunday night, and every rerun. He'd even tucked one of his mother's good brown towels into the neck of his shirt and wailed on Cal with his plastic lightsaber. Cal had been fond of Adama, and they'd even had a heated argument that had nearly ended their friendship when Cal had contended that Adama would kick Starbuck, Apollo, and Boomer's asses in fencing.
They'd only made up when the next episode had aired and Starbuck had gotten brained from behind by an evil smuggler. He and Cal had started out pouting on opposite sides of the couch, but John had been bawling by the end of the first act when Cal had slung an arm around him and assured him that Starbuck could totally kick Adama's ass, so he'd be fine.
Starbuck had survived, and so had their friendship.
Still, they'd both moped for weeks after the season – and the series – had ended with that lost opportunity at reaching Earth.
They'd even written badly-spelled letters to the network. He's not sure if his mother ever actually mailed them, and at the time he'd been convinced she hadn't. Still, it hadn't come back, and the next year Jenny Fallon had suddenly grown breasts, and while Dirk Benedict and Harrison Ford and his model Viper and Millennium Falcon had stayed up on his walls and ceiling, they hadn't been nearly as interesting.
Now John had never been one for much self-reflection, but even he'd noticed that the Han and Starbuck posters had coincided with Dad no longer calling as much. He's also pretty sure that the main reason his mother had given he and Cal the Star Wars money had been to distract him from the fact that the week long trip his father had promised kept getting delayed. Then it had been September and just not mentioned again.
Battlestar Galactica had filled a void he hadn't really wanted to face. It had been escapism in its finest form, and, had he been asked, he would have been lying if he'd said that it hadn't eventually played a part in his decision to go to the Air Force Academy. But when you're fourteen or eighteen, Tomcats look a lot like Vipers, and the Air Force seems more like a family than a dead mother and a disinterested Aunt.
It had been something of a surprise when he'd come back to Earth after a year's exile on Atlantis – after the previous year's exile in Antarctica – to find that a cable channel had decided to 'reimage' the series.
He'd been zoning out in the hotel room the Air Force had stuck him in after the endless rounds of mind-numbing briefings. It hadn't been so bad to begin with, the novelty of being several hundred feet underground on Earth had lasted for a good five meetings. Well, mostly until the brass had drug out all of the paperwork from when that bug had got stuck to his neck. Things might have gone a bit downhill from there.
Still, they'd been over, and once he'd forked over some of his back pay to upgrade hotels, things had been looking up. Okay, he'd rather unexpectedly gotten promoted – he was still about 80 sure Elizabeth had something rather vital to do with that little development, even though he hadn't seen her in two weeks – and told he would definitely be going back to Atlantis, and then things had looked up considerably.
So, when he'd been flipping through the rather limited hotel cable options, and flipped over the "Battlestar Galactica" lettering all over a commercial on the SciFi channel, and then another title card about 'season two', he'd left the channel on. He knew cable channels routinely cycled through the same advertising and he figured this just might be something worth sitting through the current horrible monster movie the channel was airing for. If he'd been more awake, he probably would have looked it up online, but he'd gotten a bit out of the habit of IMDB'ing everything.
Half an hour later, another commercial had popped on, and lounging there on his comfy hotel bed with a just-started pizza sitting next to him, John had blinked repeatedly and yelled at the tv. "Wait. Starbuck's a girl?"
Oh, yeah. That he had to see.
Later, John was almost embarrassed at how quickly he'd found the closest Best Buy and gone cruising for the advertised, newly released season 1. He'd had to go back for a DVD player as staring at his laptop too long made his not-20-anymore eyes hurt, and then again for an adapter for the hotel television.
He spent the next twenty hours mainlining the entire series. He passed out while Kara was torturing the Cylon that Adama had beaten to death in the miniseries and John'd had to restart the DVD when he woke up, drooling on the remote. So, it wasn't a consistent twenty hours, but it was close enough. It had been a strange experience, especially since John knew he hadn't done that kind of marathoning since that weekend in college when he discovered porn. And this ended with him a lot less sore, if with a lot more to think about.
It was nothing like the show he remembered. It was everything like the show he remembered.
Sure, there weren't capes – he really hoped his aunt burned the photos of him wearing the towel a long time ago – and the camera work was 'edgy', but Starbuck smoked and drank and Apollo was just as much a sanctimonious, wishy-washy blowhard as he remembered. There were Vipers and space battles that kind of blew his mind, and he'd been in dogfights with pointy wicked-looking vessels. Seeing them from a distance was definitely much cooler. You got the full scope of the thing, rather than a lot of quick close-ups followed by those eerie non-bangs. Plus, there was the bonus of not nearly dying.
The strangest thing though, and it was something he completely figured out smack in the middle of the second to last episode, was that he was watching this differently than he had with the first show. Not much of a shock given that he was twenty-some years older, but that wasn't entirely it.
The pilots were cool, and the space battles were awesome, but Starbuck and Apollo and Boomer and even Helo didn't feel very familiar. No, it was watching Commander Adama and President Roslin and their scenes that kept all of his attention.
He'd sort of noticed it first in the episode after the miniseries. There had been a moment in the middle of all those jumps when Adama had Roslin on the phone and he'd just stopped. Then Roslin had asked for him. Asked if he was still there.
A chill had run straight up his spine. He'd had that exact conversation, that exact situation right on down to the tone of voice with Elizabeth not two months previous. While not as long as the Galactica kids' five-day race away from Cylon territory, the Wraith siege of Atlantis and the weeks leading up to it had been freakishly similar in their intensity. That conversation had happened a few days before the hive ships had arrived.
John had been updating Elizabeth on his and Ford's progress in scouting a few of the lower levels of one of the city's Western spires. Ford had moved ahead, ostensibly to check something out but probably because he'd seen John slump against that wall and figured his CO had needed a break.
John had been punch drunk enough to relay the whole thing to Elizabeth, complete with the lament of how he was no longer being twenty-five and couldn't run three days without keeling over. That had been the first and only time he'd ever heard her completely lose it giggle wise. And he'd leaned there, listening to his boss giggling like an idiot, smiling along with her.
When she'd finally quieted down, there had been a moment. A quiet, scared, terrified, unified moment. Just like they'd shown onscreen with Roslin and Adama.
And then she'd asked him if he was still there.
When he was eleven, he'd had no idea what it was like to suddenly be a leader. Hadn't known the soul-numbing fear of having over seventy people counting on him to make the right decisions, or good decisions, or even a decision. When he was eleven years old, Starbuck and Apollo and Boomer had been the coolest people on tv. They'd been pilots who got to shoot things and fight bad guys and save the fleet time and again in showy, flashy ways.
He'd thought then, of the nights he and Elizabeth spent awake, desperately working to make the numbers fit. The sleepless nights where one wrong protocol move would mean the difference on whether they'd be able to eat the next week. He thought of Sumner and Doctor Gaul and Peter Grodin and Ford, and the seventeen others who'd died in Atlantis and how he was sitting in a posh hotel in downtown Colorado Springs, watching fictional people desperately try and outrun an apocalypse, knowing those men and women had already found their own that ending.
He was unexpectedly humbled, watching this show. It wasn't perfect, but it was close enough to ache.
By the time he got to "Colonial Day", with its politics and assassination plots, he hadn't been disappointed that there weren't so many space battles or pilots jetting around. He'd been in those battles and knew what it was like to land and face the holes in rank. And as much as Battlestar Galactica was a television show and not about real life, he couldn't help but make the parallels in his life. The fear and the desperation painted across his television screen was familiar and hurt to watch, and he couldn't help but watch Commander Adama and President Roslin and wonder if maybe, they were something like he and Elizabeth. Maybe that had been them.
Maybe it still was. They were going back.
And it was there and then, for the first time since he'd put his feet back on the soil of his home planet that John wondered if he should go back to Pegasus. Wondered if he wanted to shoulder that burden again. Stare death in the face and write so many more letters of condolence. Wondered who would write to his aunt, and winced, knowing it would be Elizabeth.
Wondered if this whole big thing they had started was worth his life and sanity. He had so much out there in Pegasus. Friends and adventure and he got to save the world. It wasn't often that he remembered everything else.
Staring at the television, he couldn't help it.
Three days later, he walked into Cheyenne Mountain, still without an answer.
Six days in to the Daedelus's return trip to Atlantis, John walked in to the Port lounge at two a.m. and found Elizabeth Weir curled on one of the lounges watching the end of "Kobol's Last Gleaming, part 2". If Rodney had walked by in bunny pajamas, he'd have been less shocked. In his mind, Elizabeth Weir was not the type of person to sit and watch science fiction. She was the kind of person who read Pride and Prejudice or – he groped mentally for something exotic and foreign-sounding – the Bhagavad gita.
Elizabeth Weir was well read and rounded and could probably kick all the Atlantis crew's asses at the non-science questions in Trivial Pursuit.
But there she was, staring as Boomer walked into the CIC. He waited. Watching as she flinched during the gun shot that felled Adama, and when the final credits rolled he scuffed his toes on the deck grating. He was oddly pleased when she didn't freeze or jump, but merely turned her head.
The lights were out in the lounge, so her profile was illuminated by the light from the video screen as well as the blue of hyperspace. He couldn't help but notice how lovely she was in the quiet. It was a side of her that he thought very few people ever took note of. He did, only after realizing that when she was quiet, she was usually thinking.
A thinking Elizabeth Weir was a dangerous Elizabeth Weir.
"Hey." He said it softly, more out of deference to the moment than any real care for the crew members in the cabins around them. "What are you still doing up?"
She smiled then, shaking her head. "Finishing a television series that Lexington insisted I watch."
He blinked at that, surprised that she knew any of the soldiers under his command. Although, he probably shouldn't have been considering the hand-picked nature of the expedition. Still. He automatically moved deeper into the room and perched on the other end of the couch. "You and Lexington are friends? Is there something I should know about you and my marines?"
"If there was, why would I tell you?" She raised her eyebrow at him and gave him a look that reminded certain parts of him that, yes, she was a woman and, therefore, she could totally outlast him in the sack forever, amen. And then the part of him that remembered she could also turn this ship around to dump his ass back on Earth reasserted itself and he gave her a wan smile.
"Because I'm a Lieutenant Colonel and if you don't, I can just go order Lexington around." That got the snort and eye roll he'd been expecting. "So. Battlestar Galactica, huh?"
"You've seen it?" She blinked at him, head tilted, clearly disbelieving that he had. Okay, maybe he and Elizabeth didn't know each other's pop culture habits at all. Still, he could have sworn he'd made Star Wars references at some point.
"Oh, yeah. Went into a bit of a Battlestar coma a couple weeks ago. I watched it as a kid and caught a commercial. The explosions seemed pretty."
She nodded and stretched her legs a little. "They were really pretty."
"Plus, on the tv."
"You know, I thought the same thing."
They shared a bemused look and the moment drug itself out, around the ship, to Atlantis, and back before it ended. John shook his head, breaking the contact and whatever unspoken conversation they seemed to be having. Near death experiences bonded people. He knew that. Still, it freaked him out that he'd shared at least seven with the woman across from him in the last year. Hell, he'd pretty much asked her permission to commit suicide that one time. Any more bonding and… okay, that's a thought that didn't need to be finished at two a.m. in a dark lounge.
"So," he hemmed. "You watched season one then?"
She looked at him, looked pointedly at the still rolling credits, and looked back at him.
"Right, stupid question." He leaned back into the seat, slumping. He always found it a little strange that he slumped and lounged so much near Elizabeth. He used to be such a serious, intent officer. At least until Afghanistan. Thinking back, he realized he hadn't been that much of a stellar example of Air Force Officer for a very long time. He smiled, amused by that.
"What?" Elizabeth was frowning in his direction. Not the full on glower, but more the curious 'What the hell is going on in his head?' face scrunch. He'd never admit it out loud, but that was his favorite confused face ever. She looked twelve and ready to poke him or something equally immature. Not that she ever would. Elizabeth had class like that.
"Nothing." He smirked.
She narrowed her eyes at him.
He let his face slide to complete innocence. As expected, she snorted and rolled her eyes at him. "Fine, don't tell me."
"You really are easy, aren't you?" He grinned at her then, weirdly happy in an uncomplicated way. Which made it all the more strange.
"Biding my time, John, there's a difference." That wiped the smile off his face, visions of several laundry 'incidents' and a rather spectacular set of circumstances that involved a bucket of paint dancing behind his eyes. He'd never been able to make sure it had been Elizabeth, but even Rodney had never managed that level of vicious planning.
This called for a subject change. "So. Favorite characters?"
She sighed and considered the lit screen. "Unsurprisingly, President Roslin. And probably Commander Adama. I can't believe Boomer shot him."
"It was a shock."
She snorted and shrugged. "Anyway, I like the way the actors play off of each other. I mean, the younger cast is really strong, but I don't know. Roslin feels familiar to me."
"I can see that."
"How about you? Who were your favorites?" She smiled then, raising an eyebrow. "I'm guessing it was Starbuck and Helo."
She was wrong, but she looked so sure and certain that he didn't have the heart to correct her. He had liked Starbuck and Helo. "Why do you think that?"
"Because the first is an action junkie and the second is loyal to a fault." She drew a leg up underneath her and shifted around, facing him more directly. "Those are both qualities you tend to respect and are drawn to."
"Whereas Roslin is the consummate politician and Commander Adama is in lots of scenes with her?"
She shrugged again, not denying it. "You're not wrong."
"So, what do you think is going to happen to Roslin and Adama in season two?"
She thought for a few seconds. Eyed the DVD menu that had cycled up during their conversation. "I think that she's going to be cured of her cancer. She's an A-List actress, they'd be stupid to kill her off."
"It's Edward James Olmos. I think they're going to ride those gravy trains until the bitter, bitter end."
He laughed. "So, no death for those two?"
She shrugged and grinned at him. It was strange and really nice to be sitting here talking with her about this. Sharing something this important to him with her. Not that she knew it, or that he'd ever admit how important, but still. It felt... good.
"No, I think we're stuck with President Roslin and Commander Adama for the long run. Not that I think the actors will mind much. It's work."
He eyed her then. There was something in her tone that was almost devilish. "Oh, please don't tell me you want them to hook up?"
She blinked at him, eyes wide in complete innocence.
"Oh, my god, you do!"
Unrepentant, she nodded. "I was totally in love with Edward James Olmos when he was on Miami Vice. I was thirteen, he was brooding and had a mustache."
That earned her the hairy eyeball. "You like facial hair?"
She rolled her own at him. "I did at thirteen, John."
"And this works out to you wanting the President and the Commander to have sweaty sex… how?" He made a face. "I don't think you had adolescent fantasies about two actors making out."
She snorted and took a sip of what he assumed was her tea. She tended not to drink coffee after midnight unless things were exploding. If they were, everyone left Elizabeth's coffee pot alone without invitation. There were some memories even John couldn't revisit without alcohol and Elizabeth without caffeine during a thirty-hour shift. Well. He had no tequila, so he wasn't going there.
"Not those two, specifically, no. But I like Roslin." He gave her a knowing smirk and she made a face at him. "What? She's a politician and a leader who actually gets to throw people out airlocks when they try and kill her. There are days when I wish I could do that."
"Speaking as someone who's tried your last nerve, I'm kind of glad you don't."
Something he tended to forget was that Elizabeth really did have a beautiful laugh. It was bright and quick and something she should do a lot more often. She wouldn't, he knew, but she should. It took a lot for him not to reach over and touch her. Run a finger along her arm or put a hand on her back. It wasn't appropriate, but looking like she did, eyes shining and face mostly light, he wanted to.
"I'll keep that in mind," she hummed.
He managed to keep his hands to himself, but allowed a grin. It felt good. This felt good. He's suddenly deeply grateful he hadn't quit. This moment, quiet moments like this with Elizabeth and the rest of his team, were the reason he came back and did this. Probably.
"You know, it's weird, kind of." Elizabeth shifted on the couch, leaning just that much closer to him. Even from a foot away, it felt good. Better than it probably should, but it was late and they were technically in public, so if she wasn't going to worry about it, neither was he.
"President Roslin and Commander Adama."
"What do you mean?" He waited, wondering where this was going. Interested to find out if her incredible little brain had gone down the same pathways his had traveled. Again.
She shrugged and drew her legs up under her chin. It was an oddly vulnerable movement. Curled up on her end of the couch like that, she seemed younger, smaller than normal. John let the intimacy of that wash over him, surprised that he was relishing it.
"They're just suddenly stuck with this impossible situation. They've got so many people looking up to them and at them for guidance. I mean, I kind of get why she sent Starbuck after that arrow." It looked like she clung just a bit harder to her knees, and even though the cabin was dark, the blue glow of hyperspace cast enough of a glow for John to see her face. Yeah, her brain went the same place his did. "She's drugged up and dying and leaving behind the remnants of humanity who are just kind of blindly chasing their own tail. Without even realizing it. If there was the slightest glimmer."
She turned, lying her head on her knees and eyed at him. It was one of those stares that she very rarely gave. One that almost seemed to look through him and catalog everything going through his head at any given moment. Something that no one ever mentioned was that in a sea of brilliant people, Elizabeth was just a bit apart. Where most of the Atlantis expedition consisted of scientists in the absolute top of their field, Elizabeth was different. Her brilliance was in reading people, figuring out what they wanted and needed and trying to work it so everyone in the room was happy. Barring that, everyone in the room was equally miserable.
Having all of that people and negotiator experience turned solely on him was always disconcerting. Tonight though, tonight it didn't feel like a judgement. She smiled at him then, her eyes soft.
"Would you have been as pissed as he was if I'd done something like that to you?"
He thought about it for a moment. Put himself in the Commander's shoes. Would he have been angry if Elizabeth broke her word to him? Even if it had meant even the slightest glimmer of them getting home?
"Yeah, I would have been mad. But I'd probably get over it."
"Why?" The question was soft, and entirely sincere. She really wants to know.
"Why would I be mad, or why would I get over it?"
She shrugs. Both then.
He stretches his legs out and considers it. The short answer was pretty simple. She betrayed him. The long answer was a bit more complex. Losing that kind of face with someone he – or Adama anyway – considers a child? That's one of the worst things you can do to a man. Especially when said man had so very little left. Losing the respect, or the idea of losing the respect of that child would be a direct slap to the face.
The getting over it was simple. They had no other choice.
When he told her that, Elizabeth stared at him again and then nodded, her temple rubbing against the soft fabric of her sweat pants. "They really don't, do they?"
"No," he whispered, caught in the moment that kept reasserting itself. "They don't."
"Lexington didn't come back with us."
He nodded. "He gave you the DVD's before we left, didn't he?"
"He said I should watch it. That it reminded him of... everything. And that I'd understand why he wasn't coming back because it helped him realize why I was. Going back, I mean."
John reached out then, ran a finger across her cheek, then down to cup her shoulder. He didn't look away. "Do you?"
She nodded again. "Because we're the ones who have to remember the big picture. He's got the luxury of forgetting."
The thing in his chest, the knot that had taken up residence since that night and day in the hotel room loosened. It wasn't pleasant or reassuring to have that particular truth laid bare, but it was something.
Her smile was soft, not quite reaching her eyes. He was pretty sure his face read exactly the same way hers did. She stood then, stretched her arms up over her head, the bottom of her red fleece sweater rucking up and exposing a surprisingly toned midriff. John allowed himself a quick ogle before she settled and went to pull the DVD out of the player. She slipped it back into its case, then folded the whole thing up and tucked it, very carefully, under an arm before turning back to face him.
"Well, I think it's time for good leaders to head back to their cabins and get some sleep, how about you?"
And because there was the echo of her laughter in his mind's eye, and the reality of her sadness in front of him, he took the easy route. Let himself play the clown for her. It's a small thing, but it's something he was more than willing to do.
"I think someone's going to be dreaming about Commander Adama and President Roslin making out in the infirmary."
Elizabeth stuck her tongue out at him. It was adorable. Almost as much as the scrunchy face. She waited for him to stop laughing before retorting, "Yeah, you have fun with that, then."
And then he let himself watch her ass, just a little, as she stomped out. Still, although his mission was accomplished, it wouldn't be smart to let her go to bed annoyed at him, so he rose and hustled after her before she could get out of the hatch. Elizabeths who went to bed annoyed at Sheppards usually ended up taking it out on said Sheppard during the next staff meeting. And given that the next one of those wasn't due to happen for another two weeks, which allowed certain Elizabeths entirely too much time to plan. Well thought out torture was the worst.
He knew from experience.
"Wait, wait, I'm sorry." He kind of wasn't, but she didn't need to know that.
"You are not." Okay, so she did know that.
"I could be sorry." He pulled out the innocent face again. It had kind of worked before.
"Pigs might just fly through this cabin in the next ten minutes, but it's pretty unlikely." She was grinning then, happier than thirty seconds before, and John figured this was much better. Even if he eventually got mocked during the staff meeting. To be fair, it wouldn't be the first or the last time. "Goodnight, John."
He waved then. Watched her walk away and mostly disappear through the doorway into the hall. But god, or that little tiny piece of him that still thought Dirk Benedict was the coolest thing ever just wouldn't let it go. Couldn't let it go. Because really? It was a question he needed answered. Or, at least, asked.
"Hey, if you ever become President and I'm your military commander, can we have sex?" He was grinning at the back of her hair as he asked the question, expecting her to turn around and roll her eyes or stick her tongue out at him again or something equally silly.
Instead, she craned her head back through the hatch, face alive with mischief and evil that was totally unexpected and completely devastating on her. "I'm counting on it."
And then she was gone.
Damn. He ran a hand over his face and allowed himself to shake his head and smile. Damn.
Maybe he did have the answer. Or part of one, anyway.