Prompt: Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after. Anne Morrow Lindbergh


Major Lorne leaned back in the hard mess chair with his heels propped up on the table as he sipped on an Athosian brew that the mess staff insisted tasted like coffee. Maybe from their neck of the woods it did, but it tasted more like old bark to him. Not that it mattered. He desperately needed the caffeine in it to stay awake for his shift. The mess was deserted this time of night – the quiet hour before the rotation changed and the graveyard shift started poking around and the scientists started working on their third day without sleep, or whatever the current record was. No one slept here on Atlantis, Lorne had decided, so it was a small blessing to find a few minutes a day where he didn't have to hide himself away in his broom closet of an office to find a few moments of silence.

Of course, that moment was over just as he was beginning to enjoy it. Footsteps coming up the aisle pulled him from his musings just as easily as the bright voice did as soon as the intruder on his quiet mess spoke. "This seat taken, sir?"

He pushed back on the table, leaning back ever so precariously to find Lieutenant Cadman standing behind him, sipping on something that smelled particularly similar to what he was drinking. "If I said yes, would it matter?" he asked wryly, knowing the answer before he asked the question as he pulled the chair out for her.

"Nope," she answered, sinking down into the offered chair and mirroring his relaxed position. They sat in silence for a moment, sipping their drinks and watching the water lap up against the large mess window they'd perched in front of. "On third shift tonight, sir?" she asked easily.

Lorne nodded. "Just trying to get in a bit of relaxing before going down to check on McKay and his merry men."

"I hear they're going to test one of the Ancient engines they uncovered last week," Cadman replied, taking another sip of her drink and considering whether to share the next bit of information. "And if Dr. Kusanagi is right, it's going to involve fire," she added happily.

She was too amused by that information, Lorne decided. He snorted into his drink at the sudden mental image of the entire engineering staff with singed hair and no eyebrows because they couldn't bother to leave something alone. They were like kids down there. 'Don't touch' automatically meant 'oooh, shiny!' and 'please touch!' It was a wonder they had any engineering staff left from the stories he'd heard of their first year here. "That's why I'm headed down there to make sure they don't kill themselves. It'd be a shame," he added, grinning easily. "They're expensive to replace."

"Good point, sir," Cadman chuckled, taking another sip of her drink. She swirled the liquid around for a moment before looking over at him again. "The mess staff said this was supposed to put me out, but I don't feel it."

Lorne shrugged and glanced down curiously at his own drink. They'd told him it would keep him awake. They obviously just needed to pawn off the nasty stuff before they could brew something different. "Guess you're not on third tonight," he said absently, still musing about his not-coffee.

"No sir," she replied. "Just got off of second, doing clean-up on M5X-009. Did you hear about Colonel Sheppard's team's run in there last week?" Lorne nodded. The tribal dance incident. "Well, we just got back from fixing that diplomatic fiasco," she laughed. "And this time it didn't involve seven veils."

"But I heard Dr. McKay looked quite fetching in lavender," Lorne commented, putting on his best straight face. He wasn't sure if he'd heard all of the details, but apparently McKay ended up married to a monkey, or Pegasus brand not-quite-monkey. He was smart enough not to ask too many questions after hearing that little tidbit.

Cadman rolled her eyes. "Oh yes, and after the village elders went screaming into the hills, all was put right again. God only knows why the hell they keep sending that team to do diplomatic work…" She glanced back up again, afraid she'd gone too far. "Sorry sir."

"No need," Lorne replied, downing the rest of his drink with a flourish. "Hell if I know either. But it was that way before we got here, and it looks like it's going to stay that way, monkey marriages be damned." He glanced down into his empty mug and motioned with it towards Cadman. "I'm gonna get a refill. Want one?" She shook her head no, so Lorne pulled himself up with a groan from his comfortable position to pester the skeleton mess staff for another mug full of the semi, sort of, not quite coffee.

When he returned, the pair sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, sipping on the brew and staring out the window again. The moon that circled… did they even bother to name the planet yet, Lorne thought wryly. Regardless, the moon that circled the planet hung low tonight, glowing silver and full and illuminating the waves. Even though he knew it wasn't possible, he could've sworn that it was so bright and clear that he could see the mainland from here. It was a nice sight for a mug of coffee and a relaxing moment. Much better than the view from inside the SGC, which Lorne didn't consider much of a view at all.

"So… sir…" Cadman said, breaking the silence finally. "Tell me a story."

Lorne quirked an eyebrow, glancing at the lieutenant curiously over his mug. "Excuse me?"

"Why'd you join the Air Force?" she asked, stretching an arm over her head before tilting her head to look straight at him. "C'mon, sir. Let's have a touchy feely Oprah moment and get to know each other. We've been sent out here in the middle of bumfuck-"

"We're way past bumfuck," Lorne chuckled.

"-so we might as well be neighborly," Cadman continued, blithely ignoring his interruption. "So, tell me. Inquiring minds want to know. Why'd you join the Air Force?"

"You're nosy." Not that he wasn't going to tell her, he just wanted to make sure he pointed that out first.

"Incredibly, sir. So, you gonna tell me or am I gonna have to beat it out of you?" She grinned easily. "Sir."

Lorne couldn't help but laugh. There were two types of women in the military – those with a sense of humor, and those without. And neither of them let you push them around. That was the part he respected most about them. None of them would put up with stupid shit around them. Too many women let themselves be bullied into one thing or another, or into becoming or conforming to one thing or another. He had a sister, he knew what happened when a girl tried to please everyone around her without looking out for herself. It only took once, and she learned quick after that. He and his older brothers had made sure of that.

Being assertive didn't make you a bitch. It made sure you didn't get walked over.

Too many guys he knew hated having a female CO for that reason. Something about getting bossed around by a woman didn't sit well with the non-coms. Apparently since they could bench more than their CO, they figured they didn't have to listen to her. Lorne's first mission CO had been a woman – Major Loretta Collins. Pretty as anything but tough as nails, you didn't cross Collins because she could cut you down faster than you could get out 'sir, I apologize, sir'. But she was still one of the best pilots he'd ever had the honor to work with, if not the best.

He absently wondered if she'd retired by now. Damn shame if she had – she was something to aspire to.

"Hello!" Cadman leaned over and waved her hand in front of his eyes, pulling him out of his personal thoughts with a jolt. "Atlantis to Major Lorne. That's the first time someone's ignored me by just staring off into space. Gotta give you points for creativity."

"I wanted to be an astronaut," he answered matter-of-factly. "That's why I joined the Air Force. I wanted to be an astronaut."

"Seriously?"

"Yeah," Lorne chuckled.

"Like with the space suit, and the moonwalk, and the 'Houston, we have a problem'?"

"I had a poster of Neil Armstrong in my bedroom and everything."

Cadman whistled quietly, tipping her mug back for another sip as she stared at him. "Sir, I don't know whether to think that's cool or severely dorky."

"It could be worse," Lorne shrugged. "I'm sure someone like, oh, Dr. McKay talks about physics theorems in his sleep."

"You don't know the half of it," Cadman grumbled, rolling her eyes at the mere mention of the man. "Seriously. So you wanted to be an astronaut."

"Yep," Lorne nodded. "Ever since we watched a tape of the moon landing in elementary school. What about you, lieutenant? You always want to be a Marine?"

"Nope. I wanted to be a SEAL."

That didn't surprise him. "So why didn't you?"

Cadman snickered, taking another long sip of her drink. "Apparently my vagina keeps me from being able to swim. Goddamn combat regulations. Biggest load of shit I ever heard." She glanced again at Lorne and shook her head. "And I'm not even apologizing for that one."

"Hey, you wanna get shot at, fine by me," Lorne shrugged. "One less bullet headed my way."

"So I said 'fuck you Navy' and did Marine Corps because then I'd get to blow shit up," Cadman continued, laughing. "I do have to admit. There's nothing quite like the smell of C-4 in the morning."

All Lorne could do was shake his head. "Alright, Kilgore," he mumbled, amused at the stupid little smile she had, and hoping she'd get the reference.

"But hey," she continued. "At least you get to do the astronaut thing now. Look at the puddlejumpers? You get a spaceship with guns. Those drones beat out anything they could fit the Discovery out with. And me? I'm stuck here, woe is me, not a dive mission in sight." She sighed for effect, placing a hand on her chest before lifting it to wipe a small imaginary tear from the corner of her eye.

"You're full of shit, you know that lieutenant?" Lorne chuckled, before recoiling as Cadman landed a solid punch to his shoulder. She sure as hell didn't hit like a girl. "Hey!"

"You should be nice to me, sir," Cadman warned, jabbing a finger towards him. "If you're nice to me, I can make sure that you get a lolly the next time you have to get a needle jabbed in your ass for spending too much time with the space hookers of M3X-002. And if not, well, one little bug in his ear from me and you won't be able to sit down for a week," she added, gleefully.

"You keep Dr. Feelgood and his needle brigade away from me," Lorne replied, cringing visibly at the thought of both the needles and the space hookers of M3X-002. "That's an order, lieutenant."

Cadman shot off a mocking little salute before downing the rest of her drink. "Aye aye, sir." She set the cup on the table as she rose and stretched her arms above her head to work out the kinks of sitting leaned back in a chair for so long. "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go see a man about one of those needles."

"Say hi to Beckett for me," Lorne replied as she started walking out of the mess.

"I don't think they'll be much talking, but I'll relay the message," she called back, turning to shoot him a wicked grin.

"Too much information, Cadman!"

"You know you love it, sir!" Cadman laughed. "And hey, maybe if you're nice to me, karma will get around to getting you that big ass spaceship you always wanted. Karma owes me, after all."

Lorne shook his head as Cadman finally exited. After reading the mission report detailing the events of the consciousness trading, one body fiasco… thing, he had to agree that karma owed her one and owed her one big.

He finished off his drink as a handful of groggy scientists began to filter into the mess for a very late dinner or a very early breakfast, he couldn't decide which. It was time to make to make the rounds and see if Dr. Kusanagi was right about the fire. Maybe poke Dr. McKay for Lieutenant Cadman to move fate along.

Because hey, if he could get his own spaceship out of Cadman's karma, he wasn't going to complain. He always did want to be an astronaut, after all. Or a starship captain, but that was only on TV. Nothing wrong with settling for astronaut for now. Keep it to one dream at a time.