Operation:

Keeping Your CO Oblivious

Disclaimer: All the characters of Stargate Atlantis belong to some lucky people and not me. The few military personnel that I gave names to technically don't belong to me either.

Rating: PG (McShep friendship, NOT slash (unless you choose to wear your slash googles))

Author: Diamond-Raven

Summary: The Atlantis expedition embarks on their most difficult mission yet. The objective: Making the perfect present for a 40th birthday. The target: Lt. Col. John Sheppard. The complication: Keeping him from finding out.

Chapter 1: The Mission

Charles did a discreet scan of the control room. Satisfied that everybody was busy with something, he unwrapped the Twinkie underneath the console and started breaking off tiny pieces and engaging in various odd stretches meant to disguise getting the pieces into his mouth.

Dr. Zelenka would have his ass if he got caught eating around the consoles again, but damn it, it was three hours until his lunch break.

While he chewed, he carefully kept an eye on the sensor readings before him. He watched the white dots slowly moving around the various corridors and rooms. Most important was a red dot that was currently moving quite actively around one of the exercise rooms. Charles guessed that the white dot moving close to the red one was Teyla or Ronon. He suppressed a smile as he watched the red dot moving across the room too quickly to be walking.

The Colonel had just been thrown across the room and probably landed on his ass. Again.

He spend a few more minutes watching the red dot. Satisfied that the Colonel wouldn't be leaving the room anytime soon—and besides, Teyla would tell him where the Colonel was going as soon as he left anyway—he quickly scrolled through other sections of the city. He momentarily paused as he scanned the northern wing. The beehive of activity was the same as it had been for the past two months.

Dozens of white dots ran around the large room and several others milled around the doorway and down the corridors, ready to run interference if necessary.

Nodding with satisfaction that there was lots of space between the northern wing and the red dot, Charles snuck another piece of Twinkie into his mouth and flipped back to the screen showing the red dot.

XXXXXX

"One more time."

"John, I believe it is enough for today."

Teyla let herself drop onto the bench and let the sticks clatter onto the floor. John was lying on the floor, gasping for breath, tired and sore and not wanting to admit it.

When he opened his mouth to argue, she stretched and allowed a fake grimace to creep over her face.

John immediately caught the grimace. "Okay. We'll call it quits for today."

She smiled and threw a towel at him. It landed over his head and Teyla used the few seconds it took him to pull it off to check the watch she kept hidden in her bra.

Good. Rodney should be back from the northern wing by now.

John pushed himself up and wiped the sweat off himself, grimacing. "I need a shower."

"Oh, was that stench you? I had no idea."

He glared at her and threw the towel at her. She caught it with a smile and leaned down to gather the sticks.

"I smell like damn roses and you know it."

"Since I do not know what these roses are, I will allow you to think you are correct."

"Thank you."

"For once. Please do not assume it will happen anytime soon."

He rolled his eyes and walked out of the room, muttering 'women!' under his breath.

Teyla smiled and waited until the door had swished shut behind him. Then she reached over for her ear piece and quietly told Lt. Charles DeWinter that the Colonel had just left the exercise room and was heading to his quarters for a shower.

XXXXXX

Radek blew out a frustrated breath as he chewed on his pasta and gestured at the tablet before him with his fork.

"For the millionth time, Lisa, it is imperative we keep those back-up systems fully operational. What if ancient systems fail?"

Lisa Simpson rolled her eyes and put her elbows on the scatterings of papers and tablets covering the table between them.

"I'm not saying we should make them inoperational, but we don't have to have a back-up system for everything. For example, the hoist rig," she raised an eyebrow and gestured at Radek with her spoon before sticking it back into her yogurt. "If the systems are failing, the Colonel won't need the rig for anything."

"I am not saying that we need back-up for rig, but we do needing navigational system back-up."

"Of course we need a nav back-up."

Radek stared at her. "Then why we argue about this for two hours?"

She stared back at him before they both burst out laughing. Suddenly, Lisa sat up straight and her eyes widened.

"The Colonel, Radek! The Colonel!"

Radek swung around in his chair and saw John sauntering into the messhall and going over to the serving line.

As discreetly as possible, Lisa swept the papers off the table and stuffed them under her shirt as Radek wiped the tablets clean.

Major Lorne was sitting close to the service line and he had seen the panic. He quickly stood up, making a show of appearing to be looking for somebody in the crowd, effectively blocking John's view of Radek and Lisa's table if he decided to glance at them before they were done cleaning up.

Moments later, Radek and Lisa sat back, and Lorne sat down again, raising his eyebrow at the two scientists, clearly passing on the message of 'Be more careful' and then greeting the Colonel. John grabbed his tray and made his way through the tables, returning Lorne's greeting with a smile and going over to Radek's table.

"Hey, docs. Room for one more?"

"Of course, Colonel. Please, have a seat."

John sat down beside Radek and dug into his dinner. "Has Rodney eaten dinner yet?"

"I brought him MRE a few hours earlier."

"Did you watch him eat it?"

Radek smiled. "Yes. I threatened to make food part of his digestive system one way or another if he didn't eat by himself. Very effective."

"I'll bet." John dug into the pasta. "So, what are we talking about?"

Radek and Lisa exchanged a momentary glance. With a nod towards her, Radek let her know that it was up to her to come up with something.

"Well, you know that lichen that David Parrish found last week?"

"Uh huh."

"The botanists were making some noise about the algal symbiont being bioluminescent or something—"

Radek had to hide a smile as the Colonel immediately leaned forward, obviously interested and pretending hard not to be.

This was why these two months hadn't been as difficult as they could have been. John Sheppard might be a damn good soldier and a sneaky bastard when he wanted to be, but they all knew him too well and knew exactly what tricks to use to keep him busy and oblivious.

XXXXXX

Charles frowned as he watched the red dot moving towards the labs. He quickly tapped his ear piece.

"Dr. McKay? The Colonel appears to be moving towards the labs. He's probably looking for you. Several reports indicate he has been asking about you."

He heard an annoyed sigh in his ears. "Damn it! I'm still out in the north wing!"

"Can you make it back to the lab in—" Charles did a quick estimate judging from the Colonel's stride and position. "—thirty seconds?"

"Do I look like a fucking gazelle, Lieutenant?"

"I'll run interference for you, Dr. McKay."

"You do that. I'll be back in the lab in twenty minutes. I need to finish running these simulations."

Charles pulled up the sleeve of his shirt and quickly checked Tuesday's guard rotations close to the lab. Paper was too scarce around Atlantis and everybody knew the Colonel could hack his way into any computer if he was bored enough.

He hit his ear piece. "DeWinter to Agara."

"This is Agara, go ahead."

"The Colonel is nearing your position. He's going to the labs, probably looking for Dr. McKay. Run interception for twenty minutes at minimum."

"Copy that, sir."

XXXXXX

Corporal Agara grabbed Corporal Bishop's arm and yanked him along the corridor.

"Come on! We have to intercept the Colonel."

"Intercept? With what?"

"With ourselves, moron. Come on! He's too damn close to the lab already."

"It's the north wing he's not allowed close to, why the hell can't he go to the labs?"

"Because Dr. McKay isn't in the labs yet."

Bishop looked confused for a second before the light dawned on his face and he started jogging down the corridor. "Shit!"

"Alright, we need to have a diversion planned before we get there."

"How about an unscheduled gate activation?"

"The Colonel would have heard the klaxon and been told about it."

"Yeah, shit. How about something exploding?"

"And have the Colonel initiate lock-down?" Agara frowned at Bishop and smacked his shoulder as they jogged.

"Well what the hell should we say?"

"We'll tell him Bates was doing inventory and found crates of missing M9s."

"That's good. That's good. We'll use that."

Agara hit his ear piece and contacted Bates and told him to hide three crates of M9s.

"Where the fuck do you want me to hide three crates of handguns? Down my pants?"

"Just think of something, Bates! There's lots of storage space in the armory!"

"Yeah, space that's taken up by other crates!"

"Just do it! The Colonel will be there in a few minutes."

"And then what?"

"Then have the Colonel 'find' the crates. We don't want him to start a hunt for hoarders. But don't be too obvious about it. He's not stupid."

"Well, no shit!"

"Call the Colonel about the problem as soon as you're done."

With a half irritated and half panicked grunt, Bates clicked off, hopefully to start hiding guns.

Agara rounded the corner and forced himself to slow down, grabbing Bishop's arm. They tried to catch their breath discreetly while watching the Colonel slowly meandering down the corridor towards the labs.

They waited and tried not to stare as the Colonel got closer.

"Why hasn't Bates called him yet?" Bishop hissed into his ear.

"How the hell am I supposed to know?"

Agara tried not to panic as the Colonel got even closer. His hand didn't rise to touch his ear piece and he was just meters away from the lab doors.

If he got in there and didn't find Dr. McKay, everything they had worked for would be for nothing.

Biting his lip, he made a quick decision and yanked Bishop around hard and shoved him.

"What the hell?" Bishop yelped as he hit the ground.

"You knew I was going to ask her to the winter festival on the mainland!" Agara yelled down at him.

Bishop stared up at him as if he had suddenly grown two heads, before Agara kicked him in the thigh holster, not really hurting him but distracting him.

Thankfully, Bishop quickly got it. "It's not my fault she'd rather have someone with a pair of balls!"

Agara launched himself onto Bishop and they scuffled around on the floor, not really hurting each other but providing a big enough spetacle that the Colonel noticed.

"Hey!"

Sheppard yanked Agara off Bishop and threw him against the far wall and hauled Bishop to his feet and shoved him in the other direction.

"Back off, both of you!" His voice was low and had that tinge of quiet danger that always helped make the new marines appreciate having an Air Force CO really quick.

"What the hell is going on?" He barked, glaring at both of them.

Both of them snapped to attention and stared at the walls behind each others heads.

"Huh? What the hell crawled up both of your pants and bothered you enough to interrupt your duty and make you act like two year olds?"

They knew the answer to that one. "Nothing, sir."

"Damn straight. Nothing is more important during patrol than doing your damn jobs. Why is that, Corporal Bishop?"

"Because scientists never pay attention to their surroundings, sir."

"And why is this a problem, Corporal Agara?"

"Because they'll walk right into danger without realizing it and it's our job to keep them safe."

"Do you have any other obligations or responsibilities on this base asides from protecting the civies?"

"No, sir!"

"And can you do that job when you're busy wrestling on the floor?"

"No, sir!"

"Don't let me catch you letting yourselves get distracted like this again or you two can kiss any joint patrols good-bye."

"Yes, sir!"

Just then, the Colonel frowned slightly and his hand reached up to his ear piece. "Sheppard here."

A pause.

"What? How many? Three? Did you check everywhere? I swear I checked them off when we were unloading the Deadalus, Bates!" He sighed. "Fine, fine. I'll be there in a second. You better hope they're on a shelf somewhere Bates, or you and I will be spending the night turning everybody's quarters and clothes inside out. The last thing we need is handguns being used as practical jokes."

He turned back to the two Corporals. "I trust I was clear?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Good." Spinning on his heels, Sheppard walked off towards the armory.

As soon as he was out of ear shot, Bishop smacked Agara on the shoulder. "Smooth. Real smooth. You nearly got us tossed into the brig!"

"Better that you and I spend a few days in the brig than have the whole plan blowing up."

Bishop nodded. "True enough."

Turning around, they went back to patrolling. Colonel Sheppard had no idea that the two of them were even more diligent guards than he would have given them credit for.

XXXXXX

It was unbelievable. Rodney stared at John across the table and resisted the urge to throttle him.

Considering that the entire base had been planning for this day for months, Rodney would have expected John to acknowledge it in some way. Announce it. Make an off-hand remark about it.

But there was nothing. John was acting like today was the exact same as yesterday had been. More irritating than that was the fact that Rodney wasn't allowed to call him on it until they were finished cleaning up the north wing.

Rodney knew that if he were allowed to, he would find a way to get John to say something about it, but knew it would only make him suspicious. The last thing they needed was for John to get suspicious today. After two months of fighting tooth and nail to keep him oblivious, they weren't going to screw up today.

As far as John knew, nobody else knew except for him. The fact that in actuality the entire base knew was beside the point. After years of friendship, one would have thought that John would have mentioned it as some point or another, especially today. But, nothing.

He soon finished his breakfast and headed off, muttering something about needing to go fix something or another. He made sure he came up with some boring fix-it-job that John wouldn't feel inclined to tag along with. Besides, if that did happen, Rodney had several people he would encounter along the way, who he only had to discreetly signal before they ran interference for him.

He had some serious waxing to do.

XXXXXX

Ducking, John spun around and yanked one stick up just in time to block one of Teyla's hits and swung the other stick downward, only to have it blocked by Teyla's other stick.

Shaking his head ruefully, he leaned back and shoved her sticks back before he retreated, twirling the sticks around and rethinking his strategy.

"Not bad, John. But you are being too predictable today. Is something the matter?"

John frowned. Why the hell would he be off today? Today wasn't any different than yesterday had been. Alright, technically, today was a special day, but in actuality, John knew that it would fly by like it had every single other year he had been alive with very little acknowledgement from the rest of the universe. Dwelling on it would just make him feel sadder when he went to bed that night, and he hadn't cried about this issue since he was five and wouldn't start again now.

"I'm fine. Just a bit sore."

Suddenly, Lt. DeWinter squawked his name into his ear. He dropped a stick and frowned as he tapped ear piece.

"Sheppard here."

"Colonel, we have detected an unknown bio-sign in the north wing."

"Is it wraith?"

"We don't know for sure, sir, but it would appear so. It just popped up on sensors a few seconds ago."

"Probably a wraith transporting it. Damn it! Why the hell didn't we pick up the approaching dart?"

"I'm checking scans now, sir and I'm not finding any indication of it."

John signaled Teyla, dropped the other stick and picked up his gear from the corner of the exercise room. Throwing it on, he was out the door with Teyla buckling her vest closed as she followed closely behind.

"Don't tell me the wraith have cloaking technology now," he muttered half to himself and half to DeWinter.

"We're not sure, sir. I'm running diagnostics on the sensors now."

"Good. Has the intruder moved?"

"It's slowly starting to move down the east corridor of the north wing. It doesn't appear to be in a hurry."

"Keep me posted."

"Yes, sir."

John clicked his ear piece off as her ran and then tapped it again, yelling at the two security teams closest to the wing to seal it off and converge on the intruder.

He never saw the smile Teyla quickly smothered as she ran after him.

XXXXXX

Elizabeth stared at Charles as he tapped his ear piece off and sat back in his chair.

"He bought it?"

"Hook, line and sinker, m'm. He's racing to the north wing now."

"I should get over there."

Charles grinned and glanced at the red dot racing down the corridors. Dr. Weir still had plenty of time to make it. The Colonel was famous for avoiding the transporters during a city wide alert since he didn't want to risk having the transporters malfunction while he was in them.

Elizabeth paused at the stairs and glanced at Charles. "Aren't you coming, Lieutenant?"

"Me, m'm?"

"Yes, you. None of this would have been possible if it weren't for you. Now, come on!"

Grinning, Charles pushed himself up and signaled for one of the few people left in the control room to cover for him.

One of the technicians was at the large view screen and was busy rigging it to show the north wing, which was why Charles knew he wouldn't have missed it anyway, but getting to actually be there was a treat he hadn't thought he'd get to be a part of.

Leaping over a chair, he raced after Elizabeth, who had turned and was sprinting down the corridor, one of the few times he had ever seen her run.

XXXXXX

John raced down the corridors, still hollering instructions at the security teams and demanding updates from Lt. DeWinter. John frowned slightly when the lieutenant started sounding a little breathless, but chalked it up to stress and kept running, Teyla hard on his heels.

He met the first security team and slowed down and gave them signals to disperse and check the adjoining rooms. Slowly, they made their way down the corridor, all of them serious and quiet.

"All clear, sir."

"Keep moving." He dug his LSD out of his pocket and glanced down at it, only to find the screen having stayed blank. On! He thought at it. On! On! On! Don't do this to me now!

It stayed stubbornly dark. He asked around in a somewhat embarrassed whisper if anybody else had their LSD on them but he got a bunch of sheepish negatives.

From now on, LSDs would be mandatory equipment for everyone. As well as random checks to make sure they were functioning like they were supposed to. He cast a brief glare at the wall around himself. Yeah, don't think I don't know you're behind this. He got a feeling of innocence and denial niggling in the back of his mind and he pushed the thought away. Probably a burnt out crystal or something. Atlantis wouldn't lie to him.

"DeWinter!"

"Yes, sir."

"Last known location of intruder."

"Outside on the landing pad in the north wing, sir. Step outside the door and you should see it right away."

John thought he heard a high pitched, muffled snort but brushed that thought aside.

Holding his P-90 ready, he signaled the marines and Teyla forward and they rapidly kept moving through the corridor, sweeping every corner with their scopes before moving on.

He reached the door and pointed at the marines closest to him and indicated that they should move in first with him. When he got terse nods from them all, he held up three fingers and mouthed the numbers as he counted down.

When he had let his first finger down, he thought 'Open' at the door and it swished open.

He rushed outside and for one disorienting moment, he thought he had run into a transporter and ended up transporting himself into the messhall or some other crowded place.

Nearly the entire expedition was standing before him, crowded on the large open landing platform.

He had just enough time to lower his weapon and open his mouth to demand where the fuck the intruder was, when the deafening roar of "Happy Birthday, Colonel Sheppard!" nearly knocked him off his feet.

XXXXXX

Rodney lowered the camera, so glad he had remembered to bring it along. John looked like he was about to pass out. He looked half shocked and half tense from running down the corridors and was blinking around like he thought he was dreaming.

Giving the camera an affectionate pat, he lowered it and stepped up to a completely shell shocked Colonel.

"Aren't you going to say something?"

John gaped at him and then the crowd. He glanced over his shoulder to see the marines and Teyla laughing and high fiving each other, their P-90s dangling forgotten from their necks.

"There's no intruder?"

Rodney smiled at him with irritation and affection. "God, you're slow at times. No, there's no intruder. We just had to find a good excuse to get you out here."

John was still gaping around and his mouth seemed to be wanting to form words, but without his brain helping, he wasn't getting anything out.

"You did this for me?"

Rodney rolled his eyes. "No. For the other Lieutenant Colonel who has his 40th birthday today. Of course we did it for you. And why are you going all stunned now? You haven't even seen the reason we brought you out here!"

"There's a reason you brought me out here?"

"Yes, moron. A landing pad isn't usually the place to have a surprise birthday party, now is it?"

"Surprise birthday party?"

Rodney shook his head, amazed that John's IQ could go from triple to single digits in just a few minutes.

He grabbed one of John's shell-shocked arms and dragged him towards the crowd. John vaguely noticed that, although everybody was cheering and clapping and yelling good birthday wishes at him, the huge crowd hadn't moved from where they were standing close to the edge of the landing pad.

In fact, as John got closer, he saw something huge standing behind them, covered in a large blue tarp with a blue bow tied around it.

Rodney pulled him through the crowd and yelled at people to move back. Finally, John was standing before the huge covered object. Rodney was looking up at it, looking wildly excited.

Elizabeth appeared at his elbow. "Well? Aren't you going to open your present? I'm told that tying that bow caused quite a few migraines and tears."

She was grinning at him too and John still felt too shocked to do anything but grin back. Finally, Rodney grabbed him and shook him a bit. "God, aren't you military clods supposed to react to surprise faster? Open it already!"

John stared at the crowd, seeing Teyla, Ronon, Elizabeth, all of his scientists and all of his marines and pilots standing clustered around him, all looking so excited.

Looking back at the enormous object before him, he reached up and gently pulled on one of the ends of the ribbon, watching the bow unravel and the ribbon float down around him. Where the hell they had found blue ribbon from…

Then he grabbed the edge of the tarp and started to pull on it. Immediately, Ronon, DeWinter and Agara grabbed it from the other ends and helped him yank it off.

The second the tarp had come down, John stood there, staring at the object before him. He knew his mouth was hanging open and his eyes felt like they were about to pop out of his head. He felt Ronon punch him in the arm and yell something but he couldn't hear him.

He must be dreaming. There was no way this could be real. There was no way that they would have planned a surprise party for him and made him such a present. There was no way.

But then somebody suddenly pinched his arm hard, and he yelped with pain and surprise and spun around to face Rodney.

"You see? You're not dreaming!"

John blinked at him and then stared back up at it.

He wasn't dreaming. That meant this was real. That meant they had really done this.

They had built him a helicopter.