Aside 12 – Firsts and Lasts
"Penny for your thoughts," she heard from behind her as she looked out her window. She felt her hair being swept to the side and his soft lips press against her neck, just below her ear.
"I am just taking in the day," she smiled.
He wrapped his arms around her and looked over her shoulder out the window at the Golden Gate Bridge off to the right. "Looks pretty in the morning light, doesn't it?"
"What's the matter?"
"Never thought I'd be here again."
He grunted. "It's kind of surreal, isn't it. We're home and yet, we're back on Earth."
"Absolutely," she chuckled, amazed that he could put into words her exact thoughts. "What if the Army decides to reassign me? If I resign, they can now have me removed from Atlantis."
He turned her to face him. "'Lena," he took her face in his hands. "I am not going to let any of my people – including you – be reassigned unless they ask for it. I will be ferrying IOA reps and some politicians to the city later today and I will make sure they all know that every person assigned to this city is absolutely essential for the repair and continued effectiveness of the city." Then he gained a mischievous look in his eye. "And I like to think I can be pretty persuasive when I want to be."
She harrumphed. "You didn't persuade me to do anything, flyboy. I wanted to…" her words were cut off with a kiss.
"If push comes to shove, we can tell them you're carrying my child," he grinned at him.
The memory of the last time they were sent to Earth and how she talked her way back to Atlantis made her blush and chuckle. "I don't think they'd fall for that again."
Chuckling, John pulled back. "Can we get together when I get back? I have to go talk to Todd and check on Ronan before I go, but I'll be home for dinner."
Helena smiled. "I'm holding you to it, this time."
He kissed her one more time and she nuzzled his neck, then walked him to the door.
She was scrubbing 10,000 years worth of dust off of the counters after having already attacked the walls. She had outlasted her staff. "Poor souls," she thought. "They were exhausted. If they can be up in time for breakfast tomorrow, I'll be impressed."
She heard a noise, then and turned. "Oh, crap! It's that pilot…Major Jack something…not Jack…John! Major John Sh…..it! I hate that I can never remember names!"
"Oh, ah, sorry to interrupt," he frowned.
She felt her braid hit her shoulder as she straightened. "Oh, crap! My hair's down! Dammit!" She turned toward him and hoped her feeling of complete FUBAR didn't show. "Major! Is there something I can do for you?"
"No. I – ah- I was looking for a snack. You are?"
'S' something, it has to begin with an 'S'…"Chief Warrant Officer Helena Leiter, Master Chef," her blue eyes twinkled, as she quickly pinned up her braid. Why, oh, WHY did she add the Master Chef crap? It was a joke that worked in the cafeteria, but –
His eyebrows went up. "Master Chef? The military has 'Master Chefs'?"
Don't go into, change the subject, just move on…"What can I get for you, sir?"
"I've been jonesing for a turkey sandwich all day."
She felt herself relax. "Okay, so he's not going say anything about the uniform or hair. He only wants food. Food, I can do. Such that it is."
After he had his sandwich and McKay's first cookie request and left, she turned back to her counters with a smile, thinking what a nice guy he seemed to be. Then she straightened.
SHEPPARD! His name is JOHN SHEPPARD!
Helena looked up at Rodney, looking down at her, as she sat with her feet up on the balcony rail, holding a coffee cup, looking at the coast of North America. "I was just thinking about first times."
"First times?" Rodney's eyebrows rose and a smirk played upon his lips.
"Not those kinds of first times," Helena swatted out at him. "First meetings."
"Ah," he nodded. "You remember the first time you met everyone here?"
She nodded. "Don't you?"
Rodney glanced away. "Well, sure, I guess so."
Helena raised an eyebrow and leaned her head forward to look at his face better.
He caught her amused look and scoffed. "Oh, okay, fine. I remember the important ones."
"I remember meeting you," he said. "For instance."
She shook her head. "No, you don't."
"Yes, I do."
"When did we meet then?"
"Just before stepping through the gate to come here. You were carrying a cake pan."
She laughed. "Nope. We met back in 2002."
He frowned. "What?"
"Yes, you were kind enough to let me know that the food you had eaten at the SGC commissary was, quote, 'surprisingly worse that it looked, which was unbelievably bad in the first place', end quote, as you were leaving the mess hall after your first meal there," she smiled.
He blanched. "Oh, god. I actually told you that?"
"Don't worry," she chuckled. "I don't hold grudges."
"But that explains years of lemon chicken and duck l'orange cracks."
She grinned. "No, that was just yanking your chain."
"I remember when you met Ronon for the first time," Rodney changed the subject.
Helena smiled, thinking back when the tall Satedan walked into her cafeteria for the first time.
"…I'd have to see him cleaned up…"
John grinned, then. "Why don't you go offer to help him with that, Chief?"
Great, me and my big mouth, she thought. "Goliath, meet David," she said, softly.
As she approached this big man, she began to wonder what she'd been thinking. "He could squish me with his pinky, if he wants." "Excuse me," she said to the big man. When he turned around, she thought of a caged cougar, his coloring and his eyes blended with the scruffiness of his look. She swallowed and smiled, reminding herself that he was in her territory.
"I'm Chief Warrant Officer Helena Leiter. I wanted to welcome you to Atlantis."
He nodded, his eyes moving around the room, then back to her.
"In case you're wondering, I run the cafeteria. You look like you haven't had a decent meal in a very long time. Can I get you something?"
He half-shrugged. "Yeah."
She smiled, more relaxed. "The strong, silent type, huh?"
He focused down at her.
Ohhh-kaaay, so he really isn't going to open up. Another Teal'c. But she'd already dealt with Teal'c, so she wasn't terribly intimidated by this. He just seems more immediately dangerous.
"Come, have a seat. I'll go fix you a big plate of an assortment of food, then you let me know what you like and I'll see that you get more."
He followed her to a nearby table and sat down. "Thanks."
She smiled and patted his hand, without thinking. "Welcome to Atlantis," she paused. "What is your name?"
She nodded. "Mr. Dex. I'll be right back."
When she turned around, she hid a giggle when she saw John and Rodney's faces. Serves those two right. They probably think that I really would proposition someone as soon as they walk in. I don't know if I should be flattered or offended. She looked at the two of them again and Teyla, then chuckled. Flattered.
"Is this where the party is?" John asked from the door.
"Come on out," she waved.
Rodney smiled over at him. "Done ferrying VIPs back and forth?"
"Yeah." He looked around. "It's kind of quiet in here, this evening."
"Woolsey gave everyone the day off and many of them went home to visit their families, including my staff. Nobody's eating in, anyway. If they are, there are simple options out."
John took a chair and moved it next to her, opposite of Rodney and nudged her slightly as he sat down. She smiled at him, acknowledging his subtle act of affection.
Rodney grinned. "We're reminiscing."
"Really?" John frowned. "About what?"
Helena smiled. "First meetings."
"Rodney, you cannot convince me you remember all of the first times you met someone."
Rodney waved off the comment. "Helena remembers all of them, she says."
"Really?" John looked at her.
"Yep," Helena grinned and reached for her cup of Zelenka juice.
"I remember the first time I met you," he said to her.
"Right after our first encounter with the Wraith."
"What about Teyla?"
"The day after I met you. She came in for breakfast. I knew immediately that I had found a sister."
He grinned. "What about Radek?"
Helena smiled. "At SGC. He was working for Bill Lee and used to come to the cafeteria to escape. Much like now…" Her eyes widened and she laughed, covering her mouth.
Rodney frowned. "That's where he gets to?"
Her eyes danced. "Here and his still."
John frowned. "There's a still on Atlantis?"
Rodney rolled his eyes. "As if you didn't already know."
John reached forward and took Helena's drink and took a swig. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Helena laughed out loud.
Rodney sobered. After a moment, he said, lowly. "Ford."
Helena smiled, softly, a bit of sadness entered her eyes. "He cleared this room for use. I followed him and his team in here. I will always remember his smile when he asked if we would be serving anything other than MREs."
John was frowning. "Did you meet Colonel Sumner?"
"Of course. He interviewed me to come here."
"When did you first meet Sam?" Rodney asked, deciding to get away from maudlin memories.
"When she first came to SGC. I was working to close down the mess hall – the base was in the process of being closed – when Apophis' people invaded."
She smiled. "He came to the SGC to perform an audit. I remember feeling sorry for him because he was a pariah in that mess hall. Nobody would have anything to do with him."
Helena shook her head in earnest. "Absolutely not. He represented a threat to my job." She leaned forward. "Listen, I've known since I received my orders to SGC that it was a plush job. I received orders out of there three times before putting in for the Atlantis Expedition. The first two times, I bribed General Hammond with barbecue ribs and sweet potato pie to stay and the third, I bribed General O'Neill with black raspberry pie."
John frowned. "We've never had black raspberry pie."
Helena leveled a you're kidding right look at him. "And exactly where would I get the black raspberries? Do you know how perishable they are? Hell, every time it looked like we were going to have a quick way to get supplies from Earth, somebody blew something up!"
John looked at Rodney.
"Look, I had no choice and you know it. And you don't think I paid for it? I was stuck on the jumper with Bill Lee and Kavanaugh for days! You closed up in the cockpit plugged into your MP3 player while I had to listen to their endless yack-yack-yack!"
John grinned at Helena, then, and wiggled his eyebrows.
Helena smiled back. After a long moment of silence, as her eyes grew sad, she said. "You know, if The Powers That Be decide to end it all, split us up and keep Atlantis here, I will cherish every first, every memory, every friendship, for the rest of my life. If I had to do it all again, I would."
John and Rodney exchanged a look and nodded.
"Absolutely," Rodney said.
"Here, here," John agreed, raising Helena's glass again.
"You know there's more of that and you know where it's kept. You could get your own…" Helena scolded.
John smiled at her over the rim of the glass and wiggled his eyebrows as he took another drink.
"Fine, I'll get it," Rodney stood.
The three of them spent the rest of the evening talking over memories, unsure of what the future might hold. Somewhere in the night, the thought occurred to Helena: in reality, was there ever a day in Atlantis that wasn't exactly the same – good friends sharing an uncertain future?
A/N: I know it took me a long time to get these last two "chapters" written. A large part of me was so unwilling to see it end that I couldn't bring myself to write them. I am officially listing "Snacks" as "Completed", now. If we are treated to a Stargate: Atlantis movie, as we have been told will happen by those "Powers That Be", then I am sure I will write something from Helena's perspective.
I want to thank all of my loyal readers who have stuck with me through this process. The series was 100 episodes. A couple of the two-parters I wrote only one tag for, so I had 97 chapters and 12 Asides. This process started during the summer of 2007 and ends now in the summer of 2009. For two full years, some of you have patiently waited for my chapters and written notes of encouragement and, even, reminders to keep writing. Thank you, all. It has truly been a labor of love and your support has made it that much sweeter.
For the longest time, I had no intention of creating a romance between John and Helena, but as the series wound down and it became obvious that the writers weren't going to hook him up with anyone, I figured I could risk it. Maybe they'll last, maybe they won't. I left it open. If you really want the full shippiness, check out "One Night" if you haven't already.
I hope I will continue to hear from you all.
Mary A. Milan