Chapter 9 – Epilogue

Colonel Sheppard was released from the infirmary four days after the Daedalus departed for Earth. However, Dr. Beckett insisted on bed rest for another three days. Carl was happy to comply with Dr. Beckett's orders. Colonel Sheppard on the other hand wanted to get back to work, he was sick and tired of being in bed.

It was two weeks of light duty, with mandatory two hour rest breaks like he had before and Carl made sure he rested. Eventually, the Doctor pronounced him well enough to return to work full time. Gradually the Colonel got back into his normal routine, running with Ronon, sparring with Teyla, coffee with Elizabeth, and sending teams out to meet and greet.

At first, his runs with Ronon were short, just two miles out and back, unlike the four and five mile runs they had been doing. Teyla eased up a little on his Katas lessons as well. She didn't want the Colonel to over-exert himself too quickly. Carl even eased up on the sit-ups, pull-ups and push-ups. John had been doing one hundred sit-ups, fifty push-up and pull-ups. Carl was letting him start out slow, doing only twenty-five sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups. All in all, his routine was coming back to him. There was one exception however.

Evan finally got around to telling him about his little lecture sessions with the Marines. Now it seemed at least once or twice a day he had a Marine in his office with personal problems. John wondered if he could get put on Dr. Heightmeyer's payroll considering all the counseling he was doing. There was a wide range of issues but most involved 'don't ask, don't tell'.

It was established at the beginning of the expedition that each Marine had to talk to Dr. Heightmeyer at least once every two months for an hour session, but they felt more comfortable talking to their CO's. What the Marines didn't know was that Colonel's Lorne or Sheppard would regularly confer with Heightmeyer if a situation arose that they knew they couldn't handle on their own. There were a few times that Colonel Sheppard hinted around and insisted that the Marine take his issue to Kate, even offering moral support during their visit if the Marine wanted him to be there with them.

Corporal Blair continued to work with Dr. Heightmeyer. When he was ready, Colonel Sheppard was going to assign him to an off-world team. Actually, Lt. Ruiz requested him. Although the Colonel wasn't sure if it had anything to do with Colonel Lorne's lecture or not. In any case, it would be a good fit for the young Corporal as well as for the team.

OoO

Today was a special day. It had been exactly three hundred sixty-five Earth days since Dr. Carl Epson, extraordinaire, set foot on Atlantis for the first time. Today, Colonel Sheppard was going to say thank you in a big way. Jumper One was loaded with the appropriate supplies and provisions. All he needed was his friend.

Ronon, Teyla, Evan and Rodney were all in the jumper bay. John was just completing his check list of supplies. "Okay Rodney, call Carl, we're ready to get this show on the road."

"McKay to Epson." Rodney said into his comm.

"Epson here Dr. McKay, what can I do for you?"

"Doc, you're needed in the jumper bay. Colonel 'I can do it, don't help me' Sheppard has done it again. It's nothing serious, but I think you should take a look anyway. You know how Sheppard can be." Rodney exaggerated a little.

"On my way. Epson out."

"Gee thanks Rodney, now the guy will never trust me." John grinned and stared at McKay.

"It's not my fault you hide your boo-boo's." McKay sassed back.

Six minutes later, Carl came walking into the jumper bay, his little doctor bag in hand. Dr. Beckett decided he should have one, especially since he was taking care of the Colonel and had helped with the Marines in the gym. "Colonel, what have you done this time?" Carl said in a condescending tone.

"See Rodney…see what you've done." The Colonel exclaimed waving his hand between the two men. Turning his attention back to Carl, "nothing Doc, honest. We…I just needed you down here. I have a surprise for you. Do you know what today is?"

"Yes, it's Thursday." Carl replied.

"No, I mean, do you know what the significance of today is?"

Carl shock his head no. He had no idea what was so special about this day. Nothing came to mind.

"It was exactly one year ago today that you came to Atlantis Doc. Happy Anniversary. And to show you my appreciation for everything you have done for me, we are taking a trip off-world. Don't bother with your gear, we've already packed everything you'll need." John explained, the grin on his face getting larger.

While John was explaining the importance of today, Ronon and Evan walked into the back of Jumper One and brought out a long box and held it out for Carl.

"Go ahead, open it." John instructed.

"Colonel, you already gave me a gift, the globe."

"That was for starters, but this…" He gestured for Carl to open the box again. "…this is your real gift, along with going off-world today." John watched as Carl finally opened the box.

Looking at the Colonel in shock, "how did you know? These are exactly like the one's I had on Earth."

John smiled, "Carl, these are yours. I contacted your family and asked that they send them. I even got three other sets. Now…lets get going…everybody in the jumper now." John rolled past his friends and into Jumper One's pilot seat. While the rest were getting settled, he performed his pre-flight check.

The hatch was half-way up when Dr. Beckett came running through the bay doors. "Wait…I'm coming with you." He yelled.

John lowered the hatch and Dr. Beckett climbed aboard. "Is that everyone?" John scowled, it wasn't like he was going to have any fun. Getting an affirmative from everyone on board, "Control, this is Jumper One, ready to depart."

"You're clear to leave Jumper One. Have a good time." Chuck said.

"Rodney, dial the gate."

McKay entered the gate address and Jumper One lowered into the gate room. As the jumper rotated, he gave Elizabeth a wave through the front view screen. Once the jumper was facing the blue puddle, John eased the jumper through the gate.

OoO

Exiting the Stargate on the planet, John took a few minutes to look around the terrain, looking for a good spot to set the jumper down. The planet, P3S-925 as it was known in the Ancient data base, was a snow planet. There were several mountain ranges, all snow covered, varying in height. The lower valley was covered with a light powdering of snow and a few trees sprinkled throughout the landscape. The planet had one sun and two moons. The sun was warm and offered a welcoming embrace against the cold of the snow. He needed two locations actually, one on top of the mountain and one at the bottom with a clear view of the mountain side.

John found what he was looking for a nice level spot on top of a small hill. The clearing looked like it was made for the jumper. According to the HUD readings, the clearing was approximately seven thousand four hundred and eighty-nine feet above the valley. There were other slopes much higher than this one, but John thought of the beginners he brought along. He had no doubt that Carl could tackle a much longer run.

Setting the jumper down John turned to his friends, "Get suited up." At his command his friends started to pull out winter coats, hats, gloves, and boots that had been stowed in the overhead compartments. Ronon tossed John a jacket to put on.

Once everyone was suited in the appropriate attire, Teyla lowered the jumper's back hatch. The sun was bright and glared off the pristine white snow. John reached for his aviator shades. Everyone except for John filed out of the jumper. John remained at the top of the ramp while he watched Ronon, Evan and Teyla make a security sweep of the area. The three doctors stayed at the bottom of the ramp.

Ronon reported no tracks, animal or otherwise. Teyla and Evan agreed. After hearing that the area was safe, Carl started walking around, peering over the edge of the slope to the valley down below. Carl sized up the area and determined that it indeed would be satisfactory. There wasn't a lot of obstructions, like rocks and trees in the way, pretty much a clear, open, wide, snow covered slope.

"Carl is this location going to work?" John yelled from the back of Jumper One. Seeing as Carl was making his own survey of the land.

"Yes Colonel, this will be fine." Carl replied enthusiastically, still not believing this was really happening.

"Good, grab your gear and you can show us your moves." John said.

Carl climbed back up the ramp and grabbed his skis and poles. Once back out on the snow he put his skis on and showed his friends the correct stance, how to fall correctly to avoid injury, how to walk with skis on and a myriad of other information. Not only was Carl a good physician, but he was a good teacher as well.

There were three other sets of skis that John had purchased and had smuggled on board the Daedalus that he brought along. Teyla, Evan and Carson were the first to volunteer. Carl helped them prepare and get the their boots locked into place on the skis. Since Teyla had never skied before, Carl guided her around on the soft snow to get the feel of it.

"Rodney!" John shouted. As Rodney neared, "grab the goggles would ya." Rodney grabbed the box from the upper storage compartment that contained the goggles. He took them out and passed them around.

"You guys almost ready?" John asked. Receiving nods and yes sirs. "Okay then, I'll take the jumper down to the bottom; I'll comm you when we're set up. See you at the bottom."

John rolled back in and locked his wheelchair into the pilot's seat. Rodney and Ronon climbed in and raised the back ramp. John lifted Jumper One out of the clearing and settled it back down at the bottom of the hill. He lowered the back ramp so the three of them could watch their four friends sashay down the hill.

John tapped his comm to let his friends at the top of the hill know he was in place. "Doc…ready when you are."

Rodney turned up the heater in the back of the jumper for John, even though he had a coat on, it was still cold. He and Ronon stepped out and looked up the hill, waiting to see their friends. Rodney took out his digital camera hoping to catch some candid shots of his friends.

John couldn't tell for sure, but it looked like Carson and Evan started down the hill first. Quickly, John reached for his binoculars that were in his vest pocket. Holding them up to his eyes he could see Evan zigzagging down the slope at a good pace. Snow was flying up in the air as he changed directions. Carson was coming straight down doing his best to stay on his feet and not fall. A couple of times John was sure the Doctor was going to tumble. Looking back towards the top he saw Carl and Teyla starting their run down the slope. Teyla amazed him; she was all grace and beauty as she came sashaying down the hill. You would have thought she was an expert and not her first time. Carl stayed close and kept pace with her as they came down the slope together. The two of them were fantastic.

Evan reached the bottom first and skidded to a stop, throwing snow five feet into the air ahead of him. Carson came to a not so graceful stop panting as he lay in the snow. Evan took off his skis and walked over to the Doc to lend a helping hand. He took the Doc's skis off and reached out his hand to pull the man up, brushing off the snow once he stood up.

The five men turned their attention back to the slope as Teyla and Carl were making their final approach. Teyla skidded to a halt in much the same manor as Evan, snow spraying up ahead of her. Carl did the same.

"Teyla, you were fantastic!" John yelled.

"Thank you John, it was…exhilarating." She replied. Her smile told the whole story of just how much she had enjoyed herself.

Carl came walking up to the jumper, "Colonel, thank you, that was…indescribable."

"You're welcome Carl. Looks like you're a good teacher as well. Ready to do it again?"

"Yes Colonel, I would like that very much." Carl couldn't believe he was skiing, and on another world no less.

"Okay, load up and I'll take you back to the top." John rolled back into the pilot's seat. Once everyone was on board, he closed the ramp and took off. He landed in the same spot in the clearing as before.

Carson decided once was enough. He offered the skis to Ronon and Rodney. Rodney backed away. There was no way he was going to break his neck. Ronon took the skis and goggles. While Carl adjusted them for the runner's big feet, Carl gave Ronon pointers.

John took Jumper One back to the bottom and put her down in the same spot. "Rodney, open a wormhole back to Atlantis. I think we need a second jumper."

Rodney opened a wormhole back to Atlantis. John requested a second jumper and some camping chairs. Within fifteen minutes Jumper Four landed beside Jumper One at the base of the slope. Captain Polansky walked out the back of Jumper Four carrying a couple of camping chairs underneath each arm.

"Here you go Colonel, anything else you need?" Polansky asked.

"Thanks Captain, actually there is. How do you feel about playing shuttle pilot for a few hours?" Colonel Sheppard asked. "I need someone to shuttle these guys back to the top of the hill since there doesn't seem to be a ski lift on this planet."

Captain Polansky looked at his Commanding Officer like he was out of his mind. But this duty sure beat anything else back on Atlantis right now. "Sure, I'll be glad too."

Colonel Sheppard pointed to the ridge where Teyla and Evan were making their run. Sheppard explained there was a nice clearing up there for drop offs. As the men watched the skiers come down the slope, Rodney and Carson set up the chairs. Captain Polansky stepped in and helped set up the campfire and campfire stove. Besides the cold weather gear and skis, Colonel Sheppard brought along the makings of hot chocolate and s'mores.

"Here comes Ronon and Carl." Shouted McKay pointing to the top of the hill. Taking out his camera again hoping to take a few candid shots of the big man on skis.

The men stopped and watched the top of the hill. Ronon started down a bit shaky but soon found his rhythm. Carl stayed close just in case. The two men zigged and zagged like pros. Teyla and Evan had made it safely to the bottom and then turned to watch Ronon and Carl make their way down.

After Ronon was down, he took off his skis and walked over to the group setting up the campfire. "This is like Bak'ta on Sateda. Only you use one ski which is wider and no poles." Ronon told the group.

"That sounds like snowboarding. I'll have a couple snowboards brought back on the next Daedalus run." John told him.

Carson looked at him strangely. "And just how do you plan to get those snowboards past security?"

The Daedalus is a military ship, only military, food and personal care items were allowed as cargo, even though shipments of chocolate bars, DVD's, fishing poles and many other items arrived on every trip. It was a wonder that there was room for the actual supplies they needed on board.

"You just have to be creative, I'll have them packed and the shipping label will read 'white boards'. The Orientation Room could use a couple white boards. Why should all the scientists have them?" John was serious. It was the simplest solution. "How do you think you got your fishing pole and tackle?" The Colonel raised his eyebrow up and grinned.

Carson just shook his head. The rest just chuckled. "You guys up for another run? Captain Polansky will take you back up. By the time you come down, we should have hot chocolate and s'mores ready." John told them. He received several nods, the four grabbed their skis and poles and headed for Jumper Four.

After Jumper Four took off, John decided he wanted to sit by the fire instead of staying in the back of the jumper. "Guy's, I want to sit by the fire. A little help if you don't mind."

"Colonel, I don't think that is a good idea." Carson spoke up, he didn't want the Colonel to get sick and with no feeling in his legs, he wouldn't know if he was cold or not.

"Come on Carson…please. Just for a little while. I'll be fine." John countered, using that puppy-dog look he did so well when he wanted to get his way.

Carson tried to stare him down, but it was no use. He understood it wasn't fair to be the only one sitting in the jumper, while everyone else sat around the fire. "Okay. Rodney, can you give me a hand?"

John got himself to the bottom of the ramp, but the snow made it hard to move anywhere after that. It was no different than the sand on the beach when they went surfing. With Carson and Rodney's help the Colonel was soon sitting by the campfire. Carson returned to the jumper and brought out a blanket and wrapped it around the Colonel's legs. It was one of the conditions he had to agree to in order to sit by the fire. Rodney got the hot chocolate going and the makings of s'mores out. The two men took up seats facing the slope to watch the four skiers make another run.

Jumper Four landed and Captain Polansky joined the others by the fire waiting and watching.

By the time the four had made their way down the slope the hot chocolate was ready. Everyone gathered around the fire drinking hot chocolate. Rodney and Carson were in charge of making s'mores for everyone. It took some doing but the group managed to talk Captain Polansky into skiing down the hill. Rodney piloted Jumper Four and took the foursome to the top. Teyla stayed behind this time to watch.

The sun was finally behind the tallest mountain peak casting shadows on the ground. They had spent the last seven hours taking turns and skiing down the slope. And to everyone's disbelief there were no broken arms, legs or mishaps. The day had been perfect.

Everyone started to clean up and pack the gear back into the jumpers. The campfire had been put out; the skis and the chairs loaded. They left Carl and John to talk. "So Carl…Happy Anniversary." John plainly said.

Carl was pushing the wheelchair and John was trying to help as well. "Thank you again Colonel. It was wonderful, much like Switzerland, but nicer I think." Carl replied.

John grabbed his wheels and stopped his wheelchair dead. "Hey…you know what I just realized? I finally got to eat a chocolate bar."

The End.

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