Colonel Samantha Carter put down her stylus for the second time in five minutes and dug the palms of her hands into her tired eyes, trying to rid the headache that seemed to be her companion for the past two hours. The restlessness creeped back and yet again, she tried pushing it back down. It came back full force and she gave up trying to fight it. The report could wait. It didn't technically need to be done for a few more days.
Sam Carter was bored.
Words she never thought she'd say. She now knew how General O'Neill felt. She missed the action of the field and the excitement of discovering something with something in the labs. Now she was purely command, directing the things that she used to do. All she had now was paperwork, forms, inspections, briefings, and the loneliness of a new command.
Sitting back in her chair, she stretched, feeling her back pop. Sam looked out of her new office and studied the control tower, now quiet with the city's night setting in place and let her mind wander. It was so different here than at the underground mountain complex she had known for the past ten years. Behind her she could hear the constant wash of the ocean, reminding her of the constant rumble and noise of the SGC. The continual flow of fresh air, the lofty towers, automated systems, everything was a complete change.
When she struck up a correspondence with Rodney McKay after communications was established with the Pegasus Galaxy, he said that city was alive in its own way. She thought she had understood, comparing it to 'her' mountain, but now she simply got what he was talking about. Atlantis was more than she ever imagined, even from looking at the specs, pictures, scans, it blew away ever her most radical imaginations.
Even the people were a different, many more civilians that she was admittedly used to. She enjoyed the think tank like atmosphere that was seemingly constant. Ideas, theories, projects, experiments were forever running. The military component of the expedition was what she expected. She had known the military since she was born, and found through the years that most places were generally alike, save for the SGC and Atlantis.
Her computer beeped, startling her out of her train of thought. With a glance she checked the time on the monitor and grimaced. It was almost 2100 on the Atlantis version of a Friday night. One of the things that Elizabeth had insisted on was quasi regular 'weekends'. Duty for only essential personal on a rotating basis, and no gate travel. Sam wasn't about to undermine something that seemed to work so well.
Sam allowed herself a small groan of frustration at herself for her restlessness. Sleep any time soon was going to be impossible, and she had an itch to do something physical. Although she did her daily run and weight training every morning before the first duty shift, she craved something more.
Tapping a few final keys on her keyboard, she stood up and logged off the console. Striding towards the door, she made her decision to go to the makeshift gym and practice the Mastaba forms Teal'c had taught her. She waved her hand over the sensor and the light shut off as she walked out.
"Why do you constantly feel the need to beat the crap out of each other?" Rodney asked as he idly typed on his laptop, stopping to glance up at Sheppard giving Ronan the basics of boxing. Teyla sat near by, watching the antics of the two preparing themselves to fight in the small gym unofficially declared as their own.
"You could do with some crap beating yourself, McKay," retorted Ronan as he looked warily at the red gloves John was coming at him with. Resigned, he held out his hands while the officer shoved them on and started tying the laces.
Rodney smirked in response. "I'll have you know, macho man, that I am in perfect health and fitness. Just because I don't feel like mimicking Arnold Swarzenegger doesn't mean I'm any less..." He trailed off at the sound of John's laughter and Teyla's soft chuckle. Giving a disgruntled humph, he continued to tap away.
"It's not a bad idea, Rodney," John said as he finished lace up the Satedan's mitts. "You should find something to do besides working your voice and hands." He turned and grinned at the sitting scientist, who was currently chewing on something and still typing. Rodney swallowed his mouthful and looked like he was going to say something, but decided against it, settling for a scathing look that didn't affect John at all.
"I prefer the non physical aspect of saving our lives on a near daily basis."
A few minutes later, after John had hit the mat for the third time, Ronan walked over to where Rodney and Teyla were sitting, leaving the colonel grumbling on the mat. He looked over his shoulder. "Come on. I went easy on you." John waved a mitt without looking his way and rolled up into a sitting position.
"What are you doing, McKay?" John slid over from his position on the floor closer to the group. The startled Rodney looked up before responding.
"Writing a letter to my sister. Telling her that Sam is in command now." He switched his attention back to the screen. Teyla turned to face the distracted man, as Ronan spoke.
"Do you know Colonel Carter well?" McKay sighed as he looked back up with an annoyed look on his face.
"Why would you want to know?" He gave up on his letter and glared at Ronan. Ronan shrugged.
"I'm not sure I understand why she's here."
"What is there to understand? The IOA elected her to take command of Atlantis. Not me."
John gave Rodney a strange look before stating, "You're jealous, aren't you." McKay sighed.
"No, actually, I would hate to have her job. I would hate it completely. Maybe. I don't know. But why would I ever be jealous?" he practically spat out.
"Because she's smarter than you?"
"Sheppard, you clearly don't know what you're talking about. Sam Carter is an amazingly brilliant person, not to mention with an amaz-" he interrupted himself. "but you know isn't smarter than me."
"Colonel Carter seems to be a very strong and educated woman, Rodney." Teyla seemed to warn. "From what I have heard she has saved your home planet more times than can be considered, both from a warrior and a scientist viewpoint."
"Sheppard knows her too, why don't you ask him your petty questions?" McKay snapped. "I am not jealous of Sam Carter. I would not give up what I have for what she now has to go through every day in this command." He closed his laptop with finality and set it aside. "And I refuse to discuss our personal relationship."
Ronan's eyes grew wide, and with a disbelieving look he opened his mouth. Before he could say anything, Teyla pointedly looked at John and asked "You also know Colonel Carter?"
"Not as well as McKay here obviously this he does, but yes, I know her." He smirked as he held out his still mitted hands for someone to unlace. Boxing was effectively over now that this conversation began. "We knew each other vaguely during our early years in the Air Force. We were at the same bases for awhile too. When the Stargate program started, I didn't see her for a good ten years." Teyla was almost done with the first mitt, and he pulled his hand out, flapping it around to air it off. "She's the one who briefed my group at the Antarctic outpost back on Earth and I went out with her and SG1 a few times during while the expedition was planned."
"She seems more like a scientist." Ronan leaned back on his hands, having manage to untie his own mitts with his teeth. McKay rolled his eyes and responded.
"It's because she is. She has as many PhD's and random degrees as I do. Theoretical astrophysics, physics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer and software engineering; it's not like she graduated from a community college. The military just happened to pay for some of it."
"I wouldn't say she's just a scientist, Rodney. She's managed to kick some butt." John gave Rodney a looking, knowing he couldn't argue back. Rodney grunted in John's general direction.
"Listen to me, both of you. Samantha Carter is not someone you want to mess with." He tried to hide his wince when he remember the last time he saw the blonde colonel. Granted, he was probably being maybe a little annoying to her, but that didn't warrant the pens being chucked at his retreating body.
"Talking from experience, are we?' John wanted to know. "I'm just saying that you haven't been the only one to keep in contact with her, McKay. Weir does too, and I can't say that I haven't shot her an email or two. She's a good person."
"I know, she is, you nit. I just happen to know her better."
"I am not a nit, you Canadian –"
Teyla rose from her spot on the floor and stretched.
"Would anyone like to spar or am I going to practice by myself?" Seeing the three men ignore her question, she gave a small snort, leaving them lay on the floor to laze and throw insults at each other. "Men."
Ten minutes after leaving her office, she was on her way to the gym. She passed few people on the way there, nodding and giving a smile to those who weren't too involved in their tablets, conversations, and personal business. Even though the city was climate controlled, she felt a shiver go down her spine. Sam sighed inwardly, knowing it would be a long time yet before she was completely accepted into the social structure.
She stopped once to retie her hair into a messy knotted ponytail and caught her reflection in a dark pane of glass. Her grey hooded sweatshirt and black mesh shorts seemed to make her disappear, her face stark against the makeshift mirror. She ran her fingers over the bags under her eyes, knowing it was a moot point. She rolled her shoulders, trying to loosen them up, and knew it was going to take awhile for her to warm up. Glancing down the long empty corridor, she decided to jog the rest of the distance to the small gym, only to slow down after a few hundred yards.
Teyla had just started to warm up when the doors hissed. The four occupants looked up and saw a startled Sam Carter walk in.
"Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to interrupt anything. I can come back later." Teyla could see the hesitation in the other woman's posture, and Sam reached to pass her hand over the sensor.
"Please do not go, Colonel Carter. We are simply relaxing and, " with a glance, Teyla looked at the three men who decided to sit up and stop bickering, " some of us are exercising."
"Are you sure?" Sam still wasn't sure if she wanted to stay now. It was irrational, but she felt like the was intruding on something private. Sheppard waved her over.
"Come on, Sam. We don't bite. Well, maybe Rodney does." At the look on Rodney's face, Sam cracked a small smile and made her way over to the small group. Teyla subtly studied the woman as she crossed the room. Although she did not know the new commander, she could make a few guesses as to why she was there. The colonel looked slightly trapped within herself, and Teyla sympathized inside. Although she was outwardly smiling and talking with Rodney, Ronan, and John, she saw the look in Sam's eyes.
It was one she had recognized in her own eyes. It was not so long ago that Teyla had left her native people to become part of Atlantis, leaving friends and loved ones behind. She didn't miss the way the woman had unconsciously scanned the room before fully entering, or how she was standing with her back towards the wall; the habits of someone used to military protocol. She had witnessed John and Ronan do the same things, and realized that it was ingrained so deeply into their being, they did not know they were doing it. A sudden burst of laughter from John and Ronan brought her out of her musing and noticed Sam had a grin on her face; Rodney a deep blush. All too quickly the grin died and the glint of the fleeting disappeared from her eyes, the dark look returning. Teyla broke the silence with a sudden thought.
"Colonel Carter, would you like to spar with me?" Sam turned and looked at the Athosian woman standing before her. She met her eyes, and Teyla held her gaze.
Sam closed her eyes and heard the three men behind her go silent. Before she could say no, she found herself opening her eyes before she could stop and said one word.
"Yes." Teyla gave a slight nod, silently approving the decision before turning away to stretch her muscles.
Sam walked over to the rack of miscellaneous lengths of the fighting sticks that lined the far wall. She picked two, testing the balance and length. She frowned at the lightness of it. Teal'c had trained her for many years in various martial arts, supplementing her Air Force training, but always with using the heavier and thicker training staffs and materials from the Jaffa traditions. She let the sticks balance across her hands before deciding that they would work. She turned back to Teyla, seeing her in her bare feet. Sam kicked off her broken in Nikes and socks, and on a second, hesitant though, shed her baggy sweatshirt. She paid no attention to only wearing a tight exercise bra. It was about the same as her now opponent was wearing, and she long ago gave up paying attention to her scars.
She walked over to Teyla, who turned back, and took the beginning fighting stance opposite her that seemed to be universal on all worlds. They started circling.
John, Ronan, and Rodney, already by now sitting against the wall, watched as the female colonel choose from the options of sticks on the opposite wall. Ronan made a small noise. "Do you think she knows what she's gotten herself into?"
McKay responded, "Who? Sam?" He gave a small cough. "Don't underestimate," he muttered. Ronan gave another grunt in reply as John stayed silent. "I've seen her nearly shocked to death. First time I had seen something like that. And it hasn't been her only time…" He trailed off, obviously reliving something inside his head.
Sam had now chose her two weapons, and kicked off her shoes. He saw her set the sticks down and take off her sweatshirt. Rodney gave a small hiss at the sight of the Colonel, and John couldn't blame him. Even Ronan shifted uncomfortably to his left. While all of them had seen plenty of hand to hand combat in their experiences, the dominating Wraith of the Pegasus galaxy used less contacted means of killing. Sure, stun guns weren't fun to wake up from, but no lasting effects stayed.
John and Rodney had heard stories, read mission reports, had seen the people home from the SGC, and the effects of their fight with the Goa'uld. Jaffa armies were known to be brutal, and hands on. Even besides that, modern medicine on Earth could not avoid leaving its trace. Sam Carter's body was no exception to that.
On the side of her torso was a large irregular angry red scar, stretched and pocketed in places, made by some form of energy weapon. Thick and thin lines alike scattered her back and upper body; one stretching across her shoulder, one on her upper arm. Several laparoscopic scars, some more pronounced than others, dotted across her muscular frame. Although they couldn't see it, John and Rodney knew there would be a scar on the back of her neck, and more covered by her top. She shifted her stance slightly causing her shorts to ride up, revealing a jagged wide scar seemingly splitting her thigh in half. Rodney made no further comment, and John suspected that somehow Rodney had known, but never seen. Ronan settled further back into the wall, seemingly more interested than before.
As the two opponents started circling each other, they watched.
Teyla made the first move when Sam didn't strike. She hit out, testing her skill and found she was anticipated, and almost immediately countered. She kept her guard up and continued to be the first one to make a move. Sam let her, knowing it would give her an advantage within a few moments. She continued to block Teyla, feeling her abilities, and waiting when to strike, sensing that Athsosian was holding something back.
And then Sam knew. Knew Teyla was giving her a chance to vent, only in a way that she would understand. The restlessness, hidden anger at being forced to transfer, insecurities that she wasn't deserving of this job, every emotion she held in since leaving Earth flooded every pore of her body. She could fight it out, and Teyla, without even knowing her that well, knew what she needed and how to release the catharsis. Shoving all emotion into one, she let loose.
Teyla knew instantly when Sam had realized what she was offering. It was a split second delay that seemed like ages. The look in her eyes, the posture in her body disappeared for an instant of time, and came back, full fledged and ready to escape.
Their private audience held their collective breath as suddenly the fight changed. Without warning the two women unleashed a fury of snapping sticks and strangled shouts. Limbs blurred and bodies spun. It was a fight of an almost even talent. Teyla moved with the natural grace of somehow who had been doing it all of her life, fluid motions, well aimed strikes at weak spots, quick jumps and rolls. She knew instinctively where and when to make her move. Carter moved with a technicality that was to be envied, mixing many types of styles into one and making it her own. Her arms seemed to fly, like the weapons were extensions, an automatic defense. It turned into a dance, neither one gaining or losing ground. The two whipped around each other, an unexplainable event. Slowly, Sam had backed Teyla into a corner made from the walls without Teyla knowing, and the tide changed again.
Sam felt another surge, letting Teyla land a blow, and using it to her advantage. Bringing down one of her sticks she struck the top of her right arm, shocking her nerves, and Teyla dropped the weapon reflexively. Sam let loose another volley of blows, and her two weapons against Teyla's lone one was enough to overpower the lithe Athosian. Soon the fight ended by the colonel sweeping her feet out from under her, making Teyla land on her back on the mat with a hollow thud. Sam thrust forward and suddenly stopped, snapping out of her trance. She stood over her, pointing one weapon at her throat, and the other drawn back like a spear, gasping, trying to control herself.
Sam stood stock still, panting heavily, almost to the point of wheezing. She started to tremble, spent from the solid fight. She hadn't meant to lose control, something she intensely hated happening. But yet… the restlessness and pent up emotions were gone. Teyla slowly reached up and gently took the two weapons out of Sam's hands and laid them aside on the mat. She stood up, accepting the outstretched hand and faced the woman who won the fight and looked her square in the eyes.
"Are you alright?" Sam asked softly, almost with a hint of fear in her voice. Teyla gave a smile and nodded.
"Yes. I am. Although I suspect I shall be sore tomorrow, I am fine." She laid a hand on the colonel's sweat chilled arm. "It has been a long time since I have fought like that in practice. Thank you." She inclined her head towards Sam with her last words.
"Please. Don't thank me. I haven't earned that yet." Sam stepped back. "It's too soon."
"Colonel Carter, although it may take some time, I have no doubt that you will be fine here in Atlantis. You should not give so much self pressure and strain. Do not under underestimate yourself."
The three men had sat silent, transfixed what had happened in the fight. Rodney was the first to move. "See, I told you," he quietly gloated. He reached back for his laptop, pushed himself off the wall and stood up. Ronan followed, jumping to his feet then offered John a hand. He waved it off and got up himself. The fight only lasted perhaps maybe ten minutes, but he felt worn from watching it. He had watched Sam intently, and now understood why Rodney had defended her. In those ten minutes had had learned more about Sam Carter than most would think.
Ronan stretched, sending a series of cracks down his back. "That's disgusting," John retorted, only getting a shrug in reply.
"I'm hungry. Anyone else?" He made his way over to the now softly talking women in the center of the gym. "What about you two?" He reached over and poked Teyla in the shoulder. She shot a look of exasperation his way before she answered. Ronan grinned and made his way over to Sam, who was now putting on her sweatshirt quietly on the corner of the mat. He clapped her on the shoulder and said something the other couldn't quite make out.
"I do not understand how you can eat so much." She gave a half smile. "But yes, I think I am also hungry now." Teyla turned to the other woman. "Colonel, would you like to join us also?"
An hour and a half later the five were seated around a table on a balcony, drinking their way through the last of a case of Guinness Sam had stopped in her quarters to get. She had missed this, simple gatherings and drinking. She had stumbled into what had obviously been a team gather, and yet they showed no hesitation of inviting her into it. Stories and explanations and jokes ran rampant through out the time they had been sitting there, watching the ocean beyond the piers. John held up his drink to the light and looked at the other colonel. "Where'd you get this and did I ever mention anyone who shares beer here is a god?"
She flushed slightly, and answered, "It was wrapped with my name on it in a cargo container from the last supply shipment." She looked down, smiled, and picked at the label on the dark brown bottle. "There'll probably be a semi constant supply, but I can promise I'm not a god."
Rodney stood up. "Not even a false god?" He walked behind her and subtly clasped her shoulder quickly before snagging a bag of chips off the counter.
"Not even a dead false god, Rodney." Sam snorted. The two scientists didn't bother explaining to the others, leaving the joke die on the table. She drained the rest of her beer in one gulp and stood up. "Thanks you guys for letting me crash, but I should probably get going. I have a debriefing at 0800 tomorrow." Playing with the empty bottle, she clutched on to it tightly, suddenly feeling tired. Her company resisted her leaving, trying to goad her into staying, but she waved it off with a vague promise that she would meet up with them again later on.
And Sam knew that she somehow would. She couldn't replace the SGC or SG1, but she now knew that somehow things would work out okay. They were okay through each of her promotions, transfers, change of commands, the wars with evil aliens, etc. She had learned to underestimate situations.
She had to learn not to underestimate.
Author's note: First Atlantis fic, first published fic in awhile. Mastaba is the fighting technique forced to master by the Jaffa. Explained in the SG1 episode "The Warrior".
Any reviews are greatly appreciated.