I am really really sorry this took so long. You would not believe what the last few weeks have been like. It all started with my truck being broken in to, wallet stolen and more. Took me a while to get back in the swing of things and I did not feel like writing for a while. I hope this chapter is okay. Thanks for your patience. This is revised a bit. Sorry for those who saw the previous version but I think it was a little much.
Chapter 12-Zorro Rides Again
It had been a long day. The Queen had publicly awarded medals to Sheppard, Ramos and many of the crew as well as McKay, Teyla, and Ronon. Sheppard had been awarded a unique ring, something he noticed later that O'Neill also had. Something about a thank you gift from the British people. McKay had complained it was probably a free pass for special treatment or something. To Sheppard's relief, it seemed O'Neill had been teasing him about the Queen knighting him. Sheppard had spent the rest of the afternoon talking to many of the passengers, and he was tired. At heart he was an introvert and as much as he understood the necessity of it all and that people needed heroes and needed to thank them, it was still exhausting. He would not admit it, but landing that plane had taken a toll. Ramos did not seem to mind it all that much and Sheppard left it to him to make the speeches. It had been nearly three weeks since they had left Atlantis for a supposed vacation and Sheppard wanted to get back. He was still sore, and his arm remained in its sling. Ramos was still taking it slow, but his color and appetite had returned and there was a lightness about him that was contagious. Somehow, Sheppard knew he should feel the same…a renewed sense of life, a gratefulness to see friends, but no family, he thought quietly as he watched Ramos talking to O'Neill and laughing. Ramos was his family, as was his team, and he had nearly lost them all at once. He was glad to be alive, but he would have gladly bled to death landing that plane knowing they were safe.
He was grateful when he had said good-bye to the last passenger. He would never remember them all, but he was sincerely glad that they were safe, and slightly sad about Mathias. The British were fairly certain he was after the queen's niece, but their trail got very cold when he was found dead in his cell. That had created a mess in and of itself because they had no clue who had killed him and no one really had any answers. The government spun some sort of story and the public had no clue what really happened except for someone trying to hijack the plane. Maybe no one would ever know.
"Well. I don't know about you all, but I am all ready for a steak dinner." O'Neill said cheerfully breaking Sheppard from his thoughts, "I know just the place. Let's go round up Ramos because we need to talk." He looked over at Sheppard as they headed toward one end of the room. "You know that little ring does give you a few priviliges on this side of the ocean. Nothing big mind you, but a reward for a job well done. We just never talk about it, but certain people in Europe realize what it means and make an effort to be more helpful. You'll see."
Sheppard, O'Neill, and Ramos had remained in the dining room of a small restaurant that the General had chosen earlier. Neither he nor Sheppard had shown their rings but they had been noticed and the service had been very good. They had been able to go to a private dining area of the restaurant. Sheppard had to admit, it was nicer than having to wait in line at the local grill near the SGC.
"Well now that all the subterfuge and pageantry and handshaking is over with, we should get down to business don't ya think?", O'Neill said with a smile. "Old Zorro here knows a little too much."
Sheppard was not sure how to take that at first, but relaxed when Ramos laughed. Sheppard's mentor and the General had seemed to become good friends over the past few days. "Yes sir. Sorry about all that. I thought…"
"Hey, I know weird things happen, and you don't think what your saying in the place between here and Heaven gets back, but we all know that well, yeah, strange things do happen. The truth of the matter is Joachim knows about what we do, and we need to figure out what to do with him."
Sheppard thought the general was taking the whole thing rather well, but what could you do when you spilled your guts mentally when you thought you were going to die? He said nothing. Despite his new found knighthood, he knew he was low on the totem pole in this room and was actually relieved by it for once.
"You know," O'Neill said with a conspiratorial grin toward Ramos, "You had asked for some help with pilot training back at Atlantis. We have more civilians as well as non-flying military with the gene going over there now, and I know you don't have the time to train them all yourself."
"But what if even with gene therapy…"
O'Neill shrugged. "If gene therapy does not work then we will figure something else out."
"What is gene therapy?" Ramos asked a little worried.
"We can explain all that later. I am sure that you both are tired," O'Neill said as he stood up, "I am also pretty sure you two will want to catch up some more, so when you're ready, just ask the concierge for a driver. Hotel is set up. Sheppard, you have five days of regular leave to finish your vacation. I know you want to go back now, but you and your team need it, and that will give Ramos here some time to get things in order. Colonel Ramos, you will be receiving orders very soon recalling you back to active duty. Glad you stayed in shape."
Ramos laughed. "Yes sir. See you soon," he said shaking the general's hand before he left.
"Well Spike, just you and me."
Sheppard grinned. This was just turning out to be too good to be true. He said nothing as he held the cold beer in his hands.
"Loss for words," Ramos quipped. "That does not surprise me. Despite what happened, I'm glad I'll be spending more time with you."
Sheppard felt selfish to want the same. "You won't see your family nearly as often…"
"Just a little less than now and probably more than when I was younger."
Sheppard doubted that. "We are in mortal danger at least once a month and under a constant threat that makes terrorists on Earth look like pansies."
Sheppard grinned. "We'll I guess you've been warned."
"Yup. Now let's get out of here. Tomorrow I leave for the states to get ready and you go on vacation before we meet up."
They alerted the concierge and it was not long before a car pulled up to take them. It was weird to be treated so above and beyond what even a general could expect. "Well, I guess we are just going to Paris then Italy. The rest of our European vacation will have to wait."
"Maybe they will get you a private plane this time."
Sheppard laughed. "Yeah maybe."
They said their good-byes and Sheppard walked to his room in the exclusive hotel. He did not feel awkward in places such as these or even in restaurants like the one he had just come from. His well to do background had accustomed him to them. He knew how to act, but a part of him had purposely left that life that was so privileged and it was just weird to know that as far as the Air Force went, he was just a lieutenant colonel. And, as far as the Pegasus galaxy and the Wraith, he was just one lowly little human. He took off his shoes and lay in the luxurious bed and closed his eyes. "Relax and just enjoy it," he told himself. He grinned thinking of what a pain Rodney was going to be but warmed at the thought of having dinner with Teyla at the Eiffel tower. He had to show her that.
"John," Teyla whispered bright-eyed across the table, "This is the most beautiful place on this world."
Sheppard smiled at her. She looked beautiful and it was great to see her without any worry on her face. "The French, I am sure, would agree with you."
"The meal was wonderful John. Have you been here before?'
"A long time ago with my mother. I had not been back since, but we ate here, just her and I while Dad and my brother did something else…I can't remember what."
Teyla smiled as she looked out into the night sky. "She would be very proud of you John."
John smiled slightly. He knew she would be but she would be worried to death and probably was even up there some where.
"Well, we head back tomorrow Teyla. What have you thought of the vacation so far?"
"Well the first part was very…interesting. I enjoyed meeting the…Pope, I think it was…and it is amazing the languages, food, music and just general color of your people."
Sheppard nodded. Earth was diverse. "Well, you've seen the best parts Teyla, but we have our dark parts as well."
She took his hand and squeezed. "But you have moments like these too John."
He grinned. "That we do, and Ramos will be joining our excursion."
She sat back and sipped her wine. She was glad the older man would be there for her friend. "So we shall learn a great deal about you."
"Maybe just a little. Pilots don't rat out each other too much. Only the embarrassing stuff."
"Well that would be enough for me," she said with a laugh.
"How do you think McKay and Ronon are doing."
She shrugged. "Ronon did not seem to think that he would enjoy the opera, but McKay's sister and family were happy to have him along.
"Hopefully they are back at the hotel. We have an early flight."
"I am sure they are fine John."
"Then let's go for a walk."
"Well his royal highness is not answering his cell phone."
Ronon was grinning. "He probably turned it off."
"How the heck are we going to get back. I never should have let you talk me into coming to this stupid soccer game."
"I went to the opera with you. Besides this was fun."
"Well like I said, his royal highness is not answering the phone and we are stuck here waiting for a cab."
"We could walk, McKay. We have walked further than this."
"That's not the point."
Ronon shook his head and headed back in the direction of the hotel. "Maybe we will find get a taxi along the way."
McKay snorted and put the cell phone away. "Sheppard gets to go around town like a king because of his superpower ring, and I'm stuck with Conan the Barbarian at a soccer game. You look ridiculous by the way in that shirt."
Ronon looked down at his soccer jersey that was almost too tight. He shrugged. "I was supporting my team."
McKay shook his head. "Just not fair," he muttered following Ronon.
Sheppard sailed over the ocean.
"You've got that stupid grin on your face."
He turned around surprised. He had forgotten about his passenger.
"Yeah, well you'll have one in a minute too." Sheppard told the puddle jumper where he wanted to go. It was not long before they exited the atmosphere and began orbiting the planet.
He heard a low whistle from Ramos and turned. "See, told you so." Sheppard said with a grin. "You ready to take over?"
Ramos nodded. "You sure it's safe?"
Sheppard laughed at the irony. Ramos turned and nodded with a knowing smile. "The student becomes the teacher," Ramos said in a whisper.
"Just for a little while. Anyway, McKay and some geeks can fly it." Gauntlet was thrown.
"Well move over then," Ramos said as he slid over to the pilot's seat. Challenge accepted. "I have the controls."
"You have the controls," Sheppard said lifting up his hands slightly as he slid out of the chair. It took a while but Ramos quickly got the basics down.
"You weren't kidding about having to use your brain power. And calling it a puddle jumper? Classic."
Sheppard said nothing except occasionally offering a suggestion or two. An hour later, Ramos gave him back the controls to head home.
"Spike, I am so glad that gene therapy worked."
"Me too Zorro."
I know I did not get much into the vacation, but I don't do humor so well, and honestly I just did not have the energy to do much more. However, I would like to incorporate Ramos in the future. I think he might be able to be a background character we never see on the episodes. Anyway. I aplogize again for how long this has taken and I truly appreciate your feedback, encouragement and patience. Thanks to my betas Highonscifi and Comanche Antigo!