Hi all, I'm back. I believe it's been a while since I updated last and I hope you haven't given up on me yet. This is the last of the Transitions parts before the mid-season episodes. This one is set just after Home. And just for jasminesmommy there are some John/Sierra moments. I hope you all like it.
-----Chapter 15 – Transitions, Part IV – Home-----
"It was all just so… real," John breathed to Sierra as they sat together in the Mess Hall. It was late afternoon and the sun was just touching the ocean as it sunk toward the horizon. The sound of waves lapping against the piers drifted in through the open windows and doors while a gentle breeze fluttered about the space.
John and his team, accompanied by Elizabeth, had just returned from a mission this morning on a planet where the atmosphere contained a mist that was organic – meaning that each particle in the mist was a living organism. On a previous scouting mission, McKay, having noticed the energy the Living Mist was giving off, believed that it would be enough for one trip back to Earth.
The frenzy this news created was substantial and moral was high for the few hours the team was away. But what everyone hadn't expected was that the mist was sentient. The Stargate had activated again, hours after they left, to disgorge John, Teyla, Ford, McKay and Elizabeth, all in various mindsets. John was subtly livid; Rodney was put-off; Ford was disturbed; Teyla was confused; and Elizabeth was rather depressed.
It was early morning when they returned, having spent twenty-four hours on M5S-224, unconscious and without food or water. Needless to say they were all ravenous (and desperate to use the bathroom) and a little shaken.
Sierra had walked into the Mess for breakfast to find all five of them digging into the buffet the Mess staff provided. Despite the flurry of cutlery and the clatter of knives and forks on the metal trays, they weren't speaking a word.
Joining them at the table, Sierra waited gingerly until one of them broke the silence.
Slowly, one by one, they recounted each of their own experiences in the mist. According to Rodney, who had spoken first, the Living Mist had invaded the consciousness of each of them and made then live twenty-four hours in a virtual world inside their own minds. McKay shuddered as he spoke.
They had all experienced something different, primarily based on their own memories, save for Teyla; having never been to Earth before, she had shared in John's mental reality.
They had all been tricked into believing that the Prometheus was out of commission and that there was no way of getting home.
John's reality, however, had been a little different. And more disturbing for him.
"I saw Dex and Mitch," John said softly after a long silence, jerking Sierra back to the present. She had just lifted a fork-full of meatloaf into her mouth; she froze and looked at him. He was staring at his plate with a rather lost look in his eyes. He glanced up to see her staring at him before dropping his eyes again.
Sitting back, Sierra chewed slowly while watching her brother. Mitchell Grey and Dexter Monroe had been in their unit when they had been stationed in Afghanistan during the Gulf. Mitch, Dex and John had been the Three Musketeers, the Three Amigos, the three trouble-makers. Sure, whenever John and Sierra were in the same place, bad shit happened on its own. But when those three got together they were the ones causing all the trouble.
Mitch, Dex and John were no doubt the best pilots in the unit. John was a chopper pilot for black hawks, and other assault craft, but the four of them had been flying with Med-Evac choppers at the time. Sierra flew with John, Mitch with Dex. She remembered the day they died well.
They had gone into Kabul to extract a group of wounded marines. Mitch and Dex had gone in first and as soon at their chopper had touched the ground it was hit by a missile, killing the two pilots, all the passengers, plus three of the marines on the ground. John and Sierra, who had been only a few seconds behind them, had been forced to pull back and abandon the pick-up for all the shrapnel and bullets flying in every direction. The remaining marines on the ground had then been swamped by enemy soldiers and killed. No one in their chopper spoke the entire flight back to base.
The whole thing had shaken John pretty badly; not that he showed it. But Sierra had detected a definite increase in his recklessness. It had continued like that for weeks, until their CO had pulled her aside and told her to talk to him. So she did, and he had calmed down considerably after that.
But he had also requested to be reassigned to anything that wasn't rescue choppers. And Dex and Mitch were eventually forgotten.
John was the kind of man who wore the weight of the world on his shoulders. It didn't matter if there was nothing he could have done to save his friends he still blamed himself for their deaths. Even after all these years, Sierra could see that it was still a huge burden to him.
Leaning forward again, Sierra said, "Hey, why don't you come to our Poker game tonight?" She really didn't want him to be alone tonight. John seemed to consider it for a moment. He hadn't yet lifted his eyes from his plate.
"Maybe not, 'Erra," he said finally. "I kinda just wanna be alone tonight."
Just what she feared. Well, at least there wasn't much alcohol around for him to ruin himself on. Maybe she'd get someone to look in on him later.
"OK, fine," she said, twisting her mouth to conceal her concern. Standing she looked at her watch; she was going to be late. "Make sure you call me if you wanna talk, alright?" she didn't leave the Mess until he agreed.
Night had finally fallen over the city when Sierra knocked on Markham's door. Her backpack was filled with all snacks she had managed to pilfer for the Mess in the dead of night, that the zipper had failed to close.
The door opened to reveal Cole in his civvies, holding a glass of what smelt like apple cider.
"Captain," he greeted. "Nice haul," he said gesturing to her overstuffed backpack.
"Thanks," she replied as he let her into Markham's quarters. "It's amazing what you can acquire from the stores in the middle of the night. It also helps to have the fear of God in the kitchen staff."
Cole laughed. Markham's quarters were the same size as hers, and all the furniture had been pushed to the sides of the room to allow for a round, four-seater table in the middle of the room. Two of the chairs surrounding it were occupied by Sierra's other teammates, Stackhouse and Markham. They greeted her enthusiastically and admired her bounty of foods, though she thought they were a little too enthusiastic. Then she noticed they were dinking the same cider that Cole was.
She pointed to the lieutenant's drink. "Is that alcoholic?" she asked.
Cole shrugged. "Well, there was no label on the bottles my old roommate gave me before I left. I'm guessing that he made it himself, so you never know."
Sierra shrugged in turn and picked up a disposable plastic cup from a table by the door. "Then I'll have some of that." Cole smiled and filled her cup with the sweet smelling, golden liquid as she emptied her backpack onto the same table.
"Hey," Stackhouse called loudly. "Are we gonna play cards or what?"
Sierra mock frowned at him. "That's 'ma'am' to you, Sergeant. And lay off the cider." He saluted her lazily with a smile. Taking her cup from Cole, she took a seat at the table. "So, who deals?"
They played for hours, eating and drinking way too much cider. Somewhere around 21:00 she took a bathroom break, calling Ford and Teyla, asking them to check on John. They reported back ten minutes later that they had managed to drag him off to the Rec Room to watch Terminator. Smiling, Sierra returned to the game with renewed energy.
Somewhere along the line her teammates managed to convince her to play Strip Poker. She didn't let on that she was rather adept at it. Two hours later, she sat at the table, fully clothed and only missing her boots, with Markham, Cole and Stackhouse all rather humiliated and sitting in only their underwear.
Finally, once Stackhouse had fallen out of his chair for the third time, Sierra called it a night. The hour was nearing 01:00 and she knew they would all have headaches tomorrow.
Collecting into her backpack her winnings and her remaining snack foods, she waited to make sure Stackhouse got to his feet OK. It took both Cole and Markham to re-dress the sergeant and walk him back to his own room. As it was on the way to hers, Sierra followed along, trying to keep the hallway straight.
After they had safely gotten Stackhouse back to his room and into bed, Markham flipped Sierra and Cole a wave and headed back to his room. Laughing quietly and trying not to disturb anyone else, Sierra let Cole walk her back to her room. At her door she turned to him to say goodnight, but he beat her too it. He darted forward and kissed her full on the lips. It wasn't a long kiss or a particularly romantic kiss (at least not for her), but Sierra suddenly got the feeling she had been missing something in the last few months.
"Um, sorry," Cole said, flushing a bright red and dropping his eyes to the floor. "I… didn't really mean to do that. I think I may have had too much cider tonight."
"Ah, it's OK," Sierra stuttered. She was already wondering how to put him down gently.
"Look, Captain," Cole said. Despite a slight slurring of his words he had regained his confidence a little and looked up at her again. "I really like you… and I was wondering if you would like to… perhaps… have dinner with me one evening?"
Sierra was so surprised that she couldn't help the immediate 'no' that leaked from her lips. She bit her lips together to make sure any other words didn't leave her mouth. She cursed the goddamn alcohol for making her brain fuzzy.
Cole was looking at her with a shocked and hurt expression. "Do you want to think about it first before you completely reject me?"
Sierra bit back an alcohol-fuel barb. This was her teammate, her second in command – she didn't want to alienate him too much.
"Look, Cole," she started, polite as possible. "I like you too, but not in the way you want me to. You're a great officer and you're a top notch 2IC. But – I don't want to have dinner with you."
Cole's face went blank with surprise for a moment, before anger flashed across it. "Oh, right, I see," he said suddenly bitter. "So, you'll shag your last CO, but you won't even go on a date with me?"
Sierra bristled. So he had figured it out after all. She was sure there were some pretty tasty rumors floating around about her and Mitchell, but it depended on what you wanted to believe. They ranged from Sierra and her ex-CO being secretly related to them being secretly married on some alien planet. But Cole's words had rubbed her the wrong way.
"Watch yourself, lieutenant," Sierra warned. She was aware that Cole's voice was rising in volume and the empty halls tended to echo.
"Oh, sorry, ma'am," Cole said, sarcasm dripping from every word. "I wouldn't want to start a rumor that you fucked Mitchell. Why did you do it, by the way? Was it to get a promotion? Or was he just a good lay?"
Sierra was quivering with the effort of holding herself back. She wanted to lunge across at him and beat the living shit out him just for saying those things about Mitchell. She also couldn't believe her ears – why was he saying this to her? What had brought this out of him?
Then she caught a wiff of cider on his breath and she remembered all the alcohol they'd consumed. And she had never known how mean a drunk Cole was. That and the fact he seemed to be very angry she'd turned him down and yet slept with Mitchell.
"Walk away now, Cole," she warned, her voice low and dangerous. But he ignored her. Taking a step closer to her, he put his hand on the wall near her head.
"So, was he any good? Say, anything in comparison to that major in D.C? Does the name Evan Lorne ring any bells?"
Sierra didn't even think about how he knew about Lorne, she just threw her fist right into Cole's face as the memory of pain and guilt flared in her chest. The drunken lieutenant staggered back and fell on his ass. Clutching his face, he slowly stood. Sierra tensed and prepared for him to take a swing at her, but then she saw the look of horror that passed across what she could see of Cole's face. He looked up at her and Sierra saw a look of shame that came to his eyes. She relaxed. He wasn't going to attack her. And he hadn't meant to say those things.
Without another word, he staggered down the hall and around the corner.
At that moment, her radio crackled to life, startling her out of her shock.
Reaching up, she touched her radio set. "Yes, John?"
There was a long pause on the other side of the line. "Are you still up?"
Sighing, Rahni turned to the door across the hall from hers and palmed it open. John sat on the bed, a hand raised to his ear piece and with a half-finished beer in his other. She frowned wondering where the beer had come from.
John's eyebrows creased in the middle. "How did you –?"
Sierra gestured over her shoulder to where she and Cole had stood a moment ago. "You didn't hear all that outside your door just a moment ago?" Her brother shook his head. Sierra sighed with a mixture of surprise and relief. She didn't really need to deal with John's reaction as well as what just happened with Cole.
Sighing, Sierra explained a little. "Cole walked me back to my room and we got into a bit of an argument."
"Right," John replied. Sierra walked over to him with a slight drunken stagger and took the beer from his hands, sculling the rest. "Hey!" he cried indigently. "That was mine! And since when do you drink beer?"
Sierra burped loudly and tossed the empty bottle into the trash can next to his desk. "Since last year," she replied and flopped down onto the bed next to John. With a sigh she stretched out and lay back on the bed with her hands behind her head. John frowned down at her.
"Are you drunk?"
"Yep," she said immediately. John was silent for a moment before looking over his shoulder at her.
"Is there any more?" he asked conspiratorially.
Sierra laughed. "Oh no, John. You're not getting any while you're in this mood."
John frowned at her. "What mood?"
"Survivor's Guilt mood. That's what you wanted to talk about, right?" John sighed. "Hey, they were my friends too," she added with a gentle pat on his shoulder.
John was silent for a long moment. "It was still my fault," he said.
Sierra let out a frustrated groan and struggled to sit up. "Don't start this again. I really don't wanna have to slap you like last time."
Her brother gave a humorless snort of laughter. "You enjoyed it last time – don't lie." Sierra made a fist and punched him lightly on the arm.
"Really, John. Don't start blaming yourself again. There was nothing you could do."
But he was already shaking his head in disagreement. "I should have paid more attention to the instruments. I should have taken more notice to the surroundings. I should have–"
Slap! Sierra had raised a hand and slapped it across John's face, and none too gently either. He stopped midsentence and looked at her, gob-smacked. Sierra raised an eyebrow at him.
"Well, I did warn you," she said sharply. "All this 'shoulda-woulda-coulda' crap is not helping, alright. We've been over this – years ago. Stop. Blaming. Yourself."
John lowered his eyes and twisted his mouth in disdain. She could tell that he was hating himself right now, and still blaming himself.
"Stop it!" she cried at him. "Don't make me slap you again." John smiled a little at that. "Seriously, I will," Sierra continued in a mock-serious voice. "I'll put you over my knee and spank you into next week!" John's smile widened more and he looked at Sierra with proper mirth in his gaze. She smiled back at him. "See, that wasn't so hard."
John let out a small laugh. "Thanks, 'Erra," he said softly, bumping her knee with his.
Sierra stood and patted his shoulder again. "You're welcome. I hate seeing you like that. You accept too much responsibility for things that are out of your control."
John gave her a smirk. "Boy, if Dad could hear you say that – he'd die of laughter."
Sierra smiled back. It was probably true. She leant down and kissed John on the forehead and then returned to her quarters. If John had one drawback in his personality it was that he shouldered too much, much more than was required on him. She knew he tortured himself about it all the time, about the lives he hadn't been able to save and she often wished he'd accept that those people couldn't have been saved no matter what and move on. But John was John and it would only happen when pigs grew wings.
Sighing in resignation, Sierra dimmed the lights, kicked off her boots and crawled into her bed. As she closed her eyes, words floated on her memory like the hiss of a snake… So, was he any good? Why did you do it, by the way? So, you'll shag your last CO, but you won't even go on a date with me?
Snapping her eyes open again, Sierra couldn't help but flinch as Cole's words flitted around her head. She knew why she'd done it, she knew that night had been wonderful, and she knew why she didn't want to have dinner with her 2IC: she didn't want a repeat of previous events.
She was going to have to talk to Cole. They had to sort it out because they worked together and she had to know that she could trust him watching her six. And there weren't a lot of personnel she could choose from to replace him if it came to that.
Sighing again, Sierra turned over onto her other side and resolved to find Cole within the next few days and hash it out with him. It was either that or ruin something that was actually working pretty well. Damn it – why did being an officer have to be so complicated.
Cole had been avoiding her for three days. Every time she entered a room that he was in, the lieutenant would flush bright red, end whatever conversation he'd been having and practically bolt from the room. Sierra was getting sick of it. She wanted to talk to him about what happened on Poker Night but he always fled before she could catch him.
So she figured, seeing as the gym had only one exit (a fire hazard, everyone knew but there was no way around it), she'd corner him there. Cole had taken to positioning himself so that he could always see the door and able to make a quick getaway. She had found out that Cole was intending to work out that afternoon, strolled into the gym and hid behind some equipment, waiting for her 2IC to arrive.
It was bloody pathetic that they'd been reduced to this. They were grown adults for Christ's sake! She shouldn't have to stake out the gym just to talk to the man.
Yes, OK, she agreed that what he had done and said warranted the lieutenant's fear of her, but in Sierra's opinion it wasn't something that couldn't be forgiven. She understood his frustrations: he had asked her out and had been turned down, when Mitchell hadn't gotten either. And if anyone in the city was to believe the rumors (and some of them were true) then anyone could assume that Sierra wasn't one to abide by anti-frat rules. She also couldn't believe she'd missed something like this.
As Sierra waited she pursed her lips in frustration at the reputation she had built for herself. But most of all she was surprised as hell that those rumors hadn't found themselves to John's ears. She knew very well that John didn't pay any attention to idle rumors, much less care what anyone had to say about himself. But Sierra was very different in that way. She hated rumors, she hated gossip. She hated people talking about her behind her back and she absolutely loathed the subtle (and sometimes not o subtle) attention. She had no idea where that mentality had stemmed from as neither of her parents nor brothers had that attitude. And if only John knew what some people had to say about him!
At that moment, Cole walked into the gym with a towel draped over his shoulder. He cast a wary glance around the empty gym before settling himself down on the nearest bench-press that faced the doorway. Sierra counted to ten before stepping out from the shadows. Cole didn't notice her until she stood directly over him; he paused in his presses, his face bleaching of colour, except from the brilliant bruise that had formed under his right eye, and set the bar back on its rest. Slowly he sat up and looked at Sierra, who stood with her arms crossed over her chest and and eyebrow cocked at him. Cole sighed in acceptance.
"You want my letter of resignation?" the lieutenant asked. Sierra blinked for a moment.
"Why the hell would I want that?" she asked.
Cole shrugged and picked up his towel again. "Because of what I said Poker Night? And the way I've been avoiding you since then?"
Sierra frowned at him. "Avoiding the topic was childish and stupid, Cole. You know that. We're both adults and should've talked it out." The young Brit looked down at his lap, properly chastised. Sierra's expression softened.
"As for what you said the other night," she continued. "I understand that you didn't mean all that."
Cole glanced up at her again. "I do apologize for what I said, ma'am. I – I didn't mean any of it, I swear."
Sierra held up a hand to silence him. "I know that, Cole. And I'm sorry I shot you down so quickly. I should have thought that through better."
Cole twisted his mouth into an embarrassed smile. "Yeah, about that, ma'am." He stood and faced her properly. "Look, I do like you, and that part i meant; about what I said about dinner. But all that other stuff –"
Sierra nodded. "I know. And thank you for the offer, Lieutenant, but I would have declined anyway." She paused for a moment. "You were right." Cole gazed at her with a puzzled glance. Sierra looked around the deserted gym to make sure they were still alone. "I haven't told anyone this. But you were right about me and Mitchell." Cole's eyebrows shot toward his hairline. "I wondered how long it would take you to figure it out," she added with a small smile.
Cole cleared his throat. "Uh, I'm very sorry about that, ma'am. I will never breathe a word of it to anyone."
"I know that, Harry. And I'm eternally grateful for that." She gave him a reassuring smile. "So, I expect to see you bright and early at the briefing tomorrow; oh-eight hundred."
He snapped a salute. "Yes, ma'am." Sierra smiled back and headed for the door. Before she got all the way there a thought occurred to her. She turned back to Cole.
"One other thing," she said. "How do you know about Lorne in Washington?"
"Oh," Cole said, sitting back down on the bench press. "I was having a drink with him that day in the Officer's Club."
Sierra frowned. "You know him?" she asked.
"Yeah," Cole replied, frowning back. "He works at the SGC – I thought you knew that." Sierra shook her head, feeling a little dazed. "I thought you knew him," the lieutenant continued. "Otherwise you wouldn't have left the bar with him so quickly. You didn't seem the type."
Sierra nodded, only understanding what he had said vaguely. Leaving the gym without another word or a backward glance, Sierra headed to her quarters. Once inside she banged her head against the wall twice; once for her stupidity and again for her… stupidity. How could she have let herself get so buried in broken anti-frat regs that she couldn't see daylight? If anyone else found out about her and Lorne and the fact that he worked for the SGC then she was screwed. Beyond screwed. She would be back on the JAG's witness stand being court marshaled again and this time there'd be no general or president that could help her.
In other words, she was screwed.
A/N: I hope you all liked it. Please stay tuned for the next chapter set during The Storm and The Eye. Now, please be kind and please review.