Title: "Field Trip"
Spoilers: None. Set in season 1.
Category: Fun, fluff, randomness. There's Sheppard/Weir friendship.
Author's Note: If I didn't make Mr. Weir be a Spartan, jammer0307 would have killed me.
Elizabeth Weir grew up in Michigan. Everyone knows she hails more recently from D.C., but only a few people in Atlantis know about her home state -- namely, those who were present the time she stopped by one of Sheppard's college football rerun sessions in the lounge and her father's blood in her veins made her point out that the Spartans were going to wipe the floor with those other guys in red, whoever they were.
Sheppard was all over her for about a week, trying to drag out her secret football appreciation and spouting all sorts of statistics at her until she admitted her father used to be a Michigan State benchwarmer and no, that doesn't mean she likes watching football, and yes, if they ever get back to Earth, Sheppard can meet him.
She doesn't think much about it. Being from there is pretty much like being from anywhere else, she figures, since she has only been home for a week or two at a time since she headed off to Brown for an Ivy League undergraduate education and some extra-curricular anti-military protesting. She does think about that a lot, in a mostly ironic context as she learns to fire P-90s and permits the occasional nuclear explosion on her watch, but she's a lot closer to that than she is to long, snowy winters and woodstoves and her father coaching Pop Warner.
It never snows on Atlantis. The city is situated so near the equator that the weather doesn't change much at all. Comfortable weather year-round is nice, of course, but it's a little... strange. She heard some of the old SGC personnel talking about it, too -- after years of Colorado winters, it's unusual to try and mark the passage of time without weather. A cloudless sky in February, with maybe just a little fog in the mornings, doesn't give her much of a feeling of having survived the winter.
She doesn't really think it's bothering her, at least not obviously, until Lieutenant Ford shows up in her office one day with the strangest look on his face and requests her presence in the jumper bay.
"Is something wrong?" she asks, though there almost certainly isn't, because it looks like he's trying not to smile.
"Major Sheppard needs your help," is all the young officer will say, and since it's a blessedly quiet day and she's more than a little bored, she goes along to see what trouble her flagship team has cooked up this time. She still has a hard time not laughing when she thinks about the whole bowling alley debacle they worked so hard on.
The jumper bay contains Sheppard, Markham, Keller and geologist Nora Hunt, all already seated in an open jumper, wearing warm jackets and giddy grins.
What the hell? she thinks, but it comes out (as it so often does) as, "Major?"
"Hop in," Sheppard says, practically bouncing on the balls of his feet.
As usual, when he makes bizarre requests of her, she stands her ground. "Where are we going?"
"Somewhere fun," he assures her. "I brought you a jacket. Come on, hop in."
"We won't be gone long, ma'am," Ford promises from behind her.
"Come on, Elizabeth..." Sheppard opens his eyes a little wider into the annoying puppy-dog look that has probably worked on numerous women in numerous bars before. "McKay's holding down the fort. They won't miss you for an hour."
"Two hours," he hedges, and does the puppy-dog look again.
Also as usual, when he makes bizarre requests of her and follows it up with near-begging and some backup from his loyal second-in-command, she gives in.
As soon as she crosses the threshold into the puddle-jumper, they're all much more willing to tell her what's going on.
"Skiing," Sheppard reports. "The northern section of the mainland has got some perfect ski ranges. You know how to ski, right?"
She does -- she's actually pretty good at it -- but that doesn't lessen the surprise of what he's proposing. "Do you actually have skis?"
Sheppard glares at her, no doubt thinking (as she is) about the regulation-sized bowling alley they built without thinking of how they hadn't actually brought any bowling balls from Earth.
Markham is the one who answers her. "We brought skis along with our adverse-terrain equipment to Atlantis."
"You never know when you're going to encounter a snowbound planet," Ford points out. Elizabeth remembers one or two such snowy missions that Ford's SGC team undertook during her tenure as head of the SGC, actually, so perhaps that shouldn't have surprised her.
"We only have four pairs," Sheppard notes, "so we'll have to take turns."
It actually does sound like fun, she admits, though it wasn't at all what was on her intended schedule for the day (report-reading, report-writing, checking on the chemical analysis lab to make sure nothing was going to blow up).
"Exactly what kind of perfect ski ranges are we talking about here?" she asks, because this is Major Sheppard.
He must know what she's thinking. "Bunny slopes," he assures her quickly. "Lots and lots of bunny slopes."
It has been a while since she's been on skis -- Simon likes skiing, and did his best to schedule at least one medical conference in the Alps and to bring her along whenever she managed to get away from her own work -- and the military-issue skis they have are a bit different than what she's used to. For those reasons, she's grateful Sheppard wasn't entirely lying about the presence of bunny slopes. The long runs of fresh powder aren't exactly ski-school grade, but there don't seem to be any required dead-man's-drops.
The sun is bright on her face to the point of blinding, and Sheppard lends her his sunglasses as he straps on her skis. "Race you to the bottom," he says, even though he's flying the jumper for the first run, so that's an unfair challenge. The Ancient spaceship is going to be doubling both as a ski lift and as a ski patrol in case of unforeseen emergencies on the way down. Elizabeth is more than a little proud that Sheppard thought of that. Maybe his recklessness can be tamed, after all.
"I don't know how I let you talk me into these things," she says as he fights with her straps, because it seems important to mention.
He beams, squaring his shoulders. "It's because I'm irresistible."
Elizabeth snorts. "You keep telling yourself that, Major."
"Thanks, I will. Now don't lose my sunglasses. They're my favorite pair."
The sunglasses manage to stay on when Elizabeth wipes out for the first time, fifteen meters from the puddle-jumper when her ski toes cross and she ends up in a mound of powder. When Ford tries to pull her to standing, he ends up in the snow next to her.
It isn't the only time she wipes out -- far from it -- though her balance improves as the run wears on. She remembers how Simon taught her to ski moguls, and gets into the racing spirit on the second run when John intentionally sprays her with snow and then tears off down the hill in front of her.
She's not above laughing at him when he ends up in a snowdrift.
He beams up at her, face red from the cold and hair full of snow. "I'll bet you haven't laughed this much in months," he accuses.
He's right, of course. There are mouths to feed and inventories to tally and aliens bad guys to outwit, too much to allow time for goofing off. Her office and Atlantis feel very far away as she reaches down to help him up from the snow, and the bastard tugs on her ski pole instead.
Elizabeth goes down with a shriek and reflexively shoves snow in the direction of his face, remembering how her younger brother used to pull this exact trick on her on their yearly ski vacations, and how he had just about the same smug look on his face when he did it. "No fair!"
"Aw, come on," John pouts. She tangles her skis with his as he tries to stand, and laughs when he falls back into the snow.
Her earpiece, somehow still lodged safely in her ear, clicks on. "You guys okay down there?" It's Markham in the jumper, floating twenty meters above them, and Elizabeth untangles their skis as Sheppard assures their guardian that they're fine, just behaving like idiots.
Elizabeth notes the devious look still on his face, though, and thinks she should probably stay at a safe distance for the rest of the run, just in case.
She doesn't, deciding instead to pelt him with a snowball when he isn't looking.
The snowball fight devolves fast into mayhem with Ford and Keller taking up the action with a little too much delight at having the opportunity to attack their superior officer, and it takes them all twice as long to get to their rendezvous with the jumper than it should. The next run, it's Elizabeth's turn to hand over her skis, and she and Sheppard take up guard duty in the jumper over the four skiers below.
"So, you having fun?" Sheppard asks, looking too proud of himself even before she gives an answer.
"Yes, I am, and thank you for asking," she replies politely. "I hope the city hasn't sunk into the ocean by now." They're well over the hour he initially promised they'd be gone. At this rate, she'll be lucky if they get back before it gets dark.
"Don't think about work now," he commands. "Consider it... a day off."
She rolls her eyes, because they don't believe in days off on Atlantis. She still feels warm that he's thinking about that for her, though. It's been a long time since anyone looked out for her -- although, now that she thinks about it, he does watch out for her whenever it matters, just not usually in precisely this manner.
There are usually guns involved, and sometimes aliens. All in all, she likes this better.
The warm feeling passes quickly, though, as the snow in her hair starts to melt down the back of her neck. "I'm all wet," she complains.
The words are barely out of her mouth when the temperature in the jumper warms significantly, enough for her to pull off her wet jacket. "Wow," she comments. "That's almost better than a ski lodge with a fireplace."
"Hey, service with a smile," he says, and shoots her something more like a smirk than a real smile. But then, he's always like that. With the exception of half an hour ago in the snow bank, Elizabeth doesn't think she's ever seen a real smile from her military commander. There's always something defensive in his attitude, and it fascinates her. She's curious about him, ever since reading his pockmarked record and comparing it to her gut instincts about the man in front of her who seems to want so badly to do good despite all the condemning letters in his official file.
She wants to reward this rare instance of him reaching out to her, and so she says, "Thanks for organizing this. For thinking of me. I'm having fun."
The smirk gets a little closer to genuine, and he shrugs. "Does that mean I can drag you out of your office for skiing more often?"
She infers something from that: "You've done this before?"
His eyes widen, like he's about to get caught doing something wrong. "Well, Ford and I came out last week. I wasn't going to bring you out here without checking it out first for... vicious polar bears."
"You authorized it," he reminds her quickly, and she does remember approving a mission to scout out more of the mainland, though recreational activities weren't specifically mentioned.
"I suppose I did. It's a good idea. Everyone could use a little time to wind down every now and again."
It feels like a strangely personal question from him, maybe because he so rarely asks her anything personal. She doesn't know if the fault is with her or with him -- he brings her birthday presents with shuffled feet and sometimes brings her coffee in the midafternoon, so maybe he's trying in his own way. She'll have to keep an eye open for that.
"Sometimes," she agrees. "This is really nice." She watches the monitor for a minute, looking at the thermal outlines of her teammates below.
Then, because she does, and because he was last stationed in a place far icier than Michigan, she asks, "Do you miss the snow?"
"Yeah." He pokes at the controls for a moment. "I do. There's something..."
"... lonely about it," she finishes. It's a different sort of lonely than the ocean, something more complete because it's so quiet. That's what she remembers most about her ski trips with Simon whenever she disobeyed the rules and strayed away from her group -- the total silence away from human noise.
"Yeah," he agrees.
When they return to Atlantis, a few hours overdue, the city is still above water and McKay has settled into his position as acting leader to the point where everyone else looks really quite relieved that Dr. Weir and Major Sheppard are back at the helm.
She takes the time for a hot shower, a run with a blow-dryer over her hair, and a change of clothes. She can already feel herself getting sore and isn't looking forward to the next few days.
When she returns to her office, Ford is just leaving it.
"Hot chocolate," he tells her, indicating a steaming mug on her desk. "Or, at least, the Athosian equivalent. The Major's brewing some in the galley."
"No marshmallows?" she asks.
"No, ma'am. Apparently they've never heard of them."
She can't help thinking that Jinto and the other children are in for a real treat the next time they manage to get supplies from Earth. It's unlikely they'll manage that before Jinto is fully grown, probably, but after today, Earth somehow feels less far away.
"Well, thank you, Lieutenant."
Ford leaves, and she sits down to the reports she was working on before the diversion, pausing every few lines to sip at the strong Athosian tea that maybe does taste a little bit like chocolate, if she works hard at it.
It's sunny and warm as it always is on Atlantis, as far away from February as it felt that morning, but with the smell of snow and fresh air still in her nose, it feels a lot more like home.