“There is no fucking way,” Brad murmured, “that that hair is regulation.”
Ray cocked a disbelieving eyebrow at him. “Dude,” he said, “we are standing in an alien city in another fucking galaxy, waiting to go get shot at by more aliens on more alien planets, and you’re worried about our fearless leader’s hairdo?” He snorted. “We should be worried about more important things, Bradley. Like the fact that he’s Air Force, for one.” Ray larded that designation with all the contempt it so richly deserved.
Brad nodded at him solemnly, but Ray saw the gleam in his eye which meant that Brad was, once again, fucking with him, the asshole. “Small steps, Ray,” he replied gravely. “Small steps.” Whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean.
“And then giant leaps, eh?”
Brad and Ray wheeled as one to face aforementioned fearless leader, snapping to attention. Lt. Colonel John Sheppard stood in a hipshot slouch, P90 held loosely in one hand, regarding them with a certain lazy-seeming amusement; Ray couldn’t help but notice that his hair was, indeed, rather astoundingly… spiky. He was, in fact, by far the least military-seeming military man Ray had ever come across. Including himself, so that was pretty impressive, all told. This was the guy who’d successfully defended Atlantis from all extremely scary comers, alien and otherwise, for over a year now?
“Sir,” Brad rapped out, as calmly as if their new CO hadn’t totally just overheard them dissing him, “Sergeant Colbert and Corporal Person reporting for duty, sir.”
For his part, Sheppard didn’t seem to care; he only grinned. Maybe he was used to getting shit from Marines, Ray thought; it was, after all, one of the things Marines were best at. “At ease, Sergeant, Corporal,” Sheppard drawled. “Welcome to Atlantis,” he added as Ray and Brad relaxed from attention. “I look forward to working with you. Your former CO had very complimentary things to say about you both.”
“Thank you, sir,” Brad replied, in a way which managed to be perfectly respectful while at the same time conveying the impression that Brad was still reserving judgment on his end. Ray had no idea how he did that, but it tickled the shit out of him every time. Motherfucking Iceman, hah.
Sheppard was evidently more perceptive than he seemed, because his gaze sharpened at Brad’s tone, but he seemed more amused than annoyed at Brad’s arrogance. Well, he’d probably read Brad’s jacket; if so, he knew already that the Iceman’s superior attitude was more than earned.
“Well, gentlemen, we’re about – ” Sheppard began.
The shout came from the other side of the room, where a rather out-of-shape man with thinning brown hair who screamed “egghead” to Ray’s eyes was impatiently shouldering his way through the small crowd of people still milling around the big stargate thingy. The geek was possessed of a very large datapad, which he appeared to be ready to use as a bludgeoning tool, and a pissed-off expression.
Sheppard turned to face him with a look somewhere between exasperation and fondness. “Yes, Rodney?” he asked, mildly.
“Look, I understand that you’re all gung ho to run off and get us all killed on a daily basis,” the geek began as he stormed up, “but I would really appreciate it if someone told me – ”
He almost ran into Brad and stopped short, craning his neck to look up at Brad’s face. Brad looked down at him with hilariously impassive calm from his height advantage of almost a foot, and the geek – Rodney, presumably – blinked and looked at Sheppard.
“When did we get Vikings in here?” he asked.
Ray was unable to restrain a snort of glee at this. Brad’s face didn’t move, but Ray could tell he was distinctly amused, though probably no one else could.
Sheppard sighed. “Sergeant, this is Dr. Rodney McKay, our chief scientist at Atlantis. Rodney, this is Sergeant Brad Colbert and Corporal Ray Person.”
“Oh,” said Rodney dismissively, “more Marines.” He looked disappointed, and not the slightest bit shy about showing it either.
Brad raised an eyebrow, and Ray barely suppressed an indignant Hey! Sheppard glanced at them apologetically. “Rodney, be nice,” he said reprovingly. “Colbert and Person will be joining us on Team One while Teyla and Ronon are away.”
“Yes, and don’t think we won’t be talking about that,” Rodney snapped.
“We already talked about that, Rodney,” Sheppard replied, with a long-suffering expression. “It was agreed that Teyla and Ronon were the best people to – ”
“Agreed! No one agreed, it was over my strenuous objections – ”
“Your objections were ridiculous, Rodney – ”
“Ridiculous?” Rodney screeched. Sheppard rolled his eyes, and Rodney seemed to inflate like a balloon. Brad looked bored, but Ray watched the whole thing like a tennis match, fascinated. He longed to ask how long they’d been married, but he realized that was probably stepping a little far over the line even for him.
Rodney seemed ready to turn their bickering into a full-scale screaming match, but Sheppard cut him off by turning his attention to Ray. “So I understand you’re a communications specialist, Corporal Person?”
Ray beamed. “Best damn RTO in the business, sir,” he declared. Though he got the feeling that a lot of his expertise had suddenly become extremely outdated, that was no reason to sell himself short.
“Communications, eh?” Rodney butted in. “You been tested for the gene yet?”
Ray and Brad exchanged a glance, but Brad clearly had no more idea what McKay was talking about than he did. “Gene, sir?” Brad asked.
Rodney frowned. “No one told you about the ATA gene?”
“We’re Marines, sir,” Brad replied, and left it at that.
Rodney, however, didn’t seem to find this a sufficient explanation, judging by his baffled expression, so Ray helpfully added: “What he means, sir, is that no one tells Marines shit. If they tell us to go somewhere, we go there; if they tell us to shoot something, we shoot it; and if they tell us to sign these 3,000 pages of top-secret nondisclosure lawyer-dribble hoo-hah that means they can legally cornhole us and stick us in a gulag in Siberia to rot forever if we say anything to anybody about other galaxies and aliens and shit, then we sign it. Marines don’t ask questions; Marines make do. Sir.”
McKay blinked, seeming rather dazed, and Sheppard visibly fought down another grin, watching him. Out of the corner of his eye, Ray saw Brad close his eyes briefly, as if praying for strength. Which was odd, considering that from what Ray could tell, Brad was either an atheist or engaged in a grudge deathmatch game of chicken with God. One of the two.
“What?” he demanded of Brad. “What’d I say?”
“Ray,” Brad said heavily. “Please shut up.”
“You always say that,” Ray muttered, but subsided.
Sheppard was openly grinning now, watching them. McKay shook himself, still eyeing Ray. “Okay, whatever, you need to be tested, you should have been tested before you even got here, I swear to God, why do I always have to do everything myself? Not that it matters, the chances of either of you having the gene are practically nonexistent, but it’s the principle of the thing, dammit.” He pulled a small… thing out of his pocket that looked made of metal and dark glass but was otherwise incomprehensible to Ray.
“Here, catch,” he said to Brad, and tossed the thing at him. Brad caught it easily, one-handed, and looked at it curiously.
“What is this, sir?” he asked, but Rodney just shook his head.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” he said. “Nothing.” He sounded disappointed, but not surprised.
Ray craned his neck to get a look at the thing. “Ooh, shiny,” he said, and grabbed it out of Brad’s hand just to be annoying. The moment he touched it, though, the thing lit up, warming in his hand, the dark glass glowing the same blue as the walls and everything else in this crazy city. Ray almost dropped it in surprise.
“Oh, hey, really shiny!” he said, grinning. “Hey Brad, look at…”
He looked up from the thing and faltered, trailing off. Everyone was staring at him. Not just Brad and Sheppard and McKay, but everyone else in the room had stopped what they were doing to look at him. Ray suppressed a sudden ridiculous urge to hide his hands behind his back.
“What?” he demanded of the room. “What’d I do?”