Tourists don't often come here - it's too far from the usual tourist routes, and even the promised view can't entice them. Angela relies more on her regulars, and word of mouth has built her quite a fanbase. This past week, however, she'd been run off her feet.
The naval training exercise in the bay might explain the sudden influx of Marines, stiff-backed and uncomfortable in civvies. They were unfailingly polite and called her 'Ma'am'. She found them adorable and slightly terrifying.
She'd also seen a sudden rise in foreign tourists. Initially she thought they must all be on a tour together, but then she realised that the Marines sometimes sat with them, and would always nod politely when they crossed paths.
She saw them looking out into the Bay - out to a big blue nothing, as far as she could tell, because they didn't follow the sweep of the bridge, instead looking beyond to the ocean. It confirmed her second theory that they were civilian observers of the naval exercises. They chattered excitedly in accented English, but always kept their voices low.
They had sharper eyes than her, that's for sure. She couldn't see anything out there but ocean.
She turned back to the young family in front of her. They'd been in several times, with 2 or 3 others, and each time they stared at the menu board in consternation, even though they almost always ordered the same thing.
"We would like to order," the woman started, and took a breath. "An expresso, two filter coffees of today's recommended blend, a tall skinny latte, a -" She turned to her husband, who shook his head fractionally, staring over their child's head. "- camomile tea. And I would like a double mochachino with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. And a slice of your delicious vegetable cake." She'd been working her way through the chocolate drinks all week.
"No problem. I'll bring it out to you."
"That would be most kind of you." She held out a fistful of $20 bills before Angela can tell her the price. "Please, keep the change."
Every time. Except once there was a $100 bill in there, and Angela had to go hyperventilate in the store room. She still hadn't quite worked out how to fit Middle Eastern royalty with the Marines and the UN observers, but she was working on it. Meanwhile, she'd just cleared the next week's rent in three hours.
She wouldn't usually wait tables, but she liked this little group, even without the tip. The expresso was tall, dark and dreadlocked, sprawling across the chairs Angela hadn't realised were so small. He smiled when she placed the expresso in front of him, and every time she very nearly dropped the tray.
Skinny latte was a pretty little blonde, and filter coffee #1 was besotted with her. But the coffee never failed to distract him, and he made appreciative humming noises before he'd even tasted it. Filter coffee #2 watched all this with an expression somewhere between amused and pained.
Filter coffee #2 always thanked her like the Marines, although he called her 'Miss' instead of 'Ma'am'. He didn't look military, but the Marines always slammed to attention when he came in. He waved them down, looking embarrassed and maybe a little pleased.
The couple waited until Expresso had tossed back his coffee, then passed over the baby. The man then sipped his tea warily, while the woman devoted her attention to the mochachino, only stopping to glare as the filter coffees attempted to steal mouthfuls of her carrot cake. The baby, meanwhile, clutched at Expresso's locks and giggled. Filter Coffee #1 failed to notice the wistful look on Skinny Latte's face. Angela's fairly sure Filter Coffee #2 did not.
"I guess they do listen to me." Angela spun round at the familiar voice. Evan smiled at her from the doorway, bright and shining in the full dress uniform that she considered the only benefit of him joining the Air Force.
He nodded to some of the civilians as he approached, and, like the other officer, waved down a few Marines. He hugged her tightly, before she pulled away to stare at him. "But..."
"Some unexpected leave," he said. "It's not for long." He kissed her cheek. "I have to deliver this, then we'll talk, okay?"
Angela nodded, still shocked at the sight of him. He smiled, and then headed to her favourite table. They were already turning to him, the officer standing. Evan snapped to attention.
"Despatch from the SGC, sir. Hope you don't mind me bringing it personally."
The officer - Sheppard, she thought with a start, this must be the Colonel she'd heard so much about - shook his head as he took the slim envelope from Evan.
She was suddenly aware of tension in the room. Everyone was watching, even her regulars, caught by the sight of her brother's uniform. The rest of Sheppard's party were standing now, watching him read. The mother reached for her child, the little family drawing closer together. Filter coffee #1, his mouth an unhappy downslant, snapped and snatched at the paper. "For god's sake, Sheppard, nobody reads that slowly." He scanned the sheet, and then looked up at Sheppard. For a moment they stared at each other, then they broke into matching grins.
"We're going back," said Sheppard, his voice ragged, and like that, the tension was gone. There was a cheer, and hugging, and smiles so infectious that even those who didn't know what it was about were grinning, and Angela couldn't understand.
She hadn't seen Evan in six months; hadn't heard from him in three. She knew that what he did was dangerous, even though Evan never said as much. She's not stupid. He told her it was important, and she believed him. But she couldn't imagine ever wanting to go back to war.
Evan pulled away from the little crowd of civilians that had surrounded him, catching her eye. She wanted to walk away, because she could hear the old arguments bubbling up, hear her mother's voice, shrill at Evan's desire to join the air force. But he's her little brother, and she's the one who stood by him.
He hugged her again. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I -" At her reproachful look, he nodded towards the central group. Sheppard and Filter coffee #1 were deep in conversation, the little blonde latte held tight at Filter coffee's side. Expresso was grinning widely, exchanging hugs and backslaps with everyone within reach. The little family -
The little family stood very still, the parents standing forehead to forehead, bowed over the little child held between them.
"We're taking them home," said Evan.
"C'mon. Let me introduce you."
He tugged her towards the central group. "Ange, this is Colonel Sheppard. Sir, this is my sister Angela."
Sheppard smiled at her, and she resisted the urge to giggle and duck her head. "It's a pleasure to meet you," he said, holding out his hand. "Call me John."
"She's married," added Evan.
Filter coffee #1 snorted. "Like that ever stopped him."
Sheppard swatted him on the arm. "I never even tried to hit on Jeannie."
"This is Doctor McKay," said Evan. "And Doctor Keller."
"Jennifer," said the blonde, holding out her hand and surreptitiously nudging McKay.
"What? Oh. Rodney McKay," he said reluctantly. "Wait, you're the barista."
"Angela owns the cafe," said Evan, his tone dark, but a spark of humour in his eyes.
"Oh, I didn't mean -" Angela almost laughed at the change in Dr McKay's expression, his eyes suddenly wide. "Your coffee is, is -" He stopped, apparently lost for words. The rest of the group stared at him.
"Wow," said Expresso. "You broke MacKay." He grinned at Angela, and held out his hand. "Ronon Dex. I'm a civilian contractor with the Air Force," he added, and the others smiled, hiding laughter.
"Angela Lorne," she replied, and heard Sheppard mutter "You said she was married." Her brother's mouth quirked with a suppressed smile. "She is." "You sure? You've been off- away a while."
McKay huffed in disgust.
"I'm sure, sir. Angela -" Evan stepped between her and Sheppard. "This is Teyla Emmagan, and her partner Kanaan." The woman smiled serenely as they shook hands. "And the little guy is Torren John."
"I would like to thank you for making us feel so welcome on your - city," said Teyla.
"Well, thank you, but Evan," she said, as she rounded on her brother, who took a step back. "I can't believe you let them pay for coffee."
"Ange, there's a lot of people here. And some of them drink a lot of coffee."
"You have no idea how much I've missed good coffee," said McKay with a sigh.
"If you learned to ration it -" started Sheppard.
"Good coffee isn't a luxury, Sheppard, it's a basic human right. If the SGC understood that..."
"The mess coffee isn't that bad," said Jennifer, and McKay stared at her in horror.
"Sure, if you drink it with milk and a tonne of sugar," he said.
"He's a physicist," Evan said to Angela. "They take coffee very seriously."
A thought hit her, and she glared at her brother again. "A week. You've been here a week."
He winced. "I couldn't get away."
"Everyone else managed to, as far as I can tell. Your CO managed to get away."
"That's kind of the point."
Sheppard had the decency to look embarrassed, but she ignored him and the others, tapping her brother sharply on the chest. "Oh, you are so dead." She turned away, not wanting to yell at her brother in the middle of the coffeeshop.
"Angie..." Evan followed her as she stalked out into the backyard.
"What? Sheppard gets the time off, so you can't come and see us even though you're in the same city?"
"Oh, don't you dare use that on me."
"OK, it's not complicated, it's classified. I'm sorry." Evan threw up his hands. "I do what they tell me."
Angela turned away, and realised they had an observer. One of the civilians, she thought, the scientists, standing outside to smoke. He held up his hands in a pacifying manner. "My apologies," he said.
"It's okay, Doc," said Evan, wearily.
The scientist looked at them both, before saying, "This is conversation we all have, yes?" He shrugged. "It is never fun. I will leave you."
"Thanks, Doc," Angela couldn't help but notice the slight sarcasm in her brother's voice.
The scientist nodded, seemingly oblivious, but stopped as he passed Angela, catching her eye. "But, I will say, Sheppard is selfish zkurvysynu, sometimes."
"Radek. He's got a lot on his mind," said Evan. "Besides, if anyone deserves time off-"
"Ronon, maybe. Or Mr Woolsey, who you notice is not here. Or scientist who got us home," Radek said, tapping his chest. "Or intrepid major-"
Radek shrugged again, and said to Angela, "This is not his fault. Sheppard is crazy, and it is contagious. It is," he continued, with a ghost of a smile. "Complicated."
"You're really not helping, Radek," said Evan.
"It is a gift." Radek smiled at Angela when she burst out laughing, and walked back into the coffee shop.
"Sorry," said Evan, his hand on her shoulder. "I-"
"I get it, Ev. I do. It's just hard, you know? Every time they report another death-"
"I get it. Don't ever ask me to accept it,"
"I won't. I don't." He pulled her close. "God knows, I don't."
"How are the boys?"
"You know, if you don't visit Mom within the next three hours, she's going to kill you."
"So, how are the boys?"
"I know, I know. I am going to her really, really soon."
"Good. The boys are fine. Mom's teaching them to etch." She kept her face deadpan.
"Acid, toxic smells, what's not to like?"
Evan laughed. "She's insane."
"How long are you here?" Angela asked, finally.
"Not long. We don't know exactly, and there's a lot of prep to do."
"So you'll be here..."
"But busy, yeah," he finished for her.
"Why here, anyway?"
Evan caught her eye, and sighed. "That, I can't tell you." He held her gaze. "I am sorry, Ange. I wish I could." Evan scrubbed his face with his hands, weary.
There was a sudden commotion at the back gate, and two shrieking bundles of energy flung themselves at Evan.
"Hey, kids." Her brother beamed at the two boys, and knelt to hug them close. The boys started asking a dozen questions at once, and Evan hushed them, laughing. "One at a time, please."
"When did you get here?"
"Are you staying with us?"
"Did you bring presents?"
The whirl of questions was interrupted by another disturbance at the door. Knowing what was coming, Angela tensed.
"Evan Nicolai Lorne, what the hell are you doing here?"
Her brother stood, brushing the dirt from his knees. "Hi, mom." He managed to look both noble and slightly embarrassed.
Their mother dropped her overflowing backpack on the ground, and stalked towards Evan. She took his face between her hands, staring at him intently, and he smiled down at her. After a moment's observation, she kissed him quickly on both cheeks, before reaching to cuff the back of his head. Laughing, he hugged her.
"So, you're not dead."
"But you couldn't write for six months." She examined his right hand pointedly.
"More like three- I'm sorry." He hugged her again.
With an unimpressed sound, she pushed him away, looking him up and down. "And you come here before you see me."
"Mom-" started Angela.
"I'm afraid that's my fault, ma'am." Colonel Sheppard was standing in the doorway.
Her mother turned to look at him, and Angela saw that terrible assessing look in her eye. She groaned internally. Sheppard had charm, but that's no match for an irate mother.
"John Sheppard," he said, and smiled, ducking his head ever so slightly, and wow, thought Angela. Maybe he was a match for her mother. "I'm afraid I've been keeping your son from you."
Her mother's gaze was still assessing, but it was an altogether different type of assessment. Evan noticed this a little later than Angela, so he was starting to protest - "Mom!" - even as she reached out to cuff him again.
"So, this is why I never get to meet the people you work with?"
Even Sheppard didn't have a response for that.
Their mother held out her hand graciously. "Sofia Lorne."
"It's a pleasure, ma'am."
"I'll say." She held his hand a little longer than necessary, tipping her head this way and that to look at him. "Very nice lines," she says, and the tips of Sheppard's ears went pink. "Pen and ink, wouldn't you say?"
"Charcoal," says Evan automatically, and it was his turn to blush as they stared at him. "For the hair," he muttered, avoiding Sheppard's gaze.
Their mother smiled, suddenly, and Angela relaxed. "Well, what are we all standing around for? Angela, why doesn't he have a drink?"
"We've just-" started Sheppard, but Angela's mother hooked her arm through his and pulled him inside. Exchanging exasperated looks, Angela and her brother followed, the boys hanging from Evan's arms.
"Why don't you introduce me to-" She stopped, and Angela might not be able to see her expression, but she knew her mother had just seen Expresso- Ronon Dex, she corrected herself. "All these lovely people," continued her mother, the smile clear in her voice, "while my children bring us more coffee."