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(circa 2003, somewhere really effin’ cold)

"Major Sheppard?"

John stopped, held in a sigh and turned on his heel. "Yes, Airman?"

"You didn't put on the medic-alert flightsuit." It was bundled up in the kid’s hand, dayglow orange. Traffic cone orange. Mother-effin orange that made his eyeballs want to bleed.

No, no he hadn't. He had no plans to either, if he could help it at all. "How observant of you, Airman." He emphasized the last word and watched the faintest of blushes come up on the young man's face. Today he really didn't have pity for him. A reservist working out his required time by doing long haul flights was a damn lucky reservist, especially with everything else going on in the world. "Last I checked MAC flights only required me to be in uniform, which I am. Did I miss a change in regulation for active duty officers traveling to their next duty station?"

"No, sir." He extended his hand, the plastic smell of the bag and the heavy disinfectant the suit was imbued with carrying on the breeze.

John didn't give him a chance to say the next thing on his mind. "Then I'm going to keep on walking right onto the Herc. I'm going to sit in whichever jumpseats closest to the front are open - because they are the best. I'm going to put on my favorite music, pull out a book and do my very best to ignore everyone - including you - through takeoff from this cold-as-a-witch's tit ass-end airfield. I'm going to ignore everyone for the duration of the flight, and if I am very lucky I might even fall asleep."


"Then, then I am going to disembark, take a shower, find a bunk and sleep until it is time for my next MAC flight stateside, may the weather gods and AIRCOM not screw me over. If I'm really lucky I'll be at Lackland in two days, but we know that never happens, do we airman?"

"No, sir. But-"

"Are you still arguing with me? Because really I'm not in the mood, and we have fifteen minutes left until turnaround is complete." He stepped closer to the idiot until he was toe-to-toe. "And I'm betting I have more rank than anyone in the cockpit, so really? Drop it."

"Shep, leave the kid alone."

John didn't move. He didn't so much as twitch but just kept staring the kid down. "Fuck off, Dutch. I'm not wearing it." He could hear Holland's steps on the broken ice and gravel that marked the edges of the runway. He even caught a whiff of stale coffee from the DFAC. Bastards, they hadn’t shared any with him when he’d stopped by with his orders for refresher school.

"Not even for me? To the prom? Aw, Shep you're my favorite girl."

"Not even if you buy me dinner first." John broke the stare and glanced over at Captain 'Dutch' Holland. "Since when do you fly milk runs anyway?"

"Oh, fuck you." Dutch grinned and threw a mock punch at John's nearer shoulder. The airman took advantage of the exchange to take off, stupid flightsuit in hand.

John cracked a smile. "Good to see you."

"Yeah, yeah. Come get on my plane. I'll make you ride up front and Junior Birdman can have your seat in the back with the rest of the dead weight."

It also got him out of wearing the alert suit that visibly signaled to everyone on the plane he had some sort of 'medical' condition that might make him hazardous in flight. Yeah, the guy with thousands of flight hours. Stupid sentinel regulations. Bah.

Dutch poked him with one finger. "Seriously, Shep. Let it go. He just read the manifest and it is his first trip."

"Whatever." He shifted his duffle and flight bag, tossing the heavier of the two at Dutch. "Carry that and be useful to me."