Richard P. Woolsey (MBA and L.L.B. Harvard, thank you) leaned back in the comfortable chair he’d had brought from his study back on Earth and contemplated the Bordeaux in his wine glass. In the background, Mitsuko Uchida’s interpretation of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 18 in D played softly over the stereo interface Dr. McKay had set up for him as an apology for…
Richard coughed hastily and turned to stare determinedly at the magnificent view of the sunset over the western pier afforded by the floor to ceiling windows in his new quarters.
The less he thought about why he had new quarters, the better.
He had thought his years as a litigation lawyer had taught him everything he needed to know about human nature. Then he’d started working as legal counsel to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and realized he didn’t know that much. Working for the NID had shown him more about humans than he thought he’d ever wanted to know. But even that paled when he started working for the International Oversight Committee, and through them, Stargate Command.
That had taught Richard that he actually knew very little about humans, period. Not to mention the occasional monsters pretending to be humans.
He shuddered and took a sip of the Bordeaux, savoring the soft, silky, rich flavor as it burst across his tongue. It soothed his body, the way the soft notes of the piano soothed his soul.
Life in the Pegasus Galaxy taught him to throw everything he knew about humans and monsters out the window and start over again.
Perhaps, he thought as he watched the fading reds of the sun tint the sky long after it had sunk below the sea, he should write his memoirs when he finally retired from public service. It would be the dignified thing to do, and the wealth and breadth of his experiences would ensure any such memoir would be a fascinating read. Surely, the Stargate program would be made public by the time he was retired.
Then Richard snorted, unable to avoid being honest with himself. Really, what was he thinking? Even if the Stargate Program were to become public knowledge, there was no way he’d ever be able to write about the things that had happened in Pegasus. Well, no way he could write about it and have anyone take it seriously. At best, it would come across too much as a comedy, and at worst… nobody would believe him.
He wasn’t sure he believed him.
Richard stood and walked to the windows, wineglass in hand, reaching up to straighten his tie as he moved. It was ridiculous, the way things happened here. And sometimes, all he had to do was just… take a walk around the city.
Mozart faded, the next song started, and as Richard heard the beginning strains of the Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” filled the air, Richard knew precisely who to blame, and why…
It never failed, every time he needed to stretch his legs, or had to hunt down one of the many who failed to turn in their reports in a timely manner, he’d run into them.
Sheppard and McKay.
Sometimes, Richard was certain they were a pair of pre-adolescent boys trapped in the bodies of adults. It was only the after-reports of missions and attacks on Atlantis that convinced him that maybe they weren’t, but it was a close thing.
He caught them once, when he was walking to supply to talk to the Quartermaster about a boot shortage. He had taken a shortcut through the section where all the city’s supplies were kept and found his usual route blocked. Figuring that an inventory was being taken, or perhaps the Quartermaster had sent his minions to search for the missing boots, Richard simply chose another corridor and was about to take the stairs when he heard an odd humming sound. While there were those in the city, mostly among the scientific community, who were convinced Richard had had the curiosity trained out of him (if he’d ever had any to begin with), Richard Woolsey had his fair share of it, and when he heard the humming sound, his curiosity got the better of him.
Following the sound led him out into a balcony overlooking one of those many open plaza like areas that seemed to fill Atlantis. Richard found himself looking down at a cityscape in miniature, seemingly created from crates, creatively stacked tires of varying sizes, string, battered cartons with scenes in Sharpie marker drawn on their sides, boards, and surprisingly enough, Legos.
The humming sound was explained when two small race cars came zipping out from under a “bridge” made of two crates, six battered two by fours, two twisted steel rods, and some string before disappearing around an approximation of the Empire State building. He frowned.
“I’ve got you beat now, McKay!” a familiar voice shouted excitedly, and Richard closed his eyes with a grimace as the scientist answered.
“That’s what you think, Colonel, you just wait!”
There was a screech, and a bang before Sheppard said, “That’s cheating, McKay! We both pinky-swore, no more tri-cell LiPo packs in the cars!”
The cars drove wildly over the aforementioned bridge, and that was when Richard saw them, standing on the balcony opposite, remote controls in hand. Sheppard had a fixed look of concentration on his face while McKay’s mouth was fixed in a maniacal grin, eyes bugged out as he watched the cars with a glee that would have made Richard nervous if McKay had been anywhere but here, doing this.
“Pinky swears are for children, Colonel,” McKay said, tongue in the corner of his mouth as he turned his car around a Lego version of a Victorian mansion that Richard very much suspected was liberated from Sgt. Yamato’s collection, hopefully with his permission. “Who’s tripping on who’s skirt now?”
“Keep talking, Grandma,” said Sheppard gleefully as the black car with the red flames shot past the yellow car after heading down a straight that passed through something that might have been the Arc de Triomphe, made out of cardboard boxes with the words, Boots, Military, Men’s, crossed out. “I think your petticoat’s showing!”
“Gentlemen,” Richard said before it could go any further.
Both men looked up, startled, and the cars hit the tower of tires with a resounding crash.
“Really?” McKay said angrily, glaring at Richard. “You couldn’t wait two more minutes?”
“Is there something wrong, Mr. Woolsey?” Sheppard asked respectfully, and Richard ignored McKay’s muttered, “Suck-up.”
“I won’t ask what you’re doing, as it is fairly obvious what you’re doing,” Richard said, bringing his hands behind him and clasping them tightly together. “However, I would like to know where all of … this came from.” He nodded at the items that had become their track.
It was interesting that it was McKay who flinched guiltily, and Sheppard who simply grinned. “We got the majority of it from the junk and recycling rooms,” Sheppard said with an easy smile. Which didn’t reassure Richard at all. “And the rest of it is… on loan.”
McKay cleared his throat hastily. “Yes, so, if you don’t mind, we’d like to get back to it, so…”
“That’s fine,” said Richard, aware of an undercurrent that made him slightly uncomfortable. “Except I think you should return that particular stack,” and he pointed to the cartons of boots, “before the end of the day.”
“The Arc de Triomphe?” Sheppard asked, sounding wounded as he confirmed Richard’s suspicions. “But that’s the best part of the track!”
“Nevertheless, those cartons must be returned,” Richard said firmly. He’d found firmness was very much needed. At their affronted expressions, he tried not to smile. “Gentlemen, I do realize today is your off day, which is why I specified they should be returned before the end of this day. You do have some hours left, do you not?”
As usual, Sheppard caught on first. “All right, McKay, let’s get back to it!”
They back their cars away from the wall they’d crashed into and got back into it. Richard watched for a moment, then once he was satisfied they were happily absorbed again, he smiled and started to take his leave.
“Hey, McKay, the old folks home called, they want their scooter back!” Sheppard crowed gleefully.
“Come on, you’ve used that one before, it doesn’t count,” McKay said stiffly. “Wait, did you mod your car’s turning axis? I thought we agreed no mods!”
“Nope, no mods needed when you have a pilot at the wheel! And… yes!! I won!!”
Richard left the balcony, wondering what sort of outrageous behavior they’d see in the mess hall tonight, because it was a sure bet some sort of dare had been involved, with the losing party having to do something ridiculous.
“That’s not fair! You modded your car! There’s no way you should have won!” McKay complained.
“You can check it yourself, Rodney,” Sheppard said smugly. “I won fair and square. Your ass is mine tonight.”
Richard froze. Wha-a-at?
McKay sighed expressively. “Fine. I’ll make sure to bring the extra large tube of lube.”
“Will you give me a backrub first, to make sure I’m nice and relaxed?” McKay asked, sounding almost plaintive.
Sheppard laughed softly. “Sure, anything for my…”
Richard clamped his hands firmly over his ears, fleeing for his life before he had to hear whatever pet name Colonel Sheppard had for Dr. McKay. And if he was a little wild-eyed by the time he got to the Quartermaster’s office, who could blame him?
Of course, that wasn’t the only time he’d run into the Sheppard/McKay brand of crazy. Another time, he was walking down to the newly appointed IT department, laptop in hand, hoping they could figure out why it kept freezing up when he was writing reports. McKay had cleared an entire lab just for the computer geeks, led by the surprisingly formidable Dr. Miko Kusanagi, and it was Richard’s first opportunity to take a peek and see how it was going.
Instead, he heard the sound of two familiar voices arguing as he passed an open door and he reluctantly back-tracked and looked in.
McKay threw down a white card and said, “Twenty five points, Picard withstood a Cardassian interrogation and never gave one thing away!”
Sheppard smirked, and pulled a white card out of the collection fanned out in his hand. “Thirty points, Kirk was abandoned on a planet with a Gorn, and built a rocket launcher from stuff he found around him, and defeated an enemy that was like… ten times stronger than he was!”
“Yeah, but he didn’t kill him!” McKay said, waving his hands. “And you can’t just give Kirk thirty points for that!”
“Why not?” asked Sheppard reasonably. “You gave Picard twenty five!”
“Gentlemen,” Richard said, unable to stop himself. “What is going on here?”
Sheppard looked up and beamed at him. “Oh, hey, Mr. Woolsey! Rodney and I are just trying to decide which Star Trek captain is more bad-ass, Kirk or Picard.”
“I think Picard is more bad-ass, because he didn’t have to fight and get his shirt torn to prove how superior he was as a Captain,” said McKay, his arms crossed on his chest. “Plus, he was a scientist, and he also didn’t have a long line of alien women in every port.”
“No, just a few alien women in two or three ports,” retorted Sheppard. “And a lot of those alien women came on to Kirk, not the other way around. He didn’t sleep with all of them!”
“It was implied,” McKay said, laying his cards down deliberately, and Richard suddenly realized why his notecards had been disappearing recently. “Plus, Picard not only negotiated with the Klingons, he took part in their rituals and gained their respect!” He pulled a card out of his hand and laid it down on the stack between himself and Sheppard. “Forty points!”
“Kirk solved a murder, escaped a prison on Rura Penthe, and kept the Klingon Empire from self-destructing!” said Sheppard triumphantly, throwing down one of his cards. “Sixty points.”
Richard snorted and drew a blank card from the stack near Sheppard’s elbow, grabbed a Sharpie, and started writing. “Captain Kathryn Janeway went on a retirement cruise and chased down a Maquis ship, then got lost in the Delta Quadrant with her quarry. She convinced the Maquis crew survivors to join with the survivors on her own ship to give them all the best chance to make their way back to the Alpha Quadrant and kept crew and ship intact despite enemies from within and without, omnipotent beings, space anomalies, the Borg, and a time-traveling older version of herself, and she brought them all home. All for five thousand plus points of bad-assery, as you put it, and sheer awesome.”
Throwing down his card, Richard stood and took in their dumbfounded expressions. He couldn’t help smirking. “And that, gentlemen, is how you play the game.”
He turned and walked away, satisfied to have had the last word, for once.
Of course, he couldn’t help hearing, as he walked away, McKay say, “Janeway? Janeway??”
“Hey, I’m just impressed he knows what Star Trek is!” replied Sheppard.
Richard decided then and there to plan a Janeway retrospective in revenge.
This, of course, didn’t count the many times Richard was out and about in the city and had both the colonel and the doctor springing unexpectedly out of storage closets, Jumpers, from behind columns, or even one of the many alcoves located here and there on Atlantis. They were usually a combination of flushed and sweaty, sometimes their clothes were rumpled or in complete disarray, and one memorable time, Dr. McKay’s sparse hair had actually been mussed.
Richard definitely did not want to know about any of that. He considered himself a tolerant man, having several gay friends, and a cousin who was determinedly transgender, despite family opposition, so really, Richard personally didn’t care where his personnel chose to dip their collective wicks.
Officially, however, Richard was very aware that while the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was in the works, it hadn’t happened yet, and he really, most sincerely did not want to be placed in a position where he’d have to replace his chief military officer.
Richard wasn’t stupid.
So he pointedly ignored the bite marks on Sheppard’s neck that were visible because his shirt was unbuttoned and open at the throat, and he ignored the wet spots on their hastily done up BDUs, and he stolidly ignored the musky sent that wafted out after them when they emerged from their closets and unexpected alcoves, because he did not want to know. He did not need to know.
No, there was no way Richard could write about any of that in his memoirs. Not at all.