Sep. 6th, 2008 02:54 pm
shepcrew: (John Sheppard -- Default)
[personal profile] shepcrew
Shortly after this.

John sat at the bar, a glass of un-touched whiskey rotating between his fingers absently as thoughts of Atlantis and how everyone was getting along without him filled his mind. It had taken him another forty-five minutes to kill the rest of his chips, as he kept the trend of making more then he could spend. In all, he was sure he ended up losing a lot more than that original hundred he had changed at the blackjack table.

He barely noticed when someone sat beside him and placed an order with the bartender, though the movements he could see out of the corner of his eye tipped him off to his impromptu companion. He was feeling unsociable, though, so he kept his attention on his drink and let the other person have their privacy.

"If I didn’t know any better," the voice of the woman from the blackjack table said, finally breaking the silence, "I’d think you lost on purpose."

John closed his eyes briefly and heaved a mental sigh. He shrugged lightly, still not giving in to the obvious demand that he look at her. "I woulda lost that hand either way."

"Yes, but staying on a seventeen would have left you some dignity." The smile in her words was palpable.

John dropped his head slightly in morbid amusement. "Couldn’t let Tex go down in flames all by his lonesome."

"A decision meant to assuage some residual guilt stemming from that 'never leave a man behind' flyboy idiom, or a genuine desire to debase yourself to the level of an over-paid rich-boy with nothing better to do with his money than gamble?"

John blinked, and finally gifted her with an irritated look. "Neither, actually," he replied in clipped tones. He downed his drink in one shot and moved to leave.

"Which means I’m right on both counts," she casually tossed over her shoulder with a triumphant smirk.

John hesitated for a split, a dozen responses each vying for the privilege of being uttered, before deciding to hold his tongue and continue on. Getting into a verbal sparring match with this woman wouldn’t be worth it.

He wandered around the casino in a seemingly random pattern, moving closer to the exit with each turn and switchback. How close to the mark had she hit, he wondered. Was this another one of those things that he needed to ponder while on this vacation? Were his decisions so cut-and-dry in being easily labelled, or was something more complex at work here? God, he didn’t know.

What he did know was that he had made a few too many snap decisions. This trip wasn’t meant as a form of repentance, he knew. Perhaps what he really ought to do was examine the items in question and go from there.

So, point of contention number one: Giving a virtual stranger not only the ‘Gate address to Atlantis and admitting that it still existed, but giving them the means to bypass security and infiltrate the base, leaving everyone unprotected and unaware of the real danger.

John admitted that he had been a little intoxicated by a pretty face in this, and his gut feelings about women in general had always been a little wonky. Hell, he’d be the first to admit that he tended to overlook the dangers that lurked behind a pretty visage. He was a guy, after all, and his natural reaction to a sexy woman was pretty much programmed into him from conception. But he was usually a lot more cautious when dealing with alien women.

He scrubbed hand over his face, recalling Chaya, recalling Mara. Both were perfect examples of both sides of the coin. One relationship was almost beneficial, before they found out the truth, and the other had almost been a disaster, and not just for him. Hell, it’s wasn’t even just his team that almost got into a bunch of trouble, he had Carson in on that one.

Then there was Teer. Possibly the healthiest relationship with the opposite sex he had ever had in his life – not including what passed as a relationship with Teyla and Elizabeth – and that wasn’t saying much. But the thing with Teer wasn’t exactly security breeching. It was babysitting and playing therapist for a bunch of Ascended wannabes.

So what, exactly, made Inara different. What made Mia different, for that matter?

Inara...Inara was an enigma. The fact that they had met in a place that was suspended from the normal laws of right and wrong allowed him to shut off that part of him that would have kept a respectable distance and would have turned flirtation into a defence mechanism, as it always did. Would she had been so taken with him had they met in the real world, where he was Lieutenant-Colonel John Sheppard, United States Airforce and Military Commander of Atlantis Base? He didn’t know. He didn’t think Inara had truly seen him in that light, even now.

Mia invoked something inside him that he had never felt before. Well, not in this particular way, at any rate. He recognized the Big Brother Complex that had manifested when they had stepped out of the Jumper and had taken in the situation. He had no idea how old Mia was, but it didn’t matter. She was injured, partly because of him, and defenceless and – the fact that those guys were bounty hunters aside – in real trouble. He had painted her as a kid-sister who had landed herself into a heap of trouble and now needed her older brother to bail her out.

John shook his head. He had no idea where that had come from, but at least he was honest to himself in naming his feelings. Was it enough to justify his actions to Elizabeth? No, probably not.

And this brought him to point of contention number two: bringing back not just one, but four virtual strangers to Atlantis without consulting Elizabeth. When the hell did he, John Sheppard, start doing that? He sighed heavily. What he should have done, he realized, was send in a call to Atlantis asking for a Marine backup and Carson’s presence. He should have established a camp and kept them all subdued in some way, shape or form. He should have questioned Mia and the others on the planet.

Then, and only then, should he have made a decision. God, he had screwed up.

John looked up and blinked, his thoughts halting for the moment. There was that woman again, leaning against a pillar as if she were waiting for him. The smile as she pushed off and blocked his way confirmed that suspicion. He stepped around her, but she spun around him in a way that left him with the pillar a few feet behind him and his exit vector blocked.

He frowned. "Are you stalking me?" he asked.



"Because you intrigue me, flyboy." Her lips turned up in a tiny smile.

"Please stop calling me that," he...not exactly asked, so much as demanded with as much politeness his annoyance could muster.

She stepped closer, entering his personal space. "I don’t have anything else to call you," she said coyly, managing what John figured was her impression of a sexy pout.

"Yeah, I’d prefer to keep it that way," he replied, putting distance between them.

"Oh, c’mon," she insisted. "You’re no fun. Tell me your rank, then."

He raised a brow. "What, so you can figure out whether or not you should salute me?" A thought occurred to him. "And how can you be sure I’m still a current member of the flyboy elite? I could just be making it up, you know."

"Mmm, I’d thought of that. You don’t strike me as the pretending kind. C’mon, tell me what your rank is," she said, dropping her voice and stepping closer again.

"Fine," he replied, holding his hands up in submission. "I’m a Major."

"Was that so hard?" She grinned, placing her hands on his shoulders, laughing as he removed them and stepped away. "Alright, Major. Have it your way. I’ll get you, eventually. I always do."

"Yeah, good luck with that," he muttered as she walked away. He stood staring at the spot where she had disappeared into the crowd for a long moment before turning and heading for the exit.

To Be Continued...

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