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Title: The Tale of the Seven Waiters
Author: esteefee
Rating: PG (lang)
Categories: Gen, Character Study, Declassification, post-Series
Words: 2,568
Warnings: None I don't think; lemme know.
Summary: The Stargate program is declassified and Dave invites John to dinner.
Beta: em_kellesvig
A/N: HAPPY SGA FEST EVERYONE!! It's just after midnight San Francisco time.


The Tale of the Seven Waiters

by esteefee



The first call John got after the declassification mess was from Dave. And, boy, Dave wasn't happy.

"You know, I thought, when you lit out in the middle of Dad's wake—"

"C'mon, it was almost over—"

"—And you said it was important—national security—that you were just making excuses. But of course, you weren't. And, John, I'm not trying to be an asshole when I say this, but your talent for understating things has gotten really terrible over the years."

"See, now that's an understatement right there." It could be John was a little too drunk for this conversation. As soon as he'd gotten back from the press conference he'd started in on the Fat Tire Ale.

Dave snorted in his ear. "We really do need to talk. Where are you right now?"

"In—well, nearish—San Francisco."

"I'll be there by tomorrow." Click.

So, that didn't go well.

The next afternoon, John sat in a senior staff meeting in which Rodney was crowing about the hundred and fifty-odd emails in his inbox that had piled up overnight from world-renown scientists who all wanted to get into his brain-pan. John felt amused and a little vindicated on his behalf. Teyla also looked a little smug. Ronon looked bored.

Woolsey tried to pull the meeting back on track; specifically, he outlined what their duties would be over the next month or so in terms of fielding press requests before they turned tail and headed back to Pegasus.

Just as the meeting was breaking up, Ronon still refusing to have anything at all to do with a People Magazine shoot, John's new cellphone buzzed for only the third time in its existence, startling him and making him bang his knee against the table.

"Cellphone," Rodney said archly. "Not a Wraith stunner or anything, although I see how you could mistake the two—"

"Shut up," John muttered, digging into his pocket for the stupid thing. "Oh. Gotta take this," he said, and tried to beat Ronon out the door, iffy at the best of times, but even less likely when Ronon was trying to dodge global fame as "The World's Sexiest Wraith Killer" or something.

"Hey, Dave," John said, his side tingling from Ronon's elbow. "What's up?"

"I'm at the Fairmont."

"Of course you are," John said. Sheesh.

"How soon can you meet me?"

John bit his lip and tried to recall the ferry schedule, but then remembered—declassified!—he could probably just file a flight plan with the FAA and be there in two shakes.

"John?"

"Does the Fairmont have a helipad? Never mind. I'll figure something out."

"Dinner at Gary Danko, then."

"Only if you're buying, bro."

Dave sighed. "Of course."

Turned out San Franciscans had a thing about helicopters, which John didn't know, but the FAA was pretty cool about it once John explained his little ship was completely soundless and had proximity sensors that bested any radar out there. They gave him a landing site on a pier that was sometimes used by emergency medevacs, and John landed so quietly he startled some dockworkers in a big way.

He walked from there. It was really weird just walking, alone, without his team, in an alien city filled with people. Right, it was Earth, but he'd only been to San Francisco once before, and that was for the press conference, where he'd been shuttled pretty much door-to-door.

John kept looking at strangers' faces, expecting something—he wasn't sure what. Recognition, maybe—not because of the declassification, but because, he realized, everywhere the Lanteans went in Pegasus, eventually they'd become pretty well known, thanks to the Genii's wanted posters or their reputations. It was a big galaxy, but the trade routes they'd traveled were well worn.

Here on Earth, though, he was just a stranger in a crowd. It was a good feeling. John found himself relaxing after a while, smiling at kids and little old ladies and getting waves and smiles in return.

This was what he'd been fighting for all those years, even if the reality always seemed so far away.

It was a steep climb up the hill on the final couple of blocks to Gary Danko, and John started sweating through his dress shirt, his jacket draped over his arm. The suit wasn't particularly fancy—it was the same one he'd worn to his father's funeral—and he knew Dave would give him flak over it, but it wasn't like John had a lot of opportunity or time to go shopping. Not that he cared, either, and probably that, more than anything, was what Dave would really like to skin him for.

That's what it all came down to, in the end.

"Good evening," the maître d' said, as John stepped through the door and slipped his jacket back on.

"Yeah, hi. Uh, reservation for Sheppard?"

The maître d' nodded, and with a pleasant smile, led him around to a plush booth in the corner of the room. And it was seriously plush—a rounded cubby, almost like a loveseat, with an oval table sitting in front. Dave was sitting on one end of the curve, a drink already in front of him along with his phone, which he was poking idly. He looked up as soon as John walked over.

"John," Dave said, and pushed himself out from his seat with some trouble. John bit back his grin and offered him a hand, turning it into an opportunity to clap his other hand on Dave's shoulder.

"Good to see you," John said, surprised to find that it was.

"You too," Dave said. The maître d' was patiently standing there; he'd pulled the table out to make it easier for John to get into the booth. "Let's sit down."

"Yeah, okay." John slid into the booth, and Dave sat opposite him, the maître d' pushing the table up and then adjusting Dave's drink in front of him. Another waiter appeared out of nowhere and put a water glass in front of John, filling it up from a dewy pitcher, and then a third waiter, a woman in identical black pants and white shirt with a long apron, rolled out a place setting in front of him: knives, forks, spoons, glasses and a butter dish. All of it was done smoothly, like an elaborate dance, one waiter disappearing and another taking their place. John blinked, a little awed and also a little weirded out by the alien ceremony.

Dave just acted like it was normal.

Another waiter appeared and put down a basket of bread and a butter dish and then left.

John pounced on the bread.

"So," Dave said. "Aliens."

John cringed for a second and then realized he didn't have to. "Right. Aliens. Everybody knows now. Weird."

Dave shook his head and tossed back the rest of his drink. "Jesus Christ, John."

"What? It's my—"

"Don't you dare say it's your job," Dave said, almost hissing, and John suddenly realized this must not be Dave's first drink of the day, not by a long shot. "You always say that. It's your excuse for every goddamned thing."

As pissed off as Dave apparently was, though, it was interesting how his voice hadn't risen above the hum of conversation coming from the tables around them.

"Aliens kind of came with the territory," John said, shrugging. "You know, when I went to another galaxy."

"Right," Dave said heavily. "I got that part. That's why none of my messages reached you."

Maybe here they were finally getting to the reason for this meet up. "Did you try to—was dad sick before the..."

"No. Not that he told me, anyway. You know him. Or I guess you didn't," Dave said bitterly.

"Nice."

"Well, what am I supposed to say? You left, John. I stuck around."

"And you didn't want to."

"Doesn't matter whether I did or not, does it? Somebody had to."

Oh, now that was totally unfair.

A new waiter appeared like a savior, this one short and blonde. "May I get you a drink, sir?"

John hadn't looked at the drink menu. But boy, he really wanted one. Too bad. "I'll just have a coffee, thanks." He grimaced at Dave's snort. "It's regs. I'm flying back."

"I'll have another," Dave said to the waiter, who nodded and left. "Regs like that, and you still like your job."

"More than you, I guess."

"I like my job just fine." Dave's jaw was clenched so tight, John figured he'd need dentures soon.

"Hey, nobody chained you to the staircase, all right? You were free to take off just like me. The company would still be around. Dad may have called it his baby, but it's not like you had to be the one to change its diapers or something."

Dave's blink conceded the point. "Well, it's my baby, now."

John recognized that look; he'd seen it in the mirror often enough. "Okay, then. Mazel tov."

Dave nodded, seemingly satisfied.

It still didn't explain why they were here, though.

John's coffee came, along with a waiter whose sole purpose was to, no joke, scrape all the crumbs from the table cloth using a silver butter knife type thing then dust them carefully into a silver bowl.

John really wished Teyla were here. She'd get such a kick out of this. She would be giving John really subtle, disbelieving looks right about now—nothing the natives would notice, of course.

His coffee was excellent, as was the seared beef filet Dave had pre-ordered for him, and the asparagus drowned in some sort of lemon cream sauce that would make Rodney scream for an EpiPen, and the potato gratin that Ronon would have filched off John's plate in a heartbeat. John ate in a sort of numb fugue—he hadn't had food this good since a tiny restaurant in Afghanistan, and he kind of felt like he was in some kind of a dream. When he looked up from his dish, Dave was staring at him with more than a little amusement, his own plate still only half-empty.

"Looks like you enjoyed that."

"Are you kidding?" John waved his fork. "Beef! Real beef."

Dave chuckled. "Maybe I should order you another steak."

"Maybe." John thought about it. He could always take a doggie bag, if they did that in high-class joints like this. He couldn't even remember anymore. "Nah. But thanks."

"Glad you enjoyed it." Dave did look pleased, and John relaxed a little. Maybe they could get through this without bloodshed.

A waiter appeared—a brand-new one, which made seven by his count—and swooped off with their plates. His coffee waiter then showed up with a fresh drink for Dave, and refilled John's cup.

"Thanks," John said, and she grinned, holding his eyes a little long, long enough for Dave to make a disgusted sound and for John to smirk.

Dave sounded just like Rodney.

Their server reappeared and presented them with desserts, a lemon tart for John and some sort of chocolate cake thing for Dave.

"Hey," John said. "You remembered."

Dave nodded, looking sheepish. "Well, I remembered you used to bug Mom about it until she made it for you. I never liked it that much."

John forked a bite and had to close his eyes for a second because, Jesus. Lemon tart.

"So," Dave said. "Tell me about your 'job.'" He shook his head and tipped back his drink.

"I thought you watched the press conference."

"That's for the little people. Tell me the real story."

"It's, well. It's..." Maybe he was on a food high or something, because he did want to tell Dave about it. Dave knew him, maybe better than anyone could. He'd been there when John fell off the roof of the stables that time trying to mount Misty's Gal on the fly. "It's the best damned job I'll ever have," John said. "The toughest, too. They trust me to watch over them. They trust me to make the right decisions, and the hard ones, too. It's goddamned terrifying. And I live—Christ, Dave, I live in the most amazing city in two galaxies, and it flies. It flies. Can you beat that?"

Dave's mouth twisted as if he'd bitten into John's tart. "Damn it, John."

"What?" John put down his fork.

"Do you remember what I wanted to be when I was a kid?"

"Before or after fireman, deep-sea diver, and astronaut, because I remember—"

"I wanted to be an architect, you asshole. Remember? Remember those buildings I used to make for our train set?"

"Oh, yeah." John grinned. "We got those crazy Swedish blocks, and you built that tunnel with a tower and all those little buildings around the tracks, and we'd send the train down into the tunnel..." Every damned time, John was sure the tower would topple over, but it would just shiver and tremble but stay upright. "That was pretty damned cool."

Dave was shaking his head. "I saw those pictures of your Atlantis and all I could think was, John is living there in that beautiful alien tower over the sea. God, John. What an incredible structure." He took a bite of his cake.

"This'll kill you: it's over ten thousand years old. They think maybe even millions."

Dave swallowed and licked his lips. "Christ almighty."

"Listen—maybe I can try to get clearance for you to come visit."

"Seriously?" There was no reason for Dave to look so young right then, like a little kid begging for a comic book. And anyway, John wasn't a sucker for that look anymore.

"I'll make it happen," John promised.

Dave grinned widely.

John hurried to change the subject. "How's Rina doing these days?"

"She's doing great. She says to tell you now that you're an intergalactic pilot you have no excuse not to swing by and see us."

"Ha. Right." John had always liked Dave's wife.

Dave smiled and sat back, looking satisfied.

It was only after they'd finished dessert, and more waiters came and used their silver wands to clean off the tablecloth and offer the check, that John thought to wonder if the whole point of the meal was just one big trade negotiation with a visit to Atlantis being the item on the table.

"Thanks for the meal," John said as they stood outside, and he shivered a little in his thin jacket.

"Anytime," Dave said, "I mean it." And he turned John's awkward backslap into a half-hug before stepping into a waiting cab.

So then John thought he was being stupid. Dave was family, and even if he might be playing with John like a retriever with a chew-toy, that kind of was what family was for, after all.

At least John finally had someone to use him again.

But Dave's world of always-clean tablecloths and fine meals and eighteen year-old whiskey—nice as it was to visit, John would rather go home, where he'd get his ass handed to him for not bringing leftovers, and he could tell the tale of the seven waiters and get a disbelieving smile, and a cranky scientist would bitch about smelling lemon on his breath.

Home to Atlantis, where the food was crap, but the people were gold.


End.


Ronon made People Magazine!
Scientific Canadian Cover.
John makes GQ with $300 Style.
About Time - the Women of the SGC.
Strength of Character - Richard Woolsey.
The Ride of a Lifetime - the puddlejumper on Aviation Week.
City of Lost Dreams - the sequel, or, Dave gets his promised visit to Atlantis.
Dreams Found - Atlantis makes Architectural Digest, byline by Dave Sheppard.



Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
rissabby
Jul. 9th, 2014 11:17 am (UTC)
Luv the artwork. Especially the tattoo insert.

I'm in sync with this Dave. If I had a sib who was important in Atlantis, I'd be angling for an invitation too.

The food looks and sounds yummy, but those plates are small. Ronon would have to order multiple portions.
esteefee
Jul. 9th, 2014 11:26 am (UTC)
Thankee!

Mischief is fully responsible for coming up with the text on the artwork. The tattoo insert had me cackling unattractively for a full ten minutes after I added it. <3
brumeier
Jul. 9th, 2014 12:52 pm (UTC)
This was great! Love how the lunch with Dave was just as much an alien ritual as anything in Pegasus for John. And how much he enjoyed the food. After all that time making do in another galaxy I can see the appeal of things like real beef.

All that citrus! LOL! All I could think about was how pissed off Rodney would be. Ha!

Loved the magazine cover, too. Of course they'd want Ronon on the cover! LOL!
esteefee
Jul. 10th, 2014 02:44 am (UTC)
Thanks, B! Man, all those zany Earth rituals, seriously. <3

saphirablue
Jul. 9th, 2014 07:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, John. Oh, Dave.

I love how you kept saying "the natives" and rituals and everything else. It drives home that John is at home in Atlantis.

I also love the cover and "The World's Sexiest Wraith Killer". XD

Thank you!
esteefee
Jul. 10th, 2014 02:45 am (UTC)
hee, more covers are coming. :D

thanks, saphira!
saphirablue
Jul. 10th, 2014 06:22 am (UTC)
Oh, awesome! :)
titan5
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:45 am (UTC)
Awesome!! I loved John imagining how Teyla would react to the waiter cleaning the table. Echoing what has already been said, I truly loved all the ways it demonstrated how Atlantis and the Pegasus galaxy are John's true home now and Earth is like an alien planet. This made my night!!! Gosh, I just miss them so much!!!!
esteefee
Jul. 10th, 2014 02:46 am (UTC)
thanks! I hope you are working something up for sheppard_hc, babe. you're one of my faves. <3
titan5
Jul. 10th, 2014 11:57 am (UTC)
Wow, thanks!!!!!!

I am actually working on a story. It's been so long it's taking me forever though. I spend a lot of time staring at the computer trying to figure out how to say what I want to say. I think I just need to spend a day on the computer and get the juices flowing again.
londonsabre
Jul. 10th, 2014 05:12 pm (UTC)
Loved this!!
esteefee
Jul. 10th, 2014 05:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

<3 Be sure to check out mischief's Scientific Canadian magazine cover that goes with, it's a hoot.
mary_alice
Jul. 11th, 2014 03:04 am (UTC)
Oh, this was funny - those wacky Earth rituals! (Seem pretty weird to me, too, actually.) And I agree that if I had a relative (3rd cousin twice removed, by marriage, even) that was stationed on Atlantis, there would be absolutely no doubt that I was angling for an invite! The magazine covers were great; poor Ronon. ;)
esteefee
Jul. 11th, 2014 05:52 pm (UTC)
Me, I'd be angling in a heartbeat. :D Thanks, mary_alice. There are now two more covers!
nacinom
Jul. 11th, 2014 12:57 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed this short story at least as much as John enjoyed the food. Making lemon tart John's favorite dessert was one of the must fun of the many excellent details you peppered in the piece. The covers are great too. Thanks for sharing this, maybe it's the inspiration I need to get back to my own SGA fanfiction.
esteefee
Jul. 11th, 2014 05:53 pm (UTC)
oh, that would be good news! :)) happy SGA anniversary, and thank you!
rubygirl29
Aug. 3rd, 2014 02:42 pm (UTC)
These are fabulous! I love the interaction between John and Dave, it's exactly as awkward and tentative as I imagined, but at least they're moving forward now. Dave's reaction to Atlantis is perfect. The graphics for the magazine covers are great! My favorite is the Time cover of the Women of Stargate. I want to read that issue!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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