Maybe Evan had misheard. After all, John could not possibly have said what Evan thought he'd just said.
As Evan glared at him, John winced and said, "My mom ordered me to come over, and trust me, she made it pretty clear that nothing short of my death would be an excuse to not show up."
"You can't spring this sort of thing on me, John!" Jesus, he'd only found out that John's mother was still alive a few months before, when he happened to see a letter from her while sorting through John's mail. As a rule, they didn't talk about things like their childhoods and other such feeling-laden horrors, but even for John that had been a little absurd.
"This is probably for the best, anyways," John muttered. "She was expecting me for Thanksgiving back when we got kicked out of Atlantis, but then we retook the city and I couldn't go. If she had found out I was in the area and didn't see her, I'd be a dead man for sure."
Evan sat back in his seat and sighed as John took an off ramp and started heading out into the suburbs. "Every time. Every time we go off-world together, something weird happens. And, as usual, it's your fault."
"She's your mother, it's your fault," Evan said before they could sound even more like bickering five-year-olds. Or like John did with McKay, which was essentially the same thing.
"I think you've got cause and effect mixed up there, Lorne."
Evan rolled his eyes. "We're getting off track here. You, talk, now. Or else I'm going to have Teyla kick your ass."
"You know, threats aren't a sign of a healthy relationship." Evan continued to stare, and eventually John took a deep breath. "Okay. There's not really that much to say. She's a brigadier general in the Air Force, does a lot of logistical planning over in the Pentagon."
Knowing there had to be more than that, Evan quirked an eyebrow. "So she's a hardass general, it’s not like she could be any worse than Landry or the rest of the idiots we've been briefing."
"She's my mom," John said like Evan was an idiot for not grasping the situation. "Also, we, ah, don't always see eye to eye."
John glared at him. "Could you try to be supportive here?"
"John, I am supportive. In this case, I'm supporting you by forcing you to confront your feelings."
"Hate you so much," John mumbled. Louder, he went on, "Look, it's not that I don't love her, I do. I like spending time with her, too. It's just that sometimes she can be a little...."
When John trailed off, Evan raised his eyebrow and asked, "Overbearing? Too much like you?"
"Yeah, to both." John shrugged. "You two will probably get along just fine. It's me I'm worried about. It's not that I mean to annoy her, but it just sort of happens. You know, she says Air Force Academy and I choose MIT. She says fighter pilot, I go with test pilot and then pararescue. She says grandchildren, I say, well, you know. Not too likely, all things considered."
"I get the picture." Well, at least that gave Evan some idea of what to prepare for. Honestly, he suspected that John was overreacting a little. Anyone who'd brought up John couldn't possibly be all that bad, and whatever he thought about himself John did have a knack for making people like him and getting along. After a minute, Evan asked, "Your dad still alive, or any other relatives I should know about?"
"My father and I don't see eye to eye on the entire gay thing," John said with a fierce scowl. Evan knew better than to push on that issue, and so he remained silent. "I have an older brother, but he works with Dad. There's a heard of aunts, uncles, and cousins, a lot of them in the service, but they're not likely to show up. And there's Nancy, of course."
"My ex. I told you about my marriage before, remember?"
Evan stared at him. "No. No, you've never mentioned a marriage."
"Oh, right. That was Ronon, wasn't it?"
"Jesus." Evan resisted the urge to bang his head against the dashboard. Every time Evan thought he was safe, John would drop another bomb. "You know, I think Colonel Carter may be on to something with her idea about communication training. How did you get married, anyways?"
"It's a long story," was John's answer, and Evan didn't feel like pressing further - chances were that John hadn't seen it coming anyways and missed all the important details. There was probably alcohol involved, or an angry father with a shotgun. He did wonder how long it took the poor woman to realize what she'd gotten herself into, though. Instead, he addressed a more important matter.
"She know you're gay?" John had implied it, with that comment about grandchildren - and that was a thought to save for later - but Evan wanted to be sure.
"Oh, yeah. She found that out when I was sixteen. Don't worry, that won't be a problem."
Worried about the way John had emphasized 'that', Evan asked, "Okay, then does she know you're seeing someone?"
"Not really." John shrugged awkwardly. "I mean, I've kind of hinted at it, but I can't really think of a good way to tell her. I mean, normally I'd be sure she'd like you, and she'd be happy for us, but...."
"But I'm one of your subordinates, and not everyone in the family shares your attitude towards rules. Got it." John looked pained and nodded. Evan reached over to put his hand on John's arm, and softly said, "Hey, don't worry about it. I knew we'd have to hide before we got involved."
"I still feel like shit, though," John complained. "I mean, we didn't have to hide from your family."
"My mom's a hippie art professor, not a general, John," Evan said with a smile. That situation couldn't have been more different, because if anything his mom was glad to see her son breaking away from military traditions she didn't understand. His sister's kids had absolutely adored him, too, and he'd gotten along with them pretty well, which had raised a few hopes of his own. "I'm perfectly fine with us just being coworkers for a few hours. It's no different than any other day."
Evan was glad to see John relax a little, and decided to change the subject to something less troublesome. About thirty minutes later, they finally pulled up into the driveway of a generic white house located in what looked like a fairly well-off neighborhood. John lead Evan inside, not even bothering to knock, through an immaculate living room and down a hall lined with pictures. Evan started to slow when he spotted one of a small boy with fluffy hair, but John shoved him along. They stopped when they came to the kitchen, with John hesitating at the threshold and Evan waiting to see what he did.
"Stop lurking and get us some lemonade," someone inside the kitchen said. John jumped and then slunk across the room to the refrigerator. Evan followed him into the room but stayed back and observed the scene before him. Standing at a table by the windows was a woman who had to be John's mother. She as tall as him, had thick grey hair that was pulled back in a tight knot, and her ears were a spitting image of John's. Her posture, on the other hand, couldn't have been more different than his. She held herself with the kind of tight military bearing that Evan had rarely seen since being assigned to the city, and she was setting the table with textbook-perfect precision.
She didn't look up until she was done, then slowly turned around. She and John looked at each other for a while, before she said with a blank face, "Colonel Sheppard."
"General Sheppard," he replied, equally expressionless.
"Rumor has it you've somehow managed to snag a promotion."
"Well, you know how the rumor mill can be, especially about me."
"Usually they don't say anything this positive, although I've heard that satanic rituals were involved."
"I found a fresh supply of virgin's blood," John said, with the slightest hint of a grin. "It's also gets rid of wrinkles."
"And here I was thinking that was just good genetics." The general finally cracked a smile and opened her arms, and John stepped forward to embrace her. "Congratulations, John. It's good to see you again."
"You too, mom."
They parted and John's mother turned to Evan, offering him her hand. "Grace Sheppard. Evan Lorne, I presume?"
Evan stepped forward and shook. Despite her age, her grip was still strong. "That's me, ma'am. How'd you know?"
"It was process of elimination," she said. "John's only mentioned a few people when he's bothered to write home. You're a male and not 'huge with awesome dreadlocks.' You also stood politely out of the way, unlike his last guest, who went straight to the refrigerator and complained about the presence of orange juice."
Evan grinned. "Nice to know I'm one of the chosen few."
"I've heard good things about you. The Pentagon gossip-mongers have said quite a bit about the man who's been keeping my son out of trouble."
"I do my best, ma'am," Evan replied. "I'm not quite sure I want to know why I'm being gossiped about, though." Although if they had to gossip, Evan supposed that was a better thing to be said than some of the alternatives.
"It's not like we have anything better to do. John showing up is the most interesting thing to happen since Colonel Kepler's son eloped with a Mountie."
"I'm special like that," John said, handing them glasses of lemonade.
"I know all about the kind of special attention people give him," Evan told Grace, thinking of about half the times Team Sheppard had gotten into trouble due to John being 'special.' John crossed his arms and gave him an annoyed look.
"Quiet. If I'd wanted to hear more of those complaints, I'd have brought McKay."
"Not if you valued your life! You two are probably tired, go ahead and sit down," Grace said as she motioned them to toward and moved over to the stove. Evan hesitated for a second and then went to help her instead. She looked like she didn't know whether to be annoyed or pleased, and settled for saying, "Nice to see he knows people with manners. Some of his friends act like they were raised in a pig sty."
"You told me to sit down," John protested lazily from the table.
"You should see him and the other men on his team in the mess," Evan told her, as they made up plates. She'd fixed grilled chicken, green beans, and cheesy potatoes that smelled delicious and, even better, weren't blue like the ones they got at the city. "It's a wonder Teyla hasn't killed them yet. Although, now that I think about it, there was one time his team was meeting with -"
"That's classified," John called out. "You can't tell her anything."
"Oops." Evan and Grace shared a smile as they carried the plates over. Evan sat down across from John, with Grace to his right. He wasn't terribly surprised to find that the Sheppard family was one that definitely believed in talking during a meal, although Grace took the time to swallow before speaking.
"Speaking of your team, how have things been going with deep space telemetry?" she asked with a mischievous smile. "I saw you got another Distinguished Flying Cross."
"Same as usual, really," John answered. "And before you ask, it was killer penguins again."
"Little bastards are dangerous," Evan added with a smile.
"Must be, with the rate he's getting Purple Hearts," she said pointedly.
John shrugged. "It's the beaks you have to watch out for. How about you? Still busy with the Iraq draw down?"
"I got reassigned to a new project, actually," Grace answered. "It's quite interesting. We're working with Admiral Hodges' staff to figure out the optimal positions for some resupply posts."
"Where at?" Evan asked with a frown, trying to think of why the Navy and Air Force would need something like that. He didn't think there'd been any political changes that would warrant that sort of thing, but then, the SGC had weird ideas about what counted as news worth sending in the databursts.
Grace twirled her fork towards the ceiling. "Oh, out and about. Even with the gate making the supply chain short, it's surprisingly hard to figure out where the best locations would be for ships to put in. John, close your mouth."
John swallowed and sputtered, "So not fair to spring that on me."
"But it was amusing."
"I have to agree, Sheppard," Evan said with a grin. "Did you just find out, ma'am?"
"Last week, actually. It was probably the most astounding thing I'd ever heard, when the told me." She snorted softly, then added, "Although discovering how many times all that stood between America and destruction was Jack O'Neill was unsettling."
Evan nodded and solemnly said, "He scares us all, ma'am."
She laughed at that. "I was hoping you could tell me about Atlantis. I've seen some pictures and read the descriptions, but I can't imagine they do it any justice."
John and Evan looked at each other, and John started, "The city's," he hesitated, searching for a word, "the city's wonderful."
"It's the most beautiful place I've ever seen," Evan continued, knowing how hard it was to put Atlantis into words that would mean anything to an outsider. It had to be even harder for John, because the city meant more to him than to anyone else. How could you explain a city that wormed its way into your heart, a city that, even if it probably didn't think for itself - and the verdict was still out on that - was certainly more alive than any inanimate object had a right to be?
Start with what you know, his mom would have said, and so he did. "Sunrises are always incredible, and sunsets too. The entire city reflects it back at you if you stand in the right place, like one of the upper balconies on the control tower. It's pretty at night, too, because the entire city glitters with thousands of lights - we gave up on turning them off, the city doesn't seem to like going dark and they run off solar power anyways. And the double moonrises are brilliant, of course."
"We get a nice ocean breeze all the time, too," John added. "No surfing, though, at least not in the city. Or on the mainland."
John and Evan both shuddered, and when Grace gave them a quizzical look, Evan explained, "Seals, ma'am. With teeth. Colonel Sheppard and Captain Barnes tried to go surfing a few weeks after we moved the city to the new planet and they ate the boards."
"Oh, poor boy," Grace said with a laugh. "That must have been horrible."
"He moped for weeks," Evan told her with a laugh of his own.
"Anyways," John said with a good-natured glare, "Who needs to surf when you've got the jumpers? You wouldn't believe how cool those are. Hypersonic, exo-atmo capable, and with the inertial dampeners you can pull thirty, forty gees, do stuff that'd tear even the best fighter to shreds. Isn't that right, Lorne?"
"Yes, sir." Evan eyed John suspiciously and got a cheeky grin in return. If John brought up his disastrous first flight, where John had started showing off and Evan had ended up puking in the rear, the man wouldn't be getting laid for months.
John apparently had at least some common sense, because he said, "The best part is that they read your mind. You just need to figure out what you want to do and they'll take it from there."
"It's sort of like riding a horse," Evan told her. "It's smart enough to watch out for most trouble and help you out. The analogy fits in more ways than one, because they're all got their own personalities."
"Really?" Grace asked, looking fascinated.
Evan nodded. "They're not self-aware, but they're still all unique. Some are a little more responsive or better for beginners, some have favorite pilots, that sort of thing."
"The city's the same way," John said. "Perfectly heated showers, lights never too bright, the works. It even sings you to sleep at when you've got nightmares."
"Huh. You know, I don't think I've heard about anything like that," Grace said after a moment. Her lips quirked up as she asked, "Leaving things out of your reports, John?"
"Well, it's kind of hard to write down without making it sound really creepy," John said sheepishly. "The last thing we want is people thinking we've all been compromised."
That was a little too close to the truth for Evan's tastes, and so he decided to steer the conversation in a different direction. He latched on to something Grace had said earlier. "The city's not even half of what makes it so great, though. It's the people, really. You said you met Dr. McKay?"
Grace laughed. "Oh, yes. I can't imagine how he's managed to avoid being killed in his sleep."
"He grows on you," John responded. Evan nodded quickly in agreement and added on, "Once he's saved your life a couple times, you get used to the yelling."
From there they took turns telling stories about the rest of the expedition: brilliant scientists as brave as any marine, doctors who cared for patients with all they had, soldiers who would lay down their lives without hesitation, technicians and support staff that worked as tirelessly as their leaders - all members of a community bound together more by camaraderie and respect than orders or simple necessity. As they talked, John and Evan helped themselves to second servings, the years on Atlantis having taught them to take any chance to eat well.
"It sounds like an amazing place," Grace said quietly once they finished, "and an amazing group of people."
"I wouldn't give it up for anything." John answered. "Well, almost anything."
Grace got a thoughtful look on her face, and John eyed his mother like he was expecting something. "What?"
She leaned forward with a shark-like grin. "So - small base with lots of civilians, not all that much to do in your free time - found yourself anyone yet?"
"Leaving aside the constant emergencies, you'd be amazed at how much there is to do, actually," John replied. "We've got a great Halo server."
"Oh ho. You're evading the question. Now I'm intrigued."
"Ah, it's complicated," John said after a moment's hesitation. Evan looked up from his plate and over at John, not sure what he would say in the face of direct questions.
"More evasion? In my experience, that and the word 'complicated' usually means, 'yes, but you won't like the answer.'" John's eyes made contact with Evan's just for a moment, but that was all that took. Anger rising in her voice, Grace bit out, "You can not be serious."
Evan could see this was going to spiral out of control fast, and immediately went into damage control mode. Picking something that was close enough to the truth that John could run with it, he said, "No, ma'am, it's not like that at all. He started dating Doctor McKay about-"
"Lorne. Evan," John said, interrupting him before he could finish. He crossed his arms, a determined look on his face, and told Grace, "You're right. I'm in a relationship with Evan, and have been for about seven months."
Evan winced and rubbed his forehead, muttering under his breath, "Never mind." He should have known better than to expect John to back down, no matter what he might have said earlier.
"Wonderful. That's just wonderful." The general crossed her arms and sat back. "What's the matter, John? Disobeying orders not quite as exciting as it used to be, so you thought you'd try a little fraternization?"
"It's not like that at all," John replied, crossing his own arms. "Is it so hard to believe that I might actually have a stable relationship?"
"I can believe that, just like I can believe half the attraction is your authority issues." Grace didn't even look away from John as she said, "Major, would you mind giving us some privacy?" in a tone that made it absolutely clear that the correct answer was, "yes, ma'am.""
Evan started to sit his utensils down and comply when John angrily said, "Stay right there," so he froze in place while John continued, "My supposed 'authority issues' have nothing to do with it. He's smart, witty, and caring, not to mention hot."
Normally Evan found John's awkward attempts at praising him amusing and endearing. General Sheppard, by all appearances, did not feel the same way. "Oh, that's fine, then. It's not like half your expedition doesn't fall into those categories."
"He also does rescue missions and paperwork." John's expression shifted to one of mild disappointment - not real disappointment, Evan could tell, but the fake kind he used on Weir and Carter whenever he got denied permission to do something fun. Evan didn't think for a second it would work this time. "You know, I never expected you to have such a homophobic reaction."
"Spare me." Grace rolled her eyes and gave a slight shake of her head, almost exactly like Evan had seen John do dozens of times. "If I was going to object to that, I'd have done so when I walked in on you and that quarterback."
John shrugged that off. "Then what's your problem?"
Clearly incredulous, she answered, "What's my - you're fucking a subordinate, that's my problem!"
"So? It's not like either of us are abusing our relationship."
"It's still illegal!"
Starting to sense that this could go on for a while, Evan stared down at his plate and after a moment did what he did whenever this happened back home - he ignored the argument and started to finish his dinner. If he could eat through McKay, Radek, and John all yelling about some stupid jumper issue, he could probably manage two Sheppards. Maybe he'd get lucky, and some planetary crisis would pop up and end the argument like usual.
"It's against regs to prevent abuse and keep relationships from impacting decision making," John pointed out. "And like I said, that's not happening."
"If you say so, then I accept that. The thing is, in the real world, there's these things called courts-martial that can really screw up your day," Grace said, her tone more in line with a parent dealing with a five-year-old rather than an grown man.
"Really? I never though about that- no, wait, I did. I am capable of making rational decisions about my life, you know."
"I'm not saying that you can't, I'm saying that half the time you refuse to do so."
"This time I did, and believe me, we both knew exactly what we were getting into."
"Excuse me for worrying about my son's life." Grace's voice was still full of anger, but Evan could hear a hint of sad desperation there as well. "If this came out, I wouldn't be able protect you again."
Something about that sentence seemed to have struck home, because John's eyes narrowed and he growled, "What's that supposed to mean?"
Grace looked away and shook her head. "Nothing. I shouldn't have brought it up."
"No, I want to know what you did."
She sighed. "After Afghanistan. Colonel Cippolla and I made sure that you got a flight assignment."
"What?" John threw up his hands and stood, and Grace was out of her seat an instant later. "Are you telling me you pulled strings to get me cleared by the inquiry board?"
"No, you were cleared because your CO went to bat for you, and because the man who gave the recall order was an idiot." Grace rolled her eyes slightly. "Still, you don't think they'd have let you set foot in a helicopter again, do you?"
"I don't believe this." John started pacing beside the table, and pointed a finger at his mother. "You promised me you wouldn't interfere with my career. You promised!"
"This is exactly why I didn't tell you," she shot back. "You should be grateful. Antarctica might not be the best assignment, but you were still flying."
"I didn't need your help!"
Evan sighed to himself. If they got any louder, he was going to end up with a headache, and any minute now one or both was going to stomp off in fury. As much as he'd have liked to stay out of this, he didn't want to let them part while angry with each other, not when there was no way of knowing if they'd see each other again. John, at the very least, didn't need that hanging over him when he went home.
"Could you pass the lemonade?" Evan asked. The two Sheppards stopped trying to stare each other down and instead looked at him with identical surprised expressions, like he'd just turned into a bug or something equally out of place. Silently, Grace reached for the pitcher and filled his glass, and after taking a drink, Evan asked, "Is it okay if I interject here, or would you two like to keep shouting?"
Neither of them said anything, so he took that for permission. "John, she's your mom. She's allowed to worry about you, and quite frankly, I don't see why her having helped you is such a horrible thing. If she hadn't, you'd never have flown again, you wouldn't have gone to Atlantis, we'd never have met, and chances are that everyone would have died fifteen minutes into the expedition. I think a little hurt dignity is worth it, don't you?"
John didn't look like he was happy Evan was siding with his mom, but after a few seconds he grudgingly nodded. Evan looked at Grace next. "Ma'am, I know John might be more relaxed about he rules than you'd like, but I've never known him to be irresponsible, not with something like this. Believe me, when we got together, we talked this over. We know exactly what could end up happening, and it's worth it."
Grace looked between them, then slowly sat and slumped into her chair, with John following suit shortly after. Quietly, almost to herself, she said, "I just want you to be happy, John."
Just as softly, John replied, "I am happy, mom."
"It can't last forever, you know. One day, it's going to get out. Then what?"
John nodded. "I know. There's been a couple close calls, so we've made plans for when it does happen."
"Worst case scenario, we both have to resign our commissions, but we get hired back on as civilian specialists," Evan explained. "We did that when Lieutenant Webster and Dr. Marquez got married. General O'Neill knows already, he'd help us out."
"Assuming they don't toss you in Leavenworth," she replied with a skeptical look.
"Well..." Evan stopped to try to find a way to explain the fact that, should the authorities really try something that drastic, there wouldn't be a Leavenworth once McKay, Teyla, and Ronon were done, or the fact that they had a dozen contingency scenarios planned out to prevent an arrest in the first place. It wasn't exactly the sort of thing they discussed with outsiders. This was John's mom, but she was still a general officer.
"We have plans for that, too," John said, to Evan's surprise. "But it won't come to that."
"Plans for that," Grace muttered, not seeming too startled by that thought. Maybe she wasn't, if she'd read any reports about John and his team. In any case, she drew herself up and gave Evan a soft smile. "Well, who am I to stand in the way of young love? Why don't I get out the pie and then we can move to the living room. You and I have a lot to talk about, Evan. I'd like to get to know you."
"I'd like that too, ma'am," he said, standing and starting to clear the table. Maybe, if he played his cards right, he could find out a little more about this marriage thing. He knew better than to expect a straight answer out of John anytime soon. If not, then there was always the possibility of baby pictures or other material suitable for blackmailing John into doing his paperwork on time.
"Drop the ma'am." She paused, just for a moment, and he saw a mischievous sparkle in her eyes once more. "Tell me, what are your thoughts on the subject of grandchildren?"
"I love kids." Evan grinned. Now that Grace seemed to be getting used to the idea, he had a suspicion that he'd get along with her. If nothing else, they could commiserate over John's bad habits.
"Excellent." She shot him a sly look. "Maybe I'll get out a few old albums and tell you a some stories, so you know what you should expect."
"Can we go back to the part where you yell at us?" John asked plaintively as he started to panic inside.
"Quiet, John. And that would be wonderful, ma'am." Yeah, they'd get along just fine.
On their last day on Earth, O'Neill showed up at the SGC again, carrying an armload of paperwork for them to sign, approving transfers and promotions. John had insisted on only a small ceremony for himself, with just Evan and what remained of SG-1 attending. He'd never been comfortable with being at the center of attention when getting promotions or commendations, and this time was no exception. Granted, sitting next to Vala Mal Doran when he'd taken everyone out to dinner afterwards had been embarrassing in an entirely different way, but at least that hadn't been public. Too public. Okay, at least it hadn't been in the same galaxy as people he had to work with regularly, which was a change from the usual off-world female-related disasters, and unlike Cam he'd kept his pants on the entire evening.
On the other hand, he wasn't about to let everyone else escape without recognition. It wasn't often the expedition had a good reason to celebrate, and he couldn't think of a better excuse than the promotions of a dozen of their best. Maybe other commanders would go with some kind of solemn, appropriately serious ceremony, followed by some private partying. As far as John was concerned, they had enough solemnity every time they had another funeral. Something like this called for a barbecue.
It took a bit of doing, but a week later he and Teyla had managed to put together what was shaping up to be a decent enough party. He didn't know, or want to know, where she and the quartermaster got enough roast beast and barbecue sauce to feed the entire expedition. With a little help from Rodney, and rather more help from Zelenka, they managed to open up a meeting hall on the east pier. All of the off-duty military were there and most of the civilians as well, although they were lingering suspiciously near the buffet. He couldn't blame them, because even from across the hall it smelled delicious. There was even cake, which the cooks assured him was moist and delicious.
Carter had started off by saying a few words, and then they'd started working their way up the ranks, with each man or woman receiving their award from their team leader or immediate superior. Finally, they came to the end, and John stepped up to the podium and looked out across the packed space. It took a few moments, but the crowd quieted down, and with a glance down at his prepared speech he started to speak.
"All right, I'll try to keep this short. I know you're all here for the food, not to listen to me make a fool of myself." There was a smattering of laughter and good-natured jeering from the crowd. "First, I just want to repeat what everyone else has said so far. Everyone who's been up here today has done an astounding job, but I don't want you to think that we don't appreciate everything the rest of you have done. I couldn't ask for a better group, and if I had my way you'd all be getting promotions and every commendation on the books. Except you, Jankowski. I remember the llama."
There was more laughter and clapping as the marine in question got shoved around by his team members. "With that said, I can't think of anyone who deserves recognition more the Major Lorne, and I definitely include myself in that. Lorne is one of the best officers I've ever had the pleasure of serving with. It's always reassuring to know that when my team gets into trouble he'll have our backs, and I'm sure you guys appreciate that he makes sure I sign the forms that keep you paid on time. Brave, thoughtful, kind, competent in the extreme - there's really no way for me to describe him adequately."
John hesitated a moment. That statement was a bald-faced lie, even if only a handful in the crowd knew it. There were plenty of other things he could say that would fit. Tender, attractive, witty, artistic, contemplative, compassionate, loving- no, he couldn't quite describe him perfectly, but he could have done a damned better job if he didn't have to stick with military-approved adjectives He never said that sort of thing anyways, outside of the odd drugged or post-coital haze, because he could never figure out how to say them without sounding like a fool, but the option was always there. Now, at what should have been one of the proudest moments of their lives, John couldn't even so much as hint at what Evan really meant to him.
It sucked a lot, and for one rebellious moment, he considered saying to hell with it and demonstrating to everyone how he really felt, but the moment passed when he remembered just how much they stood to lose, and that he probably wouldn't get laid for months if he did.
John realized that people were starting to shift in the lengthening silence, and that Evan had a small frown growing on his face. John knew he probably looked like a complete idiot now, and maybe the worst CO ever, and so with a reddening face he took a breath. He hoped that he could get back on track and wave away the pause without seeming too foolish. Luckily, just as he opened his mouth, fate intervened in the form of Chuck on the city's comm system.
"Colonel Carter, Colonel Sheppard, Doctor McKay, report to the control room, please. Colonel Carter, Colonel Sheppard, Doctor McKay to the control room."
John stared at the ceiling for a minute then shook his head. Rodney and Carter were already standing up and moving for the door, but since there were no alarms, John decided to take a few seconds to finish. He pointed at Evan and tossed over the box holding his new rank insignia. "You're a colonel. Have fun. Try not to get too drunk, and make sure to save me some cake."
"The cake is a lie, sir," Evan replied solemnly. John laughed, and turned to the crowd.
"Okay, people, official show's over. You can eat." He clicked the microphone off and waited for the crowd to start rushing backwards before sidling closer to Evan. He leaned in and whispered, "I finally got a new bed. Want to break it in, Colonel Lorne?"
Evan grinned at him and whispered back, "Wouldn't miss it for the world, sir."
"Good man," John says, giving Evan a comradely clap on the shoulder. He squeezed for just an instant and hoped he got his message across.
"You should go and see what's up, sir" Evan told him, and his eyes said ‘Love you too.'