Cassie undergoes a little training to get her ready for going off world... however it does not go as planned.
Clad in the comfortably fitting dark blue BDU's, open down the front revealing a tight fitting tank top underneath, Cassie stopped on the entrance to the east pier where a temporary shooting range had been set up to assist in training for all personnel, both military and civilian. An uneasy truce had prevailed between herself and John during the past 24 hours. She had joined her new team at breakfast, meeting John, Rodney, Teyla and Evan Lorne for an impromptu meeting and while Rodney had dominated the conversation as appeared usual for him, Cassie found herself telling the group some annecdotes about life on the road as a performer, carefully leaving out all mention of her recent experience with the obsessed fan. John had little to say, casting her veiled glances from time to time, dutifully smiling when funny points were made, but when he got up to get a second cup of coffee, he quirked at eyebrow at Cassie, indicating that she follow him.
Missing the amused glances that passed between the others, Cassie picked up her empty coffee cup and went to follow John to the self service refreshment area in the corner of the large dining room or mess as it was known amongst the military personnel.
Now, letting the cooler breeze off the east pier blow back errant strands of hair from her face, Cassie recalled their quiet conversation, mostly about nothing important and the sense of unease she had felt from John and recalled also, the spark of something... electricity... that had flashed between them as his hip brushed hers when reaching across for the creamer. Pulling a hair tie from her wrist and securing the hair that was still loose, Cassie let the welcome breeze cool her suddenly reddened cheeks, pondering her reaction to him.
The next hour was spent familarising herself with the Beretta 92FS, a small hand held weapon that would be used by off world personnel. Cassie had spent some time around small weapons with her brother and later Jack O'Neill, both of whom thought it essential that she have the skills to defend herself if the need arose. She managed to impress Major Lorne with her proficiency and it was after she had completed her final target that showed a near perfect circle of bullet marks around the heart area, that she had the sense that someone was watching her. After completing her final shot, she lowered the weapon and ensured that the safety was on and turned to see John Sheppard's brooding gaze as he watched her.
“Colonel – it seems we have a natural here. Knows how to assemble and load and near perfect accuracy. We've got some marines here who can't shoot as well as her... not that I'd tell them that!” Lorne smiled lazily at John as he began the preparations for packing away their equipment.
“Not so fast Lorne. If she's as good as you say she is, perhaps let her have a go with the P90?” John stepped around Lorne and went towards the ordinance, selecting a small sub machine gun, pulling back the slide and chambering a round of ammunition.
Lorne looked sceptical. “With all due respect Colonel, she's only a tiny thing, that weapon will be too much of a kick for her. Perhaps we should stick to the hand guns?”
Ignoring Lorne, he completed the P90 preparation and handed the weapon to Cassie who looked at it distastefully. “Look Colonel, I'm comfortable with the handgun, I'm not sure I want to use this...”
“John... remember? And I'd like to see for myself what sort of weapons proficiency you have – a hand gun is one thing, but this little baby here, well let's just say she takes a little more of a delicate touch. Lorne here doesn't impress easily and he seems to think you are ready to join the marines...”
At Lorne's impending interjection, John's eyes shuttered slightly, and he held up a hand to stop him. “Just pick up the damn weapon Cassie – if you're going to be coming off world with us, you need to have the skill to operate more than just one sort of weapon. We're going to out there watching your back, and we need to know that you just might at least have a shot at watching ours! Come on, you don't seem the sort to scare easily... just try it!”
His voice was taunting and held a note she didn't like and she pushed aside the distaste for the weapon wanting to wipe that tone out of his voice. Raising the sub machine gun to chest level as she had seen him do, she carefully sighted down the small scope at her previous target that still stood further down the shooting range. Giving herself little time to think, she pressed the trigger and lost all conscious thought as the small but extremely powerful weapon stuttered with a loud clattering producing a sudden and very hard kick that knocked back with a powerful velocity into her shoulder. She felt a sudden and intense pain in her shoulder, causing her to drop the weapon and fall backwards, landing with a hard bang on the ground, jarring her back and knocking her head on the concrete like structure that made up this portion of the east pier.
She missed the angry glance that Lorne tossed at John but opened her eyes to see the remorse in John's eyes as he dropped down immediately beside her, pulling aside her BDU jacket and lowering the strap of her tank top to view the burgeoning angry red mark that took up the top of her chest area and part of her shoulder. His large hand rested softly over the painful area and she drew in a breath, hissing it back out again in pain.
Tapping his free hand to key his ear comm he snapped quickly into it “Carson, I'm bringing Cassie into the infirmary, a little mishap with a P90.. no... no blood... will explain when we get there.” Shutting off the ear comm, he glanced at Lorne who had lowered himself to a crouch beside them. “Just don't... ok?... just don't...” Seeing something in John's eyes that he quickly managed to shutter before Lorne could recognise it, he reached his hands behind Cassie's shoulders and helped lift her to a sitting position, running his hand over the back of her head to make sure there was no broken skin.
Lorne kept his tone light, while flicking concerned looks at his commanding officer, watching as he struggled to get control over whatever emotion was battling for the forefront inside him.“Well kiddo, you certainly have a tough head, so that's something. No blood, but you'll likely have a bit of a headache when that bump makes itself known. Let me help you up Cass, slow and easy and the Colonel and I will help you down to the infirmary to make sure that shoulder doesn't need strapping.” With Lorne on one side, John on the other, she got carefully to her feet, swayed slightly but put her hand out when John bent to place his hand behind her legs to swing her into his arms.
Tucking her chin slightly, she winced as pain throbbed her her shoulder. “Don't. Just leave me alone. I will walk. Just... don't” Holding her injuring shoulder she turned slightly so that she was facing Lorne and effectively putting her back to John. “Thank you Major Lorne, Evan... for your patience today. I enjoyed it... for a while.” The last words she directed over her shoulder at John and giving him a hard look she turned and made her way back into the interior of the city leaving John in no doubt that he was not to follow.
Lorne felt torn – out of respect for his commanding officer he remained, but she was hurt and she was a woman, and everything inside him screamed go after her, make sure she is all right.
He took a deep breath, pushing back as much of his anger as he could before addressing the Colonel. “Christ Colonel.. with all due respect... what the hell were you thinking? Letting her operate a P90? She's had limited experience with weaponry and look at the size of her – she could have been hurt far worse...Damn it – I was responsible for her and now she's been hurt under my watch.”
John squared off with Lorne, letting his junior officer get his outrage off his chest, knowing that he deserved it, then held up his hand indicating to Lorne that he needed to get something of his own out.
“No Lorne, she was under my watch, and I'll shoulder all responsibility for this one. I screwed up, I'm angry at myself for letting emotions get in the way of common sense and training and yes, you can call me all sorts of idiot, but I'm already calling myself the same thing. I'll sort it Lorne. Give me a minute to get this crap under control, and I'll make it right.”
Ten minutes later he was in the infirmary facing the wrath of a very irrate Carson Beckett and in an irrational dry burst of humour, thought to himself that he had managed to incur everyone's wrath and ill temper. Way to go John he said, giving himself a mental sarcastic pat on the back.
“What the hell is the meaning of this Colonel. Firstly my patient is found wandering lost in the hallways by one of the marines who noticed that she was injured and brought her here, secondly why in the blue blazes was she operating a sub machine gun without any former training and experience?” Carson's hands were busy probing and examining, all the while flicking angry glances at John. “And I get nothing out of this one, she won't tell me what happened other than that it was an accident. I need all the facts so I can assess her correctly!”
John's thunderous expression would have quietened a lesser man, but Carson was not about to let John Sheppard bully him or anyone else in his care. He placed a hand on John's shoulder and some of the anger drained out of John, anger that was directed at himself and the situation that he had managed to get himself into. Dropping to his knees in front of Cassie, in a gesture that came straight out of left field, he placed his head on her knees and just rested there, letting all the emotions of the last few days subside and settle and allowing his suddenly aching head to take a little comfort. He didn't know how long he rested there, but missed the softening in the glance that Carson sent his way as if suddenly aware of what had caused John to walk around like an angry bear for the past few days and only stirred himself when he felt a hand rest on his hair and begin to soothe it. He took some comfort from that gesture, then raised his head to look at her and saw understanding in her eyes, not censure.
“It's OK John, it'll heal, nothing broken,nothing that can't be mended.” and he knew that she was not just talking about her shoulder. Nodding abruptly he rose, pausing only to rest a comforting hand on her cheek and not trusting himself to speak he strode out of the room.
“There, there lass, he's really not so bad. I have no idea what happened out there today Cassie, but whatever it was, he's shouldered the responsibility and your getting hurt is not sitting right with him. I'll wager that he carries a lot on his shoulders at the moment, possibly a lot more than even he is aware of...”
Cassie just nodded thoughtfully and looked down at her shoulder which Carson had finished strapped to ensure the arm was held close to her body to let the strained muscles heal. “I think we both have a bit of healing to do, Carson.” Carson smiled and patted her cheek. “You're a good wee lass. I don't want you overdoing it for the rest of the day – your head has taken a nasty bang by the look of it, and while you have likely escaped concussion, you'll be chasing down a headache soonish I should think.” He reached into a drawer and pulled out a bottle, shaking a couple of pills into his hand. “These are strong painkillers love – take two now, then come back later this afternoon and we'll see what the pain's like, and you likely need more. Ok love?”
The next morning Cassie was summoned to a meeting with Teyla, John, Rodney and Elizabeth and was both pleased and surprised to learn that a function had been planned on Atlantis that evening and that Teyla had made contact with some of the leaders from planets where the Athosians had established a successful trading reputation as a means of introducing the Earth people to them and promote a possible trading alliance with the new occupants of Atlantis. Speeches and demonstrations were to be given with Cassie supplying entertainment in the form of a music concert to introduce a selection of music/performance style that other worlds may be interesting in obtaining. Rodney was especially pleased at the mention of a full buffet and John testosterone was sufficiently stroked when he learned that his military teams would provide security backup and provide a demonstration of weaponry.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Cassie was summoned back to the infirmary by Carson so that he could check on the bruising. Smiling at the others, she went to leave the conference room, halting only when he heard John call out. “Cassie, wait up! I'm not prepared to put up with Carson yelling at me because your sense of direction is not so good... so I'll walk with you.”
She was about to protest rather forcibly at his implied critism, but seeing the twinkle in his eye, she smiled instead, swallowing her intended reply. Flicking his eyes towards her strapped shoulder, he asked “So... not too bad then pain wise? You seem a little subdued this morning.. for you!” At her lifted eyebrows he spread his hands. “...just saying – not so fiesty...” and grinned at her to show it was meant in jest.
“I have Carson's magic pills to thank for that – slept like the dead last night and I took the two this morning and they seem to have a rather pleasant numbing effect... could be why you're not managing to annoy the crap out of me... just saying!”
His playful tug on her hair had her laughing and they felt some of the tension that had been surrounding them, relax just a little. Just before reaching the infirmary, one of the technicians came towards them down the hallway, and stopped when he saw Cassie.
Blushing a little, he stammered slightly as he attempted to get out his verbal request. “I need your input on the electrical requirements for your sound and music for tonight's show - can you meet with us in an hour, say in the large rec room?” Barely able to meet her eyes, the tech looking shyly at her and Cassie's expression softened. “I don't think we've been introduced?” Reaching our a hand she went to shake his and a flush travelled up his neck and into his face as he clutched her hand a little too tight. “Oh, I know who you are... who doesn't?” Grimacing slightly, Cassie attempted to remove her hand and tipped her head up to meet his eyes. “Honey, I would still like to know your name.” Managing to stutter out a name, the extremely shy technician attempted a smile that came out more like a grimace and seeing the thunderous expression that had been growing on the Colonel's face, he turned quickly and all but ran back down the hallway.
He halted her at the door to the infirmary, his hand banding her upper arm a little too tightly and he stilled her before she could enter the room.
“Is it necessary to flirt with ALL the men? That poor boy has probably had a massive crush on you forever and now he'll be hanging around like a damn buck around a doe in heat. And just because you couldn't stop yourself from flirting with him. Really!”
“Flirt? Just because I am NICE to someone, I have to be flirting? For Christ's sake John, he is just a boy! Get your head out of your ass. Unlike you, I actually enjoy being nice to people and don't feel the need to walk around with a perpetual scowl on my face. Just what the hell is your problem? You seem to have an innate need to see the worst in all my actions. Seriously? Can't we spend five minutes breathing the same air as each other without going into battle. You exhaust me Colonel – I feel like we go five rounds everytime we come within yelling distance of one another.”
Huffily she pushed past him to see Carson watching with raised eyebrows and shaking his head at them. “I feel like a ping pong ball in between you two. Can you please put your nasty words aside and play nice?” Hands on hips he watched John enter still scowling. “And stop acting like a sulky child Colonel, or I'll start treating you like one!” Hands in pockets, John watched as Carson unstrapped Cassie's shoulder and took a sharp breath as he saw the intense bruising that had replaced the redness from the previous day. His irrational anger deepened, directed at himself this time and he scraped his hand through his hair, sending it spiking wildly in all directions.
At that moment John's ear comm was activated. “Rodney here. Colonel Sheppard – we need you in the control room NOW”
“Oh for Christ Sakes Rodney.. what is it now...” muttering to himself, he sent a hard look at Cassie and Carson and hurried to the control room to find Rodney in a state of panic, standing in front of the long range scanner with Elizabeth.
“What is it Rodney?” John glanced at the scanner to see two black “blips” that had appeared at the edge of the screen. “Ok, so...ships? Have they just appeared on the sensors?”
“Yes and large ones too!” Rodney's hands gestured wildly. “Look at this ...” Pressing some buttons on the console before him, he enlarged the screen so that it took up a section the size of a giant television screen in holographic view, effectively increasing the size and dimension of the black marks that had encroached on their screen. John stepped back in surprise. “Elizabeth... I've seen that ship before... the chair room... Cassie...” Impatiently he keyed his comm. “Cassie, control room now – I'm sending Teyla to escort you. Teyla, you reading this?”
Cassie and Teyla arrived breathless, with Cassie casting a sardonic eyebrow at John. “You bellowed Sir?” she queried dryly, missing the amused smiles Major Lorne and Rodney attempted to hide, however paused when she noticed the ship on the hologram screen in front of them. “That ship... I recognise it...”
Teylas hand reached out to catch Cassie's wrist and when the others glanced their way, they noticed that Teyla had paled somewhat. “How could you have recognised it? That is a Wraith hive ship! Heading straight for Atlantis! It would appear that the Wraith indeed know of your arrival.”
John's hands had settled on the desk in front of the long range scanner as his eyes took in as much of the ship as he could, processing size and external weaponry. “Hive ship... that doesn't sound good! I'm guessing that means lot's of Wraith?” John directed his question at Teyla.
Having regained her composure, she was able to calmly reply. “Yes Colonel Sheppard, a hive shift contains many thousands of Wraith and while many will be in hibernation, indicators around the galaxy show that the Wraith are beginning to awake from their hibernation and they will need to feed.”
“Rodney – what is their estimated time of arrival, given present speed?” John's mind had snapped into military mode and while one part of his mind was detailing the ship, the other was formulating possible offensive and defensive scenarios.
Rodney's fingers flew over the console and his answer was slow and a little pained. “At present range of speed, a little under a month.”
Elizabeth turned to leave the control room. “It is imperative that we secure some allegiance among the other worlds here and tonight's function is a step in that direction. I know you all have duties that you are required to do in order to prepare for this evening, but if we could all just adjourn to the Hologram room where Teyla can give us a brief run down on our dignitaries and their worlds. I would appreciate ALL your participation please... “ this last added for John's benefit when he made a face and tried to exit the room.
“So Colonel, trying to shirk your duties?” Cassie pushed past him, having caught the look on his face as he tried to avoid the trip down to the hologram room. “Not exactly the best example to be setting to your team... hmm?” She threw him a somewhat saucy look over her shoulder as she caught up to Rodney and leaned against him comfortably and John was torn between wanting to thump Rodney for having the sheer nerve to touch her and wanting to show Miss Devon exactly what sort of example he was willing to teach. He clamped his jaw down on that one rather uncomfortably and catching up to them, tugged on one of her long curls and bent to whisper quietly in her ear, causing a slight flush to creep over her face.
Whistling jauntily her straightened and moved on past her. Oh yeah, the last word would be his!