Amidst the volume of people, apparently market days are also good party days, Lorne’s team sit at one of the picnic-style, wide-planked, wooden tables in the middle of the dim single room of the village pub. Waiting. Adame walks in and immediately heads for the bar lining the left side of the room. Even as he makes his way around people and between their standing groups, the Lantean team already has covert tabs on him via the flicks of glances they send his way then ignore him.
“One ale please,” Adame asks the bartender as he comes up to the bar top and starts to lean on it.
The round and beefy bartender nods and turns away from him, going back to getting several drink orders ready including a tray of five drinks. Adame’s eyes take note of the tray…and also the bucksome, young, and attractive brunette barmaid right across from him. Her big, brown, doe eyes gaze at him from their corners as she dries a mug with a rag; her demure smile plays coy at him. He turns on his own beguiling smile, aiming it specifically at her.
“And what’s your name,” his sing-song voice lilts.
All sense of demure vanishes from her smile as she aims the flirtation directly back at him as much as he is. Yes, all she needed was the slightest hint and she’d take the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Lorne starts getting up from his team’s table, “I’m going to hit the head. I’ll be back,” he tells his men.
They nod and he leaves. Winding his way around the din towards the far left corner of the room then disappearing around the backside of a jut of wall that blocks the bathrooms from view. His men continue to talk amongst themselves, mostly quizzing Schiff on his first offworld mission. You couldn’t get much more on-the-job learning experience than in the Pegasus Galaxy. Right now the Milky Way had solved all of its problems, the Pegasus hadn’t.
The bartender finally hands young Va’lar a mug full of frothy golden-hued brew then turns to the barmaid, “Go take these over to the Offworlders.” His bushy full moustache hiding his lips don’t even move when he talks.
He turns his huge back to her again and goes back to filling more drink orders for his plethora of customers. The barmaid obediently picks up the tray while maintaining charming and smiling eye contact with Adame, using her well-honed skill of keeping her eyes on the prize of someone who’s willing to potentially spend money on her and only her. As begins to turn the corner of the bar with the tray, the enterprising playboy reaches out and grasps her free wrist, stopping her progress in a heartbeat, and he can feel her pulse racing as he leans in real close for another quick fleeting chat-up. He practically feels her veins popping as his mouth nuzzles close to her ear so that his breaths and the intimate whisper of his voice applies even more lure against the supple skin of her ear in all the right tantalizing and alluring ways. Big brother doesn’t think he’s a playboy for nothing. Adame often would joke back to his steady political elder that what skills Kelore claimed led Adame to no good, the younger more than made up for themselves in how full Adame’s bed was at the end of every night. His skills added up to much more satisfying things than dear Kelore’s skills did for him. After a few more particularly breathy seconds where his lips ever so slightly caress the soft skin of her earlobe as he whispers to her, she blushes violently with a brilliant grin in perfect portrayal of unused to this sort of attention from men innocence right on cue. He releases her wrist and takes up his mug as the barmaid continues taking the tray over to Lantean’s table. The attractive young Litiran casually turns his lean on the bar top to watch the equally as young and attractive woman serve the offworlders over the brim of his wooden mug as he takes a sip from it. Sweet and potent, he likes the stuff. A bargain for its cheap cost.
She stops at the end of the Lorne’s team’s table. She turns on her beguiling charm once again for the all male team. And right on cue each and every one of the men start grinning like thoroughly charmed and trying to schmooze back like crazy idiots, regardless of their personal attachments back home. Adame chuckles to himself and indulges in another sip of the strong beer before lowering the mug from his face to shed light on his amused smile. He feels comfortable enough to do that; no one would think it wasn’t because of the woman. The waitress and Lorne’s team are all so busy smiling at each other and trying to send each other flirt cues that the barmaid accidentally bumps the first drink she’s trying to hand out on the edge of the table and it spills… then she gets so flummoxed at her clumsiness that she ends up accidentally spilling the whole tray on the floor…and of course every man around her including Lorne’s team dive to the floor to help her clean up her mess, Schiff abandoning his small jewelry box alone on the table top. Chivalry is not dead.
Easily Adame slips away from the bar and into the fray of men trying to help one woman whom every time she starts to lean forward, her bosom threatens to fall out of her peasant blouse’s plunging weak neckline. While eyes are distracted, Va’lar reaches into his tunic pocket and withdraws his purchase from the woodcrafts vendor. Single-handedly, he casually switches his empty black box for Schiff’s filled one under the appearance and slight-of-hand of moving his hand from one box to the next to maintain his ‘iffy’ balance as he squats on the balls of his feet to help the clean up he’s not anywhere near close enough to to actually reach. By the time his switch is complete, the mess is cleaned up for the most part. All that’s left is telling the pretty girl over and over how it wasn’t her fault and everything’s going to be alright; and maybe if she bats her delicate lashes enough, she’ll get one of her inquirers to ask what she’s doing when her work in the pub is done. Adame stands back up as the cleaning huddle begins dispersing. He turns away from the offworlder’s table—and runs right into Major Evan Lorne coming back from the bathroom.
He hadn’t planned on that, hadn’t expected that. The Major is all good natured smiles, but the Litiran’s heart is pounding. Adame staggers back from the collision, flustered beyond words and his face shows it too. Definite concern in every youthful playboy feature. His light blue eyes worried and afraid. He could play it fast and loose with a woman, but not with a soldier from Atlantis. His brain finally registers that the other man’s lips were moving, although his adrenaline-pumped blood roaring in his ears seems to be preventing him from hearing what’s being said. Evan’s forced back a few steps from the collision as well, his smiling still there but also concern. He reaches out to Adame Va’lar. The rushing blood is abruptly silenced.
“I said I’m sorry, are you alright,” Evan asks. His fingertips barely coming into contact with the soft, dark red fabric surrounding the other young man’s biceps.
“Fine,” Adame breathes with a slightly freaked smile, pulling away from the Lantean’s touch ever so slightly. Trying hard to recover himself as well as cover up any hint of what he’d just done. Did he see me? Does he know? The Lanteans are smart, have eyes everywhere. For a moment he rethinks talking to the barmaid at all.
Evan nods, “Good,” then claps the man on the shoulder, “Be careful.”
Both men move past each other towards their goals, Adame goes back to the bar and his drink still waiting there for him to finish, the Lantean Major goes back to his table and his team. Adame takes up his drink again and gulps down a cheek-bulging swig of Dutch courage to steady his nerves even further. Lorne sits back down at his team’s table.
“What was all the fuss about,” he asks. Adame’s ears latch onto his kind voice amid the chaos.
Evan’s second, Reed, answers, the big man always ready, “The waitress spilled our drinks, but she’s coming back with replacements.”
Lorne nods, “Good.”
An Athosian man, blonde and of average height and athletic build, walks in. He makes a quick cursory look at the patrons, spots the Lanteans standing out among the locals and visitors alike almost immediately, and joins them at their table. The mysterious fifth drinker. The maid comes back to the table and delivers the five drinks properly this time. Adame takes another bolstering swig, he didn’t need to ask her to spill the drinks twice. Any more than once and despite the maids of her physicality being commonly known as not all that bright, the clumsiness would have been suspicious.
The Litiran lowers his drink back to the bar top, his hand only shaking gently now, and takes a moment to breath before turning. His eyes scan the room and finds the voluptuous barmaid taking orders from another table near the Lantean team’s. His frightened but returning to his normal disposition eyes slowly slip over to the human men from Atlantis and their Athosian ally. He watches them trade friendly greetings, his gaze quickly changing back to its normal playboy ogling and feigning the guise of eyeing the barmaid in hopes of her returning to the bar for more illicit charming from him. He wished he felt it inside. Adame observes the youngest member of the offworlder’s number clandestinely pass the small black box along to the Athosian who just as covertly sneaks it into a traveling pouch of his that he so happened to have put on the table’s top as soon as he entered. The five men’s conversation continues on as though nothing’s happened.
Shrugging as though to convey that he’s bored of waiting for the pretty girl to return as well as the sentiment that there are plenty more beautiful young women waiting for his attentions elsewhere, and to him there most certainly are, his elder brother would begrudgingly attest to that, Adame Va’lar turns away from his casual survey. He finishes his drink in a few more sips, hand steady once more as well as nerves, then leaves his payment on the bar along with the empty mug. He turns and leaves the public house without eyes looking back at his ditching the barmaid he’d just promised to spend the night with in exchange for dumping the Lantean’s drinks on the floor. Although she hadn’t known he was going to use it as a suitable distraction for him to pilfer something from them, she’d served the purpose he’d intended to use her for. She could warm his bed some other time, he’s been to this planet on many occasions, he’ll see her again. Tonight, her presence would be too much of a reminder of the close call that had been too close to comfort.
The Lanteans and the Athosian go about their happy reunion.
* * *
Earlier’s intense afternoon light has dulled away with the sun’s passing from high overhead noon to late day. Time is slipping away from them. It always does that in Atlantis, first it’s slow then fast. Hopefully it will go back to slow again sometime soon. Atlantis’ gate room reflects the passing perfectly with the sun’s rays shining directly through the ZPM-shape inspired designed stained glass window behind the Stargate. Frank Lloyd Wright-like geometric shapes in an enchanting array of honey golden ambers, lemony yellows, and sunlight passing through Coca Cola browns are cast across the rust-colored marble flooring bisected by bands of silver. It’s one of the many sights that makes Atlantis a beauty worth saving let alone fighting for…let alone having the honor of serving and living in. So alien, so familiar, so… Atlantis. Mythical.
The elegant naquadah gray, navy blue marble, and Caribbean Ocean blue chevroned Stargate activates and Evan and his team stride out of it. Woolsey stands, already waiting for them, on the embarkation floor at the foot of the Ancient inscribed lit staircase leading down from the Operations Center. The gate shuts down behind the four men.
“Did he get it,” the administrator rushes forward.
Lorne nods with a smile, “Yes, Sir, he did.”
“Do you think he’ll pass it along, Major?”
Evan takes a moment to think about it, Kelore Va’lar’s playboy little brother seemed rather self-satisfied with his talents at seducing women into doing whatever he wanted them to. That may make for great bedroom stories, but it doesn’t necessarily make you a talent at espionage. Evan remembers how flustered the pretty boy looked when he run into Lorne… “Yes, Sir. I think he will.”
Richard turns to look up at Chuck, waiting on the Operations balcony nearby, “Radio the Daedalus,” he orders.
Campbell nods and goes over to his station to do as ordered.
* * *
Colonel Steven Caldwell sits on the bridge of his ship with it lit for daytime lighting. The brilliant side lighting thoroughly illuminating the area, glinting off of the matte metal surfaces. The screens dissipating the lights’ glare with their displayed imagery of technical details of the ship and other things they’re scanning around the ship. Stationed in the middle of the middle area on the round jutting part of one of the raised portions of the back area, Caldwell sits confidently in his command chair. Off to one side of the back area, hemmed in barely by the massive acrylic tactical display taking up the middle of that area, his Communications Technician reports.
“Colonel, we’re receiving a message from Atlantis. They say that they’re awaiting transfer of the delivery,” Mark reports.
Steven nods, “Understood.”
His eagle eyes continue to peer out the bridge’s bank of thick windows directly ahead of him. He fights hard the urge to drum his fingertips silently on the metal of his sleek armrest. Aside from the fact that the noise of his short nailtips would click-clack loudly even through the noise of standard bridge operating procedures, there’s also the threat that one of his fingers might slip and accidentally press one of the armrest’s few buttons: ship-wide communications, communications to Engineering, or communications to the onboard Infirmary. Either way, he’d be announcing his anxiousness to a whole lot of his personnel that didn’t need to hear the hairline fracturing occurring in their commanding officer’s veneer of executive patience. Yet another burden of command. Sometimes it’s not the choices you have to make that don’t simply rest on you and you alone, sometimes it’s the waiting. The hardest burden of all.
Lieutenant Stuart passes along his C.O.’s message then breaks the radio link with Atlantis. He turns back to Caldwell, “What do we do now, Sir?”
“Now we wait, Lieutenant,” Steven turns his head to his right hand navigator, “How’s our positioning?”
Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Bishop reports while checking his information for a third time to be on the safe side, “We’re doing good, Colonel, maintaining position.”
Steven nods, “Make sure we stay that way.”
Bishop’s bald head nods as he goes back to his console and Caldwell’s stern sharp eyes return to looking out his bridge’s windows at the dark side of a moon. If only his crew knew how hard it was for him to not show how waiting made him just as edgy as it does them. His mind’s eye continues his view beyond the moon into its crater pockmarked light side. Past that. Past the open star speckled space beyond the moon. To the dayside of an Earth-like world only a handful of seconds nearby.
Wait. All they have to do is wait. His fingers tremble. But he holds it back.