Care Packages

Note: Co-written with Auburn

Spoilers: SGA Season One, particularly Letters From Pegasus, Siege III, Intruder, but set definitely before SG:1 Avalon.
Disclaimer: Yeah, right. Not ours, no profit. Though we do have a request in with Santa.

Warning: May be fatal to those with citrus allergies. Go ahead and think of it as an AU.

"Carter," Jack sing-songed. "Whatcha doin'?"

Col. Samantha Carter, USAF, astrophysicist of some renown in certain closed, classified circles, formerly his 2iC on SG-1, and most emphatically not a dumb blonde, did not look up from her current project. Which appeared to be proving the mathematical theorem that the inside could be larger than the outside, or something like that, by carefully fitting everything on her lab table into a single box that was labelled:

Dr. Rodney McKay
Chief Science Officer
Atlantis Expedition
Atlantis Base
Pegasus Galaxy
SGCS Daedalus

Jack observed her remove the contents of the box and begin packing it again in a slightly different order meant to more efficiently utilize its volume. First went the DVD, then the package of coffee beans, then Snickers bars and Smarties and a glossy copy of The Quarterly International Digest of Applied and Theoretical Astrophysics June 2005, two letters and a photograph of a cat. On top of that, she began carefully layering in the rest of her treasure trove: Lemonheads, sour lemon drops, lemonade mix, boxes of lemon Jello, lemon curd, marmalade, even a T-shirt with half a lemon printed on it along with the maxim: Taking the Pith.


She looked up briefly with a look that told him she didn’t really see him. “Hm?”

Jack gestured toward the package. “Would I regret asking?”

That got him a half-hidden grin, telling him that she had noticed his arrival after all and was not in very-dedicated-don’t-disturb-mode. “Probably, Sir.”


She shrugged, busy with trying not to squish the cookies while squeezing them in the small space that was left in the box. “Yes, Sir.”

“Uhm, Carter ... McKay?”

“Yes, Sir. Is there a problem?”


“Well, someone needs to–” she pushed a little harder, then cursed softly under her breath when the sound of cookies breaking and crumbling became audible. “– send him something.” She fished out the cookies again and glared at them.


She looked up at this, a frown firmly in place. “Sir?”

“You hate the guy.” He remembered the tirades Carter had left off after last working with the obnoxious Canadian scientist. He remembered an amount of colorful vocabulary he never would have guessed Carter even knew. “Why are you sending him a care package?”

He picked up the bottle of Absolut Citron and raised his eyebrows.

Sam smiled wickedly. She pointed at the bottle. "Lemons, Sir."


"He's allergic to them."

Jack looked at the package of slightly crushed lemon cremes and shook his head before setting the vodka down.

"You're an evil woman, Carter."

"Yes, Sir."

She wrapped the T-shirt around the vodka, slipped it neatly into the last empty space and sealed the box, grinning triumphantly.

"This is because of that message he sent, isn't it?"

She nodded. "So what are you doing down here, Sir?"

"I'm bored, Carter. This whole General business? Boring." He lowered his voice confidingly. "Paperwork. You know how I hate paperwork."

Sam patted the box. "Yes, Sir. So I imagine Daniel's doing yours right now."

Jack thought it might be time to change the subject since Daniel was in his office and, well, he might have wheedled the archaeologist into reading some of the reports Jack found really boring – the ones about rocks and stuff.

"So, how'd you get the idea to do this?" Jack waved his hand at the box.

"Oh. The Daedalus leaves for the Pegasus galaxy next week for the third time and now that Atlantis has been resupplied with critical items – "

"Coffee, ammo, coffee, medical supplies, coffee, chocolate, coffee, laptops, coffee, naquadah generators, coffee, scientific equipment, " Jack muttered, remembering the supply list Elizabeth Weir had sent and the capitalized items at the very top. "Aspirin, extra large. Bull whip."

" – they've set aside cargo space for mail and care packages from the expedition's families."

"You're not McKay's family," Jack pointed out.

Sam ducked her head, blushing a little. "No one could find his sister, though his neighbor does still have his cat."

"Cats." Jack rolled his eyes.

"I just thought it would be nice if he got something," she said. "But not too nice."

"Sending him poison probably won't get you accused of being too nice, Carter."

Jack narrowed his eyes, thinking, reminded of the personal messages that had been tacked on the data stream Atlantis had sent them back before they'd recovered a ZPM and dispatched the Daedalus. Everyone had said good-bye to someone. He'd screened them all before making sure that the sometimes censored videos were sent to families and friends. One stuck in his mind though, because he hadn't needed to send it to anyone.

"I need to do some checking on something, Carter," he said, heading out of the lab.

"Yes, Sir," she said, her mind already on how to tweak the Mark 2 naquadah generators. McKay's scathing remarks on the Mark 2's unreliability had stung her pride. She'd show him. Then they'd see who was written up in QIDATA.


Jack checked the cargo manifest again. Just as he'd suspected, one name was missing.

There were no personal items or communiqués for Col. John Sheppard. Not so surprising. Other than the video version of writing the deceased's family for Col. Sumner, Sheppard's only message for anyone back on Earth had been for Jack:

'General O'Neill. Whatever happens, you can be proud of everyone that came. Especially McKay. That's it. Um, have a beer for me. Good-bye.'

The then Major Sheppard who had walked through the Stargate the first time had had no intention of coming back. Jack remembered being that man. The Stargate had given him a new life. It looked like Atlantis had done the same for Sheppard.

But a life without beer ... Something needed to be done about that.


"Teal'c," Daniel said, looking up from his notebook, when he bounced off the Jaffa's chest after walking into him in the hall outside the base cafeteria.

"DanielJackson." Teal'c inclined his head. Only a glint in his eyes betrayed his amusement over Daniel's proverbial absentmindedness.

Daniel blinked at him. "So, what are you up to?" he asked. Teal'c was in civvies, always unusual. Especially with the eye poppingly-bright Aloha shirt with the red hibiscus print he wore with alien panache.

"I am about to join O'Neill in a shopping expedition," Teal'c stated.

Daniel resisted the urge to dig at his ears. There was nothing wrong with them. He had heard that. Clearly he was missing some critical information because 'shopping' and Jack O'Neill weren't concepts that often went together.

"O'Neill has declared it necessary to include a 'care package' for every member of the Atlantis expedition."

Daniel considered that. He knew personal items were being sent on the Daedalus on its next deployment; he'd lobbied for it. He just didn't see what that had to do with Jack and Teal'c shopping.

"Uhm, why?"

"O'Neill has indicated that he 'owes' Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard a drink. I believe he means to send him beer."

"Beer," Daniel echoed. He frowned and pushed his glasses back up his nose. "Jack wants to send him beer."


"Well, that sounds like Jack, but wouldn't that usurp whatever Colonel Sheppard's family want to send him?"

Teal'c's eyes were dark and wiser than most people knew, just as he was older than most people realized.

"I do not believe so," he replied. "O'Neill had the colonel's personnel file on his desk. He said the colonel was too tall for the Pony Express."


Teal'c waited for the explanation Daniel would always provide.

Daniel stopped. "When the Pony Express recruited riders, they said, 'Orphans Preferred'. Riding through Indian country was dangerous work." The rest of it didn't matter. He knew what Jack had meant. Sheppard must not have anyone on Earth to send him something. Daniel knew about that. There hadn't been anyone outside the SGC who really knew him in years.

"I see."

Daniel frowned absently. "You know, Teal'c, there's more to life than beer."

"I do not believe you should attempt to persuade General O'Neill of that."

"No, but I think I need to get Sam and do some shopping, too."

"Very well," Teal'c said. "I believe I will choose an item for Col. Sheppard myself."

Jack stepped out of an elevator at the end of the hall, spotted them and raised his hand along with his voice to catch their attention. "Oh, hey, T, you ready to go, buddy?"

"Go on," Daniel told Teal'c.

"Yes," Teal'c said to Jack.

Jack flicked a dark glance between the two of them as he reached their spot in the hall. "Okay, kids, what're you up to?"

"Nothing, Jack."

"General Jack."

Daniel's eyebrows peaked. "General," he said to humor him. "Tell me you're sending Sheppard something besides beer."

Jack looked hurt. "What's wrong with beer?"

"Well, I don't like it."


Daniel opened his mouth and closed it. "Fine."

Jack grinned. Teal'c's expression said I told you so.

"You want to join us, Daniel?"

"No, I need to go see Sam."

"Okay. We're outta here. Come on, T. "

Daniel watched them leave. Someone needed to send Sheppard something besides beer and whatever inane item struck Jack's fancy.

Five minutes later, he was in Sam's lab, holding up a cookie like a bribe, and declaring solemnly, "Col. Carter, we have a mission."


Everyone else had already left the conference room, clutching (or in some cases hefting) their packages from home like pirates with booty. Even the Marines, the ones who had been around since the beginning, were grinning.

Well, everyone but McKay. McKay was still at the table, demented grin in place, eyes positively glittering, his decently large box sitting in front of him. John had hung around just to observe this new McKay phenomenon.

From where he was sitting, John couldn’t see what McKay was doing with the package exactly. It looked a lot like opening a package, but then not. There was turning and twisting and rattling and … was that fondling? The name of the sender had been Carter, and yes, he knew that Rodney had a thing for the SG-1 scientist, but this? McKay was fondling the package, looking for all the world like a kid on Christmas morning. And he hadn’t even opened it yet.

John sidled closer to get a better look. All the care packages from Earth had been deployed from the Daedalus, leaving him as the only one without one. He didn’t expect anything, didn’t want anything, he told himself, but that didn’t stop a wistful smile from flitting over his features as he watched McKay. There was something about receiving a package. Especially when it was unexpected. And John knew that McKay hadn’t expected anything.

“So, Rodney--” John began as he slouched in the chair opposite McKay. “Are you going to make this your holy grail or are you going to open it?”

“Please, Colonel.” Ever since his promotion, Rodney had been tripping over the new rank. Deliberately. Maybe the fun had finally worn off. “This package marks the proof of a theory. It must be handled with the proper amount of admiration and respect.”

“Respect it later, when you know what’s in it.” John gestured toward the brown box. “For all you know, she could have packed a rattlesnake.”

McKay rolled his eyes. “I checked. No movement.”

“It could be a dead rattlesnake.”

“Even that would make a sound, and could you maybe stop ruining the mood here? I’m celebrating the fact that this proves that Samantha Carter, probably the most brilliant person on Earth after me, loves me.”

“Loves you.”

“Yes. Of course she does.”

Whenever McKay got this look on his face, it was hard not to lose it completely and simply laugh until his sides ached. John settled for a raised eyebrow. “McKay? Are you sure you haven’t been smoking any of that Athosian weed?”

“Oh, you’re just jealous because no one sent you anything.”

That effectively put a dampener on John’s spirits. Exactly what he hadn’t wanted to think about, and if it hadn’t stung before, it definitely did now. From the look on McKay’s face, it must have been showing, too.

“Shit.” McKay sat down with a thump, eyes searching John’s face warily. “I’m sorry.”

There was a flurry of motion, and McKay pushed the package over the table toward John, obviously acting faster than he was thinking.

“Here. You open it.”

John stopped the box with one hand and stared at McKay. "McKay." He looked down at the box. "Come on. It's your package."

McKay crossed his arms, chin coming up. "And I can do as I like with it. Go on. Open it."

With an evil grin, John pulled his combat knife and set the point to the taped seal. McKay suddenly looked nervous. He leaned forward. "Be careful with that."

He slit the tape and peeled the box flaps back, revealing green cotton cloth. McKay couldn't see in from the other side of the table. John's eyebrow went up.

"Well? Well?"

McKay almost bounced.

John peeled the cloth back to reveal a bottle. He lifted it out and held it to the light.

"Vodka?" McKay said in disbelief. "Vodka? I loathe vodka. When I left Russia I swore I'd never, ever be reduced to drinking vodka again. What was that woman thinking?"

John rotated the bottle to study the label.


Suppressing a smile, he set it down on the table and pulled the cloth, which revealed itself as a T-shirt, free. The yellow half lemon with the words Taking the Pith on the front confirmed his suspicion about Col. Samantha Carter. He turned it so McKay could read it.

"Well, at least she got the size right," McKay commented.

Next John lifted out a package of slightly crushed cookies. The cellophane crackle sent a bolt of homesickness through him that he quickly suppressed. He wasn't about to get misty-eyed over lemon cremes. He didn't even like lemon cremes.

"Oh, yeah," he said, "she loves you, all right."

He set the cookies down and pulled another item out. A jar of lemon curd. Then a jar of marmalade, followed by boxes of lemonade mix and lemon Jello, then Lemonheads and sour lemon drops. All of it quite literally poison to McKay.

McKay's face fell a trifle more with each item. John found himself beginning to dislike Sam Carter more than a little. This was taking the joke a little too far. There was teasing, which was fun because McKay gave as good as he got, and there was being cruel. He might not have the time in grade that Colonel Carter did, but if he got hold of her, she was going to get a real Air Force ass chewing for this little trick.

"McKay, do you want me to–" He made a gesture toward pushing the box back to the other side of the table.

"Go on, unpack the rest of it," McKay told him.

John still hesitated. He really didn't want to go on with this. Even if Carter was an armor-plated bitch, she couldn't have predicted someone else witnessing McKay's humiliation. He was really a little apprehensive over what else she might have included. The woman clearly had an evil streak which in other circumstances he might have admired–hell, he knew he would have–but not when turned on his friend.

McKay rolled his eyes. "Oh, for – just get on with it, Colonel."

He pushed the flaps on the box back and studied the rest of the contents. The door to the conference room opening made him look over his shoulder.

"Elizabeth," McKay said, sounding as surprised as John felt. The leader of the Atlantis expedition was carrying a very large, brown cardboard box that nearly obscured her entirely. "What –?"

John took the box out of her arms and set it on the table. "Looks like you really cleaned up," he joked.

Elizabeth gave him one of her looks–the one he privately called 'the schoolteacher'. "That is not mine."

"Supplies?" he asked.

"No," and now she had the schoolteacher addressing the slow child voice going too, "it's yours."

Maybe he was slow.


"If you had paid any attention when I was distributing the packages, you would have heard me tell you Col. Caldwell delivered yours to my office earlier," Elizabeth said patiently.

John looked at the large box. "I wasn't –" He felt befuddled and suspicious. There was no one who knew where he was who would want to send him anything.

"Holding out on us, Colonel?" McKay asked.

John shrugged.

"So, are you going to open it? Or are you afraid of rattlesnakes?"

"Everyone's afraid of rattlesnakes."

Elizabeth's eyebrows rose.

"Just hold your horses, Rodney," John said. "It's probably something official. No one sent me anything."

"Why don't you open it and see?" Elizabeth suggested gently.

Feeling somewhat ganged up on, John approached his package warily.

"What are the three of you up to in here?" Carson asked from the open door way.

"Carson," McKay greeted him. "Good. You're just in time to see what the Colonel got from Earth."

"It's probably triplicate report forms," John muttered darkly. "Or the ultimate in lost luggage and the airlines finally managed to send some other poor schmuck named Sheppard's underwear to another galaxy."

'Uh huh, uh huh, quit stalling, I let you see mine," McKay said. "Get to it."

"Paranoia," Carson commented not so sotto voce to McKay.

"I heard that."

"Heard what?" McKay asked innocently.

John picked up his combat knife from the table and sliced the box open rather theatrically. McKay and Beckett both rolled their eyes, while Elizabeth crossed her arms and tapped her foot.

"All right, already," he said, folding the box open and staring at the contents. "I'll. Be. Damned."

"What? What is it?" McKay demanded. He was vibrating with frustrated curiosity, the bright look on his face replacing the down turn Sam Carter's joke package had caused enough to make John send a big thank to whoever had sent him this package. And it was for him. The piece of paper lying on top of everything else was addressed to Lt. Col. John A. Sheppard.

I hear there's a lot of water where you are. Take some time, get some fishing in. Have that drink I owed you.
PS - The rest of the gang insisted I send this other stuff. Crime and Punishment? Don't you already work with McKay?

Shaking his head and laughing, John lifted out a bottle of good booze. Good enough that Carson sighed and said, "Save some of that for me, Colonel, and I'll see about making sure Maggie's always your nurse and not Ivan."

"Deal," John said immediately. Ivan scared him. Besides, he figured he could scam McKay's Citron.

Still a little amazed, and wondering why he hadn't had a superior officer like O'Neill before, John pulled out a six-pack of Canadian beer, eliciting a little moan from McKay. He made a note. Lemonade wasn't his favorite drink in the world, but he'd lie and trade for it.

McKay crept a little closer. John slid the six-pack his way. "Here. You're in charge of beer security. No one but you and I touch those. Got it?"

McKay slapped his hand to his chest. "I'll lay down my life."

"You'd better."

"Gentlemen," Elizabeth said.

"You're not getting any," John replied.

"I could order all alcohol locked up."

Beckett and McKay began laughing hard enough to hurt. "Are you out of your mind?" John asked her. "Aside from his –" he jerked head toward McKay, "– bootlegging buddies just making more hooch, who do you think would guard it? And everyone else would just light up some Athosian weed."

"How is that getting back to Atlantis from the mainland, Colonel?"

"I have no idea," he told her. "You're not suggesting I'm –"

"No," she admitted.

"He's right, Elizabeth," Beckett added. "As Chief Medical Officer, I'm prescribing a medicinal dose of hops for the Colonel and Rodney and a shot of Scotch for myself." His smile said being CMO did trump being leader once in a while.

"Oh, fine," Elizabeth snapped. She headed for the door, detoured, and snatched up the vodka.

"Hey, hey, hey, that's mine!" McKay cried out in outrage.

"Not anymore."

"Can you believe that?" McKay asked the room at large after she'd gone.

"Forget it, Rodney," Beckett advised. "If anyone deserves to go on a good drunk, it's Elizabeth."

McKay sulked briefly, but was distracted by the note from General O'Neill still lying where John had set it aside.

"A?" he said.


"What's the A stand for?"

John was lifting out a stack of folded, brilliantly-colored Hawaiian shirts. They were utterly hideous by any objective standard. He loved them instantly. They were exactly what he'd always bought when he managed to finagle a leave and get in some surfing on Oahu. He'd even had a few in Antarctica, though there hadn't been much opportunity to wear them instead of flight suits and Goretex parkas.

He shook out one, admiring the lime-green and turquoise color scheme and the way Beckett tried to shield his eyes. Oh, this was good. And, yes, sweet, someone had included a set of black RayBans.

"What's the A stand for?" McKay insisted.

"That's for me to know and you to find out, Rodney," he drawled in a mock schoolyard taunt.

"Oh, believe me, Colonel, I will," McKay said, nodding his head. "I will. And I will spread it over this entire base."

"You're welcome to, when you find out."

McKay's eyes narrowed.

"Hah. Don't think I won't."

John just shrugged fluidly. His middle name was neither a secret nor in any way extraordinary. Their names might be spelled differently, but his father had insisted he be named for someone with the right stuff. So, of course, he became a pilot. He grinned to himself; even with the Wraith and the rationing and the eerie alien city that was home now, he knew that his namesake would have agreed it was all worth it. The package was sweet, but what he'd found in Atlantis, that was sweeter.

He set down the shirt, then handed Beckett the bottle. "Crack it open, Doc." He raised an eyebrow at McKay. "Rodney?"

"Pour me a shot, but don't think I'm forgetting about the A, Colonel."


"Right. Good." McKay nodded.

Beckett opened the Scotch, paused, then cursed. "I'll be back. Whisky this fine deserves better than chug-a-lugging straight from the bottle. I've some glasses in my rooms."

"We'll be here," John promised.

He went back to the package. There was a heavy copy of Crime and Punishment, which made McKay laugh when he saw it, along with four sets of fishing gear. John's hands stilled over the fourth, disassembled fishing pole. O'Neill had sent one for each of his team, not knowing about their missing fourth.

"Carson talks about fishing in Scotland, you know," McKay said quietly. "He could use the break and join us."

John nodded.

Packets of popcorn were stuffed everywhere in the box, serving as filler. He wondered who had squealed about his fondness for popcorn. More explorations unearthed a small package of earplugs. John looked at those, perplexed, until McKay pulled another piece of paper from the box.

"Ah hah!" McKay waved the paper. "Let's see. What have we here?"

"That's apparently mine, you know," John said mildly.

"Oh, I thought you said this was some other Sheppard's lost luggage."

McKay began reading out loud.

'Col. Sheppard, the shirts and sunglasses are from Teal'c. The book is from me and the earplugs are Sam's idea. The walnut chocolate chip cookies and the zat are from all of us. Daniel Jackson.'

"What?" McKay crowed. He shoved his hands in John's box again, pushing aside shirts.

"A zat?"

"A zat'ni'katel," McKay said. "I can't wait to find out how these work on the Wraith." He lifted out the Gou'ald weapon and beamed at it, then at John. "For an archaeologist, Jackson really is pretty smart."

"They sent me a zat," John muttered. He put his hand to his forehead. And he'd let McKay grab it. Please let there be one more thing in the box and let it be a bottle of aspirin. Extra-Strength. He was weirdly touched, however. Someone somewhere had thought of him. They'd thought he needed a zat. And cookies.

McKay was staring him with that worried pleat between his brows.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah." He looked at McKay's box. Carter couldn't be that bad; there had to be something in there better than a bad joke. If not, there was O'Neill's Scotch to share. He nodded at the box. "Let's see the rest of yours before Carson gets back."

"Oh. Oh, yes."

"Shall I?"

McKay patted the six-pack of beer. "Please. I'm still on guard duty."

John grinned at him.

And, yes, the stuff at the bottom was the real treasure, he saw. He pulled out two envelopes and waved them. "Love letters, Rodney?"

"Hey, give those here!"

McKay snatched at them. John backed away.

"You read my mail."

"What, that?" McKay said scornfully. "That was just a note. It was not a personal and private communication between myself and the woman who just might some day have my children."

John just about broke up at that. Nothing flattened McKay for long.

Still choking back the laughter, he studied the two envelopes. Well, this was interesting. One of them was from Col. Carter. The other was written in Cyrillic.

"You two - timing dog," he said.


"Svetlana Markova?" John waved the second letter teasingly. "What did you get up to in Russia?"

"Give me that," McKay snapped. John let him snatch the letter and placed the other one safely on the table. He went back to the box while McKay read.

A packet of pictures were all of a cat. Sometimes the cat was in the arms of an attractive brunette.

A copy of an astrophysics journal with a picture of McKay–younger, plumper, just as arrogant–on the cover. Rodney McKay – New Wormhole Theories ; Academic vs. Military Research Funding Post-Millennium; Spherical Harmonics. That was going to feed the ego-maw, John thought. McKay would rave for days about the articles he needed to write that he couldn't, due to secrecy agreements and classification and being in another galaxy. He'd be glorious in his scorn of everything scientists back on Earth were getting wrong. John carefully set the journal aside. It would be a great show.

McKay was muttering now. "No, no, no, that's too moronic to believe. Wrong, wrong, what are they smoking anyway?" John watched him for a second. Markova must be a colleague. "Good lord. That's just intolerable. Do they go to school to be that stupid?"

He virtually stopped in mid-word as John lifted out the bags of coffee, followed by chocolate-covered espresso beans and then the candy bars. John would swear later he saw McKay's pupils dilate instantly.

The final item was a DVD. The Sixth Sense. McKay stared at it and flushed. "She saw the tape," he mumbled. John watched him get redder. "Oh. God."


"My message."


"I was sleep-deprived."


"And I may have mentioned certain private activities, fantasies, in relation to Samantha – I should have edited it."

John mulled over that briefly, then blinked. "You told her you –"

"Well, not in so many words," McKay said. "But she's bright enough to draw the right conclusions."

The lemon deluge made a bit more sense. John began to laugh. He gasped out, "I think she does love you." Or she would have sent him a bomb.

"Who loves him?" Carson asked. He had three glasses in his hands.

"Col. Carter," McKay said, looking pleased with himself.

John opened the Scotch and poured them each a shot. "Here's to Col. Carter and the rest of SG-1."

He knocked his back. Carson savored his a bit longer and McKay just smiled before drinking.

"Okay," John said. "I say we stash our loot, find Teyla, and go fishing. Carson, there's a fishing pole here for you, too."

"Colonel, you've seen the size of the things swimming around in Atlantis' ocean?" McKay began immediately. "None of them are even edible. Why would I want to waste my valuable time dangling a hook in the water, anyway? I don't want to catch anything."

"Fishing's not about catching anything, Rodney," Carson told him.

McKay grumbled for show. "Probably a good thing and I'll bet Teyla catches something."


Auburn & eretria, July 2005

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