Prompt: Write about a woman named Cookie Greene.
Summary: Sometimes the day is good, and sometimes it isn't, but Cookie Greene still has the best job in the city. (McShep; title from Iron and Wine's song Such Great Heights.)
Now, if there's a single person on Atlantis―just one out of the entire expedition―that absolutely, positively zero people disrespect (not even Kavanaugh, when he'd been in the city), it's Cookie Greene. Not charmy-smarmy Colonel Sheppard or “that's 'Doctor' to you” Rodney McKay. Not even Ronon Dex, who smites people with his pinkie finger. It's Cookie, because she may not be all that wily, bright, or intimidating, but she's in charge of food, and in the end, food is at the top of everyone's Privileges Not to Lose list.
Naturally, “Cookie” isn't her real name. It's a nickname she has the honor of sharing with hundreds and hundreds of other military chefs who've waded through piles of outdated cans; who've boiled dirty water to make not-dirty stew; who've baked bread that rivaled hockey pucks. And it's not their fault the food is so unappetizing, because when all you have are some pots and beans circa 1970-something, there's not much anyone can do. But Cookie has the luck of being on Atlantis, where there's a kitchen and clean water and decent equipment; she's confident her food is the best Atlantis has ever (yes, ever) tasted, because from what she hears, Ancients were boring folk. She doubts they had much time for culinary pursuits, unless a well-baked cake was the key to ascension―and if that's the case, Doc McKay is on the fast track to higher being-ness.
An upside to Cookie's position is the chance to gab. Everyone has to eat, so everyone camps in the chow line. She can gossip with Cadman, talk shop with Teyla, and trade insults with Doc McKay (when he chooses not to live on MREs, which Cookie―on bad days―takes as a personal insult). Unlike the good doctor, Cookie knows everyone by name and has an extensive birthday list tacked by the Ancient-oven-something (it's not exactly an oven, but it's better than the Bunsen burners they'd brought as a last resort). Of course, being head-chef (in a world where the standard is a stale Powerbar and some Czech moonshine) isn't all grapevine-perpetuation; Cookie has soldiers lining up at 0800 sharp every morning for breakfast and black coffee. She has scientists dragging in (or out) at around nine, gambling for coffee with milk, please, because I can't do the 'pinch of salt' thing like the grunts. Lunch is noon sharp, and dinner's no later than dusk.
But today is special. Naturally, a Daedalus supply run is always special, and they're due to dock in an hour, which is Cookie's blessing and curse. On the one hand: new supplies! Fresh food! Mixing spoons, extra salt, and her birthday-cupcake condiments, which are (in her expert opinion, which Caldwell doesn't find all that expert) absolutely vital. But with those treasures comes an extra crew to care for. Sure, they never expect to be fed, since they have their own food stock on-board―but Cookie has fresh veggies from New Athos, twenty-nine types of beans, almost-apples from P54-GV, bread still warm from the oven, and a very big heart.
There's always room in Cookie's mess for a few poor souls who've just traversed across the galaxy.
But it's quite possible (though Doc McKay is constantly differentiating between “possible” and “probable”―loudly, and with waving hands), the best part of Cookie's job is the expression on a person's face after they've received a great meal. Since it's kinda a special evening, Cookie has bread (with the last of the butter, so seriously, Caldwell better have double-checked the requisition form), mashed almost-apples (with roughly-raisins mixed in), practically-potatoes (and gravy, retrofitted to accommodate her mama's secret recipe), and fried steak. (Well, okay, the flour came from one her her twenty-nine varieties of locally-traded beans, and the steak? Totally caught by Ronon, which can only mean it's not really steak, but Cookie chooses to ignore it, so everyone else does, too.) It's a delicious meal, complete with sweet maybe-marshmallow salad for desert.
“T'is i' ama'ing,” Novak says, very un-daintily consuming a large mouthful of almost-apples. Privately, Cookie thinks it could've used some honey, but beggars, choosers, whatever.
“Thank you, sweetie,” she says, thinking how her mama would've slapped her if she caught Cookie eating like that. “Now swallow before you choke on something.”
Novak swallows, but cancels it out by taking a huge forkful of practically-potatoes. Caldwell, who usually sits with Sam and Sheppard (if either man can stand it) on the first night of docking, watches Novak with morbid fascination. Unfortunately for him, Sam hasn't arrived yet, and the Colonel is busy prying Doc McKay from whatever Ancient gizmo he's found.
Novak may be a sight to behold, but after watching Garth and Moganson's bean-eating contest last month, not much fazes Cookie anymore. (In the end, poor Jen Keller suffered the worst of the contest. It's not like she stocked a lot of Beano for her trip to Pegasus, so two patients with serious cases of gas? Horrific.)
“Hope you're enjoying your supper, sir,” she says, mercifully diverting Caldwell's attention from Novak. “That's the last of the butter you see there. Speakin' of which―''
“Everything you ordered is on board,” he cuts in, “But I've been meaning to discuss the two pounds of cupcake supplies.”
“They're vital,” she stresses, just as the Colonel and Doc McKay bustle through the door, Sheppard's hand on the Doc's back, propelling him forward. “Sweets do wonders for morale. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some boys to feed. And that had better be gone when I get back,” she threatens, gesturing again towards the uneaten dinner. “You think I make almost-apples any old day?”, because if he did, then he has another thing coming.
Doc meets her eyes as she approaches the food bar. He hates when she makes them wait.
“Do you think it's possible to get some service around here?” he snaps, but Cookie simply ignores him and heads to the other side of the bar. If he was so hungry, why didn't he come down when supper actually started?
“I wager so, but it serves you right,” she sasses back, even as she reaches for two trays and begins placing their portions on plates. “If you came down with everyone else, we wouldn't have to go through this all the time.”
“Yes, well, excuse my busy schedule. I'm kind of preoccupied saving your collective hides,” Doc sniffs, but his obvious interest in the mashed almost-apples makes him all bark and no bite.
“I think this is the part where you graciously thank her for cooking, Rodney,” the Colonel suggests, softly jabbing his elbow into the Doc's side. Cookie listens (but doesn't concentrate) on the small argument that follows, because she's heard a hundred variations of this theme, and there's nothing new about Sheppard and McKay arguing-but-not-really with each other. Cookie suspects it's their default setting, and anyway, their back-and-forth never ceases being sweet.
“Here you boys are,” she says, interrupting what's sure to be a Doc McKay Snark Special. “Now go on before I get the mind to send you packing.”
Sheppard frowns in the way that gets his entire face involved: lips, hair, eyebrows. “Are you allowed to say that to your CO?”
“Okay, just making sure.”
She finds it funny, even more funny as the Doc plops down by Novak (Sheppard doing the same, of course, because Cookie's pretty sure it's always been that way); the two scientists begin to see who can talk shop and eat at the same time. Caldwell and Sheppard are forced to turn away, which makes them realize they only have each other to converse with. A minute later, Caldwell breaks, asking some mundane question about Atlantis, and Cookie feels proud. It takes an amazing meal to make people talk.
The line's empty for now, so Cookie busies herself with washing up. Anything not eaten is preserved in the freezer, though she wonders if a stasis pod would do a better job extending the life of edibles. It kept humans fresh for millenniums at a time, so imagine the food potential―she could get started on a Thanksgiving feast in the middle of summer, and no one would know it was six months old! She wonders if Doc McKay could rig something up. He may complain at first, but the prospect of a proper holiday supper would eventually win him over.
“Great eats, Cookie,” Lorne says, popping into her line of sight, politely placing his tray back in the bin. Stackhouse is with him and follows the example; Lord knows she's lectured him about not leaving those things on the table.“The apple stuff was amazing.”
“That's kind of you to say so, Major,” she answers. Cookie loves a good compliment, and hey, it's well deserved. “Did you have enough? You're welcome to seconds. Goes for you too, Sergeant.”
“Nah, I'm stuffed. Thanks, though.” He leans in and waggles his eyebrows playfully. “I'm just waiting for you to choose tonight's song.”
“Has that become a tradition and no one told me?” she asks, making a face. “Tradition” is too strong a word, and all in all, it's kinda a ridiculous one to begin with. A few months back, a Daedalus crewmen had a birthday the night they docked. When Cookie had found out―well. Needless to say, a cupcake was in order, as was the birthday song, which turned into something by ABBA, because (and really, this is something Marines don't enjoy having tossed around) the military obviously has something for disco. The next time Caldwell's ship docked, the mess had broken into a rendition of Iron Man. The time after was Wild Thing. Tonight is anyone's guess, though Cookie suspects it'll be another classic.
“We've done it three times. That makes it a tradition,” Stackhouse says, serious. “It's bad luck to break tradition.”
Cookie isn't convinced, but eventually picks Journey, because everyone knows Don't Stop Believing. The mess is filled with their off-key voices, rising loud and proud, grunts and geniuses from both the Daedalus and her city joining together to give Steve Perry a run for his money. Marines stomp their boots, and Teyla claps her hands, and even Caldwell gives them this moment to be happy.
The Daedalus comes and goes, leaving Cookie with her share of gifts. She immediately stores everything in its rightful place, gleeful about the replenished butter and pepper stores. She even takes a page from Doc McKay's book and posts a highly-visible warning on their new bin of salt: Whoever takes from this box will lose all eating privileges. She caps her Sharpie marker with smug satisfaction and begins planning the next day's breakfast.
Days on Atlantis are the same: calm, mostly, with a few disasters for added interest. Lorne continues his battle against paperwork, Doctor Z remains hassled and harried, poor Jen Keller never stops being overwhelmed, and Sam Carter wakes up every morning with a headache. She prefers tea with her breakfast, which is just another service Cookie is more than happy to provide. Anyway, tea's better for the body; she thinks the scientists should look into it, especially Dave Parrish, who's beginning to look like a lanky KISS member.
The Colonel and Doc McKay are, of course, their usual selves. There are hijinks, small explosions, big explosions, and insults. Cookie never witnesses any of this personally, but she always gets the story from everyone in the chow line; Miko is a particularly fantastic source of information, since her quiet manner makes Doc McKay forget she's even there. On bad days, when Cookie hears the Doc has been more stressed than usual, she gives him an extra desert and slips a Powerbar beneath his plate.
Anyway, it's early Wednesday morning when everything goes pear-shaped. The Wednesday is normal, as days of the week go, and Cookie's planning Sergeant Samson's birthday cupcake for tomorrow―chocolate, she thinks, with some bordering-on-banana slices to garnish the top. There's a breeze just south of chilly blowing in, and a few Marines waiting for the first pot of coffee. Based on past experience, this is supposed to be a good day, and even if it isn't, she has some virtually-venison ready to be roasted. That makes it a good day on principle.
But this is not a typical situation, because news from the chow line is this: the Colonel has been accused of “conduct unbecoming”.
Cookie―along with, oh, say, everyone else―always suspected there was more between Sheppard and Doc McKay than met the eye. She sorta knew this day would come, but she brushed the concept of Colonel Sheppard leaving with phrases like international expedition or light-years away from anyone who cares. (There are more empty reassurances stored up her sleeve, ones like we’re in a different galaxy, so what can they really do?, which is a stupid train of thought, since wormhole travel is practically instantaneous. An indignant, embarrassed USAF can do a lot of things, especially if all it takes is a step through the stargate.) No matter what Cookie likes to imagine, Pegasus isn’t exactly hard to reach, and Earth has a long arm.
Cookie almost wishes this going-to-get-worse-before-it-gets-better situation was of the normal variety: Wraith, Genii, Replicators, or Ancient tech gone rouge. She prefers those things, because if Doc McKay can’t fix it, then the Colonel can just blow it up―but Sheppard can’t blow up a military review board, one that’s received an anonymous complaint of inappropriate conduct. The moment Cookie hears about it (from Lorne, who looks sick and concerned and pissed off), she knows the complaint isn’t about Sheppard’s leadership. It isn’t about his training methods, his attitude, or his treatment towards the Marines.
It’s about him and the Doc, about what they are to each other.
Cookie can't figure who ratted them out, or how anyone even discovered the supposed relationship. It’s not like Sheppard and the Doc mack it in the mess hall, and if Teyla and Ronon know anything about their teammates, it would take something far worse than torture to make 'em spill the secret. Cookie watches her soldiers closely (not that it makes any difference―the board is still on their way, scheduled to gate in tomorrow), but the Marines treat Rodney the same as always (with respect and a good dose of ribbing) and follow John’s orders to a T. In the chow line, there are no homophobic remarks. No harassment of publicly-gay scientists. No threats.
“I say we shoot ‘em,” Ronon mutters. Cookie simply hands him his lunch and waves the next person in line: Teyla, all while pretending Ronon's option is actually an option. She looks towards Teyla, hoping for a more diplomatic approach (it's days like this they miss Dr. Liz the most), but Teyla’s not looking very forgiving. In fact, she says, “Perhaps I should help,” like she really has it in her to shoot some government goon without asking questions first.
Everyone's aware by the time supper rolls around. Cookie would know, since she has to see every drawn face in line, expressions that barely register the hot meal before them. It's her personal mission to grill everyone about what they know; the majority have no details whatsoever, but Miko and Doctor Z are able to deliver juicier facts. There are days Cookie regrets being holed in he kitchen for twelve hours at a time, since she so rarely gets to see anything first-hand.
The mess hall is buzzing, but not in the happy way. Cookie has experienced a happily-buzzed expedition: nights before mandatory days off, when everyone's busy discussing their next-day plans, or when a major holiday is coming up and a party's being arranged. But tonight's buzz is the doom-buzz: the evening before Wraith were due to attack, or when the ZPM is beginning to drain. It's the kind of buzz that makes her wish Caldwell would sneak them in some hardcore alcohol.
When the Colonel and Doc McKay walk through the door, the buzz vanishes. It's silent, something her boys and girls should never be. They walk up to the bar and Cookie makes them a plate full of virtually-venison and barely-black eye peas, slipping a Powerbar under the Doc's plate and giving them each an extra bit of brownie. She even pours the Doc a mug coffee without his asking and finds the Colonel some iced-tea, because he likes that the most and she usually saves it for special occasions.
“Here you are, honey,” (the coffee for Doc); Cookie's fairly sure her mama's genes are starting to show, because she just wants to hug them and give them cookies and a good book to read. They don't deserve this. From behind her two boys, Cookie watches Cadman rise up from her seat (leaving her tray on the table―seriously, Cookie has rules about that) and walks right towards them, her steps heavy in the silence of onlookers. Cookie wishes they'd at least had time to sit somewhere.
“Sir,” Cadman says, stepping towards them without the usual playful wink in Rodney’s direction. She seems very determined, like maybe she’s been elected to ask what the hell is going on. “Permission to―’’
“Just go ahead,” Sheppard interrupts, not quite snapping at her but not at all his playful self. If possible, her spine straightens.
“Is it true a review board will arrive tomorrow?” And ain’t it just like Cadman to come right out and ask? She hasn’t changed at all, not since she and Rodney had inhabited the same body.
“Yes it is, Lieutenant.”
Cadman’s jaw is rigid. “May I ask why, sir?”
In Cookie’s mind, she's always suspected the Colonel would run away when this finally blew up. And if he didn’t run, he certainly wouldn’t embrace the consequences of DADT.
So she’s still surprised when the Colonel slouches towards Doc McKay instead of away, when he shrugs, like tonight is any other night, and replies, “Conduct unbecoming.”
“I see,” Cadman says, and Cookie has no doubt she does. There's no question now, no use trying to hide it anymore, no point in hoping everything will blow over and resolve itself. Everyone knows, and though it looks like the Doc wants to duck out and lick his wounds, the Colonel has never chosen that path. He sets his tray back on the bar and looks at Cadman before lighting his eyes on Lorne, Stackhouse, and the rest of his soldiers.
“When the board members arrive at 0800, I want you to represent Atlantis with the best of your ability,” he says, very much still in command. Cookie feels unreasonably proud of him. “Follow your duty rosters accordingly and treat tomorrow like you would any other day. Am I understood?”
Cookie half expects some grumbles and mumbles, but she’s nearly blown away with the powerful and collective voice of, “Yes sir!” The Colonel seems a little overwhelmed himself and decides to push it just a bit, even though she’s sure that was all he had originally intended to say.
“As I’m sure you’re all aware, I’ve been written up in a complaint of conduct unbecoming. I’m sure you know what this conduct involves.” He pauses. “But you will treat Doctor McKay the same way you’ve always treated him. Do exactly as he asks, when he asks. The same goes for all the scientists.”
Sheppard’s order is met with another, “Yes sir!”, more unified than before.
“Last,” he says, bowling on, gathering up the rest of his courage, “If a board member asks you anything about myself or Doctor McKay, be objective. That’s all I will ever ask of you and it’s all the law requires. Clear?”
“Yes sir” is practically a yell this time, and while the obvious support is welcome, it seems neither Sheppard nor McKay have the stomach to eat. Wasting food―especially entire platefuls―is something Cookie never, ever allows, much like leaving trays for her to collect or not informing the kitchen staff that the coffee pot's empty. But she figures it can slide this time, so she takes the tray and saves the plates for anyone who wants seconds.
Her two boys turn to leave. The Colonel nods to Cadman, who snaps a salute so fast her bone pops.
“Oorah, sir,” she says, more serious than Cookie's ever seen her. The table closest follows suit, shouting out mismatching “oorahs” that make McKay frown, not sure if he's getting drummed out of the room.
It's similar to the first night when the Daedalus arrives, when everyone has crowded into Cookie's mess and chosen an old-school tune, when they sing so loud Cookie's sure the whales can hear. But this isn't a celebration: this is a vow, something which can only be expressed with two syllables and boots. The Colonel and Doc McKay aren't even halfway to the exit before the mess' occupants find a rhythm: “Oorah!”―stomp, stomp―“Oorah!”―stomp, stomp―their heavy boots creating a bass line against the floor.
The Doc still doesn't look like he knows what's going on, but Cookie does.
Oorah: the phrase of Marines who plan to follow something through.
And they, an entire pack of hardened Marines, were giving the “oorah” to their Air Force CO (a fact he'd been mercilessly mocked about before), a way of saying we'll never stop fighting for you in not so many words.
The next afternoon, after Cookie has returned with Ronon, good things have happened, and bad things have happened. Ronon hunted them up a fine selection of meat (more of that delicious fried steak, which ain't steak, but who cares?) and found some seeds for could-be-corn. It'll give Katie Brown something to do between baby-sitting the rest of the foliage, and who knows? There might be cornbread in their future.
Unfortunately, the people of PJH-0N obviously think Cookie's an idiot, because they were trying to trade Atlantis' thirtieth type of bean for much more valuable things. The leader said, “They grow larger when cooked properly,” but Cookie has become an expert on beans, and they didn't look like anything special to her. He grew very offended when she asked to cook some on the spot, so she and Ronon made a swift walk towards the gate, because she refused to start intergalactic warfare over little bits of carbohydrates.
The mood of the city is somber.
She's just removed her TAC vest and put on an apron when word of the wormhole engaging spreads. The review board is early today, and she suddenly wishes she hadn't gone out with Ronon to gather new supplies. She wishes she'd been there for breakfast instead, giving support to her Colonel and Doc McKay, who―no matter how anxious―always has a stomach for coffee. She hasn't seen them today, and knows they'll stay invisible until the board has come and gone. The only choice she has is to follow her usual routine and start preparing supper. Today will be seemingly-sweet potatoes and pasta.
Hours later, Cookie's surprised to see Chuck standing by the coffee pot, looking miserable.
“The board wants to interview you,” he says. “I can get Marcuni to take over here.”
She wants to say no. First of all, Cookie has no business with any review board―she's not a gossip when it comes to the career of her CO―and secondly, Marcuni has no business being in her kitchen. The man can barely boil water, much less cook anything worth eating. And isn't that why she's here? She didn't enlist for the opportunity to be a homophobe; she became a Marine to protect people, and anyway, she's got no time to waste when lunch is only an hour away.
“You don't let anyone near my cooking, you hear? I'll only be gone for a short while,” she orders, removing her apron and wiping her cheeks with the back of her hand. “Any flour on me?”
Chuck smiles, but only halfway. “No.”
Cookie begins her walk to the board room. It feels like the plank. She thinks about tomorrow: the Daedalus is due for another stop. She hasn't planned a menu for them, but it will surely involve the fresh meat Ronon caught this morning. She wants a nice dessert this time, too—the marshmallow salad is good, but both the crew and expedition deserve a little something extra this time around, maybe something with frosting.
She approaches the room and nods at the Marine on duty. It's Lieutenant Charles. Bobby is his first name.
“Hon,” she greets. Cookie Greene has never been one for formalities.
“Ma'am,” he nods. “Good luck. They might be vicious.”
The thing is, Cookie grew up off the Florida-Georgia highway, living on boiled peanuts, learning the secrets of cornbread and collard greens. She slept with crawling insects and no electricity and the same three dresses for two years—she's not afraid of some high-collars with too much time on their hands.
The doors slide open. There are seven men at the table (where, Cookie fondly recalls, Doctor Liz made her most fierce decisions), two of which are Jack O'Neill and Rich Woosley. They don't look happy.
“Lieutenant Greene, please take a seat,” says one of them. Cookie doesn't bother to ask their names, but does take the single chair before them. “As you know, this is a preliminary review of Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard's conduct as acting military head of this expedition. Is there any observations you have personally witnessed that support the allegations of an inappropriate relationship between Colonel Sheppard and Doctor Rodney McKay?”
Dozens, she thinks. “No, sir,” is what she answers.
“Just to be clear, you have personally met both of these men during your service here?”
“How well do you know these individuals?”
“Fairly well, I would say. I'm acting chef. I know everyone.”
Jack O'Neill snorts. “Isn't kitchen duty supposed to be rotated?”
“It would be, if anyone here knew how to cook,” Cookie promptly answers. “Speaking of which, lunch time is nearly here―”
“Sorry, Cook, but I'm obligated to ask this,” O'Neill says, and he does sound awfully reluctant. “Do you have any reason to believe Colonel Sheppard is breaking the USAF code of conduct?”
She wants to say you ought to be ashamed and this ain't the way things should be, but remembers what the Colonel said: If a board member asks you anything about myself or Doctor McKay, be objective. That’s all I will ever ask of you and it’s all the law requires.
“No, sir,” Cookie replies, and that's all she damn well has to say on the matter.
Caldwell's crew arrives the next night. In a restless fit, Cookie has baked up an extra sweet double-layer cake, using every last granule of sugar, every bit of their essentially-egg (not quite chicken eggs, but they do the trick). The marines and scientists are restless as well, and Caldwell's crew has no idea what's happening until dinner that night, when Cookie introduces her latest feast.
“Who repor'ed it?” Novak asks, chewing a large bite of biscuit. “Of all the dumb, s'upid―”
“Swallow, honey,” Cookie says, and then: “I'm not sure. But whoever it is―” Her eyes dart towards Caldwell, who's sitting at their table but deep in conversation with Sam. He won't hear her. “―has a bounty on their head. I can't think of a single person in the city who'd do this. How about you?”
“No one comes to mind. God, I hope nothing happens. Atlantis isn't built to operate without Sheppard and McKay.”
“Doc and the Colonel,” Cookie says, smiling fondly, glad that everyone's happily preoccupied with their dinner for the moment. The investigation is leaving a dark cloud over their heads.
“You know what would cheer everyone up? A good song. Which one are we going to belt out tonight, Cookie?” And there's that tradition—they have to keep it going, now, else it's bad luck, but Doc and the Colonel aren't there, and it's just not the same. Cookie leads them into a resounding chorus of Sweet Child O' Mine anyway, and maybe the song doesn't exactly describe Doc and the Colonel, but they're her kids, in a way—the expedition, the Daedalus crew—her sweet children.
In the end, the investigation comes to a soft close. The matter is wrapped up within the week, and no one is happier about this than Lorne, who gives back command as soon as he catches word. It's a clear morning when the announcement is made, and Cookie scrambles up a huge batch of essentially-eggs with possibly-peppers tossed in, and she makes biscuits and bordering-on-bacon and uses her precious salt. Life, she decides, is too short to celebrate without good seasoning. A smattering of applause breaks out when the Colonel walks into the mess; he takes an elaborate bow, but Doc just rolls his eyes, and everyone pretends they weren't losing sleep the past seven days or so.
Some days are good, and some days are bad, both in the kitchen and out of it. Cookie goes with Ronon on culinary missions, thumbing her nose at the thirty-first variety of bean in favor of kinda-cabbage. She tries all the seasonings they come across, each and every one of them—some are delicious, but some have Cookie guzzling half her canteen. She keeps up with her birthday list, perpetually demanding more salt and cupcake supplies from Caldwell, who grumbles and mumbles but does as she asks.
When the Daedalus docks two months afterwards, the chow line overflows with fresh gossip. Cookie hears from Miko who hears from Cadman who hears from Novak that Caldwell reassigned one of the Daedalus engineers to Cheyenne Mountain. Cookie didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday: it's obvious the engineer was the one who first reported Doc and the Colonel.
“And listen to this,” Miko continues, “DADT was repealed for SGC soldiers last week! It came in today's data burst.”
“I bet O'Neill had a hand in that,” Dave Parrish says from behind her. “Wonder if they'll eventually repeal it for everyone.”
“Rumor is they've already started the process,” Miko answers. Cookie can't believe it. She gives them their plates, listening to Stackhouse, Shefield, Warner, Novak, Doc Zelenka and Simpson all discussing the news, speculating on the details. But when the mess suddenly falls quiet, Cookie looks up to see Doc and the Colonel walking through the door. The Colonel looks happy, or happy in his own particular way: he's smiling, posture relaxed, joking with the Doc, who doesn't appear at all comfortable. He seems nervous and jumpy, like a Wraith might drop from the ceiling.
“Congrats, Colonel Sheppard!” Parrish says over the silence. No one has to ask what he means.
“Thanks very much,” the Colonel answers, at which point McKay snaps. He swirls towards the Colonel and hisses, “There has to be a catch, you moron! Like—oh, I don't know—you're reassigned out of the SGC? Our funding can get cut at any second! Seriously, John, this sort of thing doesn't just happen,” but the Colonel just kisses him in the middle of the mess, in front of the marines, scientists, the Holy Father, everybody, and then looks in Cookie's direction.
“Hey,” he calls, face etched with joy, like Cookie's mama during Sunday services. Doc McKay, for all his huffing and puffing, looks the same. “What're we singing tonight? Can't break tradition now!”
Colonel Carter rolls her eyes and Caldwell seems resigned to it, but everyone else murmurs in agreement. Cookie stops to think.
Finally, she starts, lyrics falling easily off her tongue. She knows these old songs like the back of her knife-callused palm, remembering each second as they played on Jerry's static-prone radio. Jerry had owned a used tire business on the side of the highway, but never realized he was living in poverty. Cookie never did, either—not when the music was playing.
“Buddy you're a big boy, make a big noise, playin' in the street—gonna be a big man someday,” and already the two claps and single stomp are starting up. Nearly everyone joins in by the time she reaches the second stanza.
“You got mud on your face, you big disgrace, kicking your can all over the place—singin' we will, we will rock you!” Clap, clap, stomp; clap, clap, stomp. “Singin' we will, we will rock you!”
Cadman is wearing the biggest ever smile, Novak's mouth is empty for once, and Stackhouse is using his table as a drum. Cookie watches all these people—her kids, those she loves so dearly—sing as loud as they can, raising their voices to the ceiling, up and over the balconies.
“—Shoutin' in the street, gonna take on the world some day—you got blood on your face, you big disgrace, wavin' your banner all over the place! Singin' we will, we will rock you!”
The Colonel's voice is loudest of all, unrestrained for the first time Cookie can remember.
Doc McKay is smiling.