"Thank you, God, for this bounty of chemical joy," Matthias breathed upon seeing the bottles of homemade booze stacked neatly into the wall fridge.
When Sheppard laughed, though, he knew he'd been heard and found himself grinning in response. To be fair, the last time he'd had any decent alcohol, it had been in the officers' mess at Cheyenne the evening of the announcement. O'Neill had flown in from D.C., Carter from Area 51. Teal'c, Vala Mal Doran, and Mitchell had been off-world, doing what Alton didn't know – he never had paid attention to the SG briefings unless it pertained to him in some way. The only other SG-1 member, Daniel Jackson, had been there with his hand brushing O'Neill's whenever possible.
That night it had seemed like everyone in the SGC had crammed into the room, beer and vodka and gin and ouzo and more drunk over the course of the night. The crowd had changed throughout, never once mentioning what was happening topside.
"Radek's got a still in one of the old storerooms in area C-4," John told him.
"There were some... complications when he first set it up. We jokingly started referring to that section of the city as C-4 and it stuck." Pulling one of the bottles of shocking green liquor from the cabinet, he grabbed two glasses and filled them almost to the rim. "He's got it pretty stable now, so no worries on detonation. Bottoms up."
The contents of the glass were summarily gulped down in one shot by John, refilling it in seconds. He never put the actual alcohol bottle down, holding it by the glass neck and toting it from the tiny kitchenette to the overstuffed chair near the couch. There, he splayed out with one leg over a side and one arm hanging over the other, bottle still in hand.
Just as Matthias was opening his mouth to start some idle chit-chat, there was a ding at the door and John only flipped his gaze toward it, not saying a word. It took just a second for the door to open, revealing Evan Lorne in chinos and a loose tee with sneaker-clad feet.
"John," he started, startled somewhat when he saw Matthias and stopped, "I'm sorry, sirs, I didn't know."
As he turned to go, Sheppard called out, "Lorne. Get your ass in here and start drinking," and refilled his own glass. "You know where the cups are and if I have to say it again, your team goes with Zelenka to M7G-677 next time."
The fake groan was amusing, but he did as he was told, collapsing onto the couch with a theatrical sigh. "I didn't think I'd ever miss a good microbeer," Evan said before holding out his glass to be filled. "My brother was going to start one up, make good non-frills beer. I don't know if he went ahead with it or not, though."
The first bottle of booze had been emptied by the time Lorne had finished telling them about his brother and his homemade ale and they'd cracked open the second with Chuck Brady (the jokes to be made, dear god) splayed out on the floor, a stuffed bear under his head, while Elizabeth sat in a nearby chair.
"Pickles. Proper half-sour pickles," she threw into the pool of foods they were all missing and wishing for.
"No, I have the one," Chuck muttered up at them. He held his glass high in the air and saluted the item as he told them, "Dagoba Chocolate. There is an art to the alchemy of chocolate," before taking the last sip of what the Atlanteans called Red Rum.
Elizabeth groaned and held out her glass, "Oh, god, don't remind me about chocolate."
John tipped the bottle to pour more into her glass, watching as two drops emptied and nothing else. As he got to his feet and reached for the third bottle of the night, he remarked, "Radek's going to kill me when I have to get more from the storeroom."
"I think he'll be less upset with you given how entertaining I'll be to him tomorrow morning."
"There is that," Sheppard laughed, uncorking an amber bottle and sniffing the contents. "Purple Bass," he muttered, "I hate the Purple Bass."
"Purple Bass, sir?" Matt asked, watching his superior put the bottle to his lips and pulled a long drink from it.
"One of the malt liquors Zelenka makes. He's gotten better than the shit we had when we first got here, but some of them are... acquired tastes." Evan reached for the bottle in Sheppard's hand and returned to the conversation from earlier, remarking, "Chocolate's good, but, and I never thought I'd say this, MRE's."
"You miss that crap?"
Lorne grinned at Alton. "God yes! It took the cafeteria staff three years after the last one got eaten to figure out how to pack them small enough to fit in the mission packs. I still don't put my spare weaponry in a pack if I can – brown sauce is not the best lubricant."
"In any manner of speaking," Brady laughed.
"I do not want to know how you know that!"
The laugh that was shared was hearty and Matt wondered briefly if he would ever have the same kind of easy camaraderie with them. He hadn't had any real friends on the Icarus; everybody had been too laden in their grief and most stuck to the friends they already had, if any. The closest relationship he'd had was the strange sort of brotherly-closeness he shared with Cassandra though he rarely saw her these days; he wasn't sure if he should feel upset over her acceptance of Atlantis, her integration without effort, or if he should be happy for her.
He sipped the Purple Bass, curious about the name but refusing to ask, and said, "I won't miss the NID or the Trust. Or the Gou'ald, or..." he trailed off. God, he hated that name; instead he added, "I will miss seeing SG-1 around though. I don't think a day went by where I didn't see at least one of them running around."
Lorne nodded, understanding how calming it had been – once – to see the members of the flagship team, running around Cheyenne without a glance toward those around them. They had always seemed to be at the heart of everything, figuring out every problem and staring down any enemy that dared cross them. He tried to recall the last time he'd seen them, the founding members, together, sitting at a lunch table in that frigid Antarctic base with smiles on their faces and coffee mugs cradled in their hands.
Those who had served in the SGC, who had seen the team, hadn't asked Alton about SG-1. It was an unspoken agreement; no one wanted to know if they'd died or survived, how they'd looked at the end, or anything else. Living with the hope they'd made it to the Alpha Site and their memories of them was far better than thinking of the most likely reality.
"Colonel O'Neill," Sheppard stated. "I didn't want to join the expedition at first. I figured I'd end up will all the shit work or just be a fucking light switch for the science staff. He got pissed at that, talked to my CO who made me take leave. I went back to my place in the States and sat out in a park, flipping a coin, when O'Neill shows up, sits down and starts talking about all these things he'd seen. The good stuff." With another slug of liquor, he told them, "Never got the chance to thank him for giving me the kick in the ass."
A snore from the other side of the living area broke the sudden melancholy in the room and Elizabeth laughed at the sight of Chuck, spread eagle on the carpet and one arm shoved under the coffee table. "Perhaps we should wrap up this discussion for another night," she remarked as she prodded the man with a sock-clad foot.
"How's friday?" Alton half-joked.
There was a passing silence, each person thinking it over and Evan nodded, saying, "I'm free after eighteen hundred," and stood. He looked at Sheppard, who waved him away and the Atlantean military's second-in-command left with a grin on his face with Matt joining him. He guided the man through the halls, knowing how confused he still was by the layout of the city, and when they reached his door, Lorne told him, "We all freak a little when new people come. Balances and everything, but you don't have to worry about it, Colonel."
"And why do you say that?" Matt asked, his hand poised over the door lock.
"Because you just started a new tradition," Evan grinned. "Sheppard wouldn't have agreed if he didn't think you belong around us."
"He that protective?"
With a snort of amusement, Lorne thought over the best way to explain to the man Sheppard's loyalty to his team, his almost tyrannical need to watch over the city... his hatred of anything that threatened his people. He finally told the other, "He's worse than Colonel O'Neill."