Disclaimer: I do not own the copyrights to Buffy or Stargate, and I do not derive financial profit from writing fanfiction using these series.
expectancy - something expected (as on the basis of a norm)
Chapter One: Interrupted
I used to have two personal rules about drinking alcohol: Don't drink to excess, and don't drink alone. As I sipped my beer, I knew I was keeping rule number one, but I wasn't so sure about rule number two. Although the bar was fairly busy, I certainly seemed to be drinking alone.
I glanced around and accidentally met the surveying eye of the man sitting closest to me. We both quickly looked elsewhere. This was not a bar where people went to find a date. Have a date, maybe, or eat with friends, but solitude was respected. An ache I refused to acknowledge intensified in my chest. I accepted this assignment, asked for it even, but I didn't realize how much I would miss my team. Teal'c. Daniel. Jack. We've done quite well keeping in touch, considering how busy we are, but a phone call once every couple of weeks isn't close to working together more days than not.
I sighed. Then, feeling watched, I looked around again. The man whose eye I met moments before was looking at me. This time, he didn't look away politely. I didn't either. His mouth opened slightly as he began to say something, then stopped. I raised an eyebrow.
Going ahead, he said, “I've heard it's bad for your soul to drink alone.”
I almost smiled at what sounded like a cheesy pick-up line, but his eye looked genuinely caring, and somehow, that irked me. Searching the room pointedly for possible companions, I asked, “What about your soul?”
He thought about that, taking a large swallow of his drink. Licking his lips, he said, “Mm, soul poison.”
I chuckled. Then I studied him more carefully. I'd noticed the eyepatch straight away, and the curly brown hair hanging wildly around his shoulders. The geometric tattoo on the back of his hand looked like it continued beneath the cuff of his vibrant green shirt. His jeans were well-worn, but at least he appeared clean. The bar's owner usually stopped the unhygienic at the door, but his idea of clean enough for an Earth-side eating establishment and my idea were separated by about nine days in the bush. I wondered whether I should continue the conversation. I wouldn't mind the company, but he was a man, and men usually get strange ideas when a woman talks to them. I toyed with my half-full glass.
Picking up his own glass, the man said, “I bet I can make mine last longer than yours.”
I almost laughed again. He noticed and smiled. By some mutual unspoken agreement, neither of us asked why we were sitting by ourselves in a bar, drinking. We talked about the football game on the television in the corner and the unseasonably warm summer.
“I don't think it's so bad,” he shrugged off the hundred degree days. “Nothing compared to some parts of the world.”
“You travel a lot?” I was surprised. With his muscles and long hair, I'd thought he was probably a laborer.
“Mostly Africa. I just came back to the U.S. in April. Been gone almost eleven years.” I knew my surprise showed when he smirked at me. “You travel much?”
“A bit. I'm pretty settled now, though.” Even I could hear the sadness in my voice. I was on my third beer then, and I should probably quit if I were already getting emotional.
He nodded in sympathetic understanding. “I'm thinking of going back to Africa. I have a few friends left in California—it's where I was born—but I'm not sure I can just plop down and find a nice little nine-to-five there.”
Curious, I asked, “What did you do in Africa?”
He hesitated. “Well, I started out working for an elite school that wanted to gather exceptional students from around the world. I did testing. Then the town I was staying in was raided by a rebel group. They stole almost all the food and a lot of other things the townspeople couldn't afford to lose. Turned out, it happened all the time. At first, I stuck to my job, but after a few days, I couldn't stand it anymore.” He shook his head. “My employers weren't happy that I got involved. Told me to 'get my so-not-bulletproof butt out of the line of fire.' But,” he tossed back the rest of his drink, “they accepted my notice. Been a bit of a mercenary ever since, I guess, although I haven't always been paid.” He laughed as he set down his empty glass. “Think I should stop drinking now, before I spill all my secrets.” He winked at me.
I watched him, fascinated. I've never respected mercenaries as a group. For the armed forces, fighting is inextricably linked to loyalty, and selling loyalty has always seemed like an oxymoron. Yet this man fought for a cause he chose. I didn't think “mercenary” was the right word for him.
When he rose to go and began saying goodbye, I found that I was reluctant to see him go. In small ways, he reminded me of all of my teammates.
“So you'll be going on to California tomorrow?”
“Yeah.” He tilted his head slightly, studying me. Then he grinned suddenly. “What the heck.” He grabbed a napkin and scribbled on it. Slapping it down on the bar next to my glass, he said, “Here's my cell number. I bought one when I got back to the U.S. so I wouldn't miss any of my friends trying to contact me. Won't work in Africa, but I'll be around at least until October.” Not waiting to see if I took it, he turned to go. A few feet from the door, he whirled and came back. I looked up from entering his number in my phone. “Xander Harris.” He stuck out his hand with a sheepish, little-boy-caught grin.
“Samantha Carter.” I resisted the urge to kiss him. As I watched the door close behind him, I counted out the bills for my tab. Maybe now that I wasn't going through the Stargate, my boyfriends would have more normal life expectancies. But I was definitely racing ahead of reality with that thought.
Read the dreaded words: This snippet feels fairly complete to me, so I think it's okay to post it, but I probably won't update for a while. (And isn't that a humiliating admission?) But don't despair completely--I do have some ideas about how it could be continued, which is why it isn't listed as complete.