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Shore Leave

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For a place so horrifyingly filled with life-sucking space vampires and just constant danger in general, Atlantis has a remarkably small turnover rate for personnel. Jack thinks, privately, that it’s because Atlantis is an entire community of misfits who have finally found somewhere to belong. However, once in a while, the brass likes to shift out a few Marines for shore leave and put in some new blood for trial by fire.

The reassigned Atlantis Marines usually end up staffing the SGC and begging to be sent back.

The thing is, everyone can tell there’s something different about them. Their eyes are sharp as flint and Jack has stumbled on some of them doing Sudoku puzzles in the break room, which is just disturbing. He’s never seen a Marine voluntarily do a math calculation that didn’t involve either a body count or a blast radius.

When he asks Corporal Taylor about it, Taylor colors a little and says, “It’s something Colonel Sheppard had us do. He said he was almost killed by a Sudoku puzzle once and we should be prepared.”

That’s probably what it is that really sets the Atlantis Marines apart, Jack realizes.

Even when they’re reassigned, the Atlantis Marines will always belong to Sheppard.

-

Before Jack leaves for Washington, they run a foothold drill for the new SGC recruits.

He’s not sure whose bright idea it was for the three most recently reassigned Atlantis Marines to be considered new recruits. They’re given intars in place of live guns, but Jack still thinks it’s dangerous. The people on Atlantis have learned to fight with anything and everything they have, to not hold back when they’re being overrun. Throwing them into a training simulation like this blind is asking for trouble.

It turns out that he’s right.

Simmons, Caulder and James immediately take stock of the situation when the alarm klaxons ring out. They break up into three teams, leading the rest of the new recruits with a casual skill that would be more expected from captains than sergeants. Caulder hacks into the security camera system and does something to the video feed, and from that point on, everything goes straight to hell.

Jack decides that discretion is the better part of valor, so he abandons his role as Possessed General O’Neill and runs up to watch the debacle unfold from Landry’s office.

Simmons’ team reaches the gateroom first and when Landry tries to explain that it’s just a drill, Simmons uses a takedown move on him without batting an eye.

Jack winces. In his head, he can hear Sheppard’s perpetually amused voice saying, “Better safe than sorry.”

-

James is in the infirmary after being hit by a truly excessive number of intar shots–from panicked scientists and airmen alike–when he’d unexpectedly burst into the mess hall where they’d been pretending to hold a dangerous alien device (actually the potometer from Lab 36) and disabled over half the people there in five seconds flat, so it’s just Simmons and Caulder who are called up to the carpet in Landry’s office.

Simmons’ back is ramrod straight. Caulder gives an almost sloppy salute. Jack can see Sheppard’s influence–in both their competence and their disregard–and he thinks Landry can too based on how tightly his teeth are clenched together.

Landry proceeds to chew them out. He loses the thread of it somewhat when Simmons calmly points out that they were protecting the base just like they were trained to and that they’d done a pretty damn good job of it, sir. He doesn’t say, “On Atlantis, Sheppard would have congratulated us” but it’s implied.

Landry fumes with mostly impotent rage, because it’s difficult to formally reprimand people for doing their job too well, and kicks them out of his office. Jack thinks he’ll be sending them back to Atlantis next time the Daedalus is in port and wonders if this was a calculated plan on the part of the Marines.

“Hey!” he yells after Caulder, jogging over as the man splits off from Simmons and heads down a corridor. “What was that you did to the security cameras?”

“It was just an internal feed loop with a lockout code,” Caulder says modestly, as if he hadn’t completely crippled the system and thrown the training simulation into chaos within the first ten minutes. “I’m sure if Colonel Carter had been here, she could have fixed it like that,” he adds, snapping his fingers.

Jack nods. “Well, good work, Sergeant.”

Caulder smiles and gives Jack the sharp salute he didn’t offer Landry. “Thank you, sir.” It’s just one more thing that makes Jack think of Sheppard. He never saluted anybody he didn’t absolutely have to if he didn’t think they’d earned it.

Jack returns the salute.

-

On a good day, Sheppard and Landry clash worse than Daniel’s civilian wardrobe. After the incident with the foothold drill, Jack thinks an entire galaxy might not be enough space between them, so when a data burst from Atlantis comes through, he puts off his flight to Washington for one more day and takes Sheppard’s extreme long-distance call himself.

“Hi, sir,” Sheppard says over the grainy video link, surprised.

“Sheppard,” Jack acknowledges. “What can I do you for?”

Sheppard blinks. “I’d like to request my Marines back. Sueños, Taylor, Richardson, Simmons, James and Caulder. We appreciate the SGC sending in more troops, we can always use the help, but it’s a little cruel to take away the good ones that we’ve already broken in.”

“Sheppard,” Jack drawls, “Landry will send them back to you with a song in his heart.”

“Yeah,” Sheppard says fondly, like he can imagine the disasters they’ve created and approves. He flashes a smirk and adds, “While you’re being so generous, can we borrow Dr. Jackson too? I’ve heard he--”

“No,” Jack says, cutting the feed.

-

They ship Sheppard’s Marines back a week and a half later.

“Here,” Jack says, shoving a crate of Hershey’s bars into Caulder’s arms, and pulling Daniel back down the ramp by the collar of his BDUs. “Sheppard will know what it’s in lieu of.”

“Oh, and Corporal,” Jack calls to Taylor, taking a creased level 4 Sudoku book out of his pocket. “You forgot this in the break room.”