The Daedalus arrived late yesterday night, Atlantis time, so Elizabeth put off the briefing until the next morning to give everyone a chance to find their quarters and get some sleep. Now, the mess hall is packed with the stragglers from breakfast and the two hundred or so new military personnel and scientists.
Elizabeth stands up on their table, next to Rodney's tray, and gives her welcome speech. No one knows how many times she's given the speech, but it's a pretty good one, and John doesn't see it changing anytime soon.
John gets up to speak next; Rodney's in the middle of mouthful. He tries to explain the Wraith situation without freaking them all out, then he takes a moment to remind his troops that, first and foremost, they are on Atlantis to protect the scientists.
"This mission is about exploration and discovery," he says. He looks down at Rodney for the smug smirk because Rodney knows what comes next. "You are here to help the scientists do their work. But, hey, just because you can do long division in your head, don't let them bully you into equations."
Elizabeth chuckles. John puts a hand out to help Rodney up onto the table. Rodney waves him away, then stumbles and grabs onto John on the way up.
"All right, kids," Rodney begins. "Let me tell you what's really important. This is a scientific expedition under constant attack. If you can do long division in your head, you owe it to Atlantis to be bullied into equations. You are only the latest group to join us here, the biggest by far, but still we don't have enough people to figure everything out in enough time to save all our butts. Use your brain with that gun, and we'll get along fine."
The next day, after a full morning of training, John grabs a couple sandwiches from the mess, and heads down to ZPM lab. Four years on, he doesn't need to ask where Dr. McKay's run off to. These days, John just knows. But, on the way, two of the new astrophysicists (John knows because their files are on his bedroom floor) stop him in the hallway with nervous looks on their faces.
"Are you busy, Colonel Sheppard?" the blonde one asks.
"How can I help you, Dr. Watts?" She blushes when John remembers her name.
The Indian introduces himself as Dr. Grewal. "We work with Dr. McKay in wormhole physics."
"I'm just a math whiz, sorry, guys."
"Oh, no," Watts says.
"We don't need help with the work." They both look at him expectantly.
Of course. "You need help with McKay."
"If you have any tips," Grewal says.
"How to get on his good side," Watts adds.
"It's only been a day. What could you have done already?"
"Oh, nothing yet," Watts says.
"Preventative measures, and all that," Grewal explains.
"We could use some tips," Watts finishes.
"Stop finishing each other's sentences," Sheppard says.
"Dr. McKay doesn't like that?"
"No. I don't."
The two doctors shut up, but they're still looking at John, waiting for some kind of wisdom. John doesn't know what else to say. He doesn't know himself exactly how he got on Rodney's good side.
"Look," he says. "McKay's easy once he sees results. Don't screw up, don't ask too many questions, and don't take credit for his work." He holds up the bagged lunch by way of explanation. "I gotta go, guys."
The doctors move to let John past.
Watts says, "Thank you, Colonel," and when he turns back to wave, Dr. Grewal adds, "You were a big help."
John ducks two more scientists and a group of marines before he makes it to the ZPM lab. As suspected, Rodney's there with Zelenka, and both of them have forgotten to eat.
"Ooh, what did you bring me?" Rodney asks from his laptop. John comes to him with the bag because Rodney doesn't get up for anything when he's in the middle of a thought.
"Hi," John says. He puts the paper bag next to the laptop, and when Rodney turns his head to look, John steals a kiss.
"All right, all right, that's enough of that." Rodney slides his chair away from John, then back for the food. He digs through the bag, and starts piling everything on the table, sniffing the sandwiches and giving the fruit his begrudging approval.
"Radek!" he shouts across the room. "What do you want for lunch?"
Zelenka looks up, and pushes his glasses back onto his nose. He speaks in Czech first, to himself, and then answers Rodney's question.
"I must finish these calculations. Whatever's left will be good."
"I brought the tuna for you," John explains to Rodney. He divides the big pile of food into three smaller ones: the tuna and grape-things for Rodney, ham and cheese and an apple for himself, and egg salad for Zelenka with one of those prickly Athosian fruits that he loves.
"See how everything works out," he says.
Rodney shrugs, but eats his tuna without complaint.
John is telling him about the two doctors in the hall when Zelenka pulls up another chair to the table to join them.
"Rodney has a good side?" he asks.
John wonders if he should be worried about being the first stop on the way to Rodney McKay's good side. Every time the Daedalus dumps another hundred new citizens in Atlantis, they hear the rumours, and John gets the questions.
He doesn't worry too much because Atlantis isn't Earth. John shares quarters with his boyfriend here, and only the newbies ask questions. They want to know where to find the gym, and what's for lunch, and what's up with you and Dr. McKay, anyway?
John sends them to Ronon, who knows best the answers to the first two questions, and always manages to kill interest in the last. To survive Atlantis, you have to learn fast that people who live in glass cities don't ask too many questions.
The ones who make Atlantis their home figure out that when you live in each other's pockets, you don't need to ask. You can see family in the mess hall, at that table over there, where Ronon and Rodney are laughing at one of Teyla's stories, and John uses the distraction to steal the muffin off Rodney's tray. You can see who's getting along, who might be going back, and you can see, with one look, who will be making Atlantis their home.