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Where Eagles Dare... We Will Be Playing Poker a Hundred Miles in the Opposite Direction

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The gate had activated after three days of wormhole constipation, Rodney's IDC splattering across various screens in the control tower. Five seconds later, only because it took Elizabeth three seconds to slip her shoes back on, she was running down the stairs with Radek in tow.

Radek was swearing profusely in Czechozelenkian, though later he denied it and explained he was praising the lord. Elizabeth commented that the lord probably didn't want that kind of praise.

They came to a halt in front of the gate, Marines positioning themselves to blow holes in any unwanted guests. The whole room was silent, everyone aware that the flagship team had been missing for three days without any updates on the rescue mission from Major Lorne.

In a sudden rush, Lorne and John's teams were expelled from the gate under a shower of mud and rocks. Elizabeth yelled for the shield to go up, the Marines tensing around her, one of them smelling like apple shower gel actually.

Everyone waited to see what would emerge from the pile of bodies. The first noticeable movement was Lorne, slowly sitting up and nodding at Elizabeth. "We got 'em."

Elizabeth held a hand to her chest, calming her heart down. She smiled at Radek who prayed some more. There was a small ripple of applause, relief coursing through the air.

Carson rushed in with a medical team at the ready. John's team was out for the count with the exception of Teyla, who looked as though her lipstick had been slightly smudged. She approached Elizabeth with a reassuring smile, touching her elbow.

"We are fine. Major Lorne came in time," she said.

Lorne was hovering at Teyla's side. He gave a shrug. "Well, Teyla helped."

Elizabeth nodded and looked at the team, Rodney unconscious, John's face bruised and taut with pain and Ronon holding his arm to his chest, a snarl on his face. Elizabeth sighed with relief, nodding and turning to Teyla to hug her. Radek was grinning too, stepping forward eagerly for a hug as Elizabeth frowned. He nodded and backed away as she smiled at him.

Everyone smiled. Sheppard's team was home. Of course they all smiled.

*

Carson was tired of sighing and promising that he'd let John and his team out. Unfortunately, they knew he was a liar and their drips were spiked with the good stuff. John sunk into his bed and smiled lazily, laughing his odd, high-pitched and nasal laugh at something not particularly funny. Rodney said he felt as if his head was swimming in iced tea, the neck brace cutting off the air to his brain and Carson patted his hand because that was new. Ronon asked for more because it wasn't working and he was finding being conscious too annoying.

Teyla was fine, her lipstick reapplied. She went to the mess and ate a bagel with Lorne.

When she returned, John, Rodney and Ronon were waking up and bickering by the time Elizabeth walked in and said, "Good news everyone.”

"That always means bad news," Ronon said darkly.

John scowled from behind his partially purple bruised face. "Let me guess. My foot's not really broken."

"No," Elizabeth said with a smile. "Sorry. Actually, while you were off world, the SGC sent a message."

"Did they send any coffee with it?" Rodney asked, poking at the butterfly bandages over his newly cracked forehead. Carson slapped the hand away hard, earning a glare.

Elizabeth looked amused. "No, Rodney, they didn't. Actually, we're getting more personnel. The Daedalus should be touching down any moment."

"What's wrong with them?" Ronon asked, looking dangerous even with his broken arm bound to his chest.

John scowled some more. "Come on, don't be so cynical. This is a great place."

Teyla tilted her head the way she did when she was too polite to tell someone they were an idiot. "Do your people not know of the Wraith?"

Elizabeth put on her best 'diffusing the situation before it become a situation' face. "Yes, they do. But they also value Atlantis as a place of great potential and Pegasus as a place to meet new friends and make alliances."

"You don't have bars on your planet?" Ronon asked and Rodney snorted in amusement, John throwing them both an irritated look.

"I think we're missing the point," Elizabeth said, eyeing Carson with the look that said 'this time give them something stronger'.

"The point is," John said, "We're getting more people. We need more people. People? Are a good thing."

"Any good looking women?" Ronon asked.

"He's got a point there," Rodney said, nodding and pointing at Ronon, unaware that John was giving him the same look Teyla and Elizabeth were giving Ronon.

“I'm sure they're all good people,” John said.

“Hey, I don't care as long as I get a few scientists that are competent enough to not put our lives in any more danger than Radek already does,” Rodney said, earning some amused grins.

“Oh, I dunno, McKay, I think I can hold my own.”

All heads turned to the infirmary entrance where Sam Carter stood with an amused look on her face. Rodney stared. “You?”

“Colonel,” Elizabeth said warmly. “I trust you had a pleasant trip.”

Sam smiled, “We did, thanks.”

“We?” Rodney asked. “There's more of you?”

His question was answered when four other people walked into the infirmary, standing behind Sam as if they were posing for a Buffy calender.

“Let me get this straight,” John said with a frown. “The SGC sent us SG-1? Aren't you guys needed on Earth?”

Cameron stepped forward looking less than pleased. “New bosses. Looks like they didn't like our faces.”

“Speak for yourself,” Vala said smoothly. “They liked mine just fine. I just came out of team loyalty.”

“Actually, she was kind of half the reason they turfed us out,” Daniel said, cocking a thumb in Vala's direction.

“Indeed,” Teal'c said, arching an eyebrow at Vala, She took a discreet step away from him and hid behind Daniel.

*

The first briefing away from the infirmary was a difficult one. Rodney looked irritated because of his neck brace. Ronon didn't let up on scowling for one second, even though a broken arm was relatively less uncomfortable than John's broken foot and fractured ankle, which there was no way of making comfortable. He was just glad the cast was only below the knee. John still spent the briefing trying not to sigh every time the urge to move his leg arose.

The briefing room was full, SG-1 having taken up room on one side, John's team opposite them, with Lorne in the middle and Elizabeth at the head. Lorne looked a little nervous. Even Teyla's presence at his side didn't seem to be having a calming affect. John noticed that while Elizabeth was talking about something, Lorne glanced at Teyla and seemed to fidget and move slightly away from her. Any second he'd be sitting in John's lap. John sighed. Why couldn't military just get on with the Athosians?

“So,” Elizabeth said, pulling John's attention back to the briefing. “SG-1 will for the time being take over your off-world schedules while you all recuperate. Teyla, I was hoping you'd assist with another team?”

Teyla smiled. “Of course.”

“What about Lorne's team?” John suggested. “He's a guy short right now.”

Lorne seemed to tense, but Elizabeth appeared to like the idea and nodded. “If you're okay with that, Teyla.”

Teyla gave a nod. “I would be glad to assist, Major Lorne.”

“Thanks,” Lorne said, somewhat awkwardly.

Elizabeth just smiled and looked at SG-1. “You know, I still can't believe they sent you here. I mean, their loss is our gain, but the mentality behind it makes no sense.”

Daniel shrugged. “General Landry pretty much told us to expect it once he was transferred. The new guy didn't really take a shine to us.”

“To SG-1? No way,” Rodney commented with a small smile. “Will wonders never cease?”

“It's a mystery, what can we say?” Cameron said with a smirk, while Sam gave Rodney a less amused look. “Apparently it had something to do with two aliens, a guy that just won't die and a questionable command structure at best. I really don't know what he was getting at.”

John smiled, noting the bright humour in Cameron's eyes. “Well, we could do with your help,” he said genuinely. “And it's not the worst place you could work.”

“Yes,” Rodney agreed. “I believe the award for that accolade goes to Siberia.” Rodney aimed a smile at Sam. She rolled her eyes, shaking her head and sharing a look with Daniel.

“I think we can call an end to this briefing,” Elizabeth said tactfully. “I think some of us need a little air.”

“Thank god,” Rodney said with a sigh, getting up stiffly and off balance. “I can't feel anything below my brace.”

Everyone filed out of the room in chatty little pairs as John grabbed Lorne's arm. “A moment, Major?”

Lorne nodded and stopped. “Sir?”

John tried to find a tactful way of saying it. “Look, since Teyla's going to be on your team, you might want to make a little effort to get to know her better.”

“Sir?” Lorne asked with a frown.

“I'm just saying, there's nothing wrong with you two making an effort to spend some time together,” John explained. “You're both going to be on the same team for a while. It'll be good for you to, I dunno, make an effort to get on with each other. I'm thinking maybe she could give you some lessons in stick-fighting. In fact, I'll talk to her about it,” John said, pointing at Lorne.

Lorne nodded, looking at John like maybe one of them crazy. “Sure, okay. That would be good.”

“Well, good,” John said.

Lorne was nodding, looking a little stunned. “Was that all, Sir?”

“Yep.” John smiled. Then a thought occurred to him and he held a hand out before Lorne could leave. “You might want to keep some ice packs at the ready.”

To think his ex-wife had once called him the least intuitive man on the planet.

*

Things were obviously slow with the broken bones and bruises. John did a lot of paperwork, sometimes pretending to do paperwork and actually daydreaming about much more naked times. Rodney employed the use of insulting hand gestures as the verbal abuse made his neck hurt. Ronon took up darts though he had to be convinced very hard that he couldn't use the darts on anything but a dart board. Teyla was spending time on missions and sparring with people that had intact bone structure because it was all the better to maim them.

Then there was SG-1. They seemed to be in the middle of things a lot.

*

The city was falling around their ears again, the Wraith attacking from the air. Half of Rodney's lab was blown to bits, the other half lodged in his neck brace as he reeled from another blow that shook the foundations.

He crawled the best he could to the side of a table and tried to think. There was a way out, a way to save the day, but it would probably take out half the city and knowing his luck, he'd probably end up dead too. But it was the only way. A crazy, insane and totally stupid way, but a way nonetheless. Rodney took a deep breath and reached for his radio. There was only going to be one opportunity for last words. He opened his mouth to speak.

“I've got an idea!” Sam's voice yelled over the comms.

Rodney frowned and listened. It was a crazy idea. A crazy, insane and totally stupid idea that would probably get her killed. “Are you insane?” he yelled. “My god, there's just no end to your lunacy, is there?”

“McKay!” Sam yelled. “It's the only way. I'm in the drone room. Brace yourself everyone.”

“Sam!” Cameron was yelling. “There's got to be something else.”

“He's right,” Daniel chimed in. “There's got to be another way?”

“Rodney?” John was asking him quietly, breathing hard in some bombed out part of the city.

Rodney shook his head, Of course there was nothing else and if he'd been in the drone room, he would have been doing this himself. “No. Look... Sam, you're going to have to do this just right, so listen to me carefully.”

The comms were silent for a while before Sam said, “I'm ready.”

*

“I don't get it,” Ronon said. “We all survived and you're angry.”

“No, I am not angry,” Rodney said, stabbing at his eggs. “You know, I had the same idea and now everyone's all 'oh, hey, that Carter is so cool!'”

Ronon nodded in understanding. “You're jealous.”

John gave a little chuckle as Rodney glared and said. “It's like hell, only hot and blonde. The staff loves her. Of course, she came here with her own sycophants too, which helps. Oh and there's Radek too. You'd think he'd never seen a woman before. I mean admittedly she's hot. I mean, really hot. Tall. Blonde. Blue eyes. That big bright smile and sometimes she laughs and it's like... I dunno. Weird harp music. I spent a whole afternoon just watching her until she said, 'Quit watching me, McKay, you're freaking me out'.”

John watched Rodney lost in Carter world, a dreamy look on his face. Then he turned away and took a gulp of hot scalding coffee because it was better and quieter than grinding his teeth. He lowered the cup after a sip and clamped his mouth shut.

“Burn your tongue?” Ronon asked with a smirk.

“No,” John lied.

Teyla sat down next to Ronon, giving Rodney an amused look as he remained lost in thought. She smiled at John who was seriously thinking about kicking Rodney.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Fine,” John said. “Just waiting for the foot to stop being broken. You okay? Lorne's team treating you well?”

Teyla seemed to still, but smiled anyway. “They are treating me very well.”

John frowned at her as she concentrated way to hard for any woman to concentrate on an orange. He could tell she was hiding something. So much for solving the tension between Teyla and Lorne.

“You two still sparring?” Ronon asked.

“We are. Major Lorne is a quick learner,” she said. “He is very skilled.”

“Not better than me though, right?” John asked nonchalantly.

Teyla smiled very widely. “No. Absolutely not.” She turned to look at Rodney. “Is Rodney okay?”

John snapped his fingers in front of Rodney's face, who had remained daydreaming. “Hey, snap out of it!”

Rodney looked confused for a moment, stared at Teyla as if she'd appeared from thin air and said, “Oh that is it! She has got to go!”

Teyla turned slowly to Ronon, wide-eyed. “Did I do something?”

*

Ronon didn't really see what Rodney was making a fuss about. This SG-1 was obviously a capable team. Good fighters as well as being reasonably attractive. Rodney was probably just confused about how much he liked Carter. Kind of like how Sheppard was confused about how much he liked Rodney. People from Earth were stupid that way.

He watched one of these stupid people walking down the hall, looking a little bruised. Teyla was off world and Ronon knew his own arm was still broken. That didn't leave many people capable of causing extensive bruising. Not even Sheppard. He was too lazy for that kind of thing.

Ronon grabbed the passing Marine and asked, “What's going on?”

The Marine grimaced. “The aliens think they're being funny again.”

He shrugged Ronon off and limped away.

Aliens? Funny? Limp?

Ronon headed to the main workout room to find a bunch of Marines assembled in a group and watching someone put on a show. One of the Marines Ronon beat up on a regular basis came up to him and tapped him on the arm, saying, “Hey, this guy's even better then you. At this rate we won't need to go to the Wraith to get our asses kicked.”

Ronon stared at the guy until he magically disappeared.

A gong suddenly sounded, followed by the unmistakable voice of Vala Mal Doran asking, “Anyone else? Come on, someone's got be interested in winning back all this lovely stuff, which Teal'c and I are going to have great pleasure dividing by the way.”

“I'm interested,” Ronon said.

The crowd in front of him parted until he could see Teal'c standing in the middle of the room. Vala was perched on a bench on the side, a pile of items at her feet. She grinned at him and hit a small gong that hung from her wrist. “Oh, hello. And what are you going to wager?” she asked with a smile.

Ronon smiled back, noting the way she was looking him up and down. “Anything you want.”

“You are injured,” Teal'c said. “I would have an unfair advantage.”

Ronon shrugged. “So, use one arm.”

Teal'c was watching him closely, as if reading the dare in Ronon's eyes. Then he said, “Very well.”

He held one arm behind his back and Vala sounded the gong.

*

“What are you? Some kind of idiot?” Rodney asked, looking at the bandaged fingers of Ronon's previously good hand. “You're lucky he didn't break your neck.”

“What the hell were you thinking? Have you seen the size of that guy?” John asked, opening his bottle of water and taking a swig.

“Hey, is it true he sat on your head?” Rodney asked, pausing between cutting into his fish.

Ronon rolled his eyes. “I coulda' had him.”

“Sure, if he was dead,” Rodney said. “Even then, I'm thinking he'd need to be tied up first.”

John tried not to smile, but it was hard. “So what did you lose?”

“Yes, besides, your dignity,” Rodney said with a smile in John's direction, making John laugh.

Ronon made a deep huffy sound. “A jacket.”

“What was the point of that? It's not even going to fit him,” John said. “He's at least twice as wide as you.”

“Not for him. For Vala,” Ronon said. “Looks like some Marines made comments and they both threw down a challenge. She took half of the stuff.”

“And you just gave it to her?” John asked.

Ronon smirked a little too proudly. “Well, she has a real nice way of asking.”

Rodney dropped his fork. “You are kidding me.”

“Wait, you...?” John leaned in and raised his eyebrows in question.

Ronon lifted up his injured hand. “Totally worth it.”

Rodney grinned, obviously impressed. “Wow. Seriously, I mean, that Vala's hot. I mean, not hotter than Carter, but who is? I mean, even when she's ruining my life by second guessing every thing I say, very hot. Sure, the department is now facing lab wars between my wise and obedient followers, against her unhinged monkeys, but the hotness remains.”

“How'd'you like a body brace, McKay?” John asked with a smile.

Rodney frowned at him. “Huh?”

Teyla sat down at the table, looked at Rodney's confused expression still aimed at John and John's annoyed look. “Are we discussing Colonel Carter?”

Rodney aimed his confusion at Teyla. “How did you know?”

Teyla just smiled and raised her cup of tea to her mouth. John ignored her smug sipping of tea. Everyone thought they knew everyone else around here. John spotted Lorne walking towards their table, tray in hand. “Major,” he said with a nod.

Lorne stopped and nodded back. “Sir. McKay.”

Rodney gave a wave of his hand as he drank his coffee.

“Ronon,” Lorne said, receiving a 'hey' in response. John watched as Lorne looked at Teyla and seemed to hesitate before saying, “Teyla.”

She smiled at him. “Major Lorne,” she said softly.

Lorne looked a little pale and said, “Hey, don't forget our sparring session this afternoon.”

“I look forward to it,” Teyla said with smile.

Lorne nodded. “Yeah, me too. I'll see you guys later.”

John shook his head. They were being overly polite to each other, as if they were stepping on eggshells. Things were probably really bad.

“You know, he's a pretty cool guy,” John said, nodded in Lorne's direction.

Teyla gave John a questioning look.

“What I mean to say is, I think he's a little more sensitive than most of your Air Force guys. You know, if you wanted to talk to him about team stuff, he'd probably be very, uh, I dunno, receptive,” John explained.

Teyla watched him a little more and then seemed to decide something. “Will you excuse me a moment? I have something to discuss with Major Lorne.”

“Sure,” John said, watching her leave to join Lorne.

“Good one, Doctor Phil,” Rodney said. “We're probably going to see her make him eat that tray.”

“Look, I'm just making sure they don't end up trying to beat the crap out of each other. It was bad enough with Bates,” John said.

“Who's Bates?” Ronon asked.

Rodney looked up with enthusiasm. “He was this guy that worked here and one day just disappeared. The popular theory is that Teyla hid the body somewhere in the city.”

Ronon looked at John. “Very funny.”

John put on his most serious face. “Trying telling his family that.”

*

There was a room in Atlantis that lay undiscovered for a long time. John was in Elizabeth's office, reviewing paperwork when Cameron radioed in with its discovery.

On the way to the isolated area of the city, Rodney had joined Elizabeth and John, followed by Ronon and then by Teyla. They arrived together to see SG-1 walking around the lab with their flash lights.

“What did you find?” Elizabeth seemed a little breathless in anticipation.

“Well, for a start, there's this guy,” Cameron said, turning to his right and showing an open closet with an open-mouthed skeleton that seemed to be trying to claw itself out of a small space.

“Jesus,” Rodney said, staring.

“Bates,” Ronon murmured quietly. He pointed at it and said, “They found Bates.”

“What?” Elizabeth asked, giving John a confused look.

“Never mind that,” John said, frowning up at Ronon. “Just tell me what the hell all this is.”

“Well, we've ascertained it's some kind of lab. Daniel thinks the Ancients might have been working on a weapon in here,” Sam said.

“We think this guy was the janitor,” Cameron said, nodding to the skeleton.

“This place gives me the woollies,” Vala said, looking disturbed,

Cameron sighed and turned to her, holding up a finger to emphasise. “Willies. This place gives you the willies.”

Vala shrugged. “Woollies, willies. It's creepy.”

The room suddenly lit up bright and a huge holographic display spread out in front of Daniel, high up on the platform where he stood. “Okay, wow.”

“Whoa whoa whoa,” Rodney said, holding up a hand. “Do not go around randomly touching things in the city. Rule number one in 'Atlantis for Dummies'.”

“It's okay, I know what I'm doing,” Daniel said absently.

“Jackson, listen to McKay, he's got a point,” Cameron said, looking worried.

“No, it's okay, I think I know what to do.”

John gave Elizabeth a worried look and then turned his attention to Daniel. “Jackson, I think you need to listen to these guys and step away from-” Daniel was suddenly encompassed in a bright blue beam of light. “What the hell?”

“Carter!” Cameron yelled.

“I'm on it!” Sam yelled back, going to an adjacent control panel, Rodney not far behind.

John opened his mouth to ask, but Cameron got there first, “Can you shut it off?”

“Trying to,” Sam said, cutting off Rodney.

John turned to Elizabeth, pointing at her, ready with his suggestion, just as Cameron said, “Doctor Weir, can we cut the power to this part of the city?”

“But we don't know what that might do to Daniel,” Vala said, just as Teyla seemed to be stepping forward to suggest something. She nodded at Vala's point.

“Vala is right,” Teal'c said. “Cutting the power may harm Daniel Jackson.”

“Yeah, well, we don't know if it's doing that anyway,” Cameron said. “Doctor?”

Elizabeth nodded and tapped her earpiece, telling Radek to switch off the power. The power went off with a huge audible descending pitch, everything going black and Daniel falling to the floor in a heap.

“Okay, he's been dead before. How bad can this be?” Cameron said, the shake of his voice giving away the worry as he went to check Daniel's pulse. He sighed with relief. “He's alive.”

Elizabeth looked shaken as she nodded, John standing there wondering what the hell had just happened and what Rodney and Sam were quietly bickering about.

“What?” John snapped in Rodney's direction.

Rodney sighed and then waved at Sam. “Go ahead, give them good news.”

Sam looked at Cameron. “Just before we shut it off, there was a large surge of energy, all of it aimed at Daniel. We can't tell what happened until we power this place up again and take a closer look.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Let's get him into the infirmary first.”

From the corner where Ronon had been standing the whole time, he poked at the skeleton and said, “What about Bates?”

*

“Let me get this straight,” John said slowly. “Jackson's DNA's been manipulated to possess the ATA gene and he can understand the language of the Ancients.”

Elizabeth nodded, looking as though she was trying to appear calm. “Yes. He's been reading everything in the database all morning and correcting everyone on what they've been doing wrong. What we've been doing wrong.”

John gave a shrug. “You might still be able to translate... stuff.”

Elizabeth made a little sad face and drank her tea. “Well, it does gives us an advantage. Someone to manipulate the knowledge and technology we possess.”

“Yay for Doctor Jackson,” Rodney said with a thin smile. “I can't tell you how long I've been waiting for someone that's not me to be granted the key to Atlantis.”

“You're just jealous,” Ronon said flatly.

“That's not true!” Elizabeth and Rodney said simultaneously.

Rodney frowned at Elizabeth and she uncomfortably added, “I'm sure Rodney's not jealous.”

Ronon snorted and drank his juice while John looked at the group and wondered how they could resent SG-1 so much. They were the good guys after all.

“Hey, if it helps in beating the Wraith, I'm not complaining,” John said.

Rodney narrowed his eyes at John. “Oh, you're just not there yet.”

*

John kept wondering exactly where there was, pretty sure that Rodney's infatuation with Carter had killed off all of his brain cells. As for Elizabeth... maybe she had problems. Womanly problems. John tried not to think about it too much. At all even. Ever.

That was another thing his wife had probably hated about him.

John was headed to his quarters to get his clubs for a round of broken-footed golf when Rodney came around the corner of the corridor, looking tired and worn out, his body looking stiff even though the brace was gone.

“You look like crap,” John said. “Want to play some golf?”

“Only if the other option is death,” Rodney said. “How's the foot?”

John scowled. “Itchy.”

“Ronon's been threatening to challenge everyone to an arm wrestle over broken glass when his cast comes off,” Rodney said.

John gave a thoughtful nod. “I think I'll keep out of his way when that happens. You seen Teyla?”

Rodney shook his head and then winced, massaging his neck. “Probably with her new team. You don't think she's forgetting about us, do you?”

John made a disbelieving face. “No way. She wouldn't do that. Besides, she doesn't even like Lorne.”

Rodney nodded. “It's always so weird and tense when they're both around.”

“Tell me about it,” John said.

That was when a Marine hurried past them, looking more excited than any Marine had a right to look.

“Hey, what's the hurry?” John called out.

The Marine turned and frowned like John and Rodney were idiots. “It's SG-1, they made it back.”

“Oh? They were gone?” Rodney asked, looking unimpressed.

“Sure, it's been forty-eight hours.”

John and Rodney turned and looked at each other, frowned, and then made their way to the control tower.

*

The place was crowded when they got there, the gate activating. John and Rodney pushed through the crowd to get a look just as SG-1 stepped through, not very battered or bruised, but quite smudged and attractive. Everyone started to clap as John and Rodney looked around at the welcome.

“They weren't missing,” Rodney hissed at John. “They were just overdue. The locals had spears, They had guns. Guns. Remember that time all we had were rocks?”

John scowled. “I do. They're not even scratched.”

Carson was making noise and pushing through the crowd. “Let's get you to the infirmary, make sure you're all right.”

He was herding a tired looking Vala, Sam behind her with Teal'c. Daniel following them, all four receiving pats on the back as they walked through the crowd. Cameron walked up to John and grinned, a smudge just under his cheek.

He put a hand on John's shoulder. “It is good to be home.”

Patting John's shoulder, he walked on by.

John suddenly found himself there.

*

“Maybe we need a designation,” Rodney said thoughtfully.

John frowned at him. “What?”

“You know, like SG-1. We could be AT-1, so everyone knows we're the most important team here,” Rodney explained.

John shook his head. “That's not the point. The point is that we are the flagship team. We're all important here, Rodney.”

“Save it for the Dalai Lama, I'm not buying it,” Rodney responded.

“I don't get it,” Ronon said. “How come we're not called SG something?”

“Because we're not SG anything,” John said, more emphatically than he intended. “SG-1 are from the SGC and have their own designations.”

“Why don't we have one?” Ronon asked.

“Sure we do,” John said with a shrug. “You're my team. Sheppard's team. Don't you think a bunch of letters and numbers are kind of impersonal?”

“It's military,” Ronon said with a shrug.

“Which you are clearly not,” Rodney said to John with a satisfied smirk.

John gave him a narrow-eyed look and decided the conversation needed to go in another direction. “So, having fun with Carter?”

Rodney instantly soured. “That woman is going to destroy this city.”

John smiled and watched Teyla as Rodney went off at the speed of light about how his life was being ruined, while Ronon told him he complained to much.

Teyla was talking to Lorne, both of them in the lunch line. Lorne was waving a hand around, explaining something, while Teyla listened with complete attention, a gentle smile on her face.

John smacked Rodney's arm with the back of his hand, still watching Teyla. "Hey, something seem different about Teyla to you?"

Rodney looked up from his salad and rant, frowning at John. "In the general she can kick our asses sense or-"

"She looks different," John mused. "I can't put my finger on it."

Rodney stilled next to John, watching her too. "Huh."

John turned to Rodney. "What?"

"She does seem different," Rodney said, looking a little confused.

"Maybe it's her hair," Ronon offered. "Women do stuff to their hair."

John took another look, scowling. "I dunno. Maybe. I can't really tell. What did her hair look like before?"

Rodney snorted. "Right, because that's the kind of thing I'd notice about Teyla. Her hair."

John leaned back and shook his head, giving Teyla another look, watching her laugh at Lorne as he grinned like a complete dork. "She looks different. Kind of... I dunno, glowy."

"Glowy? That's ridicu... huh," Rodney stopped.

Ronon snorted, "She's not glowing."

"No," John said slowly. "Not glowing. But she's..."

"Glowy," Rodney said absently. "Definitely glowy. You know, women do that sometimes."

John frowned at him. "They do not."

"I'm serious. I've seen it," Rodney insisted, "one minute they're perfectly them and the next minute, for no reason at all, glow."

John was sending some serious scowls in Rodney's direction. "That makes no sense."

"Who brought up Teyla's glow?"

"Hey, you agreed," John replied.

"Maybe she's taking supplements," Rodney offered.

John made a face at Rodney, Rodney shrugging as Teyla joined them at the table, taking the seat next to John, Ronon smirking opposite her.

“How are you all feeling?” Teyla asked.

Rodney frowned and pointed to his head. “You know, since we came back from that mission to hell, my ears are still ringing.”

Teyla frowned back. “Was that not the case before the mission?” Rodney seemed to still, deep in thought before looking a little worried. Teyla smiled and looked at Ronon. “And you?”

“Good. Want to spar this afternoon?” Ronon asked.

Everyone at the table stared at his left arm with a cast covered in scrawls, in many languages, Earth and alien and his right hand with two broken fingers,

“Your arm is broken, Ronon,” Teyla explained. “As are your fingers.”

He shrugged. “So? We'll be even for a change.”

John smiled as Rodney just flat out snorted and said, “Why? You're going to break Teyla's arm?”

Ronon looked as though he might break Rodney's arms, but Teyla had a huge smug smile on her face. There it was again, that glow. Considering the team was out of action and Teyla was currently on another team, she wasn't supposed to be looking happy at all.

“So, you look different,” John just went for it, receiving an eyebrow. “I mean, good. You look really good. Do something to your hair?”

Teyla smiled. “Actually yes.”

John triumphantly pointed at her. “I knew it.”

“Two weeks ago,” she added serenely. “But thank you for noticing.”

John's face fell as Rodney said, “Hey,we're not supposed to notice. Manly men don't notice these things.”

John looked at Rodney. “How are you single again?”

“I have no idea,” Rodney replied with a slump of the shoulders, completely perplexed.

*

“Light duty is killing me,” John said after lunch, when Teyla had disappeared to do team stuff and Rodney had disappeared to rifle through Carter's underwear drawer. Probably.

Ronon walked beside him, looking sulky about something. “Want to spar?”

“Carson said not to,” John said flatly. “You know, while our limbs are broken?”

“You do everything Carson tells you?” Ronon asked.

John made a face at Ronon. “What are you so sore about?”

“People,” Ronon said. “They all think they can talk to me because they're not getting their regular beatings.”

John nodded. “People are weird like that.”

“Wanna arm wrestle?” Ronon asked.

“No,” John said with a scowl. “Let's go eat.”

“We just had lunch. You're getting fat. You need exercise,” Ronon said.

“This is muscle, not fat,” John objected. “And insults aren't going to work.”

“And you have no manhood,” Ronon added.

“Hey!” John yelled. “I've got a manhood, okay? It's a great manhood, one of the best.”

“That's good to hear, Sheppard.”

John and Ronon turned around to see Cameron standing behind them, arms folded and cheeky smile on his face. He was all geared up and obviously on his way to the gate. John hated him a little.

He frowned and looked at Ronon who was smirking. Then he looked back at Cameron, lifting his chin slightly. “Colonel.”

Cameron smiled a little more and then nodded to Ronon. “How are you two on this fine day?”

“Fat,” Ronon said.

“That's Satedan for, uh... great,” John said with a tight smile. “Just... great.”

“Good to know,” Cameron said as he walked past John, his bright blue eyes sparkling with amusement, his mouth pursed in a strange smile.

He walked away casually, while John wondered if he'd look back before getting to the transporter, actually, hoping he wouldn't. Maybe hoping he would. Then he did, still smiling at John. John breathed in deep as the other man walked into the transporter.

Then he smacked Ronon's arm hard with the back of his hand. “Thanks.”

Ronon smirked. “Looks like you got no sense of humour either.”

*

It was true. John didn't have much of a sense of humour. Things were weird. Things were changing. Whenever he went to Rodney's lab, Carter was already there, both of them bickering and insulting each other. Elizabeth was always with Jackson, combing through information and translating like they'd never translated before. The workout room always had Teal'c either doing some type of meditation or beating up Marines. When Ronon wasn't sulking he could be found being followed around by Vala who was as talkative as he was quiet. Also, the two seemed to be exchanging fashion tips if the extra buckles and straps on Ronon's clothes were anything to go by.

That wasn't all. They were taking over. Like a fungal infection, John thought, remembering what Rodney had said a week ago. SG-1 were everywhere and they were doing everything.

*

“I can't believe Elizabeth went with Mitchell's idea over mine,” John said, putting too much sugar in his coffee.

“Your idea involved explosives. His involved a welding torch,” Rodney said, way too reasonably.

John rolled his eyes and turned his attention to Ronon who was sulking. Again. “What's wrong with you?”

“Teal'c said I'll be a great warrior one day,” he said, looking like he was going to punch someone.

Rodney frowned. “Hmm. How incredibly insensitive.”

Ronon glared at Rodney. “One day?”

Rodney snorted. “Take if from me, you've got to take the compliments where you can get them.”

John made a face and smiled. “Come on. What does he know?”

“Well, he is something like five thousand years old,” Rodney commented.

John discreetly peered across the mess at the table where SG-1 were seated, looking as though they were having a much happier conversation. Cameron caught John looking and gave a casual nod. John nodded back.

“I think Elizabeth's keeping a bottle of Scotch in her office,” John said casually.

“What? Why? Wait, how do you know?” Rodney asked.

“She offered me some while she told me if Jackson said one more thing about his amazing abilities she was going to ascend herself,” John replied.

“I wish they'd all ascend themselves,” Ronon muttered.

“What about Vala?” Rodney asked.

“She stole one of my knives,” Ronon said flatly. “She's using it right now to peel an apple.”

Rodney looked across at SG-1's table. “Huh. I thought it looked familiar. Oh well, you've got more where that came from.”

John stared at Rodney. “What's with you?”

“Me? Nothing,” Rodney said with a shrug.

“Don't nothing me, Rodney. You're acting all weird and you haven't complained once,” John explained.

Rodney smiled at Ronon and John before conspiratorially leaning into the table and holding up his left hand slightly. “Know what Sam told me today? She said, 'Hey, you know what, McKay? You're okay,' and then, she touched my hand. Right there.”

John stared at Rodney's hand and wondered how mean it would be to knock his coffee cup back and let it spill over the hand touched by The Carter.

“You think she might ask you to the prom?” John asked innocently.

Rodney snorted. “Sticks and stones, Sheppard. Sticks and stones. I am never washing this hand again. Ever. Or at least, not until after tonight.”

John had no idea when his hand moved back, but apparently it did and apparently John's coffee cup tipped over because Rodney yelped that he'd just been scalded for life and Ronon was staring at John like he was going to laugh.

“What the hell was that?” Rodney almost screeched, pouring half of his bottled water over his hand. “Are you nuts?”

“I'm sorry, it slipped,” John explained, feeling guilty already. “Look, I'm sorry. Come on, I'll take you to see Carson.”

Ronon smirked at John. “It's okay. I got it.”

John watched Ronon giving Rodney a pat on the shoulder as they walked away, leaving him with spilled coffee and water. He couldn't even smack his head on the table.

And where the hell was Teyla?

*

It was late and everyone was probably asleep, the moon was shining through the window and John was standing in the middle of the work out room, spinning a stick in his hand.

He really wasn't sure why.

Probably because everyone out there was having sex and he wasn't.

Having sex and saving the galaxy while he was still limping around on a crutches. John swiped the stick in front of him, hearing the heavy whoosh.

He imagined not being here. He imagined being back on Earth, feeling lost on an alien planet. Back at the SGC maybe, a different team, a different job. Working in a concrete bunker instead of a city of stained glass.

That would really suck.

Sure, he wasn't being sent to Earth, but maybe they just weren't there yet.

*

When SG-1 came home and announced they had been proclaimed saviours and gods by a village that had tried to kill his team, John didn't even flinch. He was kind of used to this kind of news now. He sat in the briefing, imagining he could unscrew the broken portion of his foot and use it to beat people.

“Well, they said I resembled a deity and it just went from there really,” Sam said with a big happy smile.

Teyla's smile seemed a little more laboured. “I recall they called me a demon.”

“They also showed us a hidden compound of weapons,” Teal'c said with a pleased smile.

Ronon frowned. “They gave me a spoon.”

“And I suppose that shiny gadget in your hands is also a gift?” Rodney asked Sam with an annoyed look. “Which only responds to... your touch.”

Sam grinned. “It's pretty neat.”

“Neat,” Rodney said, looking at John. “Hear that?”

John gave Rodney a smirk as Elizabeth smiled at SG-1, something tight about about the smile. “Well, it's good you didn't come through the gate with arrows embedded in your backpacks.”

“That was my kidney, Elizabeth, not my backpack,” Rodney pointed out.

Elizabeth nodded and picked up her coffee, taking a long sip. John wondered if it was just coffee, narrowing his eyes at the cup. “I guess Jackson missed out on all the fun,” he said.

“No no,” Elizabeth said slowly. “He's enjoying some scrolls he found last night. Enjoying them all over my desk actually.”

Rodney leaned into John and whispered, “She's hitting that coffee pretty hard.”

John discreetly shrugged Rodney off and gave him a look. “So, any clue when Mitchell's going to join us?”

“The Frapthar said they would allow him to leave as soon as they bestowed the final blessing,” Teal'c explained.

“And you believed them?” John asked.

Vala nodded. “They were very accommodating and they also made me this keyring,” she said, holding up said keyring, a small stone sculpture of Sam's grinning face.

John smiled and nodded, noticing that Elizabeth had downed her whole cup of coffee.

Teyla turned to look at John and said, “They said I looked like a demon.”

John gave her a sympathetic smile, not telling her that at least she looked like a hot demon, which was the same as being a hot deity. Just as John noticed Rodney giving him the evil eye for no reason, the gate activated and everyone was getting out of their seats. John inevitably limped behind them all.

The gate was open, Marines aiming guns as everyone made their way down the steps. Cameron walked through with open arms and a huge grin, a small red mark painted on his cheek. He looked happy. Too happy. It figured he'd gotten the uppers when the Frapthar had given John the downers.

Cameron greeted everyone with a, “Hey! It is a good day, my friends. A good day.”

Sam looked as though she was trying to fight a smile, while Vala looked too amused and Teal'c was doing something with his eyebrow that could have meant anything. Elizabeth stepped in front of them all with folded arms.

“Colonel?” she asked with a raised eyebrow that meant 'what the hell?'

“Those guys,” Cameron said pointing at the gate, “know how to party.”

“He's high,” Rodney said, very unimpressed. “I get a splintered pancreas, he gets high.”

“I thought it was your kidney,” Sam pointed out.

“Oh, so now you're listening to me, blue eyes?”

John frowned at Rodney. Blue eyes? Rodney shrugged with no shame whatsoever. It was shameful that Rodney's lack of shame was what John possibly liked the most about him.

“Hey, I brought you back snacks,” Cameron said, reaching into his pockets and pulling out little brown crackers, which he pushed into everyone's hands.

Then he looked ready to pass out, just as John stepped in his way and caught him, dropping his own crutches in the process. Cameron grinned at him and gave a loopy smile.

Elizabeth was talking into her earpiece, summoning Carson, Ronon was trying out the crackers, Sam was showing her gadget to Vala and Teal'c as Teyla was asking Ronon to chew before swallowing when Cameron leaned in and murmured, “Damn, Sheppard, you're much prettier up close,” before completely passing out.

John stilled and slowly turned his head to see if anyone had heard. Only Rodney looked back, John's crutches in hands and said, “Huh.”

*

John was headed to the mess for dinner when he saw Cameron the next day. The other man nodded in his direction and ran towards John.

“Hey, busy?” Cameron asked, standing awkwardly in front of John, hands on hips.

“Just headed to get some food. I'm meeting my team, but you're welcome to join us,” John said, trying to see if the inches between him and the other man were regulation.

“Look, Sheppard,” Cameron began, looking embarrassed as he scratched the back of his head. “Yesterday, I think I might have said something I shouldn't have.”

John nodded, hands clutching his crutches a little too tight. “No big deal. I know you didn't mean it. People say weird things when they're hopped up on alien drugs. Trust me, I know.”

Cameron gave John a level stare, idly scratching his bottom lip with his thumb. “No, I meant what I said, I just should've known better than to have said it at all.”

John nodded slowly and then frowned. “And it's okay for you to tell me that because?”

Cameron gave one those smiles that twisted his mouth into something younger and made his eyes sparkle a bit too much. “Let's just say it's a hunch.”

John tried to control his facial muscles or at the very least not look as though he was in pain. “Look...”

“Hey,” Cameron said quietly. “It's not a proposition. It's just out there. You have a nice meal, Sheppard.”

John gave a nod as the other man walked away without another look. John made slow progress to the mess, which gave him time to wonder if he could get some kind of gun installed into his crutches just for fun. He'd have to ask Rodney about it later.

Ronon, Rodney and Teyla were already seated and eating when he arrived in the mess, two crutches in one hand, tray in the other and hopping in a very un-colonel like manner. “Sorry, I'm late. Ran into Mitchell and we started talking.”

Ronon continued eating, Teyla nodded and Rodney looked up and gave John a funny look as he took the crutches and placed them behind his own chair. “Anything interesting?” he asked about as nonchalant as someone wearing a t-shirt that said 'I am trying to be nonchalant, but am clearly not'.

“Not really,” John said, digging into his mashed potatoes.

“Oh? So, what? Ferris wheels? Football? Other dull pursuits?” Rodney asked and this time Ronon looked up at Rodney, clearly amused.

John just gave Rodney a confused look and shook his head. “So, what's going on with you guys?”

“I'm thinking about killing Teal'c,” Ronon said, stabbing his dinner.

“That's nice,” John said, earning a smile from Teyla. “What about you, Rodney? Still working in hell?”

Rodney gave a little smile. “Well, let's see, everyone wants to work with the blonde goddess, but not the big evil ogre McKay. So, things are pretty normal.”

Teyla made a huffy noise, so John said, “What?”

Teyla looked at Rodney with her schoolteacher face. “It is my understanding that you enjoy Colonel Carter's company, but also want to make all the decisions even if she is right. Does that not seem unreasonable?”

“It's completely unreasonable,” Rodney said. “But those are my terms.”

Teyla shook her head and looked at Ronon. “And, if you were over a hundred years old, I am sure you would possess as much wisdom as Teal'c. Also, if you actually spoke to him and heard some of his childhood stories, you would know he has not always been this wise.”

Ronon made a face and might have pouted.

“With Doctor Jackson's help and her extra staff, Elizabeth has had more time for herself because she does not have to divide herself between so many tasks.” Teyla turned and looked at John with a gentle smile. “John... you...” she looked at Ronon and Rodney and then seemed to change her mind. She patted his arm and said, “You are a good man, John Sheppard.”

John awkwardly looked away and made himself busy with his meal as Rodney protested, “What? That's it? We get a tongue lashing and he gets a line out of Charlie Brown? How is that even fair?”

Teyla gave a big smile. “It is not fair at all.”

“You know Vala?” Ronon said in a tone that suggested that sometimes he liked being a little mean spirited. “She's teaching all the Athosian kids how to fight dirty.”

John blinked. “Ronon, you fight dirty.”

Teyla smiled tightly. “I am sure she is teaching them other valuable skills a soldier would need.”

Ronon snorted. “She's not a soldier. She used to be a con artist. She's teaching those kids how to pull hair and then steal the enemy's money. She showed me. It's how I got my knives back. You're right, Teyla, there's a lot to be learnt from those guys.”

Teyla was very still and John had visions of a big Ronon skeleton being found in a closet some day. However, Teyla gracefully got to her feet and smiled. “If you will all excuse me.”

John stared at Ronon as Teyla left. “How could you do that to Vala?”

“We broke up. She said I was too immature. Then she kicked my leg and ran off,” Ronon said, taking Teyla's abandoned muffin.

“Teyla's got a point,” John said absently. “We could probably learn stuff from those guys. It's not like they're here to take anything away from us.”

“Well, more muscle power, brain power, it's a good thing,” Rodney said. “Plus, it helps if all that comes in a nice blonde package. I mean, I can't say it's been a total loss having Sam around the labs, especially since she is pretty-”

John let out a heavy sigh. “What? Pretty hot? Jesus, McKay, you're beginning to sound like a broken record. We get it, you think she's hot. How about you talk about something else for a change?”

John realised Rodney was staring at him like someone had shot his puppy. Ronon had an irritatingly knowing smirk on his face.

John rolled his eyes and got up. “I gotta go.”

He hopped over to Rodney's seat and took his crutches, slowly walking away and leaving Ronon and Rodney behind in silence.

*

John fully expected Rodney to barge in and ask him what the hell had just happened. However, he was tired and a little sweaty from having hobbled so far so quickly. Not in the best position to mount a defence.

Fifteen minutes later, the door made a vaguely doorbellish sound. John grabbed a crutch and went to the door, waving his hand over the crystal controls. Rodney stood there looking somewhere between pissed off and hurt. Why couldn't he just be pissed off?

John could see he was about to do an exploding McKay, which might involve asking if John was an idiot and if he needed to see a shrink. But then Rodney looked at John, like he was observing every little detail. John suddenly felt aware of how heated his skin still felt, sweat above his lip and leg feeling strained just from the effort of hauling around the weight of a broken foot.

“Smart,” Rodney said after a while.

“What?” John asked quietly.

“I was going to say that she's pretty smart. Not hot,” Rodney said, making John feel ten inches tall. Rodney gave a nod and turned to go. Then he stopped and turned back. “Though... she is that also.”

John stared at Rodney and felt a smile form on his mouth. Then he shook his head and went for the smile anyway. Rodney smiled back too, a little smug and brought out a brown paper bag from behind his back.

John took it and balanced on his crutch, opening the bag to look inside. He frowned and said, “You brought me a sandwich?”

Rodney made a face and waved a hand at John. “No. I brought me a sandwich, but I finished my dinner and Ronon finished yours. So, enjoy.”

John smiled and nodded. “Thanks.”

Rodney sighed, giving the bag a longing look. “Whatever. I'm going to bed.”

John watched Rodney walking away and wondered how many times he'd shared his lunch with Carter.

*

“You're quiet. That's not like you,” Sam said, scrolling through the latest result of diagnostics from the wonder machine Daniel still couldn't make work.

Rodney looked up from his laptop, frowning at Sam. “I think my friends don't like you.”

Sam looked wounded. “Me? Really? Wait that can't be true. I saw Teyla the other day and she invited me to tea with her and Lorne.”

“Well, maybe it's just Ronon and Sheppard,” Rodney said.

Sam reached into her boot and took out a knife. “Ronon gave me this after I showed him a few moves to take down Teal'c. He loves me.”

Rodney stared. “Huh. So... just Sheppard?”

Sam was smiling, like she knew something he didn't. Typical female chicanery. “Yep. Just Colonel Sheppard.”

“I think his broken foot's affecting his brain,” Rodney said absently, getting back to his work.

“That's not very nice, McKay.”

“He told you I had three nipples!” Rodney said. “What kind of friend does that?”

Sam shrugged. “A very special one?”

“He's special all right,” Rodney snorted. “Also, you're really not so hot when you're smug.”

*

“So what's the deal with the gold tattoo?” Ronon asked as he sat in front of Teal'c, mirroring his kel'no'reem pose.

Teal'c arched an eyebrow. “It is a reminder of my time enslaved by the Goa'uld.”

“If you could take it out, would you melt it to make it into something else?”

Teal'c's eyebrow arched until there was no room to arch. “No.”

“What about a ring?”

“No.”

“A pendant?”

“No.”

“A knife handle?”

Teal'c was silent for a long time. “Perhaps.”

Ronon nodded. “You had a snake in your gut?”

“Indeed.”

“What was that like?”

Teal'c seemed to think about it before replying, “Uncomfortable.”

“I got bit by a snake once.”

Teal'c sighed. “Indeed.”

*

Elizabeth watched Daniel sitting on the floor of his office, surrounded by texts and two open laptops buzzing beside him. There were at least three empty coffee cups on the floor too. Elizabeth just sat on a stool and watched Daniel reeling off information from his notes,

“What's ascension like?” she suddenly asked, surprising even herself.

Daniel looked up from his notes, mouth open in surprise. He lowered his notepad and slowly got to his feet. “Uh... well, I'm... It's not something I really remember very well.”

Elizabeth nodded. “What do you remember?”

Daniel took a deep breath, like he'd just been told to lay open the meaning of life; maybe he had, “I remember, well, drifting. I remember letting go and realising it was okay to let go and suddenly an odd sense of relief.”

“Relief?” Elizabeth asked.

Daniel nodded. “Yeah. Like I didn't have to worry any more. Like it was okay not to worry.”

Elizabeth smiled. “And did you keep up with the not worrying?”

Daniel gave her a small smile. “Well, as we can see, clearly not, because they kicked my ass out of their club pretty good.”

Elizabeth gave a small laugh and then nodded, taking a deep breath. “Well, our gain.”

Daniel nodded back and smiled. “Thank you.”

“How are you progressing?” Elizabeth asked, nodding at the mess in the floor.

Daniel sighed and shook his head. “Some of it has nothing to do with anything. As far as I can tell, I have the ability to read all the texts, but not everything I read makes sense. Doctor Beckett says that I also have the gene and it responds strongly to Ancient artefacts, so my guess is there is something in there that should help me use the weapon they were building in that lab.”

Elizabeth looked at him long and hard and then smiled. “And what aren't you telling me?”

Daniel looked away, licking his bottom lip and thinking hard before speaking. “The notes to do with the machine keep mentioning how the user has to attain a level of thought free from their body, before understanding the mechanisms.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Ascension.”

Daniel shrugged. “Maybe. I could be wrong. Maybe there's such a thing as reaching an ascended-like existence in corporeal form. I don't know.”

Elizabeth felt another smile tug at her mouth. “You'll figure it out.”

Then she handed him a notepad and said, “In the meantime, Teyla says she's pretty sure you got this translation wrong. She says it's a prayer she knows very well. You might want to check it again.”

Daniel took the notepad and tilted his head at Elizabeth with an overly friendly smile. “You've been waiting to do that the whole time, haven't you?”

Elizabeth smiled happily. “Yes, I have.”

*

“So you see, children, you may pull your opponent's hair, but just as easily your opponent may retaliate by crushing your windpipe,” Teyla said, Vala's hand in her hand, her foot on Vala's throat.

Vala rasped, “You've made your point... you crazy-”

Teyla twisted her hand a bit more and Vala kicked her feet against the ground like a petulant child. “I prefer to teach the children good habits,” she said.

Vala lifted her head off the mat and frowned. “Well where did that ever get anyone?”

Teyla shook her head. “You are quite shameless.”

Vala gave Teyla a bright smile. “Thank you.”

Teyla shook her head and hauled up to her up to her feet. Then she slapped a bar of chocolate in Vala's palm.

Vala looked appalled. “You stole that from me!”

Teyla tried to look her sanctimonious best. “And now you see how stealing is a bad thing.”

Vala raised her eyebrows at Teyla. “I only steal from people I like. Daniel will vouch for me.”

Teyla frowned and then gave a nod. “You are very strange.”

*

John was on his way to the mess hall. Ronon was right. Maybe he was getting fat. His stomach made a noise of protest that said, 'Not fat! Hungry!' and John decided to listen and kept hobbling in the same direction, clumsily taking a corner and hobbling right into Cameron.

The crutches fell on the floor, John stumbled and Cameron grabbed him around the waist and held him up against the wall with a, “Whoa there, I got you.”

Once John got his balance, he realised his hands were braced on Cameron's forearms. His very hard and muscular forearms. John opened his mouth to say something, but ended up moving his hands a little, feeling a flex of muscle.

“You all right?” Cameron asked quietly.

John gave Cameron an awkward smile. “Yeah, thanks. Sorry, I wasn't looking where I was going.”

Cameron nodded slowly, listening carefully, fully focused on John's words. It made John want to run in the opposite direction, only he couldn't.

“I uh, I dropped my-”

“Sure.” Cameron nodded and said, “Want me to get them?”

“Well, it would help,” John said, trying for dry.

Cameron smiled at him, still holding on firmly. He leaned in close, his eyes lowering a little and John found himself looking at Cameron's mouth, swallowing hard. Only Cameron looked up straight into John's eyes. “Stay.”

Then he pushed away and bent down to retrieve the crutches as John stood there rolling his eyes at himself and shaking his head. Cameron handed him the crutches and smiled, scratching his own jaw idly.

“Where are you in a hurry to?” Cameron asked, looking less casual than he probably intended.

“Hungry,” John said.

Cameron nodded. “Yeah?”

“You want to-?”

“Just you?” Cameron asked with a tentative smile.

John shook his head. “No.”

Cameron shrugged and did an odd wrinkling of his nose thing that a man of his age shouldn't have been able to get away with. “Maybe some other time.”

John nodded and watched Cameron walking away once more. Three strikes and you're out, John thought.

Whatever. Baseball sucked.

*

“I guess they're not so bad,” Rodney said, chin resting in the palm of hand, his elbow propped up on the table. “I mean, things could be worse than having SG-1 around.“ He poked his food and frowned at it when it seemed to bounce back.

Ronon made a noise of non-committal affirmation as he bit into a bread roll. John pushed a potato around the plate, watched it make a shape in the gravy before the gravy slurped back together.

“Yeah,” John said. “We do need people in the city and they're... people.”

They all turned and looked at the empty seat next to John and Rodney said, “I miss Teyla.”

*

John had a peace offering in his pocket, though he didn't really know what he was offering peace for. Maybe he was hoping Teyla would start being Teyla again if he offered her some chocolate from Rodney's good stash. Not that she wasn't being Teyla. It was just that she wasn't being Teyla near him, Ronon or Rodney. She was being Teyla somewhere else, with Lorne and her new team maybe and that sucked because... because... well, she belonged his team, damn it. Team Sheppard had a bigger claim on Teyla, though he would only tell her that if he wanted to end his life.

He was almost by Teyla's door when it whooshed open and Lorne whooshed out, landing hard on the floor after being hit in the face.

“Oh, that's nice. Real mature, Teyla,” Lorne said, hand partially over smacked mouth.

“Do not tell me what I am,” Teyla said, her voice heated. “I am more than aware of my own failings, Evan.”

John finally found his tongue and said, “What the hell is this?”

Lorne scrambled to his feet and looked embarrassed. Teyla also looked regretful and didn't look John in the eye. John looked at them both, looked real close. Teyla looked angry. Lorne looked annoyed. She had just hit him. He didn't look as though he was going to retaliate. They both looked miserable.

Wait. They looked miserable. Miserable?

“Oh my god,” John muttered. “Are you two sleeping-”

*

“- together? What? Since when?” Rodney almost shrieked over his lunch.

“Weeks,” John said with a wave of the fork. “Apparently when I told him to make friends with Teyla, Lorne figured I was telling him to ask her out on a date. I thought he was one of the smart ones. They've been together for weeks and we didn't even know. ”

“Evan,” Ronon snorted, evidentially still finding the name hilarious.

“Of course we didn't know,” Rodney said. “We thought Lorne was gay.”

John rolled his eyes. “No, you thought Lorne was gay.”

“Well, he's not. Not unless Teyla's a guy,” Ronon said, half smiling.

“What's this?” Elizabeth asked, taking a seat next to Rodney and opposite John.

“Did you know Teyla was seeing Lorne?” John asked.

Elizabeth nodded, opening the plastic wrapping on her sandwich. “I'm not sure there's anyone that doesn't know.”

“What?” Rodney made a face. “We didn't know.”

Elizabeth stared at Rodney, looked at Ronon and then at John. “Huh.”

“What?” John asked.

Elizabeth shrugged. “Well, I suspected you'd all take your time to notice, but I had no idea it would take this long. Carson owes me a very nice bottle of wine.”

“You bet on us to lose?” John asked slowly.

Elizabeth nodded. “Did you know they got married last weekend?”

“What?” Rodney asked, looking as shocked as John felt, while Ronon just stared.

“Just kidding,” Elizabeth smiled. “Not that you'd know.”

“Did you know his first name's Evan?” Ronon asked Elizabeth with a smile.

“Will you drop that?” John said,

Elizabeth smiled. “Yes, Ronon, I know.”

“Why is that so funny?” Rodney asked Ronon.

Ronon shrugged. “It's a girl's name.”

John frowned. “It is not.”

“It is on Sateda,” Ronon said, looking immensely pleased.

Elizabeth looked at John and smiled. “So this is what you all do in your spare time. No, it's nice. I like it. Reminds me why I'm not having a relationship with anyone in this city.”

*

Teyla was meditating when John turned up in her quarters. “Can I come in? Thanks,” he said before she could tell him to go away.

Teyla just arched an eyebrow in his direction and watched him sit down on her bed as she remained on the floor, lit by a backdrop of candles and other pretty Teyla things. John looked around the room, soaking up it's prettiness. He'd have to go back to his room and head butt the wall to get some of the prettiness out later.

“So,” John said slowly. “That was mean.”

Teyla laughed, the rare laugh that she only laughed if something really tickled her. “I am sorry.”

“You are not,” John said, giving her a narrow-eyed look.

She smiled. “No. It was Elizabeth's idea. I think she is a little bored.”

John snorted. “So, Lorne, huh? Rodney thought he was gay.”

Teyla looked amused. “He is not. If he were, I would suggest that perhaps-”

John closed his eyes and held up a hand. “I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to tell me that suggestion.”

He opened his eyes and saw Teyla nodding with a gentle smile. “Your rules make no sense.”

“Not my rules,” John said. “Anyway, why'd'you smack Lorne in the mouth? He do something wrong?”

Teyla smiled sadly. “No. He did nothing wrong.”

“What happened?”

Teyla looked down at her hands and shook her head. Then she stilled and looked up at John. “Where is Ronon?”

*

“Tell me what you did, little girl.” Lorne rolled his eyes as his feet left the ground and his body hit the wall, Ronon's hand wrapped around his throat. “What d'you do to get a punch in the face?” Ronon asked.

“You guys keep any secrets from each other?” Lorne rasped, his hands wrapped around Ronon's wrist and his feet kicking back and forth. “And what the hell's all this little girl business?”

“What did you do?” Ronon insisted.

Lorne bent back Ronon's broken fingers, getting a yell out of Ronon, finally being released from the other man's grasp. Just as Ronon reached for him again, Lorne punched Ronon in the gut as hard as he could.

Ronon doubled over, looking up at Lorne who was massaging his throat. “I didn't do anything. She dumped me.”

“Why?” Ronon asked. “You must have done something wrong.”

Lorne slumped on the ground with a thud, looking worn out as he leaned against the wall. “I didn't. I told her I cared about her and she went all weird. She said... she said no matter how many people she surrounds herself with, she keeps losing them. Guess she wanted to cut her losses. So I called her a coward and she hit me.”

Before Ronon could lay all the blame on Lorne, the doors to the work out room opened and Teyla stormed in, looking pissed off. “Ronon?” she demanded.

Ronon straightened up with a wince and pointed at Lorne. “She just punched me.”

“She?” Lorne looked up at Ronon with a scowl. “Anyone tell you you're a real jerk, buddy?”

*

Lorne and Teyla were once again invisible, which could mean they hated each other, loved each other or thanks to another half-finished Ancient machine, were actually really invisible.

SG-1 were off world, following up some clues to a cave of ZPMs. Not even one ZPM, but a damn cave of the things.

“A cave,” Rodney spat over dinner. “Who the hell finds a cave?”

“SG-1,” Ronon answered.

“That was a rhetorical question,” Rodney said.

“Maybe I was giving you a rhetorical answer,” Ronon said with a shrug.

“You have no idea what I'm talking about,” Rodney said, dismissing Ronon completely.

“No, I just don't care,” Ronon said, dismissing back. John wanted reach out and slap them both, but he settled for glaring.

“A cave,” Rodney muttered.

“McKay!” John snapped. “We get it. A cave. It sucks we never found the cave, but at least we'll still benefit from all the ZPMs. Think about it, what you could do with a cave of ZPMs.”

Rodney stilled and looked up at John, his eyes so bright they were probably being powered by a cave of ZPMs. “A cave,” he whispered. “We could... and also the... oh my god... I gotta go.”

Ronon watched Rodney rush out of the mess and then turned to John. “What's rhetorical mean?”

*

That evening, John was leaning on the railing of a balcony, looking down at the rocks and waves, or what he could see of them in the moonlight. In the future, he would be able to close his eyes and remember the city, each light and each tower, tall and brilliant in a dark black night under a blanket of unclouded stars. He took a snapshot in his mind and closes his eyes, turning his face up to the sky and letting the cool breeze flow over him.

“It's beautiful, isn't it?” Elizabeth asked, turning up at his side and looking over the railing.

“Yep.” John nodded. “It's pretty cool.”

They continued staring ahead, but after while, John could tell Elizabeth was watching him in that way she did, trying to translate him, find some meaning. He turned his face to hers with a wry smile. “What?”

“I was thinking it must be driving you crazy, not being able to go on any missions. Losing a member of your team. Can't be easy,” she said.

“I did not lose a member of my team, Elizabeth. She's on a temporary assignment, not dead. Though some people might say it's the same thing. Besides, once we're back out there, she'll be back too,” he said with an emphatic nod.

“And you're not going crazy?” Elizabeth asked slyly.

He rolled his eyes. “No, Elizabeth, I am not going crazy.”

She smiled. “Well, it does suit you, I have to say.”

John frowned. “What does?”

“You know,” she said with a shrug. “The moody Cat on a Hot Tin Roof look.”

“Funny,” John said, narrowing his eyes at her, but she was watching him again, something pinched about her eyes. “What?”

“I'm thinking of a way to gently ruin your evening,” she said carefully.

John stiffened. “What's wrong?”

*

“So, let me do the math here,” Cameron said, getting amused smirks out of everyone crammed into the briefing room. Even Caldwell smiled. “Three Wraith ships, in two hours and we only have one ZPM.”

“Actually, one third of a ZPM,” Rodney said. “So, if you're holding back some of those ZPMs your team found in the cave, now would be a good time to share, Colonel.”

John noticed that some of the Atlantis staff looked as though they might snicker, whereas some of the people SG-1 had brought with them from the SGC looked a little insulted. It would have been funny if they all weren't so doomed.

“How's work with the weapon progressing?” John asked Daniel.

Daniel looked tired and shook his head. “I tried making it work and I have no idea why it's not responding. I need time. I'm sure something was downloaded into my brain to make it work. I just need to find out what it is.”

“We only have two hours,” Teyla said. “That may not be enough time.”

“We need to start evacuating the city,” Elizabeth said, looking at John.

John nodded and looked at Caldwell who looked grim, like always. “Colonel?”

Caldwell nodded. “We'll be standing by in orbit as long as you need us.”

“McKay, what kind of shield power do we have?” John asked.

“Minimum at best. We won't be able to shield the city for long. Minutes maybe,” Rodney said.

“Let's keep that as our last option then,” he said, looking at Elizabeth who nodded in agreement.

“Doctor Jackson, see if you can find something in that database that can help,” John said.

“I'll go with him,” Vala said and John looked across at Cameron who just nodded.

“McKay, figure out if that damn machine can do anything at all. Ronon, Teyla, take some teams and get everyone through the gate.”

“Me and Teal'c-” Cameron started to offer something

“Set up defensive positions,” John said. “Get some teams to together so we're not sitting ducks.”

Cameron gave a slow nod. “What about you?”

John felt his fingers tightening on his crutches. “Chair room. Rodney, see if you can get me some power down there.”

“Well, what do you want me to do? Chair room or crappy not-working Ancient weapon number-”

“I want you to stop complaining and get to work,” John said, watching his comments bounce on Rodney's forehead just enough to get him moving in the several directions he needed to move. If anything, Rodney was his best under pressure.

*

“Oh my god! We are toast!” Rodney yelled, holding a laptop to his chest and falling on the floor, Sam landing next to him as the room filled with exploding debris.

“Too bad, just finished redecorating from the last time they blew the crap out of us,” she said, smudged and bleeding from a cut on her forehead. She tapped her earpiece and said, “Daniel? How are you doing?”

“We can't get to the room!” Daniel yelled back from the middle of the sound of more explosions. “The way in front's caved in! We'll never make it in time!”

“Damn it,” Rodney spat. He peeked around his table and saw more hiding staff. “Okay, everyone out! Get to the gate. Now! Go!”

He turned around to see Sam watching him closely. He ignored the look and opened the laptop, the diagnostic screen showing the ZPM's dropping power levels. Rodney touched his ear piece. “Sheppard. Where are you?”

John sounded out of breath when he replied. “Chair room's out. No way to get in, Rodney.”

Rodney shook his head, rubbing his forehead. Sam touched his arm. “We can get the Daedalus to transport him in there.”

“We'd have to drop the shield..., “ Rodney stopped and stared at the screen. “Oh god. Sheppard, the ZPM's completely depleted. Even if we get you there, the chair won't work.”

“Sam!” Vala's voice yelled into their ears. “It's Daniel! One of the conduits exploded! He's unconscious!”

“What?” Sam said, her face paling.

“Oh, that's just great!” Rodney said. He turned to Sam. “Go.”

“What? What about you?” Sam asked.

“I'm going to try and pull a plan from my ass to save the city at the last second. Go,” Rodney said.

“You can't order me-”

“I'm not!” Rodney yelled. “If I wanted to I could. I am still the chief scientist and what I say still goes here, though there might not be a here much longer. I'm telling you to go find your team. There might still be a way to get to the machine, make it work. We can't both stay here and wait to be blown to bits,” Rodney said, fixing Sam with a steady glare.

Sam stared at him and nodded. She squeezed his wrist tightly. “Good luck.”

“Yes. Go.” Rodney nodded and watched her leave the lab, dodging falling debris. He tapped his earpiece. “Elizabeth, Sam's on her way to Daniel and Vala. Daniel's injured.”

“Copy that,” Elizabeth said. “Everyone, this is Doctor Elizabeth Weir. We'll now being commencing a complete evacuation of the city. Personnel should immediately report to the gate room.”

“Elizabeth.”

Rodney stilled. That was John. That was John with his voice, the one that said he was going to suggest something that would either end with him very nearly dead or almost actually completely dead. Something exploded in the corridor and Rodney flinched, his back hard against the wall as he listened.

“I'm near the lab with the machine. Carson said Daniel's DNA was manipulated to possess the gene, right? Well, I already have the gene.”

Rodney opened his mouth, no words making it out at first as he shook his head. “No no no, you don't understand. The information downloaded into his head is supposed to help him use the machine. All you have is the gene. We haven't even tested it with a human subject.”

“Well, I guess I'll be the first one. Stand by, Sheppard out.”

“No! Sheppard!” Rodney shouted. “Elizabeth? We have no idea what that machine might do.”

Elizabeth sounded resigned. “No. We don't. We also have no other options, Rodney.”

Rodney clenched his jaw for a moment, feeling the ground shake under him. “Fine, but I suggest everyone get the hell out of the city if this doesn't work, which it probably won't.”

“You?” Elizabeth asked.

“I'll be there in a second.”

*

By the time John got to the room he was ready to burn his crutches and kick his broken foot out of frustration. John took his gun from his holster and put it on a console as he turned to the platform where Daniel had stood the first time they had all been in the lab.

John threw aside his crutches and put his foot forward, only someone grabbed him by his tac vest and pulled him back.

“You insane? You don't know what that machine is going to do to you,” Cameron said, his grip firm around John's arm. “Why do you think I didn't let Jackson test it out?”

“In about fifteen minutes, this city is going to be back at the bottom of the sea,” John said evenly, shaking Cameron off and turning away.

Cameron pulled him back, grabbing him by the front of his vest, his knuckles white under the low flickering lights. “Fine, I'll do it.”

“You don't have the gene,” John said.

“We all got the super Ancient gene shot, remember?” Cameron said, definitely breaking proximity regulations.

John grabbed Cameron's hands and spoke in a low voice, “You don't need to be a hero, Mitchell. This is my job. I'm still military commander of this expedition.”

Cameron frowned. “That what's it's about, Sheppard? You wanna go down with the ship?”

“No,” John said. “I want to stop it from sinking at all if I can.”

He pulled Cameron's hands away and stepped back. “I don't know what's going to happen. You should probably get out of the room.”

“You might need a hand when it's over,” Cameron said, rooted to the spot.

“We got it,” Ronon said, smoothly walking in, gun in hand, Teyla behind him with a P90 and Rodney with his handgun.

John shook his head. “You guys shouldn't be here.”

“What? Miss another suicide attempt? You must be kidding,” Rodney said tightly, heading to one of the consoles.

John glared. “Fine. Everyone stand back and try not to get killed.”

John faced the platform, put his broken foot forward and regretted throwing the crutches away. A second later Ronon had an arm around his waist and was hauling him up the stairs in double time. They stood on the platform and John gave a nod without looking at Ronon, who gave him a pat on the back and stepped down, but not away from the base.

In front of John was a simple waist height column with a flat shiny surface, John pressed his palm down on it, wishing for it to work. No place like home, no place like home, he thought with his eyes closed.

Then something happened. It made him gasp and open his eyes wide in shock as something dug into the back of his hand, sharp and hard and he screamed before everything went white.

*

It was like drifting. Floating. Not a care in the universe. He could see them, the three ships hovering over Atlantis, fire from the Daedalus having no impact. He flicked them away, like they were specks of dust and they were.

*

The light was blinding and John tried to get away from it, his head pounding hard. The light stopped and he winced in relief.

“Wakey wakey, Colonel,” Carson's cheery voice coaxed before snapping at someone, “All right, will you bloody stop pushing?”

“He's awake,” Ronon's voice loomed close by.

John opened his eyes and saw them. Teyla was by his arm, Elizabeth next to her and Ronon was opposite her, Rodney behind him, looking somewhere between relieved and exhausted.

“How are you?” Elizabeth asked gently.

John frowned through a haze of brain slicing pain. “We still floating?”

Teyla grinned, apparently relieved and Ronon looked at him with a smile, before heavily patting John's shoulder. “We're still floating.”

“All right, everyone out, you've seen him, he's alive, go,” Carson said. Ronon gave him a glare. “Please?”

“We will return later,” Teyla promised, touching the back of John's hand.

John watched as they left and Rodney came around the bed to stand closer, Carson telling him, “I meant you too, Rodney.”

“Yeah, in a minute,” Rodney said impatiently, earning a shake of the head from Carson. “So, you up to hearing what happened or you want the details later?”

“Now,” John croaked.

Rodney nodded. “Well, we think... we think you ascended.”

John stared. “What?”

Rodney made a worried looking face. “Well, uh, maybe. I don't know. From what Radek and I can tell, the machine was in the process of doing something to you. Altering you. It was giving you a taster and then you were meant to, how do I put this? I guess you were meant to put out.”

John closed his eyes and sighed. “Great.”

“See, Elizabeth figures the stuff in Jackson's head was supposed to make him more open to ascension, make it a quicker process, but the machine never accounted for someone that had been ascended and back,” Rodney carried on. “You on the other hand weren't so receptive to ascension, so it tried to force you once you blew up the Wraith ships.”

“Then how-”

“How did you come back?” Rodney asked. John nodded and Rodney replied, “Well, we shot the crap out of the machine when you started going fuzzy.”

“Fuzzy?” John asked.

“You looked like you were about to disappear,” Rodney said quietly. “So we opened fire and it stopped what it was doing. We're uh, we're hoping you'll find everything where you left it.”

“Yeah,” John murmured. “I felt like I was disappearing too.”

“What?” Rodney asked.

John's eyes fluttered closed and he felt himself falling asleep, feeling a gentle pat on the back of his bandaged hand.

*

“So, you don't remember anything?” Ronon asked, taking a bite of his apple.

John shrugged. “Nothing. One second I was touching the thing and next second I was waking up. Pretty weird.”

“Weird? You blew up three Wraith ships,” Rodney said, waving his fork at John. “That's not weird. That's a miracle. I can't believe you don't even remember.”

“Everyone has been talking about you,” Teyla said. “One day the Athosian children will probably have great stories told to them about John Sheppard.”

John rolled his eyes. “Sure.”

“I am sure of it,” Teyla said, quite serious.

John nodded, paying attention to his plate and not his team mates, waiting, praying for Rodney to say something inappropriate and shameless.

“So, Sam thinks-”

Except that. Anything but that.

“-the machine's a waste of time. We're never going to be able to put it back together after the damage we did,” Rodney finished, making John feel a little silly.

“You know what we need?” Ronon asked. “A cave of ZPMs.”

“Hey, I'm not greedy. I'd settle for a crate,” Rodney said.

Teyla laughed and got up, making John ask, “Hey, where are you going?”

“I am meeting Evan,” she said, making Ronon snort.

“See how her face lights up when she says that?” Rodney said. “Someone's obviously very-”

“Rodney,” Teyla warned.

“I was going to say happy,” Rodney said innocently. “Really, I was.”

“Well,” Teyla gave him a haughty look. “I am, Very.” She turned to go, but then turned back and arched an eyebrow. “Very.”

When she was gone, Rodney said, “Huh. Trouble in paradise?”

John nodded. “Totally.”

Ronon snorted, “Evan.”

*

The city was in re-build mode again, many of the off-world missions postponed, all hands needed on site. John was sent fruit baskets and sweaters and other nice things while being told to take it easy, for saving the day. Not that he wanted to be some big hero.

Though, it was kind of cool.

He was inspecting a fruit basket when there was a knock at his door. John went to the door, propping one crutch up by the door frame and waving a hand over the crystals. Cameron was standing right in front of him, one hand braced against the door frame somewhere above their heads. He was wearing a t-shirt and jeans, looking very laid back and slightly dusty.

“Hey. How are you doing?” Cameron asked with a warm smile. “I hear you've been getting all kinds of interesting offers.”

John smiled. “They're not as interesting as you think.”

Cameron nodded and stepped into John's quarters, waving a hand over the crystals and shutting the door, placing his hand somewhere above John's head instead, leaning against the wall.

“Maybe I can make an interesting offer then,” Cameron said with a shrug, When John didn't respond, he added, “Here's the thing, I kind of like you, Sheppard, but I'm not sure if you've noticed.”

John made a face. “There's not a lot of room for misinterpretation.”

Cameron nodded with a knowing smile. “So, what's it like being the big hero?”

“It's not about being a hero, Mitchell. I was just doing my job,” John said nonchalantly. “Though I am enjoying the fruit bask-”

“I'm going to kiss you,” Cameron said very seriously.

John stared and then nodded casually when he realised he was staring. “Okay.”

Cameron leaned in until their bodies were flush against each other, his lips softly moulding to John's, his eyelashes fluttering against John's cheek when he tilted his face and deepened the kiss. When he pulled back his mouth was wet and pink. He was biting his lip and looking at John. Then he laughed.

“Oh man, talk about a rejection kiss,” he said. John winced, shaking his head and opening his mouth to say something. Cameron interrupted. There was longing in his eyes when he said, “No big deal. Not every girl gets the hero.”

John smiled and shook his head. “It's complicated.”

“Yeah?” Cameron asked, pushing away from the wall. “This complication got a name?”

John looked away, still smiling as Cameron took a small tour of his quarters before sitting down on the edge of the bed.

Cameron chuckled at the lack of response and leaned back on his hands, watching John carefully. “You don't even think about Earth, do you?”

John frowned. “Sure I do.”

“Miss it?”

John shrugged. “I didn't really leave behind anything I'd miss.”

Cameron nodded. “This place, you'd miss though. Right?”

John made a face, scratching the back of his head. “Is this some kind of punishment?”

Cameron laughed. “Nah. Just curious.”

John was saved fidgeting under Cameron's bright sparkly smile when the door opened, revealing Rodney with mouth at the ready and finger raised. Then Rodney saw Cameron and said, “Huh.”

Cameron got up in a loose lazy fashion, but John caught the practice of nonchalance in it. He knew it well. “I was just leaving, Doctor. You've got him all to yourself.”

McKay rolled his eyes, lips thinning out as Cameron walked past, winking at John with a wicked smile before walking out, the door sliding shut behind him.

John took a deep breath, reaching for his other crutch as he watched Rodney looking around the room. “Hey,” John said carefully.

“What the hell's with all these fruit baskets?” Rodney asked.

John frowned. “Did you want something?”

“You know, during that whole saving the city thing, the rest of your team was there too. Would it kill you to at the very least give us a banana?” Rodney asked, looking way too annoyed for this to be about a banana. He seemed to gather himself up under John's suspicious look. “Um, I wanted to know if you were in the mood for some poker this evening,”

“Sure, I'd-”

“I mean you don't have to come, you're probably more busy, better things to do,” Rodney said, trying for casual.

John opened his mouth to say, sure, poker sounded cool, but Rodney said, “You know I'll just tell Radek you were busy.” Then he turned around and walked out of the room, John staring at the shutting door.

Before John had time to recover, whirlwind Rodney stormed right back in and snapped, “Are you having sex with Mitchell?'

John imagined the look on his face was probably somewhere between appalled and mortified. “What?”

“You. Are you having sex with him?”Rodney pointed accusingly at the door.

John clamped his mouth shut for five seconds and then said, “Okay, get out.”

“I can't believe this!”

“It's none of your damn business,” John said, his fingers itching to use the crutches for more than support.

“What? It's totally my business. You're not supposed to be having sex with people, especially male people who call you pretty in a crowded gate room.”

John was stunned for precisely one second before he said in a very low and even voice, "First of all, we are not having sex. Second of all, it was just one kiss and still none of your business, so, maybe you should just leave. You're wasting precious time you could be using to drool over Colonel Carter. Maybe if you're lucky you can get her to touch more than your hand, Rodney.”

“That's the point,” Rodney said, narrowing his eyes at John. “I'm supposed to sit there and day dream about her and you're supposed to sit next to me, single and unapproachable, full of your macho crap and we're supposed to be pathetic together. Only, now you're kissing guys. You're killing me here!”

John blinked, shaking his head, feeling tired and annoyed. “Rodney...”

“And when did you start kissing guys?” Rodney asked quietly, visibly confused.

“It's not supposed to be public knowledge, Rodney,” John said, fidgeting on the crutches,

“Well, I wish it was,” Rodney said.

“Why? Don't want to be my friend any more?” John asked evenly.

Rodney gave John a look. “No. If I'd known I might...”

Rodney's face coloured and he looked away, suddenly not very talkative at all. John stepped a little closer. “What?”

Rodney sighed, gave John a nervous look and then stepped a little closer too. John just stared with open curiosity, not really aware that Rodney was about to kiss him until their mouths touched for a millionth of a second, before John pushed Rodney away. “Wha... but, you're always talking about Carter.”

Rodney had that pinched look about him, where even he found it hard to say what was on his mind. “You're always there. Everywhere I go. He was in here, all over your bed, and it felt like you might... disappear again." Rodney frowned and shook his head, looking regretful. “Okay, not making sense. You know what, whatever, go have sex with, Mitchell. If you haven't already.” Rodney looked as though he was thinking the idea through. “Oh my god, you haven't have you?”

John rolled his eyes and shook his head. Rodney waved a dismissive hand at him and turned to go. John shook his head and dropped both crutches, reaching out for Rodney instead. Rodney turned to steady him as John said, “Don't go. I didn't mean you should go.”

Rodney stared at John, holding him tight and nodding. They both stood rooted to the spot, John balancing on one leg, only just realising he was holding onto Rodney's forearms to keep upright. He looked down at his hands, fingers gripping Rodney, not quite sure how they had passed regulation proximity. How he'd even dared to ask Rodney to not leave.

“You...” Rodney started, so quiet he could have been whispering. “You want me to stay?”

No. No staying. No staying ever. Go, right now. Turn around, go and we'll pretend it never happened. John thought, his stomach turning into a huge knot and his heart nervously hammering, knowing stupid he was and that he was going to mess it all up by saying something stupid like-

“Yeah. I do.”

Crap.

Rodney tilted his face a little and moved up to invite John's mouth to his, touching their lips together. His arms tightened around John's waist, slipping through John's hands until they ended up on Rodney's shoulders, up up up until John was holding Rodney's face, kissing him, tasting him. John smiled as he kissed Rodney because surprisingly, he tasted like John had expected. They kissed and held on tight until they did a clumsy dance across the floor and ended up on John's bed.

*

“You look different,” Ronon said. “Do something to your hair?”

Rodney choked on his coffee as John paused mid-bite of his sandwich not thinking of how he had woken up to find Rodney lying next to him, content and cat-like, one arm above them, his fingers idly poking at John's hair.

Ronon stared at Rodney, giving him some heavy thumps on the back until Rodney said, “Okay, I'm good! Jeez, I think you cracked a rib.”

Ronon shrugged and picked up his sandwich. “What's with you two?”

“Nothing,” Rodney said, looking so guilty he might as well have shouted across the mess that he had spent the whole night in John Sheppard's bed. On John Sheppard. Under him. Next to him. “We're um, we're good.”

Ronon took a long look at Rodney and then an even longer look at John, his eyes narrowing as if he was trying to read between the lies. “Okay. Not your hair.” Then he pointed at Rodney. “His hair.”

Letting Rodney use his shower gel had obviously been an immensely stupid idea. John tried not to look too obvious about turning his attention to his sandwich, taking a big bite that wouldn't let him talk with his mouth full and say something stupid.

Teyla sat down next to John, looking serene, a little smug perhaps. Something in his brain said maybe it was Lorne related because sometimes people you liked could make you feel happy just by existing. It hurt his head to think about it too much.

“They're not telling me something,” Ronon told Teyla.

“Why must you know everything?” Teyla asked smoothly.

“I'm bored,” Ronon explained.

“I see,” Teyla said. She stirred some honey into her tea. “Perhaps your boredom is making you imagine things.” Teyla looked at John to give him a conspiratorial smile, but then stopped, her face frozen in some realisation.

John stilled for a second, before having to look away because she was looking right through him, reading him with some kind of evil female reading power. After a moment, she broke out into a big grin and turned back to her tea, smiling with contentment.

John made a face, pushing part of his mouth into a smile. “What?”

She looked at him and gave one of her flirtatious smiles. “Nothing. I was just thinking that you seem... well rested.”

Rodney choked again. Ronon turned to him, visibly confused. Then he thumped Rodney on the back until he was wheezing, while John pretended his own face wasn't burning hot.

*

Things seemed calmer for the moment. People said, 'hey, Colonel Sheppard' more often than recently. Some of the pretty Athosians women were giving him the eye again as well as some of the pretty Athosian men.

SG-1 finally went to a planet that proved there was justice. They spent two days trapped in a mud pit until Cameron agreed to marry the chief's twenty year old son and to return in two years with a bridal parade and dowry offerings whereby their union could finally be celebrated in the marital yurt.

Cameron came through the gate muddy and morose. John didn't know what to say, so he said, “Uh... congratulations.”

Cameron stared at him and then a smile forced itself on his mouth and he spluttered out a laugh and said, “Bastard.”

When John went to see Elizabeth, she looked the happiest she'd been since she discovered all her coffees could be Irish if she wanted. She was playing back something on her laptop and covering her mouth.

“What?” John asked, immediately walking around the table and looking to find her watching footage from SG-1's mission. Specifically, the moment when Daniel excitedly pointed at some wall he probably wasn't supposed to point at and then got rushed by six burly men who thought they were playing football and Daniel had the ball. “Ow.”

Elizabeth cleared her throat. “Yes. Well, I think I've seen enough. Mind you, I really can't see the sanity of walking onto holy ground and pointing at things you know nothing about.”

John straightened up and narrowed his eyes at Elizabeth. “You're loving it.”

Elizabeth gave him a stern look. “I have a lot of respect for Daniel.”

“Especially since his superpowers disappeared,” John said. Then he smiled and added, “Did you see them in the infirmary? The mud made them green. You should take a look before it goes away.”

Elizabeth was still stern, but the corners of her mouth said not that stern. “That's not very funny.”

John pretended to be regretful in the way that implied this was possibly the funniest thing ever. “No, you're right. Sorry.”

He sauntered over to the other side of her desk and sat down, giving a little stretch before folding his arms across his chest.

Elizabeth was smiling at him. “You look happy.”

He shrugged. “Just one of those days I guess.”

“Nothing to do with your cast coming off?” Elizabeth asked with an arched brow.

“That old thing? Didn't bother me a bit,” John said, tapping his foot on the ground. “It was nice getting all that rest.”

“I could tell from your cheery demeanour,” Elizabeth teased.

John made a face. “I was cheery. On the inside. Deep, deep... deep on the inside.”

Elizabeth nodded and shut the laptop before leaning forward a little, fingers linked on top of the laptop. “Well, I admit, the rest seems to have done you a world of good.”

“That it has.” John patted his belly with both hands and nodded, wondering why his brain went back to Rodney with every assumption Elizabeth made and every question she asked. Rodney McKay was certainly not the answer to everything. Except for the bruise on John's chest where he had elbowed him in the middle of the night.

*

John went for a walk, checking out his foot. It felt a little strange and there was the minutest of limps, but it felt good to move freely again without having to lean on something while everything moved around him at high speeds. He'd be able to go running again in no time.

He ended up in Rodney's lab, which had felt out of the way and too crowded for weeks. But Carter was still green in the infirmary. Not that she was a crowd or anything.

Rodney was sitting in front of a computer screen, Radek opposite him at a computer screen of his own. They were probably playing World of Warcraft.

“Uh, McKay, a second?” John said from the door. “Hey, Radek.”

“Colonel,” Radek said, looking down at his foot. “You have your foot back.”

John stood a little taller as if he could show off his regained powers of balance. “Yep.”

Rodney joined John in the doorway, looking down at John's foot. “Oh god. That means Ronon's arm's out of its cast too. He'll be looking for us, you know?”

“Hey, listen,” John said quietly. “Got a few minutes to spare?”

Rodney looked up at John blankly. “Well, no, but sure, okay.”

John scratched his throat. “What with the cast gone, I figured I might-”

He didn't finish the sentence and Rodney didn't even ask how a healed foot could improve sexual antics. He just turned around and said, “Radek, I have to discuss something with Sheppard, I'll be back in twenty minutes, maybe thirty, could be longer, I don't know. Call me if the Wraith attack or the city sinks.” He seemed to stop and think. “Actually don't. Those things are pretty easy to notice. Colonel?”

“Later, Radek,” John said, walking out with a little bounce in his step, Rodney bouncing right behind him.

*

“So, are they still green?” Elizabeth asked as Carson sat down at the table with his tray.

“I've never seen anything like it,” Carson said with a shake of his head. “Look at my bloody hands.”

He held up a pair of incredibly green hands and then set about opening his sandwich pack. Elizabeth hid her amusement behind her cup of tea as Radek plopped down in the seat next to Carson.

“Hello, Radek,” Carson said wearily.

“Carson. Dr. Weir,” Radek said with a smile. “SG-1 still green?”

“Indeed they are,” Carson said, waving his hand. “And can you believe Rodney had the nerve to send someone down to take pictures. For research. What kind of research could he possibly do with photographs of a green SG-1?”

“Well, he said he wanted to find out when they would stop being funny,” Radek said with a serious nod.

“What did he find?” Elizabeth asked with a smile.

“He says the hilarity appears to be on an upward curve, possibly even growing exponentially,” Radek said seriously. Then he grinned and leaned forward. “I think he is right. For once.”

Elizabeth tried not to laugh, but did anyway. “Well, as green as they might be, we mustn't forget everything else they've done since being here.”

Radek nodded. “Yes, I have never seen the potential for a putsch in a science lab before.”

“And some of the people they sent from the SGC,” Carson said with a shake of the head. “Really, it's Ori this and Ori that, like the Wraith are nothing. I'm sorry, but what's worse? Overly aggressive Jehovah's Witnesses or bloody vampires?”

“Well, it's been different,” Elizabeth said.

Ronon sat down next to Elizabeth with a heavy thump. “What's different?”

“We were just discussing how things have been slightly different since the SGC sent us some of their people,” Elizabeth said.

Ronon ripped open his sandwich pack and shrugged. “There's just more of us now. The Wraith are still out there and they still want the city. Nothing's really changed.”

Elizabeth watched him and nodded slowly. “Maybe.”

Ronon looked across at Carson. “They still green?”

Carson held up his hands in answer and Ronon grinned at Elizabeth as a tinny voice spoke in her ear. “On my way,” she replied. She looked at everyone at the table. “Someone's dialling the gate.”

*

John and Rodney arrived in the control tower just as Teyla was asking Ronon about what had just happened.

“What's going on?” John asked, his eyes on Elizabeth who stood watching the gate.

Ronon stared at John. “Why is your hair wet?”

John straightened and shrugged. “I went for a swim.”

Teyla and Ronon looked at Rodney whose hair was also wet, but surprisingly he did not appear as shifty as John expected him to. Rodney shrugged too. “What? I can swim too. Besides, his foot just came out of a cast. If he drowns who do we throw in front of the Wraith next time? SG Green?”

Teyla turned away, but John caught the smile. John left the team behind and joined Elizabeth. “Elizabeth?”

“We are about to receive a message apparently,” Elizabeth said, moving to a console with a monitor. “From Earth.”

John looked at her, but kept a calm face. Many had expected that the best and brightest of the SGC were being sent to Atlantis so others could be recalled and put to use against the Ori, but no one had said it. Except for Rodney. He had added he had no desire to chant 'hallowed are they Ori'.

The screen on the monitor flickered before showing a smiling man. General Jack O'Neill sat in dress blues, smiling at the camera like he was at Thanksgiving dinner.

“Hey there. How's it going?” he asked, making John wonder if the guy had snuck into the Air Force. There was no way this guy was for real.

“Good, General,” Elizabeth said with a smile. “To what do we owe this pleasure?”

O'Neill sighed. “Well, here's the thing. You've got some of our guys over there and we'd kind of like them back. We realise this puts you in an awkward position, but things are hotting up over here and frankly, if I'm going to be running the show at the SGC, it's only fair SG-1 suffer with me. Well, SG-1 and everyone that tagged along.”

Elizabeth nodded. “That does put us in an awkward position.”

“Hey, we'll get you some people for Atlantis as soon as we can. People who are more suitable for your expedition. Daedalus is on its way, Elizabeth.” Then he shrugged. “Sorry.”

Elizabeth smiled. “No need, General. We'll be fine.”

Rodney was hovering at John's shoulder and whispered, “Should we, um, should we tell him his flagship team's slightly greener than when it was sent here?”

John elbowed Rodney in the stomach as O'Neill frowned. “Did someone say something?”

*

“Watch this,” Ronon said before taking his apple, holding it in the palm of his hand and squashing it to pulp, making parts of it fly in every direction, hitting Rodney, John and Teyla.

Rodney wiped his eye and said in an unimpressed tone, “Amazing.”

“At least it wasn't a lemon,” John said dryly, picking bits off his shirt.

“I see you are putting your hand to good use,” Teyla said, picking some apple out of her hair.

“You're all just jealous.” Ronon said with a smile.

“No,” John said reasonably. “Any ability is a plus for team Sheppard.”

“Are we still talking about that?” Rodney asked, making a face as he ate his salad.

“I like team Sheppard,” Teyla said.

John looked at her and smiled. “Really? You do?”

Teyla nodded. “Yes. Absolutely.”

“Me too,” Ronon said with a nod. “Way better than SG-1.”

“Hey, I never said I didn't like it, I'm just wondering why it's still a topic. Team Sheppard is just fine with me,” Rodney said haughtily.

“Cool. Go team,” John said, trying not to smile too much as Teyla didn't try at all and Rodney offered up a small grin, Ronon getting up from the table with a smirk.

“I'll see you guys later,” Ronon said. “Gotta go.”

“Where?” Rodney asked.

Ronon punched the palm of his other hand. “Exercise.”

John nodded. “Try not to kill any of them. They're on our side. We might need those guys later on.”

Ronon smirked and left as Rodney looked at Teyla and said, “So, um, not seeing Lorne tonight?”

Teyla smiled. “No. Spending time apart is healthy for a relationship. Why don't we all do something? Poker perhaps?”

John smiled and nodded. “Sure.”

Rodney leaned back looking less than pleased and said, “Great. Poker.”

“Do you not want my company?” Teyla asked.

John kicked Rodney under the table and Rodney clamped his mouth down on the grunt of pain and smiled at Teyla. “I would love nothing more, please stay and play poker with us, Teyla.”

Teyla started to laugh and John turned to her with a surprised look on his face. “You're not funny, you know.”

Teyla stood up with a big smile. “I think I will pay Evan a surprise visit.”

“Tell him we said good luck,” John said, receiving a light punch on his arm. Teyla smiled at them both mischievously and walked away.

John looked at Rodney and said innocently, “So. You wanna play poker?”

*

Elizabeth minimized the window with her game of solitaire as Radek walked into the office with one of his oddly shy and tentative smiles.

“How are we doing, Radek?” Elizabeth asked with smile as he sat down opposite.

“Well, without the strain of the extra personnel, we've been able to divert some power to other areas of the city. Of course, with some scientists back on their way to Earth, it will be a heavier workload for us,” Radek explained. “It was nice having underlings.”

Elizabeth gave a sympathetic nod. “Though, too many underlings can be problematic. I like getting my own coffee.”

“You had someone to get you coffee?” Radek asked, looking a little disappointed.

Elizabeth smiled. “You want me to get you one?”

Radek seemed to be blushing if the sudden pinkness of his cheeks was anything to go by. He gave a nervous little laugh and shook his head. “Um, thank you, but no. Thank you.”

“Okay, well, was there anything else?” Elizabeth asked.

Radek stilled for a moment, nodded and said, “No. All is well tonight.”

Elizabeth nodded happily. “Yes. It is.”

*

Ronon threw Marine number five on the floor and stood in the middle of the room. “Looks like Teal'c made you all soft. Who's next?”

There was some shuffling before a young man seemed to get thrown into the middle of the room, right in front of Ronon. Ronon remembered this one. He had a particular fondness for Teal'c. Ronon smiled.

The young Marine gulped. “Oh man. This blows.”

*

“Teyla? Teyla,” Lorne whispered. “Are you asleep?”

Teyla made a face and opened her eyes. She was lying in bed with Lorne lying spooned up behind her, his arms around her waist. She sighed. “I am awake.”

“I can't believe you fell asleep.” Lorne said, unimpressed. “I've been talking to myself for the last ten minutes.”

Teyla laughed and his arms tightened around her as he gave her a small shake. “Hey, that is not funny.”

Teyla turned the best she could in Lorne's arms and very sincerely said, “You are right. I am sorry.”

Lorne frowned down at her and shook his head. “You could at least try to look sincere, you know.”

Teyla started to laugh again and Lorne let go of her, turning over with a, “Goodnight.”

Teyla settled on Lorne's back. “That is very childish.”

“Oh sure, I'm childish. You know Ronon's still calling me 'she' and 'her'? And McKay's started calling me Major Emmagan.”

Teyla laughed again. “Do not listen to them. They are not funny.”

“You're right. Team Sheppard is definitely not funny,” Lorne said dryly. “You're going to miss team Lorne.”

“No, I don't think I will,” Teyla said.

Lorne turned onto his back and frowned up at her while she made herself comfortable on his chest. “You won't? Why the hell not?”

Teyla moved up the bed a little and gently kissed Lorne's cheek. “I will miss you.”

Lorne stopped frowning and grinned, wrapping his arms around her again and turning her onto her back. “You better miss me.”

“Or what?” Teyla asked. “What will you do, Major Emmagan?”

Lorne seemed to take that as a challenge and dove under the covers as Teyla laughed.

*

“You gotta want it, Rodney. Come on, you gotta want it,” John said emphatically.

Rodney snorted and flicked the card at the popcorn bowl sitting next to his socked foot. “I do want it. It just happens to hate me,” Rodney complained.

“Look,” John said, closing the tiny gap between them on the bed and reaching over, wrapping his fingers around Rodney's wrist and manoeuvring his hand so the card could fly into the bowl instead of out of it. The card almost went in. “See? You almost got it in that time.”

Rodney glared at John, his wrist still in the other man's hand. “You know, when you said poker I took it as a euphemism for sex. Not failing to teach me how to bluff and deciding to teach me how to throw cards instead.”

“You wanted sex?” John asked, pretending to be surprised. “Why didn't you just say so?”

“Ha ha, very funny. Maybe you can make the Wraith laugh to death,” Rodney said with a curl to his lip.

John smiled and let go of Rodney's wrist to pick up the king of hearts, flicking it with annoying precision and sending it into the popcorn bowl. “You gotta want it, Rodney.”

Rodney shook his head and picked up the remaining cards that sat on John's thigh. He proceeded to throw them over his shoulder before grabbing John by his t-shirt and pulling him on top for a kiss.

The next time John said 'you gotta want it, Rodney,' he was smiling and murmuring it into Rodney's mouth and this time it actually made Rodney laugh.

*

Jack O'Neill stared at SG-1 when they arrived. The first thing he said was, “Were you always this green?”

- the end -