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John Sheppard acknowledged the Marine who'd escorted the medical team with a nod as activity in the gateroom returned to normal. Personnel evacuated before the shadow creature arrived resumed their positions in the control room; at the same time, science teams flooded the 'gate area. Two technicians ran probes around the 'gate itself looking for damage, while several more up in the control room ran diagnostics on the rebooted panels. Teyla stood beside him, watching the bustle with interest and curiosity while Elizabeth and Grodin discussed something about energy consumption.

John watched all of the activity in the room with half an eye and moved a step back when the med team surrounded McKay. He couldn't help the smile on his face as he listened to McKay grumble at the medics.

"Take your time," he said. "Not like I wasn't just swallowed by some unknown creature or anything."

John started to say something sarcastic in reply, but stopped himself when he heard the underlying exhaustion in McKay's tone. He looked down at McKay slouched on the floor at his feet and frowned when Rodney kept rubbing his shoulder. John also noticed he seemed quite happy to stay on the floor indefinitely.

Sergeant Bates led another group of Marines into the gateroom, deployed his men, and stopped in front of Sheppard.

"The plan worked, sir?" Bates asked.

"There was a slight hiccup, but it worked in the end," John replied and frowned. He didn't like the way Bates studied the medical huddle beside them.

Teyla must have heard something in his voice as she stopped watching the activity around them and focused on the conversation with Bates.

"I can see that," Bates said, staring at McKay again.

Teyla frowned at the tone of Bates' comment. "Doctor McKay walked into the midst of the creature to ensure the generator went through the stargate," she quietly admonished.

Bates didn't seem impressed by her statement, but to John's relief, he stopped staring at McKay. "I'm sure Doctor Weir will need an update on the naquadah generators, Sergeant."

"Yes, sir." Bates accepted the dismissal and headed back out of the gateroom, speaking into his radio as he went, "Security teams, status check on the generator rooms."

"Major, will Doctor McKay be all right?" Teyla asked once Bates was gone. "He does not seem to be his usual self."

John glanced down at the medical team in front of him. Everything seemed normal enough, though when he stopped to think about it, after the first few grumbled comments, McKay was unusually quiet. There was no whining or declarations of impending doom. Instead, Rodney sat with his shoulders hunched, not looking at anyone, and Sheppard would swear McKay was trying to disappear as more and more people entered the room.

"I'm sure he'll be fine," John reassured her with a smile.

Teyla studied McKay as the medics checked his pulse and blood pressure and shined a penlight in his eyes. "I must tell Halling and the others what has happened," she said to John.

"Good idea," Sheppard replied.

He jerked his head with a 'follow me' look and moved around the group on the floor until he and Teyla were on the other side of the stairs leading up to the control room. He moved, in part, so he was within McKay's line-of-sight as the medical team checked him over, and also for a bit of privacy for what he wanted to ask Teyla next. He smiled to himself as Teyla followed him without asking questions.

"Have you told your people about being a part of my team, yet?" he asked in a low voice.

McKay glanced up at the comment, but Sheppard ignored him for the moment.

Teyla shook her head and sighed. "With everything that has happened over the last few days, there has been no time."

"You're not having second thoughts about joining us, are you?"

"Not at all, Major," she said with a smile. "I just need to find the right moment. My people have been through a lot, they need time to adjust to their new home. I do not want to make them think I am abandoning them as well."

"I don't want to force you, you know," Sheppard said.

"There is no force involved, Major Sheppard," Teyla told him with a smile. "I will be ready when you want to start visiting the worlds I am familiar with."

"That's what I wanted to hear." John leant back on his heels with a grin.

Teyla smiled back, and with a last nod of encouragement to McKay, left the gateroom.

A few minutes later, the medical team finished their preliminary checks of McKay.

"I'll get the gurney," the female tech told her companion and turned back to the hallway.

"No, I can walk," McKay growled from the floor.

"But, sir, procedure is -- " the male tech started to say before McKay interrupted.

"I'm not going to be the laughing stock of the base, again," McKay hissed in frustration and pushed at the floor to stand.

Sheppard frowned at the comment and wondered what he meant.

"I'll walk," McKay insisted. "The infirmary isn't that far."

The two techs exchanged a worried look, and John wondered if it was concern for their patient or fear for their own skins when Doctor Beckett heard of his procedures being flouted. The moment quickly passed, however, and they reluctantly helped McKay slowly get to his feet.

John thought McKay still looked pale and shaky but wasn't sure if it was from whatever the shadow creature had done to him once the shield had failed or if it was just the crash from the adrenaline rush. He waited until McKay and the nervous medical staff left the gateroom, Rodney hugging the wall to stay upright, then turned to Elizabeth.

"I want him," he said in a tone that brooked no argument.

"I'm sorry?" Elizabeth looked up from her conversation with Grodin in confusion.

"For my team," John explained. "You wanted a scientist on each of the, what are we calling these missions anyway? Away team sounds too Star Trek."

"I was thinking reconnaissance teams," Weir replied with a smile as Grodin retreated back up the stairs to the control room.

"Just don't ask Ford to name it," Sheppard mumbled under his breath. "Anyway," he continued with a casual drawl, "I want him on my team. Teyla's already agreed, and Ford won't be a problem. McKay will fill the science role nicely."

"You want to take Doctor Rodney McKay through the stargate?" Elizabeth said in surprise. "Is that a wise choice? He doesn't strike me as the kind of man who will endear himself to the locals here."

John shrugged. "That's what Teyla's for. If we're going to go looking for new technology and those ZPMs I want the best person on my team for the job. That's McKay. Just don't tell him I said that," he confided with a small smile.

Elizabeth looked down the hallway where Rodney had disappeared and frowned. "The people we will be meeting here in the Pegasus galaxy is only part of my concern, Major."

She turned back to John and clasped her hands behind her back. "Rodney is brilliant, but he isn't trained for field missions. You've watched him over the last few days, do you want to put the rest of your team at potential risk if Doctor McKay panics at the wrong time?"

John crossed his arms over the P90 still hanging from his vest and frowned. "By that logic, we shouldn't take anyone from the science teams off-world; none of them have been trained for this kind of field mission as you call it. Besides how can you even say that after what he just did?" he asked and pointed at the MALP and the now quiet stargate.

"Because I also watched him over the last day and a half," Elizabeth said with some heat. She took a deep breath and continued in a softer tone. "I'm not saying 'no' to your request, Major. I'm only suggesting you think about what you and your other team members will be dealing with."

John studied her for a moment. "Fine. I've thought about it," he said and looked her in the eye. "I want McKay."

Elizabeth matched him stare for stare, then relented. "Then I suggest you talk to him, Major, as well as Teyla and Lieutenant Ford. Let me know what you all decide."

Grodin stopped at the top of the steps and called down, "Doctor Weir? I have those numbers you wanted."

She glanced up at him and replied, "Thank you, Peter, I'll be right there."

She looked back at Sheppard as she moved up the steps. "Major, just think about what I said."

Grodin met her at the landing and handed her a computer pad, explaining his math as they went back up to the control room. John took that as his cue to leave.

His first stop was the armoury to return the P90 and his tac-vest, he figured Beckett would frown on him coming armed to visit patients. He then headed for the infirmary to check on Ford and McKay. He tapped the control on the newly discovered transporter, and tapped the section of the map with the infirmary. Stepping out of the transporter a few seconds later, he turned a corner and dodged around two Marines manhandling crates into an out-of-the-way storeroom.

"Sorry, sir," a Marine said when he saw John.

John waited until the Marines cleared the hallway then continued down to the infirmary, enjoying the afternoon sunlight coming in through the stained-glass windows. As he walked, he considered, again, Weir's point about his choice of scientist.

McKay was abrasive and blunt, but John would take direct over sugar-coating any day. And while he was there as McKay proclaimed his imminent death at every turn, he also remembered it was that same Doctor McKay that fought to keep Atlantis' systems going while they were submerged, worked out how to get the city up and running once they surfaced, and oh yeah, walked into the center of a weird shadow monster to save their collective backsides.

And he had to admit, he kind of liked the guy.

How many other people would ask you to shoot them just to test a theory and grin while doing it? McKay could draw blood with his acerbic attitude, but he had a sharp, sarcastic wit to go along with that razor tongue. John could admit, at least to himself, he liked the fact McKay could roll with his own rather biting sense of humor.

Coming around the corner, he stopped just outside the door to the infirmary and shook his head as he heard raised voices coming from inside the room.

"Carson, weren't you the one saying there was nothing wrong with me? That I just fainted?"

Sheppard heard the exhaustion underlying the sneer in McKay's voice from the hall. He peeked around the corner of the door and glimpsed Rodney leaning heavily on one of the infirmary beds near the back of the room. The rest of the infirmary space was a clutter of half-emptied crates, partially assembled medical equipment, and jumbled supplies stacked in convenient corners.

"That was yesterday, Rodney. And you did faint," Beckett replied.

John watched as Beckett deftly maneuvered McKay up onto the bed; he wasn't sure Rodney was even aware he was being manipulated.

"Pass out," McKay retorted as he sat slumped on the bed.

"Fine," Beckett replied, John thought he sounded more than a little exasperated. "You passed out. From low blood sugar. But that was yesterday. Before you decided to walk into the middle of some energy creature. You're staying, and that will be the end of it."

John stepped into the infirmary just in time to see Beckett pull a set of red scrubs from a nearby crate and toss them on the end of the bed.

Rodney glanced up in time to see him standing by the entrance, and John wondered at the surprised look on McKay's face before Rodney looked away and scowled at Beckett's back. Sheppard smiled as Beckett stopped in front of him.

"If you're looking for Lieutenant Ford, Major, I released him about an hour ago," Beckett told him as he scribbled on the chart in his hand.

John opened his mouth to reply, but never got the chance.

"Why does Ford get to leave," Rodney whined from the bed, and Sheppard wondered at the almost hurt look in McKay's eyes. "He was actually injured by the thing, I don't have a scratch thanks to the personal shield."

Beckett took a deep breath, and Sheppard was sure he was counting under his breath before he turned back to McKay. "That would be the personal shield that stopped working, leaving you unconscious on the gateroom floor, then?"

"Well …"

"That's what I thought," Beckett continued before Rodney could say anything else. "Just get changed and into bed, Rodney. Make this a bit easier on the both of us."

Beckett turned back to Sheppard, "Was there something else you needed, Major?" he asked, his tone changing from resignation to polite query.

"Oh, no, no," John replied, finally managing to get a word in.

He glanced back at the bed against the far wall as McKay picked up the red scrubs, and looked for a place to change. He could hear McKay muttering to himself but couldn't make out the words. "I wanted to check on Ford and …" He nodded at the bed.

Beckett smiled and replied in a low voice, "He'll be fine, Major, this is mostly just a precaution."

"Mostly?" Sheppard asked with a quirked eyebrow.

"That creature messed with his body chemistry a bit and he's more tired than he will admit, but he'll be right as rain tomorrow," Beckett assured him.

"And Ford?"

"He's healing nicely, shouldn't have any problems once the burns on his face and hands have healed."

Sheppard quirked another smile as Rodney huffed his unhappiness from the bed.

He backed toward the infirmary door and said, "I'll just go see if Ford found his new quarters all right. Might stop back by later to see …" He jerked his head toward the bed again.

McKay had pushed himself off the bed and was slowly making his way to a curtained-off corner of the room.

Beckett glanced back to see McKay shuffling toward the end of the bed and scrubbed at his face with a frustrated sigh. "That will be fine, Major, I'm sure he'll enjoy the company," he said quickly and hurried back across the room as McKay balanced himself against a handy crate.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

Rodney huffed out a sigh as he stared up at the geometric patterns on the infirmary ceiling. Mind-numbing boredom was one of the many reasons he hated hospitals. If he were still back on Earth, he'd at least have books or journals to read, but not here. His one personal item hadn't been a book or even a DVD. Carson even refused him access a laptop.

Since he had nothing better to do, he planned out the science team's lab spaces in his head. Grodin, heading up the 'gate systems group would set up in the control room. That was obvious. Zim … Zak, the Czech, and the engineering team could use the lab space next to his own domain. Corrigan and the earth (would it still be earth, he wondered) science teams would go one floor down with the botanists.

Kavanaugh would be a problem. Rodney thought the far end of the north pier would be the perfect place to send the annoyingly arrogant chemist. Eventually, he concluded Kavanaugh's group would have to go somewhere near the rest of the scientists and put him as far away from the others and the gateroom as he could. He made a mental note to get all this sent out in an email before they started picking their own spaces.

He'd also have to make recommendations to Elizabeth about which scientists would be good for the new exploration teams. Rodney had thought about being on one of the teams himself but concluded he'd be of better use in the city. In a brief moment of honesty with himself, he was sure none of the off-world teams would have him anyway.

He knew the Czech had already turned down one request. Corrigan was eager to go, but he was an archaeologist so of course, he'd want to be out there digging in the dirt. He thought Corrigan would be a good fit for the team led by one of the young Marines, and made another mental note to email Elizabeth.

He thought about new power consumption models. Considered a new theory on wormhole dynamics as a way to extend the thirty-eight-minute open window of the stargate in case the Wraith ever attacked Atlantis. Figured out a way to increase the efficiency of the desalination plant. All the while, considering the Saavedra position in chess.

He did all of this to distract himself from the other reason he hated hospitals.

No one ever visited. It was a lesson he'd learned the hard way at a young age.

Rodney knew better than to expect a parade of well-wishers, but it still hurt that apparently no one cared he was stuck in the infirmary. The only expedition members he really knew before the trip to Pegasus were Carson and Elizabeth. Most of the science team members were still just names on resumes, and he needed the accompanying pictures to get the right name on the right face. He hadn't bothered to remember any of the Marines' names at all. A feeling that was mutual between the science teams and the military.

Still, he had hoped maybe Teyla or Grodin would check-up on him.

He tried talking to the nurses who came around every half hour or so to check vitals and make notes, but neither of them was interested in chatting. They were busy at the moment, they explained, still trying to get the infirmary squared away.

Rodney had been surprised, and for a brief moment happy when Sheppard stopped by to talk to Carson. He had hoped Sheppard would stop long enough to talk, but apparently, he was more interested in Lieutenant Ford and left with only a glance in his direction.

He fiddled with the IV inserted in the back of his hand, mentally figuring out the flow rate of the drip in his head, and generally feeling a bit sorry for himself.

"Leave that alone, Rodney," Beckett admonished as he came around the side of the bed with a new IV bag.

"I don't know why I need it. I told you I was fine," Rodney grumbled, but his comment lacked its usual bite.

"You're dehydrated, your red blood cell count is low, which is why you ache, and you're exhausted. Only in your world would that mean fine."

Rodney glanced up at him, guilt plastered all over his face he was sure. "How did -"

"I watched you walk in here, remember? You looked like you could hardly get one foot in front of the other." Carson replaced the spent bag with the new one. "Why didn't you let the medical team bring you on a gurney?" he asked, then held up a hand as Rodney started to protest. "Never mind. The dehydration and red cell count I can likely blame on the creature." He gave Rodney a no-nonsense look and continued, "How much sleep have you had since we arrived in Atlantis?"

Rodney considered how he should answer, then realised Beckett probably already knew the truth. "Some. Here and there." He looked up at Carson, his temper rising. "I've been kind of busy saving the city, you know."

Beckett remained unfazed by the outburst. "So I've heard, but you still need to sleep, Rodney. In a bed, not slumped over on a desk."

"Yes, I'll keep that in mind when everyone is demanding answers during the next crisis," Rodney snapped back, all evidence of self-pity long gone.

If he had hoped to goad Beckett into an argument, he was disappointed. Carson merely pursed his lips, made a few additional checks of his vitals, picked up the empty IV bag, and walked away. Which left Rodney staring at the ceiling again with nothing to do while everyone else on the base got on with the important things like figuring out how to use all the technology left behind by the Ancients.

The room where he'd found the personal shield held several other intriguing devices. Now that Beckett's gene therapy was a success, he should have been off testing them to see what they did. But what was he doing? Lying in an infirmary bed, bored out of his mind.

Just the thought of what discoveries were being made without him made his teeth itch. Grodin and that Czech scientist could probably be trusted not to do anything too stupid. Kavanaugh was another story. Why he let himself get talked into letting that man join the expedition he'd never know. And people thought he was self-centered! He lay with his arms crossed over his chest staring at the ceiling and told himself he wouldn't sleep. He wouldn't give Beckett the pleasure of knowing just how tired he felt, but his body had other ideas.

Rodney woke from a light doze an hour later when he heard the infirmary door swoosh open. He rolled over and saw Elizabeth stop in Beckett's office before she walked over to his bed. Rodney sat up and tried to hide the surprised look on his face as she smiled down at him.

"Rodney, how are you feeling?" she asked as she looked him over.

"I'm fine, really," he said to her, and then loud enough for Beckett to hear from his office, "Do you hear me? I'm fine."

Elizabeth stepped back as he yelled across the room, but she gamely tried to continue, "That was a very brave thing you did, walking into the midst of that creature."

Rodney looked away and fiddled with the edge of the blanket. "Yes, well, it was clear someone had to do something."

He glanced up to see Weir studying him. "What?" he asked, all of his defences raised.

"Nothing," she replied, but Rodney could still see traces of some other emotion on her face.

"What happened to the shield?" she asked instead.

"Probably drained." He shrugged. "I'll have to go back through the description in the Ancient database to see if there's a way to recharge it. If I had a computer I could at least be looking for a solution to that problem," he said. He looked over at her hoping she'd take the hint.

"Don't you be falling for that, Doctor Weir," Beckett said as he stopped at the end of the bed, chart in hand. "I've already told him no working and no computers until I release him."

"Carson, there's too much that needs to be done for me to be lying here, useless," Rodney said as he made a waving motion with one hand. Unfortunately, it was the hand with the IV inserted, and he winced as the needle pinched.

"You're not being useless, Rodney, your body needs time to recover from a rather nasty shock to the system. Let it," Beckett answered patiently. He glanced at the nearly empty IV bag hanging next to the bed.

"I could rest just as well in my quarters, you know," Rodney stated pointedly.

"Aye, and we both know just what you'd be doing, and it wouldn't be resting." Beckett jotted several notes on Rodney's chart and ignored McKay's attempts to persuade him.

"I think I'll just leave you two to work this out," Elizabeth said. "Doctor Beckett, I'll need your reports on both Rodney and Lieutenant Ford as well as when they will be cleared for duty."

"Not a problem, Doctor Weir, I'll have them ready for you in the morning," Carson told her with a smile.

She nodded to Carson, smiled again at Rodney, and left.

"I think this has done its job," Beckett said, pointing at the bag hanging next to the bed. He walked around the bed and removed the IV line. He covered the puncture with a small bandage, patted Rodney on the arm, and stepped back. "Try and get some sleep, Rodney. If nothing else it will make the time go faster."

"Sure, whatever," McKay groused, and watched as Beckett walked back to his office.

He went back to staring at the ceiling until his eyes drifted shut a few minutes later.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

Sheppard left the infirmary and walked back to the transporter and the area of the city set aside as crew quarters. Ford had a room in the same section as the other Marines assigned to the expedition, and John hoped to find the young lieutenant in his newly assigned quarters.

He heard voices coming from one of the larger areas the Marines had quickly designated as a rec room, and tried to determine if one of the men was his soon-to-be second in command.

What he heard instead turned his blood cold.

" … you have it bad, I hear Lieutenant Ford is getting the real short end. Rumor is Sheppard wants him for the first contact team," Sheppard heard one low voice say over the sound of unpacking.

A younger, higher-pitched voice replied, "Sounds like the plum assignment to me, Bowers."

Bowers snorted. "Hardly. I heard from Bates Sheppard also wants McKay on the team. Can you imagine being stuck out on a strange planet with that guy? It's hard enough being on the same base with him."

Sheppard stepped back and considered not only the words between the two Marines but just how fast the rumor mill worked on Atlantis. He hadn't had a chance to even talk to McKay about his idea yet, but everyone else was willing to discuss it. He suddenly remembered McKay's comment about being a laughing stock and saw it in a new light.

"Not sure Bates' team is much better," Pete said. "Rumor is, he can be a real hardass. I heard he asked that Czech scientist, Zelenka, about going off-world. Guy turned Bates down flat. Said he was an engineer, not an explorer and his time was better spent in Atlantis."

"Bates is a good man, Pete, you could learn a lot from him," Bowers reassured him. "Not sure why we need the civilians going on missions at all. They just end up getting in the way. I could tell you any number of stories I've heard about Doctor Jackson over the years."

John turned and walked away as the two Marines continued to talk. He knew from long experience the only way to change the rumors was to ignore them while you proved the tale-bearers wrong at every turn. He was frankly surprised he hadn't heard something similar regarding his own circumstances. Sumner hadn't been shy about his feelings regarding John's actions in Afghanistan.

John took some consolation in the fact Ford wasn't in the room, agreeing with the two Marines, and that McKay hadn't heard them at all. However, he suspected McKay already knew he wasn't well-liked at least by the military contingent.

He took a different hallway and a few minutes later knocked on Ford's door.

"Major Sheppard," Ford greeted as the door swooshed open. "I wasn't expecting you, sir."

Ford stepped back into the small room and gestured for Sheppard to follow.

"I just wanted to see how you were feeling, Lieutenant," Sheppard explained as he followed Ford into his sparsely decorated quarters.

Ford offered Sheppard the chair from the desk while he sat on the bed. He smiled at John as he sat down in the chair, and John was reminded just how young Ford was. He didn't seem at all fazed from his encounter with an energy-eating shadow monster.

"I'm good, sir," Ford said as he settled on the bed. "Doctor Beckett says the burns aren't too bad and should heal in a few days." Ford pointed to a large photograph of himself standing between an older man and woman at one side of the desk. "My grandmother always said I was a fast healer."

John studied the photo for a moment, then set it back on the desk. He leant forward with his arms braced on his knees and asked, "Have you had a chance to think about being on my team? I know it's been a bit nuts the last couple of days, but Doctor Weir needs to know if you're on board."

John didn't think Ford's grin could grow any bigger, but somehow he managed it.

"I'm honored, sir. And I absolutely accept the assignment."

Sheppard smiled at the enthusiasm. "Good to hear, Lieutenant. Teyla agreed before this whole mess with the energy creature started. She's offered to introduce us to various people she trades with."

"She'll be a good fit, sir," Ford agreed, then realising how he sounded, he backtracked, "I mean, not like you need my approval or anything, but, well, she knows the people and …"

"Relax, Lieutenant, I'm glad you like the idea." Sheppard hesitated for an instant then added, "I'm going to talk to McKay as well." He was saddened, but maybe not surprised, to see the smile disappear.

"Umm, Doctor McKay is a really smart guy, but, are you sure, sir? He doesn't, well …" Ford stuttered to a stop as he stood from the bed and leant against the wall near the small bathroom with his arms tightly crossed against his chest.

"Well, what, Lieutenant?" John asked, and found himself yet again on the defensive when it came to McKay.

"He just doesn't seem to fit in, sir," Ford blurted. "Even the other scientists don't seem to like him much. He just rubs everyone the wrong way."

Sheppard scrubbed one hand through his hair. "I'm not asking you to be his best friend, Lieutenant," he said, and tried to keep the frustration out of his voice. "I just need to know if you'll be able to work with him during missions through the stargate."

Ford looked like a startled rabbit in a trap following Sheppard's statement. John watched the mix of emotions as they ran across the young man's face, the wide grin long gone.

After a few seconds of silence, Ford uncrossed his arms and stood almost at attention. "I guess we'll find out, sir."

It wasn't the ringing endorsement he was looking for, but for the moment John would take it. "I still need to talk to him about it, so keep this all under your hat, for now, understood?"

Ford gulped and nodded. "Understood, sir."

Sheppard stood and moved to the door. "Once McKay agrees, I'll talk to Weir about some basic training for him and Teyla. Maybe do a little team building along the way." He smiled faintly.

"More football and popcorn, sir?" Ford asked as he followed John to the door.

"Something like that, Lieutenant." John gave Ford a brief wave and walked back down the corridor. He'd stop by the infirmary, see how McKay was doing, and talk to him about joining his team.

"Major Sheppard, sir!" a voice called from behind him.

John turned around and found a young Marine jogging up the corridor.

"Something I can do for you, Corporal?" he asked in a neutral voice.

"Sorry, sir, I didn't mean to shout. I've been looking for you." The Marine stopped a few feet away and pulled himself to attention. "Doctor Weir and Sergeant Bates are in Doctor Weir's office. They are discussing security for the generator rooms and sent me to find you, sir."

Sheppard glanced at his watch then turned to the waiting Marine. McKay would just have to wait it seemed. "Lead on, Corporal." Under his breath, he added, "Hopefully, this won't take very long."

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

John walked into the infirmary late the next morning and leant against the doorway of Beckett's cluttered office. "Well, the infirmary is still standing, Doc," he said with a smile. "I guess you both survived."

Beckett looked up from his computer. "Good morning, Major. Something I can do for you?"

"I need to talk to McKay about something," John said as he glanced toward the corner of the infirmary. He was surprised to find McKay curled on his side still asleep. He jerked his head toward the bed and asked, "What, exactly was in that IV yesterday, Doc? I thought he'd be crawling up the wall by now to be released."

Beckett followed his gaze. "It was just saline, Major, I promise you. Rodney's biggest problem after the dehydration was exhaustion. He's been living on cat naps and coffee since we got here." He gave John a pointed look. "That's something you might want to consider if you're serious about adding him to your team," Beckett added with a smile.

John sighed. "Don't you people have anything better to do than talk about my team dynamics?" he hissed in frustration. "I haven't even had a chance to ask him about it yet, and everyone seems eager to tell me it's a bad idea."

Beckett stood and held up a placating hand. "Easy, Major. I never said it was a bad idea. Personally, I think it could be good for him. I've known Rodney for several months now, and while everyone wants him around when there's a problem to be solved, not many are willing to have much to do with him otherwise. No one except Elizabeth has stopped by here since yesterday if you take my meaning."

John sighed. "I meant to get back here yesterday afternoon, but just got caught up in other things."

Beckett reached out and pulled Sheppard into the office. "I didn't mean that as an accusation against you, Major. Just an observation that Rodney hasn't made many friends here." He let go of Sheppard's arm. "Go sit with him if you like. I suspect he'll be waking up soon, then the two of you can talk about your team idea before he hears it from the rumor mill."

John gave Beckett a crooked smile and with a last nod of thanks, left the office.

He found a chair pushed into a corner of the infirmary, dragged it over to McKay's bed, and sat where Rodney would see him, hoping McKay would sense someone near the bed and wake up.

Twenty minutes later, John was still waiting. He glanced at the bed, then leant the chair back on two legs as he considered his team.

Ford had been the easiest choice. He was young but eager to learn, and Sheppard looked forward to molding the young man into a great officer. He realised talking to Ford that he would have to do something about Ford's attitude toward McKay. But he knew Ford was smart. John told himself he would just have to hope Ford would come around on his own once he'd worked with McKay and knew him better.

Teyla had been an obvious choice as well. She knew about, and traded with, several planets, and could point the Atlantis expedition in the direction of potential allies. John also knew she was a much better negotiator than he'd ever be. He had little patience for endless talking if actions led to faster results.

In his mind, adding McKay to the team was also a no-brainer. The man was the foremost authority on Ancient technology, as he was happy to tell anyone around several times a day. If he couldn't figure out what some gadget was or get it to work, John was sure no one else would either. He also hoped McKay would be able to recognise technologies or potential resources the others had overlooked.

In his mind, he had the very best people Atlantis had to offer to explore a new galaxy. He just needed everyone else to figure it out as well.

Do you want to put the rest of your team at potential risk if Doctor McKay panics at the wrong time?

It's hard enough being on the same base with him.

He just doesn't seem to fit in, sir.

Not many are willing to have much to do with him otherwise.

"I think I actually see smoke," a voice mumbled from the bed.

Sheppard smiled and dropped the chair back down on all four legs. "Well, hello to you, too, McKay. How ya feeling?"

McKay looked at Sheppard with a frown. "Why are you here, Major? What broke?"

Sheppard started to make a sarcastic reply before something else Beckett had told him floated back through his mind. No one except Elizabeth has stopped by here since yesterday if you take my meaning.

"I wanted to see how you were doing after everything that happened yesterday. Is that such a surprise?"

Rodney rolled onto his back and refused to meet Sheppard's eye. "No one's ever bothered before," he muttered, and John suspected he wasn't meant to hear the comment.

John stared at McKay for a moment then decided to pretend he hadn't heard. "You still haven't said how you're doing," he repeated in a gentler voice.

John watched as Rodney took a mental inventory. "Better, I guess. Hungry."

"You're always hungry, McKay."

Rodney turned to face him, and John was happy to see the melancholy replaced with McKay's usual fiery attitude. "I have --" he started to say but was interrupted.

"Rodney, you're finally awake," Carson said as he stopped beside Sheppard. "We were beginning to wonder if you planned to sleep all day."

McKay frowned. "All day? What time is it?" He glanced around for a clock, panic replacing the irritation from a moment ago.

John glanced at his watch. "Umm, nearly noon."

"Noon?" McKay squeaked and pushed at the bed covers. "I need to get to my lab. Do you have any idea what they could be up to by now?"

"They?" John asked, confused as he put out an arm and stopped McKay getting up.

"Kavanaugh, Grodin, Zem - Zed, that Czech engineer, all of them," Rodney retorted with real frustration as Sheppard's arm, and the tangle of sheets and blanket, kept him in the bed.

"Rodney," Carson shouted as John barked "McKay!" at the same time.

"What!" McKay exclaimed, glaring at them both. "I have actual work I need to be doing. You wanted me to rest, Carson, well apparently I rested for almost sixteen hours. There are things I should be doing."

"Rodney, you need to calm down," Beckett admonished.

"I don't need to calm down," McKay snapped back, "I need to get back to work, do something useful instead of laying in bed another day."

John noted the 'useful' comment and filed it away. He sat forward on the chair and looked McKay in the eye. "I need to talk to you about something, and I'd rather do it here in private than in your lab."

Rodney froze, studied his face then Beckett's before he reluctantly leant back in the bed. "I knew it. There is something wrong."

Sheppard glanced at Beckett, who took the hint and left.

"Nothing's wrong," John told him patiently. "I just need to, I need to ask you something, and I want you to actually think about it for more than two seconds."

"I can't help it if I process information faster than you, Major," McKay snapped, but Sheppard was happy to see him settle in the bed and appeared to be listening.

"Whatever. Look, Elizabeth asked me to put together an off-world reconnaissance team, and I want you on it."

John didn't think it was possible to shock McKay, but from his blank look, he'd somehow managed. The empty stare only lasted a few seconds before he noted the parade of other emotions as they raced across McKay's expressive face. Shock gave way to surprise, then a brief moment of happiness, before suspicion and then distrust took over.

He learned more about Rodney in those few seconds than in the past few days.

"Why me?" he asked with a suspicious scowl at John.

"Are you kidding?" John replied with a smile. "As you like to tell all of us, you're the smartest guy around, and you know more about this Ancient stuff than anyone else here. I need the best on my team, and you're the best, McKay."

Rodney preened slightly at the comment. "That's all true, of course," he paused then continued, "You do know any number of people are going to absolutely hate this idea, don't you?"

"You let me worry about that," Sheppard said and stood from the chair. "I just need to know if you're interested."

"Go through the 'gate? Where Wraith and god only knows what else is waiting to kill us?" McKay said, his tone flat.

John sighed, maybe this was a bad idea after all.

Rodney must have seen something in his face as his expression changed, "I was kidding, Major. Of course, I'm interested."

"You're sure?" John asked as a smile bloomed across his face.

An answering grin appeared on McKay's. "Like you said, there will be all sorts of new technology out there. Someone has to analyse it without making a hash of it in the process."

"Great. I'll let Elizabeth know." John turned and headed toward the door to the infirmary. He stopped near Beckett's office and looked back at Rodney.

"Once Beckett springs you from here, let me know," John said. "I'll meet you in your lab. Some of the Marines have set up a shooting range of sorts down on one of the piers. We'll start getting you trained on how to shoot and some other basics."

"Wait, what?" McKay exclaimed as he disentangled himself from the sheet and blanket. "Did you say shooting? As in a gun?"

Sheppard strolled out of the infirmary and back toward the transporter. He needed to let Weir know he had his team. He smiled to himself when he realised he could still hear McKay sputtering behind him.

"Major! You didn't say anything about shooting a gun!"

Sheppard grinned as he walked away. Yep, it was going to be interesting out here in the Pegasus galaxy, to say the least.

FIN