"So, uh, Teyla," Rodney McKay asked his teammate Teyla Emmagan as the two of them were walking through a meadow on some unknown planet they were exploring, "who's that newly arrived marine you are a bit sweet on?"
Teyla briefly closed her eyes to hide her annoyance, knowing fully well that it was nothing but gentle teasing from her teammate who only recently decided on forcing himself to make small talk to better 'bond' with the rest of the group. Awkward and self-centred Rodney McKay making small talk... who would have thought! Too bad he chose this kind of topic though, but teasing was as good a way as any to get closer to Rodney McKay; apparently that's how his unlikely friendship with Doctor Beckett started, back on their planet when they were both working on the project that was going to send them trillions miles away to the Pegasus Galaxy.
And yet, there could hardly be two people more different from each other than Rodney McKay, conceited and boastful genius physicist as well as grating pain-in-the-neck, and Carson Beckett, overly kind and caring physician as well as unassuming genius geneticist.
Above their heads thunder could be heard and Teyla looked at the sky, almost expecting dark clouds announcing an impending shower of rain. But no, they were lucky and would probably reach the Stargate before the weather turns wet. Hopefully Ronon and Colonel Sheppard were already there so she and McKay wouldn't have to wait for them once at the gate.
This reconnaissance mission was not very successful on their part as they haven't encountered any human being in the immediate surroundings of the Stargate, so Colonel Sheppard had split their group in two pairs so as to cover more ground in their explorations. And this time he had been careful not to burden himself with the constantly moaning McKay complaining about his hatred of anything akin to walking more than three miles on his feet. Hence Teyla ending up with him. Fair enough, she thought, last time Ronon had been the one enduring it. But apparently today McKay was in a rare good hair day, luckily for her, and he was currently less interested in moaning than in making gentle fun of her, unluckily for her.
"So," McKay insisted, his voice dripping with the glee he was feeling at teasingly putting his teammate on the hotseat, "this soldier you set your eyes on, who is he?"
"There is no one, Doctor McKay," she quietly answered, "you are being mistaken."
"That's not what Sheppard said," he sing-songed, the teasing in his voice making him sound like a kid in a primary school playground.
"You may have not taken notice of that earlier, Rodney," Teyla patiently replied, "but John Sheppard often uses this kind of diversion to steer the conversation and thus the attention away from his own case."
"Oh, if you're referring to his own interest for the female half of the recent reinforcement our scientific contingent received from the Daedalus, then yes, I noticed. Especially how he tries to be all suave and kirk-y in front of this girl who works in the Chemistry department, what's her name already..."
He racked his brain and snapped his fingers thrice, trying to remember the woman's name, but it was escaping him.
"Doctor N'Guyen, you mean?" Teyla provided. "So you noticed it too..."
Another rumble of thunder was heard, and Teyla sped up a bit.
"N'Guyen, that's it," McKay said, "the German chick who's half Asian. Couldn't remember her name, thank you Teyla."
"Isn't the Chemistry department part of the Scientific department you're managing, Rodney?"
"Yes, of course it is!" he answered with a hint of irritation.
"Then I would think you'd know the name of the people who work under you."
"Do you know how many morons work under me? I can hardly get buddy-buddy with each of them, especially the newbies. If they are a bit above the pathetic average level, then there's a chance they're worthy of me remembering their name. In the mean time, not worth the effort of getting to know each of them."
Another rumble in the sky punctuated his curt statement.
"You know they are very valuable scientists, Rodney, otherwise they wouldn't have been selected for this project and wouldn't have ever set foot in the Pegasus galaxy. You shouldn't be so harsh on your own men!"
"Valuable, valuable, yes, in a way. But still so far behind what we'd truly need here! I mean, since we are talking about the Chemistry department, I'm sure I have more diplomas in my own name than the whole of them altogether!"
"And how many of your PhDs pertain to Chemistry, Rodney?"
Teyla knew she had a point here and relished in shutting up Rodney McKay. All the more so that their conversation had taken a path very far away from their earlier topic, much to her relief.
"That's irrelevant," Rodney retorted with obvious bad faith. "My point is, I cannot know everyone by firstname and surname in such a short span of time, especially considering how busy I've been recently, working on project Arcturus and managing my sister in Atlantis all at the same time!"
"Well, now that your sister is gone and project Arcturus is more or less suspended, you are going to have the time you need to learn who's who in your departments, and everything will be alright."
A flash of lightning above the grey sky surprised Teyla and she instinctively pointed her rifle at the clouds, out of acquired habit.
"Relax, Teyla, I told you all there was rather intense electromagnetic activity in the atmosphere surrounding this planet, don't you guys ever listen to the voice of knowledgeable reason, that is... me?"
"Force of habit," she answered, "lightning looks a bit like the Wraith beams dematerialising people to gather them inside their darts. But I think we should hurry a bit if we want to reach the Gate before the pour."
"Hurry a bit? I'm already panting! I have small lungs, Carson confirmed it, it's not my fault I can't walk as fast as you all do! Besides, there's no reason to hurry: if you had paid attention to the genius talking, you'd remember I said this electromagnetic activity has nothing to do with sudden changes of weather, it's usual here and not at all annunciating of a storm, so please slow down a bit, you are going to set my lungs into fire if you go on like that!"
"If you spoke a bit less, doctor McKay," Teyla patiently explained, "perhaps you'd save your breath for the walk..."
Another peal of thunder seemed to approve of her gentle teasing.
"Ha ha, now you're sounding like Carson. Or like Sheppard, for that matter. You have clearly been spending too much time with him," Rodney told her. "Oh, and talking about him, and earlier about Jeannie, I rather have our Kirk-Sheppard try his charm on this Frida N'Guyen than on my sister..."
"Dagmar," Teyla said.
"Her firstname is Dagmar, not Frida."
"Oh yes, whatever," he dismissively provided as he waved his hand in a manner expressing clearly how exactly unimportant the woman's firstname was to him.
A bolt of lightning illuminated the grey clouds above their heads, but this time Teyla didn't let it unsettle her and she went on with their conversation.
"It is important, Rodney: people need to know they feel regarded and valued," she said, "it could only make them do better work. Look at Doctor Beckett for instance: everyone in the medical team seems to be special to him, because he makes them feel so. And it makes them better in their job. As your friend, I'm telling you that you should at least give it a try, Rodney. Look at Colonel Sheppard, too: he learned the names and faces of all the new military recruits even before the Daedalus beamed them in Atlantis."
Surprisingly, Rodney had a smirk and shot her a sidelong glance.
"And talking about these new recruits," he told her in a happy-with-himself voice she knew too well, "which of these new marines is the one who caught your eyes? And don't deny it or try to change the subject to Sheppard's many infatuations, this time!"
Exasperating. This was the word that best described Rodney McKay, Teyla thought on this precise moment. Infuriating.
Especially when he was spot-on right!
She tapped her earset radio and called their other teammates as much as for diversion as for actually getting news from them:
"Ronon, Colonel Sheppard, do you copy?"
But the only answer she got was a crackling sound covering two or three syllables she didn't manage to understand.
"Hello there," McKay sing-songed in a slightly irritated voice, "electromagnetic interference, remember? It's impeding our radio signal, so you're wasting your time. Does anyone ever simply listen to what we scientists say, or are we here in the Pegasus Galaxy just because we are very decorative?"
"I told Elisabeth the signal transmitted by the MALP was scrambled by the high level of electromagnetic activity we had the time to monitor before everything went frizzly and staticky, but it was enough for us to confirm that human life was sustainable on this planet so she sent us, and apparently Sheppard translated it as 'we can split and still keep in touch through radio'! These GI-Joes, I swear..."
And here he was again, ranting over and over. Teyla was used to it and mentally tuned him out, letting him get his annoyance out of his chest. In the more than two years she had been knowing him, she had learned it was this way of venting which helped him cope with the constant stress of feeling threatened by all the new enemies the Earthlings discovered in this alien galaxy.
Some more bolts of lightning and rumbles of thunder accompanied his monologue all along.
"Ah, look!" Rodney finally exclaimed, "the Stargate! None too soon!"
"And Colonel Sheppard and Ronon are already there, good!" Teyla added.
"About time!" Sheppard shouted from where he was standing near the Dial Home Device. "We agreed on not more than three miles inland, what have you two been doing that delayed you so much? Picking flowers?"
"Yes," McKay sarcastically retorted, "Teyla and I just thought Elisabeth would appreciate a lovely bunch of wild daisies or of whatever is their equivalent here on this planet." He paused and became serious again. "What do you think? We're supposed to be explorers, so we were exploring!"
"And have you found anyone, or any sign of human activity around here?" Sheppard asked.
"Not even an animal, a mere chicken, or anything worthy of being cooked and eaten..." McKay answered. "What about you two?"
"Not a soul either. Let's go back to Atlantis and report to Weir before we get hit by a bolt of lightning or before we're flooded by the rain."
Rodney had an exasperated sigh.
"As I explained to you at some considerable length before this mission, the thunder here does NOT mean storm or rain, it's the usual state of the atmosphere here and has nothing to do with rainfall. And everything to do with interfering with our radios and all kind of electromagnetic device we brought with us. Like life-signs detectors, incidentally. I'm pretty sure I told you that in Elisabeth's office, then later in the Gate room before we went through the wormhole, and then exactly here, when you suggested we split in two pairs. Rings any bell, or are you getting prematurely doddery with memory issues?"
"Alright, alright, Rodney, you were right and I was wrong, I get it. And yes, I should have listened to you. Happy?"
"Delighted," he retorted through gritted teeth. "Except for the six-miles hike in the indigenous countryside."
"Don't complain, Rodney, it's good for you to get your nose out of your lab from time to time to go offworld!"
"I spend plenty of time offworld, as much as you do in fact since we are in the same team, so keep this scolding for Carson next time he baulks at going on an offworld mission!"
A flash of lightning drew a white zigzaggy line in the sky, and a louder rumble of thunder covered whatever Sheppard said, so he had to repeat it:
"Just to make sure this planet is truly inhabited we'll come back later with a Puddle-Jumper and fly farther inland."
This time McKay couldn't help an exasperated outburst, so loud that this one covered the second peal of thunder rumbling above their heads:
"Oh, for the love of Schrödinger! What part of 'electromagnetic intense activity interferes with technologic devices' didn't you understand the first ten times I said it?"
"Jumpers are Ancient technology, Rodney, not mere human-made laptops or earsets!"
"Life-signs detectors too, and yet there's static on the screen! If we take a Jumper here, there's a chance we'll crash within a dozen miles flight. Remember that planet with all the kids, one or two years ago? The Jumper fell like a stone and wouldn't so much as let us switch on the light inside."
"So what do you suggest? That we come back with bicycles or horses to explore this land, so that our means of transport wouldn't be affected by the EM environment? Well, bad news: we never thought about bringing either mountain bikes or horses to Atlantis, sorry."
"What is a bicycle?" Teyla asked.
"Didn't you have these on Athos?" Ronon surprisingly asked her. "Very small vehicle with two wheels, for one person only, propelled by the rider's legs. You straddle it like a horse."
"Were there bicycles on Sateda?" McKay asked, surprised.
"Course. Had one when I was a kid. And on another level there were also cycling races organised around sport fields, people used to bet money on it."
"A Satedian mix between betting on horses and track cycling of some sorts..." Sheppard summarised. "Interesting..."
"Yes, but people started losing interest in it, 'cause of many cases of cheating, using drugs to enhance performance."
"Oh, sounds disturbingly familiar," McKay said.
"All too familiar," Sheppard agreed.
"And then a Wraith ship attacked Sateda, and cheating at sports and gambling became the least of our concerns..."
Teyla had only time to innerly reflect that Ronon had become chattier in the recent months before lightning hit the top of a very high fir-like conifer two hundred yards away from them, making the tree fall to the ground. McKay squealed and almost jumped out of his skin, Sheppard flinched and turned to look at where sound was coming from, Teyla instinctively reached to her riffle and Ronon had already drawn his gun and was pointing it at the poor and innocent falling tree.
"Let's dial Atlantis before one of us is struck by one of these bolts," he wisely suggested as he lowered his gun.
"Yeah, there's no place like home..." Sheppard said as he pressed the first symbol of Atlantis's address on the DHD.
He proceeded further and as he released the last button and the seventh symbol lit up on the giant ring, a cracking sound akin to a very short explosion had them all sharply turn to the Gate where the loud bang was coming from.
Them all, really? Not exactly: Rodney McKay, who had been standing in front of Colonel Sheppard on the other side of the DHD had ducked under it as the four of them could feel the ground shake a bit under their feet.
Ronon was the first to recover from the surprise and he soberly commented:
"Wow, that one was close."
"To say the least," Teyla added, grateful for the giant metallic ring playing the role of lightning rod, otherwise the bolt might have indeed hit one of them.
In the mean time the wormhole had been established and had settled, just waiting for them to walk through the gate.
"There's a saying on Earth claiming that lightning never strikes the same place twice,” Sheppard told them. “I'm not terribly eager to test if it's true or not."
"There's no technical reason for it to avoid a spot it has just struck if the ground gets quickly positively charged again," McKay said, getting out from under the DHD. "In fact lightning always searches the preferential path to the ground, which depends on the density of the charg–"
"RODNEY!" Sheppard interrupted. "You'll give us a lecture on physics later, for now let's not rot here unless we want to end up roasted or barbecued..."
He then climbed the few steps leading to the ring, sent his ID-code for Atlantis to open the forcefield shield protecting the city from unwanted visitors arriving through the Stargate, and finally stepped through the event horizon humorously shouting:
"Honey, we're home!"
"And there's no place like home..." Rodney murmured as he followed him.
"Rodney, wait!" Teyla called.
"Too late," Ronon told her, "he's already on the other side. What's the matter?"
"Well, I was going to ask him how he could be sure the electromagnetic static didn't interfere with the signal of the ID-code Colonel Sheppard sent to Atlantis."
"You'll ask him once you’re on the other side," Ronon said with a shrug before he too disappeared through the wormhole.
"I really hope I'll be able to," she said for herself, "otherwise it means the four of us will have all crashed against the shield..."