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"Days like this make me wish the SGC hadn't come recruiting at Manticore," Alec said, breaking the silence as SGA-4 trudged through the ankle-deep mud back toward the Stargate. The mission had been a complete bust. There'd been nothing of interest in the requisite Ancient ruins and the people living nearby had nothing worth trading. "Of course, that wouldn't affect you, Logan--you'd be here anyway."

Max rolled her eyes at Logan, who didn't actually look at all annoyed at the reminder that he was the only member of the team not created in a secret government genetic experiment. It had pretty much stopped bothering him as soon as Dr. Beckett had announced that the ATA gene therapy might not work on the X-5s from Manticore. He was still testing to see what effect it might have on their individual genetic cocktails. At present, Logan was the only one with the gene and he'd recently started taking flying lessons from Colonel Sheppard whenever they both had some free time, so none of Alec's teasing had the intended effect.

But that didn't stop Alec from doing it anyway every chance he got. Max saw him open his mouth to try again, but before he could get a word out, Zack stopped and held up his fist. He made a few quick hand signals, and he and Alec faded into the trees on one side of the path. Max and Logan stepped behind some bushes on the other side of the path, weapons at the ready. As soon as the first Wraith came into view, Max grabbed Logan's shoulder and pushed him into a crouch so he'd be better hidden. She motioned for him to stay still and quiet, and even though he double-checked the clip in his nine-millimeter, he did as he was told.

Max looked across the narrow clearing to receive Zack's orders. He held up five fingers and then pointed at the Wraith he wanted her to take out. She nodded, and he and Alec stepped out into the path with their P90s blazing.

Max fired at her Wraith, but as he went down, her gun jammed. Another Wraith was almost on her, hands outstretched, so instead of reaching for her sidearm, she kicked him in the head. He didn't go down, but it did slow him enough that she could swing around and punch him hard in the face a couple of times before body-slamming him to the ground. She heard the sound of a stunner and then a thump.

Max glanced around to see that Alec was out and instinctively took several steps in his direction. Logan rose from behind the bushes, firing at the last Wraith even as Zack shot the same Wraith in the face.

In her distraction, Max missed the Wraith she'd just taken down regaining consciousness enough to hit his self-destruct mechanism. The explosion knocked her back a good ten feet, slamming her into a tree. Logan and Zack both rushed to her side.

"Max." Logan reached out and gently wiped a bit of Wraith off her cheek. "Are you all right? If you'd been any closer, that blast would have killed you."

"I'm fine," she said, and pushed them both away so she could get to her feet. "How's Alec?"

"Took a blast from a stunner, so I'll be carrying him the rest of the way home." Zack tried to sound disgusted but Max could tell he was relieved that his team was mostly all right. "You gonna be able to take point?"

Max shrugged her shoulders and tugged her vest back into its proper position. She hurt all over, but it was nothing she couldn't handle. She nodded, and moved into position. Logan grabbed a couple of stunners off the dead Wraith and fell in step behind her. They paused at the DHD and waited for Zack and Alec before dialing Atlantis and sending through Max's IDC.

Stepping through the gate into Atlantis was like stepping into mildly controlled chaos. Alec was laid onto a gurney and rushed off to the infirmary, while Logan hustled off to the armory to put his new toys away.

Zack looked up at Dr. Weir's office and then back to Max. "You should probably go get checked out yourself. I'll make a preliminary report and then we can have a full debriefing later when Alec is up and around."

"I'm okay, really," Max said dismissively. Zack just looked at her. "Fine, I'll go. You're such a mother hen."

Zack just smirked. "I'll come to the infirmary as soon as I'm done here."

Max rolled her eyes and stalked away.

 

***

Logan's voice was the first thing Alec heard as he came around. "...so if we're off tomorrow, Colonel Sheppard is going to let me fly to the mainland with--" Logan interrupted himself and said, "Oh, hey, he's awake."

Zack, Max, and Logan were all gathered around Alec's bed, staring down at him with varying degrees of amusement. "How're you doing?" Zack asked. "Pins and needles started up yet?"

They hadn't, not really, but as soon as Zack mentioned it... "You bastard." The words came out slurred, but understandable, an amazing feat considering Alec's tongue was still numb.

"Dr. Beckett says you'll be on your feet in a couple of hours," Max said in what she probably thought was a comforting voice. It wasn't, but Alec appreciated that she gave it a shot. "A regular person would still be unconscious, but you'll be able to attend the debriefing after dinner."

"Great," Alec said with a sigh. He wouldn't even be able to get out of what was sure to be an incredibly boring meeting about an incredibly boring mission--well, except for those last couple minutes of Wraith-battling excitement. "I stand by what I said earlier. If the SGC hadn't come to Manticore, I'd be blissfully unaware of any space vampires wanting to suck my life out through their hands. I'd probably be getting busy with a breeding partner tonight instead of lying here half paralyzed and half in agony."

"It's not agony," said Zack in a tone of voice that suggested that he wasn't above calling Alec a baby next. "And you wouldn't want to be anywhere else in either galaxy than right here in Atlantis."

"Yes, I--" Alec looked from Zack's knowing smirk to Max and Logan's more gentle smiles and sighed. "Yeah, okay, you're right. But I don't think I should have to go to the debriefing."

Logan looked at Zack and tilted his head to the side. "It was a pretty uneventful mission. He's not going to have anything useful to add or anything."

"Hey!" Alec protested automatically, and then caught himself. "That's exactly what I was saying."

"Okay, you're off the hook this time," Zack said. "But next time..."

He might have said more but Alec was already distracted by the pretty nurse bringing him a tray of food. The rest of the team grumbled about being ignored but they each touched him before leaving the infirmary. Max gave him a light punch on the arm, and Logan patted his foot as he passed the end of the bed.

Zack waited until no one was watching to squeeze Alec's hand tenderly. Then, without another word, he left.

 

The end.