Once aboard the Daedalus, Elizabeth had ordered them all to take a few days to get some rest. This actually worked pretty well, since there wasn't a lot John could do onboard except meet with Lorne, and they didn't have much to meet about until Lorne had a chance to read all the reports and get up to speed on Atlantis' security situation.
So for the first week John had spent about twelve hours a day sleeping, and the rest napping. On the third day out, Rodney had dragged him down to the sick bay demanding that John be checked for narcolepsy. "It's just three years pent-up stress, Rodney," Beckett had said in exasperation, while John sat on the examination table and debated between spending the afternoon watching a movie on the laptop, reading, or taking another nap.
The second week, he had spent mostly going over their reports with Lorne. After getting a chance to look over Lorne's file, John had found himself really hoping this worked out. Mainly because having to start over with someone else would be twice as difficult. On paper, Lorne did have all the right qualifications. He had a strong expression of the Ancient gene, he had years of SGC gate team experience, had worked closely with the Jaffa, and dealt with a lot of alien-human cultures. And having Mitchell around had made John realize what a relief it was to have another real pilot, someone who could fly a jumper instead of just sitting there while the jumper tried to fly itself.
The important thing was that Lorne was step one toward supplying Atlantis with new badly needed military personnel, and John wanted to get through that step without anybody screwing up. "So..." John said at one point. "You know, Rodney was wrong, Bates isn't going to be that bad."
Lorne looked startled. "Sir?"
John realized that they had been in the middle of going over the history of Atlantis' relations with the Genii, and the abrupt tangent might have been confusing. "Uh. Sergeant Bates. Rodney was implying that he's crazy, and he's not. It's an act. Well, it's not an act, anymore than it is with the rest of us." Okay, this was not going where John wanted it to. "Just...if you have any problems with..." The problem was, John wasn't sure where the problem was going to come from. He trusted the Marines to understand the situation, the Athosians would be politely forthright about any misgivings they had, the scientists would be snippy but unlikely to take any problems to a real level of danger. But John still felt something was going to go wrong. "Never mind." He turned back to the screen. "Okay, back to the Genii."
They arrived at Atlantis in the middle of the third week, and when the Daedalus beamed them down to the gate room, John did not give way to the impulse to yell, "Honey, I'm home!"
The Daedalus had sent a message as soon as it had gotten close to the system, and the place was packed with expedition members, Athosians, refugees, and overexcited kids.
Lorne was the only new arrival. Colonel Carter, Carson's new medics, and some of the other Daedalus tech crew who wanted tours were coming down in the next wave, after the Atlanteans had a chance to get the supplies beamed down, scanned, and sorted out. In a way, this was good, because as John's new second in command, Lorne was of interest to everybody and John found himself making separate introductions to about a hundred Athosians.
While Halling was formally greeting Lorne, Bates took the chance to say to John, sotto voce, "If I'd known you were bringing company, I'd have cleaned the place up."
"I don't want to know what you think you mean by that," John told him. He noticed Ronon was looming at his elbow and started the introduction process again. "This is Major Lorne. He's my new second in command. Lorne, this is Ronon Dex." Since Lorne had read reports on over two hundred expedition members and Athosians, and been introduced to about half of them in the past five minutes, John was about to remind him that Ronon was the new member of gate team one. But Ronon, who was already frowning, frowned more and said, "I thought Teyla was second in command."
John didn't need to be reminded that the flow chart for the command structure of Atlantis currently looked like the subway map of New York. John said, patiently, "He's taking Lieutenant Ford's place."
Ronon was taking saturnine to a new level. "I thought that was Mitchell."
John said, not so patiently, "Colonel Mitchell is assigned to SG-1--"
"So he's not coming back?"
Rodney interposed, "Jackson will probably drag him back on the Daedalus' next trip, when they come to pry Carter out of my lab."
"Rodney, you're tickled pink to have her here and you know it," Beckett said. "You've been planning how you're going to lord it over her all the way back--"
Rodney glared. "I have not! You--" Rodney stopped, stared at something behind John, and rolled his eyes. "Oh, fine! That's all we need today!" And bolted away through the crowd.
John turned and saw a group of figures in shabby red-brown robes and battered leather and wool clothing crossing the gate room. Some were young and scarred, some were old and scarred, or limping, and some had vacant expressions. More were peering out from the lower level doorway, others were crouched on the operations gallery, waving enthusiastically. They all looked happy to see him. Crap. He looked at Bates. "Oh, the Nones are here."
Bates' expression was resigned. "That planet they wanted to live on? The stargate was in a flood plain."
"Great." John turned to Lorne. "These are the Nones. They're, uh..." Tellan reached John and hugged him, wrapping his arms around his waist and pressing his face against John's chest. Two smaller Nones wrapped around his legs. "Not hostile," John finished, patting Tellan absently. "They take in people that don't have any place else to go. They're sort of a religious order. Like the Salvation Army."
"Not at all like the Salvation Army," Bates countered, trying to detach a None that was clinging to his leg. "You don't have to hug me again, I've been here all along, remember?"
As John gently detached him, Tellan said, "The others said that the evil Earth people would keep you, Major Sheppard."
Lorne didn't shift uncomfortably, but he looked like he wanted to. John winced, and said, "Yeah, we'll discuss that later."
"You need to call him Colonel Sheppard now," Bates told them.
All the Nones looked dubious. Some of them shook their heads. One of the Nones wrapped around John's leg and looked up at him with wide eyes. "Why did they change your name?"
"Major wasn't my name, it was a title. Remember, we went over all that before?" John had a sudden brilliant idea. "This is the new Major, Major Lorne. He's in charge of you now."
Lorne managed not to look appalled. "Right, uh, hi," he said to the Nones, smiling.
The Nones stared in horror, and shuffled closer to John and Bates. "Christ," Bates muttered.
Okay, that didn't go like I hoped it would. John thought.
It was a couple of hours later and most of the crates had been cleared and sent off to their destinations. Looking around at the various teams who were processing the supplies, John noted that of the entire senior command staff, Lorne was the only one who was here actually working. He tracked the rest of them to the big conference, and walked in to find the table piled with...stuff. John stared. "What's this?"
Sorting through a box, Teyla smiled. "General O'Neill instructed Sergeant Harriman to obtain these items for the children at the settlement. Teal'c assisted him."
John stared at the collection on the conference table. Kid's clothes, baby stuff, books, games, toys... He grabbed a box out of a pile. "Oh, Playstation." He looked up to see everyone staring at him.
"Yes, you did say that out loud," Rodney assured him. He popped open another crate, looked into it, and drew back in horror. "Oh, that's just great! I can't believe he did this to us."
"What is it?" Elizabeth asked, startled.
Rodney pulled out a box, turned it to show the bright lettering on the side. The Athosians looked bemused. Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. John bit his lip, torn between amusement and okay, a little horror. Elizabeth said, "That's going to be...interesting."
"It's his revenge," Rodney agreed sourly. "The man is diabolical."
"What is it?" Ronon asked, in the tone that suggested they were all crazy. He had been using that tone a lot today, John had noticed.
Beckett said, "It's a karaoke machine. It plays music, and people sing along with it."
Ronon eyed the box with skepticism, apparently not seeing that as much of a threat. "How is that different from an iPod?"
Beckett sighed. "It enables people to sing along very badly," he explained.
While Rodney continued to expostulate about the karaoke machine, Teyla carried over a smaller plain cardboard box and handed it to John. "This is for you."
John hefted the box and found it too light to be something karaoke-related. "Another Playstation?"
She gave him an indulgent look. "Before we left, I purchased some things for you."
John pulled open the box, and stared blankly at the contents. "You bought me clothes?"
"Teal'c advised me." Teyla lifted a brow, smiling. "I knew you did not have time to shop for yourself."
Their last few days on Earth, when John had been certain he was going back to Atlantis, had been a little rapid and confused, and John had just figured he send for anything he needed on a later trip. "You didn't have to do-- Cool, socks." He dug through the box, also finding several shirts, short and long-sleeved, in black and shades of blue, and cargo pants. Teal'c had great taste. He found himself embarrassed and also ridiculously pleased. "Thanks."
Teyla inclined her head. "It was my pleasure."
There were continued exclamations over all the extra "supplies." The Athosians who were in charge of the refugee settlement were very happy to see all the kids' clothes and baby stuff. Rodney forgave O'Neill for the karaoke machine when they found all the ice cream makers. There were several big crates marked for Medical that Beckett opened, looked very startled at the contents, and immediately sent them away to the Infirmary Supply area.
John had gotten a call from Stackhouse and started out, when Ronon stopped him in the doorway. Ronon uncharacteristically hesitated, seemed to turn over several possible remarks, then finally said, "They said you might not come back."
"Who said?" John asked.
Ronon shrugged noncommittally. John figured he wouldn't get it out of him; Ronon was no snitch. He said, "Yeah, well, it was close, for a while there. But Dr. Weir got it worked out."
Ronon hesitated again. Okay, John thought, There's definitely something wrong. "What's up?" he asked.
Ronon grimaced and shook his head. "Nothing."
John started to persist, but Stackhouse called him with a question, and Rodney tried to steal a crate marked for Archeology, and he got distracted.
Evan had pitched in with everybody else to move crates around, and was working with Sergeant Stackhouse and the supply master to get the military supplies scanned and sent off to the right storage areas. After a couple of hours steady work, they were nearly done, and he paused to lean on a crate of ammo and look around at the organized chaos in the gate room.
After reading the reports and talking to Sheppard, Evan had the feeling that it wasn't going to be so much like being on a gate team as being a member of a really tough gang. His CO was also sort of an intergalactic feudal warlord, but Evan wasn't sure that Sheppard had noticed.
Evan had been asked to volunteer at nearly the last minute, right before preparations for the re-supply mission had abruptly gone into overdrive and O'Neill had moved up the Daedalus' departure date by three weeks. And he had heard some bizarre rumors, but the brief conversation he had had with Colonel Mitchell had been reassuring. "The main problem you'll be dealing with is fallout from the Trust attack. Earth doesn't exactly have a good reputation in Atlantis at the moment. But hell, you should have seen them before we softened 'em up for you." Well, mostly reassuring.
But then they had beamed down to the gate room, and the reaction to Sheppard and Weir and the others, the respect from the Marines, the genuine happy excitement from the scientists and Athosians and refugees, had told him everything he needed to know. Whatever else it was, Atlantis was a functional well-run community, and keeping it that way was a worthy goal.
Sheppard was pretty damn hard to read, but Evan was used to O'Neill, who was impossible to read. And the one certain thing he was getting from Sheppard was that Sheppard wanted him here and wanted the new military personnel who would follow. Yeah, it's going to work out, he thought in relief. O'Neill had genially implied that he would personally kill Evan if it didn't.
Weirdly echoing his thoughts, someone said from behind him, "You think you can do this?"
Evan turned and found himself looking up, and up, at Ronon Dex. Jeeze, the guy was tall. Evan said, "Yeah, I do."
Ronon sneered. He jerked his head, and Evan looked in the direction indicated. Sheppard, Dr. Weir, McKay, and Teyla Emmagan stood on the other side of the gate room, in a conversation that, from their expressions and his experience with them aboard the Daedalus, was about McKay sharing the new lab equipment with other departments and not hogging it all for Ancient tech. Ronon said, "You willing to die for them?"
Evan watched him a moment, trying to figure out where this was going. "If I have to. I'd rather we all lived."
Ronon's eyes narrowed. "Because somebody on Earth told you to."
Okay, Evan thought warily. A little territorial posturing, I guess. He had the sudden realization that this was what Sheppard had been trying to warn him about, except that Sheppard hadn't been exactly sure what form it would come in or who it would come from. He made a mental note to try harder to unpack Sheppard's more oblique comments next time. "We're both on the same side, Dex. We don't have a conflict here."
Ronon bared his teeth. "If I thought we did, you'd already be dead."
Except the guy seemed genuinely angry. There was something going on here Evan wasn't getting. "I've seen your file, Dex, you were in the military, you know how it works."
That just made Ronon crank up the anger another level. "Yeah, I know how it works. And if you ever come back without them, I'll hunt you down."
"Come back without--" That was when Evan got it. Ronon wasn't suspicious, he was jealous and pissed and upset. He said, with emphasis, "Ronon, I'm not here to take your place on Sheppard's team."
Ronon eyed him, unconvinced. "Ford was second in command. He was on Sheppard's team."
Evan leaned back on the crate. "When the expedition first left Earth, Sheppard had never been through a gate before. Neither had Dr. McKay. Emmagan had, but not as a member of an SGC gate team. Ford was the only one with real experience. Otherwise, he would have been leading his own team." Evan had figured that Sheppard had probably intended to give Ford command of his own team eventually; from the files, he had had no hesitation at putting Ford in command all the times that Sheppard had been out of commission in the infirmary. But the shortage of personnel must have made creating another team difficult, and it was always hard to break up a gate team once it had been functioning as a cohesive unit for a while. "Sheppard doesn't need me on his team. I'm not here for that."
Evan could see Ronon was thinking it over. Evan added, "I'll be putting together my own gate team, and I'll need some good people. Anybody you'd like to recommend?"
Ronon looked at him long and hard, obviously trying to decide whether he believed him or not.
Sheppard appeared suddenly, apparently having somehow zeroed in on the tension from across the room. "What's up?" he said, in a deceptively mild tone.
Evan stood up straight, and tried to smooth things over. "Colonel, we were just talking about gate team personnel."
But Ronon refused to accept the out, which made Evan inclined to like him. Ronon said, "I thought he was taking my place on your team, and I told him I'd kill him if he didn't watch your back."
"For God's sake, Ronon!" Sheppard glared. "The hell? I don't-- Just go...sit in Elizabeth's office."
Turning to go, Ronon grinned suddenly. "You going to shoot me?"
"I'm thinking about it!" Sheppard yelled after him. He turned back to Evan. "That was... I told him I was going to shoot him if he didn't obey orders."
Evan nodded, keeping his expression serious. "Yes, sir."
"Right," Sheppard said, and walked off.
Evan went back to the crate, smiling to himself. It was going to be weird, and insanely dangerous, but he thought he was going to like it here.