John walked out onto the balcony that overlooked the 'gate room as he heard the 'gate whoosh to life and the subsequent sound of indistinct radio calls and marines rushing into place despite the shield that prevented any unwanted visitors from entering Atlantis. He made a quick mental review of all the teams that were out, Lorne's team at the top of his list along with two military recon teams. None of them were due to check in for another three hours, unless he'd miraculously lost track of time working on his backlog of paper work. John checked his watch; it was still an hour before he could even think of taking a break for lunch and time had apparently slowed down while he was working on the munitions report.
"Come on through, the shield is down," Elizabeth said into her radio, folding her arms as Chuck lowered the shield and they all watched as Major Lorne, thankfully followed by the rest of his team, walked through into Atlantis.
Over the past two years, John had gotten very good at telling what a team acted like after something had gone wrong off-world. He figured mostly it was because he was so used to seeing his own team's reactions and the events that lead up to them. So when Lorne studiously avoided looking back at his team mates or meeting Elizabeth's eyes, John knew that whatever had happened out there hadn't been good. No one was unconscious or wounded in any obvious manner, which was a good first step, but John had long ago realized that some of his most difficult missions hadn't left a physical mark. He started down the steps to the level above the main floor but paused behind the 'gate technicians, willing to let Elizabeth handle the situation unless a more military intervention became necessary.
Lieutenant's Coughlin and Reed, the two marines on Lorne's team, were equally quiet. Reed's usually pale face was slightly flushed, which could have been from exertion or over exposure to the sun, but from the way his hands were jammed into his pockets and he was seeming to be paying more attention to his boots than his surroundings, John guessed it was due to some kind of emotional stimulation. John had never met a marine who it was easier to make blush; then again, John had never really met any marines that blushed before Reed. Coughlin looked more readily irritable, scanning the area around him like he wanted to protect his team from any outsider and his hand was hanging near his holster.
It was David Parrish, the team's botanist, that really caught John's attention. Of course, John was a little biased because he'd been in a relationship with David for the past six months, but even so he was sure he would have noticed the botanist's miserable and embarrassed expression. David's arms were folded tight against his chest and he kept biting his lower lip.
John held back as Lorne spoke briefly with Elizabeth, his tone just barely still polite and respectful, and then lead his team from the room. When Lorne and his team were gone, John hurried down the steps and found Elizabeth staring down the hallway looking lost in thought.
"What happened?" John asked before he could stop himself and try to phrase the question with less emotion.
Elizabeth shook her head. "Major Lorne just said that they made contact with the native population of the planet and participated in a ceremony to gain the trust of their society. I'm sure we'll get all the salient details in the report."
John grimaced, knowing all to well from experience that ritual ceremonies for demonstrating of trust typically meant something uncomfortable, embarrassing and potentially painful had happened.
"I'll be in my office. I assume I'll be getting a set of reports from you by the end of the day?" Elizabeth asked, fixing John with a particularly piercing gaze.
"Of course. I've been working on them all morning," John said. It was the truth, but it didn't mean that he'd actually gained a lot of headway. If John hadn't already asked twice, he'd go down to Rodney's lab and make him check for a time distortion field centering around John's office.
John hurried down the hall after Lorne and his team, hoping to catch up with David and maybe give him support while they walked down to the infirmary. Or, alternatively, make David go down to the infirmary if Lorne hadn't already directed his team there. It wouldn't be like Lorne to let any injurys on his team go unchecked, but John knew that there were times that it was easier to skip the infirmary, and the embarrassment, and hide away somewhere on Atlantis instead. John had done that himself once or twice, in the first year they were on Atlantis, though Teyla usually came and nudged him into doing the right thing. Now that was typically David's job after John had a rough mission, though he had a lot more leverage over John than Teyla ever had.
Instead of finding David, John nearly walked into Lorne as he came out from the room where teams stored their off-world gear.
"Colonel," Lorne said, just barely respectfully; he was clearly still somewhat distressed from his mission.
"Major," John returned, falling into step with him as they walked down the hall. "Want to tell me what happened out there?"
"Not particularly, sir," Lorne said reluctantly. "I'll have a report on your desk tomorrow morning."
John bit back a sigh as he tried to come up with the correct motivational speech that would assure Lorne that whatever had happened couldn't have been helped and he was sure that Lorne did everything he could to protect his team. He was mentally adding something about the galaxy being a dangerous and unpredictable place when Lorne spoke of his own accord.
"No one was hurt, sir. It was just, a little awkward. Nothing the team can't handle, though it might be best if we give each other a little space for a day or two," Evan said, meeting John's eyes for the first time since he'd been back on Atlantis. "You might want to talk with David, though. He was rather upset."
"I'll do that. Anything I should say in particular?" John asked, trying to ignore the sick feeling in his stomach. John and David's relationship was almost a secret on Atlantis, but Lorne couldn't help but know that his commanding officer and botanist were seeing each other, and John had suspicions that Elizabeth had her own suspicions about them.
Lorne thought about it for a moment but shook his head. "No. Just that none of think any less of him, if it comes up."
John nodded, his mind reeling through, examining, and rejecting dozens of scenarios as he tried to figure out how best to approach the situation. "I'll keep that in mind."
"If you'll excuse me, sir," Lorne said before dashing off in the direction they'd just come.
John watched Lorne's retreat before turning and walking to the transporter. He selected the greenhouses on the map of Atlantis, knowing that if there was anywhere that David was likely to disappear to, that would be the place. Sure enough, after wandering through two of the greenhouses, John found David in the back of the third already deep into digging something up.
"John, hi! Is it lunch time already? We weren't planning on meeting for lunch today, were we?" David asked, sounding forcibly cheerful as he continued to dig with his shovel.
John sat down on the short wall that surrounded the garden, watching David's frantic movements. "We weren't, because you were going to be off-world. How did the mission go?" he asked, watching carefully to make sure he hadn't pushed to hard.
"Oh, you know. Exploring a distant galaxy one crazy planet after another!" David looked up with a grin that almost hid the fact that there were tears gathering in his eyes. He managed to keep the smile for a moment before he dropped his shovel to the ground and sank down to his knees, covering a sniffle by rubbing his sleeve against his face.
"David, what happened?" John asked, a jumble of fear and concern and the very start of a furious rage at the inhabitants of whatever planet David had just been on. He didn't dare reach for David, not without knowing what had happened, but he shifted so that he was a little closer even though that meant getting dirt all over his pants.
David took a gasping breath, looking down at his lap and pressing his hands down against his thighs. "I'm tone deaf. I butcher "Mary Had a Little Lamb". Even "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" is barely recognizable."
John stared blankly, unable to process what David was trying to say.
"They made us sing show tunes!" David gasped, his shoulders hunching forward. "The song "New York, New York" will never be the same to me again. I'm so embarrassed."
"It's okay," John finally said, leaning into pat David on the back. David flung himself against John and pressed his face against John's shoulder as he comforted him. "I'm sure your team understands. This happens to every team at some point."
David sniffed and looked up. "It's happened to your team?" he asked, his voice wavering.
"Well, no," John said slowly. The mental picture that provided suddenly explained to him why Lorne's team was feeling so awkward around each other. "But I have it on good authority that SG-1 back at Stargate Command has had to sing on more than one occasion. They got through it. It will be okay."
David nodded jerkily and sat back, still rubbing at his face. "I guess so. No more musicals for team nights though."
John decided that he wasn't going to ask why exactly Lorne's team had been watching musicals for their team nights, and just nodded. Mostly he was just relieved that it wasn't something worse, though that assumed it hadn't been singing show tunes in the nude. If that had been the case, John didn't want to know. "Let's go get lunch. I could use a break from writing reports, and you will feel better after you eat something."
"Can we bring food back to the greenhouse? I'm not ready to see anyone yet," David said, brushing dirt off of his clothes as he got to his feet.
"Yeah, we can do that," John agreed, taking the opportunity to get most of the dirt off of his own clothes. They walked back through the greenhouses to the transporter, John wondering if Lorne's mission report would distract Elizabeth enough that she wouldn't notice if not all of his reports were there.