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Sometimes, You Win

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John had already decided that the Sotoman's were hinky and he couldn't wait for Teyla to finish her negotiations. If they didn't really need the minerals she was trading for, he would have pulled the plug on this trip already.

Without discussion, John could tell Ronon was just as jumpy. He hadn't relaxed his stance at all, watching everyone carefully.

Luckily, they were meeting with only a small group of Sotomans, and they were away from the main village. There had been something about 'sacred grounds' and 'women and children' that they hadn't pushed too hard on. 

Now, John thought that maybe they should have.

Rodney had wanted to investigate the 'sacred grounds' but now that they were through the Gate, there were no readings related to power or Ancient equipment on any of Rodney's devices. 

"Nothing but standard background noise," Rodney admitted on their -- relatively short -- walk to the meeting location. It was close enough to not bother taking a Jumper.

"Then we don't tempt fate," John decided. "We let Teyla do the trade and get out of here."

"Then why am I here?" Rodney complained.

"Team goes everywhere together," Ronon put in.

"Okay, okay, I get it," Rodney groused, but looked pleased to be included in team.

The Sotomons were looking decidedly green, as Teyla hammered through the trade talk. John knew she was making sure the Lanteans got a fair deal, but that anyone they traded with never got ripped off. They wanted to be known as fair traders.

As Teyla seemed to be about done, Ronon whipped his head in the direction of the Gate.

"Expecting anyone?" John asked.

"N-n-n-o-o.." the Sotoman leader, Modare, stuttered.

"Wraith!" Ronon bit out.

The Sotomans in the area fled back toward the village. 

"Bet this would be a good time to try that thingy you've been bragging about," John said to Rodney.

Rodney had already taken off his pack and was assembling components.

"It's only so big," Rodney warned. "Everyone get closer to the tree first, to help." He pointed to a large fir-like tree that had some space under the lowest level of branches. They scrambled for the space under the tree.

Rodney held up what looked like an umbrella with one hand and tried to poke at some buttons on his data pad.

"Let me take that," John said, reaching for the pole.

Rodney handed it over to John, and plastered himself to John's side as he worked. Ronon and Teyla moved closer to them.

There was a hum of Ancient-tech that washed over the group and Rodney relaxed.

"Okay, working now," he announced. Rodney and Radek had worked on a portable 'shield-ish' device that would hide a team from the Wraith. It wasn't perfect, not as strong as the shields on a Jumper, but they had found that adding natural elements -- trees, stone buildings, caves were best -- protected them from Wraith when off world when they didn't have or were away from a Jumper.

John noticed that Ronon didn't drop his guard at all, and Teyla also stayed alert.

An overhead whine announced a Wraith Dart flying through the area.

"What about the Sotomans?" Teyla asked.

Rodney shrugged. "They're the ones who made the deal with the Wraith, far as I can see," he replied, practically. "I can't protect more than just us with this."

"If they were coerced, we can check on them later," John added. "We'll come back with a Jumper, though. If the Wraith had hostages, that would be why they didn't say anything."

"If they're Wraith worshipers, they'll get what they deserve," Ronon said darkly.

"They did not seem like Wraith worshipers," Teyla added. "But those that do worship the Wraith have gone into hiding since Atlantis has come back to Pegasus."

"True," John agreed. "Glad we're good for something around here!"

Ronon gave a grin that was all teeth.

"Okay, nothing overhead," Rodney announced. "And only one Dart came through the Gate. It's circling around, can't tell if it's culling or not."

If the Sotomans were coerced into this, John hoped they had had time to get most of their people into hiding, so that there wouldn't be too many left to cull.

"Gate's activating again," Ronon said.

"And... the Dart's gone through it," Rodney confirmed.

"Let's get out of here, then!" John said.

Rodney disassembled his device and stowed the parts in his pack. John made sure they had all the parts and he could see Ronon watching the area carefully.

"We'll come back in a few days, with a Jumper," John promised as Teyla looked worried.

"That will be fine," she replied with a satisfied nod.

They moved quickly but carefully toward the Gate. Teyla dialed and Ronon sent his IDC through to Atlantis.

"We've had Wraith sightings," John said. "No immediate danger, but we need to get out of here."

"Shield is down," Chuck announced to them. "Come through."

"Wraith?" Woolsey asked as the paused in the Gate room. 

"Just one dart," John replied as he loosened his gear. "Rodney's shield-ish thing worked like a charm. We'll go back there in a couple of days with a Jumper and see if we can figure out if they've been coerced or if they're Wraith worshipers."

"Sounds good," Woolsey agreed. "Let me know when you put it on the schedule."

The trip to medical was perfunctory, and John and Rodney headed back to their room.

"Dibs on the shower," Rodney called as they entered the apartment.

"Go ahead," John said. "I'll catch up with my email and start the mission report."

"Thanks," Rodney said. Then he turned around and came near John, giving a soft kiss.

"Hey, good work with that shield-ish thing today," John said. 

"I keep saying that there has to be a better name for it than that!" Rodney complained. 

John shrugged. "It's descriptive, anyway."

John had replied to the most urgent emails, putting the rest aside for later. He had gotten through the start of the mission report when Rodney came into their shared workroom.

"Bathroom's yours," Rodney said. "Don't dawdle, I hear there's meatloaf for dinner tonight."

"Hey! I had enough time to get some work done," John grinned. "Don't talk to me about dawdling!"

"I left the steam on for you," Rodney replied. "Come on. Chop, chop! Meatloaf waits for no man!"

John shut down his computer and grabbed his clean clothes and walked toward the bathroom.

"Thanks, and I won't be long," John promised. "Wanna bet there's cake for dessert tonight?"

"There's like never cake," Rodney complained. "Uses too much flour and sugar for the results. Even with a steady supply line back to Earth, it's tough to keep enough sugar available for Earth-cake." Rodney hummed. "Maybe there'll be those Athosian not-cakes, though. That would be good, too."

John snickered to himself. He had traded some favors to get a small cake made for himself and Rodney. It wasn't an 'official' anniversary, but, as close as John could figure, it was ten years ago today that he had sat in a funky looking chair in the Antarctic. 

They laughed when they were handed a cake with the comment, "We're only making you one, even though you both asked."