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For author's note and disclaimer see Part I.

Elizabeth stretched upwards, lowered her arms and rolled her neck as she tried to get the kinks out. She had slept in the office she had chosen just off the control centre. She'd been too exhausted to mind the hard floor when she had curled into her sleeping bag but she had felt every minute since she had woken up. Sleeping quarters and actual beds needed to be a priority, Elizabeth determined with amusement. They had prioritised what few beds and quarters they'd managed to clear to the Athosians the day before out of necessity. She changed in the bathroom down the hall before going in search of breakfast.

It amazed her that the kitchen staff was already up; they'd made muffins, set out bowls of fresh fruit and preserves along with carafes of hot water and jugs of juice on the same terrace where they'd had the celebration the night before. Food. Something else she was going to have to think about. Their stocks were good but they hadn't anticipated taking in refugees. She couldn't argue against the immediate need that had led to the decision to bring the Athosians to Atlantis but she would have to talk to the Major about protocol on making those kinds of decisions in future.

She breathed in a lungful of fresh air, looked around again in amazement before she grabbed a muffin, a banana and a mug of coffee. There would be plenty of time to enjoy the view once she'd made some progress on getting things set-up. She made her way back to her office. They'd found a desk and a couple of chairs for it but otherwise it was empty. That would need to change but it could wait.

So many things to do, Elizabeth considered as she sat down; half torn between pleasure and panic. They'd made a good start the day before; Stargate Operations as McKay had dubbed it was up and running. They'd found so many rooms and labs. The problem was going to be keeping everybody focused on what was important.

She took a sip of coffee and opened her laptop to review her plans and update them before everyone else started to wake up and the day started to get too busy. She was immersed when she heard a throat being cleared in the doorway. She looked up and smiled at the hovering form of her new military commander.

She regretted Marshall Sumner's death especially the circumstances of it but she couldn't deny that there was a relief deep down that she wouldn't have to fight him over every decision any longer. She knew that Sumner deserved more than a fleeting thought; perhaps a memorial once everything was sorted out. In the meantime…she waved John in.

The door closed behind him and she offered him the free chair. He sat down with a hesitant expression.

'I thought we should talk before the day gets crazy.' John drawled.

Elizabeth nodded crisply. She leaned forward and picked up her coffee mug. 'I agree.' It would probably be good to make it a daily occurrence.

'So I met with the Marines already…'

She started, shocked a little that he'd met with them before discussing it with her, and his hazel eyes narrowed. She flushed as he regarded her speculatively for a moment.

'…no-one seems to have an issue with my assuming command.' John continued smoothly as though the interruption hadn't happened.

Of course he'd had to meet with the Marines, Elizabeth berated herself briskly. And the result was good. It eased a worry that Elizabeth hadn't realised she'd had.

'We may still get grumbling,' John allowed, 'but I don't think they'll mutiny despite the early morning PT I've ordered.' His smile was sharp. 'They've already been issued assignments by Ford and Bates based on Sumner's plans.' He reported. 'So, the immediate priority is for us to continue the sweep and secure activities begun yesterday so we can assign liveable space; quarters, mess, etcetera.'

His priority was her priority; it was what she had agreed with Sumner even before they'd set foot in the city mainly because he had been insistent but…

She frowned. Sumner had believed a full sweep and secure procedure was required but perhaps she could convince John it wasn't. 'I'm not sure the sweep and secure is fully necessary, Major. It's obvious that the city is long abandoned and the internal sensors haven't found anything. Maybe we can let that go in the interests of assigning quarters quickly especially with our unexpected guests here?'

Sheppard's lips lifted slightly and he shook his head. 'Safety first, right?'

Elizabeth considered his expression. It was outwardly friendly but there was a hard quality to his gaze that dared her to push it as though he suspected she was trying to get him to agree to something because she thought he would be easier to persuade than Sumner.

She smiled instead and tilted her head towards her sleeping bag. 'I admit that after sleeping here last night, I might have changed my mind.' It was an acknowledgement that she knew he knew that she'd tried and failed, and wouldn't try again.

John's expression melted into sympathy and a mock wince. 'Tell me about it. I think I may have put my back out.'

'So,' Elizabeth took a sip of coffee, 'we'll continue the sweep and secure.'

John lifted one shoulder as though to signal he didn't care but she knew better. His fingers tapped on his thigh before he stilled them. 'Sumner left me a letter and detailed instructions.'

'OK,' Elizabeth said slowly, curious and surprised in equal measure. She wondered what Sumner had written to John, whether it was criticism or encouragement. She also felt a flicker of dismay. The negotiator inside of her had appreciated that she would have a distinct advantage over John if Sumner hadn't left anything for him.

'He laid out the specific criteria where he believed it would be necessary for the expedition to be militarised.' John continued. 'He went over them with you.'

Elizabeth nodded uneasily and set aside her coffee cup. It looked as though Sumner had done a thorough job of planning for his demise. She didn't know whether to admire the forethought or to be horrified. 'The Colonel may not have made it clear in his notes that he and I did not agree over who would make the final determination that the criteria had been met.'

'I worked that out for myself.' John said easily. He leaned back, resting an arm along the back of the chair. 'I don't think you and I are going to necessarily agree either.'

She tensed. The report of his meeting with the Marines…the insistence on following the agreed priority…if this was John making a play…

'I'm not planning to militarise the expedition.' John stated clearly. 'Right now I have a unit of Marines that I need to get to know, a bay full of puddle jumpers to get flight ready, a team to put together, and a city to sweep and secure.' He smiled self-deprecatingly. 'I don't have time to do your job too.'

Elizabeth almost smiled and folded her arms across her chest. 'Well, that's a relief.'

John smirked at her dry tone. 'Well, I figure we have enough to deal with without fighting each other. We need to work together.'

She nodded. 'I think we can both agree on that.'

And it was the reason why she was more comfortable with John as the military CO than Sumner. John was much more willing to compromise. She wasn't under any illusion: if John had returned from his rescue mission with Sumner, the expedition would have been immediately militarised because of the presence of the Wraith.

'We should probably go back over the criteria once we've got things on an even keel around here.' John added. 'I might not agree militarisation is required right now but Colonel Sumner was an experienced off world commander and I don't disagree with all the scenarios he detailed.'

'I don't have a problem with that,' Elizabeth said immediately. Reviewing the criteria gave her another opportunity to argue for the expedition only to go in that direction under the direst of situations. 'I had generally envisaged the expedition working along the same lines as we did yesterday on the rescue; you would lead the actual missions but I make the final decisions on what those are and when we do them with input from you and others, of course.'

'I can live with that.' John said, a flicker of relief washing over his features. 'Speaking of which,' he gave a sheepish smile, 'we should talk about my team.'

'Sure,' Elizabeth said, pleased that John had agreed so easily with her, 'like I said yesterday, I have some thoughts. Colonel Sumner was against using civilian personnel but I really think you'll need a scientist. Peter Grodin is ex-Royal Navy…'

John held up his hand. 'I've, uh, actually already asked McKay.'

Elizabeth's mouth fell open and her brain stopped working, her train of thought completely derailed. 'Rodney?' She asked in disbelief. 'You've asked Rodney?'

John nodded. 'We agreed it was subject to your approval but we worked together well yesterday and as he says all the time; he's the best.'

'Yes, but…' Elizabeth sat back in her chair and regarded John thoughtfully. 'Look, Major, I've worked with Rodney for a while now and I don't think you've maybe seen him at his worst. He's…'

'Difficult? Lacking in social graces? Has a lot to say usually very loudly and regardless of whether anyone wants to hear it?' John shrugged as though it didn't matter. 'Yeah, I got all that from the first hour we spent together in Antarctica. I also saw yesterday that he was quick thinking, worked hard and came through with a plan when I thought I was stuck.'

Elizabeth took note that his shoulders had gone back; his chin had gone up a touch. He was prepared to fight for Rodney to be part of his team. It was fascinating on one level but… 'Rodney's not exactly a team player.'

John made a disbelieving noise. 'He did fine yesterday and he can't be that bad or you wouldn't have him on the expedition at all.' He held up a hand. 'Think of it this way: what better way for him to develop his team skills than being on a team?'

'OK, I take your point.' Elizabeth said evenly. 'But I think you should read his file because…'

'I'll read the file if you insist,' John cut in, his eyes glittering, 'but I'm telling you now it won't change my mind. I'm the last person on this expedition who is going to judge someone on their written record.'

Elizabeth felt a rush of chagrin; she should have known that would be the wrong tack to take with John. She nodded slowly. 'I'm not sure how I feel about having my military commander and chief scientist on the same team. If something were to happen to you both…that would have a definite impact on the expedition.'

'You said it yourself; I need a scientist on the team.' John said firmly. 'We'll both work on ensuring our deputies can step up. Bates is more than capable of…'

'Bates?' Elizabeth interrupted him, shifting forward again concerned. 'What about Lieutenant Ford?'

'Ford's on my team too. He has gate experience I don't have; he's also the only Marine likely to challenge me on a decision other than Bates and…Bates is a more experienced commander if someone has to replace me.' John explained quickly.

Elizabeth frowned. She wasn't sure Aidan Ford was up to challenging John in the field. She had observed what she thought was a bad case of hero-worship in the young Lieutenant.

'And,' said John earnestly, 'it's short term: maybe eight months to a year worst case scenario. Just until I know the other Marines better, they know me better, I get used to gate travel…' he made a twirly gesture with one hand, 'Ford'll get his own team then.'

'That leaves you with one available space still,' Elizabeth commented, deciding that while she didn't like Ford being on the team she appreciated the reasons why he was, 'Peter would be…'

'I've invited Teyla to be my fourth.' John said.

Her eyes widened. 'Teyla?'

'The Athosians have the local know-how both on what planets will be friendly to us and on the Wraith.' John paused. 'It worked for SG1 having Teal'c as a member. I thought it would be good to follow a similar model.'

She sighed. 'John…'

John winced and shifted position on the uncomfortable chair. 'This is another one of those instances where you wanted me to talk to you before I did something.'

'Yes.' Elizabeth said. 'It's just…'

'You don't trust them.' John nodded. 'I can appreciate that. You should talk with Teyla and get to know her. I think the two of you will get on great.'

He was right. She didn't trust the Athosians. She wanted to and if Sumner was around she probably would have been with John in encouraging trust rather than remaining wary but there was just her, and her experience of negotiating complex treaties in hot spots around Earth had shown her it was naïve to trust anyone without reservation.

'I will make speaking with Teyla a priority.' Elizabeth said. And she would because it had been the first task she'd added to her plan. 'On the matter of her joining your team,' she arched an eyebrow, 'I did get the impression that you and she…'

'Hmmm?' John looked at her blankly.

Elizabeth waggled her eyebrows expressively.

'Oh.' John blushed.

She was amused as even his ears turned red.

'It's not…we're not…' John stuttered and his hands flailed widely. 'I mean, sure she's…and if we weren't going to be team-mates and even then…she's and I'm…no.'

'Eloquent.' Elizabeth commented unable to keep her laughter out of her voice.

'Go ahead,' John encouraged her, regaining some of his composure, 'laugh it up. Just wait until it's your turn.'

She didn't try to argue that it wouldn't happen for her; she loved her fiancé, Simon. Her message to him had absolved him of the need to wait for her but she thought he would; couldn't imagine that he wouldn't. 'So, what I think you were trying to tell me is that a romantic relationship between you and Teyla isn't on the table and that there's no conflict of interest in her being on your team.'

'That.' John pointed at her.

'OK.' Elizabeth raised a hand. 'I accept your team choices, subject to a discussion with Teyla.'

'Thank you.'

'While we're on the subject of fraternisation…'

'Were we on the subject?' John asked lightly.

Elizabeth smiled but didn't allow him to derail her. 'I don't suppose Colonel Sumner's final instructions mentioned Doctor Heightmeyer's paper on isolated communities?'

'No, they did not.' John said. He grimaced and sighed, folding his arms over his chest. 'I'm not going to like this, am I?'

'Doctor Heightmeyer is a recognised psychologist and we're lucky she's on the expedition.' Elizabeth said. 'She believes that in isolated communities it's more likely for people to develop short term romantic or sexual liaisons as a mechanism for coping and to find comfort. She predicts that many of our expedition are likely to develop crushes; have short term affairs; that kind of thing.'

'I don't have a problem with that in theory and I'm willing to turn a blind eye on the military side.' John said after a thoughtful pause. 'But if it starts to affect someone's working relationships or performance that's a different matter.'

'Good.' Elizabeth said. 'I'm glad we both see it the same way.'

He held her gaze. 'I did give everyone under my command the no means no or I space you speech this morning. You may want to do the same for the civilian side of the expedition.'

'I'll do that.' Elizabeth said. She hesitated and ploughed on regardless. 'You may want to speak with Kate, Doctor Heightmeyer yourself.'

'I think I'm all caught up on her theory.' John said dismissively.

She straightened up and kept her eyes steady on his. 'I meant you should talk with her about what happened yesterday.'

His admission that he had shot Sumner in a mercy killing had shocked her. She wasn't certain that she understood what had driven him to do it; the horror he had described of Sumner's life being drained from him by the Wraith seemed unreal to her. But the pain and sorrow of what he had done had shown on John's face when he had told her; in the quiet pain in his cracked voice. She'd quickly agreed they needed to make the exact nature of Sumner's death need-to-know only.

John looked for a second as though she had slapped him before his face took on an impassivity that she was sure Teal'c hadn't even achieved during the time she'd been at the SGC. 'I'm fine.'

'John, if we were back on Earth, you would have to talk with a psychiatrist as standard protocol.' Elizabeth pointed out. 'I'd like you to see her.'

'No.' John said firmly. 'We agreed that this was need-to-know and she doesn't need-to-know.'


'No.' His posture, so relaxed and insouciant through their previous discussion despite some of the content, was suddenly ramrod straight, poised for flight.

'I could make it an order.' Elizabeth sat back, retreating to make John feel less threatened.

'But you're not going to.' John said, guessing her decision.

Elizabeth shook her head. 'But, John, if I think you need to…'

'I just need to get to work.' John gave her an expectant look.

She sighed and nodded. He gave her a half-sketched salute and made his way out, slow enough that it wouldn't alert anyone else to something being wrong but fast enough that she knew the final part of their conversation had affected him.

For the next hour, she busied herself with a hundred and one different tasks before finally giving up and going in search of Teyla. It quickly became clear to her that she needed a second. Maybe Peter Grodin would be a good choice for her, Elizabeth thought with wry amusement, since John hadn't been interested.

She barely got through Operations before Teyla found her.

'Doctor Weir, may I speak with you?'

'I was just on my way to find you.' Elizabeth motioned towards the balcony. They both walked through the opening doors and into the bright morning sunshine.

Teyla breathed in deeply and turned her face up to the sun.

Elizabeth looked at the city spread out before her and around her. It was incredible. It was everything she had dreamed about; everything she had hoped for.

'The City of our Ancestors is truly beautiful.' Teyla murmured reverently, her hands lightly touching on the railing.

'It is.' Elizabeth said. She took another moment and gathered her thoughts as she clasped her own hands behind her back. 'I wish to offer you my sincere condolences for the losses you suffered yesterday. I didn't really get the opportunity to do that fully. Is there a ritual or…'

'What needs to be done will be done. It is not the first time we have lost loved ones to the Wraith.' Teyla said simply. She shifted back and stood mirroring Elizabeth's stance.

Elizabeth took a moment to admire the tactic.

'The Athosian Council is agreed: we would like to stay with your people, Doctor Weir, and would request sanctuary.' Teyla said formally.

'You've discussed the matter?' Elizabeth was curious about their social structure and customs but she pushed it aside to focus on making a decision. Elizabeth had to assess whether the benefits of having people who knew the Pegasus galaxy, who could introduce them to others for trade in foods and necessities, might outweigh the burden on their resources and the risk of having unknown strangers in the city with them. It wouldn't be impossible to refuse the Athosians sanctuary and yet at the same retain their friendship but it would be difficult and Elizabeth wasn't sure she wanted to risk alienating people who had offered a hand of friendship.

'We have,' Teyla said.

'And there are none that would wish to return to your homeworld?' Elizabeth asked bluntly.

Teyla inclined her head. 'There are some who wish to return but they respect the decision of the Council. If we return to our home, it is possible that the Wraith will return and cull again. They may come for information about you; they may come simply to feed.' Her face tightened with anger for a long moment. 'If we stay,' she said, 'we have the protection of the city and our new friends.' She caught Elizabeth's eyes. 'People do not return once taken by the Wraith. What happened yesterday…it was a…miracle to my people.'

Elizabeth murmured her understanding.

'In return, you are new here but we can help you. We offer you our knowledge and alliance in finding trading partners. And we would add our strength to yours in defeating the Wraith.'

'We're not here to wage war on the Wraith, Teyla.' Elizabeth countered mildly. 'Our mission is primarily a peaceful one to learn more about our shared ancestors, those we call the Ancients.'

'I am glad to hear it.' Teyla smiled briefly. 'However, I believe the Wraith will wage war on you.' She lifted an eyebrow. 'And I believe you know this.'

Elizabeth hummed her concession. 'Is there no way to negotiate with them?'

'Do you negotiate with the food you eat?' Teyla rejoined easily. 'A bargain with a Wraith is no bargain at all.'

Teyla truly believed that, Elizabeth surmised. She wasn't so certain it was that cut and dried. The Goa'uld had held themselves up as Gods and refused to negotiate in the early days of the Stargate programme too but they had eventually come to the table.

'As much as I want to agree that you can stay,' Elizabeth said, 'we have limited resources…'

'We appreciate this and we are a proud people. You will find we have much we can contribute.' Teyla said. 'If we could return briefly to Athos, we could retrieve our food stores and what is left of our belongings.'

'If you could do that safely without alerting the Wraith I would agree.' Elizabeth said. Everything about Teyla suggested she was genuine in what she had said. Elizabeth gave in to her instincts. 'Why don't you discuss the matter with Major Sheppard and come back to me with a plan?'

Teyla assimilated Elizabeth's words, understanding that it was a tacit permission to stay, and smiled broadly at her. 'Thank you.' She stepped forward, placing her hands on Elizabeth's shoulders and Elizabeth recognised the move from the evening before when Teyla had performed it on John. She moved into it, lowering her own forehead and holding Teyla's shoulders lightly.

They stepped back.

'I look forward to getting to know you and your people better, Teyla.' Elizabeth said sincerely.

'As do I, Doctor Weir.' Teyla smiled at her again and left the balcony.

Elizabeth turned to the view and placed a fist on the railing as she re-examined the conversation in her head. Teyla was sincere. She could see why John was so quick to trust her. But Elizabeth recognised a good negotiator when she saw one which meant Teyla knew the art of getting people to trust her. Elizabeth hoped she had made the right decision. She smiled sadly to herself.

In the excitement of planning the expedition, she had never considered how hard it would be to have the pressure of making decisions once they were in Atlantis. She had thought she was prepared but she hadn't truly considered the immense stress of being so far from home without a way to contact the SGC and get help. The survival of the entire expedition rested on her shoulders and she was only beginning to realise the weight of that.

If Marshall Sumner had lived…

He would have assumed the responsibility for their lives, Elizabeth mused. And she would probably have hated it and been grateful for it in equal measure. She wondered if John's decision not to militarise had less to do with his assessment of the Wraith threat and more to do with not wanting to take on the responsibility. That was unfair, Elizabeth told herself firmly. John was sincere in his want to work together and she appreciated it. She had to trust him. She couldn't be paranoid about everything and everyone.

Perhaps she should talk to Kate Heightmeyer, Elizabeth thought with wry amusement. Or maybe she should do the same as John and get back to work. She took another long look at the breath-taking view and went inside.


The temporary science lab had been secured the day before. It was small, no bigger than Sam's lab at the SGC and Rodney had already set up multiple computer stations running a series of diagnostics on the city which made it look even smaller. A long metal table at the far side which had been designated the dumping ground for all the Ancient tech that they were finding didn't help either. But space was the last thing on Rodney's mind as he bustled in at a horrendously early hour eager to analyse the findings of the diagnostics.

Rodney slurped on a mug of hot coffee and continued scanning the results before setting up his own laptop to try and get a handle on the Ancient database. There had to be some kind of organised index. The Czech guy came in and set up on the other side of the table and Rodney was grateful when he didn't speak to him but immediately began working. Rodney had chosen to get an early start so he wouldn't be bothered with the questions and concerns of others.

'Hey.' Sheppard called out softly as he approached. He wore a fresh version of the same outfit that he'd worn the day before: Atlantis issue BDU with a black top, the zip at the neckline lowered a touch. 'You're up early.'

'So are you, Major.' Rodney noted, not stopping his work. He wanted to be annoyed at the interruption but the delight that the memory of the previous night and the Major's request to be on his team evoked overwhelmed his usual response. He cast a glance over Sheppard and frowned at the hint of shadows and bags under the other man's eyes. 'You did sleep?'

'Yeah,' Sheppard rubbed the back of his neck as he came to stop beside him, 'although if we don't secure enough living quarters today I might try sleeping in one of the one puddle jumpers tonight. The floor in the office is too hard.'

'You slept on the floor?' Rodney said. 'I'd say you should come to the infirmary which has actual beds but you probably don't want to do that either.'

'Why not?' Sheppard slouched against the side of the desk.

Rodney shook his left hand. 'Life-sucking alien arm tucked away in the freezer?'

Sheppard winced. 'Yeah, that's kind of creepy.'

'Carson told me about it just before he thought the lights out.' Which had been mean and spiteful just because Rodney had told him to stop talking about his mother. 'Every time I closed my eyes and heard a noise I thought it was that hand opening the freezer, crawling across the floor and…'

'I get the picture!' Sheppard said swiftly.

His tan had paled considerably, Rodney observed. 'So, I may be joining you in the puddle jumper if I don't have a room assigned today.'

Sheppard smirked at him. 'Yeah, well, bring your own sleeping bag.'

Rodney snorted.

'I talked to Elizabeth by the way,' Sheppard said, 'she's cool with you being on the team.'

Cool. Only Sheppard was cool enough to get away with saying that, Rodney thought. Then it hit him. He had permission. He was going to be on Sheppard's team. He stopped working abruptly and looked up at Sheppard fully. 'Really?'

'Really.' Sheppard grinned at him. 'You, me, Ford and Teyla. Well, Teyla once Elizabeth's had a chance to talk with her but I can't see that going badly so…us four.'

'Wow.' Rodney said, speechless for once. Oh God; they were effectively the SG1 of the Pegasus galaxy.

Sheppard seemed to understand. 'I know.'

'In the interests of full disclosure, I feel I should tell you that I, um, might not be the easiest person to work with and, uh, can be bad in a crisis?' Rodney hurried out.

Sheppard smiled at him smugly. 'Too late, McKay. You already said yes. You're on the team.'

Rodney felt oddly delighted. And terrified. Mostly terrified. 'Well, don't say I didn't warn you.'

Sheppard pushed away from the desk and headed to the table.

'Don't touch any of it!' Rodney said quickly. 'We don't need your magic gene setting off a bomb.'

'There's a bomb?' Sheppard shifted straight into Concerned Military mode; he looked a minute away from ordering the bomb squad, his hand already rising to his earpiece.

Rodney waved his hands dramatically to recapture his attention. 'No. I mean, we don't know. We're going to have to check them out one by one,' he looked at Sheppard hopefully, 'actually if you have some time…'

'Uh, later?' Sheppard took an uneasy step away from the table. 'I was kind of hoping you had time to help me with the puddle jumpers. If Elizabeth agrees, the Athosians want to go collect some stuff and the one we used yesterday needs to be checked over so…'

There was a large part of Rodney that wanted to go and it warred with a large part of him that wanted to stay to finish analysing everything, and truthfully the latter had priority. Sheppard got the message when Rodney assumed a vaguely apologetic air.

'Oh, don't give me that look.' Rodney snapped. 'I had a cat. I am wise to the pleading eyes of doom.'

'You don't have anyone that can help me out?' Sheppard pressed.

And seriously: pleading eyes of doom. Rodney sighed heavily and looked away. His eyes caught on the huddled form of the Czech guy in the far corner. 'You! Zaniski.'

The Czech guy looked up and pointed a finger at his chest.

'Yes, you!' Rodney motioned for him to walk over.

'My name is not Zaniski.' The scientist pointed out dryly.

'Like I care.' Rodney said brusquely. 'Congratulations; you're now heading the research into the puddle jumpers.'

Sheppard offered his hand to the Czech. 'John Sheppard.' He darted a questioning look at McKay.

'Yes, Major; I know who you are.' The Czech shook his hand with a sigh. 'Radek Zelenka, and to answer poorly hidden look; yes, I know what I am doing. In past I design planes for your government.'

'I knew that!' Rodney claimed immediately. He noted the matching disbelief on both Sheppard's and Zelenka's faces. 'You know what? It doesn't matter if you believe me or not. Go! Go somewhere else and…'

Zelenka let out another sigh of exasperation or disappointment. Rodney couldn't tell. 'I will finish here and meet you in room with…puddle jumpers.'

'Great.' Sheppard said brightly, already turning away to leave. He slapped McKay's arm, jolting him. 'Thanks, McKay.'

'Never say I don't give you anything.' McKay called out as Sheppard headed out of the lab.

A few minutes later, Rodney heard Zelenka follow, grumbling under his breath in Czech. Rodney ignored him in favour of concentrating on his work.

The unrelenting focus on code, interspersed with yelling at his science team as they wandered in and out for assignments and progress reports, drowned out the underlying buzz of fear that had worried its way into his head.

He was in another galaxy. He was in another galaxy with life-sucking aliens who wanted to eat him and how had he ever thought it was a good idea?

Because Atlantis was a dream for a scientist, he reminded himself briskly. The Ancients were the foundation of all the technology that Earth had found to date even the Asgards used principles seeded in Ancient tech. He was going to make ground-breaking, Nobel-prize winning break-throughs…if he didn't get eaten.

He wasn't going to get eaten.

Sheppard wouldn't let him get eaten; he wouldn't let any of them get eaten. Regardless of what had happened to Sumner, Rodney hadn't been joking with the Major the night before when he'd told Sheppard that his actions in rescuing their people and the Athosians had reassured everyone on that score; had made them all feel a little safer despite the revelation that their new home had life-sucking aliens bringing down the neighbourhood.

Obviously Sheppard was upset that he hadn't been able to save Sumner though which surprised Rodney because he'd gotten the distinct impression that Sumner liked Sheppard as much as he liked Rodney which was to say not at all. Which was fine because Rodney hadn't liked Sumner either and he wasn't a hypocrite who was going to pretend to mourn him although he spared the thought that he wouldn't have wished for the guy to be eaten by life-sucking aliens.

Thank God Sheppard had sat in the chair and thank God that the Pentagon had eventually got over the notion of keeping Sheppard on Earth in case they needed him in the Antarctica chair and had assigned him to the mission, even if it had been right at the last minute and without giving Sheppard the necessary time to prepare.

Rodney had liked Sheppard in the brief time the Major had been allowed to spend with the project in Antarctica. Unlike Carson, Sheppard liked the Ancient tech; would light up like a kid at Christmas when he put his hands on something. And he never seemed to mind Rodney's brusque orders – he'd occasionally question them in that laconic drawl he had – but he never outright complained about it. Rodney had once caught Sheppard looking amused when Rodney had been yelling at someone. It boded well for them working on the same team.


Oh God.

He froze in the middle of writing another scathing email and stared blankly at the blinking cursor on his screen.

He'd agreed to be on Sheppard's team. Why had he agreed to be on Sheppard's team? Rodney wasn't good at team things. His sister Jeannie would testify to that since he hadn't talked to her since she'd told him she was pregnant (he'd meant to call her before they'd left but there had been so little time). Everyone he knew would testify to that. He was going to be really bad. Awful. He'd panic in the middle of something and let Sheppard down and the rest of the team down and people would get hurt and it would be all his fault and…

Maybe he could change his mind. He could tell Sheppard that he'd changed his mind. Sheppard would understand. Or maybe Sheppard would turn the pleading eyes of doom on him and OK, Rodney had never been able to resist his cat when he'd done it.

A clatter at the Ancient tech table had Rodney whirling around sharply to glare at the Marine dumping a number of items.

'Sorry, they kind of fell and…'

'Be more careful!' Rodney remonstrated. 'One of them could be a bomb!'

'A bomb!' The guy's face assumed the same Concerned Military expression that Sheppard had and Rodney waved him off.

'Forget I said bomb! Just…' he gestured towards the door and the Marine got the message and hustled out.

Rodney sighed heavily and went over to check that nothing had been damaged. A green oval brooch-like object caught his attention. It perched on an Ancient datapad not unlike the life-signs detector Sheppard had found in the jumpers. Someone had obviously initialised the datapad because it immediately lit up as soon as Rodney took hold of it.

And oooh…a personal shield. That was interesting. Very interesting. If he had a shield he'd be safe. No more having to worry about…but it was activated and imprinted on the gene carrier who initialised it. Of course it only worked for a gene carrier. Rodney rolled his eyes and set it down again.

He made his way back to his computer. He just had to focus on his work, Rodney told himself. Just had to forget that there was any danger and…

A cough behind him had him jumping, taking a step back and almost falling over a stool. He scowled at Elizabeth who was trying to hide how much she wanted to laugh at him.

'Sorry,' she said insincerely, 'I just wanted to check on how things are going.'

Rodney pulled himself together and gave her a run-down on the various projects, finishing with the tech table.

'We really have no idea what these are although some have been found with notes but mostly not and they could be anything although why the Ancients would leave dangerous things hanging around I wouldn't know,' he snapped his fingers, 'unless they're booby traps which as I was saying could mean that these are bombs or anything really,' and he noticed Elizabeth had her own version of Concerned Military mode, 'not that I think these are and anyway, we'll go through them one at a time and check them out; Sheppard's promised to come by later.'

Elizabeth hummed. 'I'm not sure you should count on always having the use of Major Sheppard to help. He is the military commander now.'

'Please,' Rodney said, waving away her concern, 'Marines are like puppies; keep them fed, watered and exercised and they're no bother.'

'Not that I agree with this analogy, but dogs are a lot of work.' Elizabeth said with the authority of someone who owned one.

'Dog lover, huh?' Rodney asked idly, his mind already moving onto the latest simulation results on power distribution.

'Yes, actually.' Elizabeth said. 'And to return to the point, you may need to find someone else to help you with the Ancient tech.'

'Nobody's as good as him.' Rodney stated. 'And besides he likes helping with it.' He was certain that Sheppard would keep his word and turn up to help sooner or later.

Elizabeth's eyes narrowed on him. 'He's sometimes going to be too busy, Rodney, and you need to respect that.'

He snorted. 'His gene is the reason why he's on the expedition, or have you forgotten that, Elizabeth?' When they were alone he didn't see the point of conforming to the strict formality of calling her Doctor Weir especially when she called him by his given name.

'And circumstances have changed.' Elizabeth straightened, folding her arms over her chest. 'I wanted to talk to you about your decision to join the Major's team.'

Rodney glanced up at that. He took in her expression and glared at her. 'You think I shouldn't be on the team!' He felt unaccountably hurt.

'That's not true, Rodney,' Elizabeth said strongly, 'but I'm concerned that you may not have thought through all the implications of your decision because you feel flattered that the Major asked you.'

He was flattered that Sheppard had asked him; stunned too that he was the first person Sheppard had asked. It probably didn't help that he didn't really understand why Sheppard had asked him because he didn't think Sheppard actually believed Rodney when he said he was brilliant. But maybe Sheppard's own articulated reason, that he and Rodney had worked well together the day before, was actually true. Whatever the reason, he hadn't accepted Sheppard's request because he'd been flattered; he just wasn't sure why he'd accepted Sheppard's offer.

'I admit it, I'm flattered,' Rodney said, realising Elizabeth was waiting for a response, 'but that doesn't mean that I haven't thought about it fully.'

'Have you though?' Elizabeth asked. She tilted her head to one side. 'You'll be going on missions; taking orders from the Major in the field. You might have to face the Wraith. You'll have reduced time in the city to work on your research or to deal with any issues.' She held up a hand. 'You've never shown an interest in being on a gate team before, Rodney.'

'As you said; circumstances change.' Rodney said tersely. 'If Sam was here, I'm sure she'd be the one volunteering, and yes, I get that she'd be more qualified after all of her years of experience, but she's not here and I am and there's no-one else on the science team who has more experience with the Stargate than me.'

'Peter Grodin is ex-British military, Rodney, and he's a good scientist…'

'But not as good as me and he's been working on the Stargate tech for what? Less than a year?' Rodney shot back as he tried to block her out by focusing on the computer.

'Being good isn't the only skill that's required here.' Elizabeth paused before she sighed. 'You've never embraced team-work or shown a propensity for enjoying risky activities, Rodney. You have to see my confusion as to why you want to do this.'

Rodney's hands stilling on the keyboard again as he looked over at her. 'I know you're right,' he began.

'OK, so I'll tell the Major you've changed your mind and…'

'I hadn't finished, Elizabeth,' he said sharply.

She nodded slowly for him to continue.

'Everything you've said has some truth in it,' Rodney allowed, 'and I'm not even sure I want to do this but,' he swallowed hard but held her gaze, 'I think it's something I have to do. Or at least,' his chin went up a notch, 'it's something I have to try.'

Elizabeth frowned at him but she gave another brisk nod. 'OK then.' She smiled to ease the tension between them. 'If you have no objections, I was thinking of asking Peter to assume a role as my executive officer in addition to his science duties.'

'He's a good choice.' Rodney said, grateful for the change of subject.

Elizabeth made a sweeping gesture around the room. 'I'll let you get back to it.'

Rodney waited until she'd gone before he slumped against the desk and pinched the bridge of his nose. Why, why, why hadn't he just taken the out she'd offered him? He didn't need to be on Sheppard's team; he didn't want to be running around planets and putting himself in danger and…

His eyes fell on the tech table again. He pressed his earpiece. 'Carson, where are you on the gene therapy?'

'Hello to you too, Rodney.' Carson said back in his ear.

'Yes, yes, hello; now will you answer the question?'

'I am in the middle of setting up the infirmary, Rodney, something I'm sure you'll appreciate.' Carson said impatiently.

'Gene therapy, Carson.' Rodney reiterated brusquely. 'You've got a viable formula now, haven't you? Since you used the Major's genome as a foundation?'

'Yes as soon as we're done setting up the infirmary, I'll get to finalising it for use.' Carson said with a huff of annoyance. 'Now, if that's everything…'

'Fine.' Rodney closed the communication channel and headed back to the table. He picked up the green oval – the personal shield. Gene therapy. If he had the gene therapy he could initialise the shield himself; he'd be invulnerable. He wouldn't panic in the field, wouldn't let his brand new team-mates down…he slipped the shield into his pocket.





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