A/N: Thank you for the favorites and reviews on the first story, it really means a lot.
This is the next part of my Team Building series and takes place between Hide and Seek and Thirty-Eight Minutes
The only license I have is to practice TV medicine. :-)
Thanks to AnnieB for the beta read!
UPDATE June 2020: This is another story I've been meaning to fix for some time. As with Seeking and Finding, nothing is substantially different, though scenes are a bit more fleshed out in a few places. Mostly, this was just some clean up of the grammar along with several plot and POV issues I've noticed over the last couple of years.
Rodney wandered down to the mess hall, eyes focused on the computer pad in his hand, oblivious to the morning light streaming through the stained glass windows or the people in the corridor with him. Several recurring power issues had the engineering team puzzled, and he had been up half the night helping them track down shorts and surges throughout the system. They'd finally tracked down the last of the spikes around two in the morning, and Rodney had sent everyone to get what rest they could before a seven am meeting to discuss what happened, why it happened, and how to make sure it didn't happen again.
During the meeting, Zelemka gave an outline of the problems and possible solutions, and they'd discussed options. Well, he discussed, Zelemka apparently thought he was just yelling and had walked away halfway through Rodney's thesis, mumbling to himself in Czech.
Rodney reread the engineering reports as he walked, muttering about the idiocy of the engineering team as he worked out equations in his head and tapped out corrected answers. He avoided running into other people only because they managed to dodge out of his way. A few may have scowled at him or made rude noises, but he was as oblivious to their reactions as he was the beauty out the windows.
Entering the mess hall, Rodney grabbed a tray with one hand and kept the tablet in the other as he slid the tray along, randomly picking up food as he read. He stuffed the pad under an arm long enough to pour coffee into a cup then glanced around the room to find a table, preferably in the far corner of the room.
He felt eyes following him as he walked, but ignored the feeling as he found a table, and hunched down in the chair, ignoring the sniggering from a group of Marines at the next table. With the computer propped up on his left side, he picked up a fork and started to eat. Rodney swallowed several bites of scrambled egg and hash brown as he read another report, pausing to make notes here or there, and reached blindly for the fruit cup as he finished the eggs. Just as his hand closed on the plastic container, fingers grabbed his wrist.
"What do you think ..." Rodney growled and looked up with a scowl as he pulled against the hold on his wrist. He was surprised to see Major Sheppard sitting across from him, a breakfast tray of his own in front of him, and Rodney's wrist trapped in his grip.
"I thought you said you were allergic?" Sheppard said, and pointed to the cup as he released Rodney's arm.
"What?" Rodney glanced down and saw the container was of mandarin oranges and not the peaches he thought it was. "Oh. Thanks, Major. That would have been … let's just say that would not have been good." Rodney shuddered and carefully pushed the oranges away with his fork.
"Here," Sheppard said and held up a cup of peaches. "I'll trade, ya."
"Fine, whatever." Rodney accepted the peaches and started eating again.
"Was there something you needed, Major?" he asked a few minutes later.
"Nope," Sheppard replied, his voice dripping innocence as he ate his own breakfast. "Just wanted to make sure you remembered you have weapons training again this morning."
Rodney hunched his shoulders and focused on his plate at the sound of more snickering coming from the nearby table of Marines following the Major's comment. The laughter stopped just as suddenly, and Rodney looked up in time to see Sheppard glaring at the group at the next table.
Rodney glanced from Sheppard to the now silent Marines for a moment then hissed in a near whisper, "I'm pretty sure giving me a gun falls into the category of a bad idea. In fact, I'd think my dismal performance over the last two weeks would prove that even to someone like you, Major."
Sheppard swallowed a bite of egg and said, "Tough. You want to go through the stargate, you have to be able to defend yourself. Besides you have been getting better."
Rodney snorted, rolling his eyes at the backhanded compliment. "I doubt I could get much worse."
Sheppard looked up at him, then went back to his food. "You need to be able to protect yourself. We've been over this," he said patiently and swallowed half of the coffee in his cup.
Rodney frowned. "I thought that's what you and Ford were for," he retorted with a little more bite in his tone.
Sheppard dropped his fork and glared across the table. "And what happens if we get separated, Rodney?" he growled in a low voice. "Or what if you need to defend one of us?"
Rodney felt the blood drain from his face as he stared back at Sheppard. The thought had honestly never crossed his mind that he would ever be put in a position where he would have to defend someone else.
"Exactly," Sheppard said with less growl but his voice still low enough not to carry to the nearby tables. He finished eating and leant back in his chair. "So finish up here, already. Ford and Teyla are meeting us at the east pier in ten minutes."
Rodney grimaced but finished the last of the peaches, swallowed the last gulps of coffee, and followed Sheppard out of the mess hall. It was only a matter of a few minutes to walk to the transporter that would take them out to the pier. Rodney hunched his shoulders when he heard more raucous laughter coming from the table of Marines as he left. He glanced behind him in time to see the Marines huddled together and tried to convince himself the laughter had nothing to do with him.
Sheppard gave him a questioning look as they stepped into the transporter, but Rodney ignored him in favor of studying the wall in front of him. He waited for the transporter door to open, then followed Sheppard down the hall and out the door for the East pier.
Situated in the middle of a seemingly endless ocean, there was always wind on the balconies and piers around Atlantis; not a gentle gust, but a good, stiff wind. Rodney heard the makeshift boards the Marines had erected to deaden the air around the shooting range rattle in the morning breeze as he stepped outside behind Sheppard. Ford and Teyla were already waiting for them at the far end of the pier next to a long table laid out with two handgun cases and several boxes of ammunition.
Rodney zipped up his jacket against the cool breeze as he stood next to Teyla while Ford opened the cases for the two 9mm handguns they'd been assigned. Rodney looked at the gun with resignation. Over the past two weeks, he hadn't improved that much. His shots rarely hit the target, and no two shots landed in the same area when he did hit it. He had worked out his accuracy percentage in his head one afternoon, and he found the number depressingly low, to say the least.
Rodney glanced up as a stronger gust of wind rattled the walls around them, and sighed when he noticed the huddle of Marines stood back by the exit to the pier, several of them familiar from the table in the mess hall.
So much for the laughter not being about him, he thought to himself.
The last thing he needed or wanted was an audience as he failed at this. Sheppard must have heard his frustrated sigh as he gave Rodney another puzzled look. Rodney shrugged and turned away from the Marines.
"Sir," Ford said, and nodded his head toward the other end of the pier.
Rodney watched as Sheppard turned around and frowned when he saw the huddle of Marines. He moved so he was between the group and Rodney and Teyla.
"Ignore it," he said in a low voice as Ford handed each of them a weapon and magazine to load.
Rodney took the gun gingerly, stepped to the line chalked on the pier, and carefully loaded the magazine with another grimace.
Teyla stood in front of a second target, and Rodney watched as Ford placed her hands in the correct position and pushed her feet farther apart. She listened carefully as the Lieutenant said something in her ear, then raised the gun and fired. Her first few shots went wide. Of the remaining, several hit an outside ring, the last six were closer to the center and all close together.
"Nice grouping, Teyla," Ford enthused as she pulled the slide back to show the gun was safe and set it on the table next to the empty case.
Teyla smiled and nodded at the compliment. "Thank you, Lieutenant."
Rodney jumped when Sheppard touched his arm, and his aim drifted off to the right of the target.
"Relax," Sheppard said in a low voice, and nudged him until he focused on the target ten meters away.
"I am as relaxed as I'm going to get, Major," Rodney hissed back. "I told you this was a bad idea."
"You'll be fine. Just concentrate."
Rodney huffed out a breath and focused on the target. He started to squeeze the trigger but stopped when he heard movement behind him. He turned and groaned when saw the group of Marines had walked about half the distance between the door and the end of the pier where they stood.
"Ignore them," Sheppard softly admonished again. He took Rodney by the shoulders, turned him around, and adjusted his grip on the Beretta. "Now, let's see what you can do," he said in a normal tone and stepped back.
Rodney noticed Ford and Teyla also watching him expectantly, and with a mumbled, "No pressure or anything," started firing.
Most of the shots went wide, the last five hit random edges of the target.
He cleared the weapon and cringed as he heard snickering come from the group behind him.
"Sir?" Ford questioned and glanced at the group with a frown.
Sheppard sighed. "Nothing we can do about it, Lieutenant."
"Yes, sir," he said and turned back to Teyla as she carefully reloaded the magazine, then loaded the magazine into her Beretta.
Thirty minutes later, Sheppard wrapped up the lesson.
Teyla improved quickly over the course of the lesson, and on her last attempt, all of the rounds hit near the center of the target with well-grouped shots. Rodney was just happy that at least most of his final effort ended up on the target, even if the hits were still scattered, and that the peanut gallery had finally left.
"You'd do better if your eyes were open," Sheppard gently teased as he took the weapon from Rodney. "You both did good," he said with a smile at Teyla, and Rodney snorted.
"I wasn't expecting a couple of expert marksmen, Rodney," Sheppard admonished as Ford repacked the two handguns.
"Good to know the bar was set so low, Major," Rodney sniped back.
Sheppard ignored him. "We'll try again tomorrow morning, same time."
"Oh goody," Rodney mumbled sarcastically, and followed the others back inside the city.
~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~
John knocked on the doorframe of the glassed-in office and waited for Elizabeth Weir to look up from the report she was reading.
Elizabeth smiled and waved him into the room as she closed the file folder in front of her. "I hear you took Rodney and Teyla to the shooting range again, Major. How did it go?"
John marvelled once again at how fast gossip spread in the city. "It went … okay," he said with a crooked smile and looked at his hands. "Teyla's a natural."
"And Doctor McKay?" Elizabeth asked, and leant back in her chair.
John made a face and slouched a little lower. "He's getting there," he dodged.
Elizabeth stared at him for a moment. "I see," she said. "You're still sure you want to do this?"
John frowned over at her. "Of course, I'm sure. McKay just needs some more practice. He'll be fine."
Elizabeth raised her hands in surrender. "When do you think your team will be ready, Major?" she asked after a few moments of silence.
John sat up in his chair and leant forward, arms braced on his knees. "That's what I wanted to talk to you about. I want to take them on a field trip."
"A field trip, Major? To where?"
"Teyla knows of a planet where the people were culled a long time ago. Apparently, some sort of fruit grows there that her people use in a ceremonial bread. She said they've never had any problems when they visit and I want to take my team there for a few days."
"Why?" she asked with a puzzled look.
John frowned, unsure of how to phrase his point. "We need to figure out how to work as a team before we need to work as a team," he finally said.
"I see," Weir replied. "And this isn't something you can do in one of the unexplored areas of the city?"
John shook his head. "No. I want to get them away from here. Away from the sense of security."
Away from the prying eyes, he added to himself, but he didn't say it out loud.
Elizabeth gave him a measured look. "All right. I'll think about it and let you know my decision."
She glanced down at the file folder in front of her, and John took the hint and stood.
He stopped at the doorway and said, "It really is important, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth looked up from the open file, nodded, and John left the office.
He wandered through the lower halls, checking on the teams guarding the generator room and met Ford in the corridor near the makeshift gym.
"Major," Ford greeted him with a smile. "Teyla's offered to teach me some of her stick fighting. Wanna join us?"
"I think I'll pass, Lieutenant," John replied. "You go on and show her what the best military training on Earth can do, though."
"Will do, sir!" Ford said with a grin and disappeared down the hallway.
John shook his head as he watched Ford jog down the hall. All he could think was that Teyla would eat him alive. He'd watched her train some of the other Marines over the last couple of weeks, and he was amazed at how good she was. She didn't move on a target as much as flow over him. It really was an elegant form of hand-to-hand combat.
His wandering eventually brought him to the lower floors of the tower, and John wasn't at all surprised to find himself in the corridor outside Rodney's lab a few minutes later. In the weeks since the shadow creature got loose in the city, John found himself in McKay's lab more and more often. He could sit with Rodney and just be John Sheppard for a little while without needing to be Major Sheppard. He liked it and was willing to bet Rodney enjoyed the company as well for all that he grumbled about the interruptions.
John stopped in the doorway and leant against the door jamb as he listened to Rodney mutter to himself.
"That can't be right," Rodney said as he moved his hands deeper into the metal box in front of him. "There shouldn't be a crystal there."
The crystal must not have wanted to move, as Rodney tugged on something for a few seconds, then glared at the box. He checked something on the datapad next to him and shook his head.
"Who designed this?" he groused as he stood and stuck his hand in the box again.
Rodney gave something in the box a hard tug, and John heard an audible snap.
"Ow! Damn it!" Rodney yelped as he stumbled back a step, an Ancient crystal clutched in his fingers. He dropped the crystal on the bench as he grabbed his now bleeding hand and glared at the box.
John startled upright at Rodney's pain-filled shout. "What happened?" he asked as he walked over to the work table.
Rodney must not have noticed John standing in the doorway since he jumped and gave John a wide-eyed glare.
"Geeze, Major, way to give me a heart attack," Rodney groused and looked at his bloody hand.
John could see there was a sizable cut along the back of the hand as Rodney looked around for something to stop the bleeding. He glanced around the lab and handed Rodney a wad of tissues from the box on the nearby desk. "What happened?" he asked again.
Rodney pressed the tissues against his hand and hissed in pain. "How should I know?" he snapped. "One minute it's sitting there completely inert, the next, it's trying to kill me."
"I'm sure you poking at it and pulling it apart had nothing to do with it," John deadpanned.
"Oh ha-ha," Rodney retorted, his voice more pained than actually angry. "I could lose my hand, but feel free to make jokes."
"Let me see," John said and reached forward for the injured hand.
John wasn't sure why Rodney gave him a startled glance even as he moved his hand out of reach. He knew McKay wasn't the most socially adept but was it really such a surprise John would be concerned when he saw Rodney standing in front of him, bleeding?
"I'm sure it'll be fine," Rodney mumbled as he peeked under the tissues, then curled his hand against his chest.
Apparently, the answer was yes, John thought to himself with a slight frown.
"Rodney," John said with a patient smile. "Let me see."
"Fine," Rodney grumbled and held out his hand.
John saw it wasn't so much a clean cut, as a jagged tear along the back of the hand. It was deeper at one end, and John saw it was still bleeding freely.
"You should let Beckett take a look at that," he said and let go of Rodney's wrist.
"It's fine, Major," Rodney told him, and pressed the tissues to his hand again. "There should be some bandages around here somewhere." Rodney looked everywhere but at Sheppard.
"That's gonna need more than a band-aid," Sheppard stated and motioned toward the door. "Come on, let's go."
Rodney peeked under the tissues and made a face. He stood from the table, threw away the wad of bloody tissues and grabbed a few fresh ones from the box. He pressed the tissues to his hand and followed John out of the lab and up the three floors to the infirmary.
"Major Sheppard, what brings you by?" Doctor Beckett greeted him from his desk as they entered the infirmary.
"Slight lab accident, Doc," John said with a smile and moved enough for Beckett to see Rodney hunched behind him, the fresh wad of tissues now bloody as well.
"Ahh, Rodney, what have you done to yourself now," Beckett asked as he stood from his desk and led McKay to a nearby bed.
"I told him it wasn't that bad," Rodney groused as he sat on the bed and placed his hand on the table Beckett wheeled in front of him.
"I'll be the judge of that, I think," Beckett said as he pulled on a pair of latex gloves and started to peel the bloody layers of tissue away from Rodney's hand.
John stood at the end of the bed, watching as Beckett pressed a finger along the edges of the cut and Rodney hissed again. "Careful! That hurts!" he exclaimed and tried to jerk his hand away.
"Stop that," Beckett admonished. He reached for a bottle of distilled water and a small basin. He held Rodney's hand over the basin, flushed out the cut, then checked it again.
"Well," he said and took a step back from the table, "It could be worse, I suppose, but it's not too bad."
"Told you," Rodney said with a smirk over at John.
"However, it is rather deep at the one end and could do with a couple of stitches just to be sure."
"I think the man just said stitches," John retorted with a smirk of his own.
"I'll get the suture kit and be right back," Beckett said as John and Rodney glared at each other.
Ten minutes later, Beckett had the cut on McKay's hand stitched and bandaged, and John received a call over the open channel on the radio.
"Major Sheppard," Weir's voice said. 'Come in, please."
"Go ahead," Sheppard responded.
"I'd like to meet with you and your team, Major, to discuss your field trip request."
"Field trip?" Rodney asked, looking up from where he sat, picking at his bandaged hand. "What field trip?"
John waved at him to be quiet. "I've got Rodney with me, I'll get the others and meet you in your office."
"Very good, Major. Weir out."
"What field trip?" Rodney asked again as they left the infirmary.
"Just an idea I had. Nothing to worry about."
"With your ideas, Major, I always worry," Rodney mumbled but followed John back to the transporter.
Thirty minutes later, John led his team into Weir's office.
He'd found Teyla still giving Ford a lesson in hand-to-hand combat, and he was sure the Lieutenant would be sporting a few new bruises in the morning. Teyla had seemed pleased with her student while Ford, for his part, appeared to have a new respect for the Athosian leader. Rodney had watched the end of the lesson, clearly fascinated, but John noted Rodney stayed slightly behind him, not wanting to get too close to the flying sticks.
"Major," Weir said in greeting. "Teyla. Lieutenant. Rodney."
She gave each of them a smile and waved them to the chairs in the office. Teyla sat in one of the chairs in front of the desk while John took the other. Ford sat off to one side of the desk while Rodney hovered against the far wall.
"What's this about a field trip?" Rodney bluntly asked from the back of the room as soon as everyone was settled.
John watched him pick at the bandage until Rodney gave a guilty start and hid his hand behind his back. John glanced around the room and shook his head when he realised Rodney's reaction was due to Weir studying his hand with a puzzled frown.
Elizabeth stared at him for a moment longer then said, "Major Sheppard has come to me with an interesting idea," she explained and folded her hands on the desk. "He wants to take you all off-world as a sort of," she paused for a moment, "training exercise might be the best way to describe it," she finished and looked at John.
"You have got to be kidding," Rodney piped up again before anyone could say anything. "Why?"
"Because, Rodney," John explained as he turned to face the back corner with a glare. "Learning to work in a group is another of those basic things you and Teyla need to learn if we're going to be successful."
"What do you mean, I work in groups all the time," Rodney replied and crossed his arms over his chest.
"No." John shook his head. "You dictate and don't really care what your minions have to say."
Rodney stared at him for a moment, one finger raised, then snapped his mouth closed on what John was sure would be a scathing reply.
"Working with a team means give and take," John said. "You have to listen to others and rely on their strengths as much as you expect them to rely on yours."
"Whatever," Rodney replied with a shrug. "What's to learn, really? Don't anger the locals and don't get killed. Doesn't that about cover it?"
"Very good," John replied, and he could feel his patience slipping. "Now, how do you do that?"
"Well … you …" Rodney stumbled along. "Fine," he capitulated and crossed his arms over his chest, his bandaged right hand hidden under his arm.
"Thank you, glad you approve," John sarcastically replied and turned back to Weir.
Weir looked back at Rodney a moment longer, then over at Teyla. "Teyla, I understand you suggested an appropriate planet for this training?"
"Indeed, Doctor Weir. It is a planet my people regularly visit to gather fruit for our ceremony giving thanks to another plentiful year."
"Oh, sort of like Thanksgiving back on Earth," Ford said with a smile.
"Thanksgiving?" Teyla asked and looked at Ford.
"Yeah," Ford enthused and bounced forward in his chair, his hands spread apart and a wide smile on his face. "Lots of food, family all together. Some folks think it's the only truly American holiday."
"Figures," Rodney snorted from his corner and rolled his eyes. Ford frowned at the interruption. "For your information, Lieutenant, we celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada as well. There's even some evidence you Americans stole it from us."
"You were saying, Teyla," Weir cut in before the argument could derail the meeting further.
Teyla nodded and continued, "The fruit was once plentiful in a certain forest of our planet as well, however a wildfire a generation ago made the fruit extinct on our world. Luckily, one of our trading excursions discovered the fruit in plentiful supply on another planet. They explored the area and found no one living within several days' walk of the stargate, though they did find several ruins in the area."
"Ruins?" Rodney perked up again, but no one heard him except John who smiled at McKay's sudden interest in the planet.
"And your people have never had problems when visiting this planet?" Weir asked.
"That is correct, Doctor Weir. We have sent people many times, including children. There has never been cause for concern. Halling and a few of the other elders believe the Wraith culled everyone on the planet generations ago. They would have no reason to return once the people were gone."
"And you don't think they might drop by from time to time just to see if new tenants had moved in?" Rodney asked sharply.
Sheppard snorted as all of McKay's interest in the potential of the ruins dried up in the face of a possible Wraith attack.
"As I said, Doctor McKay, we have never had cause for concern when visiting the planet," Teyla replied calmly. However, Sheppard thought he saw her patience slipping as well.
"I see." Weir smiled her thanks to Teyla. "What did you have in mind for this field trip, Major?"
John leant back in his chair. "Nothing too crazy. Camp for a few days, explore the area, maybe pick up some of that fruit Teyla mentioned and bring it back here."
"Camp?" Rodney squeaked and glared at Sheppard
"Like I said before," John said to Weir, ignoring Rodney's continued grumbling behind him. "We just need some time to figure out how to work together."
Elizabeth glanced around the room before laying her hands flat on the desk. "All right, Major, you have a go for your field trip." She looked at each of the others in turn. "I suggest you all pack what you'll need and be ready to go tomorrow morning."
"Lovely," Rodney muttered as they left the office. "What exactly am I supposed to pack?"