Thank you to everyone who has left reviews and/or favorited the previous stories in this series. Writers love to hear from readers!
Unlike other stories in the series, this is a direct sequel/continuation of events from Breaking Point. If you haven't read that one yet, you might want to do so. Otherwise, the first few chapters of this story will be a bit confusing.
As always, a hundred thanks to Lyn for the beta read. Any remaining mistakes are all my fault.
Additional Note: September 2021: As with previous stories, I've gone back through this one and cleaned up the grammar errors and typos. A few scenes have been rewritten to either fix some clunky sentence structure or make the scene more active. Nothing plot-wise is different, but a lot of little errors have now been fixed.
John stood in his quarters, looking over the items he still needed to pack for the team's excursion to the mainland. While they all seemed to be dealing with the after-effects of the bacteria they'd been exposed to, John knew better. Ford had spent far too much time at the shooting range over the past few days, Rodney snapped at his minions more than usual, and Teyla spent far too much time in her room 'meditating'. They needed a break. They needed a chance to find their footing again.
He pulled out his stash of chocolate bars and the marshmallows he'd 'borrowed' from the mess hall and added that to the pile along with a football he'd found in the rec room. John picked up the football and tossed it from hand to hand, thinking about the other thing he'd found in the rec room two nights ago, namely Rodney playing, and playing well, a keyboard someone had managed to smuggle across two galaxies.
John had stood in the doorway for several long minutes before he'd announced his presence and just listened to the quiet music as Rodney played. He would have never guessed Rodney had such a talent, and John could tell it was something he truly loved.
Should he let McKay know he was there? he had wondered as he listened. Or simply leave Rodney to himself?
After everything that had happened thanks to the bacteria, John wasn't sure how Rodney would react when he discovered he was no longer alone in the room or that it was John who had found him. Eventually, he had taken the plunge and had let Rodney know he was there. Any remaining fears he'd had about the strength of their friendship disappeared once Rodney chose to share his secret and let him stay.
John smiled at the memory of the impromptu concert and dropped the football back on the bed.
"Clothes. Stuff for the s'mores. What else?" John muttered, ticking off the items on his fingers. He pulled a backpack out from under the bed and stuffed the chocolate, marshmallows, and other items into the pack. He heard a knock on the door and smiled as he glanced at his watch.
"About time," he said, pushing open the door on his way to the dresser. "Just give me a minute, and we can go." He glanced at the door, expecting to see Rodney and stopped when he saw Sergeant Thompson standing in the doorway.
"Sorry, Sergeant," John said with a smile. "I was expecting McKay."
"I haven't seen him," Thompson replied, shifting the box he carried from one hand to the other. He glanced at John then up and down the hallway, and John frowned.
Thompson was not usually the skittish type. What was going on? John wondered.
He dropped a pair of swim trunks on the bed and faced the door. "Sergeant? Was there something you needed?"
Thompson shifted the box again and nodded. "I found this, sir," he replied, holding up the box. "I wasn't sure what to do with it, though."
"And you thought bringing it here instead of to one of the labs was the answer?" John asked, crossing his arms over his chest as he studied the box in Thompson's hand.
"I wasn't sure the lab would be a good idea, sir," Thompson said, then hesitated. "I found it near where Doctor McKay fell, sir. I think it was something he made while …" He stopped speaking and glanced down the hall again. "Umm, I think Doctor McKay made it when he was ill, sir."
John winced as he dropped his arms and waved Thompson into the room. "Yeah, I can see why you might want to talk to someone about that."
Thompson set the box on John's desk and stepped back. "I think it's a scanner of some sort. But it doesn't seem to work. I wasn't sure if Doctor McKay would want it back or not."
John opened the box and found what looked like a handheld screen, along with a few power bar wrappers. He picked up the odd device, turning it over in his hand, and flicked what looked like a power switch. Nothing happened, and John tapped the screen then flicked the switch again.
The screen blinked a few times, then steadied on an image of a green grid of squares. John fiddled with a few of the dials and saw one little flicker before the screen went blank again.
"You're right. It doesn't seem to work," John said and put the device back in the box.
"I wasn't sure how Doctor McKay would react if he saw it after everything that happened," Thompson said and hesitated. "I didn't want to get him upset or anything."
John looked up at Thompson and smiled. He wondered if Rodney even realised the impression he'd made on the Marine. He knew Rodney had been shocked and more than a little surprised when Thompson had apologised for what had happened during their 'training session' a month ago, but John doubted he knew the sense of loyalty Thompson now had for him.
"Thank you, Sergeant," John said sincerely. "I'll take care of it."
"Yes, sir," Thompson replied and backed up the few steps to the door. He gave Sheppard a brief nod as the door slid open, then turned and disappeared up the hallway.
John shook his head with another smile as he closed the box and left his quarters. He walked down the hallway, stopped outside Rodney's room, and knocked. After a few seconds, he knocked again.
"Lab," John muttered and headed back up the hallway to the transporter.
He exited the transporter, turned down the hallway with Rodney's lab, and stopped short when he heard raised voices coming from the room.
"Where exactly did your PhD come from?" John heard Rodney snap as he stopped outside the lab. "Zelenka told you in no uncertain terms what would happen if you put it under that much pressure and not to go ahead with the experiment."
"Oh, please, Zelenka is an engineer, not a chemist. Why should I listen to him on things within my own field?" Kavanagh yelled back.
"Like it or not, Zelenka is in charge when I'm not around," Rodney growled. "If you had bothered to take five minutes and work out the math for yourself, you would have known what would happen, and we wouldn't be out even more equipment we can't replace."
"I can't complete my work without those items that were in my lab," Kavanagh pointed out. "I know Tsao, at least, has a spare centrifuge he's not using. Since you want to be in charge, tell him I need it."
"No?" Kavanagh's voice cracked in disbelief. "What do you mean, no?"
"I thought I was perfectly clear," Rodney snapped, and John heard the rare, genuine anger in his tone instead of the typical impatience. "It's a simple word. You do understand English, don't you? No. Figure out some way to fix the one you broke. It's not like we can call the SGC for spares any time someone decides to blow up his lab."
"I'll go to Weir," Kavanagh threatened.
"Get out," Rodney replied, his voice low and hard, and John wondered if he should pull Kavanagh out of the lab or just help Rodney hide the body.
John heard stomping footsteps and leant against the wall next to the door as Kavanagh stormed out of Rodney's lab. He waited a moment, then casually entered the lab himself and found Rodney standing at his work table, his hands clenched at his sides and his face red.
"Problems?" John asked as he shifted the box from one hand to the other.
Rodney took a deep breath and shook his head. "Just Kavanagh being his usual idiot self," he replied. He pulled the stool wedged near his desk back around to the work table and sat down. He pinched the bridge of his nose and looked over at John. "Did you want something?" he asked tiredly and glanced at the box with only mild interest.
John hesitated. Maybe this isn't the best time, he told himself and tried to hide the box behind his back.
"I thought we were getting lunch before I met Teyla for a workout," he said instead.
"Oh, umm, sorry," Rodney replied and turned to the device sitting in several pieces on his work table. "I guess I lost track of time."
"Anything interesting?" John asked. He set the box on Rodney's desk and walked over to the work table.
"Maybe. I think this might be some sort of portable interface for the Ancient database." He picked up part of the small object and gave it to John.
John took the small interface device, looked at it from all sides, then handed it back. "Think you can fix it?"
"Of course I can fix it," Rodney retorted as he put the piece back with the rest. "It just might take a while," he admitted with a wry smile. "If I can get it to work, it could help the teams repairing various parts of the city. They could call up schematics or find information on a system without having to go through Grodin or me first."
"Sounds like that would be useful," John said.
Rodney grunted and glanced over at the desk. "What's in that?" he asked and reached out for the box on his desk. Before John could stop him, Rodney opened it.
"Sergeant Thompson found it," John explained as Rodney took the scanner out of the box and set it on the work table. "He wasn't sure what to do with it and brought it to me."
Rodney nodded, turning the device over in his hands, and John saw he was lost in thought.
"It was supposed to be a Wraith detector," Rodney said softly. "I needed a way to track …" He rubbed the cast on his hand. "Stupid idea, really," he said and pushed the scanner to the back of the table. "Never could get it to work."
"There weren't any Wraith," John tried to explain, but Rodney glared up at him.
"Yes, thank you," he snapped. "I'm well aware I made a first-class fool of myself. Thanks for the reminder."
"That's not what I meant," John replied and picked up the scanner. "You can't know if it worked or not if there weren't any Wraith around to test it."
Rodney opened his mouth to argue, then closed it with a snap. "Oh. You make a good point." He rubbed the back of his neck. "Sorry," he said with a tiny smile. "Maybe I could use a break."
John wasn't sure if he meant lunch or their planned field trip to the mainland. He set the scanner back on the work table and jerked his head toward the door. "Come on, then," he said and pulled Rodney to his feet. "We'll start with lunch. You get grumpy when you don't eat."
~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~
Teyla watched Sheppard as they circled each other, one of her fighting sticks twirling lazily in her grip as her attention wavered. After a week of rest and shots every six hours from Doctor Beckett, her mood had improved. She felt lighter now that the feelings of guilt had faded. Now her concern was for Laren and his people, even with Doctor Beckett's assurances that everyone would be fine.
"They were lucky you were there when you were to trade," he had told her after one of his trips to check on the villagers. "While they had a higher tolerance to the bacteria, they were still sick. You saved all of those people."
Teyla had smiled at the time. She knew Doctor Beckett was right, but she also realised he'd told her that to assuage some of her earlier guilt for the countless people culled due to her necklace acting as a transmitter for the Wraith.
Sheppard struck one of her sticks, and Teyla forced herself to focus. This was not the time to dwell, she told herself. She took a deep breath and watched Sheppard circle around her.
Sheppard charged, and Teyla blocked one feint, tried her own attack, which he also blocked, then she attacked his flank and knee in quick succession, dropping Sheppard to the mat.
"You are doing much better, Major," she congratulated as Sheppard rolled to his feet.
"Yeah, it now takes you a whole three minutes to drop me on my backside," he replied. Shepard paced a few steps, spinning one of his sticks in his hand, then came back to his ready position.
Teyla smiled and readied herself again.
This time Sheppard didn't wait. He instantly attacked. Teyla was hard-pressed to stop him, and he managed a couple of solid hits to her arms before she caught his sticks in a cross hold and kicked his feet out from under him.
Sheppard lay on his back for a moment, then got back to his feet, headed for the bench against the wall, and dug a water bottle out of his bag.
He took several swallows of water before saying, "You wanna tell me what's bugging you?"
Teyla raised her eyebrows in feigned innocence and gave Sheppard a questioning glance.
"I may be getting better, but you seem distracted," he explained.
Teyla stared at him for a moment, startled at how perceptive he'd been. "Do I not have a reason to be?" she asked as she found her water bottle and sat on the bench next to him.
"Sure you do," Sheppard replied. "That's part of why we're going to the mainland tomorrow." His expression turned serious. "We all need some downtime and a chance to regroup."
"Yes." Teyla packed away her sticks, not looking at him, and took a deep breath. "Before we go, however, there is someplace else I think I need to visit first."
She turned to face him, her expression resolute. "I need to go back to Laren's village. I want to make sure Laren and his people have recovered from the bacteria."
Sheppard didn't say anything, and Teyla hurried on.
"I know Doctor Beckett said the treatment worked and they will be fine, but … they are friends. I wish to make sure."
"I can understand that," Sheppard replied with a smile.
"I will understand if you, Lieutenant Ford, and Doctor McKay wish to remain here. I'm willing to make the journey alone and return before the rest of you leave for our trip to the mainland tomorrow."
"Hang on a second," Sheppard told her, holding up a hand. "There's no need to go alone. Beckett said he needed to make one last visit to check on a few folks. I don't see why we can't tag along."
Sheppard frowned at her, and Teyla saw she had hurt him. "Yes, we," he replied. "You, me, and I'm sure Ford and Rodney will come too."
"I … thank you, Major," Teyla said.
"Let me talk to Elizabeth and the others," Sheppard said, picking up his bag. He turned toward the door and added, "Carson is leaving soon. Go get ready, and we'll meet you in the gateroom."
Teyla nodded and followed Sheppard out of the room.
An hour later, she watched as one of the med-techs added another crate of medical equipment to the loaded cart. Major Sheppard and Lieutenant Ford waited beside her while two Marines stood at the head of the cart, ready to be the first through the 'gate once it opened.
The only person missing was Doctor McKay. Teyla tried to ignore the stab of hurt she felt that he'd chosen not to come with them, but she understood. She reminded herself that he had not had a good experience the last time he was on the planet. Why would he want to go back?
"Doctor Beckett, are you ready to leave?" Doctor Weir called down from the balcony.
Doctor Beckett checked over the cart and nodded. "Aye," he replied with a glance up at Weir. "As ready as I can be," Teyla heard him mutter under his breath as he stepped back from the cart.
"Dial the planet," Doctor Weir ordered.
"Yes, ma'am," Grodin replied, and a few seconds later, the stargate lit up, and the symbols for Laren's planet locked into place.
The wormhole formed with its familiar whoosh, and Doctor Weir said, "Carson, we'll see you back here in a few hours."
Doctor Beckett gave her a sickly smile, and a little wave as the two Marines started toward the 'gate pulling the cart behind them. The Marines stepped through the 'gate, followed by Beckett's two assistants and the cart of supplies. Beckett hesitated for a moment at the edge of the event horizon before he took a deep breath and finally stepped through. Teyla thought he might have had his eyes closed.
"Wait! Wait! I'm coming!" a voice called behind them.
Teyla turned and saw Doctor McKay run into the gateroom, carrying his pack. He stopped next to Sheppard, fumbling with the backpack as he tried, unsuccessfully, to attach it to his vest, thanks to the cast on his hand.
"Here," Sheppard said and quickly snapped the pack into place.
Doctor McKay nodded his thanks, and Teyla noticed neither Major Sheppard nor Lieutenant Ford seemed surprised to see Doctor McKay appear. She watched him settle the backpack on his shoulders and chastised herself for doubting him. While he may be new to the concepts of team and friendship, Doctor McKay was learning, and she knew he took those responsibilities seriously.
"Get a move on, McKay," Sheppard said with a grin as he and Ford stepped toward the 'gate. "Don't want to get left behind."
Sheppard stopped and winced at the comment, and Teyla glanced over at Doctor McKay, wondering how he would react. They were all, what was the term Doctor Beckett had used? Oh, yes, walking on eggshells. They were still walking on eggshells, somewhat around each other.
Doctor McKay flinched, but as Major Sheppard started to apologise, McKay waved it off and rolled his eyes as he walked over to Sheppard, standing at the edge of the event horizon. They both looked over at her, and Teyla realised they were waiting for her to join them. She stepped up to Lieutenant Ford's side, and Sheppard nodded. Sheppard turned and gave Doctor Weir a jaunty wave, and they stepped through the 'gate together.
The season had moved along in the time since they'd been there to negotiate the trade with Laren for grain and seed. Where a few weeks ago the air had been crisp with a hint of cold, now it was simply cold. The trees had lost their remaining leaves, and the ground cover was brown and dormant. Teyla watched as Doctor McKay shivered and zipped his tan uniform jacket up to his neck.
"Why didn't someone suggest we wear heavier coats?" he grumbled as he fell into step with Major Sheppard as they walked away from the 'gate.
"You'll warm up as you walk," Sheppard said with a grin, but Teyla noticed he zipped his jacket as well.
"Laren's people make an excellent cider," Teyla said as they followed the Marines, Doctor Beckett's team, and the slow-moving cart. "It will help warm you up once we reach the village."
McKay blanched. "No offence to your friend," he grumbled and crossed his arms over his chest, "but I don't plan to eat or drink anything while we're here. Once was more than enough."
A part of her wanted to defend Laren and his people, but Teyla also understood McKay's hesitance, and she couldn't blame him for his reluctance to tempt fate a second time. McKay had come to support her, she knew, but that support apparently only went so far.
Sheppard frowned and elbowed him in the side. "Beckett cleared almost all of the grain," he told Doctor McKay with a frown. "The bacteria was only in a few of the last barrels from their previous harvest. The rest of the food and all of the grain from their recent harvest was fine."
Doctor McKay glared at him and shook his head. "You take the risk if you like. I'll stick with MREs."
"The seed was deemed safe as well?" Teyla asked and glanced at Sheppard as they walked.
Sheppard smiled. "Yep. The seed is already in Atlantis. I told Elizabeth we would take it out to Halling with us tomorrow. Save someone else the trip."
"That is good news," she replied. "Halling and the others should have more than enough time to plant and reap a first crop before the season changes. Hopefully, with what Laren gave us, that will be enough to see a steady source of grain in Atlantis."
They entered the village an hour later to a much more subdued greeting than on their last visit. The Marines parked the cart in the center of the village, and Beckett's assistants unloaded a few of the crates they'd brought, carrying the crates into the makeshift clinic set up in one of the newly finished buildings.
"Teyla," Laren greeted with a smile. He stepped forward with his arms spread wide, and while he hugged her, he refrained from embracing the rest of the team. "I am so glad you came. I wasn't sure we would see you again after what happened as a result of your last visit."
"Laren," Teyla replied, returning his hug. "What happened was not your fault. I am just glad Doctor Beckett was able to treat your people before the sickness became more serious."
"Your Doctor Beckett has been most generous with his time and medicines," Laren agreed with a nod. "It is not something we will easily repay."
"And as I've told you several times already, son," Beckett interrupted on his way past, a box of supplies in his hands. "You don't need to. Your people were sick. They needed help. That'll be the end of it."
Sheppard grinned as Beckett walked on and turned back to Laren. "I wouldn't cross him if I were you," he said with a nod at Beckett.
Teyla watched Beckett crouched on his haunches, talking to a boy and girl waiting outside the building. He pulled a foil-wrapped object from his pocket, and the eyes of the two children lit up with delight. Beckett gave each child a square of chocolate and laughed as they gobbled the treat and pled for more. He gave them each another square, then stood and went into the building. It never ceased to amaze her the level of compassion the doctor had for near strangers. Many Athosian children trailed after him as often as they followed Rodney, though she suspected Beckett gave them more chocolate.
Laren smiled as the two children ate their treat, then clapped his hands. "Come and see what progress we've made," he said and gestured to the new buildings and the finished village square. "There is also cider and food waiting."
Teyla saw Doctor McKay shoot Sheppard a startled glance. "I'm, umm, just going to take another look at those ruins I found the last time we were here," Doctor McKay said, pointing vaguely toward the far end of the village near the mountains. "So, I'll just … go do that."
He turned and took a step before Sheppard reached out a hand and stopped him.
"Rodney, wait," Sheppard said and looked over at Teyla. "You and Ford go with Laren. I'll stick with McKay. Carson said his checkups would take a couple of hours," he glanced at his watch, "we'll meet you back here by 1700."
"Maybe we should all go with Doctor McKay," Teyla suggested.
"Nah," Sheppard replied with a smile. "Go on, enjoy the afternoon with your friends."
Teyla nodded and followed Ford and Laren into the center of the village, listening as Laren pointed out the pub as well as the new mill.
~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~
John followed Rodney back toward the mountains and down a dirt path.
"You sure you know where you're going?" John asked once the village was out of sight behind them and they were surrounded by rocky cliffs.
"Of course, I know where I'm going," Rodney replied. "The ruins are just up here." He pointed down the path.
John nodded, not that Rodney saw the gesture, and glanced down a side path. The path ended in front of one of the small caves where Laren's people presumably stored their grain and, fortunately, hid from the Wraith.
They hiked for another ten minutes, and John was about to comment about Rodney getting them lost when the path opened up onto a little shelf of land. The cliff overhead nearly hid the shelf from view, and several stone buildings were built under the lip of rock. Most were little more than crumbling ruins, but a few were still standing.
Rodney took the Ancient scanner out of his vest pocket, ignored the ruins in front of them and followed the path down into a shallow depression under the overhang. He slipped on some loose gravel and reached out with his right hand to stop falling, banging his cast on a rock before John could grab him.
"All right?" John asked as he followed Rodney into the little hollow.
"Fine," Rodney replied. He glanced at the cast and flexed his fingers, then focused on the building in front of them.
John slid to a stop next to McKay and stared at the building in front of them. It was smaller than the others, and the stone it was made from was different. It was lighter, almost a beige color, while the surrounding rock was more brown. The doorway and walls were painted with numerous symbols, and John thought the symbols looked like the Ancient writings found around Atlantis, but he couldn't be sure.
"So this is where you were last time?" John asked as he looked around.
"Yes," Rodney answered absently. He stretched up on tiptoe, running a finger along the writing over the doorway. "There's something strange about this structure. I was trying to figure out what when I heard shooting."
He looked up from the scanner, shook his head, and glanced back at John. "It's weird," he muttered, then disappeared inside the building.
John followed him, stopping just inside the doorway and looked around the room. There was only the one door and no windows. The room itself was rather dim, with the only light coming in through the open doorway. An altar stood at one end of the room, holding a couple of crumbling candles and some dusty, dead flowers.
The rest of the room was fairly sparse. Several benches lined one wall while the familiar Ancient blocky script covered the wall opposite the benches. As he took a closer look at the writing, John realised it wasn't quite the same as the Ancient script in the city. There was a sort of roundness or artistic flair to this writing that he didn't remember seeing in Atlantis.
Rodney stood in the middle of the room, holding the Ancient scanner out in front of himself. He turned in a slow circle, shook his head, and set the scanner down on one of the benches. He unclipped his pack, set it next to the scanner, and pulled out a video camera.
As Rodney videotaped the wall with the writing and mumbled notes to himself, John moved around the rest of the room, making an unconscious standard sweep of the space. He checked the far corners, behind the altar, and glanced up at the roof before he noticed Rodney had stopped taping and stood in one place watching him.
"Satisfied?" Rodney asked with a smile, and Sheppard stopped next to him.
"Oh, please. You just cleared the room, and you didn't even realise it."
"Force of habit, sue me," John replied with a wry smile at being caught.
Rodney shook his head with a smirk as he put away the video camera, picked up the scanner, and headed for the altar.
"What are you looking for?" John asked as he followed.
Rodney stopped in the center of the room and waved the scanner back and forth. "Not really sure. There are some odd mineral readings coming from this building, and they seem to be concentrated here." He pointed at the altar, knelt, and picked at the stone with a fingernail.
"The structures outside were made of the same stone as the mountains around here. Laren could raid them if he needs more building material for the village." He looked up at John. "This building was made of something different. It's not like anything from Earth. I'm hoping the Ancient database will be able to tell us what it is."
He walked back to the bench and dug through his pack until he came up with a sample vial. He knelt next to the altar, and John handed him his knife to take the scraping.
John studied the walls again and frowned when he remembered his accusation that McKay had ignored his radio calls. Rodney was telling you the truth, he admonished himself as the implications of a building made from unknown minerals sank in.
Rodney continued to pick at the altar, and John moved across the room to the benches. He glanced back at McKay, then tapped his radio. "Teyla, this is Sheppard. Come in."
He waited a few seconds, and getting nothing but static, tried again, "Ford, this is Sheppard, you reading me?"
John ducked his head as the radio remained silent. It seemed he owed Rodney an apology, he realised. He turned around and found McKay standing next to the altar with his arms crossed over his chest, watching him.
"I'm going to try really hard not to say I told you so," he said with a smirk as he stuffed the scanner and sample vial in his pack and handed John his knife.
Sheppard pursed his lips and nodded. "Okay, I deserved that," he said. He helped McKay clip the pack to his vest and followed Rodney back out of the building.
"Yeah, you did," Rodney replied, without any heat. He looked around the area a bit longer, checked the scanner, then gestured toward the village. "There's really nothing else here if you want to head back."
"You think we've been gone long enough to avoid offending Laren?" John asked with a wry smile.
Rodney opened his mouth, then shut it with a snap and gave John a guilty look. "I didn't want Teyla mad at me again, okay?" he replied with a huff. He tried to stuff his hands in his trouser pockets as the wind picked up. The cast wouldn't fit, so he settled for blowing on them instead. "I wasn't kidding about avoiding the food on this planet. I don't care how much Carson says it's safe."
"You do know a couple of hundred pounds of that grain is already in Atlantis, don't you? You can't avoid it forever." He pushed lightly at Rodney's arm to get him moving back up the slope.
"Maybe not, but I can watch what happens to the rest of you first before I try anything," he retorted and led the way up the path and back to the village.
John snorted a laugh. "Gee, thanks."
They walked back through the village and found Teyla, Carson, Ford and most of the villagers in one of the newly constructed buildings.
"Figures, the first building they finished was the pub," Rodney said as they walked inside.
John scanned the room and found Ford, Teyla, Carson, and Laren sitting at a nearby table. A jug of cider and some sort of fruit bread were laid out on the table along with several plates. He headed toward the table while Rodney went to warm himself by the fire.
"Major," Teyla greeted and made room for him on the bench seat next to her, "Laren was just telling us about the ruins you and Doctor McKay were exploring."
"They were made by the 'Old Ones'," Laren said. "There is evidence of their writings inside the small building nearest the mountain."
"That's the building Doctor McKay was most interested in studying," John said as he sat down.
Teyla passed him a mug of the cider and started to pour a second, but John shook his head. Teyla glanced at Rodney vigorously rubbing his fingers in front of the fire and set the jug back on the table with a nod.
"I don't suppose you know what the writing says?" John asked, sipping some of the cider.
The drink was fruity and crisp but not overly sweet, and John finished the cider and set down the mug.
Larne shook his head. "Several of my people have studied the writings over the years trying to decipher their meanings, but the language is sadly lost to us now."
"Anyone know where the stone that building is made of came from?" Rodney asked, looking over at Laren as he rubbed his hands in front of the fire.
"No," Laren replied. "The stone is not from the mountains or any of the other villages nearby."
Rodney made what John thought sounded suspiciously like a "humph" noise and turned back to the fire.
"You have everything done here, Doc?" John asked Carson.
"I think so," Carson replied and turned to Laren. "All of your people have been cleared of the bacteria, so there shouldn't be any more problems like what you were having before."
Laren nodded. "Thank you, Doctor Beckett. I don't -"
Beckett held up a hand, and Laren stopped. "Thank you, Doctor Beckett," Laren said with a smile.
"You're welcome, lad," Carson replied and stood. "Now, I think we should be heading back before Rodney sets his cast on fire," he finished with a smile and a glance at Rodney, still trying to get warm.
"Oh, ha-ha," McKay retorted but followed John and Teyla out of the pub.
The sun was starting to set as they stepped outside, which made the air even cooler. A thin coating of snow covered the cart loaded with the remaining medical supplies and a few extra gifts from the villagers.
The Marines headed out of the village with the cart, and Teyla turned to Laren.
"Goodbye, Laren," Teyla said. "And thank you."
Laren smiled. "It was good to see you, Teyla. Know you are always welcome." He looked up at John and the others. "As are all of you. If ever you are in need of assistance, please let us know."
John nodded and led the way out of the village. They were halfway back to the 'gate when it started snowing again.
"Everyone packed for tomorrow?" John asked once they reached the 'gate. "I won't be turning the car around once we leave, you know."
Rodney rolled his eyes and said nothing as he brushed the snow out of his hair and off his jacket. Teyla looked confused as Ford dialled the 'gate and sent his IDC.
"Never mind, lass," Carson said, coming to her rescue. "Major Sheppard thinks he's being funny." He looked at each of them in turn and added, "I want to make one last quick check of you all before you go, just to be sure there won't be any surprises." Carson tapped Rodney on the arm. "That includes you."
"Yes, yes, yes. Fine. Can we get back to somewhere warm now?" Rodney groused and followed the Marines and Beckett's assistants through the 'gate.