Twenty four hours later, the energy monster had been sent through the wormhole, McKay and Ford were both in the infirmary, having both proven themselves once again, and Teyla had shown herself able to be part of the decision making for Atlantis as if she had been meant to be part of it all along.

As Sheppard walked towards the infirmary, he found himself unable to stop thinking about the three of them. He still didn't really know them—their pasts, their dreams, their skills—and yet, at the same time, he somehow felt that he knew everything about them.

He didn't understand it, but then, there were lots of things he didn't understand. Some things, he thought, just were.

He looked up when he saw a shadow looming in the hallway just outside the infirmary area, and couldn't not smile when he recognized Halling sitting on a bench with Jinto. The boy was asleep, leaning on his father's arm. The major stopped, smiling down at the tall man as Halling looked up to meet his gaze.

Halling smiled as well.

"How is he?" Sheppard whispered, pointing to the boy.

"Oh, he is fine," Halling replied, also whispering. "A little wiser, but then," he indicated his leg, "so is his father."

"Yeah," the major shrugged, "I think we all are. Which reminds me, Sergeant Markham wanted me to pass on his apology to you. He let me know he was the one to activate the panel that—"

"Please tell him it was not his fault," Halling said, holding up his hand and shaking his head. "I was overeager to explore the Great City. Plus, I should be thanking him, because I learned a great deal from the experience." He gave a sheepish smile, "Such as...even the Ancestors can make mistakes."

Sheppard's eyebrows shot up, "What?"

"They should have put a handle on this inside of that doorway, to allow people who are trapped in that circular room to exit."

Sheppard chuckled, nodding, "Yeah, that's what McKay said. Actually, he said they did, but I sort of shot it off."

Halling laughed, "Oh, yes, I had forgotten about that." He shrugged, then lowered his head, his smile fading. "But even so, I also learned something even more important than that..." He looked up, his eyes thoughtful, "Thanks to you and your men, Major, I have learned that the Ancestors...were also human. They even generated waste." He smiled at that, then looked up at the ceiling, "They were a truly great people...but they were still just people. And that has made me feel closer to them than I ever have." His eyes met Sheppard's again, "That is a gift I can never truly repay you for."

The major met the gaze evenly, not sure how to respond to that. Luckily, Halling spoke again before he had to.

"We all have a great deal to learn, Major," the Athosian stated quietly, "it will be a great journey that we have begun here."

"Yes, I know," Sheppard agreed, matching the solemn tone. "Thank you, Halling."

"Thank you, Major." He looked down at his sleeping son, and jostled him a little to wake him. "And now Jinto and I need to get to sleep. We were hoping to see Lieutenant Ford, but I fear the lieutenant will not awake again tonight. Jinto?" he shook the boy a little harder, and Jinto snorted, grumbling about not wanting to get up. "Wake up, Jinto," Halling spoke more sternly, and the tone got through. Jinto blinked and yawned, then looked up at his father. When the eyes found Sheppard, his face split into a huge smile.

"Hi Major!"

"Hi Jinto. Feeling better?"

"Are you kidding? I am great! I cannot wait to—"

"Yes, yes," Halling tipped the boy off of him and onto his feet, "Time for us to go, son."

"Go?" Jinto's face fell, and he looked behind him at the closed infirmary door, "But..."

"You can see the lieutenant tomorrow."

Jinto looked disappointed, but didn't disagree. He smiled again at Sheppard, "And you too?"

Sheppard nodded, ruffling the boy's hair. "Sure, kid. See you tomorrow."

Jinto grinned, then yawned again. Halling laughed, pushing up onto his crutches, and both Athosians bid Sheppard goodbye. The major waved until they were out of sight, then looked back at the infirmary door.

Taking a deep breath, he walked up to it and opened it with a thought. The ward inside was quiet, the lights dimmed to indicate that it was evening. Beckett's eyes flashed up from where he was reading something on a laptop, and the Scot smiled. Sheppard waved back, but kept moving.

Rounding a corner, he nearly ran into a tall, dark-skinned doctor who blushed as the near collision caused the young man to drop a bunch of papers on the floor.

"Sorry, Major," the doctor whispered, squatting down to pick them up, "I didn't see you there."

"It was my fault," Sheppard replied just as quietly, bending down to help and quickly collecting the papers together. "I wasn't looking." He tilted his head as he tipped the papers he'd gathered into the other man's arms. "I met you earlier, right? You're the one who came and took care of McKay in the Gateroom. It's Doctor...?" he paused, lifting his eyebrows. The black doctor grinned, standing up and Sheppard joined him.

"Yes," he held his hand out, "We met earlier. I'm Doctor Na—"

"Major!" McKay's voice called loudly across the infirmary, where he was lying propped up on a bed, "Did you bring any food?"

Sheppard laughed as the nurse near McKay quickly shushed him, admonishing him to be quiet.

"Oh please," McKay snapped back. "You've got Ford so doped up, he couldn't hear me even if he wanted to."

"Don't be so sure," Ford mumbled from where he was lying on a nearby bed. "I'm pretty sure Doctor Weir heard you up in the control room."

"Ford!" McKay called gleefully, "You're awake!"

"Not by choice," the lieutenant grumped.

Sheppard had been gripping the young doctor's hand, but he let go, patting the man on the arm and laughing. "I'm sure McKay's been fun to have in here, eh?"

"Believe me, he makes a child hyped up on too much sugar look peaceful," the doctor replied, rolling his eyes. "Good luck." And with that, the man slid around Sheppard and disappeared.

Sheppard shook his head, walking up between the beds. "You two been having fun?"

McKay sat up, "Seriously, did you bring food? All I've managed to get out of these horror house custodians is water and soup. I feel like I'm in prison—a scary Scottish prison!" He yelled this last bit, intending it for a certain person's ears. "You hear me, Beckett? Cruel and unusual punishment! I need food!" He looked back at Sheppard, his eyes bright, "You got a tin cup I can rattle against the bed frame?"

"Please sir," Ford moaned, making a show of covering his ears, "Make it stop."

Sheppard laughed again, reaching over to pat the young man's hand. "Ford, I wish I could. Sadly, it's something we're all going to have to get used to."

"Oh, ha ha," McKay grumped, crossing his arms. "Here I am, starving, wasting away to nothing, and all you two can do is make jokes."

Just then, someone cleared their throat behind Sheppard, and the major turned. McKay and Ford both turned to see who it was, and Ford grinned. Teyla smiled back...and held up what looked like pudding cup.

"I brought this from the kitchens. Doctor Beckett said I could let Doctor McKay have it—in fact, he encouraged me to give it to you as soon as possible."

"You are a life saver, Teyla!" McKay grinned, "Toss it over!" She did, and he quickly pulled off the foil cover. He blinked at it a little, then looked up. By then, Teyla was alongside his bed, and she handed him the spoon he needed. "Thanks," he grinned, quickly digging in.

"You're welcome," she said. "Actually," she looked up, taking all three in with her gaze, "I have really come to offer you my gratitude. I wanted to thank the three of you formally for what you—"

"Pish-tosh," McKay said, his mouth filled with chocolate pudding. Teyla blinked, and she looked at him, confused.


"He means," Sheppard translated, eyeing McKay with a knowing smile, "that you have nothing to thank us for. In fact, we should be the ones thanking you. Your idea of sending the energy being through the gate probably saved all our asses."

"Yup," Ford added. When they looked at him, he shrugged, "What? Stackhouse told me all about it."

"Nevertheless," Teyla said, trying to draw the conversation back to her more serious purpose. "On behalf of the Athosian people, I—"

"Thanks accepted and returned," McKay said, swallowing down another spoonful of pudding. "Now, to business." He held up the now empty pudding cup, "I'm going to need more pudding. So which one of you clever people wants to get it for me?" He lifted both eyebrows. When Sheppard started laughing, McKay pretended to look annoyed, crossing his arms. "I'm not kidding. You think I'm kidding?"

"He's not kidding, sir," Ford noted. "Believe me, I've seen him nag at least three nurses and one doctor into submission since I've been here." Sheppard laughed harder, and McKay tried very hard not to smile, resulting in a very strange expression on his face.

Teyla stepped back a little from the bed, watching them, and found her own lips lifting. McKay looked at her.

"Think you can steal more pudding?" he asked.

She grinned. "You will not let me thank you," she said, "will you?"

"Pish-tosh!" all three men replied. Teyla laughed, shaking her head in mock dismay as she looked at McKay again.

The scientist arched an eyebrow at her, "Tell you what, Teyla, you get me more pudding, and I'll let you do anything you like."

"Hey," Sheppard cut in, "None of that. No Athosian baiting!"

"Oh, I would not worry, Major," Teyla arched her own eyebrow at McKay, not falling for his false innocence, "If it is clever enough, the fish can pull even the strongest fisherman into the water."

"Hey," Ford finally sat up, his eyes bright, "An Athosian saying! Very cool! What does it mean?"

"I think it means," Sheppard said, perching on the edge of the lieutenant's bed, "We'd better be prepared to get our feet wet."

"Either that," McKay shrugged, "Or the Athosians are really bad fishermen."

Teyla laughed, and as the antics continued, she soon forgot why she had come, easily keeping up with the three men as they traded if they'd been doing it all their lives.

At some point in the evening, the major had quieted, happy just to watch them, his eyes catching each in turn. Before him was the soldier who would watch his back and take charge if necessary, the diplomat who could calm any situation down, and who was clearly pretty damn good in a fight, and, last, the genius scientist who would pull their asses out of the fire, though he'd probably complain the entire time he was doing it. Someone he trusted, someone he believed in, someone who would come through when needed...and, most importantly, someone who could take a joke...and better yet, send it right back.

His team.


The next day, Sheppard was knocking on the glass wall outside Weir's office, to get her attention. She looked up, her eyes curious as she saw the pleased expression on his face. He looked a little too smug for first thing in the morning.

"Yes, Major?"

"I've been thinking about what you asked me the other night," he said, walking inside and sitting opposite her, "at the party."

"Oh? And what was that?"

"About who the members of my team will be," he replied, leaning forward on his knees. "Funny thing is, I'm not sure I ever really had a choice."



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