TITLE: The Wise One
CATEGORY: Gen, slight whump, humor
SPOILERS: Takes place in season 3, no spoilers
Copyright Disclaimer: The Stargate Atlantis characters, as presented on the series, belong to MGM, Sci Fi, and other registered copyright holders. No copyright infringement is meant or intended by the writing and posting of this material. I'm just borrowing the characters and the universe for a piece of non-profit 'fan fiction' and will return in one piece (well, usually). However, all original characters and story material are copyright to author. Please do not repost this fiction, in whole or in part, anywhere, without expression written permission of the author.
SUMMARY: One of Sheppard's team pays a dreadful price during a trade negotiation..
Author's Note:: Thanks to KodiakBear for her beta!
The Wise One
The desk had been worn. The school system did their best to refurbish the furniture but every year, a student would etch in a word, or scribble a doodle with permanent ink, leaving their mark for the next successor who arrived in third grade. Elizabeth had sat in the second row, eight chairs back from the front of the classroom, while Peggy Tersky had been four seats up from her in the third row. Peggy had been a quiet kid, with long brown hair that trailed down in thick waves to her waist. Her hair was the envy of many.
Then on that fateful morning, Peggy sat down at her desk. She had her jacket over her head like a death shroud, eliciting curious murmurs from all the other kids. When the teacher came in, of course, Peggy was told to remove the jacket. Instead, the girl had whimpered 'no,' and of course, the teacher had pulled the jacket off her head.
Gone was the beautiful long hair. Her mother had taken her to a stylist and gotten Peggy a short 'bob' cut that well, as most of the girls in the class agreed, looked pretty awful. Peggy had spent the rest of the day trying not to cry in class (but she did in the bathroom) from the constant teasing inflicted by her classmates.
Elizabeth Weir had marched herself home after school and declared loudly at the dinner table that if her parents tried to cut her hair, she'd run off to the British Embassy. It had been the closest place she could think of and she rather liked the crumpets the receptionist always had at her desk.
That tiny incident - though traumatic to a child, and now rather silly when recalled - had been a memory Elizabeth hadn't thought about in a long, long time. However, as the four figures returned through the gate from L3G H30, that reminiscence came unbidden to her mind.
John Sheppard's team was back and, remarkably, under their own steam. No one was being dragged, slung over a shoulder, leaking blood in a sickening trail or been stunned senseless by a Wraith weapon. No, they were all walking without a single sign of mayhem or dust. The only oddity was that Rodney McKay had his jacket covering his head, very much like a shroud. Elizabeth, having spent years in the diplomatic service, could read body language like an expert. Dr. McKay, astrophysicist and resident genius, was furious.
Elizabeth quickly came down the steps to confront the team, who stopped as the gate's blue flux evaporated in the massive circular ring. There were a dozen questions fighting for dominance in her mind, but since nobody looked particularly perturbed at Rodney's bizarre behavior, she went with her most important question.
"And how did the trade mission go?"
Sheppard smiled. It was a happy grin, almost mischievous, something Elizabeth hadn't seen on his face in quite a while considering some of the horrors they'd all been through. In glancing at the rest of the team, she noticed that Ronon looked somewhat amused, while Teyla had that exasperated expression of a babysitter who'd spent far too long with several rambunctious charges and was ready to throw in the towel.
"Oh, it went very well," replied Sheppard, resting both hands on the butt of the P-90 clipped to his vest. "We've got some new trading partners. We can give them a little medical assist, and they've got lots of fruit trees, and, well, you know…" He shrugged.
"Any port in the storm?" Elizabeth quirked an eyebrow meaningfully.
They'd been working hard to find friendly planets that they could evacuate to in case of a disaster, such as when the tsunami had nearly destroyed the city. Although they had the Alpha site, they needed more backup, but preferably not with people like the Menarans, who had sold them out to the Genii in a blink of an eye.
"Uh, no no," interrupted Sheppard, holding up a hand in a dramatic gesture. Elizabeth noticed that Teyla nearly rolled her eyes at the action. "You must address him as 'The Wise One.'" Sheppard placed his arm over Rodney's shoulder in a friendly gesture, but in return, the scientist reached out with one arm to smack the pilot against the chest. Unfortunately, Rodney had forgotten about the very solid P90 clipped to the vest.
"Ow! Now I broke a finger!" he yelped.
"Colonel, stop taunting Rodney." Teyla shared a tired glance with Elizabeth.
"I have been disfigured and this is all your fault, Colonel!" Rodney snapped, his 'broken' finger abruptly forgotten.
Sheppard tried to look repentant for whatever horrors he had allegedly perpetuated upon the scientist, but failed miserably in that attempt as a smirk made its way onto his face instead. "Oh, come on. It's not that bad."
Rodney's hands clenched into tight fists of pent-up frustration, giving Elizabeth pause for just a second that the scientist might actually try to punch Sheppard.
"We should see Carson," suggested Teyla.
"What's he going to do?" asked Ronon. The Satedan looked pretty nonplussed for what might be a medical situation, but then the man had had no problem once pulling an arrow out of his leg, according to Rodney.
"Wait a moment," said Elizabeth. "Would someone like to explain what is precisely going on? Rodney, why are you wearing your jacket over your head like that?"
Rodney crossed his arms against his chest like a petulant youngster called on the carpet by an annoyed parent. Maybe Elizabeth's memory of her school days wasn't so far off the mark. They were all acting like they were in a schoolyard playground. The scientist pointed one finger accusingly at Sheppard. "Because of him."
"Hey," Sheppard protested in mock affront. "Excuse me, but when we all walked into the village, I don't recall being the one speaking up and claiming the exulted title of 'The Wise One' when asked. That was you."
"He did." Ronon nodded with a smile.
"The Beccans revere those with wisdom, and always deal first with whom they consider to be the wisest of any visiting travelers," explained Teyla.
"See, not my fault." Sheppard nodded smugly.
"Yes, fine," conceded Elizabeth. Unfortunately, she could imagine Rodney instantly stepping up to the plate if someone asked who was the smartest in the group. The word 'humble' was not in his vocabulary.
"To make a long story shot, Rodney really wowed them and well, he got the customary treatment for someone who was so…" Sheppard arched an eyebrow dramatically. "Smart."
"I've been…. defaced!" protested Rodney, his voice going up an octave as his stress levels obviously ratcheted up yet another notch.
"I don't know," mused Sheppard. "I think it sorta adds to you, Rodney."
Elizabeth turned to McKay, who was frozen in place, the jacket still over head, looking pretty idiotic. "Rodney, you can't walk around the base for the next two weeks with a sheet over your head.
Rodney stood there for a second, nearly quivering with rage, then made a decision. "Fine!" he growled. He ripped off the jacket.
Sheppard's face broke into a broad grin, but more surprisingly, so did the rest of the team, even Teyla, who covered her mouth to stifle a laugh.
"I thought you were on my side!" Rodney accused the lithe Athosian.
"I am sorry," blurted Teyla, who momentarily turned away to hide her mirth.
"Oh my…" Elizabeth couldn't complete the sentence, because Rodney's entire face was liberally covered with tiny little figures, like pictograms or even primitive stick figures. In fact, it reminded her - way too much - of how cartoonists would interpret old caveman drawings, which in itself was pretty humorous.
After a moment of studying the figures, she realized that the largest figure drawn smack in the middle of Rodney's broad forehead was the scientist – complete with life signs detector in one hand – while the rest of the team was portrayed in much smaller renditions beneath him. Sheppard was somewhat obvious with the unique rendition of his unruly hair, while Ronon's dreadlocks were a dead giveway, and well, Teyla's figure had 'assets' that neither man did.
Elizabeth managed to shake her gaze off the figures, only to find Rodney's blue eyes boring into her with unrelenting antagonism. "Is the side show over now?" he snapped.
"How long did that all take to draw, and why?"
"Half an hour, give or take," replied Sheppard, shrugging easily. "Apparently it's custom for the history of the Wise One to be painted on his face during visits so that everyone can look at him and instantly know um, how wise he is."
"It was nearly an hour and you talked me into it," Rodney practically shouted. "And Tecas lied! He said it would come off!"
"It will," Sheppard said very simply.
"Eventually," added Ronon, whom Elizabeth was beginning to think was enjoying the scientist's suffering as much as Sheppard. "Tecas said ten days or something like that."
"John?" Elizabeth turned to Sheppard, who put on his best expression of innocence, one to which she had long become immune.
"Hey, it does wash off," he protested lightly. "Now if 'The Wise One' had just asked what with …"
Elizabeth could hear the murmurs and slight laughter filtering over from the gateroom personnel. She swept a stern glance around the cavernous room, silencing the comments. However, in turning back to face Rodney, she realized they couldn't help themselves. The poor man did look rather ridiculous with little stick figures all over his face.
"Oh yes, of course, their solution is one which will either disfigure me for life or outright kill me!" Rodney complained vocally.
"You seemed pretty happy with all the attention," said Ronon.
"I—that's not the point!" snapped Rodney.
Sheppard smirked. "Rodney was sucking up the adoration like a black hole, Elizabeth. He had everybody following him around, totally in awe. You know, saving the galaxy and all."
"In awe?" repeated Elizabeth, noticing Rodney fluctuating between ire and embarrassment at this revelation.
"Oh yeah." Sheppard burst out laughing.
"I got more respect on that planet from a bunch of, of, peach farmers, than I do here!" Rodney just glared at the security detail gathered around the gate area. "Anybody who laughs will be out of hot water for a week," he threatened.
Teyla came up to stand beside the aggrieved scientist. Elizabeth realized that the Athosian was the only offering even a modicum of true sympathy for the man's embarrassing plight. "As I said before, we should seek out Carson's advice. I'm sure he can find a solution."
"Oh yeah, he'll suggest injecting me with something."
"Maybe Zelenka has some kind of solvent." Sheppard suggested innocently. "Or hey, doesn't Dr. Sitemore have a lot of makeup? Maybe she can give you some. A little foundation, some powder…"
If looks could kill, Sheppard would easily have been dead. Not a pile of ashes. He'd be disintegrated – gone - his atoms demolecularized and scattered across the galaxy from the way Rodney glared at him.
"You are so not helpful," he shot back irately. "No, never mind. I'm going to see Beckett and he can't do anything, there will be hell to pay," Rodney promised. With that, he turned on his heel, tossed his jacket back over his head and stalked out of the gateroom in an excellent imitation of a celebrity who'd just received an insulting review. Teyla just shook her head at Sheppard, then quickly followed Rodney out of the gateroom.
"Um, I'm not missing this." Ronon vanished from the gateroom quickly.
Elizabeth crossed her arms. She turned to Sheppard and cast her best inquisitive but disappointed gaze at him. It was a practiced expression that had proved instrumental in the past in getting to the truth of the matter, but in this case, the most it did was make the colonel just shrug and spread out his hands helplessly.
"Hey, it's not my fault we can't use the local remedy to remove the artwork," he said. He held up a finger to silence her obvious question, then rummaged through his tactical vest. Seconds later, he produced two objects that he let lay flat in both open palms as though they were valuable gems.
"You have got to be kidding," she blurted in surprise.
"Nope." Sheppard tossed one of the objects up on the air and caught it. "McKay nearly freaked out when the local cleanup crew approached him with a bowl of these." He tossed one of the small objects to Elizabeth, who caught it in both hands.
"Two weeks?" Elizabeth pondered as she rolled the oval item between both hands. Rodney would be unbearable within two days with that writing all over his face.
"I'm sure if Carson can't find a 'cure' that one of Teyla's people probably has a local remedy," remarked Sheppard. "It's just some local vegetable dye that doesn't wash off with just water. Heck, it might come off with soap, although I don't think Rodney thought of that. He spent the entire trek back to the gate talking about dermal abrasion and chemical peels."
Elizabeth laughed at the thought. Rodney was a certified expert at complaining and she could only imagine how Sheppard had egged on the scientist's escalating worries about the permanence of the drawings. The mock sniping was a part of an odd yet solid friendship that had formed since the men had begun working together. And having any of her teams come back through the gate in one piece, with news of possible good relations with new trading partners, was not something she would sneeze at.
"What should we do with these?" Elizabeth squeezed the lemon. It was nice and firm.
"Hey, life gives you lemons…." Sheppard began.
"And I happen to like lemonade," Elizabeth replied with a smile.
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