Four Ways They Care
Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate Atlantis. I just have a lot of fun borrowing its characters.
Synopsis: Sometimes it's the little thing that say the most. Team fic.
Tyela ran her fingers over the liquid smooth bolt of shimmering amber cloth. Its texture was like that of the earth cloth known as silk, but its qualities stronger, more durable. It would make an excellent shirt for warmer weather and an even better dress for the Solstice celebration. There was enough cloth for both. Teyla already had a ribbon of maroon and gold that would go perfectly as trim for the hem, collar, and cuffs.
"Wat'cha looking at?"
Teyla glanced at Colonel Sheppard who was leaning forward, peering over her shoulder. She smiled. "An indulgence. Korola cloth. It is not rare but it is expensive. I once had a red dress made form the same cloth when I was a child."
John stepped around Teyla and lifted a corner of the material, rubbing it between his thumb and forefinger. "How much does it cost?"
"Too much," Teyla said. "Three bushels of creeval beets, which I need to trade for goven roots."
"Goven... those plants that look like yellow potatoes?"
Teyla nodded. Sheppard pressed his lips into a straight line. "Those are good."
"And very sturdy, but difficult to come by. This may be my only chance to purchase enough roots for my people to plant for this season."
"And the vendor won't take anything else?"
Teyla shrugged. "The beets are all I have."
"All you have," John said. "I might have something that would catch the guy's interest." He started patting down his vest, pulling items out and setting them on the counter one by one, stuffing the obviously uninteresting items back into the pockets. Field dressings, alcohol wipes, pocket knife, compass, power bar, epi-pen kept on hand for Rodney, water purification tablets, and on and on. The vendor was like the small, curious animals of the mainland, attracted to the shinier objects, which happened to be the power bar. John let the rotund man peel the wrapper open and take a whiff.
"It's chocolate," John explained. "Highly coveted where I come from." Which wasn't far from the truth. Dr. McKay horded candy in places no one could find, and many of the women of Atlantis – the scientists mostly – willingly traded lab time just for a Snickers or Milky Way.
The vendor took a bite off the corner and his eyes lit up. "You have more of these, then? I'll trade you this cloth, here." His chubby fingers passed lovingly over a turquoise and violet material that Teyla knew wouldn't last a year.
"We've got plenty of those bars," John said. The corner of his mouth turned upward in a smirk. The look in his eyes Teyla immediately recognized, a gleam that was both dangerous and amused. It meant Sheppard was planning something. "But you'll have to do better than that."
They bartered, the vendor trying to haggle for Sheppard's needed compass and the pocket knife his grandfather had given as a birthday present. Teyla pulled the knife before John had a chance to consider the offer. Sheppard sacrificed too easily, sometimes, and Teyla kept careful watch for the times when it wasn't necessary.
McKay joined them, red faced from wandering around, exhausted, and annoyed. "Can we go yet?"
"Got any power bars on you? Teyla wants to buy some material."
Teyla smiled reassuringly. McKay horded power bars worse than chocolate. "It is not necessary. I have come by the cloth on numerous occasions. There will be other times..."
Rodney was either not listening because he was too tired, or not listening because he'd already started rummaging through his vest. McKay was like the laser Teyla used to start fires: precise, straight, focused. Once his mind was set on a task, it never deviated, as though nothing else existed save for that task. He pulled out several power bars along with the other contents of his vest, then the contents of his laptop carrying case. The vendor's eyes tried to pop out of his head when McKay tossed a few CDs onto the table. The pudgy man picked one up and rotated it. His fascination for the rainbows rippling across the silver surface was almost childlike.
"Do you have more of these?"
"Plenty," Rodney said, tossing in four disks. "Totally useless. Some idiot didn't order any reusable sets."
Ronon had materialized some time after McKay. He asked no questions, just pulled a knife from his sleeve and added it to the growing pile of goods. It was the knife he'd made himself, the one with the carved handle of bone. He had plenty of homemade knives, but that one in particular Ronon had favored for it's good balance. Teyla would have argued against him parting with it, but knowing Ronon, he would just shrug it off. He was like the wind, never content in one place, and never holding to personal possessions with the same tenacity as most people.
"No point," he'd once said. "they don't last."
The vendor wasn't simply happy with the pile, he was ecstatic, and handed over both the amber cloth and a gauzy violet scarf for good measure.
"Now that's what I call a good deal," John said with enthusiasm as though the purchases had been made for himself.
"I actually have to agree," Rodney said. "CDs actually make for pretty good currency. Bet we could trade a hundred for a ZedPM somewhere."
"Or maybe those red pastry things," Ronon said. "I saw a booth where a lady was selling some."
Rodney perked. "Oh, let's try." He rushed on ahead, no longer tired, with Ronon following, like two kids after sighting a unique toy.
Teyla ran her hand over the smooth cloth with a sense of pride and swelling joy. It had been so long since any purchase had been made for herself. Sheppard nudged her in the shoulder with his own shoulder. "Rodney has more of those CDs. See anything else you like?"
Teyla smiled. "I am good."
"If there's more," Sheppard said. "I'll contact Lorne, have him send in two more Jumpers."
Ronon nodded then craned his neck to see the land rush up at them as Sheppard guided the jumper into a clearing within a copes of trees. The jumper touched down and Ronon was out of his seat as soon as the bay door hummed open. He shoved his way through short shrubs until he was kicking through knee-high grass sending up clouds of insects. The village on the edge of the meadow was a cluster of ten cottages and one large barn, its location so far from the town it was said the wraith didn't even know it existed. Distance from largely populated areas was the second method to avoiding the wraith. The first, foremost, and mostly effective way was to keep moving and never stop.
It was why Ronon couldn't find those three-hundred Satedans. They were always moving, always steps ahead, or too scattered to give any care to their origins. Ronon had come upon those scattered ones living miles away from civilization, taking to farming and too content in their new way of life to change it. They always welcomed Ronon, swapped stories, but would not come with him. So as far as Ronon was concerned, they didn't exactly count.
Ronon heard grass whipping and crunching behind him as John and Teyla hurried to catch up. The hiss and snap of swatted grass descended to a breathy whisper when the two slowed, keeping behind Dex. One of Teyla's people had told them of the village where Satedans had been mentioned. Teyla had tagged along since she knew the people of this world. John came to give them a ride and to have their backs. Not that he'd said the latter out loud. He never had to. It was Sheppard, it's what he did.
Teyla moved ahead when they entered the village to speak to the nearest local. The local pointed in the general direction of the village square where Teyla approached another man, this one older and with a rifle hanging from his shoulder: either the local constable or the mayor returning from a hunt.
Ronon stilled, stiffening. John nudged him in the ribs. "Breathe, big guy."
Ronon sucked in a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He didn't expect to come across all three-hundred of his people. Two, three, ten, twenty, it didn't matter the number. It didn't even matter if they set up permanent residence here. He had to know, had to offer them the second chance he'd been given himself.
He had to know if there was anything, anything at all, left to return to should he choose to return one day.
After a stretched moment of conversation, the armed man moved on and Teyla turned to rejoin her team. The look on her face was Ronon's answer. It was apologetic, sympathetic.
His people were not here.
"They moved on the day before yesterday," she said. "Lord Gyr does not know to which world."
John clasped Ronon's shoulder. "At least they were here, which means they're still out there."
Ronon nodded. He supposed it was enough, but it didn't make the disappointment any easier to digest. They headed back to the jumper then back to Atlantis in silence. After docking and disembarking, they were met by McKay halfway to the Jumperbay door.
"Colonel, you're back, good. I wanted to run some diagnostics on the chair... oh, hey Ronon. Any luck?"
Ronon shook his head.
"Oh... well, at least they're still out there. Colonel," he swept his hand casually toward the door. "Shall we?" He started leaving when he paused and turned, holding up a single finger. "Uh, you know, I hear they're serving chocolate cake in the mess. You should get there early to grab a slice. They tend to run out fast. Comfort food and all that. I mean, not that it actually makes you all happy sunshine again, but most of my female staff members swear by it..."
Ronon glared. "I'm not a woman, McKay."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "And I was not insinuating you were. I'm just saying I don't deny there's merit in eating something sweet when you're feeling a little down. I just don't agree that it's a freaking aphrodisiac."
"And sugar highs beat hang overs any day," Sheppard said. "And you like chocolate cake."
Ronon shrugged. He couldn't deny it, he really did, and he was hungry.
"Better hurry," McKay called over his shoulder as he left, Sheppard trailing behind.
Teyla placed her hand lightly on Ronon's shoulder. "One of my people will come to hear something concerning your people again. This was the third time, I believe?"
"And only a day too late," Ronon said. Last time, he'd been three days too late. "Wanna spar after I eat?"
Teyla smirked. "Gladly."
Rodney rubbed his gritty eyes, massaging the fine haze that kept coalescing over his vision. His eyeballs felt like someone had spit sand in them, or salt, except salt would hurt more so he stuck with sand.
When the words, numbers, and symbols were no longer fuzzed lines of incoherency, he resumed typing. He was almost done, at least he thought he was almost done. Usually, "almost done" ended up being another two hours of data input, or three hours of skimming the data for mistakes. Contrary to popular belief, Rodney did not think himself above the need for a beta. Zelenka, however, never looked for misspelled words, he looked for theory holes. The Czek called it being cautious, Rodney called it being both jealous and overly paranoid.
McKay heard the door to the lab slide open behind him but refused to grace the new-comer with an acknowledging glance. He was almost done. Now wasn't the time to stop.
His heart tried to leap out of his body through his throat when hands slid beneath his armpits, lifted him from the chair, and hustled him out the door.
"What the hell!" Rodney did several double-takes over his shoulder at Ronon. "What...?"
"Kidnapping. Sheppard's orders. Just go with it for now. You can yell at him when we arrive."
"Arrive? Arrive where? If it's to the jumper bay again, I swear, I'm disabling every single one of them. 'A trip to the mainland'll be fun, McKay'. The man has a seriously twisted sense of fun because fun does not involve me being hunted down and tackled by a bunch of leather-wearing urchins. It was supposed to be tag, not football, tag. Who the hell tackles you in tag?"
"They wanted to play football," Ronon said. "They improvised."
"They're evil. And Sheppard's a bad influence. He should never be allowed around kids, let alone have any..."
McKay was herded like a maverick cow into the third room to be designated for recreation. Someone had requisitioned their old couch from some old apartment and someone else a couple of easy chairs to furnish the place. Sheppard was on the couch next to Teyla, a bowl of popcorn in his lap and his skinny legs stretched out with one ankle crossed over the other.
Rodney pointed a rigid finger at him. "Cold showers, Sheppard. From now on, nothing but cold showers. Do you know how close I was to...?"
"Really close," John interrupted. "You're always really close, even when really close has you staying up for three days straight," he gave Rodney a penetrating glare, "again."
Ronon shoved McKay onto the couched then plopped down next to him. Rodney sighed and tossed his hands up that landed with a slap in his lap. "So what's the brain-rotting delight for tonight, hm?"
"I say The Great Escape for educational purposes," John said. "But it's Teyla's night to pick."
Rodney scowled. "What the hell makes The Great Escape educational?"
John flicked up a piece of popcorn that he caught in his mouth. "It gives me ideas for the next time we're locked in a cell somewhere."
Rodney leaned forward. "All right then, Teyla. Same question as the one before the one about The Great Escape. What's it going to be tonight?"
Teyla shrugged. "I have been unable to decide between the one called Dragonslayer and the one called Canon Ball Run. Which do you think would be better, Dr. McKay?" In other words, Teyla had passed on the honor of picking the film to him. She was always doing that, as though avoiding honesty to spare Sheppard's feelings. The Colonel was the movie buff. Teyla went along with it out of two parts curiosity and fifty parts being polite. Although having narrowed the movie choices down to two meant her curiosity had gotten the best of her.
Rodney was also starting to suspect she harbored some secret fascination with car-chase movies. The last time she'd narrowed the choices down, it had been between Blues Brothers and The Italian Job.
"Draongslayer!" Rodney blurted. "Sheppard does not need any ideas about how to escape via puddlejumper or any other moving vehicle. You know, I'm pretty sure that last move he pulled was inspired by that Gone in Sixty Seconds."
John grinned. "It was."
Rodney gave him a condescending look of weary annoyance before talking. "Anyways, dragons don't exist, so we're safe."
"But dinosaurs do," John said, "so ideas are still possible."
Rodney folded his arms and refused to prolong the conversation. Teyla put the movie on. Ronon sat straighter when Sheppard explained the movie, making sure the emphasize its use of swords. Ronon tended to lean toward movies containing bad-ass weapons. Rodney would have said "typical" had it not been for someone bringing a couple of copies of the Marx brothers to Atlantis. Ronon loved the Marx Brothers, and Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, the Three Stooges. Go figure the man with no outward personality would have one hell of a sense of humor. Probably because he never used it and needed to vent.
Sheppard was rather typical: dumb comedies and action movies. But their was a closet geek in him that always got him going for Lord of the Rings over something starring John Wayne and a lot of guns.
About when the dragon emerged from the ground and broiled the village bishop, Rodney's head dropped to his chest and his eyes slid closed. His mind sank into that floaty in-between state of partial dreams influenced by both his surroundings and subconscious. The results were idiotic – Sheppard was fighting the dragon in a puddlejumper, and Rodney was screaming of the futility of it from the copilot seat.
He was jostled awake when hauled to his feet on both sides. Rodney snapped his eyes open and rolled his heavy head from Ronon to Sheppard. Both men had him by each arm, holding up up as they guided him from rec-room three.
"Movie over? Finally. Take me back to my lab."
Sheppard snorted. "We're not in any of the science departments, McKay. You can't boss us around."
Rodney jerked his arms free. "Then this is military harassment. Now if you would be so kind, before I report you for manhandling, I've got work to do." He turned to go only to be retaken by both arms and pretty-much dragged to his own quarters. Not that Rodney put up much of a fight. He tried, but neither his brain nor body were up to it.
McKay had to acquiesce to being completely out of it when the door slid open to Teyla pulling back the covers. He did not recall her having ever passed them at any time. Ronon and Sheppard shoved him onto the bed, then Sheppard removed his jacket while Teyla handled his boots. Once finished, Sheppard nudged him into lying back and Teyla covered him up. Rodney let them. He'd forgotten how nice it was to sleep on a bed as opposed to a hard table or a keyboard.
"Rest up, McKay," John said. "Tomorrow's a big day."
"Why?" Rodney slurred. "What happens tomorrow."
"Dragonslayer gave me some ideas about how to get rid of that T-rex on P47... whatever the hell that dino planet was. It's payback time."
Rodney snapped his eyes open to Sheppard wearing a crap-eating grin. McKay narrowed his eyes. "Then I'll be sure to sleep in extra late." He squirmed deeper under the covers. "You can come back and tell me how dino-slaying works out for you. If you're still in one piece."
Sheppard snorted and swatted Rodney's foot before heading out with the others.
"Ronon, lad, could you keep the Colonel steady while we change the bedding?"
John groaned and shivered when the blankets were pulled back and he was lifted away from the floaty softness. His bare feet hit the cold floor and he cringed in another shudder. Ronon had his arm wrapped under the armpits around the chest, taking most of Sheppard's weight, to which John was eternally grateful as the simple act of standing made every muscle in his body hurt.
"We'll be quick, lad," Beckett said. Teyla helped him as they stripped the bedding from the mattress. It's what Sheppard got for not being quicker about lurching to the side on his next round of vomiting. Most of it ended up in the bowl, the rest splattered on his bed.
"Ronon," John gulped. "You're crushing my ribs."
Ronon's arm shifted to wrap around the stomach. John stiffened and gulped when his stomach bucked. "Okay... Worse!" A thin stream of bile shot into his throat and gurgled out of his mouth, veering just enough to catch on Ronon's coat and ooze down dripping off the hem. John shrank back as far as Ronon's grip would let him and smiled sheepishly. "S-sorry."
Ronon just shrugged. "I've gotten worse on it." His grip shifted up, off of John's stomach but away form his chest. John sagged heavily against it, breathing hard through lingering gut-churns.
"Just... spare me any details."
John was in hell, again. Probably an exaggeration, but he didn't care. This wasn't some piddly little earth flu he was battling. It was the Pegasus Galaxy version, kick ass and tenacious. Teyla had said that it lasted a week at least and two weeks at most, which had everyone except Teyla and Ronon worried.
"It does not kill," she had assured. "But it will leave him weakened for some time after."
Carson still worried since that's what he did. It wasn't the virus that was so much a problem but that John had a difficult time keeping anything solid down. Water he managed fairly well, and mild broths. The problem with liquid diets was that they didn't pack enough calories, making weight-loss inevitable. John was down five pounds and looking exceptionally scrawny because of it. It was also why Ronon was barely breaking a sweat holding him up.
The door slid open. John winced away from the bright lights of the hallway. Rodney strode in as he always did: like he owned the place so didn't have to knock. He had a mug in one hand and almost sloshed the contents over the rim when he jerked to a halt, wrinkling his nose. "Oh, gosh, what the hell is that smell?"
"Rooo-dneeey," Carson berated, drawing out the vowels for emphasis.
"Seriously, maybe I should go grab some gas masks or something."
"Or hazmat suits..."
"Rodney! Stop yammering and give Colonel Sheppard the mug."
Rodney held the mug within reach. "Here, eat, put padding back on your bones before Ronon crushes them."
John took the mug in both his trembling hands. The contents smelled a little like curry. "He's being careful." Ronon really was. John's ribs were a little extra sore pressing against Dex's forearm, but they'd been aching from the start so the difference wasn't all that noticeable.
"That is the Muntan broth," Teyla said, "right, Rodney?"
Rodney sighed. "Yes. Hey, it's not like that beef broth I brought on accident – accident - did any harm."
"But the Muntan will help with the nausea."
John was having a hard time holding the mug steady as he brought it to his lips. The poorly executed effort made Rodney's eyes roll, then reach out holding the bottom of the mug to keep any liquid from spilling. "You're looking positively pathetic today, Sheppard."
"I'll remember that the next time you're sick," John snapped, voice muffled by the mug. It wasn't uncommon for them to be unsympathetic to each other when ill. Rodney blew minor illnesses out of proportion and for Rodney not to back-talk to John while he moaned and groaned usually made Sheppard nervous. A quiet McKay was a frightened McKay. When danger reared its ugly head, McKay was like a forest going suddenly quiet when the big, bad predator emerged. Rodney's silence shouted warnings louder than klaxons.
Sheppard drained half the mug by the time the bedding had been changed. Rodney took it so Ronon could transport Sheppard back to the soft warmth of the bed. The big Satedan could be surprisingly gentle when he wanted to be, to the point of being graceful about it. But John drew the line at being picked up when conscious. He pushed away from Ronon and crawled into bed before the former runner had a chance to do just that. "I can get into my own bed fine."
Teyla pulled the covers back up to his neck. It made it hard, very hard, not to give into the desire to revert to a five year-old and scrounge for more pity. John hated pity, hated being helpless, so didn't milk illness like most people. But it was really, really, really damn difficult, especially with Teyla around. Yesterday, when the nausea cramps in his gut and the ache in his bones rose to new levels of agony that had him curling up and moaning in pain, she'd sat at the head of his bed, stroking his hair and humming a song until it passed. John hadn't had that kind of special treatment since his mom was alive. He'd been ten, the last time, nearing that age when all that motherly attention would become "uncool." She hadn't lived long enough for him to actually reach that point. In truth, he never had. He'd longed for it since, even as a teenager.
Beckett took the bowl of vomit to the bathroom and dumped it. He then ushered the team out the door.
"We will come by and check on you later, John," Teyla said.
"So try not to vomit any more so we don't suffocate," said Rodney. Ronon gave him a light shove to the shoulder, resulting in indignant McKay back-talk. "What! I was just saying..." The door slid shut before he could finish saying.
John grinned, shook his head, and drifted off to sleep.
A/N: Ah, silly fluff. One cannot help but to at least be amused by it, or not. I really do think Sheppard has skinny legs poorly concealed behind the BDUs.