She inspected Sheppard's team as they filed into the conference room. A disappointed sigh escaped her; their faces told the whole story. They may be able to fool most people, even each other, but not Dr. Elizabeth Weir. This team was fractured.
None of the four were easy to read, even Rodney. While McKay's visage was expressive, he was surprisingly adept at showing only what he wanted others to see. Sheppard was similar. His typical expression conveyed confidence and charm even under the most trying circumstances. Teyla's position as leader of her people had taught her to project objectivity as well as serenity. Ronon was actually the hardest for Weir to read, partly due to his newness, but mostly because he wore a perpetual scowl.
But she was a master negotiator, and her instincts had not failed her yet. All four covered their feelings well, but something was there, simmering under the surface. It had been two weeks since the destruction of the Dorandan solar system. John had been quite angry with Rodney, not that she blamed him. She had been furious with the Canadian scientist herself. McKay had risked Sheppard's life and his own because he couldn't admit failure.
Now as she observed the two men, she decided anger was not the issue between them. Elizabeth had seen them interacting in senior staff meetings, in mission briefings, even in the mess hall. It wasn't that they didn't speak. They just didn't talk. John looked irritated. McKay acted like a puppy that had been kicked, wanting to get back in his leader's good graces but skittish for fear of getting kicked again.
As Weir glanced at Ronon, she was shocked to find Rodney's expression reflected on the Satedan's face. She knew something had happened between Dex and Teyla on Belka, but the expedition leader had yet to determine what that was. Neither would speak of the events on the trading mission other than to say it had been successful and that the former runner had met a couple of other Satedan survivors. But Teyla's features were tight, and Ronon wouldn't meet the Athosian's eyes.
The idea of Rodney and Ronon being mirror-images struck her, and she barely contained a laugh. If there were two more opposite men in the universe, she had yet to meet them, although Weir suspected they could learn much from each other. Maybe she should look into that….
Elizabeth stopped chasing that rabbit trail and focused on the mission briefing. Another uncharted world. The MALP had shown a cute town with children playing in either early morning or late afternoon. She hoped they would be friendly folk that would like to do some trading. The team was set to leave in two hours.
The meeting was awkward, almost strained. Weir missed the snarky comments and gentle teasing that usually accompanied these four. And McKay hadn't had a decent rant in days. At the conclusion, they pushed back from the table and headed quietly out the doors. She made a quick decision.
"Colonel Sheppard, may I have a word?"
Sheppard halted in the doorway, his frame taut. But when he turned back to her, his regular cocky, fly-boy smirk was in place.
"Elizabeth, what can I do for you?"
"Let's go to my office."
She could see the sigh he was holding in as he backed up to allow her through the door. She pondered the Air Force pilot as she led the way. Weir had read his file and, more importantly, had worked closely with him for the past year and a half. Over that time, Sheppard had begun to emerge from his loner shell, morphing into a fine military commander and a trusted advisor.
He had good instincts about people, accepting Teyla and Ronon immediately; and yet he was cautious, guarded even when it came to opening up, to sharing himself with others. John was very charismatic, but his smile rarely reached his eyes. Elizabeth wasn't sure she had ever seen him laugh, really laugh.
She knew that John and Rodney were friends, good friends. In fact, if she had to put a label on their relationship, it would be brotherly. They reminded her of the Greer boys that lived across the street from her when she was a child. Tommy was a year older than she, and Jason was a year younger. Jason would make Tommy so mad sometimes that the older boy would spit nails. He'd thump Jason on the head and tease him mercilessly. But the one time the neighborhood bully had picked on Jason, Tommy had beaten the stuffings out of him. When she asked him about it, he had shrugged and explained it was one thing for him to pick on Jason, but he was his brother; no one else had the right.
The look on Tommy's face when he said it was the same one John had worn when McKay had been rushed to the infirmary with convulsions after that unfortunate episode with Cadman, the protective-big-brother look. But now, he had given McKay his trust, and McKay had broken it.
"Please close the door and sit down, John."
The military commander arched an eyebrow at her but did as she asked. He sprawled in the chair opposite her with arms folded, waiting for her to begin.
"How much longer is this going to continue, Colonel?"
"How much longer is what going to continue?"
"Don't be coy with me, John. You know exactly what I'm talking about. The tension between you and McKay."
Weir saw the emotion flicker behind his eyes. Some people spoke with their mouths; some with their bodies; some with their faces. John Sheppard spoke with his eyes.
"This is a lesson he has to learn, Elizabeth. He can't let his ego run rampant."
She grinned wryly and rolled her eyes. "Tell me something I don't know. But John, are you sure that you want the voice he hears in his head, the next time he has to pull the rabbit out of the hat, to be your voice telling him you don't trust him?"
"It's not his abilities that I don't trust. It's his judgment."
"I understand that, Colonel. Does he?"
Sheppard looked a little nonplussed as he considered her words. "I don't know."
"Then perhaps you should find out. And what's up with Ronon and Teyla?"
"I don't know that either. Whatever it is, they aren't talking about it. Teyla smiles and says nothing is wrong. Ronon just grunts."
"I noticed this when they came back from Belka. Have they told you anything about what happened there?"
"Only that Ronon found out other Satedans had escaped the culling."
Weir glanced down at her desk, drumming her fingers. "They were there overnight. You don't think…."
Confusion colored Sheppard's face momentarily before his eyes widened. He opened his mouth and clamped it shut again, his face screwed up in thought. "Ronon and Teyla?" He bit his lip as he considered the question. "No, I don't think so. They're acting a little weird around each other but not the 'we just slept together' kind of weird."
Weir's brows shot up her forehead as Sheppard's ears turned pink. "Are you blushing, Colonel?"
The flush continued to his face. "Don't know what you're talking about, ma'am."
She bit down the smile threatening to creep across her face. "Of course not. Well, give some thought to what I said. You don't want Rodney questioning his abilities at an inopportune moment. And see if you can get Ronon and Teyla to smooth things over."
The pilot eased himself up from his chair. "Anything else?"
"No. That's all, Colonel."
As she watched his retreating back, she hoped things would right themselves before the fractures became chasms that engulfed the team. She picked up the mission briefing again. Maybe this sleepy little village would be just what they needed.