A/N: Just a small character study I thought I'd share. Hope you enjoy it.

Gearing Up

She looks at the uniform in her locker. She wears them more often, now, increasingly donning the coat of arms of another race. But today she feels the need to be Athosian, and it will serve the purpose of the mission more to be geared so anyway. She reaches in past the uniform and removes her tac vest, pulling the alien armour over her Athosian clothes. After four years it is commonplace, but every now and then she finds herself in a reflective mood, marvelling at the changes in her life from before. She joined the Atlantis team to fight for her people, but now she finds that she fights for theirs just as often, and with as much care and conviction. She pulls the vest tight and examines herself in a small mirror, noting how the merging of Athosian and Atlantean clothing compliment her own place in the galaxy. She closes her eyes and inhales deeply, stilling her mind and centring herself for the mission ahead. She feels calm and at ease, and she holds on to the kernel of that feeling as she clips her P-90 to her vest and moves towards the gateroom.

Ronon nods to Teyla as he passes her in the corridor, then pauses at the door of the locker room and looks around. He hates it in here. Flashes of another room, from another world, assault him. Images of friends long dead, jostling and teasing, pulling on different armour of a people who no longer exist. He won't do this again, won't wear armour or a uniform. He survived for seven years as a runner with no uniform, no allegiance. He wore them once, and everything died. He shakes his head as though that will dislodge the memories, and strides quickly over to Sheppard. "Colonel Carter said to see what's keeping you." It comes out harsh, angry. Sheppard gives him a curious look, and before he can say anything, Ronon punches his shoulder. "So hurry up, would you?" he says more lightly. He flashes a grin, hiding his discomfort, but he turns to go before Sheppard can call him on it. A hand on his shoulder halts him, but the man behind him doesn't speak, just squeezes quickly and lets him go. The memories abate, not gone, but less painful for a moment. He shrugs away the pain and focuses on the anger. He holds on to the white-hot core of determination the anger fuels. He won't let it happen again. He'll fight harder this time, even if it costs him his life. He won't be the last to survive while everything he cares for burns around him. Never again. He'll stop it through sheer willpower if he has to, or he'll die trying. He tries to ignore the ghosts haunting his memory and hurries towards the gateroom.

John watches him go, slightly perplexed, before shrugging it off. He's used to Ronon having some odd moments and, especially given the Satedan's past, is willing to accept them as part of the package. Excellent tracking skills, superb fighting skills, occasional odd moments. You can't have it all. He checks his thigh holster, then slips into his tac vest with a sigh. It's comforting, getting geared up for a mission. A moment of quiet before the rush of emotions and adrenaline to come. With each piece of gear, he feels calmer, more focused. By the time he's in full field gear he feels, just for that moment, like nothing could go wrong. It's an interlude in between the worry and the fear; rare, precious moments of getting ready to take action before Lady Luck has a chance to blow the mission to hell and gone. He turns to Rodney. "Ready to go?"

"Yes. Yes, nearly ready." Rodney stands quietly, holding his tac vest in his hands. He looks at it, trying to overcome the revulsion he feels every time he has to don his field gear. A physicist most of his life, and a self professed nerd for all of it, he doesn't think he'll ever be able to overcome the strangeness of finding himself in a soldiers' locker room dressing up in uniform and arming himself with guns he still feels awkward using. The reality of exploring a new galaxy still overwhelms him at times. Finding some new technology never fails to thrill him, his words tripping over each other as they tumble off his tongue, trying to keep up with his thoughts, while his team-mates look at him with varying degrees of patience and amusement. They always let him talk, though, when he comes across an exciting find, something he notices in quieter moments. But there is also the fear. With new worlds and new technology has come new monsters; some human and some more akin to his nightmares - creatures he never would have believed could exist before coming to the Pegasus galaxy. He jumps, startled, as a hand comes down gently on his shoulder. "Hey, are you okay?" He looks up into John's concerned eyes, and pushes down his anxiety and fear. He looks down at the black vest in his hands. "Sometimes I just don't want to put it on."

John looks momentarily surprised at the quiet admission. His eyes flick away and he bites his lip slightly, before locking his eyes onto Rodney's. "You know if it was only a matter of the science, no matter how much of a genius you are, if you didn't belong in that vest, you wouldn't be on my team."

"Of course I know that!" Rodney blusters, arrogance shining through his features. Then a glimmer of fragility breaks through the blue eyes. "Uh, really?"

John gives him a reassuring smile. "Really." Rodney smiles, and slides his arms into the vest with embarrassed awkwardness. John watches him fasten it and waits for him to arm himself with his Barretta and P-90. Once his friend's level with him, he gives him a gentle punch in the shoulder.

"Besides, when you're on the missions, it's you that gets shot in the ass, not me," he smirks.

"Oh ha, ha."

Sam watches John and Rodney walk into the 'gateroom, bickering amicably with each other, and join Teyla and Ronon who are quietly conversing near the 'gate. They are so different from her team, and she feels a pang of sorrow at the passing of that period of her life. She misses them, every day, but never so keenly as watching another team enter the 'gate on a mission. She gives Chuck the order to dial the 'gate, and returns her gaze to the team below as they silently watch the co-ordinates light up around the 'gate's circumference. The four people below are so different from each other; she wonders how they've formed such improbable friendships. Any other time or place, she muses, they'd be lucky to not half-kill each other instead of bond as they have here. But as with her own improbable friendships with her team – it has worked. She watches them step through the event horizon, praying that it will work again, and that they'll see each other back safely. She sends the prayer winging through the 'gate behind them as the event horizon flashed closes.

Disclaimer: The copyright for Stargate Atlantis belongs to MGM studios and SciFi channel. It's their playground- I'm just playing in it.