Disclaimer – not mine.

A/N – OK, so this chapter is pretty crappy in my humble opinion. However, I have been writing it on and off since slightly before I posted the last one (so quite some time!) and I'm so stuck that I can't see it improving. Also, I'm sick of it, and if I don't get rid of it now, I'll end up abandoning the story completely. Gah! Anyways, here it is. And thanks for reading.


Sheppard leant against the doorway, trying to distract himself from utter boredom with every foul-mouthed song he could remember from basic training. It had been a long time ago, but a few of the dirtier ones stuck in your mind. It didn't seem right somehow that Atlantis' military leader was left guarding the door from a thus-far non-existent possible intruder. He glanced back over his shoulder at the young Russian soldier. Voronin's extensive computer training and natural ability with the Atlantis systems had made him an obvious choice for the mission. Not to mention, Sheppard was sure McKay had instructed Zelenka not to let him anywhere near systems that so much as looked sideways at something vital.

He yawned widely. Knowing that this task was important didn't make it any less boring. Two run-throughs of 'Ten Bottles of Beer on the Wall' (he'd run out of dirty songs) barely made a dent. It didn't help that the Atlanteans had, as always, decorated the corridor in battleship gray. It was only distinguishable by the dubious virtue of having almost no lighting.

Somewhere in the room, a radio crackled. "Hello? Am I the only one paying attention to major crisis?"

"ИДИОТ."

Sheppard couldn't resist calling lightly over his shoulder. "Problem, Corporal?"

The younger man winced. "No sir." He said.

The grin spreading across his CO's face suggested that Sheppard knew otherwise. It also suggested that he might understand more Russian than he had been letting on. Voronin groaned inwardly. All those clandestine conversations….

"Hello? Is anybody interested in this problem?"

Sheppard found himself fervently hoping that Ronon was staying calm, given Zelenka's world-class impersonation of Rodney. He offered the young Corporal a conspiratorial look.

"Your secret's safe with me."

"He is being an a-"

"But he's the best." Sheppard said gently. "So listen to him."

Voronin sighed. "Yes sir." He tapped the radio again. "Awaiting further instructions."

"Ah, so there you are."

With practiced ease, the Colonel ignored the rest of the tense conversation. He would be glad when Rodney was back. It would do Zelenka's blood pressure some good.

"No, no, no! Orange button, then code!"

The scientist's instructions had been vague, at first, directing them to find a room with one large console and screen, as well as several other, smaller consoles. Exactly the type of room the Ancients specialized in designing. Fortunately it had only taken Sheppard a couple of tries to hit upon the right place. He had the horrible feeling that this skill of understanding scientists even when they were making no sense stemmed directly from spending too much time with one Rodney McKay. The Colonel shook his head. He would have to remember to organize some Marine-only time. Sheppard sighed heavily. There were times when he had to work hard to recall all the reasons that he liked being stationed on Atlantis.

"How's it going?"

Voronin didn't look up. "OK."

There was no intonation to be read. Just a thickly accented voice with a flat tone that Sheppard couldn't read. He didn't like that – it was one of the reasons he had always felt uncomfortable around the younger man. The Colonel just didn't understand him. Even Ronon was more talkative.

A thought occurred to Sheppard. "Hey, you related to Doctor Voronin?" he asked. His eyes flickered, catching something in his peripheral vision. Just a shadow, John!

"Cousin."

The silence stretched out in front of them.

"Major Lorne mentioned you liked sports."

"Football." Before his CO could jump enthusiastically into conversation, Voronin shook his head. "Not that kind of football. Soccer."

"Oh. Right." Had to be one of the few sports I know almost nothing about!

Sheppard was ready to give small-talk one final try when a loud whining sound caught his attention. The Colonel whirled round. Voronin's hands were dancing madly across the console. His face was stricken. Just as Sheppard started forward, he shook his head. Voronin's mouth opened, mouthing something his CO could not hear. Sheppard found himself flying backwards, into the corridor wall. The last image fixed into his brain as his eyes slid shut was of Voronin's body, no longer rigid with military tension, sprawled by the open doorway.