A/N: I want to thank everyone for their wonderful reviews and for taking the time to read my story. I hope everyone enjoyed it and that it inspires many fics that I can in turn read and enjoy.

CHAPTER 20

"Hey," Sheppard whispered, grinning at Teyla as he edged around the doorway. Two weeks and she still looked pale and weak. It disturbed him to see Teyla looking vulnerable.

"Hello, John." Teyla smiled back.

"I've come to bust you out of here for awhile." He gave her the little-boy grin that was so infectious.

"It is about time." She tried to frown at him and failed. "I was beginning to doubt the stories I've heard." She'd been in the infirmary for a little more than two weeks and was extremely bored. She would not admit to the pervasive tiredness that stayed with her no matter how much she slept. She missed the tranquility of her rooms.

He helped her into the wheelchair. "Prison breaks take planning." And permission in this case. Teyla was still too fragile for Sheppard to risk her life just for a team get together.

They had been released several days ago, but Teyla was still looking wan after two weeks. Keller was saying that it would be another full week before she even thought about releasing her.

She had been hit with four arrows. One had pierced a lung; another had hit a major artery; the third had hit vital organs. If the white light hadn't sent them to Atlantis, she would have died within the hour.

His hands trembled at the thought of Teyla dying. She held a special place in his heart. A sister that he never had. His family had turned from him; practically shunned him for not following the path his father had set for him. Here he had found a new family. One that didn't turn away from him even when they didn't approve of his actions; not even when they didn't understand his moods or his reasons. No, that was when their bond was the strongest; that was when their faith in him was most evident.

He pushed her rapidly down the short hall to the transporter. He hid the map as he hit the destination. None of them was very good at expressing emotion. There were occasions though when no matter how awkward or embarrassing or tough it was to say how you felt you just needed to say it.

"Where are we going?"

"Wait." He grinned, rocking back and forth on his heels. "McKay will be pissed if I ruin the surprise."

He pushed her out to the pier. He and Rodney came out here a lot. Here's where they'd talk – quietly, honestly. Beers or sodas in hand and staring out at the vast ocean, they would find a way to say what was important that they couldn't say during the normal course of the day.

It was here he had come to realize that Rodney McKay – smart-aleck, arrogant genius, quirky, and big hearted although his foot was almost always in his mouth - was the brother he'd never had, but always wanted.

He smiled as he remembered that night. Drunk as skunks, both of them. They had just been released from the infirmary after surviving their run in the Ford and his band of merry men. He'd been sitting there listening to Rodney's fumbling attempt at admitting his fear that Sheppard had been killed on the Wraith ship while mulling over the fact that Rodney had almost overdosed on the enzyme in order to try and save them.

He'd swayed his shoulder into Rodney's solid one. "You're like a brother." He had admitted softly, earnestly.

"Really?" The vulnerability of that one word, the look in his eyes had slammed into John's heart. The hope; the desperate need to be accepted had shone so bright in his wide, blue eyes.

"Yeah."

Rodney had grinned and his face had lit up like a kid's on a perfect Christmas morning. He'd looked down then and John wasn't sure if it was embarrassment or thoughtfulness until he'd glanced up at John and asked, "So, can I borrow the puddle jumper?"

John had laughed. "Not until you can fly it in a straight line."

He'd frowned the next morning wondering how weird Rodney would be. How weird would he be around McKay because last night had been a bonding moment. He didn't really do bonding moments; yet, it had felt right last night.

Rodney had been Rodney except for a quick grin and a slightly less hunched posture, more assured of his place in the scheme of things. Gone, though, was the questioning look when others came around as if he wasn't sure if they were still friends when they weren't alone.

Now they had set up a table and some chairs since they didn't want Teyla sitting on the cold pier. The less she moved around the better, Keller had told them. No more than a couple of hours she had admonished firmly.

Ronon and Rodney were there waiting for them. John heard them talking and Ronon laughing. Ronon actually looked relaxed. He saw Rodney chuckle, shake his head in amusement and the last worry in his gut dissolved. The last of his team had worked out the kinks.

They had all been alone in one way or another. Rodney estranged from his sister; Sheppard from his father and brother; Ronon had lost his entire world; Teyla had left hers to join them. Loners and misfits drawn to each other.

He helped Teyla into a chair next to Ronon and sat between her and Rodney. They spoke of inconsequential things and gently ribbed each other about incidents. He leaned back and let the easy banter flow over him healing him inside where Keller's drugs couldn't reach.

He watched the tightness ease from their bodies and the worry fade from their eyes. Teyla's gentle laughter was a balm to them all, washing over them and erasing the darkness and the guilt they felt.

"They may have marked us on the outside, but I believe we have marked each other on the inside. I know I do not need a tattoo to tell me that each of you are noble and loyal or that I could count on you." Teyla's voice was fierce and full of confidence in them.

Sheppard pulled fresh beers out of the cooler sitting between him and Rodney. He handed them out and held his up. "To the best team."

"To surviving." Rodney added.

"To family." Ronon tacked on.

"Family," was echoed by the others.

THE END