"Why do I have to be a handmaiden? Why can't I be a merry man?" Teyla put her hands on her hips and pouted.

"Well, duh." Rodney rolled his eyes, ignoring the death glare Teyla shot at him for that. "You just answered your own question. 'Cause you're not a man."

"So? She hits harder than you," Ronon pointed out as he pushed his hair back off his face. He was always pushing his hair off his face because he had long hair, longer than any of the girls in the class, but no one ever said anything about only girls wearing their hair like that. Not to his face anyway. Not any more. Not after that time, a few days after Ronon transferred in last October, when someone did and Ronon just stood there, not saying a thing. He loomed over that kid and cracked his knuckles, really, really loudly, and then leaned forward a little more and cocked an eyebrow, like he was daring the idiot to repeat himself. After that no one had even mentioned Ronon's hair ever again.

"Quit it, Rodney. Teyla can be one of the merry men if she wants to be." John didn't look up as he spoke. He had unlaced his shoe and was concentrating very hard on tying the shoelace to the stick he'd found in the back lot. The stick was exactly what he needed, with just the right amount of bendiness to it. It'd make a perfect bow when he was done.

"Ha! Thbbbth." Teyla blew a raspberry at Rodney, who threw up his arms in disgust.

"Well, if she's a merry man than why do I have to be a friar? I don't want to be a friar. Friar's are boring. I want to be one of the merry men! They get to fight and save people and be all heroic and things."

"Friar Tuck saved people, Miss Weir said so. Although mostly he just ate a lot. I think. And either way he was still one of Robin's men, so quit complaining." John tested his bow, pulling on the shoelace, and smiled when the knots held. "Besides, you're not very merry, are you?"

"I can be merry. Really. Listen. Hahahahaha."

"Rodney."

"Fine." Rodney let out a long and exaggerated sigh. "Are you done with that yet? Why'd you pick such a thin branch anyway? Everyone knows the stronger the branch the stronger the bow. And how are you going to make an arrow? You'll need an arrow. Actually, you'll need a lot of arrows. And what about us? Will we get bows too? I don't want to mess around with my shoes to make bows, I have delicate feet."

Ronon snickered loudly at that, only stopping when Teyla poked him in the stomach. Hard. "Hey!" he protested.

"Ronon," Teyla said, "You don't have to be a meany." Ronon crossed his arms and grumbled at her, but she just stuck out her tongue at him in response.

"Knock it off, you two. Ronon, you're supposed to be keeping an eye out for the 'Lord High Ruler of the Playground.' Pfft." John rolled his eyes at Kolya's self-proclaimed title before spitting in disgust. "If he moves the treasure the whole plan's off and Radek and Carson'll crash their swings together for nothing."

They all looked over at the castle, the big platform where the slide and monkey bars met up, where Kolya was hanging out with his toadies and thugs. Kolya was his last name, no one ever called him Acastus unless they wanted a noogie iand/i the worst wedgie imaginable at the same time. He'd been left back the year before, and while he wasn't in their class, he was in the same grade as them so they had recess and snack at the same times and he treated the playground like it was his own personal kingdom.

"All right," John said. "Here's the plan. Today's the day we stop him. No more having to give him our cookies. No more staying off the slide just 'cause he says. No more letting him rule the playground." He hefted two arm-length sticks in the air, along with his bow and a long branch. "Who's with me?"

Ronon and Teyla whooped and hollered. Rodney looked around nervously for a second before raising his fist half-ways and giving a soft, "woo!" of a cheer.

"Okay," John tossed the sticks to Teyla and Ronon. "We don't have enough time to make more bows so you guys get swords. Just 'member the good guys don't kill people, so don't smack anyone too hard. And Rodney, the quarterstaff's for you. Once we get to the strongbox you gotta protect it from Kolya's guys, okay?" Rodney took the branch and he nodded but looked a bit green, like he'd eaten all the leftover pudding again. "And remember, stay quiet so the recess lady doesn't notice." Miss Carter was nice, but it took a lot to drag her nose out of whatever book she'd brought with her to read.

John picked up the two jump ropes he'd snagged from the equipment box. He tied them together to make one long rope and then coiled them up before slinging them onto his shoulder. "To the castle!" he yelled.

Swords at the ready, Ronon and Teyla followed John as he approached the castle from the west, using the swings as cover.

"This is dumb," Rodney complained a few minutes later, when they were hiding behind the tetherball pole. "He'll see us here for sure."

"He hasn't yet," John said, peeking around to check on the enemy.

"But he might if you don't shut up," Ronon hissed at Rodney.

Luckily, Kolya didn't notice them, even when they got closer and were crawling right up next to the castle. But then again, John was careful to make sure the see-saw was between them and the monkey bars. Using the commotion they'd planned with Radek, Carson, and their swings, the team dispersed.

On the north side of the castle John ran up the slide. Teyla snagged a rung of the monkey bars and swung in via the south. Breeching from the east, Ronon jumped up and grabbed hold of the bar that ran along the castle floor and pulled himself up and over the railings. Rodney took the west side, bravely climbing the ladder to face Kolya head on.

Kolya's goons panicked. Landon ran for it, slipping past Teyla and swinging for freedom using the monkey bars to make his escape, but, between being thwacked with Teyla and Ronon's swords and threatened with John's bow, the others all bunched together and began to cry.

One by one John pointed to the thugs with his bow. "Down you go," he ordered, gesturing to the slide. "Head first." And they did, getting a face full of sand once they hit the ground. He hadn't even had to tie them up with the jump ropes first. It was almost disappointing.

"That'll teach you to steal all the cookies!" Teyla whooped and shouted.

Meanwhile Kolya tried to make grab his strongbox, but Rodney cracked him over the knuckles with his quarterstaff. "Ow!" Kolya yelled and started cursing really, really loudly. So loudly the Miss Carter's head popped up, which meant he was in big trouble. She ireally/i didn't like it when the kids cursed.

"Acastus Kolya!" Miss Carter ran over. "We do not use that sort of language on the playground. That is five demerits and an immediate time out. Off the slide and come with me." But when she reached through the railing to grab him he kicked her.

*TWEEET* She blew the emergency whistle. *TWEEET* In no time flat all the teachers swarmed the playground.

"Mr. Woolsey," Miss Carter exclaimed, "your student used foul language and then kicked me!"

"What? Mr. Kolya, get down here and come with me. No more recess for you, young man, for the rest of the year. And I am calling your father this minute!" Mr. Woolsey grabbed Kolya by the collar the second he came down the slide and practically dragged him back into the building, all the other teachers following and whispering among themselves.

"Five more minutes, kids," Miss Carter announced to the playground before looking up at John, Ronon, Teyla and Rodney still at the top of the castle, "You know the rules. No sticks or military coups on the slide." She waited for John to untie his shoelace, took their sticks, and headed back to her bench under the big tree where she had left her book.

John opened up the strongbox, looking inside, smiling at what he found there. "We did it! We stole the cookies back!" He lifted it high above the castle and shouted, "Cookies for everyone!"

And the entire playground broke into cheers.