When Sheppard first made noise about Rodney joining the field teams, Rodney hadn't laughed in his face, but mostly because he was eating, and that would be rude. He'd waited to swallow. He could be thoughtful like that.
"Are you kidding?"
Sheppard, almost but not quite attempting a casual slouch over something that looked like a cross between soup and toxic waste, had given him an amused look. Smiles were apportioned out for more manipulative purposes than mere recruitment. "Not really. I take that as a no?"
Wait. He was *serious*? "Field team. Me." First thought--violent death. Second thought. Ooh, Carter will *eat her words*. Third thought. Violent death. Fourth thought. New Ancient technology, unseen by any but him.
Fifth thought. Violent death. Hmm.
Pushing a spoon into the thickly green goo, with no obvious intention of eating, Sheppard cocked his head. "Why not?"
Why not indeed. Rodney considered the plan. Violent death, never preferable. Field work, seeing everything *before* it was brought back, vetted, and figured out. New life and new civilizations. Violent death, again. Hmm. "I'm not military."
Sheppard gave him a blink that confirmed that this, at least, was stunningly obvious. "Can you use a gun?"
"Of course I can use a gun, Major." Pulling a trigger. Rodney'd seen it done. How hard could it be? Rodney followed the slow circle of the Major's spoon, a little fascinated. The level hadn't dropped appreciably since Sheppard sat down, which argued Rodney would have a cranky leader who didn't watch his blood sugar. A well-armed leader at that. On the other hand…. "You need someone who can detect the ZPMs, right?"
"Anyone on your staff could do that." Now the smile. It's not like Rodney hadn't had enough exposure to Sheppard to know manipulative when it was turned on him like a interrogation light. Forty-eight hours of testing him with Ancient equipment at the SGC had led to a lot of interesting thoughts about Major Sheppard, but Rodney still wasn't entirely sure of the results.
"Did Dr. Weir recommend me?" That's something she would do. She could be sneaky like that.
Sheppard smiled again, all sharp teeth. "She left it up to me. Interested, or should I put up a vacancy sign?"
Picking up the cake-like thing on the edge of the tray, Rodney considered the myriad ways this could go badly. He'd never wanted it before, not really, but-- "Who else have you asked?"
And that really annoyed look again, like Rodney wasn't keeping up. "Now why--" another slow stir of the bowl, completely unproductive, was he ever going to eat? "--would I settle for less than the best?"
Ooh, he's *good*. "There's a excellent chance I'm going to get killed." And in so many messy, messy ways.
Sheppard smiled then, bright as the gate after dialup. Rodney could see how people could get talked into the most insane things when Sheppard looked like that.
"So? Yes or no?"
Like this, maybe. "I'm in, Major."
Administrative work is boring. Walking around Atlantis watching the repairs, while fun, especially when there are twitching techs involved, loses its entertainment value when Elizabeth catches him at it, sending him a Look that he won't be forgetting any time in the near future. Half the repairs could be done faster, he thinks, if they'd just let him *work*, but even he can't think of an excuse to be wandering around like the repair fairy on third shift, and he's tried. God, has he tried.
Relaxation, Elizabeth had said when they got back, with a look at Sheppard like she *knew*, but really, if she was going to look it, why didn't she *say* something? Sheppard had just smiled at the tacit order to go do something, and something that didn't involve mapping out every active Stargate they knew of, doing rounds like he expected Wraith to leap from deserted rooms, around the bend of various corridors, and from under random desks, and generally get a hobby. Any hobby.
Elizabeth had called them into her office after Ford--left--and he, Sheppard, and Teyla had sat there, probably with the same blank expressions on their faces. It was still too raw, and Sheppard had the bruises hidden under his t-shirt to prove it. "I understand how you must be feeling."
Did she? Rodney wasn't sure then how he was feeling, and he's not sure now. Annoyance, some worry mixed in, frustration, but oddly muted. Exhaustion had that effect. There'd been more words, consolation, and something about a week off of missions, the three of them warily seated in front of her desk, and then something else after Rodney and Teyla left, to Sheppard alone, though he and Teyla had ended up pretending that they had really great reasons for hanging around the control room. After all, Rodney had reasoned, after pushing a nameless tech out of the way, the equipment was still new and God alone knew what these Daedalus people understood about how the Ancients did things, with their completely obscure logic that, as far as Rodney was concerned, bore no resemblance to actual logic.
Sheppard hadn't told them what Elizabeth had said, but Rodney had ended up with his laptop on one of the benches, doing repairs in the gym to some blow circuits from the attack--really, they'd needed it--while Sheppard and Teyla worked out behind him until third shift.
Some people, Rodney's heard, talk about these things. He's never been a huge fan of that.
There was a regrettable expanse of time that Rodney likes to think of as his punishment for even *considering* the idea of joining the field teams.
"Oh God. I think I broke something."
He didn't need to open his eyes to know Teyla was standing over him with a bewildered expression. People with excellent coordination always annoyed him. "Doctor, are you--"
"Dying here, go away." He thought he might have motioned, but his arm hadn't moved from the floor.
"You tripped, Rodney." That was from the peanut gallery. Rodney seriously considered opening his eyes enough to glare, but that would lead to things like, say, getting up, and this mat was probably the most comfortable place on the planet right now. "Look, I'm not saying you should be able to do hand-to-hand like a professional. Just. It never hurts to be prepared."
"There are *three of you*. All three of you? Are professionals. I will, like any sane person, stand behind you and encourage you while you--do your thing." He tried a wave. Still not much with the moving. "Isn't that your *job*, Major?"
If he was the kind to be paranoid, he'd think that Sheppard was laughing.
"And part of my job is to make sure that, say, in the incredibly improbable chance you are somehow left alone, for just a few brief seconds, you *can* take care of yourself. Until we get there, of course. So. Get. Up."
"You are taking a suspicious amount of pleasure in my agony, Major." He did that a lot.
"It's never pleasure." A hand grabbed his, pulling. Rodney considered that being hauled to his feet was a hell of a lot less dignified than standing on his own, and besides, Sheppard was deceptively strong and--
"I'm getting up, I'm up." Staggering, how humiliating, it was gym class all over again, but better armed. Teyla and her sticks of death were a few feet away. Ford, perched on some kind of exercise equipment that looked like something out of a sixteenth century Inquisition room, was laughing. Rodney felt a little thrill of satisfaction at the thought of how Ford's next shower in his quarters was going to suck so very, very much. "Does my humiliation have to be a team event?"
"We're bonding," Sheppard answered, with a completely straight face. How did he do that? "I'll take over, Teyla. Hurt Ford a little for me." With a slap on Ford's back, Sheppard lit up with a grin that spoke volumes about how many times he planned to see Rodney flat on his back in the near future.
Well, great. From utter humiliation at being beaten into the ground by a woman shorter than he was to utter humiliation at being beaten into the ground by a man who was taking a sadistic pleasure in watching Rodney's pain. Fantastic. This day was looking up. Over John's shoulder, he could see Ford and Teyla across the room, taking up some kind of stance holding those bits of wood. Beside him, he felt Sheppard still, and then they were *moving*.
It wasn't like Rodney had ever had a chance to watch people fight, other than the life-and-death sort that weren't terribly educational, but this was--different.
It started slow, a click of the sticks, together, their faces focused, like when Rodney's in his lab, circling each other, all quarter-speed turns, nothing useful in an actual fight, really, and he almost asked, but Sheppard's hand on his arm stopped him.
"Watch." He looked at Major Sheppard--after all, he'd seen the way that Sheppard's eyes followed Teyla around--but the expression on his face wasn't that at all. Then his eyes drifted back, watching the slow, careful movements, as intricate and structured as an equation.
It got faster after that, like something building around them, around *him*, almost something he could feel, almost too fast for Rodney to follow the intricate movement of four blurs of wood and two blurs of body. Click. Another turn. Click. A frozen second of observation. Click. Like perfect choreography. Then Ford went down with a clatter of lost sticks, Teyla at his throat with her knife, and even from here, Rodney could see the smiles, like this was the most fun any group of people could have in their lives.
After a few seconds, Teyla offered a hand and Ford took it, letting her pull him up, getting his own sticks and going back to position. When he looked up, Sheppard was still watching, a little smile curving up one corner of his mouth, like he'd had just as much fun as they did.
"Can you beat her?"
The smile widened as Sheppard looked at him. "Not yet. But I will." The hazel eyes studied him, and yes, Rodney got the other lesson just fine, thanks. "You can do this."
Rodney thought about it. "Okay. But if you throw my back out, you owe me. Big time."
Sheppard didn't even look surprised. Rodney wondered if anything ever really surprised him. "Anything you want." Loosening his shoulders, Sheppard took a precise three steps back, all liquid easy movement. Rodney wondered what Teyla and John were like when they fought. "Now watch."
Rodney's been doing a lot of that since then.
The short supply run doubles as a way for Elizabeth to legitimately make them take time off. It's impressive, all things considered, and Rodney upgrades her from Zelenka to Kavanagh in terms of annoyance level.
"I know you think you're fine, Rodney--"
"But losing a team member can be--difficult." She's probably been talking to Heightmeyer, may she burn in some kind of hell involving serial killers and Kavanagh clones. All the SGC records are probably flashing through her computer right now. "I want you to take some time off."
"Because we're in such excellent condition, not like we've been *invaded*, and half our equipment damaged. We don't have *time*--" To do this tiptoe about the feelings thing. It's pointless. "Elizabeth."
"Teyla agreed to take some time on the mainland for the Athosian spring festival." Elizabeth sits back, eyeing him with that look that says his sessions on the couch will double if he doesn’t do whatever it is she wants. Do it and like it. "I want you and Colonel Sheppard to take some supplies to them from the last trade." She gives her laptop a glance, then smiles at him, all white teeth and compassionate understanding. "I'll expect you back tomorrow night."
He'll be lucky if Atlantis is still *standing*-- "You have got to be kidding."
She waves her fingers at him. "That's an order, Rodney. Have fun."
A few weeks ago, Rodney had caught himself in the common room, staring at the silent TV on the way back to his lab.
Technically, it was open to anyone, but Atlantis had several, and for some reason, this one wasn't often used by anyone but the team. The furniture here was more worn than in the others, and Rodney could see the coffee stains on the upholstery that even Ancient technology couldn't quite get out. The arm of the couch had been broken one really strange night involving Athosian liquor, a recent near-death experience, and a bet on who could hold their breath the longest.
Rodney couldn't quite remember who won, but he did remember waking up with a crick in his neck from falling asleep bent over the broken arm, Teyla half across his lap, half on the floor, and Sheppard and Ford in an untidy pile and snoring, two shot glasses slumped over between them. The TV had still been on, and for the life of him, Rodney couldn't remember what they'd been watching,
Teyla liked animation, soaking it up with wide, surprised eyes. Rodney liked science fiction, and he really didn't care how clichéd it was. Ford liked action, a complete non-surprise. Sheppard just liked to watch, and sometimes, Rodney had wondered if the movie even mattered.
Rodney had left without looking back, lights dimming behind him with a thought.
He couldn't remember the last time they'd been in there, but it was long enough for dust to cover the last movie, in its case on the floor.