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[personal profile] vain_glorious
Title: No Victory
Author: [livejournal.com profile] vain_glorious
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Rating: Rish, mild violence, gen. Dark.
Summary: A mission goes poorly. Very poorly. For the prompt: "I trust you and that makes you true. Even if that's not the way it is. The Tragically Hip, "In View."
Word Count: 11, 782
Author's Note: Originally written for [livejournal.com profile] sgagenficathon 's bonus round 5 months ago. [livejournal.com profile] friendshipper said I should post it, anyway. Title from here. Feedback welcome.


M3X-128 killed eight members of the Atlantis mission before John Sheppard’s team got there. That was the total of the crews of two Puddlejumpers, the second of which had been on a search and rescue mission for the former. The first had vanished on a reconnaissance mission, before any boots had even hit soil.

The third visit was on foot.

They didn’t even know where their ships had crashed. The puddlejumpers’ computers were offline – destroyed, probably – and all of the scientists fiddling with electronics hadn’t gotten them to register on any of the instruments. The puddlejumpers’ crews – AR-9 and AR-12 – had to be presumed dead for their total silence in the weeks following their disappearances.

It wasn’t a cheerful start to the mission. Few debriefings began with the stated goal of recovering eight bodies, with the secondary objective of finding out what the hell had shot their people out of the sky.

The Wraith were the most obvious culprit, but that didn’t seem likely.

“We have no intel of Wraith in the entire sector,” Richard Woolsey told them at the debriefing, somberly.

“Why?” asked Rodney McKay. Sheppard glanced at him, silently agreeing that it was usually better to blame the Wraith until proven otherwise.

“All eleven planets in that region are recently uninhabited,” Woolsey said, tone still grim.

“Culled,” translated Ronon Dex, and Woolsey nodded.

“Wraith do not stay where there is no food,” Teyla Emmagan said.

“Right,” Woolsey went on. He sighed, tapped his finger on the tablet that Sheppard knew listed the names of the missing. “You have your mission.” He looked Sheppard in the eyes. “Be careful.”

~

“Paluthua,” Teyla said, seconds after they came through the ‘Gate. “I did not realize.”

She must have recognized the cityscape before them. Or the onetime cityscape. Woolsey hadn’t been kidding about the recent cullings. There was more rubble than buildings.

Ronon grunted in agreement, eyes sweeping over the wreckage.

“You been here before?” Sheppard asked both of them.

Ronon shook his head.

“No,” said Teyla. “But I know of it.” She looked really sad, glancing at Ronon for some reason.


“Everyone knew of it,” he said, for her.

“They survived the Wraith for a very long time,” Teyla told Sheppard, as the team began moving away from the ‘Gate.

“Not so much anymore,” muttered McKay, ever sensitive.

Teyla shot a nasty look at him, but McKay had his head down looking at a tablet.

“We have the flight plans for both teams,” he said. “It’s going to take days on foot.”

Sheppard nodded, ignoring the whine in McKay’s voice. There was a reason they were walking.

“This place looks kind of advanced,” he remarked. Cities were rare across Pegasus. Urban population concentrations generally ended up as Wraith vending machines.

“Yes,” Teyla said.

“We could be dealing with anti-Wraith defense systems?” Sheppard wondered out loud. “That kind of advanced?”

Ronon shrugged

“I know little about their society,” Teyla offered. “They are – were – isolated.”

“Religious dumbasses,” Ronon said.

Teyla made a little face, like she didn’t like him talking about a destroyed people like that. “They had peculiar religious beliefs,” she said.

“Wraith-worshippers?” guessed McKay.

“No,” Teyla said, sharply.

“Thought they were special,” Ronon said. “That the Wraith couldn’t cull them.”

“Looks like they were wrong about that,” McKay cracked.

Oddly enough, this remark didn’t piss Ronon off. He just nodded, and Sheppard wondered if maybe folks claiming the Wraith wouldn’t eat ‘em meeting just that fate wasn’t some kind of justice to folks who knew it was a reality.

Walking through the destroyed city sucked. Even McKay got real quiet and focused on his tablet. There were a few bodies, but not many. Typical aftermath of Wraith cullings. Most of the damage seemed haphazard, the side effect of taking out military defense installations. Sheppard noted this.

“Why’d they think the Wraith couldn’t get ‘em?” he asked, directing the question to Teyla and Ronon.

“I do not know,” she said.

“Wouldn’t share,” Ronon answered, voice unmistakably harsh. “Guess they were special.”

“They were chosen to be saved,” Teyla said, still more forgiving than Ronon. “I know that was the core of their beliefs.”

“The old because-I-said-so reasoning,” McKay muttered.

“I was wondering,” Sheppard said, “Why people protected by the power of prayer would need machine guns.” He pointed to a destroyed installation with what looked like the Paluthuan equivalent.”

“Bullets can be prayers,” said Ronon, and that was almost poetic.

“Plenty of Godly-types on Earth really, really like their guns,” McKay muttered.

“They did survive for a very long time,” Teyla said. “I do not believe they were ever culled before…” she trailed off. “I know little about their culture.”

But McKay got what Sheppard was getting at. “The Wraith don’t like it when lunch develops rocket launchers,” he said, managing to have the sensitivity to avoid mentioning that Ronon should know that. “It’s weird this place wasn’t culled constantly. A city this size would be like free refills.”

Sheppard could have lived without that analogy. “Yeah,” he agreed. “Could we be dealing with some kind of military defense weapon they called God?”

“Perhaps,” Teyla said. But she was frowning. “You are correct, though, that such a device would have attracted the attention of the Wraith.”

“Unless it actually worked,” McKay suggested. “And kept the Wraith away until there were a bunch more and they were all really hungry.”

Ronon grunted. “No such thing,” he said.

“Let’s keep it in mind,” Sheppard said, shutting down what would have been a really unpleasant argument. “You getting anything on your tablet, Rodney? Lifesigns? Energy readings?”

“No life signs other than us,” McKay reported. “And very low energy readings.”

“The puddlejumpers?” asked Teyla.

“I don’t think so.”

“In line with the flight paths?” Sheppard asked.

McKay squinted at his screen. “Sort of. Maybe.” He scowled. “Days away, though. We’re going to be walking forever.”

~

The Paluthuan city was huge. Absolutely enormous. Most of the destruction had been concentrated in the newer center, it seemed. The farther they got from the ‘Gate, the older and more intact the buildings got. Still totally empty, of course. A real life ghost town, just like thousands of other cities visited by hungry Wraith.

Sheppard thought it seemed extra sinister, but he couldn’t pinpoint why. Unpopulated planets – unnaturally unpopulated, at that – were creepy to begin with. Knowing that eight of his own people had crashed and died here made it worse. But all the same, he didn’t feel any danger, didn’t sense any threat. The dead, empty city was just sad, in the same way that every empty city in Pegasus was sad.

It was almost a normal mission. His team didn’t seem too perturbed by the setting. Sheppard wondered if the cityscape reminded Ronon of Sateda, but if it did the other man wasn’t showing it. McKay did what he always did in places like this, making extra obnoxious comments about minor things like the blister he was getting on his ankle and how he thought the planet smelled because it distracted them all from the grim reality they were touring.

He thought Teyla seemed a little grim, maybe because she was the nicest person on his team and wasn’t good at either the callous wisecracks or studiously ignoring her surroundings.

It took three whole days to get out of the city. Three days of walking at a pretty good pace until the sun went down, and three nights of bedding down under the stars in the desolate city.

The mysterious energy signals Rodney was tracking stayed steady, broadcasting from somewhere beyond the city walls. Nothing was happening inside the dead city. Sheppard might have become a little extra jumpy during his watches, but there was really absolutely nothing left alive in Paluthua. Not even rats. The only sounds that filled the night were Rodney and Ronon’s snoring competition. About twice during Sheppard’s turn at watch, Teyla would wake up and aim a kick at Rodney or Ronon’s sleeping bag, whichever was closer. It occasionally worked on Ronon, but Rodney would just wake up and start complaining about being assaulted in his sleep and deny that he snored.

So, really, it was a totally normal mission. Sad and creepy in the way all too many missions in Pegasus began, but ultimately not that bad. There was nothing living on Paluthua to threaten Sheppard’s team. They were walking on a dead planet, searching for their dead crew, but it wasn’t too bad. Sheppard was well aware that was a shitty standard. It was better than searching for the lost puddlejumpers on a planet crawling with Wraith or pissed off natives. He would take what he could get. The weather, too, stayed nice. It’d been mild and dry the whole three days. Not too hot or too cold.

Things changed a little on the fourth day. As they departed the city boundaries, the temperature rose. It probably wouldn’t have been perceptible, except it happened as they left the smooth, paved roads and transitioned to uneven ground without a path. It was harder to walk, now, and the sudden warmth didn’t help.

It really wasn’t that bad. Sheppard stripped down to his t-shirt and shoved his jacket in his pack.

McKay started griping about it, of course. But he refused to take off any clothes, believing that’d result in instant skin cancer or something. And apparently he could sense bugs Sheppard couldn’t, since he griped about that, too, and then sprayed them all with a noxious cloud of insect repellant. Since they were outside the decimated city, this was the point where McKay’s constant complaints stopped being a nice distraction and instead made Sheppard want to hit him.

And whoa, usually it took a lot longer for Sheppard to get to that point. He blamed the heat, and the fact that the mission totally sucked. McKay wasn’t even being that bad, yet. Sheppard didn’t mean to, but he snapped at McKay. Ignoring him was always the way to go, because sniping at him just started a totally unwinnable and endless argument.

Ronon and Teyla ignored Sheppard and McKay’s bickering the ways they always did. Teyla briefly glanced their direction, her expression communicating that she thought they were acting like children. Ronon didn’t say anything or even look at them, he just altered his stride so he was slightly ahead. Sheppard figured it was Ronon’s way of informing any witnesses that he wasn’t with them, even on this empty planet.

Unfortunately, McKay was right about the bugs. Sheppard didn’t notice until a few hours into the evening. They were tiny, about gnat-sized. Didn’t sting, fortunately, but they did bite. Clouds of the insects hovered around his head, and he didn’t realize they were landing until his neck started itching.

Annoyed, Sheppard unhooked McKay’s bug spray from the man’s pack without asking and squirted it all over his torso. He squeezed his eyes shut and sprayed his neck and hair, too.

“Hey,” snapped McKay, snatching the bottle out of his hand. “Get your own!”

Sheppard ignored him, shrugging his jacket back on so he had less skin exposed.

“Brilliant,” said McKay. “Cover up the repellant.”

And abruptly Sheppard wanted to hit him again, which was another overreaction. Forcibly, Sheppard stayed silent and also didn’t punch McKay.

McKay was right that putting his jacket on afterwards was counterproductive, too, which was just irritating. And McKay had stashed his bug spray out of reach. Sheppard had to settle for smacking himself in the neck for the rest of the night, while McKay smirked at him.

The bugs weren’t bothering Teyla or Ronon, evidently. Teyla might have been too restrained to futilely brush the things off her skin. Possibly the insects were staying away from Ronon because he was just that scary.

It was really kind of annoying that Sheppard got to be the main course, as the insects continued to hover around him and ignore the rest of his team. That didn’t stop McKay from continuing to complain about them, even though Sheppard could clearly see they weren’t interested in anyone else. McKay had just added them to his list, along with how the uneven terrain was bad for his back and how he thought the odor in the air (that only he could smell) meant they were breathing alien chemicals that were going to give them all lung cancer.

Sheppard decided it wasn’t his imagination: McKay had definitely kicked his paranoia up a notch. Nothing had happened to warrant how much the man had already decided he hated this planet. Maybe McKay had known one of the missing crew. Two of them were from his department, after all. Forgivingly, Sheppard guessed that had to be the extra stress that had McKay operating at warp speed aggravate. He forced himself not to say anything awful, and reproached himself for the instinct to smack McKay silent.

Sheppard would have thought that Ronon would at the very least have threatened McKay with violence by now. But the big guy had stayed almost totally silent thus far, which was kind of odd in itself. Ronon was usually quiet, but he basically hadn’t said a word since they’d left the decimated city. Maybe the mission was bothering him, too, the destroyed landscape too similar to his homeworld.

He knew better than to ask, since that wouldn’t get anything out of the other man. But Sheppard decided it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye out, check that this sucky mission wasn’t sucking just too close to home for Ronon.

If it was, Sheppard couldn’t tell. Well, he sort of could. Ronon’s face was tightly shuttered from emotion, a hint in itself that he wasn’t too happy. And nearly every time Sheppard glanced back at him, Ronon was looking backwards himself. Even though he was last in line, Teyla and McKay sandwiched between him and Sheppard.

“Something back there?” Sheppard asked, the first time he caught Ronon looking over his shoulder.

Ronon said nothing, just turned his neck back towards Sheppard and shook his head.

Unfortunately, McKay heard Sheppard’s question and tensed up in preemptive terror. He added imaginary pursuers to his litany of complaints, and Sheppard regretted even bringing it up. Ronon kept checking their six, though, with a worrying compulsion. It was like Ronon wasn’t even looking forward at all. If Sheppard tried that, he’d trip over something.

Teyla, thus far, was acting normal. Sheppard appreciated that and her apparent ability to compartmentalize how shitty their mission was and how annoying McKay had decided to be. She was totally ignoring everything, calmly eating from her stash of power bars. He could hear the wrapper crinkling, even when he wasn’t looking back to check on Ronon. Oddly enough, while Sheppard glanced back to check on Ronon, he saw her expertly swipe another handful of power bars from the back pocket of McKay’s pack. Walking in front of her, McKay didn’t even notice and Teyla quickly hid them in her tacvest. Sheppard winked at her, to which she made a sort of guilty face and smiled.

McKay briefly interrupted the silence of their march to complain some more. Sheppard was going to tell him to shut up, but Teyla beat him to it.

“I should have brought Torren’s stroller,” Teyla said, which was startlingly mean.

McKay turned around to glare at her, mouth open but nothing coming out for a second. “Hey!”

~

Dinner that night managed to be tense and uncomfortable, too. That was strange, since mealtimes usually ended up the best part of a mission. Food made everybody happy. It could work miracles with Rodney. Even shitty MREs.

Except that night, McKay decided to pick a fight over dinner. A fight with Teyla. Sheppard didn’t even know how it started, because he’d wandered away to take a leak and come running back when he heard shouting. He had his gun up and out, half expecting Wraith or another unfriendly had interrupted dinner.

Instead, Sheppard found Ronon gone and Teyla sitting calmly on the ground digging into an MRE while Rodney stood over her ranting. Lowering his gun when he didn’t see an enemy, Sheppard approached.

“What the hell is going on?” he asked, raising his voice to drown out McKay. “Shut up, McKay.”

“She stole my food!” McKay yelled, not shutting up at all. “That’s mine!”

Sheppard hadn’t expected anything quite that stupid, so he sort of blinked at them. McKay was flushed red in the face with anger and Teyla was engrossed in her meal – it looked like mac and cheese – and seemed to be totally indifferent to Rodney’s yelling.

“What?” Sheppard asked, after a second. “Where did Ronon go?”

“That’s mine,” McKay repeated. “Make her give it back.”

Teyla looked up at that and made an incredulous face. “No,” she said, flatly.

“McKay,” snapped Sheppard. “Are you serious?”

He really should have known better than to ask that kind of question, because McKay enjoyed answering rhetorical questions. Rodney started ranting about carefully selecting MREs without citrus ingredients – total bullshit since Sheppard couldn’t think of a single one that did – and his imaginary medically necessary dietary restrictions.

“Okay, okay,” Sheppard tried to interrupt McKay. “I got it.” But McKay just kept going, jabbing his finger at Teyla while he screeched. “Shut up!

McKay fell silent, probably not because Sheppard had asked but because he needed to catch his breath. “It’s mine,” he repeated, scowling.

“Teyla,” Sheppard said. “Don’t steal Rodney’s food.” He felt like a Kindergartner teacher. “Least don’t let him catch you.”

Teyla looked up at him. She should have had her usual slightly irritated but amazingly tolerant expression. Instead, her face was flat and her tone cool. “I am hungry.”

“So am I!” yelled McKay “You-” Without thinking, Sheppard reached out and shoved McKay in the shoulder. He didn’t think he did it that hard, but McKay stumbled backwards and fell on his ass to the ground with a gasp. “Ow!” Howled McKay. “What the hell?”

“Where did Ronon go?” Sheppard asked again, deciding he refused to referee a fight over macaroni and cheese.

“He left,” said Teyla. “When Rodney became loud.”

On the ground, McKay harrumphed.

“Ah,” Sheppard said, nodding. “Ronon?” he said into his ear piece.

“They done?” Ronon’s voice instantly came over the radio.

“Yeah, they’re done,” Sheppard promised. “Get back here.” He looked down at both his teammates. “Both of you are done.”

Teyla licked her cheese-covered fork and McKay twitched on the ground like he wanted to lunge at her. Sheppard stepped more solidly between the two. He didn’t know what the hell was going on. “Hey!”

“McKay,” he ordered, “Go sit on your sleeping bag.”

“Fine,” McKay snapped, stumbling to his feet. Sheppard could hear him grumbling as he walked back to where he’d laid his pack out. And then he dragged his sleeping pallet a little further away, for good measure.

“We’re going to have a little timeout,” Sheppard said, sinking to his knees next to Teyla, who was still engrossed in the remnants of her meal.


“What is a timeout?” Teyla asked, voice still oddly cool. Sheppard wondered what the hell was up with her.

“It’s a punishment for disobedient children,” Sheppard said. He heard twigs snapping in the dark and Ronon stepped back into the firelight. “Welcome back.”

Ronon said nothing, just hunkered down on his own sleeping bag, casting wary glances at his teammates. Sheppard thought maybe he should reprimand the man for running off when McKay and Teyla appeared to lose their damn minds, but couldn’t think of a way to phrase it that wouldn’t result in more yelling.

It turned out not to help. “Where the hell are my power bars?” McKay yelped, seconds later. He was rifling through his bag and had apparently just discovered Teyla’s earlier theft. “They’re gone!”

Sheppard immediately rose and stalked over to his own pack. He grabbed a handful of his own power bars, throwing half at Rodney and the other half in Teyla’s direction.

“Here,” he barked. “Calm the hell down!” Teyla picked up one the bars and promptly began to unwrap it. Sheppard stared at her as she took a small bite and chewed. “Teyla, are you feeling okay?”

“I am hungry,” Teyla said, mildly.

“We can see that,” snapped Rodney. “What, are you pregnant again?”

Teyla looked sharply over at him and Sheppard quickly intervened.

“Both of you shut the hell up!” he ordered, looking from one to the other. “Shut the hell up and go to sleep. I’ll take first watch.”

“Very well,” Teyla said, while Rodney grumbled something unintelligible but clearly insulting.

Keeping an eye on the two of them, Sheppard walked over to Ronon and crouched beside him.

“Hey buddy,” Sheppard said. “Why’d you take off like that?” He wasn’t sure that was normal. Maybe it was. Sometimes just leaving was the best thing to do when McKay had a tantrum, except not on a scary hostile planet that had already killed eight people. Even if Teyla was supposed to defuse these incidents, not make them worse.

Ronon just looked at him. “I came back,” he said.

“Yeah,” Sheppard said, frowning. “That’s not really my point.”

He didn’t get a response to that, the firelight bouncing off Ronon’s dark eyes.

“Okay,” Sheppard said, which was what he said when stuff wasn’t okay, too. “You feeling alright?”

“Fine,” Ronon said, without hesitation.

“Really?”

He got stared at again.

“You don’t think you three are acting weird?”

Us three?” McKay shrieked from his sleeping bag across the way, where he was apparently eavesdropping. “You’re the one that hit me!”

“I didn’t hit you,” Sheppard said, since he hadn’t. It’d been a gentle push and McKay had gone down like that for effect.

“You deserved it,” said Teyla, evenly.

McKay howled something in response to that, so high-pitched and fast, Sheppard only caught the word ‘thief’ repeatedly. He was also scrabbling around on his sleeping bag, like he intended to get up and move towards Teyla.

“Hey, hey, hey!” Sheppard yelled, rising quickly and stalking towards McKay.

McKay froze as Sheppard approached, genuine fear replacing the outrage on his face. It took a second, but Sheppard realized he was still clutching his P-90. It was almost aimed at McKay. Sheppard quickly released it and let it hang loosely off his torso.

“Everyone chill out,” he said, aware it sounded pretty weak. “And go to sleep. I’ll take first watch.”

Ronon usually took first watch, but Sheppard wanted to make sure Teyla and Rodney were actually going to…just stop. If it weren’t the middle of the night, he probably would have ordered them to turn around and head back to the ‘Gate. And it would still be more than a three days’ journey back.

Nothing happened during Sheppard’s watch. Well, Ronon went to take a bath and Sheppard covertly swiped the man’s gun from his pile of clothes, and reloaded it with the power cells sitting in the charger. Ronon was acting more or less normal, but he also thought shooting Sheppard with that thing was fun when he was completely normal. Ronon would sincerely want to kill him if Sheppard lost the charged power cells, so he hid them in his tac vest. He couldn’t disarm Teyla or Rodney without causing a scene, though, and P-90s didn’t have a ‘stun’ setting.

Sheppard didn’t really sleep that night. He relaxed the most and may have drifted off a bit during Ronon’s watch, but he stayed wide away and tense during McKay’s and Teyla’s. He didn’t know what he expected, but neither one did anything. McKay futzed with his tablet the entire time, instead of actually keeping watch like he was supposed to. ‘Course, he usually did that. A Wraith could have snuck up and tapped him on the shoulder before he noticed.

Teyla spent her shift eating the power bars Sheppard had thrown at her earlier. Which was bizarre. She didn’t appear to be paying any attention to their surroundings, either. On the grand scale of weird, compulsive eating wasn’t all that scary. Still, Sheppard was making her get checked out by Keller when they made it back. And Ronon. And McKay, too.

~

In the morning, Sheppard floated the idea that they should turn back now. He didn’t mention that he thought it’d be a good idea to do it now before someone really went crazy.

He got a tirade from Rodney, not surprising. McKay had some valid points, namely that they’d already spent days walking through ‘scenes from an apocalypse’ and it would really blow to hightail it back with nothing accomplished. His tablets readings said they were getting closer to the mysterious energy readings that might hold the key to what happened here. Sheppard was beginning to suspect that getting closer might not be what they wanted, at all.

Ronon had no opinion. In fact, he pulled another vanishing act while Sheppard and McKay were debating if they should leave. And Sheppard was too busy trying to get McKay to shut the hell up so he can actually get a word in edgewise to notice until Ronon was already gone.

Sheppard wondered if Ronon was having the same unsettling impulses to beat the shit out of McKay for no real reason and that’s why he kept leaving. And that’s a really terrifying idea, especially if any of those thoughts are directed at Sheppard. But bringing it up seemed dangerous. Confessing he was feeling a little homicidal mania didn’t really appeal, either

Teyla persuaded him to continue the mission. After the stupid fight with McKay last night, she seemed to be back to normal. Really, whatever this thing was, it might just be the consequences of paranoia plus Rodney being an asshole. Sheppard wasn’t feeling violent towards Teyla, at all. And he always kind of wanted to hit McKay. Most people did, right?

“We must go on,” Teyla said, smiling brightly.”And find our people. We have come too far to turn back.”

And her argument was the same as Rodney’s, but it didn’t make him want to punch her in the face. Also, Teyla actually looked like she wanted to continue the mission, whereas Rodney had clearly only taken that position so he could disagree with Sheppard.

Ronon finally came back after the shouting was over. He didn’t explain where he’d been or why he’d left.

“Hey big guy,” Sheppard said, drifting over to him as they prepared to hike onwards “What’s with the field trips?”

“McKay is loud,” Ronon replied, flatly.

“Yeah,” Sheppard agreed. “Sometimes I just want to kill him.”

McKay – kneeling on the ground repacking his sleeping bag – was close enough to have heard that. Sheppard winced, waited for another pointless tantrum. But McKay just kept shoving things into his pack and didn’t look up.

Ronon said nothing in response and Sheppard decided to pretend he hadn’t spoken.

“Let’s get a move on,” he announced.

“We are close?” Teyla asked. “To the readings?”

“Closer,” grumbled McKay. “Maybe half a day away.”

“Still no life signs?” Sheppard asked. He wasn’t optimistic, but he had to ask.

Unfortunately, he chose to ask McKay.

“Actually,” McKay snapped, “Life signs showed up yesterday, I just chose not to mention it! I thought it’d be a fun surprise! What do you think? No, there are no life signs.”

Apparently he had heard Sheppard’s comment.

Ronon shoved past Sheppard, heading away from camp before Sheppard could say anything. He was torn between retorting or chasing Ronon, whose running away was officially getting on his nerves. Sheppard went after Ronon, glaring at McKay as he did. It wasn’t very effective, since he had to basically race to keep on Ronon’s heels.
 

Things did not get better.

McKay stayed incredibly, deliberately annoying. He was talking incessantly, even more than usual, about shit Sheppard didn’t care about. On the bright side, he wasn’t fighting with Teyla.

Ronon had point and he was walking too fast. Like he wanted to get away from the rest of the team, which maybe he did. But it was annoying and also tiring, since Ronon’s legs were longer and it was a lot harder for the rest of them to keep up. Sheppard wasn’t going to tell him that, because it was too close to whining.

Even though she was the shortest, Teyla wasn’t having any trouble. She was keeping the pace and snapping gum. That was unusual – he didn’t even know she knew what gum was – but okay.

They didn’t find anything. No sign of their people and no sign of anything emitting McKay’s precious readings. Just dense, overgrown grasslands approaching rocky cliffs. Sheppard was not thrilled to be moving towards crevices and shadows. The tall grass already made it next to impossible to get good surveillance of their surroundings.

McKay was monopolizing both his tablet and the life sign detector, making Sheppard feel nervous and blind. More often than not, having lab geeks along on patrol only made it more dangerous. The last thing they needed on this mission was a liability. Sheppard glanced at Ronon, wondering if he was having the same thoughts about the rest of them. Teyla could be vicious, but everyone knew Ronon didn’t even need them along for the company.

Sheppard tried to catch Ronon’s eye, but the man wouldn’t look at him and kept his position out front. He was far enough ahead now to be considered out of formation.

The afternoon mealtime rolled around. Not surprisingly, McKay stopped walking the moment he noticed the time.

“Lunch,” he said. “There’s shade over there by that boulder.”

Sheppard wasn’t all that hungry, but he was hot and sweaty from trying to keep up with Ronon in this temperature. He halted in place and turned towards the big rock. “Okay.”

“No,” Teyla spoke up. “We should not stop.”

“I’m hungry,” McKay said, tossing his pack down.

Teyla scowled. “We are close,” she said. “It is a waste of time to delay.”

“Some of us have normal metabolisms,” McKay retorted. “It’s lunchtime.”

“But we are close,” Teyla repeated, abruptly looking pissed off.

“Who has the tablet again?”

Ronon, who had also stopped, suddenly began moving again. Like he was going to walk off and leave them.

“Hey!” Sheppard yelled, stepping up and grabbing at Ronon’s arm. “We’re sticking together.”

~

~Please feed the author~

 

Part 2


 

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