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wildcat88 in sheps_atlantis

Farewell to Stargate Atlantis Ficathon

Title: A Rampart of Defense
Author: wildcat88
Rating: PG
Characters: Team
Disclaimer: Don't own them. More's the pity.
Prompts: For sgatazmy who wanted friendship, bittersweet, and conflict. Hope I got close.
Notes: Thanks to kristen999 for the beta.
Summary: When Rodney is falsely accused of a crime, the team has to come up with a solution to save him.
Word Count: ~5300


 

John shivered and zipped his parka against the cold. The MALP readings hadn’t done this planet justice. He squinted in the pre-dawn light, sensing Ronon and Teyla fanning out on either side as McKay redialed Atlantis and sent the MALP home. A barren landscape in shades of gray stretched before him; boulders littered the hard-packed trail that cut through towering buttes and disappeared in the distance.

 

“Not even a welcoming committee,” McKay grumped, briskly rubbing gloved hands.

 

“You are certain they were expecting us?” Teyla asked.

 

“According to the message Woolsey received.” John shrugged. “They asked us to come. You got anything?” he asked McKay.

 

Rodney fumbled with a pocket then jerked a glove off angrily and pulled a scanner from his vest. “Hmmm… Minimal energy readings…” He turned slowly, his brows drawing together. “Oh, hello. Life signs and something interesting,” he waved vaguely forward, “that way.”

 

“That way it is,” John said. “Teyla, take our six.”

 

John let Ronon lead while he took a moment to stargaze. As beautiful as Atlantis was, its brightness obscured most of the night sky. Rarely did he get a display like this – shining diamonds against a velvety blackness of such depth he couldn’t grasp it. The constellations were different here, and he’d already spotted Daffy Duck and was pondering Scooby Doo when Rodney bumped into him.

 

“Sorry,” McKay whispered, his face scrunched in chagrin. “I was, um…”

 

John grinned at him and jerked his chin toward the stars. “We have the coolest job ever.”

 

McKay’s eyes drifted upward again. “Yeah,” he murmured.

 

He wanted to be surprised at the childlike wonder on Rodney’s face, but he couldn’t be. McKay wasn’t the same man who had stepped through the gate five years ago. Time and circumstances had changed him, had changed all of them. John trusted his team in ways he’d never thought possible. Rodney smiled more. Ronon’s restlessness was disappearing. Teyla sang out loud when she walked down the hall, whether Torren was with her or not. Of course, not every change had been for the better. Elizabeth…

 

John shook the reverie off and concentrated on the world around him. The hush of the desert seemed to have cast a spell on all of them; only the crunch of sand and the skitter of rock broke the silence. Gold bands of dawn warmed the landscape to red.

 

“Oh,” Teyla breathed.

 

John glanced back then followed her gaze. “Wow.”

 

A sea of flickering firelight dotted the buttes ahead, hundreds of tiny flames dancing in the wind and illumining the city that was carved into the cliffs.

 

“Life signs, lots of them,” Rodney stated. “At least a couple thousand.”

 

John tightened his grip on his P-90. Invited or not, they were walking into unfamiliar territory. Ronon’s shoulders tensed, his hand sliding toward his blaster.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Two people.”

 

“Armed?”

 

Ronon squinted. “Can’t tell.”

 

John took the lead. “Let’s go find out.”

 

He put on his friendliest smile and headed toward them. The woman was tall, willowy, her pale hair whipping in the breeze. The man was all muscle, and his dark skin gleamed in the light of the torch he held. Both wore heavy furs and high boots, and their faces bore the marks of time and harsh weather.

 

“I’m Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard of Atlantis. This is Doctor Rodney McKay, Teyla Emmagan, and Ronon Dex. I believe you were expecting us.”

 

The woman appraised each of them in turn then focused on John. “Your promptness is appreciated, Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard.”

 

“Please, call me John. Titles take too long.”

 

Her eyes crinkled in amusement. “Very well, John. I am Colla of Lilpotai, and this is Miltre.”

 

At her wave, the man bowed slightly and brought his fingertips to his eyes in salute. “We bring you greetings from the Council of Elders. Thank you for coming. We look forward to hearing about the advantages of joining the Coalition.”

 

Only someone who knew Teyla extremely well would have noticed the ripple of surprise on her face. “We will be most happy to present all the benefits of Coalition membership. A more thorough knowledge of your culture and history would ensure that we discuss what is most important to you.”

 

“Of course,” Colla replied. “We will begin in our Hall of Remembrance.”

 

She led them along a hedge of stone that held the distinctive odor of a stable. Miltre ducked around the end then emerged with reins in hand. Six pack animals followed him out. Short, squatty, and painfully ugly, they bore a disturbing resemblance to warthogs.

 

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Rodney said.

 

Colla glanced at McKay as Ronon’s hand landed on his shoulder and curled tightly. “Is there something wrong?”

 

“No,” McKay squeaked. “Not a thing.”

 

John frowned at the venom in the glare Rodney shot Ronon when Colla’s back was turned. He wasn’t sure exactly what had caused the tension that simmered below the surface, but so far they hadn’t let it affect their professional responsibilities, and John had been content to let them work it out themselves. He hoped that wasn’t a mistake.

 

The not-quite-warthogs smelled worse than they looked. John swallowed thickly as he swung up, nodding his thanks to Miltre when he handed over the reins. Once they were mounted, Colla made a series of clicks and whistles. The animals shuffled into a line and headed up a semi-steep path.

 

Ronon sidled next to John. “Thought we were here for them to evaluate us as the Coalition’s military.”

 

John glanced back, deciding Miltre was too far behind them to overhear. “That’s what I thought, too, but I guess somebody got their wires crossed.”

 

“How long’s this going to take?”

 

“Why? You got a hot date?” John’s brows shot up at Ronon’s flat stare. “Are you blushing?”

 

“Shut up,” Ronon growled, the flush creeping up his neck to his ears.

 

John snickered as Ronon urged his mount forward until he was even with Teyla. She rode like she’d been born to it while Rodney tried his best to not touch anything and Ronon’s feet scraped the ground. After a few minutes of steady climbing, the path evened to a wide landing. Several older boys scampered from a small enclosure, held the reins while the group dismounted, then led the animals back down.

 

“Your city is very impressive,” Teyla said. “How were your people able to carve such magnificent structures?”

 

Colla beamed with pride. “Our stone cutters and artisans are truly gifted.” She approached a colonnaded portico that sheltered massive doors. “Our Hall of Remembrance,” she announced before entering.

 

Torches lined the high-ceilinged foyer. Recessed lighting flickered to life, and warm air brushed over John’s skin as he pushed the parka’s hood from his face. Various sculptures and portraits decorated the hallway that branched in several different directions.

 

Colla stopped in the center and addressed them. “Legend tells that the Ancestors once inhabited this world. Our archaeologists have uncovered numerous artifacts believed to have belonged to them. Several devices have held data which our linguists have transcribed. This information seems to be random, but we have done our best to adapt our lives to it. Our laws and moral code are based on it along with some of our tools and skills.”

 

“Including stone carving,” John guessed.

 

“Yes,” Colla confirmed. “The data devices contained detailed schematics for this city. We built the necessary mechanisms and did our best to construct the structures according to the Ancestors specifications. We hope they are pleased with our efforts.”

 

Rodney’s eyes rounded in dismay. “You aren’t expecting them to drop by for an inspection, are you?”

 

Colla smiled wistfully. “No. One device held information on their ascension experiments. While no one has been able to decipher exactly what that entails, we understand that they have left this life.”

 

“Why the um…animals?” John asked. “You seem to have a good grasp of technology. Isn’t there a more efficient way of getting up here?”

 

Her eyes glinted with mischief. “Yes, but not one nearly as entertaining.”

 

“Oh, of course,” McKay muttered. “No telling what diseases I’ve been exposed to just so the locals can have a laugh.”

 

“Rodney,” Teyla warned.

 

Colla laughed. “I assure you, Doctor, our animals are well taken care of. Now, if you’ll come this way, I’ll show you some of our more prized possessions.”

 

She led them through rooms filled with increasing levels of technology – a testament to the growing understanding of the information left by the Ancients. Printing presses, texts, communication equipment, light bulbs, looms, chisels, steam engines. Ancient devices were interspersed throughout the collection. Some were familiar to John – life signs detectors, medical scanner, a blender – but some he’d never seen before. McKay was practically salivating as they passed into an area that held their more recent discoveries.

 

“Do you know what all of these do?” Rodney asked.

 

“Not all,” Colla admitted. “Some won’t work no matter what we do.”

 

John walked the perimeter of the room, one eye on the entrances and the other on the guards who had been following them discretely. His spine tingled softly as it always did in the presence of Ancient technology. He barely noticed it anymore. But he jerked when his skin pricked and his mind buzzed. Whirling, he spotted McKay, eyes scrunched in concentration and fingertips lightly resting on a glowing baseball-sized sphere.

 

“What are you doing?” John hissed, glancing back. Miltre and Colla were across the room, deep in conversation with Teyla and seemingly oblivious to Rodney’s actions.

 

McKay yanked his hand away. “Do you know what this is?” he asked.

 

“Something that doesn’t belong to you.”

 

“Technicalities.” Rodney waved in dismissal. “Unless I’m wrong – and, seriously, when does that ever happen - it’s a prototype of a vacuum energy power source.”

 

John let that process, exchanging glances with Ronon who wandered over. Every time they’d toyed with vacuum energy, something had been nearly or completely destroyed. “Isn’t that what killed the Dorandans?” he interrupted.

 

“Yes, but-”

 

“And almost ripped Rod’s universe apart?”

 

“Well-”

 

“And damn near obliterated Earth when you were there a few weeks ago.”

 

“I didn’t do that!”

 

John rolled his eyes. “I didn’t say you did. I’m just saying we haven’t had the best of luck dealing with this kind of thing.”

 

“That’s why we need to study it.”

 

“It’s not ours, Rodney.”

 

“Well, then include it in the negotiations.”

 

“What negotiations?” Ronon asked. “We’re supposed to be telling them why they should join the Coalition.”

 

“Oh, right.” McKay’s shoulders sagged. “I really need to examine it. Maybe they won’t notice if-”

 

John slapped his hand away. “Don’t even think about it. Let’s do what we came here to do. Then we’ll work on some kind of exchange.”

 

“Fine,” Rodney grumped.

 

Colla smiled genially as they approached. “It is time for our midday meal. We would be honored if you would join us.”

 

“Midday?” Teyla queried.

 

“Our days are very short during the winter months. The sun will set soon.”

 

“I could eat,” Ronon said.

 

“There’s a newsflash,” Rodney mumbled.

 

Ronon’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t remember you missing a meal lately.”

 

A glare from Teyla silenced them as they followed Colla to a large room across the hall. A long table that could seat at least two dozen was laden with steaming platters and serving bowls. Several other men and women were already seated. Colla introduced them as the rest of the Council and invited John and his team to sit.

 

After everyone had been served, Miltre turned to Teyla. “Tell us of the Coalition.”

 

John forced himself to appear interested as Teyla gave a brief overview of Pegasus’ new political situation. He still wasn’t sure how he’d been dragged into this. He hated politics. Admittedly, Woolsey had been saving their asses when he’d bribed that judge by committing Atlantis to its role of military might in the Coalition. Damn kangaroo court. John had agreed that Atlantis had a duty to make a difference, but protecting the city had already been a full time job, and now he was suddenly responsible for the lives on twenty-seven different planets. Twenty-eight if they were successful today. He and Lorne had spent hours arranging training schedules, creating small militias on each world. Jumpers were patrolling the systems with the densest populations, and last week they’d received a request to provide security for some type of interplanetary athletic competition.

 

“…expect, John?”

 

He blinked at Colla. “I’m sorry. Could you repeat the question?”

 

“I asked what kind of military presence we can expect.”

 

“We’re not going to be taking over your world, if that’s what you mean. We will come when you ask for us or if we determine you are in danger. We want to protect you, not run your lives.”

 

“You do not intend on establishing a base here?”

 

“Of course not. We can send some soldiers to help train your people if you want, but that would be temporary.”

 

“I see.” Colla’s gaze shifted to her colleagues then she nodded and stood. “Thank you for agreeing to meet with us. You have been most helpful. We will consider what you have told us and send our answer in a few days.”

 

Teyla rose. “It has been our honor to meet you. Perhaps we can return on another day with some of our scientists to study the Ancestral artifacts.”

 

Colla gave an odd little smile. “Perhaps.”

 

She escorted them to the entryway and bid them farewell. Miltre hurried through their midst, apologizing as he bumped first into Teyla then Rodney in his haste. He spoke quietly to the boys who disappeared into the first shadows of dusk. Almost immediately, they returned with the warthog burros. A bumpy ride down left them at the base of the butte as nightfall and frigid temperatures returned.

 

“Okay, kids,” John said. “Let’s go home.”

 

Teyla fell in step beside him as they headed toward the gate. “What was your sense of them?”

 

“They seem nice enough.” John shrugged. “I didn’t expect you to have to explain the merits of being in the Coalition. It does have merits, right?”

 

She chuckled then turned serious. “For many worlds, the Coalition represents hope, something they have never had. A hope of living in peace, without the threat of the Wraith.”

 

“That’s a lot to ask of a fledgling government.”

 

“Yes, it is. Which is why Atlantis’ participation is necessary. The optimism and strength your people possess is…like a shot of adrenaline to a galaxy that has known nothing but fear and oppression for millennia. You have proven that the Wraith can be defeated. Few here ever thought that possible. They can govern themselves – they can survive and even flourish in some cases – but they need some guidance in how to fight effectively.”

 

“Well, I’m all for that. But you’d think…” John trailed off as a low hum filled his ears. A transport, metallic and boxy, rolled to a stop near them, and Colla emerged. “That’s definitely cooler than those pack animals.”

 

Colla strode quickly to him. “We welcomed you into our town. Why have you treated us this way?”

 

He traded bewildered looks with his team. “What are you talking about?”

 

Her lips pressed together in a fine line. “You deny you have stolen one of our artifacts?”

 

Alarm spiked as several heavily armed guards spilled from the transport and surrounded them. “Of course I deny it. We haven’t taken anything.”

 

“Then you won’t mind if we search your belongings.”

 

It wasn’t really a question, and he knew it. But he also knew his team.

 

“Search away. We have nothing to hide. You can start with me.”

 

John stood patiently while one of the guards searched each pocket of his tac vest and parka then patted him down. Colla did the same with Teyla. Ronon stared malevolently but submitted to the search. Rodney squawked and berated as the guards rummaged through his pack and his pockets.

 

“Lady Colla,” one guard called. “We’ve found it.”

 

McKay blanched as the silver sphere was pulled from his parka pocket. “But I didn’t-”

 

“Silence!” Colla turned angry eyes to John. “You will return with us. The Council must discuss this.”

 

John’s gaze swept over the group, calculating the odds of survival. His team had superior fire power, but the locals outnumbered them. The chances of them escaping unscathed were microscopic. He nodded to his team and surrendered his P-90 and .45, conveniently forgetting to mention his knife and the handgun strapped to his ankle. Quicker than he’d imagined possible, they were loaded in the transport then herded through the city and locked in a cell of stone.

 

“Sheppard, I swear I didn’t take that device.”

 

He met Rodney’s eyes. The man was too smart and too loyal to risk the wrath of a society that showed advanced technological abilities – maybe not on the level of Atlantis, but more than most worlds they’d visited. But McKay’s drive to understand vacuum energy bordered on obsessive sometimes. Was it possible…

 

No. It wasn’t possible. Rodney wouldn’t endanger them like that.

 

He’d waited a beat too long to respond though. McKay’s jaw tightened, and hurt radiated from every pore.

 

“I know you didn’t, Rodney. We’ll figure out what happened. I’m sure it’s just a big misunderstanding.”

 

The door swung open, and Colla entered. “We are saddened by this blatant disregard for our laws. While we understand that you are strangers here, we cannot allow this act to go unpunished lest other worlds hear of it and attempt similar crimes. However, we punish only the guilty. The rest of you will be released.”

 

“What is the punishment?” Teyla asked.

 

“Typically, the sentence for stealing is three days in the stocks.”

 

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Rodney muttered.

 

“The stocks are open to the elements in the village center.”

 

“That’s a death sentence in this cold,” Ronon growled.

 

“Yes,” Colla replied. “It would be. The alternative is twenty lashes.”

 

“Oh, God,” Rodney whispered. “I think I’d rather freeze.”

 

“No one’s going to freeze or anything else,” John stated. “What about a trial, an appeal, something?”

 

Colla arched a brow at him. “He was carrying the device. There can only be one conclusion. There are no appeals.”

 

“What kind of justice is that?”

 

“Our kind, John. Someone must be punished for this crime. And it is a high crime. To take something that belonged to the Ancestors for your own use… Nothing is more reprehensible.” She took a deep breath and met his gaze. “We will return to carry out the sentence when the sun rises in a few hours.”

 

The thud of the door closing echoed in the room. Rodney huddled in a corner, head in hands. Teyla stared thoughtfully after Colla while Ronon paced angrily. John pinched the bridge of his nose as his mind raced.

 

“What are you thinking?” Teyla asked.

 

“I’m thinking there’s no way in hell I’m letting this happen.” John dug through his pockets, hoping something would spark an idea. “There has to be a way out of this.”

 

“I am so screwed,” Rodney muttered.

 

“Relax, McKay. I’ll think of something.”

 

Rodney’s breathing quickened. “I can’t stand a paper cut. Twenty lashes? How am I supposed to survive that?” He turned panicked eyes to John. “Don’t tell Jeannie what happened, okay? Make sure Jennifer…no, not Jennifer. Anybody but Jennifer. Biro, have Biro stitch me up so no one can tell. Oh, and tell Carson-”

 

“Shut up, Rodney. Nothing is going to happen to you.”

 

“Are you going to wave your magic wand and make this go away? We can’t contact Atlantis. We aren’t overdue. They won’t look for us until it’s too late. We don’t have any real weapons. I don’t have a clue where we are in the city, and we’d have to walk out of here unless you know where they are keeping those Volvo-wannabes. I am going to die.”

 

“No, you aren’t.” Ronon wheeled to look at John. “I’ll do it.”

 

“Do what?” John asked.

 

“Take his place.”

 

John stared at him as Teyla gasped and McKay spluttered. “What?”

 

Ronon took a step forward, his gaze earnest. “She said someone had to be punished. I’ll take his place.”

 

“I can’t let you do that,” John said.

 

“You planning on doing it yourself?”

 

“If I have to.”

 

“Have you both lost your minds?” Rodney snapped. “You’re volunteering to get flogged?”

 

Ronon crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m not going to let you do it, Sheppard.”

 

“Well, I’m not planning on letting anyone do it. We’ll find a way out.”

 

“At what cost, John?” Teyla asked. “Rodney is correct. We are deep in the city with little chance of escaping undetected. We could fight our way out, but the likelihood of injuries is very high, and if one of Colla’s people is killed, the punishment will be worse. Do not forget that we represent the Coalition now. We are not above the law. If we are to retain the trust of the people of this galaxy, we must abide by their rules.”

 

John kicked at the floor in frustration. “So we should just let them beat Rodney?”

 

“I did not say that. We-”

 

“I stand the best chance of surviving either punishment,” Ronon announced. “And I’m the most expendable.”

 

Blood, hot and angry, roared in John’s ears. “Don’t you ever say that again.”

 

“It’s the truth.”

 

“No one is expendable,” John ground out between clenched teeth.

 

Ronon’s lips quirked in a smile. “Maybe to you. But Teyla’s people and her son need her. Atlantis needs you and Rodney. I ran from the Wraith for seven years. I think I can stand a few lashes.”

 

McKay looked as stunned as John felt. How the hell had this happened? This was supposed to be a cake walk – shake a few hands, kiss a baby, promise to defend these people from the Wraith. When had deciding who was expendable come into the picture?

 

“No,” he found himself saying. “I’m not letting you do it.”

 

“And I’m not letting you,” Ronon replied.

 

“Well, I’m not letting either of you.” Rodney rubbed angrily at his temples. “I’m a genius, dammit. Maybe we can work something out. I can help them with the devices. Maybe if I agree to stay here for some limited amount of time, they’ll back off the painful punishment. I’ll suffer anyway, of course. My back and my allergies. You know how fond I am of small spaces. Oh, and no telling what’s in the food. Still, it’s better than bodily harm, don’t you think?”

 

John turned away, his vision whiting. He hated feeling trapped, which was exactly what they were. He wasn’t leaving Rodney behind, but he wasn’t going to let Colla hurt him or anyone else either. And Ronon – God, how could Ronon think he wasn’t important? This damn Coalition had been more trouble than it was worth so far, at least as far as John was concerned. He understood intellectually what a big step Pegasus had taken in forming a Coalition, but he wasn’t about to put politics ahead of the well-being of his family, and he didn’t care how small that made him sound.

 

Teyla’s quiet presence registered when she squeezed his arm gently. “John?”

 

“I know this Coalition is important, Teyla, but I’m not going to let them hurt Rodney or Ronon. Do you understand the damage that twenty lashes can do?”

 

“Yes,” she murmured. “Many worlds employ that kind of punishment. If they live, the scarring could be…hideous.”

 

“How can these people do something like that?” he hissed. “They seem more civilized than most places we’ve visited.”

 

She sighed and pressed her back to the wall, facing him. “Sometimes it is not easy to abandon the old ways especially if new ones are appearing rapidly. Colla told me they had little crime here. Laws are strict and punishment is severe.”

 

“I’m not sure I’d want a world that valued punishment over justice in the Coalition.”

 

“That is not your decision to make.”

 

“I know.” He looked at her helplessly. “Got any good ideas?”

 

“Actually, I do. I’m not sure that you will like it.”

 

“Let’s hear it.”

 

Teyla drew him to the center of the room where Rodney and Ronon were sitting. She folded her legs underneath her and waited expectantly until he dropped down next to them. “Colla said the punishment was twenty lashes. There are four of us.”

 

“Not a chance,” John said.

 

“Listen to me,” she implored. “There is no perfect solution. At least if we each took a part of the punishment, we would live.”

 

Rodney’s face was a mask of horror. “No. You can’t-”

 

She arched a brow at him. “I can’t? Why? Because I am female?”

 

“Yes! No! I-” McKay turned to John. “Say something.”

 

John was still reeling from the idea. Teyla was one of the strongest people he’d ever met, but his Earth born-and-bred brain shied away from the thought of her being whipped. His head told him her words made sense, but every fiber in his being argued against it.

 

“I am an equal member of this team,” she announced. “And it could not be more painful than giving birth on a Wraith ship.”

 

Well, she had him there. Five lashes each. Could he stand there and watch his team go through that?

 

“She’s right,” Ronon said.

 

“I know,” John answered. “Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

 

“Are you seriously considering this?” Rodney asked.

 

John nodded slowly, not trusting himself to speak.

 

“This is insane.”

 

John nodded again. He prayed these people rejected the Coalition’s invitation because God help them if he ever had to defend them against the Wraith.

 

The next few hours passed in jittery silence. Ronon sprawled against the wall, a boot thumping rhythmically against the floor. McKay squirmed. Teyla drew swirls in the dust. John stared blindly at the far wall, still trying to come up with a better solution and failing. By the time the door opened, they were pressed shoulder to shoulder in a small huddle.

 

Colla gazed at them dispassionately. “The sun has risen. Are you prepared?”

 

John inhaled deeply and blew it out as he stood. “You said twenty lashes.”

 

“That is correct.”

 

“Does it matter who receives them?”

 

She cocked her head in confusion. “We do not punish the innocent.”

 

“We are a team. What happens to one of us happens to all.”

 

“I see. You are volunteering to take his place?”

 

“Yes-”

 

“We all are,” Teyla said. “There are four of us. Divide the punishment equally.”

 

Colla’s brows shot up. “That is an unusual request.”

 

“Do your laws prevent it?”

 

“No.” A small smile ghosted over her lips then vanished. “Very well. Five lashes each.” She nodded to the guards who surrounded the team and escorted them out.

 

They wound through a series of corridors, emerging in a large amphitheater. The council was seated, but the rest of the chairs were empty. A block of wood with leather straps on the sides sat in the middle of the stage area.

 

Colla stood on the dais and faced them. “Doctor Rodney McKay, you have been judged guilty of stealing. Your punishment, which your team has asked to share, is twenty lashes. Are you ready to begin?”

 

McKay nodded miserably, his eyes downcast.

 

“We will start with Ronon Dex,” Colla announced.

 

John clenched his fists at his side, his chest heaving as Ronon followed the guard to the wooden block. His shirt was removed and he was pushed to his knees. The guard bound his hands to the sides of the block and pushed his dreads away to reveal the unmarred skin of his back.

 

“Wait!” Rodney shouted.

 

“McKay, what are you doing?” John hissed.

 

“I can’t do this, John.” McKay’s face was bone white, and terror bled from his eyes, but he swallowed thickly and stepped forward. “Please, don’t hurt him.”

 

“Rodney,” Teyla warned. “Do not do this.”

 

“I took the scars off his back. I’m not going to put them back on.”

 

Colla held up a hand. “Do you wish to address the Council?”

 

“Yes.” McKay’s breath came in small hiccups. “I did it. I stole the device. I deserve the punishment not them.”

 

“You admit your guilt freely?”

 

“I do. Please. Let them go.”

 

At her gesture, Ronon was released. He stood, shirt in hand, his expression a mixture of admiration and anger. “McKay…”

 

“I, uh…” Rodney’s entire body shook as he walked past Ronon toward the block. “Just get it over with.”

 

“That will not be necessary,” Colla said.

 

“What?”

 

“We do not give our trust easily.”

 

John’s mind was spinning as Ronon dragged McKay toward them and placed his body firmly between him and the guards.

 

“You were testing us,” Teyla surmised.

 

“Yes. Miltre placed the sphere in Doctor McKay’s pocket to see how you would respond. We needed to know we were placing the safety of our people in worthy hands.”

 

Relief was quickly giving way to rage. “And what did you decide?” John snapped.

 

“Your loyalty is admirable. You would have been excellent defenders.”

 

“’Would have been’?” John bit out.

 

Colla’s eyes flicked to Rodney. “When pressured, you collapsed too quickly. I’m sorry.”

 

John closed his eyes. All of that. For nothing.

 

xxx

 

“Thought I might find you here,” John said, plopping down on the pier’s edge.

 

McKay snorted softly. “Incredible deduction skills you have there.”                                                      

 

“Hey, I could’ve been Mensa, you know.”

 

“So you say.” The beer can clattered and rolled as Rodney tossed it behind him and popped the top on another.

 

John eyed the collection of empty cans but didn’t comment, choosing to snag one for himself. “Woolsey just got back.”

 

Rodney stared at the horizon, his expression hard. “And?”

 

He shook his head. “They haven’t changed their minds.”

 

Emotion flickered over Rodney’s face. He chugged his beer then smashed the can angrily between his palms. Pushing to his feet, he hurled the flattened aluminum toward the city wall and kicked at the empty cans by his feet.

 

John frowned at him. “You can’t seriously care whether or not they join the Coalition.”

 

“I couldn’t give a rat’s ass what those morons do. What I care about is that the mission failed because of me. She was right. I- I caved under the pressure.”

 

“Rodney-”

 

“What if next time it’s in the middle of a hive ship? What if I give up the location of Atlantis to our enemies? What if-”

 

“McKay,” John grabbed Rodney’s arm and swung him around, “shut up for a minute and listen.” He’d never seen the man look so uncertain. “She was wrong, dead wrong. You didn’t cave. You put someone else’s life before your own.” He squeezed Rodney’s shoulder. “I don’t know what she calls it, but I call it bravery.”

 

Rodney flushed at the praise, his shy grin quickly hidden. “You aren’t going to get mushy, are you?”

 

John rolled his eyes and shoved McKay gently. “Hardly. You done moping yet?”

 

“I don’t mope.”

 

“Really?” he drawled.

 

McKay sniffed disdainfully. “Yes, really.” He stooped to pick up the cans then glanced up. “Well, don’t just stand there. Help me clean this mess up.”

 

John grinned and picked up a can. A full one. He shook it, aimed, and popped the top. Beer and foam erupted, hitting McKay squarely in the face. Rodney’s eyes went wide in shock then narrowed. A calculating smile blossomed as he grabbed a can, shook it, and stabbed it with a pen. A thin stream shot out, carving a path through John’s hair.

 

“Oh, you did not.”

 

McKay waggled his brows and gulped down the rest of the beer. He stared daggers at John as he reached for another can. “Just remember I can make your ice cream melt.”

 

John hesitated. He’d just restocked his mini-fridge with pints of Cookies-n-Cream. Aw, the hell with it. There was always more ice cream.




Comments

:) yay. Thanks for writing this story. I love how Rodney couldn't let them go through with it at the end, but also how his team was determined to help him. This was great!
Yay! I'm so glad you liked it!
That was powerful and brilliant.
Thank you!!
What a brilliant story - totally compelling and so full of angst and tension that I read it fast and furiously! I was totally riveted reading it.

I loved the team feel here and equally adored that Rodney was willing to take the blame for something he was innocent of. I also enjoyed John and McKay's little talk at the end, and the bit of fun with the beer. I thought this was a great idea for a story and that it was very original and was most satisfying. Thanks for sharing! :)
*blushes* Thank you so much! I'm delighted you enjoyed the story. Kudos to sgatazmy for a great prompt.

I thought this was a great idea for a story and that it was very original and was most satisfying.

Yay! I'm chuffed to hear you thought it original since that was exactly what I was going for.
Could have been canon, only BETTER!
Thank you!

And your icon! *dies*
Wonderful team fic - loved they all supported themselves and brave Rodney was the best!
Thank you so much! I love brave!Rodney.
Oh, I loved this! Ingenious plot-- both the division of punishment and the resolution. Sheppard's angst at his team's predicament was heartwrenching-- "This was supposed to be a cake walk – shake a few hands, kiss a baby, promise to defend these people from the Wraith. When had deciding who was expendable come into the picture?"

And I adored the end with John and Rodney on the pier. Angsty fic with an end that made me smile. Perfect!
Thanks! I'm delighted you liked it. And there can never be enough friendship moments on the pier.
LOVED it. :) *claps* hehehee
Thank you!
This was very nicely written. I loved the imagery and wonder in the beginning. You really dug into the characters and showed why we love them. :)
Thanks! I'm thrilled you liked it. These characters are such fun to play with.
That was a wonderful warm team story. I loved it.
Thank you!
I really like the way you had Teyla step forward and insist upon equal treatment, as well as the tension between Ronon's and John's assessment of expendability. I also liked that although Rodney was brave, his doing so did not magically salvage the treaty. And the fooling around at the end was quite nice.
Thank you! One thing I adored about the show is the fact that Teyla being female was never an issue, but I do think that it had to pop in the boys' minds occasionally. Sometimes the treaty can't be save. While the right thing is always right, it isn't necessarily going to put you on top.
Great team story!!! I really loved this - how the team was willing to share the punishment and how Rodney in the end couldn't let them do that for him. Oh, how wrong Colla was about them, but I'm glad that planet didn't join the coalition. For all their knowledge, they didn't seem very bright.

My favorite line was when Rodney said "I took the scars off his back. I'm not going to put them back on." Rodney and Ronon are so different and don't always see eye to eye, but I loved the display of friendship and loyalty here. Great job!!
Thanks so much! I'm delighted you liked the story. I love exploring the team dynamic. And that line you quoted is one of my favorites.
Wonderful! I like that even though they do the right thing, they still may not achieve their goals. Love the playful ending.
Thanks! Not everything works out the way we'd like it no matter how hard we try. I'm happy to know that choice worked here.

August 2016

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