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Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.

Notes:

Written for SGA Big Bang 2009. I had a lot of fun and a lot of headaches writing this one. Thanks to my betas, secondalto, LadyAmarra and faziarizvi on LJ.

Warnings: AU, Character Deaths (canon and non canon), implied sex (nothing graphic)

Pairings: Elizabeth Weir/Peter Grodin, Carson/Teyla, Rodney/Katie, Radek/Jeannie, Ronon/Melena

1) I refer to the SGA team in our universe by first name and in the "Britgate" Universe by last name. So "John" is Colonel Sheppard, while "Sheppard" is his counterpart. There are a few exceptions. "Peter" is Peter Grodin, "Ronon" is Ronon in either universe.
2) In the Britgate Universe, the "City" is sentinent and when Atlantis refers to herself or the Expedition refers to her, the words "City, Her, She and My" are capitalized. This is NOT a typo.
3) This story is definitely AU, but it references episodes from all 5 seasons of Stargate Atlantis. One scene in particular is a combination of two Rodney/Katie scenes from "Sunday" and "Quarantine", slightly altered.

Chapter One

Present Universe, Atlantis

"Why is it that we end up with the 'hello again, remember us?' missions that always end up with us running for our lives?"

Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard tried to suppress his laughter, but it came out as a cough. He exchanged humorous looks with Major Evan Lorne. Lorne rolled his eyes to the ceiling, but said nothing. Doctor Elizabeth Weir only gazed at the speaker with a raised eyebrow. Doctor Rodney McKay, Ph.D, Ph.D. scowled at her from above the top edge of his laptop. Of course, Rodney looked highly irritated at having to leave yet another important experiment just when it was yielding results. In this case, John didn't blame him. Just WHY was his team the one stuck on these wine-and-cheese things? This was the third one in a row in as many weeks.

"What? It's true! We've been doing these things for the past month!" Rodney pointed out with a roll of his eyes.

"The Orrigans won't give you any problems, Rodney. They're very open-minded and willing to trade with Atlantis. They've been doing it with the Athosians for generations. You should be back by dinnertime," Elizabeth Weir reassured him with a slight smile. She was used to Rodney's crankiness concerning these types of missions, but there was a reason why it was more pronounced than usual.

Although he wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer, John had to ask the question. "McKay's got a point, Elizabeth. Just why are we going and not Lorne? His team made the initial contact."

"Because Major Lorne and his team will accompany me to MJR-117 and talk with the Leriean Council." Elizabeth's face sobered "I can't tell you how important their defense pact is to Atlantis."

"Yeah, it could gain us an ally and a brand, spanking new ZPM," Rodney said with a touch of excitement, "which makes it even more important that I go with you on this one, Elizabeth."

She smiled and reluctantly shook her head. Rodney's enthusiasm at a new discovery lit his entire face and she hated to be the one to dampen it. This would have been the perfect mission for him. "I wanted you to go, Rodney, but they were very specific on whom they wanted in the negotiating party. If this goes well, you should be able to go on the next trip and study their technology to your heart's content."

Rodney sighed and looked like he wanted to pout. John nearly chuckled again, but stopped himself in time. Rodney meant well, but he had the subtlety of a lead brick at times. The Lerieans were very touchy about protocol, which was why Elizabeth wanted to tackle this one herself.

Lorne chuckled and tapped his tablet. "Besides, I think Richardson and McGuire said something about Colonel Sheppard's prowess in the art of negotiation. They're very eager to meet you, sir," he said.

Rodney snorted in derision. "Yeah, I'm sure. His negotiation skills. Right."

"Okay, and maybe Richardson mentioned you played the guitar and told scary stories to the Athosian kids."

John smirked. "So they like music and horror tales. Okay, I think I can live with that."

Lorne's gray eyes sparkled with wicked humor. "And they've got a sport that's like football, sir. You're gonna love it."

John gave him the fisheye as Rodney sighed in exasperation. "The last time you told me that I was out for a week after I got pounded by a two-hundred pound Pegasus Rugby lineman."

A wicked grin twitched on Elizabeth's lips as she remembered Doctor Beckett's informal report over a cup of tea. The Scotsman relished telling the story about three burly men chasing Sheppard and McKay across their version of a golf green, complete with sandtraps and water hazards. For someone who claimed he wasn't a fan of his homeland's national sport, Carson's play-by-play had been remarkably technical.

"I believe the name of the game translated roughly as 'full contact golf', Colonel. And Carson said it definitely wasn't as 'gentlemanly' as rugby."

John groaned. "With two-meter, golf-shaped cattle prods. No thank you. I'll stick to the Milky Way version. Less dangerous that way."

The three of them laughed, their voices echoing from Elizabeth's office. She saw Sergeant Campbell as he glanced over his shoulder with a curious expression. The Gate technician saw all was well, then turned back to his work.

Elizabeth rolled her eyes at her top two military officers and her Chief of Science. She steered the conversation back to pertinent matters. "It's a rather simple mission this time. Teyla wants to talk to their leaders again and solidify the trade agreements. You're there for security and cultural exchange. Like I said to Rodney, you should be back by early evening. Major Lorne and his team will accompany me while you're on PXM-597 with Teyla. We should be fine." Elizabeth nodded decisively. "I'll see you later tonight, Colonel, when you return."

John nodded and straightened out from his slouch. "Yes, ma'am. Good luck."

"You too," she said with a slight smile.

"Yeah, we're gonna need it," Rodney groused as he closed his laptop and carried it under his arm. He followed the military officers out of her office and was about to head back to his lab.

"You're just disappointed you're not gonna get first crack at that ZPM," Evan said.

Rodney stopped and looked back at him. "Hello? That's my job! If it wasn't for the Lerieans and their protocols, I'd—"

John raised a hand. "Look at it this way, Rodney. Once Elizabeth sweet talks them into giving the okay, you'll be on the first team back there. Till then, you gotta let her do her job first." John grinned at his second-in-command and said, "But next time, you're going on the milk run."

Evan shrugged, unfazed by their antics. "Fine by me. Have fun with the Orrigans, sir."

"Until later, Major." He glanced over at Rodney and said, "We'll be going in half an hour."

"Yeah, might as well get this over with. The sooner we do, the sooner we'll get back." Rodney shrugged and said, "I've got a few things to check on, so I'll see you later."

John sighed as he made his way down the control room stairs. This was going to be a long day, he could already feel it.

*****

Sergeant Chuck Campbell watched as Doctor McKay, Colonel Sheppard and Major Lorne came out of Doctor Weir's office. The three men conversed for a few minutes, then the military officers headed down the stairs. McKay entered the Control Room with his ever-present laptop under his arm.

"Everything all right, Sergeant?"

Chuck nodded. "So far, so good, Doctor McKay." He inclined his head toward the back of the room. "Coffee's over there."

"Thank God'" McKay didn't pause as he marched to the coffee pot. Chuck smiled and knew better than to be offended. Instead, he turned back to his console. He knew the city's systems pretty well and had Doctor Grodin to thank for that. Once again, he silently thanked Peter, as he did every day since Peter's untimely demise. Even now, three years later, Peter was definitely missed by the Control Room staff.

He ran a few diagnostics on the Gate, which was standard before a busy day of off-world missions. Usually the diagnostics came back clean, which was why today's results bothered him. "Dr. McKay?"

The acerbic scientist looked up from his laptop. "What is it, Sergeant?"

"The Gate diagnostics came back…and they're a little weird."

Rodney glowered at him, but Chuck was used to it. "Define 'weird'."

"I don't know, Doctor McKay. That's why I'd like you to check it, just to be on the safe side." Chuck shrugged; he knew how to appeal to Rodney's ego. "Normally, I'd ask Doctor Zelenka, but since you're here—"

"Fine. Let me see them." Rodney made his way over to Chuck's console."You mean this little fluctuation…here and here?"

Chuck nodded. "It's not a huge difference, but usually there are no signs of problems."

Rodney gave him an absent nod. "It doesn't look like it'll mess up Gate travel, but better safe than sorry. Run another diagnostic to be sure, and if it shows up there, get Zelenka to work on it. I've got to get ready for another mission."

"Yes, sir." Chuck sighed as McKay left the control room. As ordered, he started the diagnostic, drumming his fingers on his console as the analysis whirred away. Doctor Radek Zelenka poked his head into the Control Room with a curious expression; Chuck only raised up a hand in a silent request. Zelenka nodded and stepped inside the control room.

"Is there a problem?" Zelenka asked.

"I'm not sure. The latest Gate diagnostic showed a minor fluctuation—" He paused, as the results came up on his screen. Zelenka came up next to him and looked over his shoulder. "Huh. It's gone. Must've been some sort of hiccup in the systems."

"It is not the first time, nor would it be the last," Zelenka commented mildly. "Even after three years, the city has its ups and downs."

"Got that right, Doc." Chuck smiled at him and shrugged. "Sometimes Amelia calls me a 'nervous Nellie'."

Zelenka chuckled. "Sometimes, a little caution is a good thing, Sergeant. You will alert me if you find anything else amiss, yes?"

"Of course, Doc." Chuck grinned as the Czech scientist left the Gate Room. Yes, sometimes a little caution went a long way in making sure everyone came back safely. Chuck took that responsiblity seriously, as Peter Grodin had before him, and he wasn't about to fail now.

*****

"Teyla, love, I've told you before, this is not a good idea."

"And I have told you already, Carson, even a doctor must learn to defend himself and his patients," she chided him gently. "There may be situations where it may be necessary."

He sighed and shook his head. "I know. It's just—"

"It will come with time, I do not expect you to become an expert after only two weeks. At least, keep an open mind."

He sighed as he held the bantos rods with a death grip. How in the bloody hell did I get myself into this? he thought. Directly in front of him, just at arm's length, stood Teyla Emmagan. The Athosian wore one of her sleeveless shirts and the skirt slit high on both sides. She shifted her weight on the balls of her feet, causing Carson to swallow hard.

Focus, man, focus. She'll beat you to a pulp if you don't. Teyla smiled, then her right hand came up in a sweeping arc. He raised his arm to meet her and the rods met with a loud clack.

"Very good, Carson. Do you think you can do that again?"

He bit his lip and nodded. He'd done it completely out of reflex; the second time, he was too slow and she got under his guard. Teyla stepped forward and laid her rod on his chest. He froze like a deer in headlights.

"You hesitated." She inclined his head at him. "Don't think about it too much. That might be a costly mistake."

He took a breath. "You're right. I'm not exactly cut out for this."

Her smile was mysterious. "You underestimate yourself, Carson. Now, let us try it again."

He sighed and tried to concentrate on what he was doing. It felt strange, trying to hit Teyla with a bantos rod. It went against everything his mother had taught him: always treat a woman with respect and never, ever raise a hand to harm her. Of course, old, ingrained habits were difficult to break.

Teyla was a good friend, patient, kind, and generous, but also strong-willed and fiercely devoted to her people and her friends. Carson admired her, albeit from afar. It wouldn't do, if he even thought about…

TWACK! He lost his grip on the rod and it spun out of his hand. He cursed and shook out his fingers. Damn, but that hurt!

"I am sorry, Carson. Did I hurt you?" Teyla frowned and automatically reached for his hand. Before he could say anything, she'd taken it within hers and was examining it with gentle care. He tried not to flinch at the almost electric shock that went through his skin. She didn't seem to notice his reaction.

"Just a wee bit of a sting, Teyla. I don't think you did any major damage." He said and chuckled ruefully. "Forgive me, my mind was elsewhere."

Teyla nodded. "Should we reschedule the practice for another time?"

Carson shook his head. "Ach, no, lass. We've been doing this on a regular basis for close to two weeks now. I'd hate to break the routine."

"Very well. Then I must remind you to focus on the here and now." She softened the rebuke with a smile. "So. Shall we continue?"

"Please." He wrenched his attention back to the self-defense moves and not solely on the woman in front of him. It took somewhat of an effort, but as his injured hand reminded him, distraction could be deadly. So he focused on what he was doing, and firmly told his wandering heart to stop with the nonsense. It worked…for the most part.

He ended up trying to avoid most of her hits instead of countering, but Teyla didn't seem to mind that. It wasn't until he glanced over his shoulder and saw the wall looming behind him that he realized what she was doing.

She was driving him into a trap. Cornering him. Bloody hell, Carson thought. He suppressed a jolt of panic and turned it into action. He grabbed one of her wrists and shoved her off balance. She hadn't been expecting it and stumbled. He swore under his breath as he also lost his footing and ended up sprawled on his back, with Teyla on top of him, her head on his chest.

Carson froze again, suddenly very aware of her weight upon him, the warmth of her skin against him. Oh, crap…

She was motionless, except for her labored breathing. Neither of them said anything for a long moment. "Carson…are you injured?" she finally asked.

"Ah, no," he stammered, his cheeks flushed with embarrassment. "Teyla, are you all right? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to—"

He felt her smile and his blood pressure jumped several points. "It is all right. I was not expecting that and was not prepared. Although—" she chuckled, "—it was a pleasant surprise."

"Oh." He wasn't sure how to respond to that. "Um…"

She raised her head and her soft hair brushed against his chest. He was mesmerized by the look in her amber-brown eyes, such that he hardly noticed when she bent and brushed her lips against his.

"Ah, Teyla, I—"

"I do not wish to make you uncomfortable, Carson." She lowered her eyes. "I am sorry."

He managed a smile. "No, no, it's not that, it's just rather…unexpected, that's all. I just didn't think you'd regard me in that way."

The corners of her mouth lifted up. "In which way?"

He shifted uncomfortably under her. "Well, I thought you and the Colonel—?"

She chuckled, though she didn't seem offended or surprised. "John and I are good friends, nothing more."

"Oh." Despite himself, he grinned widely, not caring how idiotic it looked. "Oh. I suppose in that case…"

He didn't get to finish the sentence, as she kissed him again.

*****

"So…these people friendly?"

John glanced over at Ronon Dex. The Satedan seemed nonplussed about the upcoming mission. Then again, Lorne's reports hadn't indicated there was any reason to be concerned. Still… "That's what Lorne said, and Teyla knows 'em. Should be a piece of cake."

"That's what you said the last time."

John winced; would he live that one down? It'd be a while before he could show his face at the driving range. "Hey, how could I have known we'd be chased by natives wielding cattle prods?"

Ronon smiled slightly. "I knew McKay could run fast if he had to."

"Yeah, well, self preservation is always a good motivation for—" John heard the sound of wood striking wood and tensed. "Wait a minute. What's that?"

"Dunno."

"Come on." The commotion seemed to be coming from the gym. As they rounded the corner, John stopped so abruptly that Ronon nearly ran him over.

"What's wrong?"

John pointed at the entrance. A few Marines stood there, some with surprised expressions, others with humorous looks. That wasn't unusual when Teyla ran practice sessions, but what was unusual was the number of people wearing yellow jackets, most of them from Carson Beckett's medical teams.

"Are they expecting a fight or something?" Ronon rumbled in a low voice. That many medical personnel standing by couldn't be a good thing.

"I don't know, but there better not be one, or heads'll roll." John was not in the mood to break up a brawl, no matter what the reason. He saw one of Carson's nurses turn around and recognized her as Marie. She waved them over with a hand; the others made room for John and Ronon.

John stared into the practice arena, blinked, then looked again. Teyla was finishing a bantos lesson, but the student was someone John wasn't expecting. She sat on the floor next to Carson Beckett, who had a chagrined look on his face. John figured that Teyla must have knocked him on his ass. Someone had heard and called Medical, which explained the crowd at the door. John smirked slightly; Carson was never going to live this one down.

"She's teaching the doc?" Ronon didn't sound too surprised.

"Don't look at me. I didn't know about it, either." John watched as she reached over and took the bantos rod from his hand. "Was it his imagination, or did her fingers linger on Carson's wrist a few moments longer than necessary?

"Obviously, his staff knew about it."

Nurse Marie Cho overheard Ronon's comment and whispered, "Teyla came to his office and offered to teach him. She wouldn't take no for an answer; he came up with all sorts of excuses, but they didn't work. So, there they are."

"Two weeks? And no one told me?" John asked.

"Doctor Beckett didn't want it advertised all over the city, but you know how news travels here." She shrugged. "Anyway, they've kept it pretty hush-hush until a few days ago."

"Huh," Ronon grunted, but he made no other comment.

Teyla and Carson finished their conversation, and both finally realized they'd attracted an audience. Carson flushed crimson.

"You okay, Doc?" John asked, much to everyone's amusement.

Carson cleared his throat as he scrambled to his feet. "I'm fine, but I think my pride a little bruised."

"It takes practice, Doc. You'll get the hang of it."

Carson looked over at the audience at the gym doors. "What're you lot standin' around in the hall for? There's nothin' to see here."

Marie took pity on him and began shooing away the onlookers. She nodded at his grateful look before leaving herself. John caught the self-satisfied look on Marie's face, as if she was pleased at something.

He glanced over at Ronon, who was talking with Teyla. She looked up at Ronon with a pleasant smile, though her eyes showed a hint of irritation. It sounded like Ronon was teasing Teyla as well and she wasn't amused by it.

John decided to save her. "We have a mission, everyone. Meet up in the Gateroom in fifteen minutes."

Teyla looked over at him with a grateful expression. "Yes. I will see you there, Ronon."

Ronon only smiled. "Sure, Teyla."

She walked out with the dignity of a queen, pausing only to nod at John and Carson at the door. John stifled a grin as Ronon turned his curious look to Carson, and the Scotsman only looked back without a word. There was a wealth of words in the silent challenge. Then Ronon smirked slightly and Carson raised his eyebrows at him.

John glanced at one, then the other, and sighed. "C'mon, Chewie. You know how Rodney gets when he's kept waiting."

"Aye," Carson agreed.

"Okay." Ronon's smirk didn't waver as he passed Carson.

John only shrugged and mouthed, "Gotta go, Doc," then followed he caught up, he said in a low voice, "You don't want to piss off Carson, Ronon. He's got the big pointy needles, remember?"

Ronon only shrugged. "Needles don't bother me as much as they do to McKay."

*****

"Dial the Gate, Sergeant."

"Yes, ma'am." Chuck nodded at Doctor Weir and input the coordinates. The Stargate glowed and erupted into blue and white, then settled into its normal watery portal.

"Good luck, Doctor Weir, Major Lorne," John said formally.

"And you too, Colonel." Elizabeth nodded at Evan and the Marine detachment, then led the way through the wormhole. The Gate snapped shut behind them.

"Resetting coordinates for PXM-597," Chuck announced as he hit the buttons on the DHD. Again, the Gate opened like usual.

"Hold down the fort till we get back, Chuck," John said with a grin. "We'll be back in a few hours."

"Yes, sir." Chuck replied. He watched at the team stepped through the Gate—

—and suddenly his console went berserk. "What the—"

"What is it?" asked Radek Zelenka. The Czech scientist turned from where he'd watched the team leave to Chuck.

"Some sort of odd power surge——" The Gate snapped shut behind the team, then went dark. Chuck checked his readings, then added in a puzzled tone, "There doesn't seem to be any record of it."

"Are you certain you saw it?" Radek asked.

"Pretty sure, but now—"

"We should run some diagnostics, just in case. Hopefully, if there's a problem, we'll have it fixed before Doctor Weir's and Colonel Sheppard's teams return."

"I'll do a manual diagnostic, just in case." Chuck turned to do just that, as Radek called other engineers to the Control Room.

*****

"Seems like a pleasant place," John commented. He looked around the pristine meadow in front of the Gate. A bubbling brook gurgled nearby and birds sang in welcome.

"It is the middle of their spring," said Teyla. She smiled as a warm breeze ruffled her hair around her shoulders. "This way."

They made their way down a well-marked path. John's mouth quirked as a curious, squirrel-like creature darted out in front of Rodney, who stumbled to avoid it. "Hey!" Rodney glared at it as it held its paws up to him and chattered wildly.

"It's hungry," Ronon commented.

Rodney glared at him. "Ever heard of 'don't feed the wildlife'?"

Teyla sighed and reached into the pocket of her tac vest. She knelt and offered a round, green nut to the "squirrel". The creature immediately abandoned Rodney and hopped to her. It took the nut, chattered its thanks, and disappeared into the trees, but not before giving Rodney a dirty look.

"Way to go, Rodney. Alienating the locals," John drawled.

Rodney glared at him. "How was I to know it was hungry? I don't speak Squirrel."

"The kyrthas are partially telepathic," Teyla commented, "but they choose to whom they speak. They are quite choosy about it."

Rodney shrugged and said, "Telepathic rodents? Better not tell Hamster. She'll want to record every squeak and squeal."

John grinned. "Hamster" referred to Doctor Zeina El-Hamra, the head of Atlantis's Linguistics Department and a close friend of Daniel Jackson. Rodney had stuck her with the nickname after an incident with Carson Beckett and mutant killer rodents. El-Hamra didn't seem to mind and took it as one of her boss's quirks.

"You know Hamster…always willing to make another first contact with the natives," John remarked breezily. Rodney harrumphed and looked at his Life Signs Detector.

It was an easy walk to the nearest village, Toras. The path gently sloped downward, following the babbling brook. An occasional signpost marked the way, and as they drew closer to their destination, the signs increased in number and size. John caught up to Teyla, as Ronon dropped back to match pace with Rodney. He nodded at John; although he didn't say anything, curiosity was in his eyes. John gave him a nod that said, "I'll take care of this."

"Teyla, can I ask you a question?" he inquired in a low voice. He hoped he would be able to ask without her dumping him on his backside. Maybe he should have let Ronon do this.

"You may ask," she replied, humor in her tone.

John hesitated, wondering if this really was none of his business, but Teyla was part of his team, and this would affect the team, so…I'm just looking out for her. That's all. Nothing more. He felt something that felt a twinge of…what? Jealousy? What would he be jealous about?

He firmly reined in his mind before it took him places he really didn't want to go. Instead, he just went out and asked, "What's going on between you and Beckett?"

She glanced sideways at him, as if she was expecting the question. "We are friends."

He raised an eyebrow at that. "Just friends. And…?" he prompted.

"If more comes of it, we shall see." Her smile was enigmatic. "If it does, I will not be disappointed."

"Wait a minute," Rodney interrupted. He glanced up with shocked surprise on his face, causing John to roll his eyes. "You're telling me…you and Carson? Of all people?"

"Carson's not that bad, Rodney," John pointed out.

"Yeah, but—" Rodney stared at Teyla, who stared right back. "When was this? And why didn't anyone tell me? I am so going to have a talk with Carson when we get back—"

"Hey, I didn't know either," John said.

"I figured it out," Ronon spoke up.

"Huh?" Rodney blurted out. "How? When?"

"Yeah, how?" John echoed. "And when?"

Ronon sighed and shook his head, then he smirked at Teyla. "First, he's always extra kind and considerate to you. He does things for you he wouldn't do for anything else. He drops whatever he's doing to help you, no matter what." He paused, aware he had a captive audience now. "When we had that Go'auld thing, he stayed behind with you and your people for the Ring Ceremony. You were with him when he took the tracker out of my back. And you thought I didn't notice you smiling at him, catching his little glances, that sort of thing?"

Rodney's jaw dropped. It was easily the longest set of statements they'd ever heard Ronon utter since he'd come to Atlantis. John couldn't say anything, either. Teyla only returned Ronon's measured look with one of cool calculation.

"Why didn't you say anything?" John asked him.

"Didn't need to. I thought it was obvious."

Rodney sputtered. "I knew Carson'd been mooning over Teyla since the very beginning, but I had no idea—"

"Since the very beginning?" John repeated.

"Yeah, remember that party we had the first week we were here? He was staring at Teyla and, I quote, 'Why can't I ever have friends like that?'. I told him he had to get out more."

"But he'd never said anything—"

Ronon cut in again. "Didn't have to. Like I said, obvious."

Teyla sighed and shook her head at him. "Then perhaps you knew before either of us were aware of it."

"You'd figure it out, if you hadn't already." Ronon gave her a slight smile and added, "I know how it is being in love with a medical person. Not the easiest thing in the world—" a slight shadow came across his face at that, "—but worth it."

Rodney looked over at Ronon and was about to say something when the sound of shouting and screaming echoed among the trees. "Come on," John shouted. Ronon slid his blaster out of its holster and even Rodney unbuckled his P-90. They charged farther down the path and nearly ran into a group of had to jump out of the way of a pair of little girls who weren't going to stop just because he happened to be there.

"Hey, watch it!" he shouted.

The children tossed an oval-shaped ball to each other as they ran among the trees. John grinned as he remembered Evan Lorne's comment about football. As he watched, one of the smaller children launched herself at the ball carrier and knocked him down with a vicious tackle.

"Ouch," John commented. He glanced sideways at Ronon, who looked suitably impressed.

The girl snatched the ball from him and took off. She jeered at him before disappearing into the trees. The boy bounced back onto his feet and followed the others, his face a mask of anger.

"Obviously not a friendly game," Rodney commented, with a roll of his eyes."Those kids'll be lucky if they don't have brain damage by the time they're ten."

"Yeah, that was pretty harsh." John glanced sideways at Teyla and what little of his good mood evaporated at her puzzled expression. "Teyla? What's wrong?"

"The game is called 'skansata', it is meant to teach cooperation. It is not supposed to be violent. And this is odd." She pointed at the tall posts on either side of the path. "The lanterns at the top are lit. That only happens during the daytime if there is some sort of tragedy."

John frowned as the words sank in. "Stay alert. Something must've happened since Lorne's team was here."

A shadow fell over the path and John took a step backward as a young man appeared from behind a stand of bushes. The yellow robes he wore had intricate symbols stitched on it, from collar to hem, and the hood obscured his features. The man raised his hands to show he had no weapons, then he pushed the hood from his face.

Teyla stared at him, then raised a hand in greeting. "Yorin? What has happened?"

He ignored her, and instead brought his gaze to John, Ronon, and finally to Rodney. "Good, you've returned. The High Chieftain wishes to speak with you. All of you."

Teyla blinked at the abrupt greeting and she tried again to address him. "Yorin—"

"All will be explained when we enter the village." Yorin nodded at all of them, then inclined his head at Rodney. "This way."

The team exchanged mystified looks, then followed him at a distance. "Nice guy," John quipped.

"What's going on?" Ronon asked Teyla in a low tone. "Isn't he supposed to be the Chieftain's son or something like that?

"He is," Teyla answered, but her face was carefully neutral, "but no one refers to his father as the High Chieftain, except during ceremonies."

Rodney frowned and asked, "Maybe we're walking in on a party?"

"There are no holidays scheduled, as far as I am aware, Doctor McKay."

"And why'd he look at me like that, as if he's expecting something? He's never seen me before."

"I do not know."

John had noticed that too. Although the young man obviously knew Teyla, he had addressed Rodney instead. It hadn't mattered that he, Sheppard, was the obvious leader of the group. It didn't make sense. "All right, keep your eyes peeled," he ordered.

The path led down into a valley, and at the bottom of that valley lay a huge village, surrounded by a tall, wooden stockade fence. Buildings towered three or four levels, crowded along narrow streets. Yorin led the team through a pair of heavy doors and into the village. The entrance courtyard was eerily empty, except for a small group of men dressed in simple tunics, unloading a bunch of wagons. Teyla raised her eyebrows at the guards around the upper perimeter of the stockade.

"Sheppard," Ronon said quietly. "They're heavily armed. I see several archers with their bowstrings already nocked."

"Don't like this," John murmured. All of his instincts were screaming at him, "Get out of here", he'd learned to trust those instincts. "Either Lorne's report was wrong, or…"

"Something drastic has happened," Teyla finished. "I suspect the latter."

Rodney swept the area with his Life Signs Detector and shook his head. "I'm not picking up anything weird, No Wraith or any unusual anomalies. I wonder what—"

There was a piercing whistle that made all of them wince. The young men who had been loading the wagon immediately dropped to their knees and pressed their foreheads into the dirt. Yorin reappeared, with an older man and three others in tow. Yorin spoke quickly in their language, and the High Chieftain nodded.

"Ah, you have returned," the High Chieftain said. He gave Teyla the most cursory of glances, then nodded courteously at Rodney. Rodney wore a dumbfounded look, but kept silent. Even he had felt the tension in the air and knew that the wrong word at the wrong time could be very, very bad.

"Dorias," Teyla said softly. She would have said more, but Dorias swung his head at her voice. The iciness of his eyes grew even colder.

"Definitely not right," John said out of the corner of his mouth. "Not the same people Lorne met."

"Yeah," Ronon agreed. He scanned the plaza for an escape route. The plaza led to a maze of side streets that snaked into the village, but the only way out was through the front gate of the stockade.

"I will only speak with the one who is designated as leader," Dorias said coolly. He glanced at Rodney. "Would you like to see the merchandise?"

"M-Merchandise?" Rodney stammered. His expression mirrored John's and Ronon's:utter confusion. "I—"

"I can assure you that all of the items are in perfect condition. Your leader was quite insistent on the terms of the contract, and against our better judgment, we decided to accede to his request." Dorias turned to Yorin and snapped an order, then Yorin clapped his hands in response.

"What the hell?" Rodney muttered. "Teyla, do you have any idea what he's talking about? Because I sure don't."

Teyla's brow wrinkled as she shook her head. "I do not know, Rodney. He is not the same Dorias I have known for years."

"Wraith worshippers?" Ronon whispered in a low, strident tone.

"Definitely not same people Lorne met," John muttered. "You noticed that he referred to 'our leader' as 'he'?"

Rodney stiffened at the realization. "Oh, great. They probably think we're someone else. This is not good."

Shouts erupted from the other end of the courtyard. As Rodney, John and Ronon looked in that direction, Dorias shouted another order, then all hell broke loose. Yorin rushed forward and grabbed Teyla's arm. She turned and pulled free from him, but the bigger man grabbed her by the waist. She elbowed him in the face; he yelled and dropped her. Angry villagers boiled out of the surrounding buildings and into the streets like wasps out of a hive. A volley of sticks, stones and mud filled the air, forcing John, Teyla, Ronon and Rodney to take cover.

Dorias waved his hands and goaded the mob in a booming voice. John looked over his shoulder and saw that the villagers had taken hold of the double wooden doors of the village stockade. The wood groaned as the people began to drag the doors shut.

"It's a set-up! Let's get out of here!" he shouted.

Ronon immediately ran for the doors, blaster in hand, and fired warning shots into the air. The villagers saw him coming, panicked and scattered in all directions. He shoved the doors back open and held them as the other members of the team charged through.

"Head for the Gate!" John yelled as he fired his P-90 at their pursuers. A sharp piece of flint flew past his head and was lost in the trees. Another day, another trade expedition gone bust, the second one in as many weeks. And this one had barely lasted fifteen minutes before AR-1 was running for their lives from a projectile-wielding mob.

Yup, just another day, John thought, as he ejected the empty clip and slammed a new one into its place.

"This is ridiculous!" Rodney snapped. The scientist ducked in time to avoid being whacked in the head by a piece of broken terracotta. "We didn't even do anything. They took one look and decided to use us for target practice!"

"I thought you told us they were peaceful," Ronon said, as he fired a blast over his shoulder. He already had mud caked into his dreads and it was running down his face and into his eyes. Although he could barely see, his accuracy was still sharp.

Teyla sighed in frustration. The Athosian winced as a soft ball of mud hit her right hip with a definite splat, prompting a disgusted, "Ewww!" from Rodney.

"Even their kids have good aim," John commented. "They'd give Dan Marino a run for his money."

"Who?" Ronon asked. He didn't even sound the least bit winded.

"He used to be a football quarterback…remind me later to show you the video…"

Teyla remembered the last Bowl game she'd watched, shook her head as she addressed Ronon. "My people have traded peacefully with them for years. I do not understand why they have changed so drastically."

PXM-597's sole saving grace was its scenery: clear, blue streams and lush, green conifer trees. The team waded, splashed and stumbled their way back to the portal. Finally, they rounded a bend in the path and the sight of the Stargate was more than welcome. Rodney all but dove for the DHD, scaring a flock of birds perched there. His hands slapped the panel as he hit the coordinates for Atlantis. The portal flared brightly, and into existence for a fraction of a second.

"What the—" Rodney said, as the familiar blue light dimmed into darkness. "Oh, no, no, no…this is not the time for this!"

"Rodney!" John roared as the shouting became louder and louder. "What's the hold-up?"

"The DHD died on us. Gimme a couple of minutes to fix it!" He pushed buttons and accessed the secondary controls as the leading edge of the mob drew. "Okay, okay, the crystals are intact, the connections are stable, why isn't it working?"

John nodded at Ronon and Teyla, and the three of them moved smoothly into a protective perimeter around Rodney and the malfunctioning DHD. He didn't want to hurt any of the natives, if he could help it. After all, this was all just a misunderstanding. Just what it had been still mystified him, but…

"Dammit, Sheppard, work faster! They're coming closer!"

"What—?" John glanced over at Rodney, who was furiously trying to get the DHD working. The Canadian focused all his energy on the task in front of him and didn't even look back at John or the others. John swore he'd just heard Rodney swear at him, but he must have been hearing things.

"Here they come!" warned Teyla. They heard the heavy thunk of mud as it flew through the air, impacting harmlessly away from the team.

The Stargate came to life behind them, its watery blue portal formed as the familiar "ka-woosh!" rang through the meadow. Rodney yelled, "That's it! It's up!"

"Go, go!" John shouted. He and Ronan fired as Rodney and Teyla ran for the Gate. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw their fuzzy images as they went through. For a second, he could have sworn the Canadian had carried his P-90 in his hand, and Teyla had sported some kind of field kit on her belt, but John figured it was some strange trick of the light from the Gate.

"Sheppard!"

"Right behind you!" John turned as Ronon disappeared into the gate. The last thing he saw was a hail of stone, pottery shards, sticks, and mud flying through the air, but not at him. At the DHD.

John threw himself into the Gate just as the controls began to hiss and spark—

—and landed, face-down, on the floor of the Gateroom with a hard thud. He lay there for a long minute, the wind knocked out of him. His heart pounded as the adrenaline still surged through him. He'd lost count of all the times they'd had close calls. Elizabeth was going to be furious at this one; she'd expected them to secure an agreement with the natives, and they managed to royally screw that up without even trying.

He opened his eyes and suddenly thought, Wait. When did the Gateroom get a new paint job? The floor's green. Did someone hire an interior decorator while we were gone?

The sounds of the mob still echoed through the Gate, and someone shouted, "Close the bloody door!" A minute later, the portal snapped shut and went dark. John was about to get up, but then an odd tickle passed over his mind, hesitant and unsure.

Who are you? I do not know you. You are not who you seem to be.

"Huh?" John froze as he heard the sound of clicking rifles above him. Less than fifteen seconds after arriving back home, and John already knew they were in trouble Uh-oh. Definitely not good. Elizabeth must be really pissed.

A voice above him said, "Sit up nice and slow, son. Hands away from your weapon."

John blinked at the familiar accent, but there was a coolness within it that wasn't at all familiar. Slowly, he drew himself up to a sitting position to find himself staring at the business end of a P-90. He raised his eyes and met the steely gaze from a pair of blue eyes that definitely wasn't familiar.

"Carson?! What the hell—?"

"Not another word." This Carson Beckett wore black fatigues, and his dark brown hair was cut short in a neat, military-regulation hairstyle. John nearly didn't recognize him at all. Even more unnerving was the quiet but menacing tone in his voice; there was no trace of the affable doctor that John knew. They locked gazes, both men assessing each other's strengths and weaknesses. The doctor had always reminded John that he "wasn't in the bloody military", but if Carson had been, he might have looked like this.

He got himself a haircut, John thought. Not sure I like the style on him, though. He didn't dare say it aloud, for he instinctively understood that this Beckett wouldn't appreciate the humor. Instead, he turned his head slightly to see a dumbfounded Rodney McKay sitting on the floor with—Radek Zelenka?—covering him with a modified Wraith stunner. Like Beckett, Zelenka was radically different from his "normal" Atlantis counterpart: short-cropped graying hair and no glasses.

Teyla sat next to Rodney, outwardly calm, but John saw the confusion mirrored in her eyes. Ronon had six men covering him; the Satedan glowered at them and they retreated a step back.

"Easy, Big Guy," John told him a low voice. "I'm sure this is only a minor misunderstanding."

"Minor," Ronan growled. "You call this 'minor'?"

"Maybe it's a bit more than that." John winced. Okay, which screwed-up parallel universe did we end up in this time?

Your name is Colonel John Sheppard. Not the Sheppard I know, and I can speak with you, like I can speak with the Commander. He means well, Colonel, do not fault him.


"Stand down, Wing Commander," a calm voice said behind Beckett. "Give the man room to breathe. Obviously, he has no clue where he is or what happened to him. The same for his team…tell your squad to back away a few steps, Captain Zelenka."

"Captain Zelenka?" Rodney choked, as he glanced at the Czech behind him. John thought he saw a flash of amused sympathy on the man's face as he gave Rodney some space.

Beckett frowned, but lowered his weapon. John distinctly heard, Are you sure, lass? Then he nodded briskly and as the Scotsman stepped aside, a second man strode down the stairs from the control room. Dark hair, sun-tanned brown skin, and wearing a red expedition jacket with a Union Jack on the shoulder. John's eyes widened as Rodney's jaw dropped in complete and utter shock.

"Peter…Peter Grodin? Oh my God…" Rodney stammered. The scientist's face was unnaturally pale and he looked ready to faint. Ronon scowled and pushed his way to Rodney's side; the soldiers moved to intercept him, but Grodin raised a hand and stopped them.

"McKay?" Ronon said in a gruff tone. He glared at Grodin, as if blaming the man for Rodney's sudden change, but Grodin only returned the look.

John remembered a critical fact: the two had never met in the "normal" universe. By the time Ronon had joined the team, Grodin had already been dead. So Ronon wouldn't have known about the circumstances of Grodin's death.

Or the soul-crushing guilt that Rodney still carried within him.

Grodin seemed to sense that there was something going on. He knelt by Rodney's side, but was careful not to touch the scientist. Ronon bristled again; Teyla put her hands on Rodney's shoulders and said, "Breathe. Slow, deep breaths, Rodney."

Beckett's mouth tightened slightly at her words, but Grodin tossed a warning glare over his shoulder before he turned back to Rodney. "Easy there. You're beginning to hyperventilate. She's right; take slow, deep breaths."

"Yeah, yeah, breathing's good. Oxygen's good." Rodney closed his eyes. "This is just a dream. Just. Breathe."

"Your unexpected appearance has…unsettled him," Teyla said diplomatically. Although she kept her tone steady, John could tell that Grodin's miraculous reappearance had also rattled her. "More than the usual, I am afraid."

This time, the Englishman's voice was laced with dry humor. "I must admit, I've never had that kind of reaction from McKay about my appearance before. I thought nothing I did could ever shock him."

Rodney muttered something under his breath; it sounded something like, "You have no idea." His eyes were closed, and he stubbornly refused to look up at Grodin. A worried frown creased Grodin's brow, and he looked at Teyla.

"When was the last time he ate something?"

"I believe he has not eaten anything since this morning."

"Bloody idiot." Grodin's tone was of mixed affection and exasperation. "If you're anything like my Meredith—"

Rodney's eyes shot open, and typical for him, his sarcasm automatically kicked in. "Excuse me? You've never called me 'Meredith'. It's Rodney."

Grodin's smile widened. The Englishman looked torn between laughing out loud and smacking Rodney upside the head. "Ah. So, you go by your middle name in your universe, then. Captain Zelenka, send a runner down to the Mess Hall, and please fetch Rodney something to eat."

Zelenka nodded. "I'll go myself." The Czech gave Rodney a final glance, and then turned on his heel and strode out of the Gateroom.

John shook his head as Grodin got back to his feet. "So I take it you're in charge here?"

"Yes. I think we have a lot to talk about…Colonel, is it?" He flashed a humorous glance at both him and Beckett. "Let's get them to the Infirmary, so we can begin to sort this all out, shall we?"

*****

Peter Grodin stared at the duplicates as the medical team examined the members of his, AR-1, just as if they'd normally would at the end of a mission. Now that he saw these alternate versions of his senior staff in action, Peter could spot the differences, and not just cosmetic. Some were obvious, like Ronan Dex's dreadlocks and Meredith McKay's loquaciousness…

No, "Rodney". His middle name. And he's a scientist. I can actually see that happening in another universe. The longer-haired Dex paced like a caged tiger, while Rodney lay on a nearby infirmary bed. Doctor Katie Brown fussed over him like a mother hen, much to Rodney's embarrassed dismay. Colonel Sheppard said nothing, but looked around him with equal parts curiosity and suspicion. Peter had the feeling that this Sheppard missed nothing.

"He's dangerous," Beckett spoke up, his voice deceptively quiet.

Peter only nodded in agreement and looked back at the commander. "He's a military man like yourself. Admit it, you'd do the same if you were in his place."

Beckett nodded in approval. "Aye, I would. That in itself tells me that he's been trained well."

Peter chuckled. "So, think you can go a few rounds with this John Sheppard?"

"Perhaps." Beckett's raised eyebrow told Peter what he thought of the suggestion and Peter stifled a burst of laughter.

"Be careful. He just might kick your arse out into orbit, Carson."

Beckett shrugged, but didn't comment. Instead, Peter followed the commander's gaze back into the main part of the infirmary. Teyla Emmagan sat cross-legged on a bed as Doctor Marie Cho drew blood for a DNA comparison. "All finished," Marie said with a smile. "You're the last one."

"Thank you. You're very kind," Teyla replied.

"I learned from the best. You." Marie shook her head and corrected herself, "Well, our Doctor Emmagan, anyway."

Teyla raised her eyebrows in surprise. "I am the Chief Medical Officer here?"

Doctor Milena Biro nodded from where she watched Ronon. "Yes. Your patients love you. Who is it over there, where you're from?" she asked.

Teyla looked over at the commander and answered, "Doctor Beckett."

Marie nearly dropped the blood sample as she tried to stifle her laughter. Ronon topped pacing and looked over at Biro, while Katie Brown stopped in mid-sentence. A smile threatened to break out on Colonel Sheppard's lips at the medical team's dumbfounded expression. Grodin chuckled ruefully at Beckett's nonplussed expression.

"You're joking. I hope he has a better bedside manner than the Commander," Marie quipped.

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Yeah, he's a sheep-herding voodoo practitioner."

Marie chuckled. "That's the most colorful description for a doctor that I've ever heard. I'm the head neurologist, Biro's our pharmocologist, and Kavanaugh's our resident xenogeneticist."

Rodney stared at her, aghast, then said flatly, "Oh, God help us. The universe is doomed if Kavanaugh's messing around with our DNA."

"Rodney," Teyla interrupted firmly and she smiled at Marie and Biro. "Obviously, there are many differences between our universes."

Biro snorted. "Right. What do I do over there? Cut up dead bodies for a living?"

Ronon rolled his eyes and muttered, "Yeah, pretty much." Biro gave him the fisheye, as if she wasn't sure whether or not to take his words seriously.

Doctor Ben Kavanaugh, second-in-command of the Infirmary, stuck his head out of the CMO's office. "Gentlemen, a word, please."

Peter and Beckett stepped into the office. It reflected the personality of their now-missing CMO. African statuettes and a djembe drum sat on the shelves, as well as pictures of family and home. Grodin felt a pang at the reminders; Beckett's lips tightened perceptibly.

"Well, they're not Replicators, Ori, or Go'auld," said Kavanaugh. He scowled at the results of his tests and scans. "And they're obviously not Wraith, either. Although—"

"What?" asked Peter. It wasn't like Kavanaugh to hesitate like this. "A problem?"

"Something came up in Doctor Emmagan's—ahem, this Teyla's—bioscan."

Peter frowned at the ominous tone; Kavanaugh didn't shy from telling difficult news, even if Peter didn't care to hear it. It was this brutal honesty that the expedition leader actually appreciated. "What is it?"

Kavanaugh scowled and shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. "She's got Wraith DNA."

Beckett gaped at him, then exploded, "What? Are ye sure, man?"

Kavanaugh raised his hands, as if protecting himself from Beckett's outburst. "I ran the scan three times to be sure, Commander. It came up the same all three times." His tone grew softer as Beckett stared at Teyla, who was now talking with Katie Brown. "I'm sorry, Carson."

"Is she a threat?" Peter asked, his heart sinking for his military second-in-command.

"I don't know. I've never seen a Human with Wraith DNA. I don't know how strong it is, or even if she's aware of the fact. She's clearly not from Earth, and judging from her clothing and demeanor, she's Athosian."

Beckett shook his head. "No Athosian would work for the Wraith—"

"No Athosian whom we know, Commander," Kavanaugh reminded him. "We don't know what they're like over where they're from. We already know that people are very different in personality and role within their Atlantis."

Peter nodded reluctantly. Like Colonel Sheppard and Doctor McKay. "As much as I hate to admit it, he's got a point, Carson."

"Another thing, Doctor Grodin, that I found pretty interesting." Kavanaugh brought up another test his screen. "Our Teyla has the ATA Gene, but it's absent in her counterpart over there. And even more surprising, this Sheppard has it. In spades. It's stronger than even Commander Beckett's or Captain McKay's."

"Stronger?" Beckett echoed in disbelief. "I thought you said our McKay's got the strongest one possible."

"I did, but this Sheppard's got it stronger than the captain's. It's mind-boggling. I'm surprised he hasn't heard the City yet."

Peter shook his head, mystified. "Amazing. John's always trying to get Meredith to activate one thing or another—" He shook his head, then turned to Beckett. "While all this is fascinating, we need to find a way to send them where they came from, and get our team back."

"Aye, agreed."

"All right. Carson, I want you to keep a particular eye on Teyla. If she is a threat—" He left the sentence hanging, but Beckett understood the implication.

"Aye," Beckett muttered again. "Bloody hell, but you're right."

"As soon as you clear them, Ben, we need to inform them on this Atlantis and our situation here in Pegasus. I'm sure there are differences between our universes, but—"

Kavanaugh nodded. "I'll do my best to expedite the process, Peter."

He turned to Beckett. "Get Bates working on the problem with the Gate. We need to find out where Captain McKay and his team are and get them back."

"Aye," Beckett agreed. "I'll get right on it—"

Sergeant Campbell's voice interrupted, "Control Room to Grodin. Sir, the Orion just came into orbit. Shall I—"

"I'll be in my office in a few moments, Sergeant. I'll take the call there." Peter nodded at the other two. "Then let's be about it, gentlemen."

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trekwriter151

May 2012

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