Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

by Domenika Marzione

They come back through the gate and he feels Atlantis's presence slide along his mind like a lover's touch. He didn't used to think of it that way, but Chaya changed a lot of the ways he thought about things in this place.

Elizabeth greets them from the catwalk outside of her office, her smile maybe a little tighter than it had been a couple of weeks ago.

Chaya isn't the only one who has caused changes in the way he interacts with his environment.

"Come on," Rodney sighs behind him. "Let's give ourselves over the vampires before they come and chase us down."

Sergeants Eversby and Teague take their P-90s as they move to the doorway that will lead them down to Medical. New planet, new germs, and the nanovirus is still fresh enough in their memories that even Rodney doesn't gripe about the bloodwork.

The hallway that bisects the area Carson and his minions call their own is quiet and they go into the isolated room, first door on the right, and wait with the patience born of experience. Beckett appears along with Yee and Ford sighs because Yee is, bar none, the worst phlebotomist in Atlantis. John thinks that most of the marines can do a better job and has gone so far as to suggest it, especially since they're already serving as orderlies, but Carson hasn't budged.

"Try to find the vein on the first four tries," Rodney tells Yee as she tightens the tourniquet. "I still have the hematoma from last time."

He doesn't really, but John remembers it when it did still show (because Rodney made sure to wear short-sleeved shirts so that everyone could see it). For all of Rodney's hypochondria and its related drama queen tendencies, he apparently actually does have tricky veins.

Carson is finishing up on Ford and moving on to Teyla before Yee is finished poking at the inside of Rodney's left elbow with her fingertip. Carson may not want to let the orderlies draw blood, but he knows that Yee is a menace. It's probably lingering spite from yesterday's acrimonious command staff meeting that allows him to let Yee start with Rodney. It's usually John who winds up with her.

"Is Doctor Safir not feeling well?" Teyla asks as Carson ties the tourniquet around her arm. "He was in the infirmary earlier and answered some questions for me. I believed that he was working, but if he was there because he was ill..."

Carson doesn't look up. "He's fine, love. Make a fist for me, please?"

John knows perfectly well why Safir isn't here drawing blood, even though it's his shift in the clinic and even though this blood is going to go to him to be studied because it's his protocols that have it being collected in the first place.

Elizabeth will forgive him -- or at least something close enough -- because they have to work together, alone apart from the others, and most of the hard decisions that they have had to make have required a level of trust that his actions cannot completely undo. He has no such basis for either trust or forgiveness with Safir.

"Take these two plus Doctor McKay's to Jonathan, please," Carson tells Yee, handing her Ford's and Teyla's vials. "I'll bring Major Sheppard's myself."

Yee nods -- John doesn't think she minds being excused from the extra task; none of the doctors are ever too happy to be doing clinical work -- and disappears through the side door.

Rodney hops down off of his table and rolls his neck. "I'm going to make sure nobody has tried to blow up the city while we were off dancing among the daffodils," he announces. "I don't know what Zelenka was thinking letting Williams and Sloznik co-lead a project."

John exchanges a knowing look with Ford; Rodney's micromanaging is entertaining when it's not them he's bossing around. Carson, currently unknotting the elastic tourniquet he's pulled out of his pocket, snorts indelicately. Rodney ignores them all and leaves.

"You don't have to wait for me," John tells Teyla. "I know you've got a ride to the mainland waiting."

"Lieutenant Miller was most gracious," Teyla says with a smile and bids Carson farewell with a hand on his arm before she heads off. She hasn't been to the mainland in more than a week and he knows she's eager to get going.

Ford is standing against a counter, fidgeting.

"This can't be the most entertaining thing you've got planned for the afternoon, Lieutenant," John says to Ford as Carson inserts the needle. Ford hasn't been a marine long enough to be truly insufferable the way marines can be, but he's got certain habits very deeply ingrained and one of them is that he's not budging until John dismisses him.

"I can wait, sir."

"You don't have to," John tells him. "Go bother Bates about next week's patrol schedule."

There's a party on the mainland and they're all invited, but someone has to stay behind and keep an eye on the city and they're still dickering about how many marines that means.

"Aye aye, sir," Ford says, pushing off of the counter. "Catch you later, Doc."

And then it's just the two of them and Carson's applying the band-aid.

"Something you wanted to talk to me about, Major?"

He hadn't set out to have this conversation, but the opportunity is there. "What's the over-under on when Safir'll be willing to be in the same room as me?"

Carson frowns at him. "He's still very angry, Major. And with good cause, I might add."

"I know he's still pissed," John says with some frustration. "He's not using my picture as a range target, but he might as well be."

There are a dozen or so civilians who use the firing ranges set up for the marines to train; Safir is one of them. John couldn't care less, apart from that he knows that Safir is one of the civilians who can be counted on for a reserve force should Atlantis be attacked again. He's not worried about Safir making off with one of their sniper rifles to settle scores with him or anyone else. But in addition to spending quality time with the marines at the range, Safir also teaches a martial arts class to interested parties -- Ford is one of his enthusiastic pupils. And Safir's unabated anger is starting to... if not become a wedge between John and the marines, then at least be noticeable in some vague, nonspecific way. At least with Ford, who is young and impressionable and thinks so much of Safir and John is perfectly well aware of how close Aiden gets to idol worship with himself. But while it may start with Ford, it will spread and John knows that they can't go into a fight against the Wraith with his marines doubting his wisdom. Bates openly second-guessing him on security matters is healthy, in part because half of the marines think Bates is an asshole and wrong by default. Ford wanting a second opinion in the heat of battle is not an option.

The irony that this is exactly what got John his Article 15 and a one-way ticket out of the sandbox and into the icebox... John will appreciate it some other time. Right now, it sticks in his craw and makes him feel like a hypocrite because what he did to Eaves two years ago is what he did to Elizabeth last month and what he's worried Safir is doing to him now.

"I don't know what you want me to say, Major," Beckett sighs, having taken the time to clean up the counter and label the vial. "Above and beyond the needless danger you put people in -- for which I am just as furious, don't misunderstand -- you also made a statement when you broke quarantine. Your lack of repentance, your refusal to even admit that what you did was not well thought out, to put it mildly, all of this says that everything Yoni has done to try to protect Atlantis... you don't think it matters. And that, by extension, he has been wasting his time and efforts while simultaneously inconveniencing the entire expedition. It's hurtful, Major, to both his ego and his relations within the city and all of your obedience with post-mission bloodwork isn't going change that."

"I didn't think it would," John replies, even though he kind of hoped. It had honestly never dawned on him that Safir would take John's actions personally -- or at least more personally than Me Epidemiologist, You Virus-Spreader would warrant. Yoni is always annoyed at someone, it seems, and it's never a visceral kind of anger -- more like Rodney, a way to keep himself entertained by the world's stupidity. Or maybe it's just that John's never been in this much shit with him before. "I'm not saying that he doesn't have a right to be angry. A lot of people do and he's at the top of the list. If I thought volunteering to get my ass kicked in the gym would make things better, I'd suffer the beat-down. But it won't and I know that it won't. I just wish that he would be angry on a lower profile. I know he'd like to throttle me, everyone else knows he'd like to throttle me. Message sent."

Beckett nods. "I think you overestimate my influence," he says, which is as close to promise to talk to Safir as John is going to get.

"You're his best friend in the galaxy," John tells him, getting off the bed.

There's nothing else to say, so John leaves.

The next time his team returns from a mission and needs bloodwork, Safir isn't there. But he's not there because it's his day off and he's there the time after that, although he doesn't talk to John past what is strictly necessary.

There is no moment when forgiveness comes. John doesn't know if Safir ever really has forgiven him. But there is a moment during the siege when both of their teams -- Safir has been appended to Stackhouse's squad and John is leading his own -- are surrounded by Wraith and it looks for all the world that this is going to be it.... Until Cusimano shoots one of the fluid columns and the gunk pours all over the floor and into one of the outlets and suddenly they are surrounded by barbecued Wraith because the viscous stuff is flammable. And they're all so relieved that they're laughing hard at the smoke and the stench and the improbability of it all until Safir says "Wonderful, Sergeant. Now how the hell are we going to get past a wall of fire?" and John knows, in the scary way that he knows stuff about Atlantis, that there is a fire suppression system here if he can just trigger it. He can and everything is covered in a mist that smells not unlike citronella and he catches Safir's eyes completely by accident. Safir nods at him, he nods back, and that's it. It's not forgiveness, but it's close enough.

feed me on LJ?


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28 January, 2007