It's Always the Quiet Ones

by Domenika Marzione

"Sir?"

Sheppard looked up from his laptop. Sergeant Peluzzi was standing on the other side of the table, looking vaguely embarrassed and very uncomfortable. "What can I help you with, Sergeant?"

Peluzzi sighed. "It's the self-defense course I'm teaching, sir," he began, unsure voice at odds with the ramrod posture. "I've got a bit of a problem."

Grappling for Geeks -- Little Tripoli's term for the self-defense course offered to civilian personnel -- had been going strong for a month. He still wasn't sure how it had ended up being Peluzzi's gig; Lorne had simply told him who was running it and moved on to the next topic with the sort of alacrity that John knew indicated that he probably really didn't want to know.

"What sort of a problem?" he asked, curiosity pricked. Because short of a Wraith invasion in the middle of the stretching, he couldn't imagine why Peluzzi would come to him instead of someone lower down on the chain of command. Peluzzi was in Maguire's platoon and Brian was more than capable of handling whatever the matter was and, if he couldn't, he would have gone to his own CO.

"It's Dr. Weir, sir," Peluzzi went on with a frown.

Well, that explained it.

"Is Dr. Weir not playing nicely with the other students?" He really couldn't imagine Elizabeth being a disruption in the class. They had fought loudly and occasionally bitterly about whether she needed to take the class, but once she'd conceded, there had been no further discussion and Elizabeth wasn't the passive-aggressive type.

"It's more that the other students are playing too nicely with Dr. Weir," Peluzzi replied. "We started sparring this week -- arm bars, basic grapples, that sort of stuff. And nobody wants to partner with her."

This was why Peluzzi had been sent to him -- probably by Lorne, who'd been spoken to by Radner, who'd been approached by Maguire after Peluzzi had gone to him first.

"How about I find someone in time for next week's class?" he asked, already coming up with a list of possible choices.

Peluzzi smiled with relief. "I'd appreciate that, sir."


"--it'd be fun," he insisted, his voice a little breathier than he'd like. There were times when his inner five-year-old simply couldn't compensate for his outer thirty-eight-year-old.

"No, it wouldn't," Ronon replied, not sounding at all winded as he led them through the enclosed hallway along the south pier and back into the sunshine.

The list of who to ask to be Elizabeth's training dummy was thinning out too quickly for his tastes. He knew Lorne didn't want to do it -- he would never have sent Peluzzi on if he did, but John had hoped that it was just Lorne being slightly nervous around Elizabeth and not some deep-seated angst about hitting civilian women who were technically his boss. It turned out that it was both and John wasn't going to push him when there were other candidates available.

"We circling around the Phallus Palace?" he asked as they ran past the hallway that led to the grounding station. The Palace -- a name not used in Elizabeth's earshot -- had a garden with a path he liked to run on. It also had missile-shaped minarets and nothing Elizabeth re-christened it (certainly not the current Ancient Library #4) was going to erase the Marines' first naming.

But it was Ronon's turn to choose their route, which meant a faster pace because they ran for ninety minutes and Ronon always wanted to cover as much ground as possible and that meant no Phallus Palace because it left them too close to the transporters.

"The red building," Ronon replied. John muttered to himself. Ronon had a particular fascination with the tomato-shaped building that once may have been a house of worship or meditation or navel-gazing or whatever it was the Ancients did for spirituality when they weren't locking sentient black clouds in high-tech garbage pails.

"Why am I not surprised," he said, bracing himself for the four flights of stairs that were now on the schedule.

Teyla had been his next option after Lorne -- that whole women-fighting-women thing, plus he knew Teyla agreed with him that Elizabeth needed training. She'd offered to teach Elizabeth stick-fighting more than once. But Teyla had a long-standing appointment out on the mainland and she was bringing his next choice -- Yoni Safir -- with her. Safir taught krav maga and fought with Teyla and thus presumably had no trouble hitting girls, but Teyla had given John that look when he'd wondered aloud if Carson or one of the other doctors would swap assignments with Safir. The Athosian children were fond of him, apparently, and he wasn't going out there nearly as often now that he was planet-hopping with Lorne.

"I don't see why you're against the idea," John pressed as they passed the fountain. "You always complain that we're too soft."

"Because she's my host," Ronon said, sounding as if he were speaking to a slow child.

"I thought I was your host," John retorted. "I was the one who invited you here."

"It wasn't your place to." Ronon took the steps three at a time and was pulling ahead.

"I liked you better when you thought I was in charge," John grumbled as he swung his arms to get momentum to take the steps two at a time.


"--go!"

Elizabeth grabbed his wrist and tried to move him into position. He went with it for a count of three -- about as much time as he thought an attacker would need to get over his surprise -- and then resisted. Elizabeth tugged, but to no avail. He pulled and she rolled over his hip and then fell, landing on her side by his feet.

"... and stop!" Sgt. Peluzzi called out.

Elizabeth got to her feet quickly, her anger at herself evident as she brushed her hair out of her eyes. She was pissed at herself and pissed at him and pissed at the situation that required her to get a 'special partner' and John watched her without commenting on any of it, keeping his expression even.

He thought she was doing fine for a beginner; Peluzzi knew what he was doing. It wasn't her fault that John knew the most basic countermoves. He could have been gracious and let her twist his wrists and hyperextend his elbow and do everything else that Peluzzi was teaching them to do, but he wasn't. Not unless she earned it. Because if he were Genii or any other unfriendly attacker, he wouldn't be patient and accomodating. He'd have her down, pinned to the floor with his knee in her back and a knife at her throat.

This was one of the reasons he hadn't wanted to be the one who played training dummy. Elizabeth was already frustrated and growing short-tempered and his easy handling of her best efforts only seemed to remind them both of the arguments they'd had about whether such training was necessary in the first place. And John neither wanted nor needed Elizabeth thinking that this was his smug reinforcement of why he had been right. Because it stopped being a good idea if it turned into a grudge match.

"Fuck," she spat after he'd thrown her again.

There went the even expression. "Am I going to have to break your playdates with the Marines, Doctor?"

He'd never heard Elizabeth curse before. Not ever. Not even when Rodney'd accidentally flashed an Ancient klieg light in her face.

"I knew those words before I had Marines to play with, Colonel," she replied, lingering frustration coloring what would have been a light tone. "I know those words in many languages."

"Yeah, but you never used them," he countered.

"I never had cause to," she replied, getting ready to try again.

"I bring out the best in everyone," he said helpfully as he deflected her attack.

"I take it back," Elizabeth said after another few failed attempts and one successful wrist lock that forced him to take a knee. "I'm not sure it's nice to see you here."

He held out a hand to help her up. She took it. "You'd hate me more if I'd found you a patsy."

"Not really," she replied.


"Okay, what the hell?"

Elizabeth looked down at him, still holding his wrist. She was beaming as she blew the hair out of her eyes.

"Very good, Dr. Weir," Sgt. Peluzzi encouraged. "That, everyone, was an excellent example of how quickness can overcome size and strength."

John waited for Elizabeth to drop his wrist before getting back to his feet. He was beginning to smell a rat.

First it had been Teyla's insistence that John should go again to the class as Elizabeth's partner, even after he'd explained how awkward and counterproductive it had been the first time. Then it had been Safir's refusal, Yoni citing both a lack of progress on his research and the threat of a permanent place on Carson's shit list if he tried to back out of another clinic round so that he could catch up. Then Lorne had looked blankly at him when he'd wondered out loud why Cadman's platoon had its only offworld mission that month just at the time when the class was running. And now, finally, Elizabeth had been chosen to demonstrate today's new move. Elizabeth, who'd been unable to so much land more than an adductive wristlock the previous week.

"Who'd you get to practice with?" he asked as they set up to repeat the exercise with the group.

"What makes you think I got any help at all?" Elizabeth replied archly.

"C'mon, Elizabeth." He gave her his best, friendliest don't-bullshit-me smirk. "This sort of improvement doesn't happen just because you wish hard enough."

He suspected Safir, mostly because he knew Teyla better and because Lorne was definitely involved somehow. It had been a dirty move Elizabeth had pulled and Safir both knew and could teach such a trick. And then lie about it to his face. If it was Yoni, then he and Lorne -- who had probably orchestrated the thing, the traitor -- were taking their marines and going on the next wacky mission that came up.

"It was Dr. Zelenka," she admitted with a smile.

"Zelenka?!" John held his hand out to indicate the diminuitive scientist. "Zelenka-I-don't-go-offworld-Zelenka?"

He mentally demoted Lorne from ringleader to accomplice.

"Isn't the whole point of this class to teach you to respect your limitations?" she pointed out.

Zelenka was Czech and he'd probably done his military service right around when the Wall came down. They'd have taught him to use his lack of size. That wasn't the surprising part. The surprise came from the fact that he knew Elizabeth was distressed about her performance in the class and that he'd had the courage to approach her about it. He doubted Elizabeth would have sought him out on her own.

"Hey, whatever works," he finally replied. "Just don't expect me to go easy on you anymore."

Her eyes widened, then narrowed. "I wouldn't expect any less."

"Good."

"Fine."

And then Peluzzi gave the start command and Elizabeth tried again, a wry smile on her face indicating that she thought she'd get the same result. But since he was ready this time, he avoided her trap, flipped her over his hip, and smiled pleasantly at her as he offered her his hand.

She accepted it with a glare and all was right with the world.

feed me on LJ?


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27 May, 2006