By Enola Jones

The world named Hakru had beautiful mountains and valleys. It had lovely rivers and streams. And it had many, many villages with many goods to trade.

It seemed perfect for Atlantis to choose as a trading partner, especially since one of their goods was a drink similar to coffee. Rodney was already getting that greedy gleam in his eye, after only having one cup of it.

"What am I going to do with you?" John snarled, fisting a hand in Rodney's collar and pulling him bodily away from the "coffee" bar he'd been trying to belly up to. "It's getting so I can't take you anywhere!"

"B-But, John," Rodney spluttered, gesturing toward the bar, "it's coffee! In Pegasus!"

John turned him to face the doorway and patted his back even as he used the same hand to gently push Rodney toward the door. "I swear, Rodney, one of these days your coffee addiction is going to get us in real trouble."

"I'm not addicted!" Rodney protested. "I just need it to function!"

"Pull the other one, Rodney, it's got bells on." And with that, John finally got him out of the building.

"John," Rodney tried again. "Do you know how many incredibly important scientific discoveries there are still to make? And I'm the only one who could potentially make them? And I need that coffee to do it!"

Ronon shook his head as they approached. "So I was right?"

"You were right," John said, releasing Rodney's jacket. "In there trying to get his fix."

"Hey!" Rodney roared. "I am not that bad!"

"He's right, he's not," Ronon said.

"See? Told you!" Rodney smirked.

"He's worse," Ronon finished, and chuckled at the steely glare Rodney sent his way.

"Fine, fine, mock the scientist," Rodney growled. "Never mind that I save your lives on a daily basis..."

"Weekly, if anything," John corrected, and this time Rodney could have sworn he heard a distinct female laugh, smothered.

"Et tu, Teyla?" he sighed.

She came over and lay her hand on his arm. "Rodney, the situation is amusing. Look at it from our point of view-- suppose we had come to a world that had warships or energy weapons for trade. Now imagine we are trying to stop John or Ronon from returning to Atlantis with the entire supply in one run."

Rodney stared at her, then he relaxed and chuckled. "Put that way, it is kind of funny." And the four shared a moment of mirth.

As the Team approached the square to make their goodbyes, they were met by the Magistrate their term, not even Teyla could well pronounce her actual title and the man who had been behind the bar when John took Rodney out of it. "There he is!" the man bellowed, gesturing toward Rodney. "That is the man who incited the riot that destroyed my bar!"

"What?" the four gasped simultaneously, then John shook his head. "Hold on, there was no riot when we were there! I got him out of there peaceably!"

"And after you left, the patrons started a riot and destroyed my bar!" the man snarled. "That was his doing, and I demand satisfaction!"

"Okay, first of all, that makes no sense at all!" John interrupted. "Second, you know good and well that Rodney didn't start any riot!"

"Still!" the man bellowed. "I demand satisfaction! I demand that he receive the ten lashes of Yrant!"

The Magistrate narrowed her eyes. "That is not satisfaction, that is revenge."

"I want him to suffer!" he roared, and the Team and the Magistrate clearly saw the light of insanity in his eyes.

The Magistrate sighed. "The law is the law. You were present when the riot happened?"

"No," John said.

"Then you can not prove it was not his fault. And as such, the demand for satisfaction must be fulfilled. But I am not unmerciful. It will be two lashes." A very long whip was brought to her. As she took it, electricity crackled on the coils.

As one, the Team drew a collective shocked breath.

The Magistrate looked at them. "As I said, I am not unmerciful. I shall allow someone else to take your place for the lashes, Doctor. Who shall it be?"

Rodney was at a complete loss. A second of hesitation passed and he gasped, clearly looking for direction, "John?"

"Very well," the Magistrate said. "The one named John, step forward for the punishment."

"Wait!" Rodney gasped. "Wait, that wasn't what I was--"

"The law is the law," the Magistrate said sadly. "Which of you, again, is John?"

John sighed in resignation, stepping forward. "I am."

A large hand landed on his shoulder and he felt himself being pulled back. Ronon strode forward, placing himself between John and the Magistrate. "Little fool's always trying to take the blame," he rumbled. "I'm John."

"What are you doing?" John hissed.

"Been shocked before," Ronon hissed back. "Two more won't hurt me. They might kill you."

Neither of them noticed Teyla walking up until she spoke. "My men mean well, but they are foolish to try to protect me from what is rightfully mine. My clan-specific name is Jonala. They shorten it to John."

The Magistrate looked at each of them, then opened her mouth.

But Rodney stepped forward. "I'm the one that man wants beaten. Give it to me and leave John alone."

The man who'd accused them giggled, hopping from foot to foot. "Oh, beautiful! Give it to them all! Give it to them all!"

The Magistrate closed her mouth and nodded. "Very well. Take that one," she pointed at the man who'd brought the charges, "and place him on the post. He shall have the full ten lashes for bringing false charges."

She then turned to the stunned Team. "Never have I seen loyalty like this. Never have I seen a love so strong between those not of the same parents. You have impressed me. You are all free to go."

"Wait, what?" Rodney gasped. "You're letting us go? Just like that?

John put a hand on his shoulder. "Unless you want to get hit by the pretty sparking whip..."

"I mean, thank you very much, Magistrate!" Rodney hastily amended.

As they left the square and headed back toward the cloaked Jumper, their last impressions of the village were the sizzle of electricity and the screams of an insane man who'd had his own sadism suddenly turned on him.

No words were spoken, but each of the four knew they would not be returning to this world.


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