By Enola Jones

"What are you doing here?"

Rodney whirled at the question and shifted position, his hands moving to his waist as he replied in a voice that dripped sarcasm, "Oh, gee, I don't know. I think I work here!"

Radek tilted his head. "You do not work here today."

"And just what is that supposed to mean?"

"It means that you are supposed to be in the locker room, tacking out," John said from behind him, startling him.

Rodney turned, frowning. "No, that mission's not until Friday!"

"It's Friday," John reminded him.

"What? Seriously?" He turned back to Radek. "Seriously?"

"Seriously," Radek was trying to keep from laughing.

"Huh," Rodney said. He exited the lab, John right behind him. "Is it still just going to be the three of us?"

"Yup," John said. "Torren's feeling a little better, but Teyla's taking no chances."

"Don't blame her," Rodney said as they entered the teleporter. At the end of the journey, he finished, "I remember when I had chicken pox. I was four years old and miserable as hell."

"Torren's got Rhydran fever, not chicken pox," Ronon said as he joined them.

"He's got an itchy rash and is miserable," Rodney pointed out. "The rest is just semantics."

John shook his head in a 'leave it alone' gesture, and Ronon just rolled his eyes as Rodney tacked out.


"This looks like a postcard," Rodney breathed as they walked away from the Gate. "All blues and greens and light browns...."

"Fantastic, isn't it?" John asked with a grin. "Teyla was telling me about this world."

Ronon nodded. "The people are friendly to a fault. They've been taken advantage of several times in their history."

Rodney frowned at him. "That's terrible! Well, we won't do that!"

"That's why I'm here," Ronon smiled at them. "To make absolutely sure of it."

"You don't expect that we--" Rodney began.

"Not on purpose, no," Ronon said. "But it happens. And here we are."

The three of them entered the village, and found themselves expected. "We have scouts all over," Prittan, the leader, informed them. "And you are of Teyla's band, so we know of you personally. Where is Teyla?"

Ronon answered, "Her son has Rhydran fever."

"Aaaah." Murmurs of understanding and acknowledgment went up as Prittan nodded. "May the Ancestors bless the child."

Ronon inclined his head. "Thank you."

"This way, please. We are making preparations for a feast and--"

"Uncle!" a shout rang up. "Uncle!"

Prittan caught the shoulders of the gangly young man who raced up to him. "What is it, Urthus? What's wrong?"

Urthus pointed urgently the way he had come, trying to catch his breath. "Saranna!" he panted. "The village it burns!"

Prittan turned a grim expression onto the Team. "I'm sorry. It appears the feast will have to wait."

John shook his head. "Just tell us what we can do to help."

"Come with us and see," Prittan said. He addressed Urthus again. "Show us!"


When they arrived, they found part of the village burning and the people in utter chaos.

Rodney frowned. "The trees are not burning?"

"They do not burn," Prittan said. "They are artificial, made of some kind of workable metal. They are from of old."

Rodney pointed. "If we can fell that tree, it can act as a firebreak and buy us some time."

"But it will destroy those houses," Urthus pointed out.

"Then we make sure there's nobody in them!" Rodney said, looking at him.

John nodded. "Ronon and I will help the people, you get that tree down!"

Rodney nodded and set off with Urthus to make sure the houses were cleared of people.

Once satisfied that nobody was there, Rodney sent Urthus to safety. Then he unclipped his P-90 and touched his radio. "Sheppard, there's about to be gunfire. At the tree, not at anybody! But still--"

"The sound of gunfire in all this panic. I get you," John said. "Wait for my signal, then." He turned off the radio and addressed the people. "We're about to bring the tree down to try to delay the fire! You're going to hear gunshots, but it's all right! That's just my people working on the tree!"

Amid the crying and wailing of fear, there were nods of understanding. John touched his radio again. "Rodney, you have a go!"

Immediately, the staccato roar of P-90 fire burst into the already chaotic scene. There were some screams, but not very many. Most were quiet, praying silently that the tree would come down and the firebreak would work.

The gunfire quieted and there was a moment of agonised silence. Then Rodney reported, "I need Ronon!"

"Go," John ordered, and Ronon nodded, racing toward Rodney's position.

He found Rodney frowning at the base of the tree. "McKay?"

"I need you to set your blaster on 'kill' and hit it here." He pointed.

"I can't do that."

Rodney looked up incredulously. "You can't? Why not?"

Ronon smirked slightly. "You're in the way."

"Oh, for the love of---" But Rodney moved , coming to stand beside Ronon. "Better?"

"Much." He drew his blaster, spun it to charge it, flicked it to 'kill', and fired one shot at point-blank range. As he holstered it, he flicked it back to 'stun'.

The tree quivered, the metal resonating with the force of the blast. Slowly, it teetered and toppled, landing right where Rodney had wanted it to.

The townspeople cheered when the fire didn't jump over it.

"We've contained it," John smiled at Prittan. "Now let's get it put out."

Prittan smiled and squeezed his shoulder. "Let's, my friend."


Woolsey gasped at the trio that came through the gate. "What in the world happened to you?"

"We got to play firefighter," John grinned up at him.

Rodney snorted. "Yes, yes, let's go get cleaned up and check on Teyla and Torren. Then I plan to sleep for a week."

"You won't make it six hours," Ronon rumbled.

"Wanna bet?" Rodney shot back as they began to move toward the Infirmary for their post-mission check-overs.

"What are the stakes?" Ronon rumbled as the doors closed behind them.

Woolsey shook his head. They were home and safe and already bickering.

The way they never really seemed to change was oddly comforting.


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