"This," Rodney growled, "was not my brightest idea ever."
"Yeah, but if it works," John's voice rang in his ear, "it'll be the perfect distraction."
"Yeah, I still think Teyla'd be the better choice to distract him," Rodney sighed as he tightened his white belt.
"Teyla's offworld with the Athosians, remember?"
"Yeah, I remember. Some kind of festival. But I think you thought up this plan with her in this role."
"Or maybe I just wanted you to spar with Ronon."
Rodney snorted. "Hardly! You're just sadistic enough that you'd be here to watch him hand me my ass on a silver platter!"
"Well, you've got a point there...."
Chuckling a little, Rodney then turned serious. "So... how's it coming? Find it yet?"
John chuckled as he swung his flashlight in a broad arc. "No, not yet," he replied. "But I'm getting close."
"That's what you said ten minutes ago," Rodney pointed out.
"Well, I'm ten minutes closer, then, aren't I?" John rolled his eyes even though Rodney couldn't see him.
He heard Rodney's chuckle in his ear. Then Rodney asked, "Do you think it's down there?"
"Somewhere," John said.
"Hey – why don't you come on back up here? Then you can take care of Ronon and I can go look--"
"Aw, what fun would that be?" John chuckled. Then his light illuminated a carved door. "I found it."
"Yeah? Fantastic! I'll see you later, then!"
"Don't let him beat you up too bad."
"As if I have a choice?"
"You're better than you think are you, buddy. See you up there."
"See you then."
John reached out mentally and smiled as the door slid smoothly open.
Rodney was going to ambush Ronon as he walked through the door. He would have the element of surprise and would probably even get Ronon at least to stagger.
At least, that was how it played out in Rodney's mind.
In reality, Ronon walked into the gym. Rodney did ambush him as he'd visualised it.
And Rodney ended up on the mat, flat on his back, in ten seconds.
Ronon smiled down at him. "You're improving," he declared.
Rodney blinked up at him. "Ten seconds is improving?" he squeaked.
Ronon's smile grew. "You were down in five. Now it's ten."
"Huh!" Rodney said, blinking as he accepted Ronon's hand and was hauled to his feet. "I never thought of that...."
"Well it's true." Ronon put the Bantos rods back into Rodney's hands. "Now, hold them this way." He demonstrated.
Rodney slid into the same stance.
"Good," Ronon said. "Now, do this." He moved the sticks he was holding.
"Whoa, slow that down!" Ronon did, and Rodney copied it.
"Again," Ronon ordered. Rodney did so.
"Again." Ronon moved to face Rodney.
"Again." He nodded as Rodney picked up speed.
"Again!" And Ronon lunged mid-move, smiling at Rodney's pop-eyed gasp as the completed move effectively blocked the shot Ronon was trying to inflict. "Good!"
Rodney just stared. "I....I did it?"
"McKay." Rodney looked up, and Ronon smiled as he nodded. "You did it. Now we get you doing it till it's second nature."
For the next thirty minutes, they worked on that. Ronon helped him with the forms and would attack at random intervals, forcing him to use the newly-learned move over and over.
At the end of the half hour, Rodney was trembling. Breathing hard. And yet, he still gamely lifted the sticks.
Ronon shook his head. "You've done enough for now, McKay." He curled a hand around the back of Rodney's neck. "You did good. Proud of you."
"Yeah?" Rodney panted.
"Yeah," Ronon said. He pulled the top off of a water bottle and passed it over.
Rodney drank deeply. "Thanks," he said sincerely.
"See?" Ronon pointed out. "You just had to put that big brain to work on wanting to learn this." He put the sticks he'd been using away. "Friday? About the same time?"
Rodney nodded and reached his own sticks toward Ronon, who shook his head. "Practice that move. Once you've got it second nature, I'll teach you another."
And Rodney's radio went off. "Rodney, I need you!"
"On my way!" He smiled and cut the channel. "Let's go see what John's found. He's been exploring."
A nod, and Ronon fell in step beside Rodney, who was still carrying the Bantos rods in one hand as they left the gym.
Ronon and Rodney found John, they found him standing in a room, looking out at the barely lit hallway.
"So," Rodney asked as they walked up. "What did you find?"
John's voice sounded oddly distorted. "I found a force-field that isn't letting me leave the room."
"What?" Rodney gasped. He moved to the side of the door and prised off a panel.
Ronon stepped up to the field – so close that he could feel it tingling against his skin, but not so close that he would be shocked. "Are you hurt?"
"Just trapped," John said, and Ronon nodded. If John had pulled out the "I'm fine" phrase, Ronon would have realised he had been injured.
By giving a simple status report, John had informed Ronon that he was truly unharmed.
Rodney made a sound under his breath and laid down the sticks he had still been holding in one hand. "We've got a burned-out array here."
"Can you fix it?" John asked.
"Not without new crystals," Rodney said with a soft growl. "And to get those, I'd have to go all the way back and get them, then come all the way forward again."
"Just get me out, then."
Rodney nodded. "Gather up whatever you need from in there."
"That's what tripped the field in the first place," John said, even as he gathered up a small backpack. "I think I tripped an Ancient burglar alarm."
"I think you did, too," Rodney sighed. "Okay, this isn't going to work. I need to complete this circuit, and anything I use would shock me pretty severely. Why in the world couldn't the Ancients have at least used a little wood in their magnificent city?"
"Wood?" Ronon asked.
"Yeah, wood. Put a bit of metal on the end of a wooden pole. The metal will complete the circuit long enough for him to leave the room, but wood won't carry the current back to me and wouldn't shock--" Rodney broke off, his eyes huge.
Ronon was holding out one of the Bantos rods they had been sparring with. On the end of it, he had lashed one of his ever-present knives.
"I take back everything I ever said about you," Rodney said as he took the stick.
"No, you don't," Ronon grinned, and John chuckled.
So did Rodney as he stood up and took a step back. "Okay, ready, John?"
"As I'll ever be!"
"Here we go!" Rodney thrust the stick forward, jamming the knife on the end into the controls and completing the circuit.
The controls sparked. The field fell, and John dashed through.
"He's clear!" Ronon roared above the electrical sparking. Rodney jerked the stick free, and they watched the shimmer as the force field went back up.
Rodney sighed. "I'll have to get Radek to look at that." He tucked the free end of the Bantos rod under his arm and began to undo Ronon's precise knots. "But did you get it?"
"I got it," John said with a grin.
"What did you get?" Ronon asked as he accepted the knife from Rodney and made it vanish into his hair.
John handed him the backpack. "It's a bunch of data crystals. We found something in the database that suggested that somewhere in there is the complete history – as of 10,000 years ago – of ten prominent worlds in Pegasus. The Council of Ten."
Ronon drew in a startled breath. "Sateda was one of the council of Ten!"
"That's what the database said," Rodney smiled. "We're going to go through those and find it – for you."
John clapped a hand on Ronon's shoulder. "Happy birthday, big guy."
Struck speechless, all Ronon could do was carefully set down the backpack and hug both of his Team-Brothers so tightly that they both protested loudly and made him laugh.
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