Affinity by ga unicorn [PG-13]
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Summary: LJ Atlantis Back to Basics Challenge #2. X-over with SG1. At loose ends while the rest of his team attends to other things while visiting Atlantis, Cameron Mitchell joins Sheppard and a squad of Marines on a simple diplomatic mission.

Categories: General
Characters: Cameron Mitchell, John Sheppard
Genres: Challenge, Character Study, Drama
Warnings: None
Chapters: 1 [Table of Contents]
Series: None

Word count: 5451; Completed: Yes
Updated: 25 Aug 2007; Published: 25 Aug 2007

- Text Size +

Story Notes:
This was written for the Atlantis Back to Basics Challenge #2 at LiveJournal, from prompts submitted by bluflamingo. My prompts for this challenge were: a) John centered, SG-1 visit Atlantis again, any rating; b) Lorne and Sheppard doing military leader things, any rating, gen or pairing; c) Teyla, Ronon, things they don't get about Earth, and vice versa, gen, pairing, not bothered. My muse immediately latched onto both A and C. C might eventually make an appearance also; it stalled out after a couple thousand words and is just waiting for some more inspiration.


af•fin•i•ty: 1.a natural liking for or attraction to a person, thing, idea, etc; 2. inherent likeness or agreement; close resemblance or connection.


The pen was used with hard, quick slashes. The paper was then folded, stuffed into an envelope and laid in a cardboard box. After the lid had been taped shut Sheppard leaned back in his chair with a sigh and ran a hand through his hair.

Cam Mitchell watched all of this – how did they tolerate the lack of privacy with all these glass walls? – and tried not to feel like he was spying on the man. He cleared his throat and rapped on the door jamb.

"Hey, Sheppard, I hope I'm not interrupting anything."

Sheppard looked up, a lingering pain or anger quickly disappearing from his eyes and being replaced by his usual grin. "No, no. Come on in. Rescue me from paperwork."

"I do not envy you that," Mitchell drawled, dropping down into one of the chairs across from the desk. He propped an ankle up on the opposite knee. "I have way too much of it as is. I don't want to think what it would be if I had a battalion of Marines under my command."

"Most of it, thank God, is taken care of by the junior officers. But I still have more than enough to keep me busy. A large part of Major Lorne's job is making sure I get all of it done. But for some things I don't need a reminder."

Mitchell eyed the box and nodded slowly as understanding dawned. "Letters to the families."

The smile disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. "Sergeant Bell. He died during the incident with the coronal mass emission and the over-helpful whale-fish. I sent a letter with the original data-burst to Earth, but I always include a written letter when we ship their belongings home." He tapped the box, frowning thoughtfully. "They never sound right." Shaking his head as if to dispel the mood, he smiled across at SG1's leader. "Obviously you didn't come to ask me about my letter writing habits. What can I help you with?"

Willing to go along with the subject change, Mitchell leaned back in his chair and did his best to look pitiful. "When Carter and McKay decided they needed to implement these improvements to the Gate Bridge, Landry decided that Atlantis would be a great place for SG1 to take some downtime. Now Carter is with McKay eighteen hours a day. Daniel is thrilled to finally be allowed to do some non-Ori related research, and I expect to have to dig him out of whatever corner he's found when it's time to leave. Vala refuses to let Daniel out of her sight, now that we've got him back from the Ori. And Teal'c and Ronon are bonding down in the gym. Which is a little scary, by the way."

"I know what you mean. I didn't expect such a bulky guy to be so fast. Those two on the mats together are... formidable is really too weak a word."

"There are no words to properly describe it. But the thing is," Mitchell managed to look a little sheepish, "the thing is... is I'm bored."

Chuckling, Sheppard pulled two water bottles out of a desk drawer and tossed one to Mitchell. "I could lend you my book," he offered helpfully. "War and Peace. "

"Russian intrigue and angst? Sorry, I'm more of a Tom Clancy guy, myself."

"Me, too."

"There's only so much PT a man can do – "

"Not according to the Marines."

"Marines are crazy that way."

Both men drank in agreement to that truth.

"And I appreciate you letting me have the run of the firing range. Firing several hundred rounds is always relaxing, and rest and relaxation is why Landry sent us here. But unless you want to run out of ammo before the next Daedalus run, I'm going to have to pace myself there."

Sheppard pursed his lips in thought. "Do you like to swim? There are some sweet beaches on the mainland. If you surf you can borrow my board. Or fishing? Beckett has some equipment and he's always going on about the great fishing in the river near the old Athosian settlement. There wouldn't be a problem finding people who'd be happy to join you for any of that."

"That all sounds like loads of fun and I appreciate the offers." Mitchell grimaced ruefully. "But, frankly, when I feel the need for downtime I usually head home and help my Dad on the farm. There's a nice pond for skinny-dipping when I feel an urge to get wet."

Something flickered in Sheppard's eyes and he stared at his desktop for a moment. When he raised his head the smile was back in place. "Do you have an idea what you'd like to do?"

Mitchell stared back for a few moments, then cleared his throat. "I'd like to see more of the Pegasus galaxy. Can I go out with a team?"

Atlantis' military commander was suddenly sitting across from him instead of the casually friendly fellow officer.

"I'm sorry, Mitchell, I can't authorize that. You have no experience – "

"I've been SG1's commanding officer for nearly two years."

"That's in the Milky Way. You know the Goa'uld and Ori. The Wraith are completely different. We spend a lot of time with new personnel getting them oriented to a new way of thinking and fighting. Landry'd string me up if I got the leader of his premier team injured, or – worse – killed." Sheppard shook his head.

"I don't want to go on a first contact mission," Mitchell said, leaning forward in his chair. "I don't want to go hunting Wraith. I just want to meet some of the locals."

Sheppard gazed at him speculatively for a few moments. He then typed a quick command on his laptop.

"Weapons Company is going to P9X-992 day after tomorrow. They're going to practice some urban warfare and blow shit up for five days, then come home. We're ninety-nine percent sure the Wraith won't show up because they culled the entire population a couple months ago. But there's no guarantee a different Hive won't appear looking for a snack."

"I love a good explosion as much as the next guy, but I was hoping to meet some of the local people, see how they interact with you... us... with Earthlings."

Mitchell wondered why Sheppard looked suspicious.

"If Landry wants you to observe me, all you had to do was ask," Sheppard said, raising an eyebrow.

He could feel himself gaping and snapped his mouth shut. "What? Oh, man. No, no, no. I'm not here to spy on you."


"Yeah. Look, Sheppard. I just thought this would be a good way to get to know you better. I've heard lots of rumors about you, but I prefer to make up my own mind about people. And we were both too busy to spend any time together when you were stationed back at the SGC."

Sheppard nodded his understanding, waiting.

"Is there a milk-run mission I could tag along on? I'll follow whatever rules you set. If there's not, I'll let you take me to the mainland and teach me to surf." Mitchell leaned back in his chair with a grin and looked at Sheppard hopefully.

"Unfortunately, I'm too busy for a surfing lesson." Another quick scan of the laptop screen and Sheppard flipped it down. "Are you sure you don't want to find something to do around the City or on the Mainland?"

"Seriously, Sheppard, work relaxes me. I'm weird that way."

"Okay, I have a mission tomorrow. We're going to Hedrur, P8S-244. When Helia and her merry band of Ancients kicked us out of Atlantis we defaulted on a number of trading agreements. We're trying to reestablish relations now. I'm going out with Lt. Ortiz and one of his squads. He was Hedrur's point-of-contact with Atlantis."

"What did you trade with them?" Mitchell asked, curious.

"Mostly foodstuff. But they also have a tree the produces a sap that's heals scars into invisibility, even old ones. The first year they traded with us we fixed their shield. A leftover from the Ancients; it disguises the entrance into some caves where they hide from the Wraith. The last two years we've provided additional manpower for the harvest – the Athosians do that for a share of the crops – and medicines."

"Sounds like a mission," Mitchell said, finishing off his water. "What time do we leave?"

"We 'gate out at 0600 Atlantis time, it'll be about mid-morning on Hedrur. We're scheduled to be gone twelve hours. I'll send you an email with a brief on the planet." Sheppard took their water bottles and tossed them in the recycle sack. He stood up to escort Mitchell out. "You need to get cleared by medical. Then see Gunny Waite to get kitted out."

He caught the eye of one of the Marines on 'gate room duty and waved him over. "Sgt. Haas will show you how to get to the infirmary."

Mitchell stopped in the door and turned back. "Hey, Sheppard. Thanks for putting up with me."

The easy-going smile appeared again. "Don't worry about it. Get a good night's sleep, it's a long hike up that mountain."


0600 Atlantis Time, the next day

Mitchell stifled another yawn and chugged down the last of his coffee. He was never going to be an early morning person. Before he could wonder where he should put the empty cup a Marine stepped up and took it from him with a quiet "Let me take that for you, sir."

He leaned back against the wall, trying to stay out of the way as a squad of disgustingly wide awake Marines tromped into the 'gate room. He watched and listened with lazy amusement as they checked each others packs and insulted each other with profane cheerfulness. There was some minor rough-housing, but nothing more serious than a slap to the back of a head or a fist slamming into a bicep.

When Sheppard walked in, a young lieutenant at his side, the volume decreased but the jibes continued to fly. By the time the lieutenant called out "Listen up, men!" they had sorted themselves into a loose formation.

Sheppard continued over to the corner where he had propped himself up and greeted him with a lazy grin.

"Morning, Mitchell. You ready for a lovely hike up a mountain?"

"Oh, God, you're a morning person," Mitchell moaned in mock disgust. "No wonder the Marines like you."

"They like anyone who'll keep them supplied with their favorite toys," Sheppard said with a quiet laugh as he zipped up his tac vest and clipped his P-90 to the sling. He ran a quick eye over Mitchell. "Did Gunny Waite get you everything you needed?"

"Sure did." He slapped at his vest. "Feel like I'm dressed to go spy on some Priors, just like home. Except you have way too much natural light in your 'gate room."

"We like ours this way. Much better than having to breathe that recycled crap you call air in yours."

"Got me there," Mitchell agreed. He watched the squad shuffling into place while the Lieutenant signaled the tech in Control to dial the stargate. He hadn't noticed the heavier artillery – the SAWs and a couple of shoulder rocket launchers – earlier. "Aren't we a little heavily armed for a greet-and-grip?"

Sheppard shook his head. "Not really. The people of the Pegasus galaxy have been fighting to survive against a nearly unstoppable predator for millennia. Carrying weapons when you travel is expected and accepted on most worlds. And we have a reputation to maintain. We're just about the only group in this galaxy that doesn't accept Wraith dominance as inevitable. Most people try to hide during cullings and live to rebuild and do it all over again. Ah, lieutenant, we ready to head out? Mitchell, this is Lieutenant Ortiz."

He exchanged nods with the serious young man who looked barely old enough to vote, let alone to lead this squad of Marines.

"Yes, sir, we're ready to go."

"Excellent." Sheppard had taken two steps toward the shimmering event horizon before Ortiz's discrete cough brought him up short. He stopped and turned back with a snort of laughter. "I always forget I'm not allowed to go first if I go out to play with the Marines," he explained to Mitchell.

They watched as three of the Marines walked into the wormhole, and then waited for them to radio back an all-clear. Even then the two Air Force officers were casually herded into the middle of the group before they reached the stargate.

Mitchell was somewhat surprised by the treatment. Sheppard saw the look on his face as they emerged from the stargate and chuckled.

"Aren't there any Marines at the SGC who aren't officers? You know how all sergeants know that they really run everything? And that officers are to be respected, tolerated and protected from hurting themselves on any sharp objects? Marines have that attitude multiplied a thousand times over, I think."

Mitchell got a sudden image of these young men – wearing camo and toting a lot of fire power – as a bunch of well-armed babysitters, like Vin Diesel in The Pacifier. He choked back his laughter and began to enjoy the hike. The village was on the edge of a wide meadow perched about a third of the way up between two mountains. The path through the woods was clearly marked as the locals used their stargate frequently.

Ortiz set two men to guard the 'gate, then sent two more to scout ahead. The remainder of the squad spread out as they marched, but Mitchell noticed there was always at least one within a few meters of each of the officers.

"A couple of brief rules for fighting the Wraith," Sheppard announced as they left the clearing around the 'gate, "which you, hopefully, will not have to put to use. First, one bullet just won't do it. Use as many as you have to. Second, never turn your back on a Wraith until you've verified that it's really dead. It takes a lot to put one down, and if they've fed recently it's even harder. And if you see one reaching for a blue medallion on it's chest – run. It's a bomb."

"Got it: use plenty of ammo and watch out for suicide bombers. That last sounds too much like home."

"Yeah, it's amazing how some ideas are universal," Sheppard agreed. "Finally, if there are darts deploying culling beams – scatter. Don't make it easy for them to scoop you up. We've shot down darts and if the onboard computer's intact we've had some luck rematerializing whoever's been culled. But it's still a small percentage."

"Okay: don't get culled. I can remember that."

Mitchell noticed that Sheppard, for all his laughing acceptance of the Marines' over-protectiveness did not let his guard down. One hand was always on his P-90 and his eyes moved constantly, scanning the environment. Mitchell could appreciate that attitude as he shared the same work ethic.

The walk to the village was expected to take approximately two hours. Although he enjoyed the exercise he wondered why they hadn't taken one of the jumpers.

"One," Sheppard smiled and held up a finger, "these guys are too darned big to crowd all eleven of them in one jumper. Two, if the men don't get enough exercise every day they get cranky. And three... What? You want to miss all this lovely scenery?"

They talked easily about a variety of topics from strangest animal they had seen ("Bugs. I hate 'em" Sheppard; "Giant mutant critter, I don't know if we ever figured out what it had been originally. Looked like it had been skinned. Nasty." Mitchell) to college football ("Who the hell thought up these insane ranking systems? They're ruining the game." "Got to agree with you there, man.") . They just shook their heads over Air Forces lack of chance at a winning season – again – even against the other academies. They were both trying not to laugh over one of the Marines coarse comparisons between the Naval and Air Force cadets when their radios crackled to life.

"We have 'gate activation," a calm voice announced.

Ortiz started to call a halt when the voice broke through again, shouting over a high-pitched whine. "Shit! We've got darts. Four darts have come through the 'gate and are – !"

Their radios went silent.


1400 Atlantis time

"To think I tried to talk Landry into letting me stay on Earth. God, those are ugly suckers." Mitchell watched as two Wraith drones stalked past, less than ten meters from the entrance to the caves where a squad of Marines, two Air Force lieutenant colonels and one hundred thirty-seven locals huddled in damp misery. The two sergeants standing guard at the entrance followed the Wraith's progress with their P-90s. His hand tightened on the stock of his own rifle, but the masked warriors disappeared into the woods without giving any indication that they were aware of the cloaked entrance.

He was still trying to assimilate all that had gone on in the last few hours.

When the warning came they had run, not back toward the 'gate but toward the village. At one point a culling beam had cut across their path and six of the masked Wraith suddenly appeared to block the way. He had been so startled that he had been a beat behind the others in opening fire.

At some point during their efforts to round up stray villagers, and evade the Wraith, the skies had opened up and the rain poured down. It had been raining ever since.

Later, while escorting a group of Hedrurians to the caves, a narrow ledge had crumbled under his foot and he had rolled partway down a rocky slope. He was going to be feeling those bruises for a while.

And he had forgotten the rule about assuming a Wraith was dead. He needed to remember to thank Sheppard again for tackling him out of the way of the bomb blast.

"Although," he continued as he turned back to Sheppard, "when I asked to come with you today I wasn't expecting this much excitement. Your greet-and-grips are a lot more exciting than the norm."

"We aim to please." Sheppard flashed a tired grin then winced and tried to pull his hand away from the corpsman who was cleaning a deep gash across the right palm and halfway down his forearm. "I'm sure there's not a speck of grit left in there, Horner. Stop digging at it."

"Don't be a baby, sir." The corpsman tightened his hold on his commanding officer's wrist and poured water into the open wound before reaching for a packet of butterfly bandages. They were followed up by a gauze wrap, but a spot of red was already leaking through by the time the end was taped down. Horner produced a packet of ibuprofen and handed it to Sheppard. "You're going to need a shitload of stitches, Colonel. You still have water? There's a stream of fresh water at the back of the last cavern. I can fill your canteen if you need."

"No, I'm good. How are the civilians doing?"

"About like you'd expect, sir. Mostly bumps and bruises. More shock than anything else." He finished putting his kit back together and stood up. "Try not to use that hand. Do you need me to look at anything, Colonel Mitchell?"

Mitchell didn't consider the collection of scraps he had collected in their flight through the woods to be worth a look-see. The corpsman shouldered his kit and went over to speak to the Marines at the cave entrance. After a few words, the guards reached into vest pockets and produced what looked like the candy packets from an MRE. One of them pulled a couple items out of his backpack and handed them over also. Mitchell was surprised to see what looked like a small stuffed animal when Horner walked past him.

"Chief, look in my pack. I should have a couple Super-balls the kids can have," Sheppard said, pointing to the corner where the pack had been dumped.

"Thanks, sir. You sure you wanta give up your toys?" Horner asked with a straight face.

"My mother taught me to share," Sheppard shot back. "Besides there'll be another one in the next Fruit Crunchies cereal box."

"I can't believe you still eat that crap, sir." The mild chastisement was ruined by a big grin.

Mitchell watched the corpsman disappear into the narrow passage that led down to the cavern where the civilians were gathered.

"Do they all talk like that?"

Sheppard looked up briefly from the life-signs detector he was studying, a genuine smile lighting his face this time. "Respectfully, with just the hint of condescension? They're Marines – although Horner is actually a Navy corpsman; but he used to be a SEAL, and they're as crazy as your average Marine. So they're Marines with a couple of Zoomies for commanding officers. We work well together," Sheppard said. "And Lorne and I like to think that they're proud of, as well as amused by, their Air Force XO and CO. But you never know, it could be plain amusement."

"You could add some Air Force and Army personnel to the mix. I know Landry would prefer it." Mitchell walked over and crouched next to Sheppard, peering at the small screen of the Ancient device.

"This is us," Sheppard said, pointing to several clusters of yellow dots around the middle of the screen. "Those," now indicating four groups of two to three dots each, "are Wraith. At least those within range of the life-signs detector. Looks like they're not giving up and going home. They tend to get stubborn about that if we shoot down their darts. It also means we'll probably have to relocate the Hedrurians. The Wraith have a scorched earth policy when their food fights back effectively." He laid the detector on his knee and scrubbed a hand over his face. "I know Landry wants to integrate other services into the battalion, but I'm going to put it off as long as I can. The few non-US troops assigned to Atlantis have a difficult enough time integrating. There was a reason that O'Neill talked Dr. Weir into taking an all Marine – yes, I'm Air Force, but I wasn't really supposed to be in the chain of command – contingent when the expedition first came to Atlantis. We were going to be cut off from Earth, maybe forever, and their discipline and training was what was needed here. And they're still what we need. We could use more pilots with the gene. A backup ZPM would have McKay dancing in the corridors. We'd like to have more drones. We'd love to have some F-302s permanently based in the City, because the jumpers really weren't designed to be fighter craft. But I think the Marines are the best base for the security of Atlantis."

He got up off the ground, grunting and twisting from side to side to work out some stiffness. "God, I am getting too old to sit on damp cave floors for too long any more. Don't tell the men," he added with a smile that quickly faded. "We should be hearing from Ortiz soon. This is the one thing I really dislike about going on missions with a team of Marines: having to wait while they go out and do all the work. The waiting will drive you crazy."

Mitchell watched as he walked over to speak with the men guarding the entrance. There was quiet conversation. A burst of sudden laughter hastily hushed. After a few minutes Sheppard walked back.

"Why don't we stretch our legs a bit?"

Instead of following the tunnel that led to the cavern where the locals were huddled together they took the one leading up to the back entrance to the caves. Mitchell broke the silence after a few moments.

"Earlier this year Landry 'invited' SG1 up to this cabin in the mountains. Team bonding, with him tossed into the mix. Wanted us to relax then, too. God. Most uncomfortable, non-relaxing couple of days in my life. And then the giant mutant skinless thing showed up. Still wasn't relaxed, but I felt a whole lot better. Normal. What kind of a weird son-of-a-bitch am I that I prefer chasing radioactive monsters through the woods to spending a quiet afternoon at the lake?"

Sheppard stared back at him, definitely amused. "There's relaxed and then there's relaxed. At least I know how to unwind when I have a rare day off."

"I don't imagine you get too many of those. It must be hard."

"This is the biggest responsibility I'll probably ever have," Sheppard acknowledge, then chuckled. "And the biggest adventure."

"It must be tough though," Mitchell said quietly, remembering the letter Sheppard had been working on the previous day. "You've lost a lot of people."

Sheppard quirked a brow and nodded. "A lot of people. And, yes, it's hard."

Mitchell was reminded of a conversation he'd overheard shortly after Sheppard had returned to the SGC. Landry had been on the phone with General O'Neill, talking about the newest SG team commander. "I can't read the guy, Jack. He acts like the most laid back, helpful person to ever wear the uniform. Then you bring up a topic he doesn't want to talk about and boom it's like a glass wall suddenly appears between you ..." He'd missed the rest of the conversation, but he thought he was getting a glimpse of that personality trait now. Not a muscle had twitched to indicate that Sheppard didn't want to discuss this subject, but Mitchell backed off.

"So what do you do when you have downtime?"

They were discussing Sheppard's interest in skateboarding ("Do you have any hobbies that don't involve potential broken bones, man?" "Golf?" "Something that's not boring?") when they reached the rear entrance. Mitchell stayed back and let Sheppard have his pep talk with his men. Another Wraith patrol passed by while they were there.

They were heading back down into the caverns when their radios clicked twice and Lt. Ortiz's voice crackled in their ears.

"We've reached the stargate, sir. Dialing Atlantis now."

Sheppard reached for his mike switch with a relieved smile. "Good to hear you made it, Lieutenant. Any problems?"

"Except for Barden falling into some kind of prickly bush, no, sir. Took out the four suckers guarding the 'gate with no problem. Wormholes open, sir. Go ahead."

"Atlantis, this is Sheppard. We could use a little help here."

Mitchell leaned against the rock wall and listened as Sheppard arranged for a couple of jumpers and a platoon of eager Marines to come clear out the remaining Wraith. From the speed with which it was implemented it was apparent that there were a number of contingent rescue scenarios already planned.

It took several minutes to set up, but when he was finished Sheppard appeared even more tense than he had while waiting for Ortiz to report in.

"Now comes the really hard part," he muttered.

"What's that?" Mitchell asked, wondering if he had missed something.

"Now we have to wait for the rescuers to come get us," Sheppard growled. "Unless the Wraith suddenly figure out how to see through this cloak, we have nothing to do. It's frustrating."

"Ahh, I understand and sympathize." And he did. As a man who liked to be very much in control of his own life, he could understand the need to participate in his own rescue. "But I don't think Chief Horner would appreciate you trying to fire your P-90 with that hand."

Sheppard stared down at the offending appendage, the red-stained gauze showing that the butterfly bandages had not worked as well as hoped. "Crap. I'd forgotten about it. Well, I need to speak to Rejater about moving his people. Want to come with me?"


As they moved deeper into the caverns they heard a muffled boom. Sheppard glanced at his watch. "A drone. They were fast off the mark," he said with pride.


2630 Atlantis time

Mitchell yawned and flipped the page on the six month old Sports Illustrated that he'd nicked from the infirmary. It was quiet in the mess at this time of night. He was at that annoying stage where he was sleepy, but his body was too wound up from all the adrenaline rushes during the day to let him rest. He hoped that the cup of herbal tea at his elbow was going to help him calm down enough to make it to bed soon.

"You still up?"

He looked up with a grin and waved Sheppard to the seat opposite him.

"Yeah. Just waiting for my body to catch up with my mind on the idea of sleeping."

Sheppard placed his own mug on the table and set a laptop next to it. "I see Carson's foisted some of his tea on you. He's real enthusiastic about the various blends the Athosians use. They have one they'll only serve in the morning. It has enough caffeine in it to give me the jitters for the whole day but, God, it is foul tasting."

He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a foil pill packet. He tried opening it, holding it with one hand and his teeth. The pills shot in different directions when the package opened abruptly.

"Shit." He dug another packet out of his pocket and held it out to Mitchell. "Help me out here? My hand is still numb from whatever Carson pumped into it before stitching it up. And yet, somehow, it still aches."

Mitchell obliging freed the pills and dropped them in Sheppard's hand.

"So what do you do with the Hedrurians now?" he asked curiously. The refugees had been escorted to a gymnasium-sized building that had obviously been used for the purpose before. There had been stacks of cots and bedding. Marines and medical personnel had moved around in what appeared to be a well-rehearsed manner: getting the people settled, fed, and medical attention where needed.

Sheppard cradled his injured hand against his chest, absently rubbing at the numb fingers. "It'll depend on what the Wraith do, and what the Hedrurians want to do. We'll wait a few days and then send a UAV. If there's anything left they can return there if they want. Or we'll help them collect whatever they can salvage and move them to a new world. Or there is a planet that Elizabeth has started populating with people we've rescued from worlds that were heavily culled and only few people remained. Whichever option they choose is going to involve a lot of support from us to begin, which will mean some careful negotiating to make sure they don't feel like charity cases."

"I do not envy you your job at all, man." Mitchell shook his head, looking at Sheppard with respect. He added quietly, "And I'm sorry you have more letters to write."

Sheppard suddenly found the view out of a nearby window fascinating, but nodded his acknowledgement.

They sat in companionable silence, watching the moon reflecting on the windows and taking turns yawning. Finally, Sheppard stood up, awkwardly collecting his mug and laptop.

"Well, I think I'll head to my quarters. See you."

"Hey, Sheppard." When the other man turned, Mitchell summoned up a grin. "When you go back to Hedrur, can I come too?"

~~the end~~