blue flamingos

Better When We're Together

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Gen, PG

Year/Length: 2010/~2,780 words

Characters: Ford, Cadman, Lorne

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: Five years after Ford didn't escape through the gate while high on Wraith enzyme, Sheppard has a proposition for him and Cadman

Series: sequel to Reorientation, but it should stand alone

Author's Notes: Written for phoenix_gate's Second Lives Fest. Prompt: It's been five years since Aiden Ford came back, and now his gate team is taking over for Sheppard's as the top team. Creator's choice for other team members. Title is a Jack Johnson song title.

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.


"Sheppard wants to put you two in charge of a team," Lorne says as they're getting to the end of the briefing, in his office, for tomorrow's mission.

"What?" Aiden and Cadman say in concert, which Aiden would find more disturbing, except that they've been a team for five years, and in the long lexicon of disturbing things about them, that rates pretty low.

Lorne looks down at his datapad instead of meeting their eyes. "Now Ford's made captain as well, he wants the two of you as joint leaders for a new junior team."

Aiden looks over at Cadman, who's looking at him, her expression as troubled as his feels, but it's Pernia, their Athosian fourth, who speaks up. "What would happen to you?" she asks, looking at Lorne. "And me."

Lorne sighs, looks up. He's not hiding how he doesn't want this very well, but under that, Aiden can see how proud he is of both of them and it makes Aiden feel warm inside, even as it sort of points up how weird it is to be upset about being offered their own team. "You could stay on this team with me, or go with Cadman and Ford. I'll have to find a new team, probably from the latest batch of arrivals."

"What if we don't want to?" Cadman asks, frowning, when Pernia doesn't say anything else.

"It'll be good for your careers," Lorne says, like he's reading from a mental list. Knowing Lorne, he probably is. "You'll be the only O-3s leading a team, it speaks highly of you to be offered it. You can pick your own team –"

Cadman shakes her head impatiently. "We get it, positives, advantages, blah blah," she says, and Aiden thinks, not for the first time, that it's a good thing they've bled all over each other, been thrown in jail, had to get married, and gotten involved in embarrassing off-world rituals too often for Lorne to really bother with proper military etiquette when it's just the four of them. "What happens if we don't want it? Can we say no?"

"You'd both be crazy to," Lorne says.

"We are crazy," Cadman says with a painfully forced version of her usual grin. "That's what you like about us."

Lorne doesn't say anything, so Aiden says, "That's not an answer."

"I don't have an answer," Lorne says, resigned. "I'll find out."


When they step through the gate onto M6Y 128 the next morning, they're met by three men armed with what look like Genii shotguns.

"Welcome to Monday morning in Pegasus," Cadman mutters, raising her hands away from her P-90 like the rest of them.

None of the men say anything for a moment, just look at them with their weapons raised. Then the one in the middle takes a step forward and says, sounding uncertain, "You're not Wraith."

"No," Pernia says, taking a small step forward – not away from the team, not too close – her hands open and non-threatening. She's turned into an amazing diplomat over their five years together, and it's getting more and more common for other teams to call on her. "We are not Wraith. Have the Wraith been here?"

"Yes," the same man says. His eyes flicker across the team, then back to Pernia. "Two days previously, in ships. We were culled."

Pernia doesn't flinch at all, just keeps going, her voice calm. "Are there other survivors? Are you in need of help?"

The man nods. "We hid, in the caves. Many were not fast enough. When we sent people out to look, there was no-one else to be found. Most of us are still in the caves. They burned our villages."

"That's new," Cadman says softly. She's focused on the other two men, but Aiden nods.

"Will you take us to your people?" Pernia asks, flickering a glance over to Lorne, who nods. "We have resources, medical supplies, on our world. We can help you."

"Oh," the man on the left says suddenly, brightening. He's young, younger even than Pernia, still a teenager. "Your clothes, I've seen pictures. You're from Atlantis?"

"Yes," Lorne says, and the third man, the oldest of the three, starts to cry.


There's no natural light in the caves, just oil lamps, and Aiden loses all track of time as he moves between shell-shocked, frightened people, cleaning wounds and changing dressings, dragging his open med bag behind him. He's been carrying it for three years, since Pernia suggested that, given the number of injuries they dealt with, both their own and other people's, having a medical officer might be a good idea, and the team unanimously voted Aiden into the position.

It's not what he expected to end up specializing in, but he likes it, and, as it turns out, he's good at it.

Probably won’t get to keep doing it if he's joint-leader of a new team. Not that anyone's mentioned it since last night.

"All done," he says, smiling at the wide eyed girl whose sluggishly bleeding leg wound he's just finished with. Her mouth moves, but if she's speaking, it's too soft for Aiden to hear before she scurries away to the adult woman with her.

Aiden turns, looking for anyone else in need of help, and finds himself face to face with Cadman, offering him a power bar. "Break time," she says firmly, pulling Aiden a little out of the general crowd and sitting with her back to the wall.

Aiden sits next to her, breaks the bar in half and hands half back to her. It's apple and raisin, which he hates, but when he checks his watch, he's been at it for three hours, and he's hungry. He chews methodically as he scans the crowd – Pernia's with a group of men and women who look like they might be leaders, nodding to whatever they're saying. On the other side of the wide cave, Lorne's talking to one of the SGC teams who must have arrived pretty recently, directing people with his usual cool, calm and collected.

"Everything under control," he says quietly.

Cadman looks at him from the corner of her eye. "Of course," she says. "When are we ever not?"

She's got a point, despite all the disasters and dramas and crises that befall them off-world; there's a reason she stopped charting the most successful team in the marine ready room – it got embarrassing to be regularly highest ranking, even above Sheppard's. Aiden blames McKay and his ability to upset someone every time he sets foot outside Atlantis.

"What's going to happen to these people?" Aiden asks. There aren’t that many – maybe four or five hundred – and the best he can do is hope that it was a small population to start with, that they haven't lost thousands. Considering the size of the cave they're hiding in, he thinks he might be right.

"Pernia's talking to them, but she thinks they'll go for being relocated. They've got nothing left here."

"We should ask around, see if someone will take them in," Aiden says.

Cadman nods, watching Lorne. "So," she says finally, turning her head to look at Aiden. "You think – it's kind of flattering to have been offered."

"Yeah," Aiden says. "Guess we're doing something right."

"Great." Cadman pulls a face. "So if we were worse at this, we could stay together?"

"Something like that," Aiden agrees.

They finish the shared power bar in silence, since there's really not much to add to that. Aiden's about to gather his things, get back to work, when Cadman looks over the cave, sharply alert, and says, "What the hell?"

"What?" Aiden asks, trying to see what she's seeing.

"It's –" She stands up, takes a step forward. Aiden, joining her, spots it as well, a man and a woman on the other side of the cave. The woman's slightly to the side of the man, her back to the cave wall, like she stopped partway to slipping away, and there's a weird vibe, edging past angry and into threatening. None of the survivors around them seem to have picked up on it.

"I'm gonna –" Cadman starts, her eyes fixed on them, then the man moves and she says, "Fuck, he's got a knife," already moving, fast and purposeful but not running, trying not to panic anyone, across the cave.

Aiden follows her, leaving his med bag behind, staying back. He sees Pernia glance over, then go back to her conversation, obviously trying not to draw attention. Lorne's too far away to notice anything.

When Aiden gets to her, Cadman's planted herself close to the woman, facing the man, one hand out. "Want to tell me what's going on here?" she asks, her voice calm but firm.

He doesn't make a move to conceal the knife. "None of your concern."

Cadman smiles. "I'm afraid I have to disagree. If only because my friend here has enough work to do, he doesn't need any more casualties."

The woman glances across at Aiden – she's Pernia's age, maybe a year or two older, early twenties, and her eyes are bright and scared. Aiden catches her eye, holds up a hand to signal wait. She nods, blinks away some of the fear. Aiden keeps his wait hand up, reaches out slightly with the other. She looks between his hands, over at Cadman, then back to him, and nods.

"She lost two children," the man says. "What kind of mother saves her own life and not her children's?"

"That's none of your concern," Cadman says, echoing him. "Whatever she did, I can't let you stab her."

"Try to stop me," the man says, and lunges for the woman, or maybe for Cadman. Aiden doesn't have a moment to look, reaching for the woman's hand, pulling her away and behind him, trusting her to get to safety, already turning back to Cadman.

Who totally doesn't need him, the man face down on the ground, his knife arm twisted up behind him, Cadman with one knee in his back, holding him in place, one hand around his wrist, the other held out to the side. "Knife," she says without turning.

"Got it," Aiden says, taking it from her hand. "Nice."

She shrugs. "I try."

"Let me up," the man says, struggling. They've picked up an audience, none of whom look inclined to come to his aid. "You've got no right –"

"Oh, shut up," Cadman says, pressing her knee more firmly into him.

The crowd shifts at Aiden's back, and a woman pushes through. She's got a faded blue triangle stitched to the left shoulder of her shirt, and an unmistakable air of law-enforcement. "Fastus," she says, kneeling beside Cadman to look at his face. "I should have known." She nods at Cadman. "I'll take him. Thanks."

"No sweat." Cadman stands up, brushes off her hands, and looks right past Ford to the woman. "You okay?"

The woman nods uncertainly, and her voice is wobbly when she says, "Yes. Thank you."

"Okay," Cadman says, grinning bright and reassuring. "Then let's go find some tea, and you can tell me all about him."

Ford watches them go for a moment, then snaps back, and goes looking for his med bag to get back to work.


Lorne calls them all together at 1900 hours, settles the three teams in a loose circle away from most of the people, and goes round them all, getting updates. Sergeant Kent, up first and new to Pegasus, gets halfway through his report before he cuts himself off and says, "Um, I have paper, sir, if you need to borrow some."

"I'm good, thank you, Sergeant," Lorne says, thinly veiled amusement that makes Aiden smile. It's always amusing to watch the new Marines assume that Lorne, being Air Force and a command officer, is useless, and be proven wrong. "Carry on."

He listens to everyone, asks a couple of questions, then nods. "Mr. Woolsey's been in touch with the new colony on P3F 193. They're willing to take these people in, but they want to meet with their representatives first. Pernia, can you go back to the leaders, get them to agree on two people to go through the gate in a couple of hours, with you?" She nods. "I'll send you a couple of extra people from Atlantis as well, just in case. We're not going to be moving anyone tonight, so Ford, take Porter, Kent and Harrison, we've got overnight supplies, you're in charge of getting those distributed. Cadman, take Mehra, Valdez and Finch and set up a security perimeter, inside and out, pick out guard posts. We've got people coming from Atlantis to cover them. Teldy, can you get back to Atlantis, make sure everything's in order with supplies and personnel for tonight?" She nods, peels away, deferring to Lorne's seniority in the field like always, but not quite enough that she'll wait for him to dismiss her.

"Any questions?" Lorne waits for the chorus of no, sir,, then turns to Pernia. "Can you re-introduce me to the leaders? If you don't think they'll mind having me there."

"I'm sure they won't, Major," Pernia says. It sounds as weird in her mouth as always, when she calls him Lorne when it's just their team, only bothers with the rank when there are other people around.

"Then that's where I'll be," Lorne says. "Dismissed."

They break apart on cue, even the scientists. They only do that consistently for Lorne and Teldy – most of them have seen McKay back-talk Sheppard too much to treat him like a military officer ought to be treated.

Aiden hands over his datapad to Dr Porter. "Can you check on everyone with a star next to their names? I can point out anyone you can't find."

"Of course," she says, already scrolling, and looks up to smile at him. "Not that I think for a moment I'll really need to."

"Thanks," Aiden says, touched by her confidence in his abilities. "Kent and Harrison, with me."


Two days later, the inhabitants of M6Y learning to live with the colonists, mission reports written and debriefs held, the team gathers in their favorite lounge at the bottom of Tower Seven, where no-one goes because the other towers press in and make it gloomy.

It's Pernia's turn to bring refreshments, which turn out to be chocolate brownies and a large pot of Athosian tea that she pours with care, handing the mugs around where they're sat on the floor.

"We're off tomorrow, right?" Cadman asks Lorne.

"And the day after," he confirms. "Unless the city gets attacked, of course."

"Well, now you've jinxed us," Cadman grumbles. "I want over-time pay if that happens."

"You'll get your reward in heaven," Aiden tells her.

"That's what worries me," she says, smiling.

The drink their tea quietly for a while, idly discussing their plans for their time off, even though, if five years of experience are anything to go by, they'll end up spending most of it together anyway.

Eventually, Lorne puts his mug down and sits up straight. It looks overly formal, since he's in jeans and a gray t-shirt, but Aiden still has to fight down the natural inclination to come to attention. "I spoke to Sheppard about the team leader thing," he says. "And whether you could turn it down –"

"You don't need to say," Cadman interrupts. She looks across at Aiden, who nods. "We don't want it. Thank you, but no thank you."

"Cadman," Lorne starts, long-suffering.

"I agree with her," Aiden says. "I mean, thank you, to Sheppard, really, and you." Lorne ducks his head for a moment, clear sign that he pushed for them to be given more responsibility. "But we want to stay with the team. We want to stay together."

"Yeah," Cadman says. "This last mission just proved it – we're good, as a team. We're better than good. We work too well together to split up, or try to replicate it with other people."

"I don't know what to do with the two of you," Lorne grumbles.

"You'll have to keep us until you figure it out," Cadman says brightly.

"Apparently," Lorne says.

"Seriously?" Pernia asks, her eyes bright. Lorne nods, and she jumps a little where she's sitting, grinning.

"You sure?" Lorne asks, suddenly serious.

Aiden catches Cadman's eye, sees his own certainty reflected back at him. "Yeah, we're sure," he says, and doesn't regret it at all, not even when Cadman, who's completely tone deaf, starts singing, "Come on, come on, let's stick together," at the top of her voice.

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