Squidge InAuthor: bluflamingoPrompt:
Friendship/in my youthWord Count:
None: set during season 1Summary: The play of a previously unplayed wink from behind the baseline.
Or, how Lieutenant Ford went to an Athosian festival and found it
wasn't quite like he expected.
There are days when Aiden could cheerfully strangle Dr McKay; days when the natives get a little too grabby over Atlantis' chief scientist and Aiden well, he's too well trained to need to think before he gets between them and McKay, but he thinks about thinking about it.
It's not often, considering how much time the four of them spend together. Just sometimes, when McKay's mocking Aiden's on-gong losing streak in his and Dr Zelenka's dumb prime numbers game; when McKay makes one too many of the kind of comments about marines that only other marines get to make; when McKay is being particularly smug about his own brilliance.
Okay, so maybe it's a little often, but Aiden talks to the other gate teams and he knows none of them get half the abuse that he and the Major do (not Teyla; Aiden's not sure if she's exempt because she's a woman or because she's not from Earth or because she's the leader of her people. He's also not sure he's brave enough to ask either of them.)
Of course, none of the other teams has Teyla (and, on the much larger number of days when Aiden actually kind of admires him, he knows that none of them have a scientist anything like McKay either). Stackhouse and Markham have a native escort now, a man from another culled world like Athos, but he's got nothing on Teyla, with her stick fighting and her diplomacy and because Aiden's polite, but he's not blind her low-cut, tight-fitting, Athosian shirts.
And her loyalty to her people, her determination to bridge the gap between them and the expedition members; which is why Aiden is sitting on the edge of the fire's light, mug of Athosian tea in his hands (apparently, this isn't an alcohol festival, which makes it the first one of those that Aiden's ever been to. Dr Amundsen is writing a history of the Athosians and their culture which she sometimes tells Aiden about, when he convinces her to have dinner with him, but even she hasn't gotten her head around the complexities of Athosian festivals yet. Teyla's explained this one to him twice already, but it involves a lot of Pegasus myths that Aiden couldn't follow, and he's not that keen to ask her again.)
"Aiden," Teyla says, appearing in front of him as though thinking of her has magicked her up. "Are you enjoying the festival?"
"Sure," Aiden says cheerfully. It may not have alcohol, but it does have good food, a big fire, and most of the people he likes from Atlantis, spread around the clearing, talking and eating and chilling out. "Thanks for inviting us."
Teyla smiles and crosses her legs to sink gracefully to the ground next to him. "It is out pleasure to have you here to join in our celebration."
"Pretty different from celebrations on Earth," Aiden says, draining the last of his tea. He never expected it to grow on him, but it has over the last few months.
"Yes?" Teyla offers the ornate tea pot she's been carrying all evening, then refills Aiden's cup anyway when he doesn't answer quickly enough.
"Yeah," Aiden says, thinking about parties when he was in college. Not that he had a lot of time to party, between school and his part-time job and ROTC, but he went to a few. "There's usually more alcohol. And more dancing."
"The dancing will come later," Teyla says. "The festival of Narakni was traditionally a festival for children, though it has changed over time."
Aiden can't help a quick glance round the clearing, which is notably free of anyone under sixteen. Even so, he's far from being the youngest person there.
"I believe Major Sheppard and some of his men have taken the children for a game of soccer," Teyla says, catching him looking.
"Soccer? Again?" asks a disgruntled voice from behind Aiden, and McKay steps between him and Teyla, balancing his mug of tea on the edge of a loaded plate. "If he has his way, that'll be our legacy in this galaxy the people who brought the most boring sport in existence to the populations of Pegasus."
"Could be worse," Aiden says, though privately he agrees with McKay. It's not like they could play proper football, but he'll never understand why Major Sheppard is so set on teaching the Athosian kids to play soccer instead.
"Really?" McKay asks. "I think even Major Sheppard would find tiddlywinks too boring to inflict on this poor galaxy. Though he did bring War and Peace
. to another galaxy, so maybe I'm under-estimating his capacity to tolerate mind-numbing boredom."
"Tiddlywinks isn't a sport," Aiden says when McKay pauses to take a breath. "It's a kids' game."
"Actually, there are international tiddlywinks competitions," McKay says, and Aiden snorts and says, "Yeah, in Canada, maybe," and Teyla interrupts them both to ask what tiddlywinks is.
The Athosians, it turns out, have a lot of games that use counters; McKay complains that the set Teyla borrows from someone are the wrong size and too thick, and also that they should have four people, really, until Aiden asks how he knows so much about it, considering he was just calling it the most boring sport in two galaxies, at which point McKay gets huffy and threatens to take his tiddlywinks' skills and go home. Fortunately, Teyla's diplomacy works as well on McKay as it does on angry people with spears; when Dr Weir finds them, they're using the counters and an empty tea mug for a vicious tiddlywinks battle that Teyla is, improbably, winning.
McKay jumps his last counter, aiming for the small pile topped by one of Teyla's red counters, and misses. "I have advanced degrees in physics," he grumbles. "I should have beaten you both by now."
Teyla flicks her third counter into the mug with a sharp click and a serene smile. "Perhaps I have beginner's luck," she says.
"I wasn't aware that tiddlywinks was a cross-cultural phenomenon," Dr Weir says, smiling down at them over the edge of her mug.
"Dr McKay brought it up, and Teyla wanted to learn," Aiden explains, not adding that, for the most boring sport invented, this is pretty good fun. He wonders if anyone brought any board games with them.
"I see," Dr Weir says. She's still smiling, the mildly indulgent smile that she gives the Major and McKay when they're doing their double act thing in one of her meetings.
"Aiden," Teyla says, touching his arm, her fingers cool through his t-shirt. "I believe it is your turn."
"Sorry," Aiden says automatically. He sizes up the board most of his pieces, like McKay's, have been captured by Teyla's, but he's got one in the mug and two still to play. Maybe if he can knock out the pile that McKay missed
"Wait," McKay says. "Elizabeth, you should join us. Tiddlywinks is supposed to be played in teams of two."
"Seriously, McKay, do you have a secret past as a tiddlywinks champion or something?" Aiden can't resist asking.
"Some of us like to fill our heads with more than just explosives and guns and, oh yes, explosives," McKay says, but he actually said Aiden's work was 'not terrible, I suppose,' when Aiden got the four of them out of a cave-in with some well-placed C4 last week, so Aiden's feeling pretty charitable toward him right now for McKay, that was pretty wild praise. "Come on Elizabeth. You seem like the kind of person who'd be good at this."
Dr Weir looks at McKay with raised eyebrows. "I'm honestly not sure if I've just been insulted or complimented," she says. "How can I refuse?" She folds herself into the space on the last side of their makeshift board as neatly as Teyla did. "How should we choose the teams?"
"Men against women?" Aiden suggests. At least that way McKay won't be so likely to gloat over Aiden if his team wins, and if he tries it, Aiden will be able to point out that, hey, he helped with their glorious victory. Of course, he'll probably be blamed if they lose, but no plan is perfect.
"Or soldiers versus civilians," McKay suggests.
" Aiden says, looking round the group. "Unless Dr Weir is secretly part of the army
"I meant you and Teyla against me and Elizabeth," McKay says, and Teyla gives him a look like *she's* not sure if she's just been insulted or complimented either. Aiden can definitely relate.
"How about this?" Dr Weir suggests, taking a brown counter with one hand and a green with the other. She shuffles them round behind her back for a moment, then offers both hands to Teyla, who touches the left and gets the green counter. Aiden ends up on a team with McKay anyway, so they could have saved the whole thing and just gone with his suggestion, but he guesses at least this way diplomacy is served.
Twenty minutes later, he's wishing he was on Dr Weir's team, because she is, as McKay suggested, very good at this. She laughs as the third of her and Teyla's counters lands neatly in the cup, joining McKay's single lucky shot.
"You're a ringer," McKay says darkly.
Dr Weir spreads her hands innocently. "You invited me to join the game, Rodney."
"Yes, and you never mentioned your freakish prowess in it," McKay says, pointing at her. "Ringer."
"You've got to be kidding me," Major Sheppard's voice says from behind Aiden, making McKay squeak and drop the counter (which is fine, since it's Aiden's turn anyway). "We're at a part in another galaxy, with food and dancing and soccer and you're all playing
what are you playing?"
He crouched between Aiden and Teyla at just the right moment to receive McKay's patented Glare of Disgust at Your Ignorance (visible capital letters included). "Surely even you recognize tiddlywinks when you see it, Major," he says. "I know it's not fast planes and death-trap carnival rides, but you must have played it when you were a kid."
Next to Aiden, Sheppard shifts, then shrugs and sits down, pulling his knees up, everyone shuffling round to make space for him. "Maybe," he says. "That's the one where you get the counters in the cup, right?"
"Close enough," McKay says with a sigh. "If you're staying, be quiet. The Lieutenant and I can still win this." He steals Aiden's turn shamelessly, and his counter bounces off the rim of the mug, landing half an inch from where it started.
"Right," Sheppard drawls, stealing one of McKay's baked parsnip chips, the ones that only the two of them like. Fortunately for Sheppard's fingers, McKay doesn't notice. "I hope your aim's better than that, Ford."
"Yes, sir," Aiden assures him with a grin. "All that expensive Marines Corps training."
"Cross-application of training," Sheppard says, nodding solemnly. "If I ever decide to do performance evaluations, I'll remember that."
"Thank you, sir," Aiden says, turning back to the game in time to see Teyla cover two of their counters with one of hers.
"You know," Dr Weir says, smiling admiringly at Teyla, "This reminds me a lot of some parties I went to when I was doing my first degree."
McKay perks up at that. "You too? I mean, for me, it was when I was doing my PhD, I wasn't old enough till then to be invited to many parties, but huh. I always thought it was just physicists."
Sheppard groans. "I didn't need to know that about the two of you."
"That they played this game as young adults?" Teyla asks, saving Aiden from having to. Sometimes, he really feels the age gap between him and the others.
"Not exactly," Sheppard says. "More like, that they went to the kinds of parties where people got high and thought tiddlywinks tournaments were a good idea."
Dr Weir flushes and covers her mouth with one hand, by McKay rounds on Sheppard. "And how would you know this, unless you were one of 'those kinds of people' as well?" he demands, quotation marks visible, even though he's not quoting anyone.
"I don't know. I had friends who went?" Sheppard suggests.
"Friends, right. Friends like 'my friend wants to know if this rash he's got is something to worry about'," McKay says, and Dr Weir's giggling, which Aiden wouldn't have thought possible, and Teyla's smiling, relaxed and amused; and Aiden, even as he's exclaiming, "McKay! He's my CO!" thinks that maybe he doesn't regret missing out on parties in college all that much, if this is what parties are going to be like now he's one of the adults.