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Chapter 3 - P3X-339

Sweat forms on John’s back; it dribbles all the way down his spine, catches in his ass and tickles it. His clothing sticks to him and as he moves around shaking off the effects of gate travel; each stride he takes is more uncomfortable than the last. He feels the sweat running down his nose and wipes it away with his shirt sleeve. He glances at Ronon. Ronon continues to grimace, his hands on his hips fighting for breath. As soon as they stepped through the gate, the force of the humidity hit him hard and for the moment or two it takes him to acclimatize it really looks like he’s going to puke. Rodney and Teyla continue to watch Ronon out of the corner of their eyes; humidity affects them all, but Ronon suffers the most. They could do nothing but wait for their friend.

John glances up in the direction of the sun; he estimates it’s around noon, maybe even a littler later but it definitely doesn’t feel like the hottest time of the day. “Great,” he mutters to himself. John surveys their surroundings, and all around him, the only thing he can see is a scorched planet. There are no signs of civilization, no buildings, no ancient ruins, no animals, no vegetation of any sort; just a colourful dessert composed of various shades of sand.

What he and his team have, however, on this planet is high heat and body drenching humidity. If they weren’t careful, they’d be looking at heat stroke and heat rash. The team continues to walk around the stargate, each of them looking at the other in dismay. Huge cloud formations amass above them and it less than one minute, they’re surrounded by a huge thunder and lightning storm. The rain starts immediately; pelting each of them with stinging pin pricks. The ground turns to mud; every possible colour of mud that they had ever seen: green, orange, black, grey, and brown and all the mud pooled and started to flow into different streams of viscosities.

“Anything?” John asks, continuing to survey the terrain before turning to each of his team members.

“Nothin’ here.” Rodney replies as he turns clockwise, holding the hand-held scanner still as he moves in a circle. “No energy readings.” Rodney’s scowl deepens as his frustration mounts; he stands still and then starts to rotate counter-clockwise, watching to see if the dials would reveal the direction of the energy source.

“I am not detecting wraith, Colonel Sheppard.” Teyla replies.

“Nothin’.” replies Ronon, kicking green sand. John watches the spray of sand land on a river of brown ooze and watches with apprehension as the green mud quickly sinks and the brown mud river continues to flow downstream.

Rodney snorts, “I don’t understand, where did it go? The MALP clearly picked up a distinct energy reading.”

“Probably had enough sense to stay out of the rain.” John sighs as he continues to look around. “Okay, Rodney you and Teyla head west, Ronon and I’ll head east. No more than 3 miles. If we can’t find anything, maybe we’ll head back and try to figure out what caused the MALP to give these kinds of readings. Maybe this planet doesn’t have anything for us.” The rain continued to pelt his face. John looks at each of his team members. “No more than two hours; there and back.”

“An umbrella would have been nice,” Rodney mutters. Teyla says nothing as she and Rodney turn west and start to crisscross and pick their way through the streams of mud.

John heads east; Ronon falls into step beside him. “We’ll need to set up camp before its dark and we’ll need to be out of this rain.”

“I know.” John says. He and Ronon cut across the swathes of mud; the rain continues to pelt them and the mud streams grow in size and speed. Over the course of the next hour, John grunts non-descriptive answers when Ronon says something to him; he’s not quite sure what Ronon has asked, but he really hopes that Ronon would leave him alone and just let him think. John still didn’t know which way his thoughts wanted to go; he blinks as he realizes he’s slipping and has to catch himself with Ronon’s help. “Thanks,” he mumbles.

Ronon stares intently at John, tilting his head to one side before starting to walk on. “You gonna talk about what’s buggin’ you?”

“Nothin’ to talk about.” John falls into step with Ronon and concentrates on walking through the mud, ignoring Ronon. His mind goes back and forth and replays all the conversations he has had with Elizabeth over the past week. Besides work, they really hadn’t talked about anything. They had had a hard week – every team was off world exploring new planets; no one came home injured; he and his team had one minor trip to Teyla’s people new settlement and requests from Atlantis personnel that really amounted to nothing. He mutters to himself and replays the conversations, waving his hand dismissing each of them as he re-affirms they didn’t mean anything. Ronon half-turns and looks at John.

John glances at Ronon. “No, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay, just don’t get us killed because your mind isn’t on now.”

John grimaces, but doesn’t respond. He has no idea what to say or what he was trying to focus on, to think about, it’s all still too random. Silence, in this case, was definitely the only option. He and Ronon trudge on and are soaked to the skin when they reach the mid-point of their exploration. The sun has moved rapidly across the horizon and it’s already dipped below the hoodoos. The pelting rain turns into freezing rain.

“We need to get back,” Ronon says. John nods absently. John continues to work through the times he and Elizabeth met; whether alone or with other people; he couldn’t put his finger on it. He pauses for a moment, he can’t remember why he needed to see Elizabeth, nor could he explain why he needed to go to her quarters.

John looks up. “Yea, let’s head back and set up camp. It doesn’t look like we’re goin’ to get any days at the beach and this planet still looks like it got a whole lot of nothin’.” John turns and starts back to the rendezvous coordinates. Then a thought washes over him; what the hell? I didn’t need to go see her, she’s missed meetings before. He’s stumped; he knows he had sex fantasies about her, but that’s all they were, an easy picture to get his rocks off. If it turned out she was having erotic dreams as well, that was okay. He just didn’t know who she was fantasizing about. Probably her boyfriend; the one she left behind on earth.

John knew he had to do something; he knew he didn’t want to screw up their relationship. Not a relationship, he reminds himself. There is and has never been a relationship; it’s all in your head, it’s all context not substance. “Shut up,” he mutters to himself. The pit in his stomach grew; the whole relationship, he concludes, is only in his mind, there really isn’t anything there. John exhales sharply. “Fuck,” he mutters.

Chapter End Notes: Chapter 4

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