Here may it wave,
Our boast, our pride
And joined in love together,
The thistle, shamrock, rose entwined,
The Maple Leaf Forever.
Our boast, our pride
And joined in love together,
The thistle, shamrock, rose entwined,
The Maple Leaf Forever.
Nobody really understood how Gate translation worked, though he'd heard McKay give an annoyed speech about Universal Translators and how the Gate didn't even seem to use science, at least Star Trek put in the effort, like ten thousand times. It was just that if you passed through the Gate, when you came out the other side you were speaking their language. Or, yours, but it sounded to them like theirs.
It accounted for dialect and accent, which amused Ronon; Zelenka's English sounded to him like High Satedan, the language used in law courts and at the capitol, the accent of a highly cultured man. Beckett's sounded like a working class drawl from the south of the city, and while McKay and Sheppard and Chuck all sounded vaguely alike, Sheppard's had a note of childish slang to it, as if he'd grown up without much parental supervision. It only showed up when he was really annoyed, though, or trying to bait McKay.
Ronon found out, as the lessons went on, that while you couldn't read another language you could convert it if you knew the lettering; intellectually he knew that if he sounded out an English word like I-S-L-A-N-D he should have to know what the word meant, but something tripped between eyes and brain and he found himself thinking the Satedan word, bhrai.
It made the lessons go fast, faster even than he'd anticipated and much faster than Chuck had. He didn't think Chuck noticed, even after they moved from books to direct conversation, tapping out messages to each other on a pair of linked laptops. It was -- weird, really; Chuck asked him about missions and he asked Chuck about Gate activity and other teams' experiences departing or returning. They never talked about Canada or Sateda, or anything at all personal, and Ronon just thought that they'd take a couple more months and he'd be good when Chuck leaned back from the laptop one day and cocked an eyebrow at him.
"You have a photographic memory, don't you?" he asked.
Ronon grunted. "It's good enough."
"It's pretty detailed."
"Yeah, well. Gotta know stuff," Ronon said with a shrug, uncertain how to explain; he remembered a lot, he'd always been top of his class at the training schools but, when you're running from someone who wants to eat you and can find you pretty easily, being able to remember where you are and what Gate addresses are safe and which one leads where was an absolute necessity. Remember or die.
"That must have been a big help when you were..." Chuck sketched a shape in the air, a circle, which was apparently supposed to mean I don't want to talk about it because it might piss you off and you're huge and dangerous, but hey, just trying to bond here.
"It helped," Ronon said. "We done?"
"Sure, if you want," Chuck answered, giving him a confused look. "Got your reading for the week?"
Ronon flashed him the edge of a glossy Earther magazine. Most of the reading material in the city was jargon-filled scientific journals, trashy romance novels (Chuck rejected those out of hand and Ronon agreed; they had similar on Sateda and just, no), or Sheppard's infamous Russian novel, which Chuck said had stupid complex compound sentences.
So he'd asked the Marines for reading material, and they had obligingly provided.
"Strictly for the articles," Chuck said, which is what the Marine had said when he passed him the magazine.
"If I wanted to look at tits all day I'd just go back to Planet Naked," Ronon replied, which is what Sheppard had taken to calling the Planet We Don't Tell The Marines About and McKay had referred to as That's Where I'm Moving When I Retire. Teyla, predictably, had gone on about cultural understanding and tropical climates and sucked the fun right out of toplessness. She was right, of course, but it was annoying that he had to feel bad every time he made a joke about Planet Naked.
Chuck waved him on with a laugh, and Ronon ambled down to the labs, because if asking Sheppard to explain Earther humour was funny, asking McKay to explain Earther sex humour ought to be awesome.
By the time Ronon was typing his own mission reports (very, very slowly, and often with Chuck looking over his shoulder to correct spelling) it had been nearly eight months since he'd arrived on Atlantis. It was also coming up on July, Earth time, which apparently involved a two-week celebration of nationalism and independence. From each other, or something.
As Ronon understood it, the Canadians opened the festivities on the first, the United States...ians? United Statesers? Chuck had said it was stupid to call them Americans when hello, they shared the continent with two other countries -- anyway, the United States carried the banner through whatever weekend came next, the Argentinians joined on the ninth, and the French closed with elegance and pastry on the fourteenth.
It wasn't really any business of his and it clearly baffled Teyla as much as it did him, all this celebration over being who you were, when you so clearly were who you were anyway. So, he ignored it.
Right up until the moment when Chuck and McKay showed up in the sparring room and dragged him almost physically away from training and all but frogmarched him into the mess kitchen at three in the afternoon.
"It's almost July first," Chuck said, as they entered the kitchen. The regular staff was nowhere in sight; Sheppard and Teyla were there, both looking perplexed, and a handful of others, only some of whom he recognised. All of them were wearing the Canadian insignia, though.
The room smelled like frying things; a huge pot was sitting on the heating unit, and Sheppard, incongruously, was chopping up what looked like cheese under the watchful eyes of the Canadians.
McKay hurried over to a smaller pot on another heating unit, picking up a whisk and briskly stirring whatever-it-was, some dark syrupy liquid. Chuck plucked a colander off the counter and went to the pots on the stove, examining them with all the conscientiousness he normally reserved for Gate maintenance and MALP repairs. Someone else began setting out plates.
"Chuck?" McKay asked, with his Have you fixed it yet, imbecile? voice.
"Just about ready," Chuck said, lifting the pot off the stove and pouring it over the colander, which was set on another pot. Ronon recognised what he was cooking, now; he was draining the "french fries", similar to a Satedan dish made with roots and a thick batter.
"You want to tell us what the hell this is about? I'm indentured labour, here," Sheppard complained.
"Ladies, gentlemen, honoured guests," McKay said pompously, as Chuck began to dole the hot fries onto plates. "We are gathered today to celebrate the formation of Canada as a federated constitutional -- "
"Oh my god, how long did you practice this speech?" one of the women interrupted. McKay looked annoyed.
"Fine. Happy Canada day," he said, as Chuck scooped piles of the chopped cheese into his hands and topped the fries with them. "Have some poutine."
He picked up the pan he'd been stirring and began spooning the whatever-it-was over the top of each plate. Ronon looked on in faint horror, because what was he doing to the fries?
"I have not...encountered a dish such as this," Teyla said, as McKay offered her the first plate. Chuck shoved one at Ronon, grinning.
"Very traditional Canadian dish," Chuck told her. "I mean, it should be cheese curds, not cheese itself, but they have to be fresh, and we're kind of a long ways from the nearest Loblaw's."
Sheppard was already inhaling his, making approving noises around a mouthful of fries and cheese. Ronon managed to get a fair amount of cheese and fries between his fingers and shoveled it into his mouth, the way McKay was doing; aha, the stuff on top was gravy.
"S'good," he said. Chuck beamed.
"It's foul," one of the other Canadians said, picking at his.
"It's Canadian, it's good for you," McKay retorted. Then, with a glance at Teyla, "Okay, it's not good for you, but -- "
"Keeps you warm on those long Edmonton nights?" Sheppard suggested, and McKay rolled his eyes.
"Listen, how many times do I have to draw you this map? Toronto is here," McKay said, jabbing a finger in the air. "Edmonton is waaaaaay over here," another jab, as far away as his arm would stretch, "And I don't care if you were stationed in Calgary for some godforsaken training mission, you were nowhere near Toronto in any way, shape, or form."
Sheppard just shrugged. "S'pretty close at mach-2."
"We are pleased to share this celebration with you," Teyla broke in, with her best talking to idiots on other planets smile. "I am certain that John and Ronon and I feel very welcomed by your...Canadian generosity."
"When do we get to learn the secret handshake?" Sheppard asked.
"Learn the offside rule in hockey and legalise gay marriage first," McKay replied.
"Aww, Rodney, was that a proposal?"
McKay's face flushed, and Ronon tried to make it look like he was laughing along with the other Canadians rather than at McKay's total cluelessness. Then a thought occurred to him, and he frowned.
"We're not like, official Canadians now, right?" he said. "Cause we've done this kind of thing offworld and then they think we're related or something, and Canada sounds cool and all, but..."
"Honourary Canadians," McKay said. "Except Sheppard."
"You can be Canadian whenever you want," Chuck said to Ronon. "You just have to learn the national anthem."
"Oh god..." Sheppard tilted his head to the heavens, but it was too late; three of the Canadians had burst into song, and the rest joined in quickly.
"O Canada, our home and native land, true patriot love of all thy sons command!"
Teyla was laughing helplessly at Sheppard's face and probably at McKay, who had a surprisingly good tenor and was conducting with a gravy-drenched french fry.
"With glowing hearts we see thee rise, the True North strong and free! From far and wide, o Canada, we stand on guard for thee!"
Chuck had joined in, completely off-key, and Ronon didn't know the words but it didn't seem like he needed to. Everyone else was happy and the poutine was pretty good and someone was singing a national anthem again, even if it wasn't his.
It was kind of cool. If you liked that sort of thing.
Ronon found English lessons with Chuck to be soothing, in a strange way; even after he was pretty much totally literate, they'd seek each other out once or twice a week and sit in the mess tapping messages to each other on their tablets. It was good typing practice anyway, and Chuck said if he wanted he'd show him the one-hand keyboard method so that he could type while, say, shooting bad guys with his blaster.
The blaster-spinning lessons had become almost a bone of contention, because clearly Chuck was practicing without him. He was almost as fast as Ronon by the time a year had passed, though that didn't really mean anything. His blaster wasn't real, and it wasn't balanced like the real thing because Ronon didn't let anyone touch his guns. It wasn't that he thought Chuck would accidentally shoot himself, it was just that they were his guns. You weren't supposed to let another soldier touch your gun unless there was a real and valid reason that they had to.
And then came the planet of the apes.
Technically they were more like Orangutans, at least that's what McKay said; having had a close, personal, and explosive encounter with one he was in a position to know.
"Primates are supposed to be gentle," Sheppard said, pulling the body off McKay.
"Did they get that memo? Oof, Jesus," McKay answered, as he wiggled free. "Haven't you seen Congo?"
"No, but I did see Planet of the Apes," Sheppard drawled, and the name stuck.
McKay scrambled up onto a rock and took a minute to put his head between his knees and breathe while Sheppard pushed onward; the gunfire seemed to have frightened the rest of the animals away from the temple-or-warehouse-or-bunker they'd been investigating when the Orangutan decided to assert his masculinity. Ronon stood on the rock behind him and kept an eye out while Teyla swept from below. After a minute they heard Sheppard on the radio.
"Hey guys, you gotta come see this," he said.
"What now?" McKay asked wearily.
"I just got really inappropriately turned on," Sheppard replied, and reappeared at the door of the building with the biggest, most awesome gun Ronon had ever seen.
"Vastly inappropriate," McKay agreed, while Ronon had a personal moment over the sheer firepower that thing probably packed.
"It's an arms warehouse. Come see," Sheppard invited.
The building was dim, but with their sight-lights on they could see plenty; the gleam of metal on every wall, off glass over cases full of knives and racks full of every weapon Ronon had ever seen and quite a few he hadn't. Sheppard opened his pack, shoved the contents around, and began loading.
"We can send a team back for the rest," he said, passing a handful of click-grenades to McKay, who rolled his eyes but stowed them anyway. Teyla was eyeing the knives covetously.
Then Ronon saw it -- the chest in the corner with the weird writing on the side, the same writing you could see engraved on the blaster if you tilted it and let the light hit it just right. He crouched, clicked the latches, opened it...
"Hoo, boy," he said, gazing down on the contents. "Dibs."
"Dibs?" Sheppard asked, raising an eyebrow. Ronon pulled out three perfect, fully-charged blasters. "Oh, no way, I've wanted one of those forever!"
"Called 'em," Ronon replied, shoving two in his belt. He tossed the third to McKay, who looked terrified before he caught it. "Take that one apart, build us some more."
McKay caught Sheppard's eye. They both grinned.
They came back through the gate looking more like a well-prepared mobile armory than an expedition team. From the looks on the faces of the Marines on Gate duty, Sheppard wasn't the only one feeling a little inappropriate. Sheppard went to prepare a briefing for the recovery team, McKay presented Cadman one of the click-grenades as if it was a proposal of marriage, Cadman accepted it with about the same amount of dignity, and Teyla wandered off, presumably to find a way of testing the sharpness of the knives bristling from her pack-straps.
Ronon pulled one of the blasters from his belt, keyed the double-lock deactivation, and climbed the stairs.
"Don't kill anyone," he said, and offered it grips-first to Chuck.
"Seriously?" Chuck asked. "I mean, really, seriously?"
"Seriously, don't kill anyone," Ronon appended, and walked off with a grin. Chuck was immediately surrounded by a knot of admirers.
He waited until twenty minutes after Chuck was scheduled to go off-shift and then went down to the firing range. Chuck was there, already bleeding in three places from where the hinge was catching his hands, being alternately admired and mocked by what must be every off-duty Marine in the city.
"You guys. Out," Ronon growled, and the room cleared. "You suck with the real thing, Chuck."
"Not for long," Chuck said, a demonic glow in his eyes. "Show me how to shoot it."
Two years into Ronon's stay on Atlantis, they invented a new game to test McKay's first gangling, inelegant prototype for the blaster.
"Ready?" Sheppard asked, shifting balance from foot to foot, fingers gripping the handle of the golf club.
"Are you sure this thing's not gonna blow off my hand?" Ronon asked McKay.
"Are you worried? You have a spare," McKay said, which was his way of saying yes.
"PULL!" Sheppard shouted, and the golf ball went arcing through the air towards the water. Ronon brought the prototype up and fired. The golf ball burst into flaming fragments and rained down into the gentle lapping waves.
"You know," Sheppard said, propping the club between deck and hand like a cane, "Whatever anyone says about McKay -- "
"Standing right here!" McKay called.
" -- you can't deny he builds an awesome blaster."
"Can we do it again?" Lorne asked. Zelenka hadn't yet stopped staring at the place where the ex-golf-ball had been destroyed. Teyla was apparently more interested in testing the balance and potential lethality of Sheppard's 9-iron.
Sheppard smiled and tee'd up another ball.
The blasters never really took off among the Marines, if only because the models McKay put out, while sleeker than his prototype, were still hard to carry and didn't so much have "stun" and "kill" settings as they did "sting" and "set on fire". Ronon began practicing two-handed blaster-spinning, and to his great satisfaction heard Chuck turning down large bribes for the use of his own.
"I'm going to tell you what a wise man once told me," he said solemnly to the little knot of Marines.
"What's that?" asked one of them.
"You can't touch my gun," Chuck replied, and sauntered off.
As far as nearly everyone was concerned, the head Gate Tech on Atlantis carrying a blaster was a total waste of an awesome weapon. He didn't go offworld, and the only time he ever fired it was on the range. The fact that he got dispensation from Elizabeth to carry it holstered on his hip while he was in the Gateroom only added insult to injury.
Right up until a group of Wraith-worshipping assholes decided to invade Atlantis through the Gate.
Later, when they'd worked out what had happened, they agreed that 1. these morons would never have gotten past the Gateroom, 2. they could, however, have slaughtered everyone inside it, and 3. morons they may have been but ill-prepared they were not. They targeted one of the lower-echelon teams, disarmed them, intimidated their scientist into dialing Atlantis with his IDC ("You are fired," was the only thing McKay said for the rest of the day after finding this out) and came in, guns blazing.
Ronon, who'd been working on an Earther crossword with his feet up on the console (mainly to irritate Chuck) was on the floor in an instant, firing through the legs of the chairs; he didn't even realise another blaster had joined his until he looked up and saw Chuck crouched behind the DHD, one eye squinted like he always did on the range.
It was all over faster than most people could react to what was happening; Colonel Carter hadn't even left her office to find out what the hell was going on. Ronon watched Chuck spin the blaster effortlessly (a nice clean single-half-twist) and holster it before diving under the DHD to make sure none of the crystals were cracked. He was still at work on it when Ronon came back from the infirmary where they'd taken the one Marine who'd been shot by the invaders, the team who'd been hijacked by them, and the invaders themselves.
"Anyone dead?" Chuck asked when he saw him coming.
"Not yet," Ronon said. "If they suddenly die in their sleep overnight I was with you the whole time, okay?"
"Okay," Chuck said agreeably.
"Nice shooting, by the way."
"Yeah, I thought I did all right," Chuck said, closing the bullet-dented panel. "And man, you know what?"
"What?" Ronon asked. Chuck grinned.
"I am gonna get so much tail when word gets out."
PSX-992 was another The Planet Of; in this case, The Planet Of The McKays.
Teyla didn't know why her father had stopped trading with the Tanarians, but she assured them that there were no reports anywhere in the galaxy of the Tanarians being actually violent, and Ronon's recon backed it up. They sent Lorne's team in, and they'd been there for maybe an hour when Lorne radio'd back that Colonel Sheppard should come meet the Tanarians and also they wanted to talk to Dr. McKay.
"How do they know who Dr. McKay is?" Sheppard asked.
"They don't, but trust me," Lorne said, "McKay's the one they want to talk to."
The Tanarians, as it turned out, had been blessed at one time with the presence of an extremely irritable Ancient who had left several commandments including "breed for intelligence", "don't ask stupid questions", and "sarcasm shall be the way". The woman that Lorne had first spoken to, who Sheppard privately called McKayla whenever they were out of earshot, greeted them with annoyance and didn't look up from the water pump she was repairing until Ronon moved to stand in front of it. Then she did look up and got a comically startled look on her face.
"Hello, big person," she said, blinking. "Please don't kill me."
"Okay," Ronon replied, but continued to loom until Rodnina (Sheppard's other name for her) agreed to take them to the mayor. Along the way she talked nonstop, extolling and possibly exaggerating the virtues of their settlement, asking tactless questions, and answering all of theirs with sharp remarks and eyerolls.
McKay looked like he was a little bit in love.
Teyla found the Tanarians totally immune to her diplomatic style, dismissing her out of hand the first time she said something that might politely bend the truth just slightly. And this was, of course, the whole point of bringing McKay, except McKay had been hustled off to a wall panel where he was arguing heatedly and indecently with a local scientist about the best method of rewiring the...whatever-it-was behind it.
"Hey, I got an idea," Sheppard said. "Let me try."
"Colonel..." Teyla began, but her wits had pretty much deserted her back at the negotiation table when one of the Tanarians had looked at her, asked if she had some kind of brain damage, and demanded to know how much she knew, if anything, about trans-spatial matter inversion nodes. (The answer of course was nothing, but then Sheppard didn't know anything about it either).
"So," Sheppard said, seating himself and tossing his legs up on the negotiating table. "You have cocoa beans."
The Tanarian gave him a sardonic look.
"We need cocoa beans. We make some really cool stuff with them," Sheppard added, digging into his vest for a snack-sized Snickers bar and tossing it across. The Tanarian peeled it open, tasted it, and squinted.
"In case you hadn't noticed, we are a bean based industry here," he said. "We need the beans ourselves."
"Yeah, you're doing really well with all the...beans," Sheppard replied, looking faintly amused. "And the total lack of bread or vegetables or, you know, meat, that's not going to be problematic."
With that laconic smackdown it was on. Ronon watched as Sheppard took skills honed in three years of poking, prodding, annoying, insulting, and cajoling McKay and spun them into a two-hour rapid-fire bickering match that netted them eighteen precious crates of processed almost-cocoa-beans. McKay practically destroyed half the town's egos and made like a million friends (let "friends" := people who seemed to enjoy shouting at him) and decided that if he could introduce the Tanarians to the people on Planet Naked, he'd retire now.
"Well," said the negotiator finally, with put-upon dignity, and Ronon sighed with relief. "I suppose that's acceptable."
"Great," Sheppard smiled. "We'll have the livestock delivered in three days."
"Three days! Three! I! It will take three days simply to gather -- " the man replied, looking offended, and Sheppard put up a hand to forestall the tirade.
"Get it done, okay?" he said, and got up from the table.
"Ah," said McKayla from the doorway, shooting nervous looks at Ronon. "There's one other thing."
Sheppard looked extremely unamused.
"You may have noticed a slight tendency in our people to, uh, debate," she said.
"I wasn't gonna say anything," Ronon assured her, deadpan.
"Well, we don't get much trade, I don't know why, everyone in this galaxy are idiots or really delicate or something," she said. "But we put a lot of value on, you know...ideas. And intelligence. And healthy intellectual intercourse."
"Did I miss anything?" McKay asked, approaching from the street, Teyla tagging after him. "Dinner?"
"She wants intercourse," Ronon called. Everyone in the room blushed.
"We'd like to request a public debate. It's a tradition, when we meet someone we feel really...understands Tanarian tradition like Colonel Sheppard and Doctor McKay do," she continued doggedly. "It's not very complicated. We would assemble our people in the square and appoint an opponent for Doctor McKay and they would, uh. Go at it. Not like that! Intellectually," she said to McKay, who was gaping at her. "We'd consider it a promise of good faith."
"I think it's idiotic," the negotiator said.
"Did I ask you?" McKayla demanded.
"Just because you haven't the native wit to ask me -- "
"Native wit's all you have to offer! You stick to bean sales."
"OKAY," Sheppard said, stepping between them. "Rodney?"
"Uh?" McKay was still looking startled.
"You want to indulge in a little intellectual stimulation?"
"There's a feast afterward," McKayla added.
McKay sniffed. "If they feel they have someone equipped to debate on my level."
"I like that!" McKayla whirled on him. "We're not backwards peasants, you know!"
"Hey, like half your stuff wasn't working when I got here -- "
"Because you have the gene, lightswitch."
The mayor clapped his hands together. "Excellent. Let us move this stimulating conversation into the public square, shall we?"
McKay had spent a long time working for the military and had probably been born an asshole and, given the opportunity to really let loose, he had an impressive vocabulary. Ronon kept expecting someone to burst into tears or shoot him or something, but as he sat in the square and watched McKay and McKayla heap insults on each other he had to admit he could understand why the only tears were in the audience, and they were tears of admiration.
Sheppard taped the whole thing without telling anyone and made a highlights reel that circulated like wildfire in Atlantis. Ronon felt obscurely proud of McKay and the fact that people in two galaxies were now aware of the extemporaneous debating skills of the Canadian tribe.
Ronon politely did not tell anyone about the look he saw on Sheppard's face when McKay was gaining the upper hand in the debate, because some things were private and none of his business.