Title: Cheating the Other Guy
Word Count: 2000
Rating: PG, gen
Season/spoilers: early season four (after "Broken Ties", before "Missing")
Summary: Sam and Teyla find themselves in a Western. Sort of. And Teyla seems to have accidentally sold her teammates to buy a ranch, but who can blame her.
Notes: Title is from the old business joke, "We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you!"
Looking down through the glass wall of the office that had been Elizabeth's, Sam saw Teyla walk out of the Stargate without her team, and braced for trouble. She did not expect Teyla to step through the doorway of her office a moment later with her lips pressed together and her eyes glimmering with suppressed laughter.
When she could speak calmly, Teyla said, "I am very afraid that I appear to have sold my teammates."
Sam pushed the laptop away, sat back and blinked at her. As a veteran of many less-than-successful SG-1 missions, there was only one thing she could say under those circumstances.
"What did you get for them?"
"Forty head of theurox cattle and a ranch to keep them on," Teyla said.
Sam raised an eyebrow. "Why did you want --"
"It is a very long story."
"Well, I accidentally traded Daniel for a basket of dinner rolls one time. That didn't go in the official reports." Sam pushed back her chair, then paused and raised her head to catch Teyla's eye with a grin. "I don't suppose we can leave them there?"
Teyla gave it just long enough that she really seemed to be considering it, but Sam was learning to read her well enough to see the amusement in her face. Finally she sighed. "I fear not."
The gate on M3Z-79Y, a planet Teyla called Riuran, opened onto a boulder-strewn wasteland. Scrubby gray-green bushes dotted the low brown hills. Sam would not have been surprised to see a tumbleweed roll past. Thoughtfully, she tugged a boonie from one of the pockets of her tac vest and settled it on her head. When Teyla had said, back on Atlantis, "You should bring a hat," she hadn't been kidding.
Teyla herself wore a wide-brimmed sun hat that she'd retrieved from her quarters. What made Sam do a double take was the patterned scarf tied around her neck over the top of her uniform jacket; it was just about the size of a bandana.
Seeing her looking at it, Teyla raised an eyebrow. "The dust can be quite bothersome here," she explained. "You should consider doing likewise." She tugged it up over her chin, a little bandit in a gray Atlantis jacket and a white sun hat.
"I don't suppose Colonel Sheppard has mentioned Westerns to you, by any chance?" Sam asked as the two of them fell into step with each other. After so many years of having to take a step-and-a-half for every one of her teammates' longer strides (well, with the possible exception of Daniel, but he ran around like a hyperactive terrier anyway) it was pleasant to find that their walking speeds matched almost perfectly. Teyla was shorter, but she made up for it with the long, swinging stride of someone who has done a lot of walking in her life.
"We've watched a few such movies." Teyla's lips quirked. "Ronon is quite fond of them. I find them repetitive and simplistic."
"And none of this seems vaguely familiar?" Sam asked as a few dark, long-winged birdlike things circled them and then drifted off to the west. She told herself that they weren't really buzzards, despite the resemblance.
Teyla watched the birds wing off into the pale sky. "Hmm. You may have a point."
Teyla's ranch was a nice place -- a cluster of low, rambling stone buildings, a big cistern fed from an underground spring, and a grove of fruit trees in addition to a small herd of the ugliest excuses for cattle substitutes that Sam had ever seen, and that included the giant dung lizards that the people kept on PX2-765. Jack had hated those things.
"You got all this for Sheppard, McKay and Ronon?"
"I know." Teyla laid her hat on the rim of the cistern and bent over to dip her hand, splashing a palmful of water on her forehead. "I clearly received the best part of the deal."
Sam investigated the fruit trees, unable to restrain her curiosity. She plucked a ripe golden-colored fruit from one of the trees, touched the tip of her tongue to it to check for any untoward burning sensations -- the birds had obviously been eating them, but one couldn't be too careful -- and then took a bite. It tasted a bit like a pear. She hadn't realized how much she'd missed going offworld -- the sense of exploration, the wondrous variety of other worlds. "So," she said, wiping juice off her chin. "Where are they, anyway?"
"At the slave markets," Teyla said.
Teyla settled her hat back over her wet hair. "The auction is not until this evening, and from all I have heard, they are being treated well and given shade. There's little we can do until then."
"Jailbreak?" Sam suggested, as her heart rate began to return to normal.
"It would be easier just to buy them back," Teyla pointed out.
Teyla waved a hand around them at the ranch.
Sam finished off the pearlike fruit and held out the core on her upturned palm to one of the cow-things. It snuffled her hand and lipped away the offering, trailing strings of greenish mucus. Ewwwww. "Isn't that a bit ... circular?"
"I told you, it was complicated," Teyla said. "I suggest a new rule: do not ever allow Colonel Sheppard to speak at trade negotiations. It never ends well."
Sam wiped her hand on her pants leg. "So, we have a few hours to kill, right?"
"Until dusk," Teyla agreed.
"I guess we could head into town, let the guys know that rescue is on its way."
Teyla shook her head. "Unwise. The marketeers prefers that the merchandise are not examined before the market opens. They are concerned about cheating and price-rigging. We would risk having ourselves banned from the auction."
"So we're back to having a few hours to kill."
Teyla nodded. They looked at each other. The guilty thought occurred to Sam that she really should check back in with Atlantis, but they weren't expecting her until evening; for all they knew, she was spending the whole day engaged in difficult negotiations to recover Atlantis's flagship team. And, well, how often did you get to spend the day on an alien ranch? It was hard to tell, but she got the general idea that Teyla was thinking much the same thing; at least, Teyla didn't seem to be making any moves to head back to the gate.
"What do they use for horses around here?" Sam asked.
Riurani "horses" turned out to be long-legged lizards with fiery red and gold racing stripes. Two of them had come with the ranch, also.
Their rocking gait was a bit difficult to get used to, but they could run like the wind; Sam never could figure out how she and Teyla went from riding along the ranch's boundaries to flat-out racing across the rocky flats. Teyla had a slight advantage -- she was lighter, and rode her lizard-horse as if she'd been born to it -- but Sam's beast was bigger, and it turned out a draw when they pulled up at a river several miles from the ranch. Sam was out of breath from laughing, her lips chapped from the wind and her hat askew.
Teyla pointed at a tall cairn of stones overlooking the river. "Corner marker. That is the far edge of the ranch."
"Your ranch," Sam couldn't help pointing out.
"For the next two hours," Teyla said, smiling as she glanced up towards the sun.
Sam leaned on the saddlehorn. The river wound off across the barren flatland towards hazy, distant hills. "Bit of a shame you can't keep this place."
Teyla laughed aloud, the first time Sam had heard her do so. "I was born a farmer's daughter, Colonel Carter. Should I wish such a life, all I have to do is go home."
"Well, that's a good point." The thought occurred to Sam that she knew very little about Teyla, beyond what was in the basic personnel dossiers. She'd been trying to get to know everyone on the expedition, but between her diplomatic duties, her gate trips with her team, and her regular trips on Athos, Teyla was a hard person to catch up with.
Perhaps this was an excellent time to remedy that oversight.
Wheeling the lizard-horse around, she said over her shoulder, "And call me Sam. How about some lunch?"
They arrived at the auction a bit late -- sunburned, cheerful and pleasantly full from an excellent meal at one of the town's small inns.
The actual recovery of the merchandise, otherwise known as Teyla's team, turned out to be extremely anticlimactic. They were sold in a lot, chained together but wearing their original clothes (Sam was a bit disappointed, not that she would ever admit it; she'd had visions of oiled leather). The auctioneer kept muttering darkly about escape attempts between rounds of bidding, and Sam noticed that Sheppard had a few bruises and Rodney's hair looked slightly singed. Teyla still had a few head of cattle left over once they settled on an agreeable price.
"They depreciated," Sam remarked as they went to collect their merchandise after signing over the ranch.
"Very quickly," Teyla agreed. "Only one afternoon. I fear to think what their value might have been after several days had elapsed."
"You might have kept the ranch after all."
"Hey!" Rodney snapped. "We can hear you, you know!"
"We know," Sam said cheerfully as the auctioneer unlocked their chains.
"You guys look like you spent a relaxing afternoon," Sheppard said, stretching and combing out his hair with his fingers, setting it up in alarming spikes.
"We, on the other hand, tried to tunnel out of prison with a spoon," Rodney said darkly.
"You can't tunnel through rocks with a spoon, McKay," Ronon said. "We tried to tell you."
"Says the guy who tried to gnaw through the bars!"
Ronon shrugged. "They were made of wood. It coulda worked."
"Meanwhile," Rodney said smugly, "I was building bombs."
"The only person you blew up was you, Rodney," Sheppard put in lazily.
"Out of curiosity, how many escape plans did you guys come up with, anyway?" Sam asked in a fit of morbid curiosity.
There was a brief silence. Rodney counted on his fingers. "Um ... twelve?"
Sheppard nodded. "Thirteen if you count the one where we tried to dress as women and escape in the laundry cart."
"That was Sheppard's idea," Ronon said.
"And a very stupid one," Rodney snapped.
"Right, because your idea about using the gravitational pull of the moon to release our chains was so foolproof."
"It could have worked!"
"Or you could have merely had confidence in your team and waited for rescue," Teyla said.
There was a long, guilty silence; the three men looked at each other.
Sam decided to take pity on them -- they'd spent the day chained in a cage, after all -- and cleared her throat. "So, uh, better get moving or we're going to miss dinner, right?"
As they walked back to the gate in the lengthening shadows, Sam noticed Teyla trailing behind the group, and fell back to join her. "So what are you going to do with the cattle?" Sam asked after they'd walked in silence for a while, listening to birds calling softly in the desert night and Rodney up ahead, faintly complaining about his sunburn.
"Oh, I will probably have them sent to New Athos. My people will be able to use them."
From up ahead, Sam heard Ronon say, "McKay, if you don't shut up, I'm gonna stuff your face into a cactus."
Turning to Teyla, Sam nudged her shoulder lightly. "Hey ... you didn't sell them on purpose, did you? To get a few hours' peace and quiet?" Not to mention some free cattle.
The corner of Teyla's mouth turned up. She walked in silence for a few minutes more, before answering calmly, "A lady never tells."
Note: This story is available as a podfic read by general_jinjur. (Thank you!)