Summary: An AU of an AU. This is a continuation of Pegasus Ba'al, where Ba'al got to Atlantis before Stargate did. And did very bad things to Our Heroes once he got there. A sequel to the great Tafkar's "Dark Moon, High Tide", A Pegasus B story.
Info: If you don't know about Pegasus B, this will REALLY confuse you. If you do, please note that this is an AU even of Pegasus B.
Dark Moon, High Tide: Under a Broken Moon
Don't choose me because I am faithful.
Don't choose me because I am kind.
If your heart settles on me, I'm for the taking.
Take me for longing or leave me behind.
Lyrics from Alison Krauss + Union Station, "Take Me From Longing".
Rodney knows because Daniel's moving. Other people when they dream, move their legs: running. Or they move their arms: pushing.
Daniel's hand is flexing. Squeezing.
And his lips are twitching. Talking.
He doesn't know what Daniel's dreaming about. Daniel dreams a lot and he never wants to talk about it. When he wakes up he'll say nothing, his eyes will focus, his mouth will soften and he'll roll over, easier now since the collarbone had healed but still dangerous, still making Rodney wince in anticipation.
Because Daniel's lost a lot of weight. He looks fragile, breakable. The striations of muscle tie together the knots of bone that are what is Daniel's core, and Rodney hates them because he can see them. See the ridges of Daniel's ribs, as well as feel them under his arm.
If Daniel lets him drape an arm over him while he sleeps.
Daniel never says no, but he moves, and the arm always falls away.
"Does he have to stay in there, looking at us?"
Kavanagh looked up at the pillar containing Ford's time-arrested self. His altered, mangled face, half boyish beauty, half engineered bone, wears an expression of puzzled patience. He'd gone into the stasis understanding that Ba'al had done something to him that it would take the others a while to figure out. He hadn't gone in knowing that it'd be years before he could come back out.
But everyone else knew it, and their collective guilt hammered at them as they passed the column daily.
It would be different if they could move him. But they couldn't. The power connections in this room were too important to mess with. Moving him could kill him.
And at the same time they needed those same power connections to drive what was left of the equipment they'd brought with them.
Lieutenant Ford was the patron saint of the scientists. Undead, omnipresent, disturbing yet well-meaning, the memory of a good man.
"You know he does." Kavanagh had come out of the battle taller and less greasy. In a moment of choice he'd chosen right. It was the first time in his life. He felt better about a lot of things, mostly about himself.
It made him a lot more patient with the movie-star looking guy, the one who hadn't had any hand in the fighting. No one had even remembered bringing him along. He was quiet, he was fairly smart, and he'd spent the occupation hiding under a table, as near as Kavanagh could figure out.
The guy looked down to where someone had left another offering at the base of Lieutenant Ford's pillar. There had been bottles of booze and porn DVDs; brownies, paper cranes, broken keyboard keys, and pebbles from no one knew where.
No one knew who left the offerings, and no one knew who cleaned them up, either. They were rituals for the moving and breathing, not really meant for Lieutenant Ford, and yet at the same time very much meant for him. Bless us, for we have failed you, every tequila bottle and origami bird seemed to say.
The guy squinted as he looked up through his glasses at the pillar and the unmoving still-mostly-man inside. "It isn't that I don't like remembering him," he said. "It's that I don't like remembering that I can't do anything for him."
Kavanagh waded through the negatives, blinked. "Collins," Kavanagh said, "you and everyone else."
Weir's room was right next to the water. She didn't want to be closed in, ever again.
Jack grasped that.
"Ma'am, our tactical situation would be very much improved if we could gain some allies. It's not just the materiel, although Ba'al wasn't easy on our stuff," Jack muttered the last. "It's just the firepower. Hands."
"We had enough hands to take this city," Elizabeth reminded him. She's not looking at him. She's looking out over the water.
He wonders what she's looking for.
She knows he wonders, and she doesn't tell him.
"People feel marooned out here," Jack told her.
Elizabeth sat, delicately, on the edge of a chair. "We are marooned."
And you don't help, thought Jack, when you say stuff like that.
"We've still got more than two thirds of our personnel. We've got the Athosians. It's a big group. We've got Atlantis and a lot to learn about it. There's no reason for the --" Jack waved his hand, at a loss for words. Pall. Mist. Miasma of grief. "The place is grim," he finally finished.
A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth, and Elizabeth's eyes widened as she balanced her pointed chin on one fist. "Colonel, I do believe you've become Atlantis' ray of sunshine."
"And that's what I'm saying, Ma'am." Jack finally gave up his military attention, sprawled in another chair, opposite her. "When I'm the most cheerful guy on the base? We have a serious, serious problem."
Jones whistled as she worked.
"What?" She scraped her limp blonde hair away from her eyes as she placed the C4.
"The Beach Boys? The BEACH BOYS? What kind of a person whistles from 'Pet Sounds'?" Bates' lips were pressed tight as he tossed her two more fuses.
"Um, I don't know, the kind of a person with *musical taste*?" Jones placed the fuse carefully. Self-destruct mechanisms were not supposed to go off accidentally. "Even the Beatles said it was one of the best albums of all time."
"Oh, and the Beatles are your court of last resort, are they?" Bates answered but it was fake. His voice was drifting off, his eyes were drifting off. She didn't know what he was seeing and she didn't want to know. He did it fairly often. That was why she whistled Beach Boys' tunes. Because Bates didn't like them, and it tended to keep him focused.
They were rigging self-destructs just in case Atlantis was attacked again.
And they had one of the *good* jobs.
"Everyone believes the Beatles, man." She was a good six inches taller than Bates and when his eyes drifted away like that, he scared her to death.
She sang under her breath. "Wouldn't it be nice if we were older, then we wouldn't have to wait so long..."
Wu wiggled out from underneath the console. "All I said was, if the commissary serves that boiled grain thing again, I'm going to find out who cooked it and make them wear it."
Grodin shook his head disapprovingly, hands checking the connections Wu had just fixed. "Park, it's highly nutritious and it's helping us to stretch the supplies we have. Personally, I'm grateful for it."
"Oh, you're grateful." Wu's sweet, light voice was ill-suited to dripping with sarcasm, and yet she was managing it. "Oatmeal every night and you're *grateful*. Please, sir, may I have some more? See, I've read your English books."
"Kind of." Grodin sighed. "Park, if you finish fixing this without complaining once more about a dinner we haven't had, I'm going to put a plaque on it, the Park Jin Wu memorial console, all lit up like a Christmas tree."
"Really?" She paused in the act of wiggling her tiny frame back underneath the piece of equipment.
He realized that she was very young, much younger than he'd remembered. Or at least, she had been very young, when they'd started this mission, a million years ago. Maybe she could still remember what it was to look forward to things, if she just had something to look forward to.
He smiled a grin, lopsided and beautiful; he knew what that grin looked like, and it was a present for her all in itself. "You know, I really will," he promised her, and she believed him, he could see it in her eyes before she wiggled back under the console and started moving things around again.
His grin faded and his eyes closed as soon as she disappeared. It was too hard, too hard to keep them going.
Jack swung by Rodney's office to pick him up. Usually they walked to dinner together, the military head and the scientific head swapping the day's notes as they went for grub. It was as natural as breathing, and it was the best part of Jack's day.
"So then we realized that of course the device wouldn't run on alternating current, that's a stupid Earth invention that the Ancients wouldn't ever have -- What's wrong?"
Jack's eyes had automatically flicked into the darkened doorway they'd just passed, his feet stuttered as he'd paused, just infinitesimally, before passing it. It was a habit, one from long ago, a habit in places that hadn't yet been secured.
Goddammit, hadn't Atlantis been secured?
"Nothing. Just a little jumpy. Jesus, when you're jumpier than me, things are going to hell in a really large hamper."
"Huh. You think I'm jumpy. You should see Daniel." And McKay, who'd never been one for the introspection, went on with his story that Jack didn't understand about electromagnetics and Jack thought about what McKay had just admitted.
When Daniel lay down in the bed, Rodney was careful not to touch him.
It was Daniel who snuggled into Rodney, eager to chase away the always slight chill in the air. It was Daniel who rested his hand for a moment on Rodney's chest, then slid it over his belly for a moment, Daniel who murmured words in a playful, light tone as he slid his hand into Rodney's pants.
Rodney, he was just the one who got hard as steel.
He tightened his arm around Daniel, wanting to kiss him. Daniel always tasted better than the oatmeal they ate every day, always tasted like something fresh and musky-sweet all at the same time. Rodney could kiss that mouth all day, he thought to himself, nibbling on first one, then the other of Daniel's luscious rich lips.
And Daniel seemed to be into it too, pushing against Rodney like he wanted something from Rodney, like he was hot, like he needed. And Rodney couldn't stop himself even if he'd wanted to from rubbing back, that old familiar ache in the base of his stomach spreading just the way his arms spread to hold Daniel because that's the way it worked.
And he tried to be careful, but he couldn't, couldn't keep his hip from brushing against Daniel where Daniel was hard and hot and wanting.
And that made Daniel jump.
Rodney froze, wondering what would happen, knowing but wishing it wouldn't.
But it did. Daniel froze too, then moved back, pushing away from Rodney. The heat had been sucked out of the air and now there was just two cold slabs of meat in the bed - one body Rodney's, one body Daniel's, with nothing to do with one another.
"Sorry," Daniel said tonelessly.
"Me too," said Rodney. He didn't want to sound miserable. But he couldn't help it. "Can I - Can I just put an arm around you?"
"No," said Daniel and rolled so his back was to Rodney.
Teyla wiped sweat out of her eyes. She did not mind work. But she did not like sweat dripping into her eyes.
When they paused she would devise something to prevent that.
"I know you are hot, Major Sheppard," she said quietly, "but I do not think you should bare yourself to the sunlight. You are light of skin and you will suffer from the burn."
He just cocked an eyebrow. "Nice to know you think I'm hot," was all he said. She could see the streams of sweat rolling down his back, catching on the hair on his chest. He didn't bother to mop or swipe at them. He bent, pulled and twisted like a machine, each ripping pull of the hoe removing a weed from the field that would give them all vital food to eat - if the weeds did not choke out the seed they had planted.
He had not talked much since he and the Colonel had returned from the gate on Fejkilamet. They could speak English now, but they did not.
Or rather, John did not.
"I do not remember you being this quiet before," she said in an attempt to be arch.
But John just kept bending, twisting, and yanking, the cords in his muscles standing out on his arms as he fought the ground. She felt the horrible tension settle over them. She was not supposed to mention before.
"I am sorry," she said quickly, her instinct as always to go straight to the heart. "But that is how we met. We knew each other first in B--"
Just one word but his eyes blazed with green fury.
"I am sorry," she said again, bowing her head in acquiescence. "I cannot pretend that we do not have that history between us. I value it. We fought together. We won together. That is valuable. John."
"I didn't say it wasn't valuable." Chunk, the blade sinking into the earth. Rip, the pull of the weed. A now-practiced twist and yank and the chunk of weed was killed. "I'm grateful you came out here with me. I just want to work, okay?"
Teyla sighed inwardly but did not show it. She would have liked to see more of Atlantis without fearing the step of Ba'al or his jaffa behind her. She would have liked to travel through the Gate that had brought these strangers. She was used to traveling among the worlds of this galaxy. Here in her people's village, pulling weeds, the galaxy seemed very, very small.
But there was John's narrow, sweat-soaked back. Pulling, twisting, yanking.
She recalled what the Colonel had said to her before he granted John's request.
"It'll be tougher for him to kill himself out there," he'd said, dark eyes burning into her despite the lightness of his tone. "But not impossible. You watch him, okay?"
"I will look after him," she'd said, stunned, appalled, and if she admitted it to herself, terrified by the colonel's words. John seemed normal enough to her. Quieter than she remembered him before. But before was not the real world. Before was a nightmare and they had woken up.
This was the real world, she thought, feeling the sweat trickle down her own neck. She reached back to twist her hair up into a knot and let the air get to her neck. Dirt. Plants. Her people. A man.
A man who refused to look up, refused to speak of the past, and pretended there was no future.
Teyla was very, very careful not to sigh out loud.
When Elizabeth watched Daniel at work, there was nothing to see. His startlingly beautiful face, freed from the flop of boyish hair, had looked masculine, almost soldierly. But that was weeks ago. As the weight had melted from him Daniel's face had become sharp, carved out of wood, ready to splinter.
But he spoke to everyone the way he'd always spoken to them. Deep in a puzzle of Ancient he became fascinated, and he told her so, his eyes lost in the wonder of the depths of knowledge he couldn't begin to fathom and the excitement of having the chance to try. His lips were soft then, frequently open, as if he had to drink the universe in, as if he couldn't wait for whatever Atlantis would show him.
One night Rodney managed to spoon up behind Daniel. Carefully, trying not to wake him, he'd draped an arm over Daniel's chest.
Like the snapping of a trap Daniel's hand had fastened over his wrist, forcing him back and back.
He looked into Daniel's dilated pupils as Daniel said, "Touch me again and I'll kill you."
"Daniel." Rodney whispered, knowing his voice was trembling, not caring. "Daniel. It's me. Daniel."
"I know it's you, Rodney. I'm awake." Daniel didn't blink once; Rodney didn't think that was humanly possible.
The newly narrow, chiseled jaw barely moved as Daniel said, "Get out."
Rodney tried, that night. Tried. He found a cot, moved it into one of the empty rooms. Atlantis was not short on space.
But he couldn't sleep. The sound of the waves did not penetrate the walls; maybe if they had there would have been white noise.
But there wasn't. And while Daniel wouldn't say what he dreamed about, Rodney knew what he himself dreamed about. And he wanted no part of it, not alone. Alone he was afraid that it might turn real, just from the force of his prodigious imagination.
It was no damn good.
Jack had come to the door rubbing his eyes. "What?" he said without preamble.
Even though it was fairly obvious "what". "What" was Rodney standing in the hallway, an air force cot tucked under one arm, pillow and blanket draped over the other shoulder, and bags under his eyes like he'd won a new set of luggage.
Jack didn't seem to actually expect him to answer. Just took in the picture, and opened the door.
Rodney unfolded the cot, flung himself face first down on it, and yanked the blanket up over him. He didn't want to discuss it. He needed *not* to discuss it.
And Jack was one person he counted on to do what he needed.
Jack locked the door. There were still some lights on. Apparently Jack didn't like sleeping in the dark.
Jack laid down on the bed and his breathing, rough, regular, slowing, smoothed over Rodney, relaxing his shoulderblades, letting his brain let go of the picture of Daniel's dilated pupils and the bruise on his wrist where Daniel had gripped him.
Rodney couldn't sleep alone. Jack couldn't sleep in the dark.
Which they wouldn't have known about each other if it weren't for what Daniel couldn't do.
When Rodney asked Heightmeyer about it she'd nodded, passed him a mug of the sedative tea the Athosians had given them. She passed the stuff out like Coca-Cola had gone out of style.
"Sounds like post-traumatic stress disorder, Rodney," she'd said, her lips sipping against the smooth edge of the mug.
"I can read, I do have access to a copy of the DSM-IV, I think that diagnosis is fairly obvious," Rodney snapped before she'd even put the mug down. "What I want to know is what you're going to do about it."
"Nothing." She shrugged one gently rounded shoulder.
His mouth gaped. "Excuse me?"
"Rodney, I am full up on patients who want to see me. I don't have as much time for them as they deserve. I'm not in... the right shape to take on a mess like this. I was sent out here with several hundred healthy, sane people - including a few borderline cases like yourself." Her lips quirked at the expression on his face and he knew she was laughing inside and that made him know she was not herself either. The Heightmeyer who had profiled him before they debarked was too gentle even for that gentle poke at him. "Now I've got significantly fewer people, almost all of whom have treatment needs. I'm handling griefs over deaths, rape recovery, Stockholm syndrome and survivor's guilt. I'm dealing with trauma battlefield soldiers don't manifest until they've been in the field for years, along with quite a few things that my training did not cover." She didn't mention "sarcophagus addiction". She preferred to keep a few failures to herself - and as far as she knew John was still with the Athosians and still alive. "Daniel's functioning. I dropped by his office to see him two days ago. He actually seemed to be enjoying his work. I know he's lost a lot of weight, but he's in no immediate danger. If Daniel doesn't want to visit me I can't make him. I certainly can't help him."
"But he's not -" Rodney's lips twisted and his eyes were that light, open blue that showed all of his hurt insides and Kate almost couldn't bear it. "He's not himself," Rodney managed to say.
"I know, Rodney," Kate nodded. "None of us are."
When Rodney went back to Jack's two nights later, there was an extra bed in Jack's room, not a cot, one of the Ancients' beds. Against the far wall where he'd shoved the cot.
He fell on it and pushed his face into the pillow.
He knew Jack wasn't watching him.
Jack was good that way.
<span class="style5"><em>Under a Broken Moon, part 2</em>
Just after lunch, Atlantis *rocked*.
It was noticeable. Californians didn't freak, but there were few of them in the expedition. There was a lot of yelling, people grabbing on to things. A few fragile items fell from shelves that were inadvisably narrow.
It was over pretty quick.
Elizabeth called Rodney first. "What's the city's status?"
"Give me a few more than two seconds, Elizabeth, and I'll know," Rodney snapped. His hands were whipping over monitors. "Huh."
"What huh? What does huh mean? I'm coming down there."
"Yes, fine, then you can impede our progress from here," Rodney muttered absently.
Kavanagh was there first. "We don't have seismometers," was his greeting.
"Thank you. More obvious. Just think how I was dying for someone to tell me that."
The rest of the scientific crew congealed, and discussions were already flying thick and fast when Elizabeth arrived.
The old Elizabeth didn't have that slice to her tone; this one did. They quieted.
"The situation is that we've had very large wave pass under us, Elizabeth. Probably caused by an earthquake. Or a tremor, whatever you want to call it since of course this isn't Earth. How big? We don't know. To what effect? We don't know. We have no instruments in place to measure this."
Collins spoke up. "I'd bet was at least a six."
Everyone looked at him.
"I grew up in California," he said, not realizing that most of them were looking at him because they didn't remember who he was or what he was doing there.
"Atlantis itself is... fine." Rodney's eyes were flicking back and forth over instruments. Daniel arrived at a run at just that moment. Rodney's eyes barely registered his presence, went back to the console. "Stresses, obviously, on some of the substructures and I'm sure it didn't do some of the outlying towers any good. Atlantis is designed to forgive a lot, though."
"Is this normal for Atlantis?" Elizabeth addressed them all.
"How on earth would we know?" Rodney answered for all of them.
"Fine. Dr. Jackson, would you please start a scan of the databases for any information on Atlantis' seismotic background. Dr. Kavanagh, see what we can scare up to serve as seismographs and figure out where we need to put them."
Jack strolled in. "Big wave," he said laconically. "Cool."
"Once you know where you'd like the seismographs placed Colonel O'Neill will see to their placement." Jack inclined his head as Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at him.
"Sure," Jack said, as cool and affable as if someone had asked him if he wanted coffee. "I'm just curious about more."
"More?" Elizabeth repeated with the question mark.
"More!" Rodney moaned and he flew to a different console. "Dammit, these satellite readings aren't sensitive enough to pick up that kind of mass displacement, especially if it's deep underwater."
"How long will it take you to recalibrate them?" Elizabeth wanted to know.
"I didn't say they were calibrated wrong, I said they weren't sensitive enough. I'm being as specific as I can be."
"You can boost their power, Rodney," and Daniel stepped up to his side. The hand he laid on Rodney's shoulder was meant to be reassuring. Rodney did still. All the way. He stood motionless.
Perhaps only Jack saw the difference between stilled and frozen.
"Y-yes." Rodney blinked fast. "I can boost their sensitivity, I think, probably from here. Kavanagh can help me."
"That'll work." Daniel smiled at Rodney as the scientist turned to look at him.
Rodney was blinking and the corners of his mouth turned down and he looked at Daniel as if he'd never seen him before.
"All right then, people," called Jack, just a little louder than normal conversation, "sounds like we all have assignments."
"If... if there is another wave, it may arrive before we have instruments ready to detect it." Rodney's face dropped.
"I'll make sure everyone's aware of the potential. Let's batten down the hatches, everyone." Weir half-smiled as she turned to go.
Jack suppressed a grin. "You've always wanted to say that, haven't you?" he asked her under his breath as she passed him.
"Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum," she muttered back, but let the smile spread all over her face.
"Rodney," Jack said, louder, as Elizabeth left.
Rodney's head shot up, faster than it should have. Everyone else probably thought he was worried about big waves.
Jack, looking at the way Daniel stood close to him, knew that wasn't it. "You need any help?" he asked, just Rodney.
"No no, Colonel, I'm good, we'll let you know when we're ready to deploy the seismometers, or whatever we can scare up to pretend to be seismometers." Rodney's voice drabbled away but he turned and took Jackson's hand and squeezed it and they were looking into each other's eyes and Jack figured that was okay for now.
He faded out.
"If you want any ideas about where to start for the information scan," Rodney was saying as he led Daniel out of the lab and into a side office.
"I do, I do want ideas about where to start," smiled Daniel into his neck as Rodney shut the door behind them and wrapped his arms around Daniel's slender waist.
"Oh thank God," mumbled Rodney and rested his own head for a second on Daniel's shoulder.
They grasped each other for a moment.
"Rodney, I'm really sorry," Daniel said, his lips brushing Rodney's ear.
"Don't be. It's okay."
"I know I'm sending out mixed signals."
"It's all right."
"You know I love you, right?"
"What? No. I mean, you usually say that when you're high or about to die."
"I love you. I do."
Rodney twitched, started to back up but Daniel's arms held him fast.
"I love you. I do love you. Oh God, Rodney. Don't tell me after all this time you don't believe me."
"After all this time it's hard to believe you, Daniel. I just don't... I don't care if you... Look. You don't have to be with me. I don't have to live in quarters with you. I didn't ask you to come on this mission for that. I know that after everything that's happened it seemed like I was just expecting us to fall back in together and maybe that's wrong, maybe this is one of those times when we fall back *out* together, the way we do --"
"No." And for the first time Daniel's voice sounded fierce, sharp, the way it did when he woke up in the middle of the night and told Rodney to get out. "Not falling out. No."
"What do you want me to do. Should I hold on like this? Should I let go? Just -- just tell me."
Rodney could hear his own voice crack and he didn't care. There was no one less communicative than Daniel when Daniel shut down.
And Daniel had been shut down for weeks and weeks and weeks now.
All Rodney could see was months and years of the same stretching ahead of them both.
"Hold on." Daniel's voice was like balm on a wound.
Rodney's arms tightened around Daniel in a crushing hold.
Daniel gasped and laughed a little bit.
Rodney didn't hesitate for an instant. His mouth, open, swooped over Daniel's, knowing exactly how they fit together, exactly how to touch, to move, to suck, to lick, to kiss like Daniel was oxygen and he needed oxygen bad.
Daniel's arms tightened around Rodney's neck. And when they finally broke apart, both of them breathing hard, Daniel smiled. "See?" he rasped. "Same old me."
No, thought Rodney as his eyes squeezed shut and he buried them in Daniel's neck. No, you're not.
When Jack made his turn through the common areas before going off to bed, Rodney was still in the lab, Kavanagh behind him.
"Maybe next time you'll think twice before you blow up a moon," Kavanagh was saying.
"What are you talking about? I didn't even think once before I did it the first time," Rodney shot back.
"Blowing things up without me?" Jack said mildly as he strolled in, taking in the set of Rodney's mouth and the lack of any food detritus. "You guys skip dinner?"
"I had a power bar. Kavanagh here was just pointing out that since we did blow up a moon recently, we can probably expect more of this kind of seismic activity as the gravitational balance of the planet adjusts."
"Since *you* blew up a moon," Kavanagh pointed out.
"Yes, yes, since *I* blew up a moon, thank you, I got it."
"What's the matter, Kavanagh, jealous?" Jack leaned casually on the instrument console Kavanagh was working on. "You sad 'cause you never got to blow up a moon?"
Kavanagh's long nose wrinkled, and he squinted at the Colonel. "No, of course not."
"'Cause I'll tell you what. The next time the lives of everyone in this base are at stake, I'll make sure you personally get to put your own life in danger to try to save everyone else's by blowing some shit up, and you can blow up, hey, whatever you like." Jack's hands mimed as his lips shaped a soundless "boom" but his eyes had turned to coal-black diamonds that bored straight into Kavanagh.
"I didn't mean - of course I - I'll see you in the morning Rodney." Kavanagh's last words came out in an unpunctuated rush and he retreated, immediately, from the Colonel's presence.
Jack just watched him go.
When he was good and gone Jack turned to Rodney. "You going to turn in too?"
"Does it ever occur to you that it was easier when we were fighting for our lives?"
Rodney blurted it out and his eyes, when he turned to look at Jack, were as wide as Atlantis' sea, pale, frightened, and somewhere in the back there, desperate.
Jack just nodded.
"It's easier," Jack said, "in the middle of battle. If you know what you're fighting and who the good and the bad guys are. That part makes sense."
Rodney looked at him, and Jack let him look. He knew what Rodney would see: a battle-scarred veteran, hollow, hard, with dark, dark eyes.
"You seem different since -- since."
Maybe he didn't know what Rodney saw.
"What do you mean I seem different?" Jack asked as casually as he could.
"I don't know. When I first saw you, you scared me to death. I don't like people who kill other people, I think that's a fairly normal instinct, and you had an aura around you like - like death was a good idea."
Jack held himself still and refused to wince.
"But now you're -- I don't know. I can't tell if you're different or not. Maybe it's all the rest of us." Rodney's down-crooked mouth corner pulled down even farther - a sure sign of un-Rodney-like confusion and doubt. "Maybe it's just that now we're all like that." He looked again into Jack's eyes. "Maybe it's just that now I know you."
You don't know me much, thought Jack to himself. But Rodney looked like he was really asking a question. Jack wanted to answer him.
"I don't want to sound like one of those asshole nihilistic teenagers," Jack said heavily. "But I guess it's just that -- look, most minutes of every day, I expect something to go hideously wrong. When it does, I can relax."
Rodney's head was tilted and he was looking down his nose at Jack, as if he were trying to figure out the readings on Jack's face. But he nodded.
"Yes," said Rodney. "I'm starting to see where you're coming from with that."
Rodney had put off going home as long as he could.
But when he got there Daniel was still awake, propped up in bed, with a book, the reading light pooling gold over his bare chest.
He just closed the book quietly, put it aside, and held out an arm to Rodney.
Rodney didn't hesitate, peeled off his clothes without watching where he tossed them, crawled into the bed instantly, plastered himself up against Daniel's bare body, reveling in the feel of warm skin, the smell of Daniel in his nostrils, the touch of Daniel's hand on him.
"Please," said Rodney as the day's pent-up tension shuddered through him and he relaxed into Daniel's arms. "Please."
He didn't even know what he was asking for. He hoped Daniel knew.
Daniel always did know. "Just lie back," said Daniel, muttering into Rodney's hair, nibbling his earlobes, mouthing the place in his neck where his pulse rattled alarmingly fast, before working his way down Rodney's chest to his belly.
Rodney's cock was coming up hard fast. It had been so long, so long, and this felt almost right, almost like it used to feel -
And Daniel's thinner face looked younger, reminded him of days gone long by as he smiled up at Rodney, even with the bristle of short brown hair on top of his head, those lips, oh God those lips looked just the same, and he still had the same way of twisting his hand as he slid it down Rodney's hard length and sucked Rodney in, no games, no waiting, no fooling around.
That was what Rodney wanted, his universe contracting down to the spot between his legs that felt hot and wet and warm and so good, so absolutely good. Fuck moons, fuck Kavanagh, fuck death --
Daniel's tongue swirled around the head and Rodney grunted, Daniel was too good at this, he wished it would last but after all this time --
Daniel hummed as Rodney came, sucking and licking hard and yet gentle at the same time, oh God there was nothing like a strong man's mouth, Daniel's mouth, it was perfect and just what Rodney wanted.
Rodney gasped and they lay there for a few minutes, Rodney softening with Daniel's mouth all over him, and the world was right, just right.
It felt so right that Rodney could almost believe that they were younger, on Earth, in some good ones of the good old days, as he reached down and dragged Daniel up into his arms.
"Thank you," and Rodney really meant it.
He kissed Daniel's mouth, the way they'd always done, thanking Daniel, tasting himself inside Daniel, feeling for the moment that the entire world was making love with Daniel and that there were no equations to describe that exquisite perfection.
And Daniel was kissing him back, and it was just like it had always been, until Rodney slid his hand down Daniel's back, over one smooth buttock, pulling him against Rodney's hip.
"No," Daniel ripped his mouth away from Rodney's to say it.
No, not say it. Order it.
"You're hard," Rodney argued. He could feel it.
"I'm good," Daniel said, catching Rodney's wandering hand, folding - no, holding - it up against Rodney's own chest.
And Rodney, still catching his breath, felt the beautiful, safe, familiar world he'd been in for the past few minutes crash down around his head. It shook him harder than the earthquake had done.
"Jesus, Daniel," Rodney rasped, feeling his voice, angry, hurt, disbelieving, catching in his throat, "do you wish that badly that I was him?"
Daniel shoved so hard that Rodney didn't even roll till he hit the floor. Then he was on his feet.
"Can't you leave it alone?" Daniel's voice was rising, his pupils dilating, his half-hard dick deflating as he stood up himself. "Do you have to push?"
"Push? PUSH? I've been the world's LEAST pushy lover these last few weeks. I have asked you for *nothing*. It's been very out of character for me. I would have thought you, of all people, would have noticed."
"Fine. So you've decided to push. Don't push there." Daniel advanced on Rodney and Rodney, who outweighed him by at least thirty pounds at this point, backed up. Daniel's finger was pointed threateningly and Rodney half-feared it would go off. "Don't compare yourself to Ba'al. You're nothing like him."
Rodney licked his lips. "That's not what I asked."
Daniel's mouth fell open, his blue eyes dilated to near-black. He looked like he was going to say something.
But he didn't.
Rodney let the silence stretch on. But only for a few more moments.
Finally he said, "Do you really think I can live this way? Feeling like a potential rapist every time I touch you? Wondering if you'd rather have him in this bed? Wondering if you'd really rather prefer him raping you to me making love --"
Daniel's fist swung, connected.
With an *oof* Rodney bent over himself.
They stood there, Daniel breathing hard as if he'd been running while Rodney tried to catch his breath back.
"Good," Rodney gasped to the floor. "Finally. You've hit me. Maybe that will help."
And then, only then, did Daniel's eyes clear of the hard glassy gaze and he looked down at Rodney's bent, broad back and reached out to lay a flat, shaking hand on it.
"No," he whispered. "I don't think it'll help."
Shaking, Daniel dropped to his knees in front of Rodney, and wrapped his arms around Rodney's thighs. Choking, Rodney tried to pat his shoulder reassuringly.
There was shifting and dropping and eventually they were seated, side by side, backs against the wall, thighs pressed against one another.
"I want you to go see Heightmeyer," Rodney finally got out.
"I don't really want to."
"I think you owe me that," Rodney sent back.
"Rodney, it's not that big a deal," Daniel said, then stopped talking. Even to himself his voice sounded soaked in lies.
Instead he pulled Rodney over his lap. He could do this. He could.
Holding Rodney was just like it always was. He was so broad in the shoulders, so strong, the definition of masculinity. Rodney was just what Daniel liked in a man.
And he was so familiar, and that should be reassuring, it *was* reassuring.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," Daniel said against his lips and they were kissing again, hands stroking, bodies meeting, and it was just like it should be. This was Rodney. The little flick of his tongue when their mouths parted, the way his hands stroked over Daniel's nipples then flicked them, one at a time, the little pleading noise he made when Daniel opened his mouth for him and dove in deep and Rodney's hands tangled in what was left of Daniel's short, soft hair - it was Rodney. So obvious, so clear. So much like the past.
And despite Rodney's first, quick orgasm, Daniel knew what to do to get past that. Knew the spot at the base of Rodney's cock to rub that would make Rodney's hips stutter and jerk, knew how teasing circles onto the cheeks of Rodney's ass made him press forward, mumbling, knew how to bite down right at the side of the throat and make Rodney grunt and make Rodney hard and make Rodney want him again.
Daniel knew all these things.
He knew as he grabbed the table and pulled it closer exactly how to stretch and snag the lube without letting Rodney go. He knew how to hook his fingers inside Rodney and pull and make him moan and shake while his tongue kept plundering Rodney's mouth, all Rodney's insides available to him. He knew how to make Rodney want Daniel fucking him, and he knew how to fuck Rodney so well it would make Rodney scream with pleasure and melt, boneless, onto the floor.
He knew all these things.
But then, just as he had Rodney on his hands and knees on the floor, waiting for Daniel, just Daniel, he remembered spreading and waiting just that same way for Ba'al, and he felt something in his head pop, and something floated away.
And he thrust anyway, because to hell with Ba'al, this was real, this was now, this was Rodney and he was goddamn well going to fuck Rodney because this was what they both wanted.
And Rodney moaned out loud and clamped around him and Daniel knew it must feel good, he knew Rodney only made that noise when it felt good. But something had popped and floated away and now Daniel couldn't see this right, couldn't feel this right. Cellophane had wrapped him up and nothing could touch him. He felt himself go soft inside Rodney, slid out, even as Rodney made a disbelieving noise and clutched back at Daniel's thigh and then turned to see Daniel just sitting there on his knees, soft, with a frown between his eyebrows.
"What?" Rodney said, softly, not demanding, despite the now impressive second hard-on that was bouncing against his stomach.
Daniel just shook his head. It was obvious enough. He felt nothing.
"I don't - I don't --"
If he could have met Rodney's eyes he would have at least felt less embarassed. This was Rodney. If he couldn't be embarassed in front of Rodney, who COULD he be embarassed in front of?
But it wasn't just the sudden lack of hard-on that was embarassing him.
So he couldn't look Rodney in the eyes.
Instead he got up and went to the bathroom.
Rodney, ass lubed and aching, dick hard and aching, stomach still hurting from where Daniel had hit him, lay down on his side on the floor, waiting for the bathroom to get free so he could clean up.
He'd thought the lowest points of his life were behind him.
Rodney eventually managed to fall asleep, exhausted.
Daniel did not.
The next night they lay back to back.
When he woke, he stayed motionless. His gut instinct was still not to give away that he had any thought of his own, any motion. If he played possum well enough it'd all be okay.
If he could just stay motionless Rodney wouldn't have to know what Daniel dreamed about.
If he could just stay motionless and Rodney could just stay motionless and there didn't have to be any touching or movement or talking or future, Rodney would never have to know that Daniel still woke up, *every* time he woke up, convinced he was sleeping with a Goa'uld.
<span class="style5"><em>Under a Broken Moon, part 3 </em>
Rodney was fond of saying he could do in days what it took less sophisticated scientists to do in weeks. One of those things, apparently, was jury-rigging seismometers.
"The seismometers are ready for placement," Rodney's voice said into Jack's ear in the middle of a sunny Atlantis morning.
"Great." Jack sounded genuinely enthused. He was dying to get out of this place. "I thought the away team could muster and place them. I'll fly."
Their standard away team roster at the moment was Jack, Jones, Daniel, and Rodney.
He thought Rodney might have hesitated for a second but it was less than a second, really, and Rodney's voice sounded just like Rodney's voice when he said, "What time do you want to muster and where?"
"Let's go at 1300 and I'll meet you in the jumper bay. I'll tell Weir."
"Fine." Rodney's voice sounded perfectly normal. "I'll let Daniel and Teresa know."
When Jack showed up he felt almost chipper. He could use some fresh air. And it was good to see a team, any team, kitted up and waiting, if not by the Stargate, at least by a cute little round jumper shaped to go through a Stargate.
Jack wondered when he'd started thinking of the jumpers as "cute" and how long it had been since he'd jerked off.
"Okay, gang, are we ready?" he said, practically bouncing on his toes as he looked them over.
"Not quite," said Rodney, turning so that Jack could see him face-on. "I've asked Collins to join us, the devices are a little tricky and I could use his help in calibrating them. Kavanagh will coordinate from here."
Jack had stopped bouncing.
Rodney had a fat lip.
It was unmistakeably a fat lip, swollen, red, with a bloody split where the lip had undoubtedly been crunched between knuckles and teeth.
The look in Rodney's eyes ordered Jack not to say a word.
"Do we need Daniel to go with us, then," Jack said silkily, looking Rodney right in the eye, "if we've already got Collins for a pair of spare hands?"
"I need both of them, Daniel and Collins," Rodney shot right back.
"Fine. He'd better get his ass in here, then," Jack said, looking around.
Collins picked his entrance perfectly. "Sorry, sorry," he wheezed, his equipment pack clearly weighing on him. "I'm not used to offworld missions -"
"We're not going offworld. Just once around the park. Load up, boys 'n girls." Jack caught Jones' eye with his. She was good, and she was one of his. He told her, silently, to stay in the rear. She nodded.
Jack went up front to the pilot's chair.
He didn't look at Jackson as he passed him where he was strapping himself in.
He didn't trust himself to.
Kate had a clipboard.
Elizabeth envied her. You could really hold on to a clipboard.
"We're doing better. And thank goodness, because I'm almost out of every antidepressant I brought," Kate was sighing. "I released two more off of the disability list today and they're doing okay."
"Okay okay, or really okay?"
Kate's lovely mouth curved up in a smile. "They're all really tough people, Elizabeth. They wouldn't be on this mission if they weren't."
"They're young. So much younger, I realize now, than most of the personnel at Stargate Command." Why had they given her young people, she wondered bitterly? Because they would fight harder? Last longer?
Why did Atlantis have to be the death of their youthful optimism?
"They're intelligent, flexible, and now battle-hardened. That's not a downside given where we are and what we're doing," Kate said, flipping through the sheets of paper on her clipboard.
Elizabeth just stared at her.
"What," she finally said, "are we doing, Kate?"
The blonde looked up, puzzled. "Surviving."
Elizabeth nodded. Yes. That was what they were doing. And it wouldn't be good enough. They needed a ZPM to get home. They needed more food and weapons to last long enought to find that ZPM.
And the whole mission would be a waste if they didn't take home something really spectacular from what the Ancients had left them.
"Bates is on your 'functioning' list?"
Kate almost winced. "You're not buying it, huh?" she said, slumping gracefully against the table.
"I'm not a professional." Elizabeth shrugged. "But he doesn't seem okay to me."
"How often have you seen him?"
"Not often. I try to get around."
For the fiftieth time Kate debated in her head whether or not to tell Elizabeth about Bates' fixation on her. For the fiftieth time she decided there was no reason to tell her. "He's got dissociative episodes but he's not violent. I'm not even sure how to diagnose him, much less how to treat him. But he seems less disconnected than he was. And it was put him back to work or have him sit in the infirmary with nothing to occupy himself."
"He's not going back on security detail."
"No, I wouldn't recommend it."
"Thank you, Kate," said Elizabeth, meaning it, and Kate nodded and left Elizabeth alone in her room.
It was a beautiful view. The ocean was gorgeous, the waves gently lapping at the buffers that trailed all along the city's edges.
It had been months now and Ba'al's body hadn't washed ashore.
The Colonel was right. They needed to see more of this galaxy.
It was time.
"Are you receiving a reading?" Rodney said into his microphone.
"Nothing." Kavanagh's voice trickled through.
Rodney stamped his foot, hard, into the packed earth near the seismometer.
"I got a tremor - small, but noticeable," Kavanagh added.
"Great. I still register on the earth. That's very reassuring."
Rodney waved Collins forward, and together they fastened the cover over the station's jury-rigged little box. Ideally it should be fastened to bedrock, but they didn't have the time or the tools for that. Bolted to some apparently deep-reaching sedimentary rock shelf would have to do.
"This is such a jury-rigged mess," Collins muttered under his breath.
"I'm happy to take *your* advice on how to build a planetary seismological surveying system at a moment's notice out of tin cans and paper clips," Rodney said without a trace of graciousness as they screwed the cover down. "Daniel, do you have any reading on the transmitter?"
"Uh, yeah," and Daniel walked around the thing in a big circle, apparently not noticing that Kavanagh had already confirmed reading the signal back at Atlantis.
Jack was watching Rodney keep Daniel by his side. He hadn't had two seconds alone with Jackson to say anything.
Jack wasn't stupid.
But he also wasn't giving up.
He could have arranged something, but he figured fate would provide, and eventually it did, in the form of Teresa kicking a drill off the rock shelf.
Rodney, swearing the whole time, had to brace her while she let herself down on a rope - a short hop, less than thirty feet - and back up again, with Collins' help. The two men were more than heavy enough to anchor her.
And as Daniel watched Teresa's head disappearing off the shelf Jack's voice bubbled in his ear. "You told me to look after him."
Startled, Daniel whirled to look Jack in the eye.
Jack was only a few inches taller but he seemed to be looking down at Daniel from a very great height.
Jack sucked his teeth. "Looks like someone hauled off and whacked Dr. McKay in the face, there," Jack observed mildly, though his jaw was clicking with the effort it took for him to hold still. "I wonder what you expect me to do about that."
Jack's eyes slid away, then pinned Jackson again. "Because I am still looking out for him."
"Daniel! Give Teresa a hand, would you? Collins and I should stay braced."
Teresa's head was back already, and she was having a tough time figuring out how to scramble up over the lip that jutted into midair.
"Yeah, sure," Daniel said, distractedly, his eyes fastened on Jack until he turned them away at the last minute to grab Teresa's hand.
"Thanks," she said, bouncing on her own two feet again.
Rodney didn't even give them all a second to pause. "Come on, come on, we've got two more to set before we can stop at the Athosians and place the last one."
"It's a fast car, doctor," Jack drawled lazily. "Take you all around the planet and still have you home in time for supper."
"Yes, I know, I'm counting on it, I'm starving," Rodney rambled as he tossed his tools into their case.
Rodney looked up to see Daniel staring at him.
For a second he could have sworn it was the dried-up corpse of the Ancient they'd found in the tower, Daniel looked that drawn and brittle.
"What? What's wrong?" Rodney leaped to his feet, tripping over the case in his haste to get to Daniel's side.
"Nu - nothing." He saw Daniel shake something off, but Daniel wouldn't meet his eyes again.
"You're hungry. Maybe the Athosians will give us dinner."
"Maybe," said Daniel listlessly, without the energy to point out that he hadn't been hungry in a very long time.
The tufty black head whipped up and fierce green eyes focused sharply.
John's feet picked up of their own accord, flying over rocks and clumps of weeds and dangerously abandoned buckets. He moved so fluidly, thought Daniel, admiring as he whipped over the ground. He couldn't remember if he'd ever seen John run before.
Of all the things he hadn't seen John do.
He wondered how many of them John did so well.
Teyla followed after, plucking at the sweat-soaked tunic she wore and smiling wryly. "Colonel. Dr. McKay." Her smile was not so broad as she added, "Daniel."
"Teyla," he said to her just as politely but then John was there and had wrapped Daniel up in a bear hug, was spinning him around in place. "You weigh nothing! What are you, going for a modeling career?" John's tone was light but he squeezed Daniel's bicep after he put him down, ran inquiring hands over his ribs, his shoulders.
Rodney just stared, transfixed.
*John* was touching Daniel. And nothing bad was happening. In fact, Daniel was standing there, nose wrinkled in one of his happiest smiles, laughing at the look on John's face.
"Yes, Major, he's so obviously heading for a big career as a fencepost stand-in," Rodney snapped, and both John and Daniel stopped grinning quite so hard at each other. Sheepishly they backed up a little and tried to remember what propriety called for.
"Well, I think that might be a little harsh, but unfortunately not too far off the mark. Don't you - hey, are you guys short of food over at the city?" John finally remembered to look at the rest of them. Rodney looked as sturdy as ever, and so did the Colonel. Collins was downright beefy. Teresa - well, she'd looked like a model to begin with, all lanky limbs, she was nothing to go by.
"It's fine, Major. We're tired of oatmeal. I'm glad to see you're out here hard at work growing us - more oatmeal." Jack pinched the bill of his cap as he looked out over the pale green plants that spread in all directions.
"Aw, shucks, it's nothin'," John drawled and his smile was suddenly relaxed and happy. "Hey, come eat dinner with us tonight! You guys are gonna stay for dinner, right?"
The Colonel looked at Teyla. Dinner was no longer a question of putting another frozen entree in the oven. Dinner was a matter of scarce resources. "We didn't mean to freeload, Teyla. We're just here to set a thingy and head on back to Atlantis."
Teyla's grin quirked back at him. "I do not think you are freeloading, Colonel, though perhaps you can explain the expression more fully to me. A hunting party has just returned with some excellent large ruminants of which we will be eating the delicate parts tonight. They have also discovered a spicy plant which I think cooks quite well. I think you'll find we have some very pleasant additions to --"
"Don't say it," groaned Teresa.
"-- what your people call oatmeal."
"Everything a growing boy needs. I'll look forward to it." Jack just nodded. "Then let's get the thingy set so we can put our feet up."
"A four-syllable word is not beyond your reach, Colonel." Rodney snicked open the last carrying case. "Seismometer isn't tough even for a career soldier, I should think. Although I realize any word that isn't an acronym for something that explodes is outside of your everyday vocabulary."
"Here's three syllables, Rodney, that should make even a scientist hurry up. Boot. Leg. Gin."
What the Athosians made wasn't gin. There was a slight peppery fruit flavor in the background that reminded Rodney less of juniper and more of jalapeno.
Whatever. It was alcoholic and he liked it.
He liked the burn as it worked its way down into his stomach. It was reassuring to think he still had insides. He could have sworn he'd felt them seize up like an unlubricated engine when he'd watched John putting his hands all over Daniel.
But he wished he hadn't drunk it when he saw John and Daniel on the opposite side of the fire, laughing and talking.
And then John looped an arm around Daniel's shoulders and they walked away from the fire.
"Do you think," he said as Teyla found him and gracefully dropped to the straw mat beside him, "that anyone would notice if I very quietly threw up in a tidy place, perhaps into the fire, and then went off behind one of these huts and screamed my head off?"
"I don't know," Teyla said, helping herself to the last of his greens, "is that something you are likely to do?"
"Probably not. Given the alcohol content of this whatever you call this stuff I suspect my vomit is highly flammable right now. Possibly explosive."
Teyla pretended to consider this. "Perhaps it could be used as a weapon."
"Yes. Toxic exploding vomit. Sounds like something every military person back in Atlantis will just be dying to try out."
She patted his knee. "Please do not demonstrate this toxic exploding vomit."
Rodney shook his head. When he turned his face to look at her she seemed so calm, so serene, her skin glowing golden in the reflected firelight. "I don't know what I'm doing wrong." His voice sounded broken.
"What do you mean?" She leaned closer to him, laid her hand back on his knee.
Rodney just jerked his chin in the direction Daniel and John had taken off in. "Daniel is -- I'm -- " How to explain, in a few words, what the last few weeks had been like? There was no way, although if anyone could understand and not make him feel like even more of a worm and less of a man, it was Teyla. "I can't touch Daniel," Rodney finally said, his voice much lower and rougher. "Not for any reason. Apparently," and now his voice positively *dripped* with acid, "Major Sheppard can."
"Mmhmmm." Teyla observed him. His face was flushing redder in the firelight. He was so painfully easy to read. "Do I need to point out that Major Sheppard is not Daniel Jackson's lover?"
"Are you sure? They've been away from the fire for at least five minutes now. Give Daniel credit, he works fast."
"Stop." She saw how Rodney's lips were working, noticed a dried scab bisecting the lower one. He would break it open if he kept this up. "I know you do not mean that. John and Daniel are friends. It is impossible to understand in a simple way what they have between them. But they had very different relationships to Ba'al and to each other."
It was such a relief to Rodney to hear someone say the name that he literally sagged, his ramrod spine slumping a little. "And to you."
"Yes." Teyla nodded. "Very different relationships to me. I did not trust Daniel fully." She did not add anything about what her current feelings about Daniel were; Rodney didn't ask. "John felt that Daniel helped to anchor him, as I did. John was raped and murdered repeatedly. He has told me that if it were not for us, Daniel and I, he would have had no one to come back to but Ba'al, and that would have driven him insane."
"So John's not insane, then."
Teyla sighed and she, too, looked in the direction the two men had taken. "I do not think so. He is not well. But," and here her mouth bent in the crooked grin that reminded Rodney of himself, "given those circumstances, who would be?"
"He's ignoring Atlantis. Ignoring the mission, staying out here with all of you."
"He is healing." Teyla wished she could sound more certain. But she was sure of it on some level. "He is improving, slowly. Perhaps you and Daniel Jackson could also --"
"No." Rodney's voice cut her off like a blade. "Daniel and I can't do anything. Not together."
"John, you're missing out on all that Atlantis can show us. There might even be more if you were there to help us work the Ancient technology."
"You've got buckets of people to help you with that, Daniel. The Colonel's just as good as I am, maybe better."
They were strolling along a path, a new one, one that the Athosians were wearing into the plant life that led the way to the river.
"The Colonel isn't you, John."
"Aw. Daniel. You miss me. That's sweet."
Daniel snorted, reached out to pat John's shoulder. "You know what I mean."
"C'mon. Atlantis doesn't need me. The Athosians do."
"You can help the Athosians by helping us, you know."
"Daniel. Are you gonna make me say it?"
Daniel paused, blue eyes not as good as John's darker ones at seeing by the dim starlight. "Say what?" He sounded genuinely puzzled.
"Daniel, I don't want to be there. Every corridor, every room, they all feel the same. They feel like Atlantis. And you know what Atlantis feels like? Prison." John's voice was getting quicker, harsher in the dark. "And not the bad kind of prison where you can't leave. The even worse kind. Because you can leave. You can die." Picking something up - a rock? a stick? - John's arm whipped out into the darkness as he threw it away, fast. "Of course, you'll just come right back."
"John. We don't know how long we're going to be here. There aren't many of us. There definitely aren't many soldiers." Daniel avoided counting the dead. He knew John knew the count. "Do you really think we won't need you back at Atlantis? That you can stay out here with Teyla and farm and be happy? I see the appeal of marrying the beautiful alien girl and starting a new life in some sort of untouched wild new place. I do. But you're not going to be able to do it. Not and stay yourself."
"Maybe I'm not making myself clear enough. Atlantis isn't prison. It's hell." John's eyes gleamed in the dark as he looked back at Daniel. "You're welcome to it."
Daniel wanted to deny it. But then he thought of himself and Rodney, straining away from each other night after night in a narrow alien bed, and he couldn't disagree.
"But this isn't heaven, John."
"It's as good as I'm ever going to get."
"For goodness' sake. No one's asking you to give up your - Teyla. Bring her with you. She'd probably like it."
"Teyla's not my anything." John's eyes glittered.
"She's not? Then my eyes must be playing tricks on me, because way she looked at you --"
Daniel felt John's hands clench in the front of his shirt and shake him so hard his teeth rattled. His own hands came up and covered them. He was confused. John could always take him in a fight - although John hadn't stabbed a god through the neck --
"You don't know what you're talking about," John hissed through his teeth right near Daniel's ear. "We have no chance at starting a relationship. We've already blown way past all the good parts. We don't have enough secrets from each other. And how could I -- what could I offer her that could possibly interest her in a body that's been through what this body's been through?"
"You have gone nuts," Daniel said, his hands peeling John's away from his shirt fabric. A button had popped off. "She's a fighter, John. She's survived Wraith and -- and worse. She's probably glad you've still got all your limbs. She's gorgeous and she cares about you. You're nuts if you haven't slept with her yet."
"Oh yeah? How's your love life, Daniel? Been working out okay for you since you dumped your last ex? That was a rough break-up --"
Daniel didn't telegraph the punch, not in the dark.
It landed squarely on John's cheek, spinning him back, and he fell, even faster as Daniel threw himself on top of him.
It was furious and fast and within minutes John had Daniel face-down in the grass, knee planted in the small of Daniel's back, arms twisted sharply behind him.
"You done now?" John's voice whistled between his teeth.
Daniel said nothing.
Slowly, John released him. Planting first one, then the other boot on either side of Daniel's hips, John reached a hand out in the dark. Realizing Daniel probably couldn't see it, he snapped his fingers.
After a second, Daniel's hand slid into his. He let John pull him upright.
"No lectures," John told him as they stood, again, side by side. There were grass and dirt stains but they couldn't be seen until they went back to the light. "Not from you. Not on that."
"No." That was all Daniel said as he turned and headed back for the village, no longer interested in whatever John was going to show him about the river.
Jack had thought that the visit to the village might have done the gang some good.
But Daniel looked harder than ever as he stomped back into the jumper with that curious straight-kneed, spread-legged walk of his, and Rodney's face had gone from miserable and frantic to furious and bitter.
At least Teresa was drunk.
"There's a moon in the sky somewhere I know-oh...Waiting for all the love to burn below-oh..."
"Well, there was, anyway, till I blew it up," muttered Rodney, strapping himself in and folding his arms over his chest, staring out the front of the jumper.
"Oh, don' worry, Doctor, I think it's metaf.. meta... I think it's poetic." Teresa tripped a little over her own feet but otherwise maneuvered into her seat gracefully enough. The way she plopped down into it might have been because her spatial relations were off and she thought it was about six inches higher.
"I'll strap her in, Colonel," Collins said as Jack paused to do just that. Jack's eyebrow raised. Collins blushed. "I'm a scientist. I can handle a few buckles," he went on.
Jack just shrugged and went forward.
"Okay, boys and girls, keep your belts tight and low across your lap, just the way the FAA likes 'em," Jack said lightly as he buckled himself in, closed the rear door and went through his preflight check.
He turned and surveyed all their faces before he lit it up. "Is eeeeeverybody ready?"
"Yes, for pete's sake, let's get home."
"You know, Rodney, I really thought that liquor would loosen you up some," Jack said mildly as he shot the jumper into the air.
"This is loose. As loose as I get. As loose as I need to be." Rodney's voice was terse and clipped and Jack just shrugged.
"Yes. I can see that. So loose it's a wonder your sphincter doesn't implode," Jack told him.
Rodney was at his door by two hundred hours.
"What did you say to him?"
Jack had never seen Rodney so tightly, venomously angry.
It wouldn't do him any good to play stupid. "Nothing he didn't know."
He backed up and let Rodney in.
The door swooshed shut behind him and Rodney threw the bag he was carrying in his hand into the wall with such force that it burst open, its contents practically exploding all over the room.
"Well you SHOULD HAVE KEPT YOUR FUCKING MOUTH SHUT!"
"Hey." Jack's spine straightened. "I'm the commanding military officer around here. Everyone's safety is my concern."
"My safety? My *safety*? What on *earth* are you on about? I'm as safe with Daniel as --"
Jack just reached through the flailing arms and flicked Rodney's split lip.
Rodney did pause.
But he wasn't done yet. "That's not - no one ever died from a fat lip, Colonel, I'm sure even in the military they haven't gotten that delicate about their soldiers."
"Plenty of people die from domestic abuse. And domestic abuse is one of the things that happens when prisoners of war come home."
Stopped again, Rodney's arms dropped. As did his jaw.
"You have no idea what he's going through," Rodney whispered.
Jack just stepped closer. "I know *exactly* what he's going through," Jack enunciated low and clear. "And let me tell you something, Rodney. In twenty years of special ops I never came home and hit my wife."
"Presumably your wife wasn't a sizeable *man* capable of taking care of himself."
This time Jack just laid a fingertip on the scabbed-over wound on Rodney's mouth.
"You don't *understand*. That was *my* fault. I know better. I know not to touch him. I just forg- Okay, I didn't forget. But I couldn't stop myself. You don't know what it's like, he's right there but he's *not* there and then when he's not there it's like there's something else that's there, a zombie or a, I don't even know what."
"Fine. You win. I don't know. But I don't care, either. I'm an old man, Rodney. I've been around a long time. And I've lost count of the women and kids I've seen who said the same thing. It was my fault."
Jack stepped closer, grabbed Rodney's surprisingly thick biceps in his hands. It wasn't that Rodney couldn't defend himself. It was that he wouldn't.
"It's your business and I won't tell you what to do," Jack said quietly. "All I'm saying is, it *isn't* your fault. And it's not helping anyone for you to think so."
"That's just what he said!" Rodney wasn't ready to let go of all his mad; his chin jutted out and his fists clenched but he didn't step away.
"Good. I think better of him, then."
Jack wondered what John might have said to open Jackson's eyes a little, or if it had been his own comment. Maybe both.
"He's not okay, Rodney. And I don't think you can help him. Not with this. Not right now."
"Yes. Fine. Perfect. Well, clearly you two are in definite agreement, because he's thrown me out."
"He throws you out every other night." Jack let go to hook a thumb over his own shoulder to where he'd left the spare bed against the wall for Rodney.
"No, this is OUT out." Rodney waved a hand at the clothes and effects that had sprayed around the room when his bag had burst against the wall. "He doesn't even want to let me sleep with him."
"Maybe that's a good idea."
"AND MAYBE IT'S NOT!"
Jack was so startled by the fury of Rodney's response, the spit flying everywhere, that he failed to even see Rodney's hands coming up until they were in the front of his shirt and he was flailing back, stepping on Rodney's spare shirts and underwear until his shoulders came up against the wall.
All that time fighting Ba'al and his men and Jack had never seen Rodney do anything like this.
"I swear to you - I *swear* - if Daniel hurts himself and I'm not there for him I will kill you."
Jack just nodded. There was no other possible response. He stayed still, letting Rodney push him into the wall.
"But if he hurt you and I wasn't there to do something about it, I'd have to kill *him*," Jack said in his most reasonable tone. "And none of us wants that."
Rodney let his shirt go.
"Nobody asked you to give a damn," he said, his shoulders drooping as he backed away from Jack.
"Yeah, that's just the way it is sometimes," Jack said as he bent over and started to gather up Rodney's shirts.
In the middle of the night Jack woke to a soft sound he didn't recognize.
He shut off most of the lights out of deference to Rodney, who didn't sleep well inside a microwave oven, as he put it. So Rodney's form slumped on the other bed was only a dim shape to him and he couldn't see any movement over there, or anywhere else in the room for that matter.
But then Rodney's head moved, and one hand, and Jack heard it again, muffled.
Jack respected a man's right to cry late at night in his own bed. But something about the sound of Rodney trying to cover his sobs with his hands, with the pillow, trying so hard not to let his shoulders shake, broke something loose in Jack and he was no more able to stay where he was than he was able to grow a third arm.
Quietly, Jack tossed back his blanket and got his feet under him, then crossed the room to where Rodney lay facing the wall.
Wrapping his blanket around his bare legs, Jack backed his shorts-clad butt onto the mattress, felt his back bump against Rodney's side.
He didn't say anything, just picked up his feet and lay down, tucking them under the trailing edge of the blanket, flattening his pillow on the bed next to Rodney's so his head wouldn't be propped up so high he'd get a crick in his neck.
He felt Rodney go still, felt the sobs, suppressed, shake him inside, then stop. Rodney didn't say anything either. He didn't move, just laying there in that stupid position, on his stomach with one arm straight next to him.
But Jack could feel the arm and part of Rodney's back squished behind him.
It was as good a place to sleep as any.
When he drifted off again, he was sure that Rodney had preceded him into sleep by several minutes, at least.
Kate Heightmeyer looked up as Daniel walked into her office, glowing golden from the morning light reflecting off the ocean. He walked straight towards her, as if he were going to rush her, or argue.
"I need to talk," Daniel said.
<span class="style5"><em>Under a Broken Moon, part 4 </em>
Jack got used to sleeping in the same bed with Rodney. He tended to sleep in the same position all the time anyway. He'd thought Rodney did the same, based on his nights spent watching Rodney sleep across the room.
But with someone else in the bed, Rodney didn't do the same. Rodney shoved his side against Jack's back when Jack took up his preferred curled-up-on-one-side position. Sometimes he flattened his own back against Jack's, and they'd fall asleep that way, and when Jack woke up Rodney would be half-laying over him, a heavy thick Rodney blanket squashing him uncomfortably.
He'd just poke Rodney's ribs and make him roll over and go back to sleep.
It was surprisingly easy after all this time to get used to sleeping with someone else in the bed again. Rodney's sleep rhythms weren't Sara's. But the existence of someone else's sleep rhythms at all, the knowledge that someone else might get up in the middle of the night to pee, that someone else was going to turn over when their muscles got stiff, that someone else was pushing and pulling covers, it was all surprisingly easy to get used to again.
Jack kept his own blanket because it was easier.
And that way when he woke up one morning with Rodney spooned up against his back he had something to soak up the sweat from the contact. Because Rodney gave off a lot of body heat in the bed, and so did Jack.
He'd given up wearing sweats to bed and stuck with shorts.
And one day he asked Bates, who was in charge of housing supplies, to find a bigger bed for his quarters.
Bates didn't even bat an eye.
Of course, Bates was bugfuck nuts, so it was hard to use him as a gauge for life in Atlantis in general.
But in the larger scheme of things, Jack didn't figure it mattered one goddamn bit.
Bates found him a bigger bed and had it moved into his room. He left the spare against the wall.
That night when Rodney came in he looked puzzled for a moment. 'His' bed was still against the far wall, but Jack was lying in something that looked king-size.
"Was I crowding you?" said Rodney, with one of those ultra-vulnerable looks that Jack could too easily decipher and didn't like.
"A little," said Jack nonchalantly.
"I - I'm sorry," Rodney stuttered, stumbling off to the bathroom.
When he returned he paused halfway between the beds.
"So I should --" Rodney pointed at the smaller spare.
"Why the hell do you think I got the big one?" Jack said.
Rodney stared at him. Jack looked like he always looked at night, a ratty Air Force T-shirt, old sweatpants, hair rucked up, chin bristly. He had one bare foot hooked over the other and had a laptop balanced on his thighs.
Tentatively, Rodney went over to the other side of the big bed, and instead of flopping himself face-down on it like he usually did, he lay on his back, arms straight at his sides, staring at the ceiling.
Jack's fingers tapped on the keys for a while longer, then clicking it shut, he tucked it away beside the bed before dimming the reading light - he didn't turn it off - and taking up his usual position in the bed.
He could feel Rodney lying in the bed, stiff as a board, even though they weren't touching anywhere.
After a while Jack sighed and rolled over. "Do you want us to go back to the little bed?"
"Don't you think this is an extremely odd conversation for a straight Air Force colonel to be having with me?"
"Rodney, I don't get through the day by judging what's weird and what isn't. I've got enough problems. Do you want us to go back to the little bed?"
"I don't want to crowd you."
"I don't mind it, actually. I thought we could use some more room. I'm not tiny and neither are you."
"I don't want to make you uncomfortable by touching you."
"It doesn't make me uncomfortable!"
"Obviously it does."
"Well, in a purely physical sense, when I've got a hundred and eighty pounds of physicist leaning on my ribs, yeah, that's a little uncomfortable. But it's no big deal."
Rodney gave up his motionless strategy and clapped his hands over his face. "As God is my witness, Jack, I don't know what you want me to do."
"I want you to relax and go to sleep!"
Twenty minutes later Jack could tell this sleeping thing was going nowhere.
With an annoyed grunt, he shoved himself backwards across the expanse of broad Ancient bed till his back met Rodney's side, squishing his arm against it the way he had the first night.
"Go. To. Sleep."
Rodney didn't say anything else.
But Jack finally felt him drift off, just a little while later.
And then Jack could finally sleep himself.
"Did you hit Dr. McKay more than once?"
"So tell me when that started."
"I don't remember the date. A few weeks? or months? after -- after."
"Do you remember how it happened?"
"Of course I do."
"Tell me about it."
"We were -- we were having a fight. No, we were making love. I think it was both."
"Is that the way your relationship works? Fighting and making love being almost the same thing?"
"No. Well, ... no. No, we were making love, and that was fine, and then I got angry and then we were fighting."
"What made you angry?"
"Do you want to talk about something else?"
"I know you're very impatient with the speed of this process, Daniel. We don't have to talk about this now. But if you can tell me it might help us go quicker."
"He asked if I wished he was Ba'al."
"And that made you angry."
"Yes it made me angry!"
"Do you remember why it made you angry?"
"It's pretty fucking insulting, don't you think?"
"Which one of you did you feel that Rodney was insulting?"