Area 52 HKH

Under A Broken Moon 2

Under A Broken Moon Part 2

by dith

URL: http://area52hkh.net/asd/dith/undera02.php
Summary: See the first part.

"If you want your hair cut, I'll do it."

Wu looked up -- and up -- at Teresa Jones with her near-black eyes wide and round. "Would you?"

"Sure. I can't promise anything, it's not like I'm particularly good at it or anything. I cut a few friends' hair back in college."

"It's just -- the straight long pony tail, it feels too heavy. You know?"

"No, I don't know." Teresa grinned as she ran a hand through her own fine, thin blonde hair. "But I can guess."

"What do you think, Peter?"

"About what?" Grodin's long brown hands moved absently across his clipboard, filling in statistics that Dr. Weir asked him to record daily. Number of calls made. Personnel he'd called on. Status of everyone away from Atlantis.

He put "Last known sit: OK" next to Major John Sheppard's Name for the hundred and fourteenth day.

"What I should do with my hair?"

Peter blinked as he looked up. Not very far; he was tall and Wu was tiny. "Why, is there something wrong with it?"

"It's just boring. You wouldn't understand. All you men get your hair cut by that Marine with the clippers. It's not the same."

"No," Peter said absently. "It's not the same."

"Look, swing by my quarters before dinner and we'll take a stab at it," Teresa told her. "If it sucks altogether, we'll have the Marine shave your head."

Park squeaked.

"Hey, I didn't promise you a walk in the park. No guts, no glory. And hair grows back."

"Right, right," Park kept repeating to herself, watching Teresa's tall, elegant form stride away. "No guts, no glory."

She sat back down next to Peter, her hands freeing her hair from its thick, heavy ponytail, catching it up against the back of her head as if it were already shorter and lighter.

"I think it'll make a big difference," she said in a satisfied way.

Peter didn't answer.

---

Deep in an underground tunnel, Rodney had to hotwire an alien control panel so that they could get out of the booby trap that had sprung on them.

"I think if someone were going to come and get us they'd have done it by now, sir," Teresa said, tapping the hilt of her belt knife against the walls, looking for hollow spots.

"Yes, unless the people who set this up live several solar systems away and need to travel to get here. Think a little bigger, Airman," Rodney muttered into his chin.

"You think we set off an alarm or something when the door came down?" Teresa paused in her tapping.

"How on earth should I know? I do know if you don't shut up I'm not going to be able to decipher these amateurish wires without getting myself shocked."

"Been awhile since you dealt with something that didn't have crystals in it, huh?" Jack said from his position leaning against the far wall, in the shadows.

"Maybe if Daniel had read the inscription over the door that said 'Booby trap, do not enter' before we tripped that wire, we wouldn't be stuck in here."

"Hey," Daniel said mildly, adjusting his grip on the Maglite as he shone it over Rodney's shoulder onto Rodney's work so he could see. "Even I need something to go on. That language - we're assuming it was a language - meant nothing to me."

And we should have taken some photos and gotten the hell out of here, Jack thought. I'm losing my paranoid edge. What on earth made me think the tunnel would continue on past this room? "We all thought it looked safe enough," Jack reminded him.

"And we are. Perfectly safe. In a metal box. Sixty feet underground. I feel so safe I can hardly stand it. No, not THERE!"

Pushing himself away from the wall, Jack stepped in that silent way of his to Daniel's side, took the Maglite out of his hand, adjusted the angle.

Rodney did not seem to notice the change of hands. He said, "Finally!"

Neither Jack nor Daniel quite understood the look they gave each other.

---

"You've never told me why you hit Dr. McKay the first time."

"Do we have to keep going over it?"

"No. We can talk about something else. I'm just confused."

Sigh. "I was angry."

"But lots of people get angry and they don't hit other people. Was it an urge you had before you thought about it?"

"Yes."

"Did it feel better once you'd done it?"

"No."

"Why do you think you did it again, then?"

"I don't know. I'll have to think about that."

"How's the eating going?"

"I still can't stand to have food in my mouth."

---

When the next big wave rocked Atlantis, it was night.

Jack rolled out of the bed and had his feet into boots before they'd even hit the floor.

"Now we get to find out how well your seismometers worked," he said as he ran out.

Rodney, moving much more slowly, had one foot tangled in the wrong pant leg. Dried drool was caked on the side of his chin and his left arm was asleep.

He didn't know if he'd been laying on it or if Jack had been laying on it.

He did know that Elizabeth would be looking for him very close to now.

---

"Report!"

She hit the control room at a dead run, a silky chemise such as one might sleep in draped over her day slacks. Her shoes weren't tied.

"We have a report of a crack on the east pier," Peter informed her immediately, hands and eyes still moving incessantly. "No structural internal damage reported, though again, some small things, like last time."

"No one learned not to leave the fragile stuff on shelves?" Weir sighed as she leaned over Wu's shoulder. "Any word from Bates?"

"Yes, he's checked in, supplies are fine," Park spoke up. "He wants to know if he should count heads."

"Tell him yes. I want every person accounted for." She looked up as Jack slid into the room. "That includes offsite personnel."

"No one offsite except for Major Sheppard and that botanist, what's-his-name, Parrish, we sent over to look at their crops."

"Check in with them, please. Rodney?"

Peter automatically put Rodney's response on the speaker so they could all hear him.

"I'm on duty, Elizabeth."

"How's your seismometer network working?"

"Shockingly well, of course."

"And your satellite?"

"We'll find out," and Rodney's tone sounded grim. "I'll have my team analyze the data. I could use someone from communications to help out."

"Park can do it," Peter said, nodding at her.

"Fine. Park, would you head down to the laboratory, please?"

Daniel arrived, bare feet squeaking against Atlantis' cold floors, blue eyes wide open. His T-shirt was on inside out.

She smiled as she turned to him. "I've been meaning to ask you for your research report," she told him.

"I've been avoiding giving it to you, because it's got nothing in it. There's too much for me to sift through, even with the most general of search terms, and be certain I've covered all the possibilities. But this does seem to be new. Atlantis does not seem to have much history of geological instability."

"Perfect," Rodney's voice came over the speaker. "If this really is because I blew up a moon, I'm going to owe Kavanagh twenty dollars."

"Canadian dollars, or the real kind?" Daniel grinned at the speaker.

"I can't believe that losing a bet is our biggest problem right now," Elizabeth said, but the sense of relaxed anticipation running through her team relaxed her too. Right or wrong, they didn't seem all that worried, and it was hard to make them worry. "Let's find out if we have any big waves heading our way or towards the Athosians, please. Colonel, take your away team --"

"Not me, I'm busy." Tinny voice from the speaker.

"-- minus Dr. McKay to the mainland settlement and report back. While you're there, apprise them of the tsunami threat and make sure they're aware of their options."

"WHAT options?" Daniel looked puzzled.

"Sink or swim, I guess," Jack told him before heading out the door.

---

"How come the younger girls have these things tied around their wrists?"

Teyla grinned. "It is not only the younger girls," she said, pointing at a few women in their sixties who were dancing around with their flowerlets hanging from leather thongs tied to their wrists.

"Fine, then. I don't get it." John put a finger out as if to touch the flowerlet hanging around Teyla's neck, but pulled it back. "How come, then?"

"They are free women."

"Free? How much do the rest cost?"

"You think you are funny, John, but you are not."

"Yours is around your neck."

"Of course."

"So you're not free?"

"No." She shook her head slowly, looking into his eyes. "I am not."

"Anyone I know, this person you belong to?"

"I believe you do."

John thought he should have felt tense, should have been worried. But the strange thing was, he wasn't. "Don't I get a vote?"

"It is none of your business if I consider myself taken or not," Teyla said, tossing her hair back and swigging from the rough cup without meeting his eyes again.

"No?" John took the hair-tossing as a challenge, sliding his hands into it, stroking it away from her face. "Even if I do the taking?"

Teyla's eyes closed as his thumb stroked her earlobe. "Do you think you are likely to?" she whispered as his head drew nearer and nearer to hers.

"I think I am likely to," he whispered back before his mouth closed over hers.

It was a slow kiss, sweet, serious, like Teyla herself, John thought, wondering why he hadn't done this before, hoping he wouldn't remember. She tasted of grain and alcohol and salt, like everything he had to eat, everything he lived on. And she smelled like flowers and hot skin.

The shaking of the ground beneath them took them a while to notice.

"Whoa," John said, breaking away first. "I hope *we* didn't do that."

She grinned at him before there was a crash and sparks and flames flew. "The smoking tent!" she groaned and slipped away before he could reach for her again.

He jumped up and followed her, and they were busy for a while, retrieving half-smoked slabs of meat from the wreckage, brushing the ashes off them, putting out the fire.

"What are we going to do with this?" Teyla stomped a foot as she surveyed the wreckage.

"It's a tent. Grab a few spare poles, wrap some hide around them. I'll scare up something to be the new smokebox."

"This is *not* what I wished to be doing right now!" She sounded much more put out than a burned smoke tent seemed to warrant.

John felt himself grin. He couldn't help it.

"Why?" he asked her, putting on his look of fake innocence. "What did you think you'd be doing?"

Growling, Teyla launched herself straight at his torso, both of them laughing as they fell, John with an "oof", onto the grassy ground, rolling as they hit. John was too smart to let her catch his hands; squirming out from under her, he bounced to his feet.

"Tent. Fast. Right? Otherwise your meat will go bad," he said as he danced away from her grasping hands. "Doesn't look like anything else fell over."

"No," but even as Teyla rose gracefully to her feet John was looking thoughtfully out over the trees.

"How far, exactly, would you say we are from the waterline?"

---

"I'm so bored I can't stand it," Jack drawled as he, Daniel and Teresa headed back toward Atlantis.

"I'm happy you're bored if it means the Athosians are all right," Weir's voice sounded in his ear. "And Sheppard, and Parrish."

"If they were any more all right it would have been a luau." Jack looked back at Daniel and Teresa. "Hang on, kids, I'm going to floor this thing."

"I thought it had inertial dampeners so we wouldn't notice how fast you flew it," Daniel said absently, flipping through the sketches of plants Parrish had given him.

"And I thought you were a social scientist and therefore less irritating than the real kind," Jack said, as the jumper whipped forward.

"*Real* kind? You've been hanging out too much with Rodney," Daniel said just as absently, then performed a perfect double-take as he looked again at the back of Jack's head.

But Jack didn't seem to see him.

---

"If this sort of crap is going to happen a lot we're going to need a procedure," Jack said as the senior team slumped around the conference table, all in their odd middle-of-the-night garments, all sipping something that was almost but not quite entirely unlike coffee.

Everyone looked at him.

"What?"

Daniel blinked. "Did you just say 'procedure'?"

"I am an Air Force colonel! I am just as familiar with the pluses - and minuses - of procedure as anyone else! Throw me a muffin."

Daniel tossed him one of the commissary's fake poppyseed things as Elizabeth cut in.

"I agree," she said smoothly, putting down her mug. "I'd like all of you to give me your recommendations by fifteen hundred hours; don't skip anything, please, take some time to think. Our first priority is the safety of all our people; the second priority is the security of our weapons and food supplies. Third priority is the state of the Ancients' knowledge database."

"Third pri --"

"Oh, I don't think --"

Rodney and Daniel started in together.

"Third. Priority. Gentlemen. When you get over your kneejerk reactions I think you'll agree with me. Colonel, think broadly about the first priority. Peter, your area will be most crucial in the event of an emergency, I want to talk to you about redundancy."

"Oh, I think you'll find we already have it," Grodin said, looking up from his clipboard. "Wu can perform any necessary function that I can do, and we still have two other surviving communications officers. There are also two Marines who are communications technicians."

A chilly quiet seemed to settle over the group at the use of the word "surviving". Elizabeth decided to pretend not to notice it.

"Good. I'd like your recommendation along with everyone else's at fifteen hundred. Time for some of us to get some sleep."

Jack went back to his room, kicked his boots off. Rodney wasn't there.

He figured Rodney'd still be working on the satellite and seismograph data. One night without sleep wouldn't kill him.

But Jack had a hard time falling asleep alone.

---

"So what you miss about Ba'al is the quality of the sex."

"I wish you wouldn't say it that way."

"How would you say it?"

After a pause, "I don't like to think that I miss Ba'al at all. What does that say about me, that I would miss someone who raped and killed my friends in front of me repeatedly?"

"I'm not sure. He didn't rape you."

"...I'm not sure any more."

"He didn't kill you."

"He wouldn't."

"He wouldn't. You wanted him to."

"I asked him to, yes."

"And why was that?"

"I wanted to know what it was like."

"Wanted to know what it was like?"

"Wanted to know what it would feel like."

"That's very important to you, isn't it, Daniel. What things feel like. Drugs. Sexual experiences."

"Isn't that important to everyone?"

"Why do you think it's so important to you?"

"Well." Silence. Then, "That's all there is, isn't it?"

"You're an archaeologist, a linguist. You've studied records of dozens of civilizations, their languages. Human beings do seem to find an awful lot to talk about aside from what they feel."

"It's all shorthand."

"All shorthand."

"Well, yes. Most archaeological records are lists of food supplies, army battalions, instructions for appeasing the gods. They're all about how to get along, how to survive. Humans can't experience, can't feel everything they can feel unless their basic survival needs are taken care of."

"So everything civilizations do is to clear the way for this sort of experience."

"Yes, in a way."

"And Ba'al took care of your basic survival needs."

"Yes. Well, I had food, water. Shelter."

"And he freed you to experience the sorts of feelings, explorations, that you think all humans want to experience. Sexually. In terms of knowledge. In terms of new experiences."

"I guess so."

"Well then, that might be a reason to miss him?"

Silence.

"Do you think that has something to do with the reason you miss him?"

"Something."

"But you don't like that idea."

"No."

"Do you think Rodney understands that about you?"

"What?"

"Your need for new experiences, knowledge, pleasure."

"Yes, I think he understands that about me."

"So might that be why he would forgive you? For missing Ba'al?"

A long time.

"Yeah, I can see why he would forgive me. But *I* don't forgive me."

"That's a separate topic, isn't it?"

---

"What we really need," Rodney said as he flipped his socks into the pile Jack allowed him to keep against the far wall, "is a vulcanologist."

"Funny how we didn't bring one," Jack said.

The door chimed. Rodney went to get it. "I mean it, Jack. We need to start looking seriously in the Ancient records and maybe the nearby civiliza--"

He stopped.

"Hi," said Daniel. "I was looking for you, someone told me to look for you here."

"Yes. Yes. Um. Come in."

Jack just looked up from where he always sat, back against his pillow, laptop across his thighs. On his side. Of a very large bed.

Then, seeing who it was, Jack bounced up.

"Oh, hey, I gotta -- go -- do a thing --"

"Don't let me disturb you," Daniel said, one of his quick smiles flicking across his face. "I just wanted to give Rodney the latest results of my searching through the Ancients' information. I think we're going to need to put more people on this job, Rodney."

Rodney's hand reached out and took the data chip from Daniel's.

"I'll see you tomorrow, I just wanted to --"

Daniel seemed to suddenly catch sight of the smaller bed. With no pillows on it. And then the much larger one. With all the pillows.

"Oh," he said, very, very quietly.

"Daniel, I --"

"I am SO out of here," Jack sidled toward the door as fast as he could.

"No no. No no no. I just -- Boy, I must be the slowest person at Atlantis, huh? Everyone else seemed to know exactly where I could find you, Rodney." Daniel just nodded.

Rodney's eyebrows pinched together. "It has been several weeks, Daniel."

"I know, I know. Is it only weeks? Getting on towards a few months, isn't it? Anyway. That's good." Daniel's eyes were fixed on the other pillows. Rodney's pillows. He turned his face and looked Rodney in the eye and smiled, a gentle, slight smile. "That is good. I'm glad."

He turned toward the door, raised a hand in general good-bye to the room. "See you tomorrow," he said as the door slid shut after him.

Jack sighed. "I need a drink."

"You need." Rodney was still standing in the middle of the floor, Daniel's data chip in one hand, one sock still on.

Jack sat back on the edge of the bed, slowly, watching Rodney a little warily. "I don't mean to sound nosy," he said, trying to make his tone conversational, "but all this time, he didn't know where you were?"

"I thought he did."

Rodney still stood there. He hadn't moved. His eyebrows, pinched together by a puzzled frown, hadn't moved either. His eyes still watched the door.

"Everybody does. Hell, I'd be surprised if everyone doesn't know about the bed," Jack said. It was Atlantis, after all. Rumors fly fast in groups of small people.

"The bed," said Rodney.

"I think *you* need a drink," Jack said, reversing his motion and coming back up off the bed toward where Rodney stood in the middle of the floor.

"I need."

"Yeah." Jack took the data chip away. "You need."

"No one ever asks me what I need."

"That's because you tell everyone, all the time, at the drop of a hat."

"What? Those are basic survival needs. Food. Assistants who are not idiots."

"100-SPF sunscreen."

"Basic survival."

"Sorry." Jack laid the data chip carefully down on the table. He never used that table. He thought of it as Rodney's desk. "What else do you need?"

"I need -- I need --"

But Rodney's throat was working, and he couldn't seem to get any other words out.

Jack pushed him in the middle of his chest, and he dropped back on the edge of the bed. With a smooth motion Jack bent over and pulled off the other sock, tossed it into Rodney's laundry pile.

Going back to his side of the bed Jack took up his laptop again.

"He thinks we're sleeping together," Jack said mildly.

"Duh. We are," pointed out Rodney.

"You know what I mean. He always like that? Just a pat on the back and a good for you?"

"Yes. Yes, he is."

"Huh." Jack's fingers tapped on the keys. "I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't get that guy."

"You find a lack of jealousy inexplicable?"

"Nah, I don't think that's it."

"You don't understand him."

"Isn't that what I just said?"

"What I mean is, you're very old-"

"Watch it."

"-fashioned, very old-fashioned, don't interrupt me just to start an argument, I find that extremely irritating." Blustering, Rodney finally unzipped his shirt, pulled it off over his head.

Jack considered that a good sign.

"You're old-fashioned, you're monogamous, you're straight, you're military, you're a lot of things that are pretty far from Daniel's lifestyle, of course you don't understand him."

"Well, you got three out of four right."

Rodney's lip curled with frustration. "What? Which three?"

Jack just looked up.

"Never mind. Dammit, now I'm irritated and I can't go to sleep when I'm irritated."

"Just lay down. You'll get over it."

Instead Rodney went into the bathroom.

He didn't come out again for so long that eventually Jack gave up waiting. He didn't call. He went to the small door. Opened it without knocking.

Rodney was standing in front of the mirror. He was just staring at himself.

"Need something, Rodney?" Jack asked softly.

He expected Rodney to answer that he needed Daniel.

Instead Rodney just said, "Yes." And pushed past Jack and got in the bed.

When Jack got in and dimmed the lights, Rodney didn't hesitate. He didn't squish and he didn't shove and he didn't lean. He reached out and pulled Jack's arm around him and rested his head on Jack's shoulder.

And went promptly to sleep.

Jack lay there hoping that this was at least one of the things Rodney needed that he didn't know how to say.

---

In the middle of the night Jack woke, drowsily, from a deep, deep sleep.

He'd turned back over on his side at some point in the night. Rodney was spooned against his back. And Rodney was awake.

That had apparently been enough to wake Jack up, Rodney being awake.

And Rodney felt the change in him, because he said, so softly that Jack wouldn't have been able to hear him if he hadn't already been awake, "I've loved Daniel my entire adult life. There are no words to describe how utterly bizarre it is that we are lying here together in this bed like this. But I'm starting to think it might even be more bizarre that in all that time together Daniel never once asked me what I needed. And even that isn't as bizarre as the fact that you did."

"You think too much, Rodney," Jack rasped, patting Rodney's hand, and falling back to sleep.

***

Under a Broken Moon, part 5

I would be, for you, a fire in a rainbow,
I would be, for you, an opening door.
Time and hard lessons are one kind of wisdom.
Try to forget them or love me no more.

Elizabeth woke from a deep sleep.

Bates was standing over her.

She screamed and threw herself out of the far side of the bed.

"Sorry, sorry," and Bates did look truly repentent. He didn't move from where he stood.

Elizabeth considered letting her heartbeat return to normal speed.

"Sergeant Bates. Is there a problem?"

"No, no."

Elizabeth considered letting the screaming start again.

Instead she said, "Then why are you here?"

"I wanted to make sure you were okay."

"I'm fine, Sergeant."

"Are you sure?" He looked as if he were listening to something playing rather far off. "I keep thinking that - that you're supposed to be somewhere else."

"Somewhere else?"

"I think Darth Vader is trying to find you."

Elizabeth forced her hands to stay still. "We killed Darth Vader, Sergeant, don't you remember?"

"Oh yes. That's right. I saw the head."

Elizabeth nodded slowly. "That's right. So now you can relax."

"Except - except who do you fight now?"

"I'm not sure," she told him, honesty making her voice tremble a little, "but I'm sure there will be several options."

"I'm sure, you're right," and he nodded to himself.

"Your assignment now is to return to your quarters," Elizabeth added, clearly.

"Oh. Of course."

He turned and went to the door and Elizabeth was waiting, strung as tight as a bow string, willing, willing him out the door.

He stopped.

Bates looked back at her and said, "You're just so beautiful when you sleep."

"Thank you, Sergeant."

When he'd left and the door was shut she picked up her headset; it rattled on the table before she was able to pick it up. "Security. Report to my quarters, please."

---

"The fault lines lie here, here and here," Rodney said, tracing his finger along the red lines on the map. "That's what we're deducing from the satellite info that we've modified to take readings on density and heat as well as --"

"You faked it into being ground-penetrating radar."

Rodney shot Jack a narrow-eyed look.

"What?" Jack added.

"Yes. Well. These instruments *are* being stretched to their utmost capacity but I feel quite confident in the results we've achieved."

Both Jack and Daniel smiled down into their coffee.

Jack noticed. And stopped smiling.

"But there's a problem," Kavanagh put in from the floor.

Rodney shot another glare his way. "Earthquakes aren't a problem?"

"Oh yeah, they're gonna be a big problem." Kavanagh brushed this off without a qualm. "But what we discovered when we re-aimed the satellites - we've got a bigger problem."

"I'm looking forward to hearing about it someday," Elizabeth said dryly.

Daniel leaned on his hand, made "get on with it" motions with the other one.

"Well, it's the moon debris," Kavanagh began.

"It's headed this way," Rodney finished.

"Wonderful," said Elizabeth. "When can we expect it and what will it do when it gets here?"

"It's riding in the same orbit as the previous moon, just, you know, a lot more spread out." Rodney tapped the Ancient table and a hologram displayed them - Atlantis. There were glittering specks all around it, most of them clumped in one place. "They're establishing new orbits and some of them of course are going to be attracted by the planet's gravity well and boom."

"Boom." Elizabeth's look invited amplification.

"Don't be dramatic, Rodney," Kavanagh shook his head. "There will be impacts. We don't know where. We don't know when."

"Why hasn't this happened already?"

"Well, it has. Lovely falling-star storms we've had, haven't we? The moon was considerably farther out than Earth's moon is from Earth, and on a rather more elliptical orbit. Most of the larger - chunks - were destroyed in the blast of the main weapon, and many of the rest were pushed out of the plane of orbit by the force of the weapon's action. But some are --"

"Some are headed this way," Kavanagh interrupted.

"Yes. That's what I was about to say. They are headed down to the surface."

"Anything we can do about them?" Elizabeth had a no-sleep headache already from Bates' visit. She could feel it getting worse.

"Blow them up?" Jack put in helpfully from his seat.

"Perfect, a military answer," Rodney half-snorted.

"Well talking to them isn't going to help." Daniel put in, surprised.

"...No. I suppose not." Rodney ceded the point with ill-grace.

"So we're still on blowing them up?" Jack was starting to look interested.

"Do we have a choice?" Elizabeth spread her hands and leaned back.

"Atlantis doesn't want us here, does it?" Peter said.

They all looked at him.

"It doesn't seem like it does," he said, his voice trailing off into silence.

"These are man-made --"

"--McKay-made --"

"--unfortunate by-products of a battle we've already survived, gentlemen, and we'll survive this one." Elizabeth bent a laser-like look on Kavanagh, both for the interruption and for the comment. Kavanagh bristled. But he stayed quiet.

"Can we detect falling debris on approach?" she went on.

"Yes. Mostly." Rodney's chin was doing that jutting thing.

"Mostly?"

"Well, big ones. Far enough out that we should be able to scramble a jumper, make it smaller before it hits - which we wouldn't bother to do unless it's trajectory looked like it was headed for Atlantis. Or the Athosian village."

"Good. Colonel, work up a duty roster, pilots that are good enough to shoot these things and make them smaller things, and have them practice. And call Major Sheppard back."

Jack debated for all of two seconds before he said, "We have enough pilots, ma'am."

"I didn't ask, Colonel." She looked around as she rose. "Thank you, everyone. Till next time."

Jack's lips were thin as he drew stars on the tabletop with his fingertips.

"I'll get him," Daniel said quietly as he rose.

Jack's eyes were searching as he looked up at Daniel. Jack ought to do it. It was his direct command.

"Yeah, okay," Jack said as they dispersed.

---

"I'm not freaking going!"

John's voice carried throughout the village and several elders winced and hurried the children down toward the river to play.

Daniel's voice was much softer.

"We need you. We need a good pilot. We need a good pilot more than we need a farmer, right now."

"I'm not going back there!"

"Are you resigning, John?" Daniel's eyes were wide open and the skyest blue John had ever seen them look. "The Colonel's made it as easy as he could for you to stay out here. But now you're being asked to report. You're a member of the mission. Are you leaving us all behind?"

"No more than you're leaving *us* all behind!" John waved an arm out to encompass the whole village. "These people don't deserve to be abandoned either!"

"We're not abandoning them. We'll be watching for debris over the village just as we will over the city."

"And how long will it take to get back here? No. No way. Give me a jumper and I'll stay stationed out here and watch over the place."

"I don't -- Okay. I'll ask. But John. Seriously. Do you intend to resign?"

John's eyes flashed green as he looked back at Daniel. He wore leather trousers and a loose linen tunic under his long sand-colored duster. There was a canteen made of an animal's bladder, waxed, bouncing on his hip and someone had made him a necklace of a mossy stone that almost matched his eyes; it was tied around his neck.

He did not look like anyone Daniel had ever met on Earth.

"Not unless I have to," John said grimly. "But I'm not leaving here and I'm sure as hell not going back there."

"I will go."

Teyla stepped forward, surprising Daniel. He hadn't known she was standing there listening.

Apparently, to all of it. Her face was locked in an expression he didn't quite recognize but it pinged some level of recognition in the back of his head.

"Teyla. Thank you, but the need is for pilots."

"You will need other assistance as well."

"Maybe so. I sure hope not. I'll relay your offer to Elizabeth." Daniel bobbed his head in recognition. "And John, I'll - I'll be in touch."

They watched him go before John turned and hissed at Teyla. "What the hell was that?"

"You are abandoning your post," Teyla hissed back at him.

John recoiled as if slapped. "I want to stay *here*. With *you*."

"We all want things we cannot have when times are hard. Atlantis belongs to all of us. We all lose if it is destroyed."

"Sheh. It won't be destroyed." John waved a dismissive hand. "Rodney'll figure out some sort of shield or... something."

"If they didn't need you, they wouldn't have asked for you."

"Oh. I see. So am I to gather that, since you haven't asked for me, you don't need me?"

Her honey-brown eyes narrowed and met his green glare. "Your logic is usually better than that," was all she said before she turned and walked away among the huts.

---

"Kate, you cleared Bates for release."

"That doesn't mean I know what he's going to do every minute of the day, Elizabeth."

"Every minute of the *day*? I'm just concerned about the minutes when he broke in to my *bedroom* and was watching me *sleep*!"

"I understand. Of course that's upsetting."

"Of course!"

"He would do better if we had medication that we don't have. He's getting a lot of therapy and a lot of attention. If we still had a medical doctor I could evaluate his condition better. We don't, and I can't. There are limits to what I can promise."

"I need more than that if there are people wandering around who are a potential danger inside the city, Kate."

Kate just looked at Elizabeth. Her shell-pink mouth twisted and the expression she made, momentarily, was one of disbelieving cynicism. "Apparently you weren't paying attention during the battle, Elizabeth. There are a lot of us who are potential dangers."

Breathing deeply, Elizabeth calmed herself. Kate was right. She was second-guessing Kate and that didn't do any good. Setting clearer guidelines, however, would.

Before she could say anything, though, Kate added, "Did he harm you?"

"What?"

"Did he try to touch you, hurt you in any way? Was he armed?"

"I don't know." Elizabeth thought back. "I didn't see any weapons. No, he didn't try to hurt me."

"So is he a danger? I agree he can't separate inappropriate from appropriate behavior and that's a bad sign. But I don't think Bates is dangerous. Definitely not towards you. For goodness' sake, he loves you."

"What?"

"Oh hell. I've been working hard not to tell you that."

"*What*?"

"Aside from the patient privilege, it's not going to do you any good to know it. Anyway. He's not going to hurt you. I don't think he'd hurt anyone in Atlantis. It's the most important thing in his world. After you."

"Kate," Elizabeth said, drawing her fingers up to her forehead, "we have to talk more, on some future day, that isn't today."

---

Miko high-fived Park when she arrived for the later shift.

Peter missed Park. He'd liked working with her. But she didn't need his help any more and he was proud of her.

Miko, the junior tech, reached out and tugged a hank of Park's hair. "It's even shorter."

"Jones is working me towards buzz-cut," Park said, and giggled. "It's something to do on Friday nights."

"Maybe she'll cut mine." Miko's hair was even darker and straighter.

"I'm sure she will. Look, go get dinner, there's berries on the oatmeal, you don't want to miss them."

"Hey, thanks!" Miko scurried off down the corridor. Peter watched her go.

"Staying to watch over me?" Park asked Peter with a grin, sitting in the chair Miko had just vacated and spinning.

"Just finishing up some paperwork."

"Hey, stay all shift, see if I care. I like the company."

Peter smiled absently and looked back at his work.

---

"I really don't think it's going to do you any good to stay here all night." Jack tried again to shut the notebook.

"When I want a layman's opinion, I'll ask for it." Rodney opened the notebook again.

"I heard the briefing. Did *you* hear the briefing? The largest chunks aren't even due to approach for days. It's all very slow-moving space trash." Jack shut the notebook.

"I realize that people like you might not understand the value of working ahead rather than just trying to blow everything up at the last second, but I assure you, I know what I'm doing." Rodney opened it again.

"Yeah. I know. I've seen you do it before. You'll pull something amazing out of your ass and save the day. I'm good with that. But it'll be a lot less skin-of-your-teeth if you don't try to do it on a week's ration of power bars and amphetamines. I've seen that too. I don't wanna see it again." Jack closed the notebook, slowly this time. "Open that notebook again and I'll shove it up your nose."

Rodney opened his mouth but before he could say anything Jack added, "And don't say stupid stuff about people like me." His finger poked Rodney in the chest so hard Rodney knew he'd be feeling it for a while. "You don't know shit about me. Don't pretend you do just because we sleep in the same bed."

Open-mouthed, Rodney watched Jack leave.

"Kavanagh. Give me the latest projection as soon as the computer spits it out," he said into his microphone.

But he didn't open the notebook again.

---

It was only bad luck that the meteorite fell outside the center tower, so close to the living quarters.

Everyone could hear it whistle as it fell, even though no one could feel the jar when it hit. Atlantis was too stable for that.

The flash reminded some of gunfire. Staff weapons fire, actually.

Jack's new status-check procedure worked like a charm. Communications had a lot of traffic but it was nothing they couldn't handle. The city was safe, no one was hurt; this time nothing even got broken.

Peter turned off his console and walked back to his room.

He took out a pad of paper and made labels with names on them. He spent some time going around his room using a valuable roll of Scotch tape from Earth taping the labels to all of his belongings.

He could see the waves but he couldn't hear them from inside his room.

He left his coat in his room, with a label taped to it. Walked out to the end of the east pier, the one with the crack in it.

It only took him a few minutes to climb up over the railing and jump.

---

"Attention everyone, this is Dr. Weir.

"As you know, we've been searching for Peter Grodin for three days.

"I know we are a small community. I know rumors are bound to fly at their fastest when we are under stress and worried, especially about one of our own.

"So please, let us share the truth.

"The truth is that Peter hasn't been seen since he went off duty four days ago. The truth is that he did leave a will, of sorts, in his room. The truth is that there is no suicide note. The truth is that he didn't leave by boat or jumper or the Gate. The truth is that he was depressed and apparently, he took his own life.

"Let's stick to the facts.

"There will be a memorial service for Peter the day after tomorrow, at fourteen hundred hours, in the Gateroom. Even if you cannot attend, I'm sure that, like me, you will be thinking of Peter then and sharing our sadness that our mission, our community, has lost him.

"Please carry on."

Elizabeth sat at the console with her hands folded. In Peter's chair.

---

In her room, as Elizabeth was thinking about sleep, the door chimed.

When she opened it Kate was standing there.

Her eyes were red and her nose was red and she just put out her arms.

"I'm so sorry, Elizabeth. I'm so very sorry."

Elizabeth held her while Kate's tears soaked into the shoulder of her uniform.

---

"This isn't optional."

"I understand, I just think I already know what I need to about --"

"Jack."

Elizabeth was standing.

There was a tone to her voice no one had ever heard before and she spoke straight to the Colonel.

"This isn't about you. I understand why you are leery of anything that smacks of psychoanalysis coming anywhere near you. You have to get over it. I want all my department heads attending this orientation. We *will* learn the signs of depression and you *will* all report to me if you have *any* questions or concerns."

"It's not going to bring him back."

Daniel blinked. Rodney's eyes were round. Right at that second, Elizabeth looked as if she could kill the Colonel right where he sat. Probably just with her eyes.

She said evenly, "And it's not going to open any of your scabs, either. Do it. It's not a request."

---

Jack was last to the meeting and first to leave. He sat in the back. He asked no questions and took no notes.

By the time Rodney even got up out of his seat Jack was gone.

---

"We don't need to meet today."

"Believe it or not, Daniel, it helps me to stick to my schedule."

"Must be rough, doing this day in and day out."

"I have ways of handling it. And I enjoy it."

"You *enjoy* it?"

"Yes, I do. Don't you like your work?"

"Yes, I love it, but I don't have to talk to anyone all day while I'm doing it."

"You wouldn't like a job where you have to talk to people all day?"

"No."

"Well, I enjoy it. And I get a lot out of talking with you."

"I don't see what."

"You're interesting and these conversations are interesting."

"I just feel bad because I'm not as bad off as Peter."

"I'm very glad that you're not as bad off as Peter."

"I mean - it seems self-indulgent to be sitting here wasting your time when there are people who need your time more."

"You don't think you need this?"

"Yeah. I know I do, actually."

---

Both Jack and Rodney tended to be late to bed. Rodney because he liked to work a little in the evenings, after everyone had gone off to do evening things and he had peace and quiet in the lab; Jack because he liked to look things over before he turned in, get the sense that everything was as it should be.

But Jack had a longer bedtime ritual than Rodney. The toothbrushing, the email review, the reading in bed, these things took time. He started earlier because it took longer. He was almost always in bed by the time Rodney came home, stripped off his clothes, and threw himself unceremoniously into the bed.

This time Rodney was there first.

He was sitting on the bed with a book, which he never did.

Jack wondered how long he'd been waiting.

"I have a few questions," Rodney said, closing the book.

"That's too bad," Jack muttered, sitting at the foot of the bed to untie his boots.

"Do you have something against Heightmeyer?"

"No."

"Do you have something against people with depression?"

Jack just snorted. "How could I?" he mumbled. He always lined up his shoes side by side next to the bed. Ready for a fire call if necessary.

"Are you on anti-depressants?"

"Rodney." Jack's tone was dangerous, a warning.

"I want to know. I think I get to ask. I'm the guy who sleeps in your bed."

Jack whirled and stared at him.

Rodney just asked again. "Are you on anti-depressants?"

"Where do you get this sense of entitlement, Dr. McKay? There is no contract that goes with half the bed. If we were swapping bodily fluids, you'd have a right to ask about diseases. That's it. That's where the rights start and stop."

"Fine. I have no rights. I want to know. Are you on anti-depressants?"

"Why the *hell* do you want to know?"

"Are you kidding me? Jack, I've been staying here with you for months. I don't know one thing about you. I have a feeling, admittedly just a hunch, based on your behavior today, that what happened to Peter might happen to you. And if it does I'm going to lose the best friend I ever had."

Jack, startled, twisted on the bed. Rodney's mouth was making extremely unattractive shapes. He looked like he was working pretty hard to keep his expression neutral.

Rodney should never try to keep his expression neutral, Jack thought. He sucked at it.

"Yes. I'm on anti-depressants," Jack told him quietly.

"If you stop taking them, will you tell me?"

"Why?"

"Because you won't tell Heightmeyer and you need to tell someone."

"Rodney." Jack's voice got even softer. "It's nobody's business but mine."

"Does Elizabeth know that her military head is self-medicating?"

Jack's mouth quirked into half a smile. "She knows. It's not like we've had a choice since we lost Beckett."

"You could go see Kate."

"I don't want to see Kate."

"What is this prejudice you tough guys have against therapy? Is it so wrong to need help once in while? Is it really better to suffer in silence than to just put your hand up and say yes, I need something?"

Rodney looked really irritated now.

Jack couldn't suppress a smile.

He crawled on his hands and knees up the bed to sit next to Rodney, back against the wall. "I don't know," he said, very, very quietly. "Is it?"

Rodney opened his mouth to point out that he didn't suffer in silence. When it was necessary he absolutely did point out what he needed, thank you very much, as was only sensible and right, not to say his due as a valuable member of the expedition.

But he knew what Jack meant.

They were quiet for a long time, sitting there.

Jack had even dozed off. It was nice, just sitting, the side of his leg against the side of Rodney's leg. Human companionship.

Rodney finally said, "So what do you need?"

Jack smiled without opening his eyes.

"I kind of asked you first."

"You answer first."

"Well, I'm not too sure," he said, chin settling on his chest, arms folded in front of him. "I need company. I don't know why, but you don't get on my nerves, so you're it. I need not to 'talk about it'." His hands released to make scare quotes in the air. "I need to feel like I'm doing some good for someone, somewhere. I need my second in command, but I can't have that. I need for no one else in Atlantis to die - probably won't get that either. I need a big superweapon that I can use to blow up anyone else who tries to give us any shit." He opened one eye, looked over at Rodney's profile, pointed chin, pointed nose, very close by. "Maybe you can build that for me."

"I'll get on it." Rodney's arms were also folded across his chest. "I notice that women aren't on the list. A woman."

"Nah. Atlantis is full of women. I don't see the point."

"Is that one of the sexual side effects of the antidepressants?"

Jesus, he was one nosy bastard. "Probably."

"So it's not that I'm cramping your style by being here."

"Nope."

"But you are straight."

"Christ, you're pushing it tonight."

"I have a reason for asking."

"I bet." Jack sighed. "I like having you here in the bed. But I don't know that it means anything. I don't know that it means nothing, either. I have no urge to watch gay porn, dress better, or decorate the room. I'm not sure how gay that does or doesn't make me."

"But you don't have any urge to --" Rodney waved his hands helplessly.

"Yeeees?" Jack said indulgently.

But Rodney just stuck out his chin and glared.

So Jack took pity on him. "I like having you here in the bed," he said again.

Rodney seemed to consider this. "But not wanting anything more -- could also be a side-effect of the antidepressants."

Jack shrugged. "I don't like blaming everything in my life on pills."

"But you're not going to stop taking them, are you?" Rodney twisted, and his hand reached out to grab the tail of Jack's shirt, crumpling it fiercely. "Please, tell me you won't stop taking them. Not without telling me."

"All right, Rodney," said Jack, entirely against his will. "I won't."

Rodney settled back into his former position.

"Geez," Jack added. "You might just be a little more worried that I'm not all that worried about the idea of sex with you."

"Oh, I'm freaking out, believe me."

"Yeah." Jack's lips twitched. "Not really your type, huh?"

"What?"

"I mean, compared to Daniel, I can see how I'd be a come-down."

"You're joking, right? You must be joking."

"Well, I wasn't, but maybe I'll start."

"Be serious. There is not a woman or a man in this base who would not sleep with you in an instant. I don't care how straight they are."

"Why thank you. I think. You're probably just saying that because I said you were good-looking."

"That's right, you did." Rodney paused before he said, "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

There was another pause before Jack said, "Too bad there's no room in this bed for some of these other people you say would be so hot for me."

"I don't know, it's a very large bed. I'm sure we could fit another one or two comfortably without any logistical difficulty."

"No, Rodney," Jack said quietly. "We couldn't."

---

They drifted into their night routine and then into sleep without Jack ever pointing out that Rodney hadn't answered the question. About what he needed.

He hadn't exactly forgotten; but he didn't ask again.

That night, when Rodney rolled over and woke Jack up, Rodney settled his arm over Jack's waist and muttered "This" into the back of Jack's head.

Jack didn't remember till morning. Took him a while to figure out what Rodney had said.

He was answering Jack's question.

***

<span class="style5"><em>Under a Broken Moon, part 6 </em>

Before Elizabeth was even dressed the next morning Jack was at her door.

"I got an idea," he said. "And you're not going to like it."

---

"No, I don't like it, in fact I hate it!" Rodney's voice was getting a little louder every time he spoke.

"I don't like it either." Elizabeth looked meaningfully at Jack, who just spread his fingers. "I'm open to other suggestions."

"Look, in just a very short while I will have the shields up and running. It won't be at full power but it should be enough."

"These aren't focused weapons, Rodney. They'll hit all over, very likely all at the same time. One hole in the shields --"

"Daniel, I'm aware of the problems."

"Can you extend the shield over the Athosian village?" Elizabeth pressed.

"No. I can't. However, we can evacuate them and bring them here."

"Evacuating them isn't going to solve the long-term problem. There will continue to be meteorite falls --"

"Having the Colonel doing his space-cowboy act riding through planetary debris blowing big chunks up into littler chunks is also not going to solve the long term problem." Rodney's face was getting red.

"If we can eliminate most or all of the debris that might pose a threat --"

"Well we can't!" Rodney's hand slapped flat on the table. "Let's get this through our collective head, shall we? It's a danger. Yes. We can handle it best by letting the atmosphere destroy most of the debris for us. Some of the larger pieces will hit the ground intact. There's a slightly higher chance that someone on this planet will die from a meteorite strike than there was back on Earth. But that's no excuse for any ridiculous grand-standing gesture by our senior military officer."

"Rodney."

Jack's voice cut through Rodney's diatribe.

"I'm a pretty good pilot, you know," Jack said mildly.

Elizabeth took advantage of the pause. "I wouldn't even consider this if there were a high risk attached to it. I'm *not* prepared to lose our senior military officer. Colonel O'Neill assures me that he can significantly reduce the risk of large meteor strikes at minimal risk to himself."

"That's because he's extraordinarily ignorant of the laws of physics and extremely well-informed on the techniques of blowing things up," Rodney shot back.

He turned to point a finger at Jack. "Are you even aware of how tightly packed the debris is? We're not talking about little fist-sized rocks, we're talking about rocks the size of houses. The jumper is not going to react well to bumping in to those."

"The shields should take quite a bit of abuse before they even start to strain," Jack pointed out.

"There's the little question of force to consider. Did they cover mass times velocity in colonel school, or did you skip that day?"

"I think the inertial dampeners can handle a lot." Jack's lips were thinning but that was the only visible sign of irritation. Daniel and Teresa were backing up from the table.

"Not to mention their movements will be erratic at best. All that jumper needs to get stuck between two rocks of a few kilotonnes each and squish. No more Colonel." Rodney's words were falling faster and faster. "It's not an acceptable solution."

"It's not a solution. It's an amelioration."

Rodney blinked. Everyone blinked. No one expected Jack to use words like amelioration. It was an effective argument-stopping technique.

"It's not worth it," Rodney finally said.

"I think it might be." Elizabeth leaned in. "If it can be done safely. I'll be talking to the Colonel about this further. I'd like to see some simulations and I'd like them to be based on the latest data regarding the debris and its location and speed. Let's get together here at fourteen hundred and review."

"No."

Daniel and Teresa just looked at each other, each measuring the distance to the door. Elizabeth's eyes blazed. "Excuse me?"

"Look, I get it, all right? I blew up a moon. Now we've got problems. I'm supposed to buckle under and follow orders because I caused the problem in the first place, is that it? Well, I'm not going to. It's a stupid plan and I don't like stupid plans. I don't like discussing them and I absolutely don't like contributing to them."

"Rodney," Elizabeth's shoulders were tensing in, "that's not it at all."

But Rodney's chin was out *and* up. His arms were folded across his chest and his words were coming a mile a minute. "I don't care what Kavanagh says, I don't care what anybody says, because it was the right decision and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I *don't* second-guess myself. I *don't* feel guilty. I *don't* regret anything I did during the battle. Maybe that makes me a freak, but I don't care."

His mouth worked but he looked Elizabeth in the eye. "I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

Elizabeth just nodded. "Good."

Rodney seemed to deflate a little.

Elizabeth went on, "And we all owe you a lot for what you did, Rodney. A lot. We all owe each other. None of us would be here today if it weren't for the actions of many of us. But that doesn't mean there won't be any more dangers and it doesn't mean there won't be any more sacrifices and it doesn't mean that any of us get to dictate what has to be done next for this mission to continue."

Rodney's chin jerked down, and back up. "Except you."

Genuinely taken aback, Elizabeth recoiled.

"Rodney. Knock it off," Jack said quietly. "We need to find out more. We need you to find out more. That's it."

Rodney pushed away from the table and stomped out.

There was a moment of silence.

Elizabeth's chair scraped back but Jack said, "He'll do it. I'll talk to him."

And he was moving quick and out the door before anyone else could say anything.

---

Jack was good at following people.

He found Rodney not in the lab, but in their room.

Rodney was stuffing his laundry into a pillowcase.

"Aw jeez," Jack said, as the door slid after him.

"If you want to get rid of your gay not-lover, there are easier ways than committing suicide," Rodney said tightly, riffling under the bed for the bag he'd used the night he'd moved in.

"You're confirming every stereotype I've ever heard about drama queens. Holy fucking hell, Rodney, don't give yourself so much credit." Jack grabbed his arm; Rodney shook it off. "I had an idea. Let's look into it more."

"Screw this." Rodney was stuffing clean clothes into the open bag. "I know what to expect from Daniel. I always know what to expect from Daniel. I can't figure out all this whatever-the-hell it is from you."

"Hey, you really want to piss me off, keep comparing me to someone who hit you."

"I didn't care if he hit me! He's... he's..." From near-screaming Rodney tailed off to silence and Jack could practically hear his brain sifting through all the things Daniel absolutely was *not*. Primarily, Rodney's.

"Yeah, he's what? He's fucked-up --"

Rodney just rolled his eyes. "Oh, and you're not?"

Gritting his teeth Jack clenched a fist but pushed on. " -- he's narcissistic, he's hooked on a dead Goa'uld, and he's not that into you!"

"Oh shut up. You don't know anything about Daniel. He's -- he's mine." But Rodney couldn't say it with any conviction.

"He's not yours, Rodney."

"Fine. And you're not mine either." Rodney spat out as he flung his computer tool pouch into the bag. "Great. I have a perfect statistical consistency of relationship failure."

This time Jack hooked his hand in the crook of Rodney's elbow, leveraged him back and around. It only took a second for him to grab Rodney's shoulders in both hands and haul him close enough to kiss.

Their teeth ground together and Rodney struggled for a moment but Jack's grip was hard and he didn't let go. And then, as if his brain had disengaged, or maybe just caught up with events, Rodney's mouth opened and his eyes closed and he wrapped a hand around the back of Jack's neck and he kissed for all he was worth.

Clearly startled, Jack's head almost jerked back, but Rodney's hand stopped it, and then Jack's mouth was open too and his eyes fluttered shut and his hands stopped grasping and were just holding, holding Rodney still, holding Rodney there, while Rodney kissed Jack as if there were going to be no tomorrow.

Which is probably what Rodney thought, Jack realized foggily as he came up for air.

"Don't be so doom-tastic," Jack muttered as they looked at each other from a few centimeters apart.

"I'm sorry. I react to catastrophe in a fairly predictable way."

"That was... good."

"You sound surprised."

"It was mostly to shut you up. I wasn't expecting it to work so well."

"I haven't shut up."

"That's not what I meant when I said it worked well."

Rodney slid his hand forward along Jack's throat. He could see, and feel, Jack's pulse racing. "Surprising."

"Yes. That's the word."

Suddenly shoving Jack away from him, Rodney's eyes looked that way Jack didn't like them to look. "And you wouldn't have done it except that you expect to fly your stupid suicide mission tomorrow. We who are about to die, and so on and so forth."

"Rodney," Jack said, "I'm not trying to kill myself."

"I'll think of something else."

"Okay. Go right ahead."

"Let's try that again." Rodney was just as suddenly flat up against Jack's chest, this time with both arms wound around Jack's middle, and that oddly broad, mobile, masculine mouth was finding its way into Jack's.

The guy was nothing if not spastic, Jack thought to himself as he tried to figure out where to put his hands on a man.

Then he stopped thinking.

Rodney eventually tore himself away from what for Jack had become a focused experience of heat and wet and evocative slick movements and good.

"I've gotta get to the lab," Rodney said, heading for the door.

Jack just watched him go. The door slid shut after him without so much as a sound.

"You're a caution," Jack said, channeling some phrase from a long-lost grandmother that came to him as he stared blankly at the door feeling a smile on his face and someone else's spit on his lips and a very puzzled sensation of what-the-hell-was-that, a sensation, he realized, that he had very much come to associate with Rodney.

---

"I never realized before today that Rodney would make a wonderful Goa'uld."

"What made you realize that?"

"Just the way he was in the meeting today. He's always been certain he was right, but I saw a kind of ... well, I guess ruthlessness in him I didn't really realize was there."

"And of course he's brilliant."

Smile. "Of course."

"Maybe that's what attracted you to him in the first place? That combination of brilliance and ruthlessness? Isn't that sort of a feature of the men you tend to become involved with?"

"I have a hard time thinking of Rodney as ruthless in general. That's not Rodney."

"Why? Who is Rodney, then?"

"Rodney's - well, he's Rodney. He's, he's always there."

"Whenever you want him."

"Yes."

"You rely on that."

"Yes."

"You know, I'm having a hard time making those pictures match. On the one hand you describe someone who's brilliant, ruthless, someone who'd do a good job presenting himself to others as a god of sorts. And then on the other hand, you're telling me about someone who's tractable, reliable, someone whom you can, essentially, snap your fingers and have any time you want."

"Rodney's not a doormat."

"I didn't say he was. I said it's tough for me to reconcile those two descriptions. Maybe one's more accurate than the other."

"Maybe." Pause. "I never really pictured him with someone like the Colonel either. He's more my type."

"The Colonel is."

"Oh yeah. Tall, tough, screwed-up enough that you can see it in his eyes. Yes, I spent my twenties on that type."

"And Rodney."

"And Rodney."

"Does it surprise you that the two of you might be attracted to the same type of man?"

"That's the thing, though. Rodney isn't. He always gets involved with people who are nice and vague and just passing through. Academics."

"People like you."

"... Yes. People like me."

"How many people like you?"

"Well. There was, uh, that one guy, liked him, um, another one in Reno, and the one Rodney said he just wrote to and spent that one weekend with... Um. I guess not that many."

"Not compared to you."

"Not compared to me."

"And the Colonel isn't his type."

"I wouldn't have said so."

"Well, maybe he's ready for a change."

---

"Teresa, go away."

"I'm not doing anything!"

"I didn't say you *were* doing anything, I told you to go away."

"She's not touching anything, Rodney."

"She's not translating anything either, nor is she doing particle physics. Go away."

Teresa retired to a corner of the room and stayed there, but she didn't leave.

Kavanagh was saying "Maybe if we reduced the power to the shield we could plug the holes" just as Jack walked in.

"Maybe we'd also reduce its strength so that even a rock with sufficient kinetic energy could punch through it. Do you really think I didn't run that simulation already? And what the hell do *you* want?"

Jack didn't even blink. "Want Daniel to run an errand for me."

"I need him."

"Well, Jones could take a stab at it alone."

"Sure, Colonel, whatever you want."

"Run over to the mainland and fetch our errant major, that's what I want."

Rodney's hands stopped moving and his jaw dropped as he looked over at Jack.

"Oh," he said, "if I were armed right now I would so shoot you in the head."

"*What*?"

"You want your second in command here *now*? Getting your affairs in order? Did you update your will too?"

"Rodney. It's only sensible."

"You *did*! You absolute, unbelievable --"

"Don't start this again." Jack's voice cut sharply across whatever Rodney was about to say. "I'm not trying to kill myself, for crying out loud. It's a sensible precaution whenever anyone goes into a situation that's less than optimal."

"You told Elizabeth it was safe!"

"I said it was low-risk, Rodney, not no-risk."

"You really are just an unbelievably egotistical, cocksure - what are YOU grinning at?"

"Nothing. Nothing." Daniel put up his hands in surrender. "Just thinking about pots and kettles."

Rodney's glare was incandescent.

"Anyway." Jack cleared his throat. "I'm through screwing around. He reports or he resigns. I might court-martial him, just for fun, though his chances of applying for a military pension seem slim at this stage." Jack fixed Teresa with a look. "Get him back here."

"I better go with you."

"Daniel. In case you hadn't noticed, I'm right in the middle of working on something where your translation skills are rather crucial."

"I can get you Villeboise to do your translations. I can help Teresa more."

"Perfect. Just great."

Jack stuck his hands in his pockets. "What do you need, Rodney?"

"What do I need? What do *I* need? I need Daniel to stay here and the Major to have come back about a month ago. I need some stimulants, I need some food, I need that little dead guy, the Czechoslovakian one, who understood a hell of a lot more about particle states than this undergraduate --"

"Hey!" Kavanagh clouded up.

"-- I need a Zed P M, I need a turkey dinner, I need a working shield, and I need something very large to hit you in the head with!"

"I'll have someone bring you a sandwich and some coffee," Jack said gently, his eyes meeting Rodney's before he turned and went out the door.

"God, what an asshole," Rodney muttered as he turned back to his computer. "Daniel, if you're going to go be useless, get that -- other person up here. Kavanagh, all I'm asking you to do is correlate the power fluctuation data with the readings on surface area, do you think you could do that? Because I think even a trained monkey could do that."

Only Ford, frozen in his own timeless nightmare in his column in the center of the room, failed to look uncomfortable from the silent tension in the room.