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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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sgafic: the principle of exclusion 2/3
children of dune - leto 1
seperis


Two days later, Sheppard announces his presence in the labs by tripping over a trash can, nearly taking out Miko's stool, and practically glowing with well-rested- and well-laid-ness, lazy energy pouring off him in near-palpable waves. He's insulting and rude and completely oblivious to everyone around him, melting onto a stool while half the lab looks on with indulgent amusement, because it's pretty obvious how Sheppard spent his two days off. Simpson brings him coffee and mocks his hair before going with him to do checks on the almost-ZPM while Zelenka looks on with narrowed eyes. Rod really wishes Zelenka would go back to his pointless crush on Dr. Weir already.

They're assigned two missions over the next week, both of which go so swimmingly that Rod's actively disturbed, especially when Sheppard turns down a perfect opportunity to alienate the natives, instead wandering off with rolled eyes and a disgusted curve of his lip to get Ronon to follow him around the temple while he takes readings.

He also has a new gun, but Rod doesn't even bother asking where he got that or who acquired it for him. It's not like Lorne isn't casually waiting in the gate room doing something pointless with the Marines when they get back. Sheppard looks up, mouth twisting in amusement, and Rod tries to remember the times when they'd come back and Sheppard would storm directly to his lab without a glance.

It's weird.

"Have you noticed anything different?" Dr. Weir asks at the end of a staff meeting while Rod plays Tetris on his laptop, angled so no one can see. Lorne, looking loose and relaxed in the chair opposite, shrugs, while Sumner, Zelenka, and Teyla look blank. Yes, Rod thinks viciously, he has noticed something different, that being Atlantis has become strange and weird and *wrong*. It can't be just the excess power. Checking his schedule, Rod notices that he has a meeting on Athos with the council and really wishes he were just a little less irreplaceable.

After that, it's a late dinner with Miko, because somehow, and Rod has no idea how, he's fallen into a relationship.

"Rod," Dr. Weir says, and Rod tears his eyes from the screen to see Dr. Weir watching him with a smile on her face. "You and Teyla have a meeting tonight on Athos. I'm sending Dr. Sheppard along with you. He's asked for more logged flight time--" And Rod knows exactly who to blame for Sheppard taking important research time to *fly* of all things, "--and considering…" she trails off, because considering means, since he built a not-quite ZPM, let him have his fun. Great. That's just *great*.

"Right," Rod says shortly, snapping his laptop closed and getting raised eyebrows for his trouble. God, Sheppard's rubbing off on him; that's the only explanation. "Yes. I'm sorry, of course. I'd better get back to the lab and finish up then. You'll have my report tonight."

"Tomorrow's fine," Dr. Weir says, resting her chin on her hand. "Dismissed."

Gathering up his things, Rod wonders if it's the fact he only had one cup of coffee today that's affecting his mood so badly. Coming out in the gateroom, he sees Zelenka wander toward Dr. Weir's office with a besotted look, so there's something going right.

When Rod gets to the main lab, Sheppard's stretched out on the floor with three laptops, Kavanagh, and what looks like an entire box of Ancient tinker toys. "Okay, this is cool," Sheppard says, and Rod watches as Sheppard types frantically into one of the laptops and the tinker toys--long relegated to a box in the back of the lab--float up into the air to reassemble as a molecule of glucose. "Ancient kindergarten."

"That's ridiculous," Kavanagh says typing into the second computer. "They used it to get three dimensional visualizations of unstable elements."

Sheppard makes a derisive sound. "Hello, Mr. My Actual Degree is in *Sanskrit*, they have holoprojectors for that." Sheppard types again, and Rod watches naquada reform in front of his eyes. "It's for kids. Spatial training, keyboard familiarity, and the building blocks of physics."

"You," Kavanagh says stiffly, apparently trying to take control back. Good luck with that; Atlantis' computers think Sheppard is the best thing since Ancient sliced bread, "You must have been a very strange kid."

Rod catches himself from slamming down the laptop, but only barely. "Does this have any practical use, or are you two indulging in nostalgia for your long gone and probably reprobate childhoods?"

Sheppard's head comes up sharply, eyes narrowing at the tone of Rod's voice. "I thought you might need the refresher." Sheppard types something quickly, and Rod watches a molecule of water's chemical structure form before his eyes. "This is *water*. Remember? Or do I need to take it down a notch? Let's start with hydrogen."

It's not the worst Sheppard's ever been--in fact, compared to the days before he was getting laid regularly by a member of the armed forces, it's practically *pleasant*--but Rod finds himself suddenly and senselessly angry. "We're not here to watch you play with toys, Dr. Sheppard," Rod says, keeping his voice pleasant with a physical effort. "Or you, Dr. Kavanagh."

Kavanagh rolls his eyes but complies. Sheppard, long time veteran of overseeing desalinization tank cleaning, waste water disposal, and redesigning the solid waste receptacles from scratch for a variety of lab-related misdemeanors over the last three years, leans back on one arm, hazel eyes narrowed and sharp. "Are you going to try and stop me?"

Rod opens his mouth to cheerfully exile his least favorite person to the sewers--and this time, a fucking *month* down there, let him try to carry on a relationship after twelve hour days in solid waste--when Sheppard's radio goes off. Standing up in jerky movements, Sheppard touches the radio. "Jesus, *what*?"

Rod turns on Kavanagh as he scrambles to his feet, already moving the laptops back to their original spots while the other scientists look very busy doing other very important things. Turning back, he catches Miko staring across the room, a concerned look on her face, turning just in time to see Sheppard's hand drop from his radio, looking confused.

"Sheppard? If you're done?"

"Yeah." Frowning, Sheppard crouches to pick up the last laptop, then pauses, shaking his head, before getting slowly to his feet. Setting it aside, he turns toward the lab doors and walks by Rod and out without another word.

Rod stares at the door in shock. "Zelenka, you're in charge while I check on Sheppard," he says absently, going out in time to see Sheppard stepping into a transporter.

"Sheppard!" he yells, but the doors close without pause, and Rod skids to a stop, waiting until the doors opens again before going inside and checking where he went.

Programming the same coordinates, he waits impatiently for the doors to close, coming out just in time to see Sheppard pausing at the door of the infirmary.

Rod pauses, watching Sheppard staring inside, then touches his radio. "Dr. Weir? What did you tell Dr. Sheppard?"

There's a pause from the other side. "Major Lorne's team came in hot," she says slowly. "Lorne was injured as the wormhole closed--"

Shit. Right. Flicking off the radio, Rod starts toward Sheppard, watching carefully as Sheppard simply stands there. Closer, Rod can see the blank look on his face, the one Rod's grown to associate the times Sheppard's confronted with a social situation that he can't decide how to approach. "Dr. Sheppard," Rod says softly as he comes closer, but Sheppard doesn't even twitch. "Sheppard."

Sheppard's head snaps around, and the flat look in the green eyes makes Rod back off a step. "Why did she call me?"

Rod used to wonder what had gotten Sheppard to this point of utter disassociation from his species, but under the wear and pressure of actually dealing with him, it had become more of an intellectual exercise and source of humor. A kid raised by wolves would be more aware of his connection with the human race, he remembers saying once, and it makes him stop now, feeling vaguely sick.

Sheppard's still waiting for the answer, an answer obvious to everyone else, anyone else. "He's your--" Rod trails off; somehow, he can't make himself say it. "He's your friend. She thought you needed to know."

"About something I can do nothing about?" Sheppard's eyes flicker to the door. "Stand around waiting to see if he--" Sheppard stutters to a stop, eyes going very dark. Rod remembers sitting outside the infirmary with Ronon and Teyla when Sheppard had transformed into an Iratus bug, the long hours of waiting for him to die, feeling his team's quiet support, but it's nothing like this second, bright and crystal clear and painful.

"You've waited for us before," Rod says slowly. "Come on." Wrapping his fingers around Sheppard's arm, Rod leads him into the infirmary, where Carson is just emerging from a curtained bed. His tired face lightens as he sees them, coming up to Sheppard to lay a steadying hand on his shoulder.

"He's fine, Doctor Sheppard," Carson says. "A few fractures, some burns, that's all. He's sleeping now."

"Okay," Sheppard says blankly. Rod waves Carson off, leading Sheppard around the curtain, where two of Lorne's team are already assembled, looking more relieved than grave. One of the Marines almost immediately gets to his feet, but Sheppard's staring at the bed with an expression that Rod can't read.

Rod frowns, looking for the third team member. "Where's--"

There's a quick shake of head from Carson, having come in beside him, and Rod swallows as one of the Marines guides John gently to a chair before he tries to go and ends up impaling himself on something. A nurse brings another chair, and the three men sit in silent companionship, eyes fixed on the bed where Lorne lies, too pale and too quiet, surrounded by humming machines.

Rod feels Carson pull, resenting it for an eternal minute, but the grip is unmistakable, and the truth is, this isn't his place to be. Reluctantly, he allows Carson to lead him out, following him into the small, quiet office. "How?" Rod says slowly. "Why wasn't I called?"

"I was sending someone for you, since you left your radio off in the lab," Carson says dryly, then pauses. "Dr. Ferria was dead on arrival."

Rod fights the urge to break something. Dropping into a chair, he stares at the back wall. "What happened?"

"Shot," Carson says shortly, looking faintly sick. Shaking himself, he reaches for his laptop, then stops, sighing. "Lorne will be out of commission for a bit."

"But he'll be okay?" Rod flashes on Sheppard's blank face and finds himself wondering what Sheppard would have done if Lorne hadn't made it back.

"Right as rain in a few weeks."

Rod slumps in his chair, then turns as Dr. Weir and Colonel Sumner come in, looking this way and that until they spot Carson. "Through there," Carson says, pointing. "He's sleeping."

Nodding in relief, both approach the bed, and Rod pushes himself to his feet. He'll have to tell his scientists about Dr. Ferria, do the paperwork, write the letter, clean out her room--suddenly, the list seems enormous, and Rod rubs a hand absently against his forehead, feeling the beginning of a tension headache start right behind his eyes. "I'm going back to the lab," he says, ignoring Carson's concerned frown. "Call me if anything--anything happens."

*****

Rod stumbles out of the lab after midnight, ignoring a call from Miko, who's probably expecting him to be a good boyfriend and show up to grovel, but even on his best days, he sucks at that. Turning off his radio, he makes his slow way to the residential wing, detouring when he comes out of the transporter into a sharp left, thinking tiredly of Dr. Ferria.

Her body will be returned on the *Daedalus*, along with Rod's letter that says stupid, innocuous, untrue things about how she died and how she contributed nothing at all, her pile of papers classified until probably long after they've all died in this godforsaken galaxy. Coming to her door, he touches the crystals, and is welcomed into a room warm with light and the sight of John Sheppard kneeling on the floor, packing a box.

Flat eyes flicker up, see Rod, then dismiss him all at once. "I'm taking care of it," Sheppard says without inflection, setting another stack of neatly folded clothing gently into the box with hands so steady he could be doing brain surgery. Backing off, Sheppard glances around the room, and Rod does too, noting how the walls are stripped bare, the sheets removed from the bed, the dresser drawers opened.

Sheppard's been down here for hours.

"What are you doing?" Rod says slowly, trying to pull this very un-Sheppard behavior into some kind of context, too tired to try and interpret around a blank face and unyielding body.

Sheppard's hand clench on the edges of the box. "You can't possibly be that stupid, even if your Mensa score was lower than mine."

"It was not--!" Rod stops short, watching as Sheppard picks up another stack of clothing, placing it in the box before pulling the flaps over it, picking up tape from beside him, and cutting it with a lab box cutter. "Sheppard."

"There wasn't--she didn't have a lot of friends," Sheppard says steadily as he tapes the box lids flaps together. "And by not a lot, I mean, no one but her team. Ask me how I know."

Rod sits down a few careful feet away as Sheppard cuts another piece of tape. "How do you know?"

"Like knows like." Sheppard stretches the second piece of tape across the box, sitting back on his heels, mouth tight. "People like me and Ferria weren't popular with the SGC. They jumped at the chance to send us out here. No outside ties and a deep desire to get us as far away as possible."

Rod swallows. "I chose you for what you could do," he says, feeling like he's suddenly walking on broken glass.

"You got me because they wanted me in a different galaxy so badly they could taste it," Sheppard says, but the low voice lacks bitterness. "I never cared. This is what I wanted to do. This is--this is everything. Do you think I ever cared what anyone thought of me when I could have this? This city?"

Rod wonders what it is Sheppard's looking for. "You need to get some sleep," Rod says finally. He can't deal with this. He's not even sure what he's dealing with. "I'll finish--"

"No," Sheppard says, getting up to pull out another box, methodically packing the few books on the desk. "I'll do it."

"You don't have to."

"Her team can't," Sheppard says steadily. "I--they're still being treated and they need--we need to do this." Sheppard strips the desk of the last of its ornaments, movements more sloppy, and Rod unsteadily finds his feet. He should go to bed, let Sheppard work out--whatever he needs to work out.

He should do a lot of things. "Go to bed," Rod says, summoning every bit of authority he can muster. Sheppard ignores him, dumping the contents of a desk drawer into the box, spilling pencils and jump drives on the floor. "John. *Sheppard*."

"Rod," Sheppard mocks, still emptying drawers with that terrifying focus. "Rod-ney. Mer-e-dith. McKay. Rod. Jesus. It's the stupidest nickname--seriously, do you like advertising your penis issues every time someone says your name?"

Rod opens his mouth, but Sheppard's on a roll. "God, I hate people." Sheppard drops the drawer on the desk. "They're stupid. They slow down my work. They make things complicated when they don't need to be."

"Sheppard," Rod tries again, watching Sheppard's hands begin to shake. Too much coffee, not enough sleep, and now this. "Come on." Reaching out, Rod pries away a pencil clenched in one shaking hand.

"I've seen you all in the infirmary," Sheppard breathes, eyes wide, and now Rod can read them, can see the cracks in all those places that make Sheppard who he is. "I've woken up there. It wasn't like this." Jerking away, Sheppard dumps a day planner messily into the box, papers floating out like small, solid clouds before settling on the floor.

"I didn't want this. This." Sheppard makes a vague gesture that indicates the room, or maybe the Pegasus galaxy. "I *liked* my life before. I liked it, do you get that? At first this--this was just to piss you off. You come back talking about how great the other Atlantis was and then you fuck my doppelganger when he comes here. Did you think that would be *okay*? Then you fuck me and you might as well have done a comparison chart right there and then, because whatever the hell you were doing in that bed, it wasn't with me.

"So it was funny to see you freak out. Now--now I get *this*. And it's not fucking worth it."

Rod watches Sheppard turn away, dropping on the bed like a broken doll, wide-eyed and angry--the real kind, the kind Rod's never seen in him before, because nothing had ever come close enough for him to care. Hands clenched, Sheppard stares at the wall like he can break it with the power of his mind.

And if anyone could, Rod thinks, it would be Sheppard.

"It wasn't like that," Rod says slowly, but he can't be sure it wasn't.

"I never liked you," Sheppard says slowly. "It's all so easy for you. People. Getting along. It's so easy that you don't even value it. Like it's *cheap*." Sheppard's knuckles go yellow-white as he draws in an unsteady breath. "I talked to Dr. Weir. I asked for a transfer off your team."

Rod feels it again, that tightness in his chest that makes it hard to breathe. "No."

"Lorne's team needs a scientist."

"Your relationship with him makes it a conflict of interest."

Sheppard lifts his head, staring at Rod with bright green eyes. "It was a bigger conflict with you the last few years. If I could keep my perspective then, I can now." Sheppard stands up abruptly. "I'll finish up in the morning." Sheppard walks by him like he's not even there, and Rod's left staring at the last half-filled box, the mess of papers and pens on the floor, and leans into the wall, shutting his eyes.

*****

Everyone gives Sheppard a wide, sympathetic berth while he regresses to a point that makes the horror of his last three years look like a walk in the park. Rod finds himself mediating screaming matches three times a day in the lab while Sheppard tries to fit back into a skin he's already outgrown, that they've all outgrown too much to ever turn back.

It's three days before Sheppard cracks and says thank you for the coffee that Miko gives him, then looks so disgusted with himself that Rod has to fight not to laugh. After that, Sheppard gives up on the tantrums and acts like an adult, albeit one with the emotional maturity of a fifteen year old girl and a sudden, painful masochistic streak.

Sheppard insists on field training three days a week, and it'd be sad and funny if it wasn't so scary. Sheppard simply doesn't *have* the instincts or the coordination, and thrice-weekly visits to the infirmary for bloodied noses, dislocated fingers, or truly spectacular bruise sets have to be getting old, but Sheppard just takes it without a sound.

The fourth time, Teyla calls Rod at near midnight to come fetch their soon-to-be-former teammate from the shooting range, the one place, the only place, where Sheppard has few peers, and Rod finds himself leading a silent, blank-faced Sheppard back to bed at one in the morning because somewhere along the line, Sheppard forgot the meaning of limits. Dropping him unceremoniously into bed, Rod surveys the painfully tidy room, with the neat, bare walls, the carefully scrubbed floor, geometric shapes of rugs fastened flat so Sheppard can't trip over them in the dark on the way to the bathroom. As Sheppard collapses into an exhausted ball, Rod runs a finger across the spine of *War and Peace* and thinks about a scientist trying to become a soldier.

"Stop going through my things."

Rod rolls his eyes. "I'm looking at your books, not your underwear drawer."

Sheppard snuffles sleepily into his pillow. "Books tell you more than boxers versus briefs ever will."

*****

The next morning, Sheppard's quiet and distracted, and Rod catches him watching the lab door.

"Oh," Simpson says, and Rod turns to see Lorne hovering at the door, up on crutches, looking a hell of a lot better than the last time Rod saw him. Swallowing, Rod's glance flickers to Sheppard, who in a stunning act of bizarre behavior is already shutting down his work.

Rod doesn't bother reminding him it's barely three; he prefers to save his battles for times he might have a fighting chance of winning.

Looping his bag over his shoulder, Sheppard follows Lorne out of the lab, muttering something about permanent damage and the hell if he's going to carry Lorne around the city while watching Lorne limp with sharp, worried eyes.

There's a memo on Rod's computer reminding him he needs to choose a new team member, another from Teyla with a short, unhappy list of unpalatable possibilities, and a single line from Ronon to say he's tired of getting email and just talk Sheppard into coming back already.

It's not like Rod didn't try that.

Zelenka, staring at his laptop with the fixed expression of a man who isn't even in the room, but lost in sick fantasies that probably involve Dr. Weir and borscht or something, shifts beside him. "Talk to him," he says, like he's actually paying attention to the world around him. Rod frowns, but Zelenka's still staring at his screen where, Rod realizes when he cranes his neck, the man is playing Civilization IV. "You are quiet this morning. Normally this would be welcome, as your good moods are often oppressive, but not when you look so unhappy."

Rod glares at Zelenka, but apparently, his authority in his own lab is officially gone for good. Feeling vaguely nauseated, Rod pushes back, trying to figure out when his life became this. He has a girlfriend he's actively hiding from if sex is not involved, two team members making it clear his only purpose right now is to lure the expatriate back in the fold and away from his boyfriend, and an almost--former team member who seems to be going through some kind of deep personality renaissance that's making it impossible to figure out what on earth the problem *is*.

It's like a soap opera. A very bad one, with subtitles. Written by people who do not speak English as a first language.

"I'm fine," Rod says resentfully. "I'm getting coffee."

"Have fun. Tell Sheppard we say hi."

*****

Rod's not sure how he ends up involved in one of Teyla's lessons to Sheppard, though Ronon's reasons were plausible at the time. "You might consider training with her," Ronon says as they sit down on a bench while Sheppard finishes up the mandatory stretching that Ronon also requires before every lesson.

"I think our lessons are enough," Rod says warily, trying to make himself comfortable on the hard bench.

"Hmm," Teyla says thoughtfully as Sheppard stands awkwardly in the middle of the room. He looks almost painfully stiff as she circles him, correcting his posture back to something resembling correct for stick fighting. Rod watches Sheppard try to follow her and stumbling. "No, you are overthinking it. Your body knows what it is supposed to do. Let it."

Rod feels weirdly distant from them as Teyla and Sheppard move together, Ronon watching intently, as involved in the lesson as they are.

The first turn of the exercise has Sheppard lurching gawkily, one bare foot catching Teyla's knee and almost sending her down to the floor. Balancing herself, she grabs Sheppard by the waist, hauling him back up, moving his body patiently until he's once again in the first position.

"It doesn't work," Sheppard says irritably through clenched teeth. "Trust me, gym teachers have tried. And failed." Both hands are clenched tightly around the sticks, and from here, Rod can see the tight-knuckled grip wrapped around the wood.

"Then they taught you *wrong*," Teyla says firmly. "You move as if you have a stick sewn into the back of your shirt, into--" She trails off, looking thoughtful as she circles Sheppard again, eyes widening. "Ronon, give me three candles and bring them here. Dr. McKay, please lower the lights--no, not you, John," she says sharply. Sheppard frowns. "You, close your eyes and think of your body. Think of floating in a quiet pool. And do not *move*."

Ronon agreeably unfastens Teyla's bag, finding three candles and bringing them to her, along with the small, wax-stained rug that protects the floor. Setting them in a neat line, she lights each one with the lighter that Ronon produces from his pants, then glances at Rod. "Lights please."

Rod obligingly lowers them as Ronon sits back beside him, elbows pressed to his knees, eyes fixed on Sheppard with a curious intensity that makes Rod wonder if he knows where this is going, since Rod has no idea.

"John, open your eyes."

With only the light of the candles and the emergency lighting around the edges of the room, it's hard to see Teyla and Sheppard as anything but faint, dark shapes.

"When you meditate, you dismiss the world around you to search inside yourself, before you reach outward, finding oneness," Teyla says in a low, hypnotic voice. Even Rod feels more relaxed listening to it. "Your talent has always been in creating a world within your mind to reach out of. I want you to do this. Imagine your body as an extension of the sticks. You know how they should move; you have watched. Now follow them. First position."

Sheppard brings them up, more slowly than he had tried before, almost smooth, and his feet don't get caught in each other when they shift. Teyla corrects his posture with light touches, then steps back. "John?"

"Hmm?" His voice is already lower, and Rod notices that his grip on the sticks is no longer quite so tight.

"One repetition of the exercise slowly, then stop." Teyla wisely steps back as the stick swings out, and Rod finds himself watching Sheppard's body go through each move. he has none of Teyla's easy grace and familiarity, but the stretch of his body is smoother than Rod's ever seen him move, almost comfortable inside his skin, and Rod can hear Teyla murmuring--instructions or encouragement, he's not sure which one--before Sheppard comes back to his original spot. "Again, half-speed."

It's even better this time, like Sheppard's losing his grip on that stick shoved up his ass, spine bending like warming wax, a few breaks in form to Rod's inexperienced eye, but *better*. When he stops again, even Rod can see Sheppard's lost somewhere that has nothing to do with this room or the body that betrays him at every turn. Teyla's voice, dark and hypnotically low, ripples through the room. "Full speed, John."

Ronon straightens as Sheppard curves into the first turn--hit as Teyla brings up her sticks in the simple children's exercise--but Sheppard keeps going as if he didn't hear it, and Teyla retreats, following the pattern--hit, with Teyla already waiting for it--a third, and then they're back in the original position and Teyla kneels to put down her sticks, reaching out, hands resting on Sheppard's shoulders.

Rod can see the glaze in the hazel eyes before Sheppard surfaces, almost overbalancing before he catches himself, dropping his sticks to brace his hands on Teyla's shoulders. Their foreheads touch lightly as Teyla leans forward, and Rod sees her smile.

"It was perfect," she says softly.

The glaze clears completely as he pulls away, looking at Teyla in open surprise. "This is what you must learn to do. In this place, between us. Your body knows what it must do, John. Set it free."

*****

Sheppard makes up for three minutes of perfect coordination by knocking into Kavanagh's latest experiment and blowing a hole in the wall. Sheppard laughs when he helps sweep up the broken glass, weirdly braying and almost mind-bogglingly annoying, but Rod realizes he's never heard Sheppard laugh before.

It's a strange thought, and as Sheppard and Miko go to work on projections across the room while Kavanagh mutters imprecations into his lab table, he thinks he might want to hear it again someday.

*****

If there's one thing that Rod always recognizes, it's the smell of fresh blood.

Ronon's asleep, finally, and Carson calls them in for a five minute viewing. Sheppard, still filthy and pushing away every nurse who tries to check his grazed shoulder and cut cheek, is moving past the curtain before Rod can really focus on Carson's words. Their missions are almost never like this. Lorne's First Contact missions, sure, but Rod's team focuses on exploration and science, and with a very few, spectacular exceptions, this simply does not *happen*.

It's not the way it was with Lorne, and Rod can't figure out whether that is a blessing or not. Sheppard's numb shock is worn away so quickly it's like watching a different person: less clumsy, less uncertain, less hostile, checking Ronon over with the experience of someone who spent his evenings in the infirmary daily for a couple of weeks. Teyla, bruised and fragile, comes up beside Sheppard, watching Ronon's face with wide, dark eyes, and Rod watches in surprise as Sheppard reaches for her absently, fingers winding through hers before Carson shoos them out.

A nurse sees to Sheppard's graze while he sits on one of the medical beds in stoic, chilled silence, Teyla beside him. Rod finds himself nostalgic for the guy who dramatized a stubbed toe or a hangnail. Teyla keeps near Sheppard the entire time, and Rod has a sudden, visceral memory of coming into the newly uncamera'ed practice room to find Sheppard and Teyla (fully dressed, sadly enough), sitting together with only a candle between them, lost in quiet in a way that Rod found himself envying before he quickly left again.

When they've finished, and Teyla's politely rejected her painkillers, Rod watches the two of them curl up in nearby seats, acquiring a blanket from a passing nurse, both sets of dark eyes fixing on the curtained bed where Ronon slept.

"Rod," Carson says quietly, and Rod lets Carson see to his hand, clucking softly over the few scratches decorating the palm before carefully cleaning. "How is he?"

Rod glances over to see Teyla's subtly shifted Sheppard until he's stretched out over two chairs, head resting in her lap, eyes slitted half-open and unseeing. Rod can hear the low cadence of Teyla's voice. "How do you think?" Rod controls the urge to snarl, but Carson gives him an odd look anyway, putting a light bandage over the minor cuts. Pulling away, Rod feels shy as he watches Teyla stroking back Sheppard's hair. She looks up when he shifts, though, nodding, and Rod comes over.

Crouching, he looks into glazed hazel eyes and wonders what on earth he could possibly say to this. "Sheppard?" Rod controls the urge to touch, brush his fingers over the butterfly-bandaged cut on one high cheekbone, the bruise at the corner of his mouth, the wounded shoulder. There's someone else's blood on his hands and his BDUs. Nothing in his body welcomes any touch but Teyla's. "Sheppard. You're okay?"

Something flickers behind Sheppard's eyes. "No."

Rod gives up, lowering himself down on the floor, closing his eyes briefly at the wave of tiredness, post-adrenal letdown from watching his team almost die and Sheppard forced to take a life. Lives. "I didn't want this," Rod hears Sheppard say softly, Teyla's soothing voice chasing after, words indistinguishable. "I never wanted this."

Rod closes his eyes for a second, remembering the first time he met Sheppard--*It's so easy that you don't even value it.*--talking him into joining, forming the team he knew only in the most superficial sense, and now Sheppard's killed someone, someones, several someones, and nothing will ever be quite the same.

Something brushes the back of his head, and Rod turns just enough to see Sheppard looking down at him. "Yet," he says as Rod blinks. "I'm not okay *yet*. I'll--I will be." A bandaged hand pulls until he leans back, slumping against the chair, head against Sheppard's hip as he shuts his eyes and pretends he can't still smell blood.

*****

Carson throws them out a few hours later, and Rod stumbles into his room feeling vaguely drunk. Something about adrenaline crashing, maybe, and too much terrible infirmary coffee. The lights come on a little too bright and a little too fast, and he knocks into his desk trying to unfasten his jacket.

He feels--different. The room smells of clean air filters and salt from the ocean, but the bedspread is rough beneath his sensitized fingers, and even the walls, hung with his degrees and commendations and his *cat*, seem wrong, unreal, meant for someone else.

All he can see is John, pale and still and quiet, standing between Rod and three men with guns, the three neat, perfect shots that he thinks he'll hear until the day he dies.

The door doesn't chime, but that's not a surprise, even when Rod turns around to see Sheppard, still dressed in bloody BDUs, pale and looking like Rod feels. The door slides closed quietly behind him, and Rod lists against the edge of his bed before dropping uncomfortably onto the edge, wondering blankly what Sheppard could possibly want to tell him.

Tell him, This isn't what I signed up for. Wearing a gun, shooting an enemy, watching a lover and then a friend almost die. He might say, I hate you. I wish you'd never asked me, looked at me, hired me. He might say anything at all.

Sheppard drops his jacket on the floor and says, "Don't say anything."

And like that, long, lean thighs are on either side of his hips, and he's pressed into the thin Atlantean mattress with Sheppard's mouth hard on his. Something flickers on in his head that he's felt more times than he could count, hot and tight and startling and painful. Sheppard--

*John*.

John's too rough on chapped lips, clumsy like he wasn't on that planet today, something hurtful beneath that pushes to the surface with every scrape of teeth. Rod goes still, letting John take whatever he needs as he skims his hands up John's back. John pulls back, eyes wide and naked.

This is a bad, bad, dear God, *apocalyptically* bad idea. "I didn't say anything."

John's mouth quirks in nothing like a smile. "I'm surprised."

When they kiss this time, it's softer. Rod cups John's face with infinite gentleness, feeling John relax even more. Rod flinches from indistinct memories of the first time he'd fucked John. He thinks he should remember this, the curve of John's shoulder, the bony length of his spine, the sharp edges of John's hips pressing against his own. He *should* remember the taste of his skin, the soft sounds he makes. He should remember because he was the first to take this man to bed, and it should have meant something: something to him, something more than finally touching, taking something he was told he couldn't have.

He should remember, but he doesn't; it's all brand new. John goes still when Rod runs his nails down his back, melts with lips against his ear, shivers when Rod kisses him, opening him with slow licks, taking in the sharp edges of adrenaline and exhaustion and grief.

Rod builds new memories with his hands and his mouth. He touches the smooth, fine-grained skin of John's back, his arms, the changes in musculature from only a few short months of getting the shit beat out of him by Teyla and Ronon, cording and flexing beneath his touch. He learns how John breathes when Rod's fingers brush his nipples, run through the soft hair on his chest. John groans for lips against his throat, his shoulder, clutches when Rod drags his teeth over the thin skin over his collarbone, buries his sounds in Rod's flesh when Rod runs a palm over his ass, feeling every shiver. John's hands never stop moving, pushing up beneath his shirt, palms skimming his sides and his back, resting over his heart where a gun had pointed for an eternal second that Rod had thought would be his last.

John pulls away suddenly, and Rod's grasping at air, opening his eyes as John sits back on Rod's thighs, reaching down to pull away the blood stained shirt, revealing pale skin, dark hair, and the fresh white bandage on one shoulder. Too-thin and pale and *wired*, on the edge of a post-adrenaline crash, he watches Rod with unreadable eyes and lazily unfastens the top of his pants, drawing down the zipper before bracing himself on one hand and reaching, two fingers sliding just inside the waistband of Rod's pants with a tilted head the only question he's going to ask.

"Yeah," Rod says breathlessly. John's kissing him when his hand pushes into Rod's boxers, running the tips of his fingers over his cock, kissing him when he pulls them down, kissing him when he shifts his hips and wraps a hand around their cocks. Rod cups his face, thumb pressed to the bandage on one cheek, thrusting up into John's hand, against his cock, until he has to pull away to breathe and hates every second that he needs to.

John's good at this, knows where to touch, where to scrape, how to catch Rod's moans in his mouth with a thrust of his tongue. Rod fights back the wave of jealousy. Lorne had taught him this, how to touch and taste and take, and he hates Lorne so much he can barely stand it. "John."

John dips his head, licking a slow stripe up his neck. "Don't talk," John breathes over the wet skin, and Rod's honestly fine with that as long as John's hand *keeps moving*, tight and pulling pleasure through him as slow and warm as fresh taffy. "Unless. You tell me something real."

Rod's breath catches tight in the back of his throat, the words spilling out so suddenly that he's as surprised as John by the words that tumble from his mouth. "I think I'm in love with you."

He doesn't have time to understand anything he sees--a flash of hazel eyes, wide and dark, a twist of that soft, swollen mouth--because John's kissing him again, hand faster and harder and dragging out his orgasm so quickly Rod barely realizes he's coming before slick heat coats his belly. John shudders hard, once, coming against Rod's stomach with a low groan that Rod can feel all the way to his spine.

Rod falls asleep--he must have, must have--because when he wakes up, John's gone, morning light is trickling through the windows, and he can barely taste John in his mouth.

*****

While Ronon's out of commission with a broken femur, the team is restricted to the city. John--and weird, how that just slips out and stays, John, John, John--vanishes into thin air by calling dibs on the next maintenance run to the city's underbelly.

In the labs, voluntary waste management means one of three things; pissing off Rod, bad breakup, or an undisclosed psychological disorder. They all knew John was crazy already, so eyes flicker between Lorne and Rod with varying degrees of speculation and accusation.

Rod's notices that ever since John started taking a walk on the kind and gentl(er) side, his own reputation seems to be going down.

The only thing that saves this from being the single most humiliating time of his life is the fact that Lorne's looking stressed whenever Rod sees him, like someone isn't putting out anymore. But that has a corollary with the now empirical fact (based on catching glimpses of John over the week) that John Sheppard is a much better human being when he's getting laid regularly.

The worst part, though--the worst part, the part Rod would have never guessed could be possible--is that he misses John.

Rod gets three inquiries from Heightmeyer, discreet in the fashion of battering rams, before he admits there's a truth here that should have been self-evident. He tolerated John before the personality renaissance of maximum affability (for regular humans, low grade hostility, but an astronomical improvement for Sheppard) and he likes him now, and if he'd know that hitting interdimensional ass would get him to a place where his most significant relationships are with his laptop and *Miko*--

Well, he's not sure, but he's thinks he would have slept alone on the couch.

Miko looks up from her broccoli-like casserole with a concerned expression. "Rod?"

"Tired," he says, hating himself a little for the way her face falls at the short way he answers. She's nice, and she's possibly in love with him, and she's brilliant, and honestly, if he was ever going to settle down to continue the species, she's his second choice, right after Sam Carter.

Looking up, he sees John come in, freshly showered with wet hair scraped messily from his face, in the sweats he acquired from Lorne and never has given back. John looks tired and distracted, grabbing a sandwich and a bottle of water. Rod can see the fresh bruises on his forearm, which means he's just met Teyla for his thrice-weekly masochism session.

"I left something running," Rod says, starting to get to his feet. Miko nods, smiling at him as he leans over to brush a kiss against her cheek, and Rod dumps his tray, following John's path out of the messhall, catching sight of him as he take a right and goes back into the meditation-slash-workout room.

"John," he says, but the door's already closing, so if John heard, he can pretend he didn't. Jogging down the hall, Rod stares at the crystals that refuse to do so much as twitch in his presence.

"John," he says, knocking lightly, like there's some possible mistake. Then harder. "John. Open the door."

Rod pauses, then checks his pockets, coming up with his screwdriver and a handful of mints, slightly the worse for wear. Tossing two into his mouth, Rod stuffs the rest back in his pocket and starts disassembling the door mechanism. He can almost feel John's will pressing against every crystal, and John has a hell of a lot of will. "Don't be such a girl, Sheppard!" Rod yells, ignoring the two biologists who pass him with wide eyes. "Like you've never seen anyone breaking and entering," Rod mumbles to himself, and then wonders if they ever *have*. Or at least seen Rod sitting around committing some kind of misdemeanor for the sake of--oh God. He's breaking into a room to *talk*?

"Or I'm the girl," Rod tells the door bitterly, flipping two crystals. "John, open the door. It's that or the total and utter humiliation of everyone knowing you're in there and I have to disassemble an entire door to get you out. I'll tell them you're crying." Moving another crystal, Rod watches the door as it seems to tremble. "I'll tell them you assuage your broken heart with *anorexia*. And they'll believe me, too."

The door slides open, revealing a silent, empty room, one lit candle, and John, standing against the back wall, stiff and still. The door slides shut reluctantly behind him, as though even the city doesn't trust him alone with John Sheppard.

Fair enough; he's not sure he trusts himself.

The lights come on one quarter, then even into a soft, almost romantic glow--if you ignore the fact that the other half of the romantic fantasy is holding one of Teyla's sticks, tapping it impatiently against the wall.

"Are you going to hit me with that?" Rod says, eyeing the stick warily as he circles the candle, wondering what in the name of God John has against chairs. "Or just hold it and sulk for a little while?"

"I thought I'd throw myself on it, but it's too blunt to penetrate far at the maximum speed I could achieve before impact." John watches him warily, eyes flickering to the door like he's pondering escape. "Is there something you wanted, or is the standing there looking awkward thing working out for you?"

Rod grits his teeth. That's not John's best work by a long shot. "You're losing your touch," Rod says, trying to look less awkward and more relaxed even though he feels like he's going to do something stupid and desperate like ask John what he meant about how being on Rod's team for three years had been a conflict of interest. Something stupid and adolescent like ask why John had slept with him at all, if it was going to lead to drama and avoidance and apparently too much caffeine.

Of course, if Rod had been thinking, he'd have realized sleeping with anyone with the name of Sheppard leads to drama.

"What do you want?"

Rod wants to say, I miss you. I miss the clashing shirts and the temper and the way you make me work for what I want. I miss that you never made it easy. I miss you.

He says, "I'd like you to stop avoiding me. So my entire department doesn't think I'm taking some kind of epic revenge for undisclosed crimes."

John rolls his eyes, leaning the stick into the wall. "I'm meditating."

"And yet you're dressed." John's eyes narrow dangerously, and Rod remembers the stick isn't that far away. "But that's fine. With clothes. Not that I would know."

John snorts, sitting down with his legs crossed neatly as the lights drop to nothing, and Rod notices he took off his runners and socks. Circling to the other side, Rod lowers himself carefully onto the floor, watching John close his eyes, body going pliant and relaxed in a way John never is outside the infirmary and good muscle relaxants. Rod knows enough to be aware he's not supposed to be staring across a candle at John as he melts into something else, something video feeds had never conveyed.

He looks happy, Rod thinks suddenly, feeling a slow wave of guilt for all the times he'd watched the feeds.

"What are you--" Rod stops, tongue-tied and awkward. He shifts uncomfortably on the small rug. "I don't know what to do."

John's eyes flicker open. "It's more--" John frowns slightly. "Close your eyes. Find that--that quiet place in yourself."

Rod closes his eyes. "Right."

"It's not easy at first," John says, voice low, stretching his vowels indecently, and Rod finds himself shivering at the sound of John's voice like this. "It's not supposed to be easy. It's something you have to want, something you--" He stops. "Close your eyes. Open your mind. Just breathe."

Rod draws in a breath, feeling it in his lungs, in his heart, in the tight pulse at the tip of every finger, beating as he tries to echo John's quiet, John's stillness.

When Rod opens his eyes, he sees John is watching him, reflected candlelight in twin flames at the center of hazel eyes--before they flicker closed.

*****

Ronon is a terrible, terrible drinking buddy.

"Then she says, I want to see other people."

Ronon frowns a little from his slump at the other end of the bed, a pillow between them. Apparently, he's not over that thing about the handjobs yet. Pity, that.

"You were dating?"

Rod sighs and takes another drink. "Apparently so." Rod tries to avoid it, but he keeps flashing back on Miko taking his hand and saying she felt they were not on the same page and that she wanted to see other people. Except with far more words, but Rod had tuned out half-way through, because shock had set in.

Miko had *broken up with him*.

"I'm not that high maintenance," Rod tells the ceiling blearily. "I don’t ask much."

"Or anything really. Even to talk to her," Ronon says dryly, picking up the bottle to give it a thoughtful look. "Seriously. Don't you use this for cleaning or something?"

Rod tries to glare, but he just doesn't have the eye coordination for it. "No."

"John uses it for cleaning," Ronon says reasonably, and Rod narrows his eyes and wishes for Sumner, who never argued with him and told hysterically bad jokes when he drank. Ronon, the bastard, never drinks at all. "Have you considered a twelve-step program?"

"All right, no more playdates with the anthropologists for you," Rod says viciously, trying not to move his head too much.

"Movie night," Ronon says knowingly, then shifts to sit against the wall. Rod hates him so much he can barely stand it. "You need something to eat."

"If you say ice cream, I'll have to kill you," Rod promises, but he takes the bottle of water Ronon hands him, drinking half of it before slumping back against the headboard. "I'm a good boyfriend. All my girlfriends thought so."

"Before or after you broke up with them?" Ronon asks. Rod glares at Ronon's shrug. "I'm just saying. You spend all your time in the lab or panting after John. It's not like she's--"

"I do *not*!" Rod regrets sitting up that straight, because wow, new vistas of agony. "I do *nothing* like--"

"It was kind of weird and cute at first, but taking up meditating--"

"It's a team thing!" Rod says weakly. "I thought I should be involved. Since the rest of you left me *out*."

Ronon gives him a cool look. "You never seemed interested."

Well, there's that. Narrow-eyed, Rod considers Ronon. He shoots with Ronon because it's depressing to be around John and his perfect aim, goes on missions with Teyla, argues viciously with John, and enjoys being the greatest head of the science department in history. Up until recently, life was pretty damn good. Then came Colonel Sheppard--Jesus, hot, bad idea, but *so hot*--and John's massive life-changing tantrum, and now-- "I didn't even know you--what do you three do together anyway?"

Ronon shrugs. "Stuff."

"And you never ask me?"

"Did," Ronon says laconically. "You were busy."

Busy. Busy making breakthroughs in science and busy being an administrator and a team leader and--other stuff. Frowning, Rod sits back, staring at the wall. "Do you even like me?"

Ronon gently reaches for the bottle before Rod get it. "You're interesting," Ronon says thoughtfully, squinting as he looks at the Czech label like he's trying to intuit what it says via miraculous enlightenment.

"That's not what I asked."

Ronon shrugs. "You're likable."

Rod looks at him suspiciously. "Thanks. I think."

Ronon smirks, levering himself off the bed. "Come on, let's get something to eat. I think there's pie left from dinner."

Rod sighs. "Whatever. Yeah, okay. Pie." Getting up, he follows Ronon out the door, wandering down the darkened halls of the city. The messhall balcony doors are open as the night shift has their lunch, the cool air waking him up a little. Rod makes a beeline for the pie at the end of the line, then follows Ronon to the balcony, lit around the edges by pale white light to allow just enough ambient light to not fall over yourself.

Rod freezes seconds before Ronon's hand knocks into his chest to stop him.

At the end, far out of sight of the doors, John's leaning into the edge of the balcony, lazily making out with someone Rod's ninety-nine percent sure is Lorne. The one percent that isn't sure is the part that really wants this to be some kind of drunken hallucination.

It's easy, the way people are when they know each other, Lorne's hands tangled in too-long dark hair, and it's slow, just making out because you can. It's adolescent and ridiculous for adult professionals and Rod feels sick and suddenly, irrationally angry. He wants to yell something about appropriate behavior in public, but Ronon's got his arm, pulling him back inside before he's even drawn enough air to get the first word out.

"Huh," Ronon says, steering him into a chair and shoving him back down on it. "Eat." Dropping across from him, Ronon digs into his pastry of choice like they didn't just see their teammate-soon-to-be-former-teammate-God-gotta-do-something-about-that carrying on like a teenage girl in a public place. Rod stares down at his plate and hates the universe.

"They shouldn't do that in public," Rod says, getting a raised eyebrow, like Rod's responsible for that thing on Athos at the harvest festival and those two Athosian women. Which yes, he kind of is, but one, not the point, and two, that wasn't on *Atlantis*. "It's juvenile."

"Lorne's been busy with PT and Sumner's starting to take an interest in off-world stuff," Ronon says between bites. "Haven't seen much of each other."

"How do you know?"

"Been working out with Lorne."

"Do you do anything else?" Rod demands, feeling irrationally betrayed. Across the room, Rod catches the eye of one of the new planetologists, just arrived from the *Daedalus*. "You know, I'd better--"

"I wouldn't," Ronon says, and Rod gives him a narrow look, but Ronon never looks up from his pie. "Won't help."

Slamming down his fork, Rod reaches over and jerks Ronon's pie away. "Okay, stop that. When the hell did you start--"

"I'm just saying," Ronon says, taking his pie back so easily that Rod makes a mental note to hit the gym every day for the foreseeable future, "that sex doesn't solve your problems--"

"They have you watching Oprah," Rod says in horror.

Ronon grins in sunny agreement. "She married?"

Rod pushes his plate aside and lowers his head to the table. Injuring his valuable brain by repeated banging won't help anything, but he really wishes he could. "I'm not--it's not a problem," he tells the wood. No, just maybe a consideration that he hadn't considered until he watched John acting like a hooker out on the balcony. "Everything's gotten so complicated," he complains, feeling the wood agree. "It was easier before." Before what? his mind offers up, curious. Before Colonel Sheppard, before sex with John, before John *had a fit of personal growth*, what? "I didn't rip his virginity from his clinging arms like some kind of evil seducer," Rod tells the floor bitterly. "He lied."

"And time to get you to bed," Ronon says firmly, standing up. Rod lets Ronon pull him to his feet, pie thick and unpleasant in his stomach as he watches Lorne and John emerge from the balcony, wind-blown and red-mouthed and John so relaxed that Rod hates Lorne, hates John, and hates himself, too.

"I barely remember it," Rod says as they go out into the hall, Ronon supporting him in the general direction of the transporters. "The first time. I want to, though. I didn't think--it was just--"

"He wasn't easy," Rod says resentfully. "He just--why is he doing this?"

Ronon shrugs, almost knocking Rod into the wall. "Maybe he thought it was time for a change."

*****

Nothing seems quite the same after that, the weeks smoothing into the normality of Atlantis that's been missing for a while. John vanishes into his lab again, working on the next generation of almost-ZPMs, Teyla assists Dr. Weir in negotiating a treaty with a civilization that Lorne recently made contact with, and Ronon has fun terrorizing the personnel new to their Atlantis assignment by dint of staring at them while lifting his body weight. It's entertaining; Rod always tries to be around to watch.

"This is good," Rod says approvingly at the new power conservation projections. It's always been his policy to make sure his people know when they do good work. "Double check it and start running simulations. If it works, we'll start integration into the power grid this month." Giving Simpson a nod, he checks in with the repair crew currently trying to get power to a new group of labs that just opened up. Sheppard's holed up alone in one of the smaller labs trying to rework his design for the almost-ZPMs.

Everything feels relatively normal again. Rod looks up in time to see a quick, brilliant smile from the blonde engineer working with Kusanagi, a flush staining her face. Rod grins back, ducking to look at Zelenka's figures while trying to remember why she seems familiar.

"Dr. McKay," the radio chirps, Elizabeth Weir's voice tinny and tight. "Could you come to my office, please?"

Frowning, Rod leaves Zelenka to supervise, wondering if the mission schedules have changed since the last staff meeting. With Ronon about to be off medical leave, their first mission is scheduled for the next week.

Of course, Lorne's off medical leave, too, and Rod feels his chest go tight as he walks into Dr. Weir's office. "Dr. Weir?"

"Please sit down, Dr. McKay." Leaning her elbows on the desk, she gives him a steady look. "I've been reviewing John's transfer request."

Rod leans back, arms crossed. "I denied it."

Dr. Weir nods thoughtfully. "I noticed that, yes. Can you tell me why?"

"We need John," Rod answers steadily, trying to control the urge to fidget or throw something. "There are plenty of scientists--"

"But none with John's experience."

"Lorne's team is first contact," Rod answers. "That is, planets with known human activity, with a greater chance of the necessity of hostile engagement. When we arranged the teams, Ferria went to Lorne because she had the military background. John doesn't. He'd be at best a hindrance, and at worst, an active danger to the team."

"I have Teyla's report here," Dr. Weir says, and Rod stomach rolls over. "As well as Sumner's. John tested out of hand-to-hand at a level that Sumner finds acceptable for a military-based team."

"Sumner's report?"

Dr. Weir looks at him in surprise. "Last week, the Marines offered a boot camp for civilian personnel. Dr. Sheppard asked to participate. I thought you knew."

So he's--not in his lab working on a new and improved almost-ZPM Release 2.0. Rod blinks slowly, reviewing the roster he'd been given and had signed off on without looking. Some anthropologists, a few of the zoologists, a chemist-- "Right."

Dr. Weir looks at him worriedly. "Dr. McKay?"

"Never mind." Rod tries to remember the last month, but it's all a slow blur of normal shifts and normal interactions, which maybe should have told him something. He didn't see his team much--but then he rarely used to see them between missions anyway--but he was working and researching and being an excellent administrator while John vanished from sight, and for some reason, Rod hadn't even noticed.

Now, of course, he knows. John was lulling him into a false sense of security.

"We still need John," Rod says firmly.

"Your team rarely engages in hostile contact," Dr. Weir says gently. "Now that John has solved a great deal of our internal power problems, our primary objective should be to establish relations with other civilizations in the galaxy, especially with the information both you and Colonel Sheppard gave us in regard to the potential Wraith threat." Leaning back, Dr. Weir studies him for a second, and Rod doesn't like that look at all.

"Our priority should continue to be scientific missions."

"And it still is a very important part of Atlantis' charter," Dr. Weir answers. "Which is why I am considering Sumner's suggestion of rearranging the teams. When this began, the need for ZPMs dominated our missions. Now we can shift toward studying the Ancient tech we've already discovered that we were unable to investigate thoroughly. I did keep note of your objections when we had to leave some facilities without further study."

Jesus Christ. "Yes," Rod says slowly, and Dr. Weir smiles. "I did object." At length.

"What I thought you might consider is a change in how Atlantis' field operations will be handled. We can rearrange the roster to allow three first contact teams to vet potential sites, while two teams handle investigation and research." Rod watches in shock as she slides a paper across to him. Picking it up, Rod reads it numbly. "Your team will continue to have regular missions, of course, but, to break from the SGC model, I'd also like you to lead a second research team to sites we've already marked as potentially valuable repositories of scientific data to further our understanding of the Pegasus technology."

Rod reads down the list. "Ronon and Teyla--"

"Lorne's asked, and Teyla has agreed, that Teyla be moved to his team during your research missions," Dr. Weir answers. "Major Arnes has requested the same for Ronon. It's a break from the SGC model, but in this case, it would allow all three first contact teams to have an experienced Pegasus native to guide them."

"That will halve the number of regular missions I'll participate in," Rod says shortly. Even to himself, he sounds hostile, and Dr. Weir looks at him in surprise. Right. Smoothing his voice, Rod tries again. "Can I have some time to look this over?" Rod says slowly, working to keep his voice light and pleasant.

"Of course." With a pleased smile, Dr. Weir sits back, having rearranged the world to her liking. "Get back to me with your suggestions."

*****

Part 3


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Torturing Rodney is a past time with you, isn't it? LOL

I love the way you've taken some of the little asides about Rod's personality and followed them out to their logical conclusion. the fact that you get to torture him was entirely incidental, I'm sure... NOT.

:D

Oh Rod, Rod, Rod...

I just want to *shake* him. Even Rodney, back on Earth Prime in the other 'verse, has more actual self-awareness. Rod, though, omg Rod needs remedial human-ness courses more than Dr Shep!

Poor babies. They would be such a disaster together as a couple. ::resists the cheap "couple of what" joke:: But maybe(?) by the end of part 3 that will change and they can be together? Because right now I'm finding myself hating Lorne right along next to Rod and that's just ... SOOOO wrong. Lorne should *never* be hated. Never.

I - I gotta get back to reading part 3 now.

*hugs*

((yay! Jenn posted fic! yay!))

ROOOOOOOOOOD!!!!!
*cuddles her woobie fiercely*
You! *snaps fingers imperiously* Fix this! NOW!!!
-----}-@

That was *brilliant*! I loved loved it!! Mensa!John is hilarious, adorable and endearing. I loved this whole universe

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