Title: Fradator (1/?)
Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Teyla, John/Rodney
Warnings/Spoliers: #15 in the Ancient!John 'verse. General spoilers for "Michael"
Disclaimer: All characters, situations, quotes et al are properties of their respective owners and I am merely using them under Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine, without intents to infringe upon or defame anyone's legal rights.
Summary: In which Rodney needs to learn to think before he speaks.
Notes: I tried to make this one 1 chappie, I really did, and then I realized (about the time my intro-to-this-installment grew to 3K words) that this would work best as multiple chappies. I'm aiming for. No more of these 6/8 chappie inanities.
Also, retrospectively, I realized that I felt I'd been too "hard" on John of late, so I decided to be "hard" on Rodney instead. Subconciously. I think.
Oh, and by the timeline I've made, the events of this installment take place mid-March 2006, about 6 weeks after "Legati."
Fradator means Deciever, and is another CJ Cherryh shout-out, even if one really has little to do with the other. Also, to anyone who's never read a Robert A Heinlein novel, just trust me when when I say they're big on free love and nonmonogamy in all forms. And I'm asuming it takes 5000x as much power to run the shield as the cloak.
An Ancient!John Story
"We seriously need to come up with a name for this baby."
Rodney scowls quickly at him from over the top of the device he's working on, which looks like the love-child of a wood lathe and a toaster oven. "You've declared yourself the god of naming things, you come up with one," he snaps-
-and almost immediately he regrets his word choice. Looking up long enough to meet John's eyes (which have already darkened and shuttered, like a ship battening down for a storm), he continues, "Yes, yes. Sorry. Bad word choice. Obviously. But the point stands. If you won't let anyone else name anything, the impetus falls to you. So get on with it already."
"No," John argues immediately, tone starting out terse before slipping into something that could – possibly, maybe – be considered conciliatory. "Other people can name stuff too. Just not you."
"I'm heartbroken. Truly, I am. Now hand me that."
John rolls his eyes but passes over the data device nonetheless.
"So," he asks impatiently, "what's the hold-up then?"
Shrugging now, "Can't think of a good name for it."
"Then let's just use ZedPM recharger and be done with it."
Rodney can't see John's reaction, having knelt down to remove one of the as-yet-unnamed device's side covers, but he can hear the distaste in his simple, "No."
"It's a machine to recharge ZedPMs. We don't exactly need Dantean levels of allusion here."
"I'm not asking for Dante. I'm asking for something not quite so ridiculous."
"Tell me, Colonel, how is naming something after its function ridiculous?"
"It is when you call it a ZPM recharger," John huffs and Rodney doesn't need to look up from the mess of wires, piping and crystals he's working on to know the other man is pouting across the room with greater skill than someone his age should really be allowed to have.
"Says the man who nicknamed a battleship Rory," Rodney huffs himself and kneels further down, trying to get a better angle at the device's insides.
It's probably ironic that, while he's managed to find a superconductive material for the electromagnet they'll need to cause the white hole inside the dead ZedPM to jump to another universe, the whole effort might be undermined because they can't seem to keep the transistors that act as the go-between for the whole process from overheating during their simulations.
All Rodney really knows is, healthy appreciation of irony though he has, the problem is now reaching levels that border on the absurd. Sure, there are a couple more things he wants to try before taking the device apart and rebuilding it with more transistors and a more elaborate cooling system but that's not the point. Which is that this problem shouldn't be happening.
He's just about to point this fact out to John – loudly, and for the third time in the last hour – when he realizes John's been talking all this time and Rodney's not got the slightest clue what he said. "I'm sorry, what were you saying?"
"I said maybe there's something from Terran mythology we could name it after."
That's surprising enough that Rodney actually pokes his head around the side of the device to stare at him. "I thought you hated mythology." Vehemently, and with a vengeance otherwise reserved for Wraith and anthropologists.
John just shrugs.
"Hmmm. Well, I'd say something to do with Prometheus and whole stealing fire from the gods thing but that's already taken, so I've got nothing... And," he groans as he rises to his feet, "I can't do anything more here until I find a better way of cooling the transistors."
"Then find a better way of cooling the transistra."
"I will. Just not right now." Rodney has it on good authority that the mess is serving cake with dinner tonight (as part of Cadman's promotion thing, though Cadman doesn't know it yet) and, while that's not for another hour or so, he knows if he starts troubleshooting the problem now, he'll work straight through dinner – and more than likely the next three meals that follow. As pressing as their need for new ZedPMs is, it's not so pressing as to risk hypoglycaemic shock. Or missing cake in the mess.
Plus, he wants Zelenka on hand before he starts tinkering on the system and he's scheduled to be working on Aurora for the rest of the day. And while it's entirely within his rights to pull Zelenka off that project and back onto this one, they'd all discovered the hard way that the ship's AI doesn't take kindly to what she views as unnecessary delays in her repairs.
By which he means that Rory makes John's life a living hell, complete with headaches and the occasional nosebleed. John seems willing to ignore all this in favour of going about their jobs as they normally would (his exact words on the subject sound disturbingly like they've been ripped from a parenting guidebook) but Rodney is not.
If John suspects he has ulterior motives, he doesn't show it. Or, at least, seems to suspect different ulterior motives as everything about him – including the way he's leaning against one of the nearby workbenches – shifts from languid and bored to sex on a stick – in an instant. "Never thought I'd see the day when you'd voluntarily leave your lab when there was fate-of-galaxies work to be done, Rodney," he grins. "Though I don't suppose we'd actually have to leave the lab."
"Are you kidding me? This is a clean room, not to mention anyone could walk in on us at any minute. Of course we've got to get out of here."
John's smirk just gets wider. "My quarters are closer."
John's quarters are closer, though that's something of a relative term where the city's transporters are involved. They're in the middle of this quiet and otherwise disused hallway on the west side of the Central Spire, with a transporter that connects to all of the main hubs in the city on one end and a stairwell that connects the top twelve levels of the tower on the other. The view is impeccable and, with the rest of the Expedition quartered on the south-east pier, his nearest neighbour is a mile-and-a-half away.
His quarters are also, without a doubt, the smallest in all of Atlantis.
Rodney also knows without a doubt that there are other, larger rooms on this hallway alone, with just as magnificent views and he can only assume that John's reasons for choosing it are wrapped up in any number of his myriad issues regarding the life he'd lead before they'd found him. Particularly when he has to know where all the best rooms are.
But whatever. John can keep the room if he wants. He just wishes, "You should think about getting a bigger bed."
John snorts. "And put it where?"
"I don't know. What I do know is that it's positively ridiculous for a grown man to sleep on a mattress like this."
"I've slept on worse," he says, not entirely reassuringly and continues changing into his dress blues.
Rodney's eyes narrow with disbelief. "When?"
"That night in that inn on M3-"
He winces, remembering, but insists, "I meant long term."
"It's not actually that bad, Rodney."
"But it is small."
"So?" he sighs, doing up the last of the buttons on his shirt, "We usually end up at your place anyway."
"But sometimes we don't," he points out, gesturing at the bed beneath him. He knows teenagers the world around have made excellent use of twin mattresses but they're not teenagers and this certainly isn't a twin. "So forgive me for – rather rationally, I might add – thinking we're going to fall out of this bed one day and believe me, that is not an infirmary visit I want to have to explain to Carson."
"I doubt we could do ourselves enough damage that I," John holds up a hand and allows it to glow with a bright, impossibly white light for an instant before going back to his tie, which appears to be giving him far more trouble than that act of near-Ascension, "couldn't patch us up, no embarrassing infirmary trips required. But, if it's really that big a deal, we can just make sure we always go to yours from now on. I really only suggested mine 'cause I knew I had to change into this penguin suit after."
"Tuxes are penguin suits," he informs John, an idea suddenly lighting into his mind, one that will solve all of their problems. It's so obvious he can't imagine why he's never thought of it before. "Those are dress blues."
"Any bird that doesn't fly is ridiculous and so am I in this thing."
"You do not look ridiculous," Rodney scoffs, momentarily distracted by the sight of John in his dress uniform. "Hot is what you look. I'd even go so far as to say that the sight of you in this uniform alone has given me a whole new respect for the military. But ridiculous you most certainly are not."
"Whatever," he snorts, clearly not believing a word Rodney's saying. "You coming to the ceremony or going straight back to the lab?"
With a groan he pushes himself out of bed and starts gathering his own things. "I'll have to go back to my quarters to change first either way, which brings me back to my idea."
"The one I just had that would solve all our quarters-related issues."
Adjusting the sleeves of his jacket now, John frowns. "I wasn't aware we had all that many quarters-related issues."
"This bed, the clothes, the fact that I can't remember the last time either of us was able to spend the entire night in the other's rooms, amongst others. Please at least try to pay attention."
"I am paying attention, Rodney. I'm just not sure it's helping."
"What I'm trying to get at here is that you should move into my quarters. Or we can find new ones and share those, 'cause there's no way two people could fit in here. Either way; you, me, cohabitation." He beams at John. "What do you think?"
"I think," John says slowly, his own expression doing strange, unidentifiable things before it slips into a deliberately unreadable mask. "I think," he repeats, his voice bright and somewhat contrived, "that I should go track down Major Lorne and make sure I've got this penguin suit on right. See you after the ceremony?"
"Hey, John, wait just a minute-" he starts, hurrying to finish dressing, but it's too little, too late and by the time he's gotten his pants back on, John's long out the door. "Great," he says, collapsing back onto the bed. "That's just... great."
All the lights in the room flicker and the windows, which had been open to the ocean air, snap themselves shut.
"Did I ask for your opinion?" he snaps at the ceiling. Then, with a sigh, "But I screwed things up big time, didn't I?"
Atlantis dims the lights completely and lowers the ambient temperature in the room by several degrees.
"Yeah. That's what I thought."
Once he gets dressed, Rodney doesn't even bother tracking John down. It's an exercise in futility trying to get John to talk when he doesn't want to, particularly when it comes to anything remotely resembling feelings.
So he does what is probably the best thing he can do at the moment and tracks Teyla down instead.
"I think I made a mistake," he says the moment she opens her door. "A huge, ghastly, terrible mistake and I need your help to figure out what I need to do to fix it."
Teyla steps away from her door. "I am sure the situation is not as dire as that but please, sit down." He does and, after the door closes, she does so as well. "Now, please, tell me what is it you think you have done."
So he tells her.
"I do not think you see it sometimes," she says delicately at the end of his tale, her expression now one of deep concern, "as close as you are to him, but Colonel Sheppard is a very... unique individual."
Rodney snorts at this. "Of course he's unique. He's the last Ancient in whole universe; it doesn't get much more unique than that."
"While that is true, that is not entirely what I mean to say. Which is that that, for all he tries to make it appear otherwise, the difference between himself and this city's other inhabitants is by far greater than the difference between any two of us, whatever planet we may be originally from."
"Yeah, John's an alien, in the full, conventional sense of the term. I know that. You know that. We all know that. What I don't know is what you're trying to get at here."
"Only that things which may mean one thing to us may have completely different connotations for him. Take his Ancestral title, pastor. For him it means caretaker of this great city. For most of your Expedition, however, it is a title of religious leadership which he eschews."
Rodney frowns at her. "We're not talking about the meaning of a single word here. I asked him to move in with me. That's got to mean the same thing in every culture."
"Maybe it is the implications of the statement which are different."
"What implications? From everything he's ever said about the Ancients, they were bigger on free love than a Robert A. Heinlein novel. Whatever implications there may be, they should, if anything, be less for him than what they would be for anyone else."
Teyla gives him a look that's half amused and half sympathetic and entirely too knowing for Rodney's comfort. "Perhaps that is the very reason he is so hesitant about this. The fact that it was such a simple matter for the others of his kind may well be making him wish to be especially certain before doing so."
"That's just- I mean, there aren't words for how ridiculous that is. And even if it wasn't, John and I have been together for what? Fourteen months now? That's not such a radical time to start talking about these sorts of things, is it? For people of any culture."
Plus, everything John had ever said had given every indication that he wanted this thing between them to last just as much as Rodney did, but he isn't going to tell Telya that, just in case he's wrong and this is the start of some implosion he'd been too stupid and too short-sighted to prevent. It'd be bad enough if – when – it did end. He didn't need to make it worse by everyone else knowing just how wrong he'd been.
But Teyla is, amongst her innumerable other, equally frightening talents, apparently a mind reader, and appears to guess all the things he's dared not say. "Rest assured in his affections for you, Rodney. I believe this merely to be a misunderstanding."
"What," he huffs, "is there for me to misunderstand? I ask him to move in, he walks out. It's fairly simple. We're talking grade four math simple here. One plus one does not equal twelve sort of obviousness. And I've got to say, considering I came to you looking for some sort of a way to, I dunno, fix it, you've not been very helpful."
Her lips thin. "As I have said, I do not believe there is anything for you to fix. Considering the stress the Colonel has been under of late it is quite possible that you merely chose an unfortunate time to bring up the subject."
Rodney snorts instinctively before taking a moment to mull her words over. He supposes it is true but, "By that logic, there's never going to be a good time to talk about it."
Teyla's mouth opens to say something but whatever it might be is cut short by an announcement over the citywide that anyone not immediately involved in operations vital to the city – which would be many people, at this almost-dinnertime hour – is welcome to join the majority of the military contingent in the mess for a special ceremony.
Looks like Cadman's promotion ceremony is about to begin, even if she doesn't know it yet.
"Give him time," Teyla says after this, patting his knee before standing. "These sorts of things require it, no matter their circumstances. But come. I would not wish to be late for this celebration of Lieutenant Cadman's prowess as a warrior."
Rodney harrumphs but follows. Cadman may creep him out on oh-so-many different levels but there's going to be John and cake and, well, that's a combination he can't exactly ignore.
The thing is this:
Pegasus is, by definition, a stressful place to be. Even (especially) for those native to it. On one hand there are the Wraith, who are terrifying in a way no horror movie on Earth could ever quite hope to come close to, and then on the other there is the very real possibility that, in playing with technology that no one – not even Rodney and certainly not John – comes close to completely understanding, they'll end up killing themselves in some sort of violently spectacular manner.
Then add to that the fact that the Daedalus is, until they get the ZedPM charger up and running or finish building the intergalactic gate bridge he and Sam have been working on, their only means of contact with Earth. While the Expedition can sustain itself with the goods they're able to grow in Atlantis' greenhouses or trade for off-world – and, in fact, had done so for an entire year – the fact remains that all of their munition, medical supplies and reinforcements are tied into the continued existence of that one ship. And while it is theoretically possible for them to manufacture the former, if they can come across the right raw materials, there are limits to what even Rodney can build with the materials at his disposal.
The safety of Atlantis is by definition tied into the technological superiority of the Expedition. Should things ever deteriorate further with the Genii or the Wraith ever discover the city isn't as destroyed at they'd like them to believe, those weapons and those soldiers are the only thing standing between them and a very unpleasant death.
And okay, they have a ZedPM, but it's only one ZedPM and not even a fully charged one at that. After the power they used to manufacture more drones (five thousand, the smallest number John said could hold back an armada of similar size to the one the Wraith sent last year) and that they've already used for the bimonthly check-ins with the SGC, they've the power to either: A, run the cloak for one hundred nine years, two hundred fourteen days, twenty-seven hours and twenty-six minutes. Or, B, run the shield, under constant bombardment from Wraith weaponry, for eight days, two hours and thirty-two minutes.
In the event the Wraith should ever return, they are effectively dead without more ZedPMs. More ZedPMs give them more options, like activating the stardrive and getting the hell off Lantea and onto some planet far, far off the beaten path. Or at the very least, sustain the shield for a longer period. But again, to do that they need more ZedPMs. Two of them, in fact, and preferably fully charged.
And Rodney's working on the ZedPM recharger, he really is, but the cooling problem is really more difficult than it had seemed when he was initially drawing up his plans, which is just about the worst way for this to end. They need the transistors to stay cool so they can carry the energy from the charged ZedPM they already have to the electromagnet they've built to make the white hole inside the dead ZedPM jump to another universe filled with all sorts of zero point energy goodness. They need to use the charged ZedPM because no amount of naquadah generators operating in concert would be able to provide the kind of power they need to operate the electromagnet at the power required to accomplish their goal. But even the best transistors aren't designed to handle the kind of raw power a ZedPM can generate, so Rodney's needed to incorporate an elaborate power-distribution and cooling system into the device. Only something is not right as it's not working like he expected in simulations.
In short, though: overheated transistors equals failure equals no ZedPMs equals death by Wraith.
And okay, they have the Aurora now to help defend them, but she's about as badly damaged as it's possible to be without being consigned to the great junkyard in the sky. And while it is possible to repair her it's going to take a lot of materials that they just don't have access to in the Pegasus galaxy – things like the titanium-yttrium alloy which make up her hull or even the valves for her water-recycling system - which again means that they're reliant on Earth and the Daedalus to supply them with what they need. And Daedalus can only carry so much and travel so fast.
Of course, if they had the ZedPMs, they could make use of the designs John's father had left behind with his hologram to fabricate robots that could go out and find the materials needed for the repair job, as the Ancients must have done during the Siege – miners that could extract the ores they needed from uninhabited planets, processors that could refine the ores into usable metals, service 'bots that could help carry out the repairs to the ship and Atlantis – but to do so, again, would require more ZedPMs than they currently have or run the risk of leaving them seriously underpowered when the Wraith eventually arrive back on their doorstep.
All of which means they're basically screwed five ways from Sunday, but that's nothing new, because if it's not ZedPM rechargers and Ancient spaceships, it's Wraith armadas or Genii plots or Vanir spaceships or deadly-if-misused Ancient tech. The Pegasus galaxy offers little to no downtime between crises.
Which, to boil it down still further, means stress is a constant on Atlantis. Yesterday is no less stressful than today is or tomorrow will be. Only the stressors change.
So the idea that bringing up, oh, say, the idea of him and John sharing quarters today is little-to-no different than bringing it up tomorrow or next week or next year. There never will be a good time for it, at least until the Wraith are gone, so asking the moment the idea pops into his head shouldn't be such a big deal.
Q. E. D.
Besides, this is John. John is Mr. Laid Back himself. He is the anthropomorphic personification of cool detachment and nonchalance. It takes people shooting at him for John to appear even the slightest bit perturbed and sometimes not even then. The only real times Rodney has ever seen him truly, genuinely angry have been when someone's actively threatening the safety of Atlantis.
Then again, John doesn't like to talk about the past. Or himself. Or his feelings. And while John has been surprisingly up front with words like I love you, he's never actually talked about their relationship. Which Rodney supposes, in retrospect, might've been a logical first step before springing the whole let's move in together thing on John.
But still, hindsight is twenty-twenty and walking out on the conversation has to be an overreaction in anyone's books. Even an Ancient's.
Rodney's brooding all of this over, waiting for Cadman's promotion ceremony to begin, when Carson slips into to the seat beside him and more or less ignores the conversation that strikes up around him.
It's not until Teyla asks the doctor, "How is Michael doing?" that Rodney remembers the particular stressor to which she might have been referring earlier.
Michael, the first trial of Carson's Wraith retrovirus, is being released from the infirmary and into general population this evening.
Yeah, Rodney can see how that might put John in a foul mood.
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