Characters: Katie Brown, John Parish, OCs
Summary: And then came the day when Brandon announced he’d found the mushroom that would cure cancer.
Series: A Emigre-drabble taking place between "Miles" and "Gubernator" in the Ancient!John 'verse. Part of Locality.
Notes: This was supposed to be a quick drabble. This was supposed to be a cute, falling in love with your best friend drabble. This was supposed to be fluff. Instead it became chock-full of content and depth and whatnot. I'm sorry. I tried.
Meeting you was fate.
Becoming your friend was a choice.
But falling in love with you was beyond my control.
26 July, 2007 – Atlantis, Nova Loegria, Pegasus
And then came the day when Brandon announced he’d found the mushroom that would cure cancer.
This isn’t so unusual in and of itself. Brandon does something like this about twice a month. He’s excitable, that’s all, and after a day or two the excitement will wear off and the reality of his discovery will sink in and he’ll mope a little bit, but that’s all part of his process. It just needs some getting used to.
Zak has been sharing a lab with Brandon since the beginning, mostly since Doctor McKay had only allotted the botany department two labs and neither of them had wanted to share with Parish, even if it would have made more sense for Zak to pair up with him, both being more on the ecology side of things than the straight up growing of plants. Now they share out of habit, though the lab they share these days is really Greenhouse Complex One, made up about half of the sublevels on South Pier’s more westerly side. The greenhouses all operate on artificial light – the better to grow things at the bottom of an ocean – and have disconcertingly low ceilings, but they have room to sprawl.
On this day, they’re in one of their larger workspaces not far from the rice paddies. Katie Brown has stopped by to work on their joint attempt to modify a coffee bush to grow in the vertically challenged conditions Atlantis has on offer, which is good, but has brought John Parish with her, which is less good. Katie’s a sweetheart and Parish is nice enough, but he’s a talker and Zak only has so much tolerance for Homo sapiens on any given day. He got into botany for a reason.
He and Katie are over at the seedling trays when Brandon comes in. Parish is sitting on a dirt-covered table nearby, in the middle of telling the Marine that followed him in a convoluted tale about why he’s still behind on his mission reports from before Sheppard booted the Second Expedition out of the city. They all turn when Brandon announces, “I’ve found the mushroom that will cure cancer.”
Katie beams at him. “That’s wonderful,” she says, wiping the dirt of her hands. There are still streaks across her face and a few stray leaves in her dark hair, but Katie doesn’t notice those – she never does. She just walks over to Brandon, gives him a maternal hug, and asks, “Is it the polypore you found on MT3-120?” as she drags him over to Zak and the coffee seedlings.
“It’s not a true polypore, but yes,” Brandon says, practically bouncing on his heels. It shouldn’t be as endearing as it is.
“You think it will cure all cancers or just one or two specific ones?” Zak grins, throwing an arm around Brandon’s shoulders. They’re always doing that with Brandon, their whole department – pulling him into one-armed hugs, ruffling his hair; fixing his collars. They’re the most laid back of all the departments on Atlantis, excepting Doctor Baker’s one-man oceanography department, and Brandon is something like their mascot. “Better question: who are you trying to blind? I thought we agreed that you’d have a talk with Teyla’s seamstress friend.”
Katie swats his arm lightly. “You lay off him, Zak. I think he looks dashing.”
“He looks like a court jester,” Zak says, with is only a little bit of an exaggeration. Brandon, wonderful, lovable, naïve child that he is, pretty much lets the seamstress do whatever she wants with his clothes. They all do, really. But where that had gotten the rest of them stately reds and blues, Brandon had somehow ended up with patchwork and motley.
“First off,” Brandon says in mock offense, “her name is Malie Islien. And, second of all, I like it.” As if to illustrate this last, he holds his arms out wide and executes a wobbly twirl – followed by an even wobblier bow.
Katie claps dutifully. “Very handsome,” she agrees, continuing, “Now tell me about this mushroom of yours.”
At least, that’s what Zak thinks she means to say. He can’t make out all of the words over the very loud snort the Marine still talking to Parish makes in the middle of it.
They turn to stare.
The Marine, however, seems to think this is indication to continue not get the fuck out of here. “You would all have to be faggots to have pulled a stunt like you did, wouldn’t it? It’s not enough for you to be traitors, you’re all fairies and lesbos too.”
Zak wonders exactly what kind of idiot this guy has to be to say something like that, alone, deep in the heart of Lantean territory. Sure, the Marines that make up the Third Expedition military contingent aren’t always the brightest crayons in the box, but the SGC usually makes some attempt to screen for open-mindedness. That and the new military leader, Major Teldy, doesn’t encourage stupidity like Colonel Telford used to.
He’s about to say just that so when Parish, quietly, in a tone of voice that brokers no argument, says, “You should apologize.”
“You know, Sir, I don’t think I will.” He turns and that’s when Zak recognizes him. This isn’t just some idiot Marine: this is the gunnery sergeant he and Brandon ran into after Sheppard’s coronation – the one who’d claimed that Sheppard would go Ori before the end. “The Major says to hold my tongue, but I’m tired of sitting back and watching you guys fuck this galaxy all to hell. You say you’re doing this for them – that you have a moral requirement to save them from the Wraith, but what have you done since your little coup d’état? You’ve thrown some nukes at some Replicators and nearly got the whole city destroyed in the process. Sure, there are people dying out there, but you’re all on Atlantis, sitting pretty, dressing up like Norman conquers and complaining about not being able to grow your own coffee. Doesn’t look to me like you’re doing jack shit for the common man.
“So you wanna look down on me for not being as liberal or open-minded about where you stick your dicks, you go right ahead, but don’t act like you’re so morally superior. I may be a bastard, but at least I know I’m a bastard.”
The workroom is quiet for a long minute, with only the clatter of the air recyclers breaking the silence. Then Parish, in that same low, dangerous voice that Zak never suspected he had, says, “I think you should leave now.”
“You know,” says the gunny, already heading for the door, “I think you’re right.” Once he gets there, he pauses and turns heel – but only for a moment. Only long enough to ask, “You four were all with the SGC for years before you left. I was on SG-9 from the beginning. We had to have walked the same hallways for years before ever coming here. Do any of you brain trusts even know my name? Any of our names?” There’s a long pause. I thought not.”
The workroom is quiet for a while after that.
It’s late when Zak calls it a day. Katie and Parish left hours ago, but Brandon’s still there, running tests on his cancer-curing mushroom. If he notices Zak’s getting ready to leave – or that Zak’s still in the room at all, - he doesn’t show it.
He sighs and walks over to Brandon’s corner, shutting off lights along the way. No one in the department has the ATA gene, so they mostly rely on compact fluorescents and get someone with the gene to adjust the settings on the greenhouses once a week or so. Zak usually tries to get Doctor Morris, their lone anthropologist, to do it, mostly since he kept trying to set up Anna and Brandon, but that was before she got together with Doctor Green – proving that he had guessed her type correctly if not Brandon’s. Since then it’s mostly been Doctor Baker, who really is a great guy but needs to learn to keep a shirt on. One day he’s going to run out of the board shorts that seem to be the only thing he brought with him from Earth; then they’ll all be in trouble.
Zak taps him on the shoulder, waiting until he’s pulled out his earbuds before saying, “Brandon, c’mon. It’s getting late. Let’s go see what’s left in the mess. It’s Miko’s week to cook, so you know I’ll be something good.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Now why don’t I believe that?”
“I’m not-“ He stops mid sentence, takes off his glasses, and hangs his head. “Do you think he was right?”
“Was who right?” he asks, though he knows Brandon can only mean one person.
“The gunny. Do you think he was right? I mean I love Atlantis. I love being here. I love the people I get to work with. I never felt like I fit in anywhere before we came here. Even at the SGC everything didn’t click like it does here. But I also came back because I wanted to help people.”
“I remember,” Zak says quietly.
Brandon had never meant to return. Oh, he’d wanted to, but he’d not written letters of protest like the rest of them had – not the antagonistic, almost threatening letters to anyone with stars and knowledge of the Stargate Program like the rest of the Émigrés. He’d just been in Zak’s lab when Lorne’s call came because they were each the only people the other had known at Duke and Brandon wasn’t much older than some of the grad students he was supposed to be teaching. Brandon had been there and Zak couldn’t not tell him what was going on, even if it might have jeopardized the entire operation.
I want to help people, Brandon had said, and then looked around at the lab full of GM crops they were supposed to be testing for Big Agro and said, Let’s take the seeds. Folks back home could use them.
So they’d emptied their backpacks and filled them with as much vitamin A rice and glyphosate-ready soybean and pest-resistant cotton as they could carry, then stuffed their pockets with sweet peppers and potato eyes and hid out at the local movie theatre until time for pickup. If Lorne had been surprised that Brandon tagged along, he hadn’t shown it. None of them had.
“Hey, don’t worry about what that guy said, alright? He’s just a tool. He’s just trying to get a rise out of just because he knows Sheppard or McKay or anyone with any power would kick him back to Earth if he tried it with them.”
“I know. But that doesn’t mean he’s not right.”
“What about your cancer-curing mushroom? That’s helping people.”
“I don’t think it’ll really cure cancer,” Brandon admits sadly, slipping his glasses back on. “It might treat leukaemia some, but I don’t think it’ll actually reverse it.”
“Baby steps,” Zak says reassuringly. “Now come one. Let’s go see what we can steal from the mess and go watch one of your weird-ass Russian movies.”
“You hate my weird-ass Russian movies,” Brandon reminds, grinning up at him as he pushes his chair back.
“I don’t hate them. I merely prefer my own interpretations of them.”
“You gotta admit they’re more interesting if you mute them and make up your own script.”
“No. No I don’t.”
“Well, you have until I conk out to prove me otherwise.”
“Hey, hang on a minute,” Zak says, pointing at the laptop with unsteady, frustrated motions as the credits roll. “I thought those two,” he waves more broadly this time, “were supposed to be in love.”
“They are,” Brandon says solemnly, closing the laptop and placing it on the nightstand. They’re in Brandon’s quarters, which are the closest thing to a dump as it’s possible to find in Atlantis. Which is to say they’re cramped, filled with far too many awkwardly placed columns, and mostly face one of the less attractive towers. The bed is squeezed between four of those columns and is narrow as fuck, but it’s the only place to sit so there they have it. (The columns are perfectly placed for a blanket fort though, not that they’ve tried it or anything.)
“But they don’t get together.”
“People don’t always get together.”
“I know,” Zack continues petulantly (it’s possible he’s had too much to drink tonight), “but this is a movie. They spent all that time almost getting together and in the end the blonde one-“
“-Fedot just gets on a plane. It’s stupid.”
“Yeah, well, he realized that Matvei would never say anything, even if he felt the same way. It takes a lot to be gay in Russia. Just ask Doctor Chziov.”
“That’s stupid too. If you love somebody, tell them. It’s not that hard.”
“It is if they keep trying to set you up with Anna Morris.”
“I’m sorry-“ Zak begins before the meaning of Brandon’s words catch up with him, changing to a high-pitched, “What?”
“Well you weren’t being very subtle about it. It was kind of embarrassing, really.”
Zak waves him off. “No, not that. The other thing.”
“Oh, that. I like you. I’ve liked you for a long time. I never said anything because you kept trying to push Anna Morris at me, but then you said it was easy to tell someone you love them, I decided to give it a shot.”
“I didn’t mean for it to be a dare. And why do you keep saying Anna Morris like that. What’s wrong with Anna Morris?”
“Nothing, other than that she’s a woman.”
“I can see now how that could be a problem.”
“Oh, can you? You’re an asshole, you know,” Brandon says oddly fondly.
It’s kind of stupid, but he’s known Brandon for over seven years, ever since Brandon came to work for the SGC. They’ve shared lab space for the last three. Hell, Zak went to Brandon’s parents for the Thanksgiving they were stuck on Earth during the Second Exodus, and he’s never once suspected Brandon might like him as anything more than a friend.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“You’re still an asshole.”
“I know, I know. Hey,” he says, popping up and looking down at Brandon, who’s mostly turned away from him on the stupidly narrow Ancient bed, “does this mean that every time you’ve called me asshole you’ve been saying I love you?”
Brandon throws a pillow at him. He holds the other over his face in a way that suggests he’s about to smother himself. “This isn’t The Princess Bride, asshole. Can we stop talking about this now?”
Zak tugs ineffectually at the pillow. “No, Brandon, we can’t. Not until we decide what we’re going to do about this little admission of yours. Are we going to forget that it ever happened – which is entirely possible if I have any more moonshine – or are we actually going to do something about it? ‘Cause if we’re going to do dinner and a movie again, I’d like to know about it before the dinner part next time.”
The pillow twitches hopefully. “Next time?”
“Well, yeah. And don’t think I’m not making fun of you for the crapiest first date ever either.”
“Zak,” the pillow says patiently, “you like girls.”
“I like you. Tomorrow good for you?”
This pillow flies past him.
Zak picks both off the ground and sets them carefully on the bed. “Is that a yes?”
“Yes, that’s a yes, you asshole."