Lions and Guides and Igigi, Oh My


Poking around a hive

Samas let himself feel the controls. Nothing human ever felt this completely alien to him—nothing Ancient had either. He wondered if the goa’uld would even be able to control this technology with its buried chemical signals. They had trapped themselves inside human hosts so long he wasn’t sure how much they could use their own senses.

The controls even distracted him from Gibbs’ thoughts. Leaving Tony behind had been almost impossibly difficult for both of them, and even now Gibbs was fighting his emotions. Samas felt not only that, but also a more clinical concern for Jo. She was the first of the new onac species to take a host and stand on her own. She had so much of Samas and the old ways—the independence and strength. However she was learning something from Tony that neither Gibbs nor Samas would ever be able to teach her. She was learning to truly trust a team and believe in them even above herself. She had allowed herself to be taken because it served the needs of the group.

No onac or goa’uld before her would have made that choice. Samas’ igigi did make that choice, but only because they were not queens. His breeding offspring would not have risked themselves. They had not.

Samas could only hope Tony would teach her to respect host culture in a way previous onac had not. Onac and unas were separate—always apart except for the time of ceremony. But Samas could not see that working with a host culture that could adapt and change as fast as humans could. Jo needed to find a way to make her two worlds interact with each other.

When Samas checked on the lifesigns in the dematerializer again, Gibbs rejoined him, their minds moving together on the same path. Tony would protect Rodney and potentially slaughter the guards. They were in less danger than the rest of the team. Gibbs wasn’t as sure how they were going to escape a dart rigged to only fly to this target and then back to Ford’s planet.

Samas was confident. It was hardly the first time they’d gone straight at the enemy. When Samas thought of Tony throwing himself into the ring device to follow them onto Ba’al’s ship, he smiled. Tony could do that, so they would survive the Wraith.

The canopy suddenly went dark, all the data vanishing only to be replaced with a scent of home-home-home. It made Samas want to dig his teeth into the Wraith technology. The ship told him that the hive was embracing it, which was easy enough to understand as an auto pilot program.

Samas could feel the ship song change when it entered the hive. The scent of home-home-home grew stronger. The ship noted cargo and offered to rematerialize it. Samas could feel the variations in the hive around him, but he didn’t know for sure which scents signified safety and which danger. Samas mentally mapped the signals, struggling to identify the pattern. The dart grew increasingly shrill in its demands for an answer, and Samas had to trust his instinct and his understanding of the mire of smells.

He waited until he thought they were in a safe area and ordered the dart to rematerialize the cargo. And then, since he was only eighty percent sure that he had landed them safely as opposed to putting them in the middle of a danger zone, Samas waited for a radio signal.

Gibbs was just as happy Tony and Jo weren’t around, not with odds like that, but Samas insisted that their people were likely safe. He continued to insist that, but he didn’t relax until he heard Sheppard’s voice.

“We’re down. Is everything good with you, Gunny?”

“Not even close, Colonel. I suggest you start looking for another exit strategy.”

“Samas?” Sheppard sounded a little stressed.

Ford quickly demanded, “What are you talking about? Are you double crossing us?”

The paranoia in that one was going to cause no end of trouble. “The dart has an automatic docking function, and I can’t disable it. Right now I’m being pulled into a docking bay, and I do not understand the operation of this technology well enough to reprogram it,” Samas said. “I also suspect that I will run into one or two Wraith in a docking bay.”

“So we’re in trouble,” Sheppard summarized. “Great.”

“Maintain radio silence until we’ve laid the charge,” Ford ordered.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” Sheppard said. He was holding his mic open, but even then it took Samas’ superior hearing to identify the cocking of the weapon.

“We maintain radio silence,” Ford said again.

“Or we maintain radio silence,” Sheppard agreed in that tone that said he was going along only to avoid being shot. Samas could easily imagine the expression on the colonel’s face. However, since Samas had his own trouble to navigate, he had to trust that the colonel and Teyla could handle one paranoid and delusional lieutenant and his men. Gibbs had a few fears on that front. He’d seen too many junkies turn on the ones they claimed to love, but as Samas pointed out, the colonel was actually in a far less precarious position than they were.

The dart welcomed the pilot and said something about wholeness. Samas guessed it was saying the ship needed to be checked for wholeness. The words then appeared in the canopy to exit the dart, which had anomalous readings in the systems used to navigate Stargates, in order for worker drones to inspect the vehicle.

Well that was one more thing to thank Ford for. While the autopilot would likely have engaged in any case, Samas’ dart was now going to receive extra attention on landing—all because Ford had altered the dialing computer. If Ford survived this, Samas had a few choice body parts he would like to bite off.

Gibbs provided a defense for Ford’s fingers and other body parts. Ford had understood the danger of allowing Gibbs and Samas unfettered access to technology. That was not paranoid, just smart. And for all his mistakes, and there were many, he wanted to defeat the Wraith.

Samas was still not amused. He gripped the Glock that Ford had given him and prepared to move. The dart told him to prepare for the opening of the canopy and the arrival of hive mates to assist with such a troublesome dart. The interface was oddly polite. A half second later, the canopy dematerialized. Samas took aim at the Wraith tech’s head, pulling the trigger before the creature could react. Its body tumbled down the ladder, and for three whole seconds, Samas thought he might have avoided detection.

That’s when the sirens started.

The high-pitched scream and the sour stench of alarm quickly filled the air. Samas slid down the ladder, and they were already moving toward the corridors when the radio came back to life.

“Gibbs, you there?” Ford demanded. Samas wasn’t sure where Ford thought he might have gone.

“There are ship-wide alerts going off. This might actually be the time for radio silence,” Samas pointed out. He moved quickly, favoring corridors that had less and less of the scent of workers. Gibbs wanted to get to the others, but Samas disagreed. They were all as good as captured until Samas could find another escape route.

Given the human inability to communicate with Wraith technology on a biological level, whether Sheppard was in a cell or wandering corridors didn’t actually matter. He could not assist in any research. Samas was sorry that Rodney was not here. With a symbiote to sense the chemical markers and Rodney's remarkable talents with technology, he would quickly find a weakness in the hive. Without him, Samas would have to find a way to save the team.

Finding his way to the labs required patience and a careful use of all his senses. Eventually he did find what he wanted—a lab door that smelled of only one Wraith. So, like both humans and onac, this species did have its loners, and Samas needed a computer where he would have some uninterrupted time. Samas crouched in a dark corner near the lab door making chemical markers for safe-hive mate-safe. While he would never be able fully communicate as Wraith did, he could blast one with scent, hopefully long enough to confuse him. Then Samas could kill him without raising another alarm.

Plan in place, Samas quickly produced the hormone, entered the lab, and stunned the scientist within for the few seconds required for Gibbs to place several bullets directly into his brain. The Wraith died silently.

With Gibbs still pushing for him to move faster, Samas moved to the computer interface and settled into the seat. The back of the chair was to the door, so either these creatures felt completely safe in their own hives or they were constantly in touch with the chemicals produced by their hive. The hive was alive, but Samas didn't know how the Wraith interacted with it.

Adding that to his ever-growing list of questions about Wraith, their technology and their biology, Samas dug into learning everything he could about this new species. Wraith words flowed across the unstable screen, the words fading and then growing brighter as different scents filled the air. Samas frowned. That wasn't all, though. The shifts in printing had a pattern. Samas threw all his attention into exploring this new world.


Samas only stirred from the chair many hours later when Gibbs' noted a change in the security feeds. The team had been lured into a false escape attempt, but that was many hours past, and Samas only now noticed the stiffness in Gibbs’ body. Gibbs was quick to say that he was fine, but the stench of rotting Wraith body was distracting. And it disturbed Samas that the smell didn’t raise any alarm. Clearly the hive ship considered such scents natural.

What was less natural was the small variations in the visual display off the rear of the hive. Individual stars seemed to waver for a second. Samas only knew one thing that would cause that. A cloaked ship. Samas quickly searched for some sort of access to the hive that the cloak might use. There was the dart bay, but flying into that would require an ungodly amount of either guts or stupidity. No one on the shuttle knew what Samas did—the Wraith depended too much on the living hive and its ability to transmit alarm from one Wraith to another. Any pilot would have to worry about sensors.

“Tony, that had better not be you,” Gibbs muttered as Samas’ hands flew over the controls searching for the others. Kanayao was dead. Ford had been taken to a pod, but then the hive had no information on him. Ford’s whole system was so compromised that the hive had trouble telling if he was a human or a Wraith, so Samas suspected that his disappearance meant he had found a way to get more enzyme and vanish from the internal sensors. Turik and Elst were in pods, near death from withdrawal symptoms. Jace and Teyla were in a cell, and Sheppard was in the interrogation chamber. Of course. The colonel’s capacity for finding trouble was unmatched, even by Tony.

Gibbs was torn between meeting the jumper and going for the colonel. Samas stepped back and waited for Gibbs to make this decision.

“Tony,” Gibbs said out loud. Samas nodded, noting the relative locations of all their people before he headed out.

Samas scented Jo long before he spotted Tony. The queen smell drifted through the air, reassuring in a way that Samas had never found his other offspring reassuring. Children were competitors, but Tony had changed that equation. Jo yielded to Samas in a way that onac didn’t. Samas increased his own scent, and waited. Sure enough, Tony edged out of a side corridor.


“Do I want to know what you’re doing here?” Samas asked as he met his lover in the hall. He curled his hand around Tony’s neck, and both Samas and Gibbs pulled him close for a second before Gibbs head slapped him. “Sneaking onto a hive is a dumb move.”

“You know me, boss. I have to have your six or I worry too much.”

"Where's Sheppard?" Ronon asked as he came up behind Tony. For a second Samas was caught in a loop of emotions--anger, a brittle sense of loss and a desperate need to save his world. The emotions were so close to Samas' own feelings after his children--his world--had been destroyed by Ra that it took Samas a second to realize that they belonged to someone else. After that initial surprise, Samas considered Ronon before turning to Tony and raising his eyebrow.

"He wanted to help out," Tony said with an unapologetic grin.

Lorne joined them. "And if we don't move fast, we're going to get caught. Gunny, good to see you." Well that made one member of the rescue who didn’t have a symbiote.

"I'm afraid Gibbs has left this adventure to me," Samas said.

"Samas," Lorne said. "Look, we have a second hive ship floating just off our starboard side, and the Daedalus is behind the planet."

"Yes," Samas agreed. "These two hives have young queens who have allied with each other to defend themselves from the older queens. However, the alliance is uneasy at best. It is like watching Ra and Hathor trying to maneuver around each other, and I think we all know how that ended." Ronon smelled of confusion, and Samas sent a quick feeling of death and destruction. So the Daedalus had brought them. Given that Caldwell had been taken as a host for a very short period of time, if he learned of Tony’s and Ronon’s onac, he would likely take action. This was cause for some concern.

"Are we going to get the team?" Ronon asked.

"This way," Samas said as he started down the hallway. He brushed his hand across Tony's arm and shared the formula for masking human scent under "hive" smell. Tony gave a quick feeling of agreement, and almost immediately, Jo began to shift her scent.

"Samas, can I get a sitrep?" Lorne asked as he moved to Samas' side. Gibbs pointed out that the chain of command would be much clearer if he took over, but Samas was not in a mood to feign subservience. For the first time in a millennium, he had children watching him, following him into battle. No, Samas would not let Lorne take charge of this mission.

"Three locations. One for two of Ford's followers, one for Teyla, one for Sheppard. Ford escaped and is somewhere loose on the ship."

"Where are we going first?"

Samas could almost taste Lorne's frustration at not being in charge, but he was keeping his ego in check. He followed Sheppard's lead on that front, and Sheppard might tell Gibbs and Samas what he wanted accomplished or assign tasks, such as training Marines, but he never played CO with Samas. That made him unusual enough in Samas' estimation. In Gibbs' as well. "A few minutes ago when I was searching the Wraith computer database, some drones were taking Sheppard to the queen. I thought we should start there."

Samas could feel the echoes of satisfaction from Ronon and Jo and Tony. They were ready to take on any number of queens to save Sheppard.

"Number of enemy?" Lorne asked.

"You really don't want to know." Samas had learned a lot about Wraith biology, including a small detail about how many drones waited in stasis pods to be woken at any time. He stopped, sensing the Wraith ahead.

"Ronon," Samas said. He could feel Ronan's excitement, his need to prove something. Jo was confused by that reaction, but Samas wasn't. He remembered watching his whole world fall, and he remembered the helplessness and the need to do something. He could very well imagine that Ronon's helpless rage at watching his homeworld fall and his desperate need to strike back at the enemy.

"What?" Lorne barely had time to ask, and then a dead Wraith body came flying through the air to drop in front of them. “Oh.” He frowned. “How far to where they have Sheppard?”

“A few more corridors, but there are going to be more Wraith.”

Ronon came back, a wild grin on his face. “Good. I’m ready for more Wraith. Let’s move.”

Oh Samas did approve of this one. He wasn’t sure what he thought of Jo taking the initiative to invite a hosting, but he did approve of her tastes in hosts. “Tony, stay with Lorne,” Samas said.

“But—” Tony swallowed the rest of the complaint when Samas turned to give him an unhappy glare. They needed to keep Lorne away from Ronon, and Samas reached out and grabbed Tony’s hand, sending that thought across. “Right, boss. Us mere mortals will stay back and cover your six.”

Samas nodded. Now was the time for Jo to hide, and for them to hide their hosted children. The time for bragging would come later. Samas could feel Jo’s unhappiness, but Tony agreed with them. Samas gave another nod and then turned to hurry after Ronon. He could feel the glee and the need to reach Sheppard like a tether that pulled him toward the other man.

“You know,” Tony was saying softly to Lorne as they followed, “a lesser man could develop an inferiority complex.”

“Around those two? If you don’t already have an inferiority complex, I’m sending you to Heightmeyer,” Lorne answered.

Retrieving Sheppard turned out to be rather easy. He came bolting around the corner with not a Wraith in sight.

“Ronon? Gunny?”

“Huh. Thought you needed rescue?” Ronon asked, sounding almost disappointed. He was definitely giving the symbiote quite a ride.

“Ford got me out of the room. The hive is ready to start culling. We need to stop it.” By the time Sheppard had made that announcement, Lorne had already caught up with Tony right at his side.

“Well this is starting to feel like a regular reunion. Major, why are you on a hive ship?”

Lorne gave Tony a dirty look. “Because the shuttle likes his commands more than mine. But if we don’t get off this ship, there is a chance that Caldwell is going to try and beam a nuke over here with us still onboard. We have a cloaked shuttle waiting, so maybe we can get off before that happens, sir.”

Sheppard turned and looked back down the corridor. “Ford,” he said softly. Losing the lieutenant was hurting him. Samas wanted to tell him to leave the young fool. Given the choice of following Sheppard’s lead or Everett’s, Ford had chosen the path of brute force. He had taken his Marine ideals and, with Everett’s encouragement, rejected every bit of subtlety that Sheppard had attempted to drill into his young head. He had turned on his team and tried to prove himself tough enough to take on the universe. Samas would admire that if Ford had the strength to back his own play. He didn’t.

“Sir, the culling,” Lorne said.

Sheppard turned back around. “We have to get the hives to turn on each other. I had the queen back there half convinced that I’m a spy for the other queen, so it shouldn’t be too hard. When they launch darts, I’m going to take one and fire on the other ship.”

Lorne immediately moved into Sheppard’s path, blocking him. “Sir, that is too dangerous. You are needed on Atlantis.”

Sheppard gave him a cocky grin. “Don’t you have any faith in my ability to fly?”

Lorne gave Samas a desperate look, one that was clearly begging for some reinforcement. “Sheppard, you’re not going out because you are going to help Lorne get Teyla and Jace out of the cells while I get to a computer interface and order this hive to fire at the other one. You have fifteen minutes to get back to the shuttle.” Samas didn’t mention Ford’s other men. He did however, grab Tony’s hand and send him the rest of the information—full schematics for the hive ship, images of where he’d last seen Turik and Elst, his own theory that Ford would try to rescue his men.

“Last I checked, I’m the ranking officer, Gunny, and if I want to fly a really cool ship, I will.”

“You are a child who was not yet conceived when I had my five thousandth birthday, and I will not lose the leader of Atlantis to an unnecessary mission, not when most of your replacements have been devoted to killing me,” Samas said. He looked at Ronon. “You have fifteen minutes to find Ford and drag him back here. Tony will go with you, but if he—”

“Don’t worry,” Ronon cut him off. “He’ll come back or I won’t come back either,” Ronon promised. He turned to Sheppard. “Which way did you last see him?”

The colonel gave a dramatic sigh. “I remember back when I used to have command of things.”

“Sheppard,” Ronon warned.

“That way. Straight down for fifty yards and to your left.”

Ronon grinned as he looked at Tony. “Coming?”

Jo’s pleasure scent was enough to make Samas give serious thought to biting her tail. He wouldn’t mind having more children with her memories and reactions.

“On your six,” Tony promised, and then Ronon and Tony were racing down the hall.

Lorne was looking from Sheppard to Samas, clearly not sure who he was taking orders from at this point, but Sheppard just rolled his eyes and headed down another corridor. “Ford said our people were this way,” Sheppard said. Samas wasn’t sure Jace was one of their people, but clearly Sheppard had decided to adopt the young scientist, and Samas had no objections. Gibbs had one or two concerns, but Samas would leave that to him to express later.

Right now they had people to get off the hive and a war to start.

Home to Atlantis

The shuttle raced away from the fighting ships and toward the planet. “The Daedalus is the other way,” Lorne said. Samas could feel so much—Ronon’s bloodlust and his pride in having ripped Wraith apart with his hands. Jo’s lust and her fear that Samas would steal her prize. Smart girl. She would not need to spawn for years. Samas needed nishta-onac to guard his young and offer their DNA.

He could also smell the adrenaline from Lorne and Sheppard, and the blood from the injured. Teyla didn’t have blood on her, but she stunk of withdrawal and weariness. The others stunk in ways Samas chose to ignore.

Ronon fired his stolen stunner again.

“Geez, you’re going to give Ford brain damage,” Sheppard complained as he raced for the planet. The shuttle rocked with the force of some silent explosion.

“He twitched,” Ronon said.

Lorne looked over his shoulder. “He looks out to me.” Ford lay boneless on the bottom of the shuttle next to Elst.

“Does now,” Ronon agreed.

“Lorne, dial it up,” Sheppard said.

“Yes, sir. You do know that Rodney is going to kill you for not sending a message to let him know we’re okay, right?”

Samas agreed with that.

“Let me handle Rodney. I’ll just explain that I didn’t want to get blasted out of the sky when I compromised our location.”

“Can we please fly faster and talk less?” Teyla asked. All her calm assurance had worn away leaving her reeking of pain and frustration.

“Good idea. I think those hives are about to blow themselves to kingdom come,” Sheppard said. “Lorne, belay my last order. Dial up M3R-485. If we’re going to blast someone with the shockwave from these two exploding, let’s blast someone other than Atlantis.”

Lorne started entering the coordinates as they entered the planet’s atmosphere.

Teyla looked up. “What about the people of this planet?”

“I really hope they’re inside,” John said.

Teyla drew herself up a little straighter, but she didn’t say anything. She just pressed her lips into an unhappy line and radiated a sort of restless anger that all the addicts seemed to leak. The shuttle dove down and went through the ring without slowing.

“Sir, you do know how to give me gray hair,” Lorne complained softly as the shuttle swooped up into high atmosphere.

“Major, you’re Air Force, you’re required to like fast planes.”

“I’m a developmental engineer, sir,” Lorne said dryly. “Should I dial up Atlantis?”

“Yep. Let’s go home.”

“Thank the Ancestors,” Teyla muttered before putting her head back down in her hands. Samas suspected that when she recovered she was going to invite Ford to a lot of bantos lessons.

Sheppard landed the jumper in the gate room, and Samas caught Tony and Ronon by the arms. All three needed a good excuse to avoid medical until they had a chance to get their onac out. Samas quickly passed on his plan.

“Colonel, it’s nice to have you home,” Weir said as she came down the stairs, smiling brightly.

“As much fun as it was hanging out in a Wraith cell, I’m glad to be home,” Sheppard said. “And I brought home our little lost boy. Doc, you might want to use the Wraith restraints this time. He’s still pretty dosed up.”

“Daft bugger,” Carson muttered as he led a medical team into the back of the jumper. They’d retrieved Elst from a pod, but he already smelled of rot, even if he was still making the effort to breathe. Samas expected every rattling breath to be his last, but he fought on. Jace was in much better shape. He huddled on a bench shaking and sweating. Teyla pushed herself to her feet, but she listed badly to one side. “I see I have more than one patient. We’ll get everyone fixed up right as rain.”

Samas chose that moment to feign a stumble. Tony and Ronon caught his arms, and Samas let them carry his weight for a second.

“Jethro, are you alright?” Carson asked, immediately focusing on him with the medical teams evacuated the others from the jumper.

Samas stepped back to let Gibbs handle this. He nodded wearily. “Samas is not used to staying in the body this long, and he is cramped and miserable. He can’t stay in much longer without damaging one of us.”

“Right then, down to your waters with you. I’ll send a nurse along to see that ya get there and back safe.”

“Nah,” Ronon said as he helped Gibbs out of the jumper. “We got this, Doc. You tend to the ones that are actually hurt.” For a second, Carson looked torn.

“I’ve gone through this before when Samas couldn’t get out often enough,” Gibbs said. “Worst case scenario, he has to come out half way down a staircase. It happened once and I took a fall. Ronon is probably better at helping with that than one of your nurses would be. I’ll come to you for a checkup as soon as I let Samas out.”

“If you’re sure…” Carson frowned.

“I am,” Gibbs said. He turned to Sheppard who was now standing at Weir’s side and watching. “Sir, I would like to apologize for Samas. When he’s forced to stay inside a host for too long, he gets…”

“Cranky? Pushy? Likely to call me a child with five thousand years’ worth of catching up to do?” Sheppard finished with a strange sort of cheerfulness. He was amused. That was better than how Ellis or Everett would have reacted.

“All of the above, sir,” Gibbs said. “That said, flying a dart on a suicide mission against the other hive wasn’t the best plan, so I disagree with Samas’ approach, not his logic.”

Weir gave Sheppard a sharp look.

“Did you have to mention that in front of Mom?” Sheppard whined with a look in Weir’s direction.

“I’m sure you would have included it in your debriefing,” Weir said, her eyebrow rising up in challenge.

“Well yeah. Of course I would.” Sheppard gave an exaggerated smile. “You know we tell you everything.” If Sheppard weren’t making such an effort to appear to be lying, that probably would have made Weir suspicious. As it was, she rolled her eyes at him. “Go on and let Samas out before Rodney and the Daedalus are back and those two get into it,” Sheppard ordered.

“Yes, sir,” Gibbs agreed, and he headed for the transport, Ronon and Tony both in tow. A quick trip down into the bowels of the city, and they were headed for the waters.

“Boss, I can explain about Ronon,” Tony said as soon as they left the last of the live sensors behind.

“He figured out you had a symbiote and he wanted one of his own,” Gibbs guessed.

“I hate it when you do that,” Tony complained, but then he had been complaining about that since shortly after he’d taken the job at NCIS. “I reacted too fast when you took Rodney to the ground, didn’t I?”

“No,” Gibbs said. “Jo reacted too fast. You couldn’t have reacted that quickly.”

“True,” Tony said. “She’s not great at undercover work, but she more than makes up for it in kicking ass.”

Ronon grunted. Samas could smell the approval, and he asked, “How much did Tony explain?”

“You people live nearly forever. The onac in me now knows whatever I know, and he’ll tell the others about Sateda and try and claim credit for all the Wraith I killed up there.” Ronon seemed to think about that for a second. “He helped. A lot. I’ve killed them with my hands and a knife in the past, but it wasn’t that easy.” Ronon’s symbiote was leaking joy scent all over the corridor now.

Samas nodded. “It was a smaller hive, that’s why it was interested in an alliance. It meant they had less food available to them and they were weaker, but they were still significantly stronger than any human. Sheppard and Lorne would have had very reduced odds up there.”

Tony did what he always did—he took the evidence and made sense out of it faster than anyone else could. “There’s something wrong on the hives, some reason why they’re weak and why they’re so quick to expect a betrayal from another hive,” he guessed.

Samas had learned more than he expected from the computer. After he settled issue in the water, he would have to write up reports for the appropriate department heads. In particular, Rodney and Carson both needed to update their assumptions about the Wraith. “Normally this many don’t wake up at once. The more the hives fight with each other and the more they hear of these great hunting grounds and the return of their ancient enemies, the more the queens wake their armies, but they don’t have food for them all.”

“Food.” Ronon snorted. “You mean people.”

Samas shook his head. “The idea that they didn’t consume food didn’t make sense to either Gibbs or me. Any creature needs energy, and the Wraith weren’t taking enough energy from humans to sustain themselves.”

“What are they doing?” Tony asked. “Carson said they don’t have a working digestive system.”

“They have a digestive system that atrophies when they don’t use it,” Samas said. “They do eat, generally a high calorie mix made on their ships, but like most insects, they gorge and then go months or years before needing to eat again. I’d have to study their medical database more to know for sure, but I think they can even go decades between feedings, and if they hibernate, survive for centuries. The iratus allows them to lower their metabolism. When they feed on humans, they do take some energy from the feeding. However, they want the hormones and chemicals that their bodies can’t make. Without those chemicals, they will die.”

“You found that on the ship,” Tony said.

“Yes,” Samas agreed. “To fight them, we have to understand them on a level that humans cannot. Too much of what they communicate with each other comes in the form of scents.”

Ronon caught Samas by the arm and shared a chaotic collection of images from the hive ship. “I could smell things, see images that I’ve never seen on a hive ship before.”

“I’ll explain to all the symbiotes, teach them the Wraith language, as much as I know it,” Samas said. “The next time you host, your symbiote will understand more and help you more.”

“So, I can host again?” Ronon asked. Samas could feel the hope in him.

“Yes. After all, Jo likely wants to use the blood of your symbiote for her first spawn, but I will not allow her near this symbiote. I will be taking this one as one of my chosen to guard my young.” Samas could feel the wash of pride from Ronon’s symbiote and the grudging frustration from Jo.

“That’s a good thing, right?” Ronon asked. “I feel like it’s a good thing, but I don’t actually hear from my symbiote the way you and Gibbs seem to communicate.”

Samas stepped over the threshold to the room that was half flooded and alive with his people. “You probably do hear his voice, Ronon, but my child learned about this world by riding in you. He speaks with your voice. He remembers what you remember. When I take his blood and DNA, I will let the new spawning keep enough of his DNA to also keep some memories of you. If that symbiote in you now were to join with someone else, they would hear you.”

Ronon stopped at the edge of the water and looked down to where small waves lapped at his boots. He seemed to be considering his words carefully, and Samas waited, sending feelings of encouragement to him. “Will this symbiote join with someone else?” Ronon asked.

“Your onac is the first to take a host from this culture.” Samas frowned as he realized he didn’t know what answer Ronon wanted. He was used to his Igigi—his onac. Ronon and Tony had brought something to his children that he didn’t fully understand. He looked over to Tony and Jo.

Tony moved forward. “Why don’t you want this onac to join again?” Tony asked.

Ronon looked up. “Onac are strong enough for my memories.” He looked at Samas. “When we first met on the ship, I could feel it. You know what it’s like to see your world destroyed.”

Samas nodded. “I do.”

Ronon looked out at the water again. “I know Teyla’s people want to host. I don’t want them getting an onac that remembers that. No one should have to carry that memory.”

Samas looked over at Tony, and there was sympathy in his gaze. Luckily, Ronon was distracted with his own thoughts to take offense. “Every onac culture is different,” Samas said. “The Tok-ra and Goa’uld and Igigi all had different rules they lived by. We can make a rule for our culture that says that an onac gets only one chance to host. Given the pain carried by those from the Pegasus galaxy, that might work better than the old rules, which were designed to work with an Unas culture that didn’t have any great enemies or tragedies to remember.”

“I’m not sure I want you to change for me. It’s just—” Ronon looked so calm, but Samas could feel the pain rolling off the man. Gibbs pushed, and Samas slid back and allowed the humans to deal with one another.

“Sharing the pain won’t take it from you,” Gibbs said.

Ronon’s head snapped up. “I don’t want to share it with someone I’ll have to look in the eye,” Ronon said. “Sateda is mine, it belongs to those of us who survived. I’ll share it with the onac because they know what it is to lose a world, but the rest of them don’t.”

“Then we will respect that,” Tony said. “Jo will refuse the blood or flesh of any onac that has hosted more than once.”

“Samas will do the same,” Gibbs agreed. “So to host twice is to give up all chance of offspring.” The rule was a wild departure from other onac cultures, and the queens themselves would have to disregard it because they would outlive many hosts and would need to take new ones to interact with humans. However, the average onac could take his one adventure with a host and be satisfied. “It means that hosts will have to prove their right to take a host. An onac gets one trip outside the home waters. It has to be a trip worthy of singing about for a thousand years.”

Tony nodded. “Hosts should impress us with what they plan to do before being allowed near the waters. If people come here without some mark of approval, onac need to know that it could be a wasted joining.”

“And they will not get another,” Gibbs said. He could feel Samas’ urgency to get out of the body. These issues of culture had to be settled in the waters. He opened his mouth, and Samas leaped from him. Tony followed, dropping Jo into the water a half second before Ronon did the same. Other onac crowded close, their bodies churning the water as Gibbs stepped back and held his hand out toward Tony. Tony took it and moved to his side.

“Huh.” Ronon watched for a second before he stepped back away from the water. “People from Earth make such a big deal about having snakes in their heads, but it wasn’t all that difficult.”

“It will become difficult if the people from Earth figure out that you’ve hosted,” Gibbs warned. “But they are not Goa’uld. They aren’t even Igigi. They are a new people.”

“What do you mean?” Tony gave him an odd look. “They’re all your children, just like the Igigi.

Gibbs watched Tony’s animated expression and looked over to Ronon who felt so much and showed so little. “No, Samas is sure that these children are nothing like his Igigi. They’re just as dangerous, but there’s a subtlety and patience here that the other onac lacked.”

“Turi,” Ronon said softly.

Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

“Okay, I’ll bite,” Tony said when Ronon just continued to stare at the waters. “Who’s Turi?”

“A knife,” Ronon said. “An assassin’s knife, a specialty on Sateda. It’s thin and more narrow than the small finger. An assassin can stab between two ribs and put the steel through a man’s heart before he feels the first prick of the blade, but it’s also used to put a knife through a person’s neck without hitting any vital organs, a warning that you could have died and with one flick of a wrist you would have.”

“Charming,” Tony said with a wince. As warnings went, that was rather unsubtle.

“It’s a flexible weapon. Most wouldn’t use them because they take skill and patience. It’s not a weapon for someone who’s in a hurry. On Sateda, it’s a metaphor for doing something difficult exactly once and doing it well.”

Gibbs looked down at the waters. He couldn’t make the decision for Samas, but when he returned, Gibbs suspected that he would approve of the name. Turi. It was better to be a culture named after an honest weapon than false gods.

Rodney's pissed

John sat on his narrow bed and half-heartedly watched his laptop. He’d seen this game several hundred times, but when Rodney hit that door, John didn’t want to be in the middle of anything important, so he didn’t want to start any paperwork. And he definitely wasn’t going to watch any of the movies that came in with the last transmission from Earth. Rodney was already pissed enough.

The sad thing was, he had clearly tried to curb his temper in the transmissions from Daedalus. He’d only called John an idiot twice, but there were at least five or six more places where John could clearly hear the word in the silences.

Elizabeth kept sending him amused looks. Sometimes he was fairly sure she had a little sadism in her because she should have been sympathetic instead of gleefully telling him that she would leave it to him to explain the mission to Rodney.

Sure, she could claim that she had to go brief Teyla. Right. Like Grodin or Chuck or Harriman couldn’t do that. No, she was enjoying the thought of siccing a worried and angry Rodney on him. The door chimed, and John almost tipped his laptop off the edge of his bed. Pilot reflexes saved it, and he set it on the side table.

Usually Rodney let himself in, so if he was using the chime, he was really and truly pissed. Maybe John should have gone to their secret apartment. That would remind Rodney that they loved each other and murdering your lover was just too cliché for him. However, it was too late now.

“It’s open,” John called.

The door opened and Jonas Quinn was standing there.

“Dr. Quinn.”

“Colonel Sheppard,” he said with a smile. “Although I’d really prefer to be called Jonas.”

John hesitated. Usually when someone asked you to call them by their first name, you were supposed to reciprocate. But he was the military leader, and that might be slightly inappropriate. John’s social lapses were solved when Jonas kept talking, and John lost his opportunity to say anything.

“Radek finally got his head out from under the ZPM chamber and we’ve been initiating new systems. We think he found an Ancient warship.”

John perked up at that news. “A warship. Intact? Tell me you’re not talking about little warship pieces floating in some orbit.” Radek was cruel enough to do something like that, but Jonas seemed a little too nice for that kind of practical joke.

“No, it’s a whole warship. Radek would have come and told you himself, but your radio was off, and I think he was afraid he would find Rodney here yelling at you about the whole attempted suicide mission.” Jonas gave a shrug like he couldn’t quite figure out people from Earth. “People around here sometimes take Rodney’s temper too seriously.”

“Yeah,” John said with a weak laugh. He’d be avoiding Rodney’s temper too, only he was a big boy and he knew to take his lumps before his lumps got frustrated and had time to stew in their own anger and turn really dangerous. “So, where is this warship?”

“At the edge of the Pegasus galaxy. It’s headed this way, but the engines must be seriously damaged, because it’s barely moving.”

“But barely moving means moving, and that means she’s fixable, right?” John asked hopefully.

Jonas grinned. “I sure hope so. If anyone can fix her, this team can.”

John rubbed his hands together. Today was going to be such a good day. “Any Stargates near? Can we get a puddle jumper over to her?”

“Nothing in that neighborhood. We’re going to have to use the Daedalus—”

“What sort of moron offers to fly a dart against a hive ship?!” Rodney interrupted, already shouting when he came storming into the room. He elbowed Jonas out of the way and focused right in on John. And Jonas—that traitor had the nerve to look amused.

“Rodney, say hello to Jonas,” John said, trying to point out that they had company.

Rodney barely glanced that direction before lasering in on John again. “I thought you were dead!” He shoved John in the chest, and Rodney had a lot of strength behind all the soft curves. “You let me think you morons were still on that ship.”

“Jonas came to tell us about an intact Ancient warship, one that we can hopefully go see and you can fix.” John offered up the ship as a peace offering, but if anything Rodney looked more furious.

“I don’t care about a warship, I care about you, although why I’m not exactly sure. You clearly have only two brain cells under all that hair, and one of them is stuck in suicide mode as its default position.” Rodney shoved him again.

“I’ll talk to you later,” Jonas said as he started to back away, but he still looked amused.

“Tell Elizabeth, try to get permission for a mission,” John said, and then he flinched because Rodney had punched him in the arm.

“One message. You couldn’t send one message?” The door closed, and John was alone with a very irate Rodney. He wasn’t sure if that was better or worse than having an audience for this.

“I couldn’t. It would have given away our position.”

“Then you could have sent something from the hive. Something coded. I would have figured it out.”

“We were kind of busy,” John said apologetically. It earned him a punch in the other arm. “Very busy?” Rodney would have punched him in the arm again, but John caught him by the wrist and pulled him close enough to make swinging more difficult. He understood the frustration, but he wasn’t going to stand still and let Rodney take it out on him. The second their bodies were close, John could feel the tremors that shook Rodney.

“Hey, I’m okay.”

“I thought you were dead,” Rodney said again.

“It takes more than one little hive ship to take me down.”

Rodney glared at him.

“Two little hive ships?” John tried.

Rodney wrenched himself away and ended up on the opposite side of the room. “I can’t do this. I can’t.” He ran his hands through his hair, and John felt his guts knot in fear.

“What can’t you do Rodney?”

Rodney whirled around. “I thought you were dead. I saw the ships. They blew up.” Rodney stalked closer. “Blew. Up.”

Moving slow, John held his hands out. “Our jobs are dangerous. But you know I will always do everything I can to come home to you.”

“Until you can’t!” Rodney screamed. John nodded. Most men in the service did have this argument with their spouses, but John never expected it.

“Most of the time, you’re right there next to me. We both run that risk,” he pointed out.

“And then if we die, we die together. You aren’t off getting yourself killed while I’m left standing on the deck of the Daedalus with Caldwell telling me that I can’t be risked in the field. Do you know where he got that? Ellis! Ellis was always so big with the compliments, but every compliment seemed to end up with me being told what I could and couldn’t do, and then you came back and you were supposed to make it better and not get yourself killed, and I stood on the deck of that ship and I watched the man I love blow up and I… I didn’t know what to do.” Rodney sort of crumbled to the ground.

John leaped forward, but he didn’t get there in time to stop the fall, so he ended up on the ground with Rodney. “Rodney, you’re scaring me a little. You’re supposed to be the angry, logical one.”

Rodney gave a laugh that turned into a sob, and then he fisted John’s jacket and pulled him close. “I thought you were dead,” he whispered into John’s shoulder. John wrapped his arms around Rodney and held on as tightly as he could.

“I’m not. I’m okay. I promise I’m okay.”

“But you can’t promise you’ll be okay next time.”

John started rocking gently, and he could feel Rodney relax into his embrace. “No,” he admitted, “I can’t. But you know I love you. You know I’ll come back if there’s any way. Even when I offered to fly the dart, I planned to come back. I was going to fly a raid on the other ship and then when they started firing on each other, run for the planet and gate to another planet.”

“That’s the world’s stupidest plan. It never would have worked.” Rodney’s words were muffled against John’s chest.

“Maybe,” John admitted. It had been a long shot, but it sometimes you played the long odds when you didn’t have any other cards.

“It hurts to love you.” Rodney let go of John’s jacket only to wrap his arms around his waist and hold on tight. “I didn’t think it would hurt so much.”

“Yeah,” John said softly as he rested his cheek on Rodney’s head, “it does hurt. I’m afraid every time I take you though that Stargate. What if I make a mistake? What if I’m the reason you die?” John could feel that ember of pain flare to life at the admission.

“What if I miss something on some repair? What if I blow us up?” Rodney asked miserably.

John pulled back and put his hand under Rodney’s chin to force him to look up. “Hey, we’re both here now. No one has more than that. Think of all the couples back home who have normal jobs, and they don’t know they’re in danger of an Ori attack any day now. We know more, but we’re no different from anyone else.”

Rodney looked at him for a second, those blue eyes studying everything before he pressed them tightly closed. “It hurts so much more than I thought.”

“Yeah,” John agreed. “It does. People leave that out of the love songs.” John had more profound statements on the nature of love, but he lost them when Rodney grabbed his shirt and pulled him forward. Their lips met, and John flinched as his tooth was caught in the impact, but then Rodney kissed him so hard he forgot to complain. Rodney ran his hands up John’s arms until he cupped John’s face and the whole time, his lips and tongue were moving, exploring, pressing in before pulling back in a kiss that came closer to raw sex than anything John had ever experience.

Rodney pressed forward, and John was suddenly off balance and falling backwards. Rodney caught him by the back of the neck, and John fell slower, but he was still pinned down on the ground with all of Rodney on top of him. And his leg was bent at an awkward angle. John tried to roll to the side to free it, but Rodney’s hands were on his hips, holding him down while Rodney moved down to suck at the side of John’s neck.

John arched his back and gasped out Rodney’s name. However, Rodney ignored him in favor of working his way down John’s body, unfastening and unzipping and unbuttoning as he went. John writhed when Rodney uncovered his nipples and then sucked them right through the fabric of his shirt. It made an obscene slurping sound that sent shivers of need through John’s body. Then Rodney pulled on the shirt and John found himself stripped from the waist up before he could fully engage his brain.

He reached for Rodney’s shirt to return the favor, but Rodney was already stripping off, yanking at fabric that stretched obscenely before something gave with an audible tearing noise. Rodney just flung everything at a corner.

“I want to feel you,” Rodney said.

“Huh?” John wasn’t at his articulate best when he had Rodney’s considerable weight pressed down on his hard cock, which was still trapped in pants and his leg was at an awkward angle as they lay on the floor. He hadn’t had sex this uncomfortable since he’d been a teenager.

“You. Inside. Me,” Rodney said slowly. “Where’s the lube?”

John waved toward one of the drawers, and Rodney’s weight was suddenly off him. The blood started circulating in his leg again, and when John straightened it out, pins and needles coursed through the limb. “Strip. Off with the clothes,” Rodney demanded. John looked over to see that Rodney was naked and running a lube slicked hand over his hard and beautiful cock.

Suddenly John didn’t care about the floor or the lack of circulation. He pushed his hips up into the air and unfastened his pants as fast as he could. Rodney must have decided it wasn’t fast enough because he came over and pulled at the bottom of one leg so the pants slid right off.

“Rodney,” John groaned. He spread his legs, expecting to feel Rodney’s talented hands reach down to his hole. Instead, Rodney started stroking John’s already hard cock.

“I want to feel you,” Rodney said, and John finally got with the agenda. Okay, he could do that. He started to push himself up, but Rodney moved up and pressed his hands against John’s shoulders, pushing him back down to the floor. “I could have lost you,” Rodney said with a desperate edge to his voice. Then John could feel the slick warmth against the head of his cock. Rodney was already slick, but he couldn’t have done much prep because he was tight—almost painfully so.

Rodney leaned back and rested his hands behind him on John’s legs. It was an impossibly flexible move for a large man, and it meant that John couldn’t thrust. He could only grab Rodney’s knees and hold on as Rodney lowered himself slowly onto John’s overly sensitive cock.

Somewhere along the way, John started babbling. He could hear his own voice even if he couldn’t figure out what words he was saying. “Please” had a featured place in there somewhere, as did “hurry up,” and “you’re killing me.” However, other words spilled out unedited and probably without making much sense.

Finally Rodney had all his weight down and John was buried deep. John’s only warning was a crooked smile, and then Rodney started to ride him.

The next minutes were hot and sweaty and mindless. John writhed and struggled. He grabbed at Rodney, only to have his hands slide off without finding purchase. He cried out and then he finally got his knees bent enough that he could plant his heels and thrust up. Rodney’s face twisted into the worst ugly sex face John had ever seen, and then Rodney came, warm splatters of come going everywhere. John’s own thrusts grew wild and uncoordinated before he came deep inside Rodney.

They were both panting and sweaty and looking rough, but neither moved for long minutes. Finally Rodney sank down to the floor next to John. He didn’t even complain about his back.

Staring up at the ceiling and trying to reassemble his scattered brain cells, John realized that if he’d tried to describe any of that, it would have sounded spectacularly bad. Nothing they’d just done should have worked. Right now, they should both be making awkward conversation and trying to avoid words like ‘bad sex.’ But somehow all the awkward bits fit together so well that it had been the best sex of John’s life. He couldn’t even move. If someone paid him to move or ordered him to move, he would still be lying boneless on the floor.

Rodney’s arm and leg were draped over him, and John started to trace circles against Rodney’s elbow.

“Wait,” Rodney muttered, “did you say Ancient warship?”

A bray of laughter slipped out before John could stop it.

The almost siblings

Abby wandered into Rodney’s lab. “How did it go with the ship?”

Rodney glanced up from his work. “I’m sure you got the memo. Sheppard and Caldwell managed to blow it up. Blow it up! Do you know the sort of reverse engineering we could do if we had an intact ship? But no.” Rodney made a face.

Radek snorted. “I think it important to keep Wraith from hyperdrive technology, yes?”

“Of course it is,” Rodney said, “but Sheppard was in there all that time, he got the self-destruct codes, and he never once thought to ask, ‘hey, do you have any repair manuals sitting around?’ No. He’s just focused on blowing up the Wraith.”

“Which were trying to shoot you at time,” Radek argued.

Rodney turned and gave him a truly withering glare. They were so cute together. Sometimes Abby just wanted to take a picture and blow it up for her office. Miko wouldn’t mind. She thought the boys were cute, too. Maybe she could get a high resolution screen capture from the security feeds.

Radek ignored Rodney. “Does Tony say what will happen to Lieutenant Ford?”

Abby wrinkled her nose. No one was going to win in this situation. “The Marines aren’t charging him, but he’s being held for treatment and they don’t know how much long-term damage he’s going to suffer.”

“Sad for everyone,” Radek said softly.

“And the moral is to not run away from your people, get high on alien drugs, and then kidnap your ex-team who are—inexplicably—still trying to help you,” Rodney said. He was showing very little sympathy for Ford, but then Ford had nearly gotten the colonel killed, and Abby suspected that he was going to hold a grudge. Sometimes she really wished she could have a big romance the way he and Colonel Sheppard did. Yeah, they weren’t public, but when Rodney talked about Sheppard on that hive ship, Abby could almost feel his pain. And every time he insulted the colonel, there was this tone there, like he would put up with any stupidity from Sheppard just because he was Sheppard.

And wasn’t that love? Abby wanted someone who would put up with all her flaws and still want to hang out with her. Well, Miko did that, but Miko was her friend. She was like all the nuns rolled up into one, and the first real girl besty Abby had found since puberty where she discovered that other girls were way more into judging her than Abby really could tolerate. Miko was like the nuns. She didn’t notice appearance and she looked at the person inside.

Which explained her total crush on Rodney.

And there were always Tony and Gibbs and Samas. They would always love her and hang with her, but she kinda felt like the third wheel. Or the fourth wheel maybe. So Gibbs taught her hand to hand and took her target shooting and Tony had movie nights, but it wasn’t the same. She wanted someone who longed for her. She wanted the big romance. She wanted it to be like Radek and Selana who would sneak away in the middle of the day and come back looking all rumpled.

“It wasn’t his fault, and he’s going to suffer for it,” Abby said. At best, he was going to be forced out of the Air Force and with his file marked classified, it was going to be really hard for him to find work. But he could go home to his family. Abby hoped that was enough for him. She had worked too many cases where disabled and emotionally damaged soldiers had lost themselves to drinking or ended up on the streets. Yeah, she was angry with Ford, but she didn’t want that future for him.

“I have to go threaten the new arrivals now.” Rodney slapped his hand down on a thick folder. Clearly the topic of Ford was off limits, and Abby got that. Rodney was going to hold a grudge for a while.

“Yes, yes. Frighten away bad ones, but no more chasing away good people. Hydroponics labs need more botanists or Parrish will drag you into gardens,” Radek warned. Abby had read some of David’s reports, and he was getting a little on the cranky side. Most of his own research into local flora had been put on hold, and that wasn’t fair. If Rodney didn’t take care of the other sciences, they were going to have a rebellion. Abby had a brief fantasy about David running into battle screaming and waving a palm plant while Rodney defended himself with a wrench.

Abby plucked the folder out of Rodney’s hand. “I’ll take this one.” She gave him her brightest smile.

He narrowed his eyes. “Why?”

She smiled. “Because I’m nice.”

“No one is that nice.”

“Because you’ll owe me?” she tried.

Rodney performed an Olympic level eyeroll. “Oh please. Gibbs tried to kill me with his glare for a month straight. You still owe me for getting you in here over his objections.”

“Getting me in?” Abby’s voice went up. “I earned my spot fair and square, mister. And my boys were here, so I had every right to be here.”

Radek snorted. Abby swung around and included him in her glare. “Do you have something to add?”

“Me?” Radek put on his best innocent face, but she wasn’t buying it. He only looked innocent because he stood so close to Rodney that no one actually thought about some of the things he said. Abby actually admired his insult creativity. “No, I say nothing other than Gibbs is scariest man on city, and you call him your boy.”

Abby put her hands on her hips. “Yeah? And?”

“Might explain why men avoid asking you out on official dates.”

“Oh please. People have no reason to be afraid of my silver fox. Now, back to my original statement. I will take the welcome to Atlantis speech.” Abby smiled and clutched the folder to her chest. Rodney stared at it in panic, but sure enough, fear of touching the boobies kept him from making a grab. Sometimes it was good to be a woman.

“No. You’ll do something unforgivable like actually welcome them.”

“Do I look stupid?” Abby demanded. No way did he think she would make stupid people welcome. Personally, Abby’s goal was to do a little separating of wheat from chaff and then send some people packing.

Rodney stopped and gave her an incredulous expression before gesturing at her—all of her. It took Abby a half second to catch onto his meaning. Clearly he had a low opinion of her zombie kitty t-shirt and plaid miniskirt. Either that or he took exception to her collar. He did spend a lot of time staring at it.

“Hey, you’re the one who used the beaming transport to bring all my clothes,” she pointed out. Jenny Shepard back at NCIS headquarters hadn’t won the battle to keep Abby out of plaid miniskirts, Goth collars and platform boots, and the military hadn’t either. Well, they kept her out of platform boots, but that’s because it was really hard to run and fight in six inch platforms, and they lived on a frontline. She was eccentric, not stupid. She always wore sensible shoes and carried a weapon.

“Clearly I didn’t look at them before I scooped them up.” Rodney’s voice was approaching a shout.

“And what does that have to do with me welcoming the baby scientists?” Abby shouted right back.


“Then why are we yelling?” Abby yelled.

Rodney stopped. “I don’t know,” he said in a normal voice.

Radek muttered something in Czech before adding, “You two deserve each other.”

“Then I’m taking the orientation.” Abby decided to woman up and admit the truth. “I need to do something. I submitted my dissertation this morning.”

“And?” Rodney asked. “You used the piece on identifying trace elements in alien artifacts to identify source culture, right? Not the one on genetic diversity near the Stargate? That is too close to medicine and medicine is not science. If you get your doctorate in DNA, I’m giving you to Carson,” Rodney threatened.

Abby grinned. In a lot of ways, Rodney was like Gibbs—they both had their own ways of expressing love, and a person just needed the right secret decoder ring. Luckily, Abby was really good with code.

“I sent the trace elements paper, but I need something to distract me,” she said. “What if my paper doesn’t pass? What if they’re right now deciding all the ways to call it stupid? What if I did the science wrong?” Now that Abby said it out loud, she really was afraid of all that and more. Abby could feel the tears threaten, and Rodney had a panicked expression on his face. He never knew what to do with tears.

“Oh no. There is no crying in science,” he said, pointing a finger at her.

“Are you quoting a baseball movie at me?” Abby put one hand on her hips and started contemplating appropriate revenge.

Rodney rolled his eyes. “If you had any logical reasons for your fears, I would sympathize. You’re being irrational, and you know it. Your science is better than any of those desk-bound morons who wouldn’t know an actual working theory if it mutated into an iratus bug and bit them. I approved of that paper, and I’m much smarter and much more likely to call you an idiot than any of those morons back at the SGC.”

And that was all true. Abby dropped down onto one of the stools. “I always promised myself I wouldn’t get a PhD.”

“You what?” Rodney looked at her like she’d lost her mind.

Abby waved her hand. “PhDs are for people who need a paper to feel special or who want to prove to themselves that they’re smart and then they get the paper and they hold it over everyone’s head like a piece of paper makes you smart when it doesn’t, and then they do stupid things and insist that they can’t be stupid because they have a doctorate.” Abby made a face. She’d worked for a few assholes before she’d finally been promoted to head of forensics at NCIS. Any other agency would have kept hiring more assholes to promote over her.

Rodney snorted. “You’re getting it from the military. Trust me, it doesn’t count.”


“The military,” Rodney said slowly. “If you want to get a job outside of Atlantis, no one is going to respect a military doctorate with a dissertation that isn’t even in the public domain. You’ll have to prove yourself because your doctorate won’t be worth the ink it’s printed on. Not outside the military.”

Which meant that Abby would still be judged by her work and not some stupid degree. She smiled. “Thank you,” Abby said. While Rodney hadn’t meant it as a compliment, it was true that people were going to think whatever they were going to think. And now if she could just get her stomach to unknot, maybe she could get through the next week until her defense.

“You two have conversation like some people garden. Seeds everywhere,” Radek complained. “And I cannot work around this.”

Abby headed over and gave Radek a kiss on the cheek. “I’m going to go distract myself by threatening new people and then making them sign up for bowling.”

Holding her head high, Abby turned and marched out of the room. Behind her, she heard Radek tell Rodney, “Please never reproduce with her.”

As if. Rodney was like a brother to her. Besides, she wanted to see babies with Rodney’s eyes and the colonel’s hair. That would be cute. All the way up to the Gate room, Abby was grinning as she thought about that.

Welcome to Pegasus, Scientist edition

Evan Lorne wandered onto the control level of the Gate room where he could hopefully get a little peek at the new science recruits. McKay’s threats, complete with color pictures of dead people and all the ways the city tended to kill those who were too stupid to live, would be a happy reprieve from the mood in the office.

While Evan had known that the colonel felt bad about Ford, he hadn’t understood how much Sheppard felt for things until he’d seen him ripping through the chain of command trying to get promises that the lieutenant wouldn’t be prosecuted. But it was probably best that Evan did the overseeing of the scientists because as on edge as the colonel was, he’d zat the first scientist who tried to strangle McKay.

From the balcony above the main room, he could see the official Powerpoint presentation of death. Evan suspected that the SGC showed recruits the pictures ahead of time because there used to be a lot more vomiting by this point. Hell, even the soldiers normally got a little green around the gills at the idea of having your brain liquefied from the inside by nano-thingies. That wasn’t something you could fight.

When Evan leaned over the rail, he was shocked to see Abby Scuito standing near the gate, projecting the images onto the wall.

She clicked it off and then typed something into her laptop and the room grew brighter. “Any questions?” she asked. Most of the room was too stunned to say anything.

“Great. Now we’re moving on to the important things. First, I know that most of you had graduate assistants. You made them do your paperwork. You made them grade and file things and write the boring parts of your grants. And then the university administration told you that you absolutely couldn’t have graduate assistants work on the form-whatevers, so you went to your graduate students and told them to do the form-whatevers and not tell administration. And then you bribed them with Caf-Pow and chocolate. You are all experts in doing no paperwork.”

Abby was pacing along the front of the room. If someone dialed in, she would have to jump out of the way, but right now she had the Stargate behind her and it meant that all the eyes were on her. Lorne wondered if she had intentionally chosen a power position or if she was just lucky.

“Now Rodney doesn’t know this because he’s bad with people. That’s Rodney McKay for anyone who doesn’t know him, and no one else is allowed to insult him because Rodney is all sorts of awesome, but saying he’s bad with people is a little like saying that Colonel Sheppard has cowlicks. It’s too obvious to be an insult. Now because he’s bad with people, it’s never occurred to him to bribe them to do his work. It has occurred to me. I have been bribed and I have been the briber. And let me tell you, there will be no bribing anywhere on Atlantis.

“Everyone does his or her own paperwork. Rodney does his own paperwork. Radek does his own paperwork. And you will do your own paperwork. You will not fail to log where a sample came from only to find out that we could have a potential cure for cancer only you were too lazy to write down which planet it came from. You will not shove a sample in the back of the storeroom only to later find that that planet has a great source of naquadah and you were too lazy to do the required tests before filing it away. If I find abandoned samples, I will hunt down every fingerprint, every speck of DNA, until I know every person who ever breathed on that sample. And when I find you, you will suffer.

“If my paperwork isn’t important enough for you, then your paperwork is not important to me. I will delete every grant request, every personnel evaluation, every materials application and vacation request and every other document that you have ever filed.”

Okay, Evan could officially call this the least appropriate science meeting he had ever attended. Normally Rodney just threatened them with death, which a person could argue was hyperbole. Evan was almost positive that Abby meant every word she said. The scientists started to mutter unhappily, and Evan braced himself for the rush of protests and flood of people up to Dr. Weir’s office to file complaints.

Weirdly, it didn’t happen. After several minutes of whispers and shifting, the scientists all settled back down. Abby had been leaning against the Stargate, but now she started up again.

“Next. You do not treat anyone as your personal whipping boy-slash-grunt. Yes, we have Hoff who are city workers. We have welders and electricians and plumbers and none of them will do your work for you. If you are assigned to repair a system, that means you repair it. If one of the Hoff were going to repair it, Radek would have told them to go with you. So if you don’t have a worker, you don’t get to chase one down and take them with you. All Hoff are Radek’s minions, not yours. And if Radek is busy, they are Rodney’s minions, and if you try to turn them into your minions, badness will follow. None of you have minions. You are minionless. And you are not to turn soldiers into minions under any circumstances.”

Evan caught the eye of one of the Marines standing guard. Yeah, they both appreciated that. Evan could not count the number of times he had to rescue some poor airman or private from the clutches of a scientist.

Abby just seemed to be getting started, though. She got even louder as she told them, “Every member of the armed forces in this city was chosen because of their special forces training and off world experience. This is the most prepared, most battle ready and impressive fighting force the world has. You have a Japanese soldier descended from a Samurai. You have an officer who was cut off from reinforcements and single-handedly killed over sixty of the enemy. By himself. While rescuing two members of the city command staff.” It took Evan a second to realize she was talking about Sheppard. The colonel impressed Marines, something Evan had never managed to do.

Abby just kept going. “If you order anyone in this city to carry your boxes, I will hunt you down and let the Marines use you for target practice, and if I’m in a good mood, I might tell them they have to use zats or paint guns instead of real weapons.”

Evan cringed. Oh that was not going to go over well. He appreciated the effort, but SGC scientists were just sort of programmed to treat the military like well-armed pack mules. Hell, General Hammond had encouraged the military to put up with every indignity because it was the only way to keep valuable scientists in the program. They couldn’t openly publish, they weren’t getting the sort of pay people in private industry got, and they were regularly shot at. Appealing to their ego and making them feel like little gods in their own kingdoms was the only way to keep some of them.

Sure enough, one of the scientists stepped forward. “Who the hell are you to tell me how to treat people?”

“Someone who knows more than you,” Abby shot back. “And if you didn’t listen to me introduce myself, that’s just too bad because I don’t repeat myself. I just take revenge on people who don’t listen.”

“I want to talk to your supervisor. Where’s McKay?” The guy started turning in circles, and Lorne vaguely recognized him from the SGC. He’d been one of the worst for pointing to things and ordering them moved about. Evan had once heard his team suggest that if the man got Goa’ulded, they’d all have trouble telling. Hell, McKay was cut from the same cloth. He was always telling his team what to do, and Sheppard had the same ‘put up with it’ attitude as most of the SGC people. Evan wondered if he could get Abby to repeat this whole speech for McKay.

Abby started laughing. “Do you really think he’s going to side with you?” she demanded. “Okay, short cheat sheet. I’m Mom. I’ll help you with anything that you’re stuck on, and I won’t even make fun of you. Now like all mothers, I reserve the right to ground you until your hair turns gray if you screw up, but I’ll still love you. But Rodney is Dad. And he’s the ‘wait until your father gets home’ sort of Dad. He’ll scream and rant and tell you all about how you’re the biggest disappointment in the world. Anyone who wants to complain to Rodney had better be prepared to be called an idiot because complaining to him is an idiotic thing to do. Rodney has no patience for stupid.”

“I’m not listening to this.” The man turned around and started to walk off. One of the guards stepped in to block him.

“I’m sorry, sir, but no one is allowed to leave the Gate area without finishing the orientation speech.”

“Get out of my way.”

“No, sir, I will not.” The sergeant reached out to block the guy from reaching the exit. Evan couldn’t put his finger on why he thought it, but it did seem the sergeant was enjoying the chance to refuse the mouthy scientist’s order.

“Doctor,” Evan said loudly, “perhaps you would like to come up here and speak with Dr. Weir.”

The man turned around and looked up to where Evan stood.

“Yes. I would. At least one person around here has some common sense.” He charged up the stairs with the sort of fury Evan normally associated with Rodney after someone had done something so dumb that everyone could understand the depth of the stupidity.

“This way,” Evan said, guiding him toward Dr. Weir’s office. She normally had a line of people with complaints, and at least half of those would go home the second they opened the Stargate again. Evan figured this guy was about to buy himself a one-way ticket off Atlantis. Behind him, he could hear Abby explain how Radek was the crazy uncle who would call you an idiot, but at least he would do it in private, sparing you the horror of having Dad Rodney question your genetics in public.

Evan dropped Dr. Windbag off and headed back to the balcony in time to hear Abby telling them to always listen to their military people.

"If they tell you to jump, you jump. If they tell you hop on one leg and spread chicken feathers, you do it!"

Evan hadn't expected that. Several of the new scientists turned and glared at him as if he was about to give that order. Sadly, this was still going better than it normally did with McKay, and longer. Usually McKay was chasing them away by now, and the stampede up to Dr. Weir’s office started. But Abby seemed to just be getting warmed up. The military version was both shorter and more entertaining. Welcome to Pegasus. Do not touch anything. Do not go anywhere where the lights aren't on. Don't turn on the lights. Be prepared to throw yourself between danger and any random scientists. Don't fuck up. Actually, that might have been the exact transcript of Sheppard's last speech. He didn't go for all the patriotism and brave new frontiers grandness Ellis had lectured about.

Abby continued without a pause. "And if they tell you something that you know will likely lead to something blowing up, you tell them it will blow them up, and then you come and get McKay. And if they tell you to do something that's just normal-dumb, especially if you're in the field, then you do the dumb thing, and then you come and you get me or McKay or Radek and you tell us. And maybe the dumb thing had a really good reason that the soldiers just didn't explain well."

Evan had to admit that sometimes happened. Trying to explain foot care to a botanist was like trying to distract a butterfly long enough to get it to put on a tac vest. Evan knew that first hand.

"And maybe the soldier was just being stupid. In that case, we tell McKay. He will then track that soldier down and explain in the loudest, most excruciating detail possible exactly how stupid the soldier is being. He will go to the lunch room and tell everyone in a loud voice that the Marines remove brain cells during basic training. He will publicly mock the idiot. He will berate him. He will compare his intelligence to inanimate objects in a way that even the inanimate objects will take offense at. Evan, am I wrong?" Abby turned to him with a sweet expression that did not match her words. The reality was that she was McKay's twin, separated at birth and taught to hide her teeth under a layer of smiles.

"Um, pretty much," Evan agreed. He really didn't want to get dragged into this.

"Of course I'm right," she said. And again, Evan had a tickle of an urge to get DNA tests on her and McKay. Unfortunately, Abby wasn’t done. "But if McKay called you an idiot and told you that science absolutely did not work that way, and Earth still ordered you to do something, would you?"

Evan took a step away from the balcony. He did not like where this was going--not even a little. "Ma'am, I'm a soldier. I follow orders."

If looks could kill, at least half the scientists would be up on a murder charge. However, as the second-in-command of a frontline base, Evan did not have the luxury of debating civilian control versus military. If his officers issued an order, he followed it. He let Colonel Sheppard worry about what the civilians wanted. That was one job Evan never wanted.

"Military." Abby said the word with this indulgent fondness that Lorne really thought he should be taking offense at. "I love them but you know how they are," she said, nodding. Sadly, most of the scientists were nodding along with her. "And they have such good hearts that you can't hate them any more than you can hate puppies, and you are not allowed to hate puppies. I will kick you off the planet if you try."

Now Evan knew he was offended.

"Which is why we still go to McKay. He pressed charges against three of them, and Tony made sure they were all put in prison. And when Colonel Everett didn't listen to him, Rodney locked the colonel in his bathroom and took over the control tower."

Evan had heard that story more than once. No wonder Everett had retired shortly after leading Atlantis through the siege. This place really was rough on commanders.

"And when Colonel Everett tried to arrest Rodney, Rodney created a forcefield that Everett couldn't get through, hijacked the wormhole, dialed Earth, and blackmailed General O'Neill into getting his ass out here and fixing things. If soldiers are doing something wrong, McKay is your first, last, and best chance of making them so very sorry-sorry-sorry-sorry. Their quarters will have no hot water. All the fresh food will vanish when they show up in for lunch. They'll get stuck in transporters for hours or the city will simply initiate cleaning protocols and dump them in the ocean for a long, cold swim."

Evan frowned. Radek had sworn that had been a random accident. He said that he and Samas were working on protocols to make sure it didn't happen again. Six Marines had been forced to swim halfway around one of the piers before finding a place they could crawl back up to the deck.

"Rodney McKay can do all that and keep his job because he's just that good. You aren't. So you need him. You need him to tell you when you've screwed up, and you need to him to tell the military the same." She started pacing the room in front, and Evan had a flashback to watching Patton.

"But you understand this. Radek and Rodney and I have worked for the military for longer than some of our baby Marines have been alive."

Evan cringed when one of the younger Marines looked down from the upper deck to stare at her incredulously. He was six foot two or three and he must have been over two hundred pounds, so Evan was guessing it was a long time since anyone had called him a baby.

"We like them, and if you make our military people miserable, we will make you miserable. We will exact revenge. I will personally lose every piece of paperwork you hand in and do not assume that I can't lose it if you go around me and turn it in directly to Dr. Weir. I can find anything and I can lose anything. The military are here to protect us. More than once they have put their own bodies between us and danger. They offer to die for us, and we will honor that. Every single one of you will join a hand-to-hand self-defense class."

"What if we're no good at it?" a weedy woman asked loudly. She sounded more panicked than defiant.

Abby smiled at her. "Then take Evan's patented 'even Dr. Lee couldn't fail it' self-defense course," she said gently. Abby waved at him. "Major Evan Lorne can teach anyone anything," she said. She offered him a not-entirely-innocent smile.

Evan could feel himself blush and he definitely avoided making eye contact with any of the military people. She wasn't on his team so flirting wasn't against the regs, but Evan had never had a woman do it so unapologetically or publicly.

"I didn't become a geneticist to fight. My hands are too important to risk," a man on the other side of the room said. He did sound defiant. "I will never be some muscle-bound thug." Evan wondered if Dr. Weir was about to have her second visitor.

"You know what's the great equalizer?" Abby bounced on her toes. "Guns! Evan, can you loan me your weapon?" Abby looked up with this hopeful expression.

Evan was starting to panic just a little. "What?"

"I'm going to show them what a good shot I am." The worst part about the request was that Abby had this bubbly expression like this was the best idea in the world.

"No," Evan said firmly.

"What? I'm not going to hit anyone I'm not aiming at," she said, and that was definitely a pout.

Evan was in over his head. "Call it one of those military things," he finally said. "No firing weapons in an area that hasn't been secured for weapons fire."

Abby rolled her eyes, and several of the scientists laughed. "Military," she said in mock exasperation. At least Evan hoped that was an act. "I wouldn't hit anything I didn't want, but when it's not about science, you just have to let them be all anal about their weapons and stuff. But the best part is that with a weapon, you can defend yourself without having to get close enough to the bad guy to risk getting hurt. Problem solved!" She clapped her hands together.

"I'm not fighting," a woman said. She looked like she was edging toward the stairs to Weir's office.

Abby nodded. "Okay. Then go back. You don't get to play with all the cool Atlantis toys unless you take one of the classes. Boss's orders. Now you can do handguns or you can do bantos rods which is a really cool Athosian ninja thing or you can do hand-to-hand or you can do knife fighting, but you have to do one of those. Anyone who doesn't has to go back to Earth and they will only get to play with the toys we think aren't cool enough and choose to send back home for the losers."

"That's not fair!"

Evan couldn't even tell who said that, but Abby whirled around to face the whole group. "What's not fair is you not taking this seriously. Every five year old in the city is armed, and if there are enemies, they know how to run and hide, and if they're cornered, they can fight. They know how to fight their way to one of our soldiers, and you're saying that if there's an invasion, you're going to stand around with your thumb up your ass and wait for the soldiers to do all the work.

“I don't want my Gibbs or my John or my Evan or any of my baby Marines dying because you're too whiny. If someone invades, I'm going to lock myself in my lab, and if someone gets in, I'm going to shoot them, and my people aren't going to die trying to rush a well-guarded corridor to save me because I put myself in a stupid position. And if any of you cause any of my people to die, you'd better get transferred back to Earth before I can find you. Seriously." Abby had silent tears running down her cheeks, but Evan wasn’t sure if that was fear or just an excess of emotion. She had an intensity in her voice that made the hairs on the back of Evan's arms stand up. "Because I will hurt you."

She marched down into the crowd of new scientists, and people stumbled to get out of her way until she stood in front of a man whose hair was just starting to turn white. "They put their lives on the line because that's their job. They protect us. But we have to protect them. We have to make sure we don't get ourselves in the kind of trouble where they have to go on suicide missions for us. They can't tell polyisobutylene from carbonic anhydrase, and they trust us to defend them from a world of science they don't even understand. They live in a city that could kill them all tomorrow, but they trust us to tell them the truth and keep them safe, and I will do anything to protect my people. Anything."

Evan held his breath. Gibbs always talked about Abby as someone to defend, but right now he had the feeling that if she had a weapon, she might shoot this guy in the leg just to make her point.

"They trust us," Abby said, her voice strangled with emotion. "We have to take care of them. We have to take care of every last baby Marine, and that means that we let them teach us how to fight, and then we work really hard to take care of the city so we never have another invasion. We've had a few, so it's not like we're being paranoid. So if you stay you have to promise to take care of our people. All our people."

She whirled back around and marched to the front. The man she’d confronted took one look at her back, turned, and headed for Dr. Weir’s office. Evan had never been so glad to see someone bail. If you listened to that speech and still didn’t want to take a self-defense class, you had no business being near the front lines.

"Next item on the agenda. Pegasus galaxy is really freaky and it's too easy to get all weird sitting in your own room thinking about all the aliens that want to eat you. So we do not let people sit alone in the dark every night. Well, you can six nights a week, but everyone will be signing up for at least one of our social events."

This was new. Evan had never heard McKay give this part. Honestly, Evan didn’t even know they had social events. Of course, before Harriman, he’d been trapped in the office most nights. Sheppard’s idea of paperwork was somewhat deficient. Lorne still preferred him to Ellis.

"Over here we have sign-ups for bowling. I lead the bowling leagues, and you can see we have theme nights four days a week. Costumes are optional and we are very open in our definitions since clothing can be expensive since it's all handmade around here. I recommend Goth night because we have a very good blood punch we serve. Pirate night is really popular too. The three nights that aren't themed are for serious bowlers, and the teams have tryouts scheduled so check for times." Abby moved to a different section of wall, and now Evan could see the white board leaning against the Ancient walls. "These are the book club sign ups. Fair warning, if the title is a girly book, there's a very good chance we're going to start talking dish about who is dating whom and which guys have the very best asses. Men are welcome, but if you're offended by healthy sexual liberation of women, keep your attitudes to yourself."

Abby looked up to where the young Marine still watched. "Danny, what do the guys do on the manly book days?"

The Marine coughed and looked over toward Evan before answering. "We discuss the book."

Evan rolled his eyes. He was an officer, not stupid. "Probably while drinking moonshine and playing poker," Evan guessed.

The Marine blushed. "I wouldn’t know about that, sir."

Abby was moving on. "Colonel Sheppard is in the surf club. If you join in the hope that you'll have access to him so you can talk to him about your pet projects, he maintains the right to set your surfboard on fire. If you always wanted to learn but haven't had time, he loves having newbies. Seriously, some of the coolest people in the city get out and surf. Teyla is awesome at it. And moving on. This is for our birdwatchers..."

Evan tuned out as Abby walked them past station after station—everything from film night to storytelling to rock collecting. Seeing as how he’d been on Atlantis a lot longer than Abby, Evan wasn’t sure how she ended up knowing so much more about what the city had to offer. He didn’t know they had a theater, much less a designated film study night.

And Colonel Sheppard was in the surf club. Evan supposed he shouldn't be surprised, but he was. He was wiling to bet money that either Abby or Tony had talked the colonel into it. Good for them. Leading Atlantis' military had sucked the life out of Ellis, and it was nice to see how easily Sheppard slipped into the role. Maybe getting out and teaching people how to surf was one of the colonel's secrets to success. It'd been a long time since Evan had time to indulge in his art, but maybe he should follow the colonel's footsteps and start an art club now that Harriman was taking over the paperwork—and doing it in half the time Evan had needed. It'd be nice to talk to people about his work and maybe show off a few pieces.

Dr. Weir came out of her office, and looked down at the milling scientists. Abby was darting through the crowd, and from the looks of it, she was having to drag a few people to board to get them to sign up, but she wasn't taking 'no' for an answer.

"I only had two formal complaints. That's a record. Did she tell them they had to take self-defense classes?" Weir leaned against the railing and watched the Gate room floor.

"Yes, ma'am. Baby Marines and all the puppy-like military on this base need the scientists to take care of us before we are forced into suicide missions because of our borderline insane need to take care of them."

Dr. Weir gave him a very odd look. "Maybe I should see if anyone recorded this."

Evan nodded. "Yes ma'am."

After one last look down at the milling crowd, she headed back to her office where Dr. Blowhard and Dr. I’m-too-special-to-fight waited for their tickets off the city. Most of the time, scientists either died or transferred back to Earth in fairly high numbers. Right after Sheppard took command, a small but significant number of military people requested transfers, but after that, they had stabilized and started taking in new recruits. The scientists were far less stable as a whole. Dozens came and far too many turned around and went home within a month. Evan wondered if Abby's approach would change that. He made a mental note to flag the new arrivals’ names and track attrition rates for this cadre.

"And now it's time for the big tour!" Abby called out, and she sounded terrifyingly perky. Once this was over she was going to be searching for caffeine like McKay after three days in the field with no rations. "This way, people. Our first stop is the wonder of the transporter!"

Corporal Withers moved to the balcony next to Evan. "And here I thought Dr. McKay was scary when he gave the welcome speech."

"I hope someone taped that," Evan said. It had been a thing of beauty.

"Yes, sir. Grodin got it all. She's downright terrifying."

"Yeah," Evan agreed, "she is."

"And a little hot."

Evan turned and glared at the corporal.

"Sorry, sir. I am unnnoticing that as we speak." Withers had the nerve to grin at him before retreating back to his post.

Evan looked down at the last of the scientists as they followed her out, all their belongings sitting in the gateroom ready for the logistical team to pick them up. Withers was wrong. She'd been a lot hot.

The last of the Abby side story

Abby opened her program and started sorting paperwork. Daily updates went into one file, requests another. She glanced through a few of the more sketchy scientists' work and shot back a few nasty emails about their lack of logic and forwarded a couple of others to Radek so he could do the same. More complex emails she set aside to sort a little later.

One of Abby's biggest shocks when she'd been introduced to the Atlantis science community was that everything went straight to the head of the department. Rodney was supposed to juggle all paperwork, do his research, oversee others' research, do evaluations, and oh yes, train and go on missions with his team.

Some of that Rodney brought down on himself by being a total asshole perfectionist. And Abby had quickly figured out that Radek was doing his best to take the pressure off Rodney by intercepting some of the paperwork. However, Radek wasn't pushy enough to step in and officially take over. Abby was. If the others wanted to get to Rodney, they could turn in paperwork that didn't make her wince. If she could spot the errors, then Rodney was going to have all sorts of fits and smothering spells.

True, he still had fits and screamed and sent scientists running out of his lab in utter tears, but at least there were fewer of them. One more upside was that Rodney had more time to scream at the stupid ideas that did get through Abby, so every once in a while she forwarded some report or request from some blowhard straight through to Rodney just to watch Rodney shred them with such perfect precision that his insults could be considered weapons. Abby really did adore that man. If it weren't for the fact that he was totally in love with John, she might even take him for a tumble in bed.

She liked strong. More than that, she liked strong with a side of needy. Growing up with deaf parents, she'd always had love with a side of needy. A big side. When people didn't need her, she felt like she wasn't really connecting with them--like they might drift off because they didn't have that need to anchor them together.

While Abby understood that wasn't exactly mentally healthy, she couldn't convince her emotions to change. She was who she was, and she needed someone who needed her.

That was one of the reasons that she had connected with Gibbs. Yeah, he was the papa bear who had defended her when she came to NCIS, but she was the only one who hugged him. The first time her old boss in the labs had called her a "girl" and completely dismissed her brilliant idea, she had cursed in ASL and Gibbs had signed right back. Abby had been so surprised, and so in need of a friendly connection that she had thrown her arms around him and hugged him hard.

She had felt him stiffen in surprised, and right when she thought she'd made a huge mistake, he hugged her back so hard that she'd been a little breathless, and she had felt him tremble a little. Then she'd known that he needed her. He needed someone to hug him and someone he could protect. After she found out about his daughter, she understood that she had tapped into a deeply buried need and it had pulled them together.

Gibbs had pretty much stayed broken until Tony. Tony was the first person other than her that Gibbs could touch casually. Even when she saw Gibbs with his wives, there was a barrier there--a do not touch sign that none of the women had gotten through as easily as Tony. That's why Abby had never made a play for Tony. Sure, she’d disliked him when she thought he really was the cocky playboy he pretended to be. Once she'd figured out just how many issues he had, she was totally interested, but by then she'd seen how he looked at Gibbs. He could make the big show about being heterosexual in front of Kate, but Abby had known better, even then.

Now she had slept with Tim when he'd been all geeky and insecure, but after Tony and Gibbs left, he'd started getting an ego that she really didn't find attractive.

Which was ironic. Rodney had a bigger ego than everyone at NCIS put together, but his insecurities were even bigger. She and Miko had laughed about the fact that Miko was turned on by Rodney’s brilliance and passion, and Abby by his insecurities. They’d both agreed that if it weren’t for Colonel Sheppard, they would totally share Rodney. Well, Abby had made the suggestion, and Miko had giggled and nodded. That's why Abby would have to kill Colonel Sheppard if he did anything to hurt Rodney.

Abby finished her work and realized that Rodney had a lack of stupidity to deal with in his morning in-box. She pulled out one of Kavanagh's emails that she'd set aside to answer herself and added it to Rodney's pile. That would give him a chance to work out a little frustration. As the cherry on the sundae, she shot off a quick email to Kavanagh pointing out that since he had objected so strenuously to her "interference" in his work, she had sent his work directly to Rodney without reviewing it. She emailed copies of that email to Rodney and Elizabeth. Now when he got his ass handed to him on a plate, it could be an extra-public ass-whupping. Those were the best.

Abby was puttering through the rest of the paperwork and she flagged two reports. From the sounds of it, Cooper was having Sensarma either do his paperwork or proofread it. The writing styles were too similar. She would definitely be investigating that little mystery and potentially tanking someone's entire harddrive. Of course she would back it up first, but Cooper wouldn't know that.

Yep, Abby found that she liked being a bit of a lab Nazi. And after she made sure that all her little scientists were in line for inspection by Rodney, she could start working on any mystery substances the teams had brought back.

The door to her tiny lab came open, and Abby looked up, expecting either some timid little scientist asking for help or some blustering idiot scientist demanding she kiss his ass. Instead she found Major Lorne standing in the open door.

"Major!" She smiled at him, and he smiled right back before clearing his throat and giving her a more professional nod of the head.

"Ms. Scuito, or is it doctor?"

Abby snorted. "I'm not telling you because you should call me Abby. Titles are for people who need their egos stroked." Like Rodney, she thought, but she didn't say it.

Lorne nodded slowly. "Okay, Abby it is, but only if you call me Evan."

"Evan. I like it." Evan Lorne. It was a very nicely balanced name. Not too manly, not too frilly, not old fashioned, but not trendy.

"I'm glad. I'll tell my mother."

Abby couldn't tell whether that was serious or Evan being a little snotty and not caring about her approval. She didn't know him well enough to tell.

"I saw your welcome speech," he said.

Abby rolled her eyes. "Elizabeth already gave me the whole spiel. Soldiers are not puppies, yes, yes. I promise to never again make you all sound like you needed to be adopted and taken home for a bath and a walk." Seriously. Abby loved the armed forces, so getting that speech from Elizabeth was just wrong. And the fact that Colonel Sheppard had smirked his way through it without adding one word just proved her point. The military couldn't be all that upset. She narrowed her eyes and studied Evan. Unless he was here to do the whole 'never disrespect us again' lecture. Abby took it from Elizabeth because she didn't want to make the woman look weak in front of the military, but she didn't plan to sit still for another lecture.

"Actually, I liked the speech," Evan said.

Abby frowned. Huh. She hadn't expected him to admit that.

"Sometimes the scientists forget that we're real people. They needed a little reminding that we're all in this together. Now, I'm not sure how the Marines feel about being called baby Marines..."

Abby rolled her eyes again. "Some of them are babies. They're like nineteen. I have shoes that are nineteen."

Evan laughed. "That's true, but Ronon has taken to calling them baby Marines during training and suggesting that he should go find himself some grown up Marines to play with."

Abby cringed. "That's harsh."

"Gibbs suggested that he was a grown up Marine, and he then kicked Ronon's ass. I didn't realize that Samas gave him that much of an edge."

"Yep. Drowned, shot, beat up, starved, frozen, and in one really strange case, dropped into a vat of insecticide, and Gibbs just kept going. But then Tony is the same. He's been shot, beaten, concussed, and dosed with the plague, and he pulled through. I suspect Samas might have been involved in a few of his recoveries." Abby followed the evidence. Samas and Gibbs both loved Tony enough that they might have slipped in and done a few repairs when Tony wasn’t looking. Then again, maybe Tony had even been looking and knew about Samas before Atlantis. Kate hadn’t. No way would Kate have kept a secret like that from her.

"Either that or they're both indestructible,” Evan said in an admiring tone.

"That's possible. So, you aren't here to tell me that I'm being unkind and patronizing."

"No," Evan said firmly. "I was actually going to ask you about the clubs."

"Oh!" Abby bounced. Tony had told her to let the older personnel find their own way to the clubs without nagging, but this was great. The people who came during Ellis’ reign knew Lorne in a way they didn't know Sheppard. If he joined, their clubs would definitely work. "Do you want to join one? The fencing club? I know Dr. Baudin doesn't look like it, but he's amazing with a sword. Or maybe surfing!"

"I was actually thinking of starting an art club, if you think there's any interest," Evan said, cutting her off. And that was good because Abby had been planning on listing all the clubs with physical activities. Evan Lorne looked like a physical kind of guy. She liked that he surprised her.

"Do you paint or sculpt or do performance art?"

Evan snorted. "I never got into performance art in school, besides, honestly, how do you see the military reacting to me doing some of that stuff?"

Abby pursed her lips and made a show out of thinking about that, but she already knew what he meant. "Maybe not. I bet you're into painting."

"I bet you're right," he agreed. "It's been a long time since I took any art theory classes, but I have a few supplies, and I bet some other people do too."

Abby frowned. Having a few supplies wasn't fun, and clubs were supposed to be fun. She'd bribed the material production department into making surfboards. They weren't great boards, but they were usable. But now Evan was talking about making due, and it was her self-imposed job to get the clubs the resources they needed to be fun.

"If you don't think it's a good idea..." Evan started backing up.

Abby darted forward and caught him by the hand. "No, no no. It's a great idea. It's so awesome that you're jumping in because Tony totally had to twist Sheppard's arm to get him to get out there and play. All work and no play makes Johnny borderline psychotic and leads to neurotic badness. So you are getting your art club, but we need to get some supplies so you guys can have fun."

"I don't think the military is going to--"

"So we don't ask them," Abby interrupted. If she let him think too much, he was totally going to mess this whole thing up and second guess himself. Instead she dragged him out into the hall. She could hardly wait until Rodney gave permission for the sciences to spread out and open more labs so she could claim a larger space for herself. She was guessing the labs nearest him would be empty the second he let his staff claim any of the new towers, but for now she was exiled to a large corner closet at the end of a hall. It meant that she had to drag Evan quite a distance, but he surprised her by going along without protest.

Abby charged into Rodney's lab, Evan still in tow. "Rodney, give me your credit card so I can buy something you think is totally worthless," she announced. If she told him it was worthless, he was far less likely to waste time asking for a lot of details. Sure enough, he skipped right past what she wanted to purchase and went to the heart of the matter.

"Why would I give you my card?" he demanded.

"Because you like me and I'm not stupid and you don't have enough not stupid people around here," Abby answered. She didn't actually believe that, but compared to Rodney, the rest of them did suffer from an IQ drop.

"She has you there," Radek commented.

Rodney shot a nasty look in his direction. "I don't need help from the peanut gallery."

"You don't even care about money except for making the military pay enough to prove they respect you," Abby said. It was a stab in the dark, but he had mentioned an apartment, and he didn't have any bad habit more expensive than chocolate, so Abby figured it was a good guess.

"That's not the point," Rodney snapped.

"Yes it is. You have money you don't want, I want things that money can buy, and you need to give me the credit card so I can fix that." Abby stuck her hand out.

Rodney frowned as he looked at her. "Are you planning on buying something that will make me fire you?"

"Nope," Abby said. She could feel Rodney's fear, and she wondered how many people had asked for his trust, and how many had betrayed him. From his reaction, she was guessing more than one. Probably more than a dozen. That explained why Rodney liked her and respected her but he didn’t really trust her. Not truly. He’d never breathed a word about his big gay romance with a military officer. Well if she was going to start asking him for some trust, he was probably more comfortable trusting her with money than with something important. She opened and closed her hand in a grabby-hand gesture.

Rodney sighed and reached for his wallet. “I’m going to regret this.”

“What’s my spending limit?” Abby asked.

“I think this has a $50,000 limit,” Rodney said as he pulled a card out. “But don’t spend all of it,” he quickly added. Abby hurried around the table, and Rodney handed the card over. Only then did he look over to where Evan stood in the doorway looking a little shocked.

“What do you want?” he snapped.

Rodney was so predictable. If someone saw him being nice, he had to immediately compensate. She was guessing that he had been taken advantage of more than once, and he put up all the prickles to make sure it didn’t happen again. She wasn’t surprised. Science was a mean and unforgiving sort of world, and Rodney had been a kid when he’d been thrown in with doctoral students who would have falsified results or removed someone’s kidney with a spoon to get a prime spot in a journal.

Evan held up his hands in surrender. “Nothing. I’m fine. I’m just checking to see if the new escorts are working okay.”

Abby frowned. Evan’s first instinct was to hide that he was here to start an art club. That was an interesting piece of evidence. It was very interesting.

“They’re all idiots,” Rodney announced, “but they aren’t any more idiotic than anyone else you’ve sent for escort.”

Evan nodded. “I’ll be sure to pass on your praise, Dr. McKay.”

Rodney gave Evan an odd look, like he was trying to tell if Evan was being shitty or not, and honestly, he kind of was. Abby glared at him and backhanded him but good.

Evan yelped and grabbed his arm, and that’s when Abby remembered she had on her pyramid onyx ring.

“Be nice,” she said before pushing him out of the lab.

“She is stranger every day,” Radek said behind her back. Abby didn’t care. She had the credit card and a willing volunteer for a new club. They needed clubs to bring science and military people. Yeah, the teams were good for that, but they had too many scientists for everyone to be on a team regularly, and some of the scientists just weren’t team material. Like Miko. She got hives just thinking about it. Personally, Abby would love to be on a team, but Gibbs had vetoed it, and she got it. He’d already lost one daughter, and he needed her to protect him from another loss, and she was really good with people’s needs.

“Maybe this isn’t a good idea,” Evan said as they had almost reached Abby’s lab again.

“What isn’t?” Abby asked absent-mindedly. She could get Lindsey to buy the supplies and smuggle them on the Daedalus, but there’s no way she could ask the poor woman to do the shopping. Caldwell kept her so busy that even when the Daedalus was in dock, Lindsey barely had time for herself. On the other hand, Radek was kind of amazing at hacking cell satellites when they had the wormhole open, so he could probably get them access to some online shopping. She could have Evan make a list so he didn’t even have to officially see the illegal network connection. They needed a better system because eventually someone at the SGC was going to realize that their network was holey enough to use as a strainer, at least when a hacker had access to Ancient tech it was.

Evan caught her by the arm. “Maybe it’s not a good idea to start an art club,” he said, and that was a serious voice. She had no intention of listening to him, but he was definitely serious.

“No, it’s an absolutely great idea.”

“I don’t want you using McKay’s credit card to buy things for my club,” Evan said.

Ha! He did still think of it as his club, but he was definitely dragging his feet. “I’m not. I’m buying art supplies for whoever I can get to join the art club because that’s part of my job.”

“Your job?”

“Making sure that people have a place to fit in, making sure that people don’t turn into weird loners. Kate even said this is a good idea, although she also suggested that I’m overly invested and slightly obsessive, but it’s not like she’s the first psychologist to say that.”

“Kate Keightmeyer?”

Abby nodded. “Before me, she had trouble getting anyone to really take leisure time seriously. But trust me, I have seen what happens when the bossman gets obsessive and forgets to take time to unwind, and as ugly as that was, I do not need an entire base of people who are that wound tight. I mean the military folk are good at drinking and playing stupid jokes, but that’s no replacement for actually having a little fun, and you are not going to get a botanist into beer pong. It’s just not going to happen. But chess or fencing or art or even rock collecting can really help.”

Abby could see that Evan was trying to get a word in edgewise, but she wasn’t ready to let him say anything yet. He had a look on his face that made it pretty clear he was going to say something stupid. He looked nervous and kept glancing down at the credit card in her hand. Interesting. Abby was starting to form a few theories.

“If you have any young soldiers that aren’t fitting in with the beer pong crowd, I would love to have some military types for some of the clubs like rock collecting and poetry night,” Abby held up her hand, “and before you go saying anything about poetry night, Ronon is running that and all the anthropologists come out looking a little shell-shocked, so the poetry is probably pretty violent. But if you assign them, tell them they have some mission, like getting intelligence on Sateda by listening to the poetry or guarding the guys who are on the beach. That would let them see how cool the clubs are, but you have to tell them that they have to hide the fact that they were ordered there because there’s nothing more unfun than hanging out with someone who has been ordered to hang out with you.” Abby made a face.

“You want me to assign escorts?” Evan asked. He backed up a step, but again, his gaze kept going right down to Rodney’s credit card. So his discomfort was either something specific to Rodney or something related to Rodney-type people, not that many people were like Rodney.

“If you have guys that are at the edge of things, yeah,” Abby said. “The clubs are going to work best if there are military and science people together. That way we can get to know each other better. From what I’ve heard, Ellis kept the military way too separate.”

“He did,” Evan agreed softly, and then he cleared his throat like criticizing a superior officer had stuck in his throat or something. “Look, I like the idea of the clubs, but on second thought, maybe you should find someone else to run the art club.”


Evan blinked at her.

Abby blinked right back.

“I should get back to the office,” he said.

Abby darted in front of him, blocking his escape. “You love art. Why wouldn’t you run the club?”

Evan gave her a smile that probably charmed girls. “Get me a list of clubs that are light on the military side, and I’ll see if I can’t encourage a few of our people to get involved.”

Misdirection. That might be a good move if Abby wasn’t Abby. But she was, and he was not sliding away that easily. She put her hands on her hips and sidestepped to block his retreat. “Why?” she asked again.

He stared at her for a second. “Abby, I really do have duties,” he said, and he looked honestly apologetic as he put his hand on her shoulder to give her a little push to the side.

“I can call the colonel and ask him to give you a few minutes to sort this out.” Abby raised her hand to her radio, and Evan gave her an incredulous look.

“You’re vicious,” he accused her.

She smiled. “Thank you.” She could see the second he caved. His military stiff stance melted into something slouchier.

“Look, I’m the second in command of the military. It might not be a good idea for me to do the art club.” And again, his eyes went to the credit card.

“You think Rodney cares about this?” Abby held up the card. “I could spend $50,000 on bedsheets and he wouldn’t do more than bitch.”

“It’s not…” Evan sighed. “I love the idea of the clubs. I’ve always wanted to learn fencing, so that might be interesting.”

“Great!” Abby said with a smile. “I’ll get you the information so you can set up the art club on a different schedule.”

“Abby, what would Rodney say if he found out that I did art?” Lorne demanded with some exasperation.

Abby shrugged. “He’d tell you it was a waste of time only he thinks the whole military structure is 90 percent wasted time, so I’m not sure he’d bother.” And that’s when Abby figured it out. Big, bad soldier boy was insecure. Well, the best way to deal with an infection was to lance it. “Kavanagh would totally make a big deal out of it,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I bet he and Croft would make fun of you and you should definitely keep them away from the art room because they would totally make fun of your art,” she said. She could see the pain flash across Evan’s face before he hid it beneath a layer of disinterest.

“I really just don’t have time, and I don’t want people investing in an activity that I’m not going to be able to really spend time on.”

“Do you really care what people like Kavanagh and Croft think?” Abby asked gently.

“Of course not,” Evan said entirely too quickly.

“Carson’s grandmother used to paint. He says he’s really bad, but I bet he would love to join,” Abby said, “and the colonel would love to see you treating Atlantis like a city and not just a military post, and Dr. Weir probably would too. People who matter would be really happy for you to have your art.”

“I know that,” Evan said, but he had one of those tiny almost-frowns that suggested that maybe he didn’t know it.

Abby smiled at him and held out her hand. “Let’s go walk out on the pier and we can talk,” she said. “You know, when I went to school, I was scared to even speak to people because my parents were deaf and I wasn’t used to hearing people speak. I talked funny.”

Evan sighed. “This really isn’t necessary and it isn’t on point,” he said.

“Nope,” she agreed even though it was totally both, “but you saw me with the new scientists, and you know I’m the only person in this city who will march straight up to Gibbs and tell him what to do, so do you really think you’re going to win?”

With another sigh, Evan reached up and touched his radio. “Lorne to Sheppard.” He waited a half second. “Abby wants me to give her an escort out to one of the piers, so I may be unavailable for a time.” He smiled as he listened to something the colonel said. “If I don’t show up by dinner, send out search teams, sir.”

Abby rolled her eyes. Why did her boys always make it so hard on themselves? She’d had to work on Gibbs for years before he’d admit that sometimes he needed a hug, and she wasn’t even going to get started on Tony or Rodney. They had too many issues to even count, although Abby figured Gibbs had taken over the Tony-tending.

“Yes, sir,” Evan agreed. “Lorne out.” He turned off the radio with a touch and took Abby’s hand. “I guess for now I’m all yours.”

“Yep,” Abby said. “Now, let’s talk about what art supplies you’re going to need and I want to know all about how you got into art and your favorite schools of painting and everything.” It was going to be an awesome day. Evan didn’t look as convinced of that, but Abby had time to work on him.

Carson's brilliant plan

Once Carson finished his presentation, he looked around the room. Samas had to control a desire to snap his jaws. This was a terrible plan.

Elizabeth turned to the colonel. “John?”

“Uh, yeah?”

“Is it possible to capture a Wraith safely?”

“I would rather discuss whether we have any right to do this in the first place,” Samas said before he could answer. The idea of genetically altering the Wraith disgusted him to the point that he wanted out of this body and away from people who would consider this reasonable.

“I understand the dangers, as does Carson,” Elizabeth said in her best diplomatic voice.

“What gives us the right to genetically alter the Wraith?” Samas asked. Elizabeth didn’t have a quick answer for that.

“I agree,” Teyla said. “This is not advisable.”

“This would let us save them,” Carson said with a bewildered look on his face. Humans sometimes made Samas weary. They lived such short lives and then developed such entrenched attitudes and beliefs.

“By forcing them to change their very species?” Samas demanded. As far as Gibbs was concerned, he would back this plan of Carson’s only if he got to kill the Wraith after it turned human, but they doubted any of those from Earth would allow it.

Carson leaned forward. “You canna be serious. Your search of the Wraith computer confirmed that these were once humans.”

“No, their ancestors were humans.”

“And we can give them that back again,” Carson said.

Samas shook his head. “Their ancestors were also iratus bugs. I doubt any of them would appreciate your offer. They are Wraith. They would not wish to become human any more than you would wish to wake up as a homo erectus.”

Carson looked furious. “Wraith are not a result of natural evolution. Ellia certainly wanted a chance to have a human life, but that bloody idiot Ellis wouldn’t let me treat her. I’m not going to stand by when I could be helping these folk.” If Colonel Ellis had listened, Samas would have made an argument for allowing Ellia to try Carson’s cure. She had been raised by a human and she had loved her adopted father and hated her own nature. She would have embraced the change. Other Wraith would not be as open to this change.

“And what of after this change has taken place?” Teyla asked. “What are we to do with individuals who are no longer a danger, but who remember feeding on us?”

“Who liked feeding on humans,” Samas corrected her. He had no doubt that power played a large part in Wraith culture, and to kill was one of the most basic exercises in power. Samas watched his own children pursue that joy rather enthusiastically. It was one of the main reasons that he appreciated the one-time rule that Tony had proposed. The Turi should live in the water where they could pursue that drive without having their instincts turned loose in a host culture where death was seen as far more undesirable.

“Carson, would the violent instincts remain after they changed?” Elizabeth asked.

Carson leaned back. “Of course, I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think so. The instinct to eat is powerful, and the Wraith instincts drive them to see humans as food. I also suspect the iratus DNA increases their aggression and decreases inhibitions. We saw that in Lieutenant Ford, poor soul. However, once he was weaned from the enzymes, we saw a return of the old Aiden.”

Samas wasn’t sure he believed that. Ford had gone from aggressive to deeply depressed. And the one person that Samas had truly wanted to save—Jace who had a strong understanding of local technology—had killed himself. The second Rodney was safe, Sheppard refocused on saving Ford, but Samas suspected they had only postponed Ford’s end. Gibbs disagreed. He believed that a strong family and counselling could help the man, but Samas did not change his own opinion.

“So, are we trying this or not?” Sheppard asked as he looked around the room.

“It is worth pursuing,” Elizabeth said.

“I strongly disagree,” Samas quickly countered. Samas knew he had Teyla on his side, and Rodney was wavering, looking from Carson to him and back. Unfortunately, Sheppard looked only to Elizabeth rather than the entire council.

“Your concerns are noted,” Elizabeth said.

“And dismissed?” The second Samas said that, the room went quiet. He could feel the power straining against the old bonds. No doubt Elizabeth could as well. She was a queen in her own right, and Samas had learned that she often won in battles where she lacked the strength to defeat her enemy.

She gave him a small smile. “I understand your concerns, but this is a chance to find a solution other than war.”

Samas felt the teeth in his tail. “My people can see solutions other than war as easily as yours, when they exist.”

Elizabeth twitched an eyebrow.

“This is one of those solutions,” Carson said loudly.

“This is genetically mutating an individual with an untested procedure and without his permission,” Samas said, putting it into Carson’s own terms. Carson immediately lost a lot of the color out of his face.

“Whoa, let’s play nice,” Sheppard said with a desperate look around the table.

“This is also a chance to secure our position, and we will not pass it up,” Elizabeth said firmly. “John, I want a plan for capturing a Wraith within the next twenty-four hours. Carson, double check all your research. We won’t get a second chance at this if it doesn’t work.” And then she stood and nodded at the group before she strode out of the room. It was a powerful play, and Samas did not have the resources required to counter it.

“I dislike this,” Teyla said.

“Lass, I do understand,” Carson said, “but think of the potential benefits. We could save them.”

Teyla smelled distressed.

“Do we seriously care about saving them?” Rodney asked. He closed his laptop and stood up. “Personally, I’m okay with just killing them.”

“Yes, but we can’t just kill them because they’re too tough to die easily,” John pointed out. “Carson, are you sure about doing this?”

Carson nodded. “Aye. This is a way to avoid having to commit genocide, and short of killing the Wraith, I dunna see another solution. They see us as food, so it’s not like we can negotiate a peace with ‘em. This is a real chance at avoiding some sort of final solution.”

Sheppard winced at that reference, and Samas had to give Carson credit for that nasty verbal jab.

“I don’t think we could be called Nazis for defending ourselves. However, genetically manipulating others to be more like ourselves is rather shaky moral ground,” Samas said. Carson still outwardly appeared as convinced as ever, but Samas could smell the first hints of indecision. Despite his unwavering arguments, Carson did understand his moral culpability in this. Teyla studied them, no doubt aware that she was missing something.

“Well I have my orders, so I’ll be trying to figure out how to kidnap a Wraith without getting us all killed.” Sheppard stood and headed for the door, and Rodney was two steps behind him, already muttering about one of his experiments. He was entirely too disengaged to provide the sort of balance Samas needed to counter Elizabeth’s political weight.

“You’ll see,” Carson told him and Teyla. “This will work.” He offered them a tentative smile and then headed after the others.

Teyla looked at him. “This will not end well.”

“No,” Samas agreed. “It will not. And I will not participate in this plan. If Sheppard orders Gibbs to go on this mission, he will do so without my assistance.”

Teyla inclined her head in his direction. “And if another Athosian wished to take your place on the team?” she asked. She never spoke of the Turi unless she was at their pool, but Samas could follow logic. The team would fare better if they had Turi with them. As the Athosian leader, she had chosen not to host, but a few of her people had already volunteered. If those individuals went with Sheppard, they would no doubt wish to take Turi along with them.

Samas stood. “My people have been in enough battles over genetics. I have seen the unintended consequences of others’ foolishness in this matter, and I have no interest in involving myself in any part of this mission.”

Teyla lowered her head, accepting his decision. Gibbs was far less accepting. He wanted to give Sheppard the best tactical support possible, but Samas would not have his Turi participate in this madness. A parent contributed genetics to the young, but other forms of genetic manipulation, any form of genetic alteration or castration, as Ra had done to the queens, was an abomination. Gibbs asked if he was willing to allow Sheppard to die over that belief, but the fact was that Samas would. He would not do to others what Ra had attempted to do to him—what Ra had done to his children.

And Sheppard needed to understand that. While Samas feared he would have to track Sheppard down, he stood on the far side of the upper platform near an unused console speaking to Lorne.

“…settled with Abby?” he asked, clearly amused by his own question. The tips of Lorne’s ears were turning red, and Samas narrowed his eyes. Abby worked in the labs, so two military officers had no business discussing her. Gibbs was particularly aggravated by this turn of events.

“Yes, sir. There was some browbeating involved, but all’s well that ends well.”

“She made you join a club, didn’t she?” Sheppard asked with a laugh. Immediately Samas could feel Gibbs relax.

“Actually, she made me start one. At least, I will start one once the supplies arrive in a few weeks.”

Sheppard slapped Lorne on the arm. “Good for you. What is it?”

“Um… art. Painting mostly. I really didn’t want her to go out of her way to buy supplies, and the fact that she used McKay’s credit card still disturbs me on a level that I really don’t want to think about, but I still agreed to do it.” Lorne shrugged. “I think. I actually don’t remember parts of the conversation, but I just started agreeing with whatever she said somewhere around the middle of it.”

Sheppard laughed again. “Always be careful of the ones that look sweet, Major. People who come right out and call you names, at least you can see them coming.”

“Yes, sir. I have to admit that I wasn’t prepared to deal with Abby… or her forms of persuasion.”

“I caved the second Tony came to me. I didn’t want to deal with the big guns. You should have seen it when her and McKay got into over some sort of procedures with their reports. Even Radek ran for the hills. Hell, even the gunny has a club.” Sheppard nodded in the general direction of Samas, including him in the conversation.

Lorne turned and smiled at him. “Really, what do you have going, Gunny?”

Samas stared at Lorne until the man’s smile started to fade. “Gibbs and an Athosian man do woodworking twice a week. A number of others have started to come and get assistance on developing their talents.”

Lorne cleared his throat. “Good for him. So, Samas, it looks like you have something to discuss with the colonel. I should probably go sign whatever Harriman wants me to sign in the way of paperwork.”

“I thought I had to sign that stuff,” Sheppard said.

“You do, sir. I perfected your signature a long time ago, but I am very careful to always tell you what you signed.”

“Do I listen?”

“I doubt it.” Lorne nodded at both of them and then headed for the stairs.

Sheppard watched him go for a second. “I think he’s actually losing some of the starch in his uniform.” He sounded pleased about that, but when he turned to look at Samas, he had a much more serious expression. “I won’t debate this with you, Samas. Dr. Weir is the civilian leader of this expedition.”

“I assumed you would take that position.”

Sighing, Sheppard leaned back against a console. “Then why chase me down?”

“To inform you that I will not participate in any mission that furthers this cause.”

Sheppard’s customary slouch immediately vanished as he stood up straight. “Now hold on—”

“My people were genetically altered by Ra who believed he had every right and that he had found the secret to preventing other onac from going to war with him. I will not commit the same sin against another species.”

“Okay,” Sheppard said slowly, drawing the word out. “Samas, these are Wraith. They would eat you if they had a chance.”

“They would eat Gibbs, and for that, they deserve to die. They do not deserve to be genetically castrated.”

For a time, Sheppard just looked at him as though trying to figure something out. “Do you plan on sabotaging this mission?” If any other military officer had asked that question, Samas would have expected the suspicion to turn to threats of arrest. Sheppard simply looked curious about the answer.

“No,” Samas said. “I plan to have nothing to do with it, and when this turns out this is a horrible mistake, whether that takes a year or a hundred years, I plan to point to my objections and suggest that if people spent more time listening to the individual with five thousand years of experience, they would spend less time trying to repair dangerous errors in judgment.”

Samas turned and walked off. Once the size and shape of this disaster became clear, Weir would lose some of her absolute authority… assuming that she was still around. It truly might take a hundred years for this plan to unravel. Unfortunately, Samas expected the negative consequences to appear much more quickly than that.

A carefully delivered threat

Gibbs took off his glasses and rubbed his nose. He hated these things, but he had better get used to them. If this plan of Carson’s worked, Samas was considering his options. He did not want to be associated with a host culture that would manipulate others genetically, but he was not in a strong position to leave. It left him cranky and unwilling to join.

“Gibbs?” Tony said. Gibbs turned around to see Tony standing in the door to their quarters. “Hey, you aren’t running exercises with the Marines.”

“I can’t keep up with twenty year olds, not without Samas.”

Tony came in and sat on the edge of their couch. Clearly he was uncomfortable about something. Gibbs pushed his paperwork to the side and gave Tony all his attention. It didn’t take long before he started talking. “They have the Wraith in the cell. Sheppard’s calling him Michael.”

Gibbs sighed and ran a hand over his face. He understood Sheppard’s position a lot better than Carson’s. For Sheppard, this was a weapon, a way to defend his people. Carson’s belief that he was curing these people was just foolishness, and up to this point Gibbs had not thought Carson foolish. “And?” Gibbs asked.

“This isn’t okay,” Tony said.

“You and Samas have mentioned that once or twice.”

“We’re doing it to fix them? Yes, we have to tie them down because they don’t want to be fixed but they’ll be grateful in the end. I’m sorry, but does that sound like any psychopathic killers we might know?”

Gibbs frowned.

“Helms?” Tony said, and that jogged Gibbs’ memory. Helms had targeted gay members of the military—or men he perceived as gay. He hunted them, captured them, and attempted to castrate them in order to help them control their urges. Two of his victims died. Four more had been permanently mutilated. Gibbs leaned back in his chair and looked at Tony. He wasn’t sure what Tony wanted him to do with this, even if he could see there were some parallels. In other ways, the cases were nothing alike. Gibbs didn’t think Carson was a closeted Wraith with a poorly hidden self-destructive streak and fantasies of mutilating himself that he took out on others.

“This isn’t right,” Tony said miserably

“And Samas made that point very clear in the command meeting.”

“It’s not legal.”

Gibbs blew out a breath. Okay, if Tony was talking legalities, he was considering doing something. While Gibbs appreciated Tony’s initiative, he wasn’t sure he wanted Tony going up against Weir. She was much more entrenched and much more dangerous politically than Ellis or Everett had been. “You don’t have authority over civilians.”

“No, but I have authority over members of the military who commit crimes,” Tony said. So he was looking for Gibbs’ seal of approval.

“Are you going to charge Sheppard with kidnapping? This is war, Tony. I don’t think you’re going to get a military judge to back you on that.”

“Now? No,” Tony agreed. “However, the second Carson signs off that Michael is human again, he has human rights, including all the rights of a prisoner of war.”

Which included the right to refuse medicine, Gibbs realized. That’s where Tony was headed. Carson had already admitted that the Wraith DNA was persistent and the first few test cases would have to continue to take medicine to suppress it until he found a better solution. If the human prisoner refused medicine, as was his right, forcing it on him was a clear violation of the law. Carson was acting as an agent of the government, so if he violated that right, Tony might have grounds for an arrest, especially since he was the only law enforcement officer here and he couldn’t turn the case over to anyone else. “Weir and Carson would not be pleased,” Gibbs warned. He didn’t expect that to deter Tony, but he did want his lover to see the real danger here. Tony could get shipped off the city.

“I’ve never backed down to political pressure when it came to the law, Gibbs. I had a boss who told me to do what was right, no matter what.”

Gibbs smiled. “Okay, I’ll back you.”

“I was actually hoping you could get Samas to help me with something.” Tony paused. “I need Samas to talk to the Wraith, explain what Carson is doing and what his rights are after he’s changed.”

Gibbs blew out a breath. “I know you’re trying to do the right thing, but Samas may not want to get involved,” Gibbs warned.

“I know, but it doesn’t feel right to experiment on this guy without telling him anything. Besides, maybe Samas can learn something talking to him, something about how he sees this conversion. If Carson could hear from an actual Wraith about how they saw this cure of his, maybe he’d change his mind.” Tony frowned.

Gibbs had no idea that this was bothering Tony so much. He wished that Samas would allow Jo to join him. Tony would need the support, but Samas’ first goal was to keep his daughter clear of this mess, and Gibbs understood the instinct. “I’ll ask him,” Gibbs said.

Tony smiled. “Thanks, boss.”

Gibbs grunted. His promise wasn’t worth much unless Samas agreed to help, and he wasn’t sure that was going to happen. However, he stood and headed straight for the joining waters. Surprisingly, Tony stayed in the room, but maybe that was for the best. Gibbs really didn’t want to get caught between Samas and Tony as they argued. It was strange enough being in the middle when they had sex.

Of course, part of that discomfort came from the fact that Samas was far too rough with Tony. Tony never complained, and he certainly enjoyed himself or Gibbs would have shut Samas down, but it bothered him to see the bruises Samas sometimes left. He didn’t want to see emotional bruises if Samas refused to help Tony with this.

When he came out of the transporter, he could hear the distant thrum of metal being pounded. Gibbs walked a little faster and around the corner to the pool room to find Ronon pounding away on a half fallen beam.

He looked over at Gibbs and grunted.

“Cleaning up?” Gibbs asked.

Ronon put down the mallet he’d been using to bend a piece of metal strutting and reached down to turn off the welding machine that was still hissing. “Too easy to get to the water. Planned to make it a little more difficult.” Ronon gave him an odd look, and Gibbs remembered that they had actually talked about this.

“Right. I think we’ve all been distracted by the Wraith.”

Ronon’s expression turned murderous. “That’s why I’m down here. Sheppard said he’d call when they need to move that thing, so I’m still hoping I get a chance to kill it.”

Gibbs nodded. He hoped the same only Weir would probably make Ronon’s life uncomfortable, possibly enough that he would leave the city. Gibbs glanced at the water. Or not. Ronon had a lot to stay for. The Turi respected the hell out of him and every time he joined, Gibbs could see the joy he felt in sharing his homeworld with someone who understood the concept of losing everything.

“I’m hoping Samas has calmed down enough to get involved.”

Ronon snorted. “Water keeps churning.”

That wasn’t a good sign. “Tony plans on making some legal moves. Samas will probably want to have his back.” Gibbs hoped so at least.

Ronon leaned against the wall. “Can he stop this?”

“No, but if the treatment works, he can force Carson to let the Wraith revert back. Carson would probably have to go back to Earth to sort it out.”

“And people on Earth talk everything to death,” Ronon finished. He gave a quick nod. “Good.”

Gibbs hoped it turned out well. If not, Tony was going to be at ground zero of a very unpleasant political battle. With that worry on his mind, Gibbs went to the edge of the water and let his hand dangle into it. Samas would taste his worry. Gibbs had expected to wait some time but Samas was flying at him so fast that Gibbs barely had time to open his mouth before Samas was curling around his brain, quickly sorting through recent history.

It would serve Carson right, Samas quickly thought as he considered Tony’s plan. He was less interested in meeting this “Michael,” but Samas didn’t want to leave Tony alone with a Wraith, and he wouldn’t have Jo near it, so he did understand that left him to speak with the creature.


Samas’ mood hadn’t improved by the time they reached the Wraith cell. Lorne was there, and he offered a smile and a quick “Gunny,” which led to Samas glaring at him until Lorne had lost the smile.

“I’m going to speak to him,” Samas said as he walked past Lorne without asking permission. Lorne reached for his radio, but he didn’t comment. Inside the cell, the Wraith stood, its head tilted to one side and the long white hair hanging loose. Samas produced a scent that meant information or maybe curiosity. The nuances of Wraith language were harder to understand that any spoken language.

Immediately the Wraith stood up straighter and he studied Gibbs and Samas. “My brothers will kill you,” he announced.

Samas shifted the chemicals he produced and Gibbs breathed out a long sigh filled with the scent of disbelief.

The Wraith’s scent changed as well, but Samas could not track his changes as easily. It was one thing to learn a few words of a new language, and another to listen to a native speaker. He did know it was a threat.

“I understand less of that than you probably assume,” Samas said, “although I can at least detect your confidence. I promise you that I was alive before you were born and I will be here long after you are gone.”

The Wraith stepped forward. “You’re not human.”

“No,” Samas said. He put a small amount of pressure on Gibbs’ throat, and Gibbs opened his mouth. It allowed Samas to come out. He wrapped himself around Gibbs’ neck and shook his fins and snapped his jaws.

“This is Samas,” Gibbs introduced him. The human language was thick, too dense for his own ears, but Samas could catch most of it. More importantly, Samas could feel the nuances of scent that slid over his skin. Threats, fear, a desire to eat the humans. Nothing greatly surprised Samas, but he still could not decipher many of the chemical compounds. He was most likely missing as much as he understood.

Samas reared up in front of Gibbs’ face, and Gibbs opened his mouth to allow Samas back in.

“You lead the humans against us,” the Wraith accused him, and Samas recognized the underlying belief in the weakness of humans and an equally firm belief that another species must lead them.

“No,” Samas said. He sent out his own scent. He was strong but separate, not leader.

“Not a queen?” The Wraith asked, he jerked his head up as though expecting a lie. Samas couldn’t exactly claim he was not a queen, but that was a discussion best left for another day.

“Others decide what will be done with you.”

The Wraith showed its teeth and sent out more aggression hormones.

“The humans have found a way to strip you of your Iratus DNA and leave behind the human parts. It would make you fully human.”

The Wraith froze. Horror. Disbelief. Lies in search of information. These were blunt and direct scents that Samas had no trouble deciphering.

“Samas, whatcha doin’?” a voice asked. Samas gave Sheppard a quick look before refocusing on the Wraith.

“Here is one who will decide your fate,” Samas said. “I argued that you should be killed—that to turn you into a human was ill-advised.” That word didn’t capture the horror Samas felt at the idea of genetically altering the creature in front of him, but the Wraith didn’t need to know how deeply divided they were about this.

“Hey, how about we leave the Wraith alone to sleep and do Wraithy things until Carson is ready,” Sheppard suggested. Samas ignored him.

“You will be the first of many the humans wish to change,” Samas said.

“I am not a guide,” the Wraith insisted. The word guide came with a wealth of scents—new paths, the changing of a species, walking into the unknown with others following behind. The word also came with fear. To walk in front meant to walk alone, and the Wraith feared that.

“Humans would have others follow,” Samas said, and he waited for the chemical reactions. Wraith and Onac stared at each other, and Samas could taste the need of this one to not be alone. Others following would be better than standing alone, but he did not want to be first. He was nearly desperate on the point. Samas was even more convinced that this plan of Carson’s was a horrible idea.

“Are you two finished with the creepy staring contest?” Sheppard asked, and he moved into Samas’ line of sight, which put his back to the Wraith. Samas could smell the loathing that leaked from Sheppard. He did not want to be here in this position.

Samas took a step back, and with a relieved sigh, Sheppard shifted to stand by his side and look in at the Wraith.

“So,” Sheppard said slowly, “are you developing telepathic powers or are you just eyefucking a Wraith for fun?”

Samas turned to Sheppard, well aware that the crude language was an attempt to distract him. “Scent is as important as words to Wraith language. I am smelling him.”

“That’s… vaguely creepy.”

“Human scent communicates as well,” Samas pointed out.

Sheppard made a face. “Remind me to invest in more deodorant.”

“You will die,” the Wraith announced grandly, its chin up, but the whole time, Samas could smell the terror at being Guide. To be in front was a freedom, but the Wraith did not have positive feelings around the concept of freedom. Not at all.

“No, I will not,” Samas said. “However, once this change has been made, you have human rights, and that includes the right to refuse to continue on this path.”

“Samas,” Sheppard said, his voice a warning.

Samas raised an eyebrow. “Article 13, or do you deny that this law will apply to this individual as soon as he is fully human? Some might argue that it applies to him now.”

“No prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not carried out in his interest,” Sheppard said. “I’ve been reviewing those laws as well, but Carson can argue that this is in his best interest.”

“It is in our best interest,” Samas said, and Sheppard flinched. So he was not fool enough to think this right. He smelled of indecision and distress. “Right now Carson can claim that this individual does not understand the benefit of being human. If he is made human and he still chooses to revert back to his original form, he should know that he has that right.”

Sheppard rubbed a hand over his face. “I thought you agreed to not sabotage this, Samas.”

Samas was very grateful that he was having this conversation with Sheppard rather than Tony. “Would you deny him his rights? Would Dr. Weir claim ignorance of the Geneva Convention?”

“What? No!”

“Then I have sabotaged nothing. I have informed the prisoner that we are attempting to help and that if he perceives this as less than helpful, he can make a legal claim under the Geneva Convention.”

“Wraith aren’t exactly a party to that agreement,” Sheppard said, “and what do you mean a legal claim?”

Samas could smell the Wraith’s confusion, but he focused on Sheppard. “Perhaps I should speak to IOC members, request a clarification of whether this unit is responsible to uphold the Geneva Convention. There are many international members who would be willing to query their home governments.”

“Aw shit, Samas, you’re totally going against the gunny here, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Samas agreed.

Sheppard leaned closer. “You’re digging a hole Gibbs is going to have trouble digging out of.”

Gibbs did disagree with strong-arming the military, but he also understood the danger of this path and the political danger Tony was very willing and able to step into. He moved closer until he was a few scant inches from Sheppard. “Decide how you want to handle this or Tony is going to dig a hole too deep for any of us to climb out of. And while he would not target you, while he has every respect in the world for you, you may well find yourself trying to explain why you followed an illegal order,” Samas warned softly. That warning delivered, he turned and headed for the exit.

Lorne was still just outside the door, and he gave Samas a strange look, but he didn’t comment as Samas walked away. Sheppard would make his choices and Tony would make his. Samas could only attempt to mitigate the damage. And if Sheppard forced him to choose, Samas would sacrifice any member of this expedition to protect Tony and Gibbs. That had never changed and it never would.

Bigger fish to fry

John walked into the observation room with Ronon just behind. They'd both had to hold the Wraith down while Carson's assistants had fastened the restraints. It had turned his stomach. He hadn't gone into the military to participate in this sort of action. Ronon pushed past him and walked over to where Teyla and Elizabeth watched. He gave Elizabeth an unfriendly glare before he took up a position at Teyla's side.

"How is the process working?" Elizabeth asked.

Carson smiled widely. "Quite well. The scans are already showing reduced levels of Wraith hormone, and I believe the treatment may result in memory loss." He walked to the large window and looked down at the prone figure strapped down to the bed. The Wraith was significantly weaker than when they'd started, but he still looked like a Wraith.

"Really?" Elizabeth seemed surprised.

"Aye. He's already confused, and I think it would help his transition if he didn't know where he came from."

John whirled around and looked at Carson. He was staring down at the Wraith in the isolation room with the look of a boy at Christmas.

"What do you mean?" Elizabeth asked.

"If we told him he was one of us, it would be easier to get him to accept treatment and adjust to a human way of life," Carson said. The worst part was that he sounded so damn pleased. He probably was. This would allow him to avoid explaining the involuntary nature of the change.

"Would the amnesia hold?" Elizabeth asked. John turned and gave her an incredulous look.

"If we continue treatment, I see no reason why it shouldn't. I'd like to start setting up a background story, perhaps we can tell Michael he's a member of our military, that's he's suffered an injury."

Elizabeth was nodding. She turned to John with that all-business expression of hers. "Start working on a background for Michael."

"Elizabeth, this is not wise," Teyla objected.

"This is the most humane option open to us," she disagreed, and the worst part was that John got it. He did. If they didn't lie to Michael, they were going to have to look him in the eye and tell him what they'd done and who he was. If he chose to become Wraith again, they were going to have to put him back in the cell and risk watching him starve to death since they couldn't feed him. There were no good answers.

Worse, John knew that Elizabeth was in an even tighter bind because she didn't know they had the ZPM power to run the shields for pretty much forever. So she believed that if the Wraith ever escaped, Atlantis' location and the fact that they were still in one piece could compromise the security of the entire base. John understood why she wanted this. He did. He just couldn't go along no matter how much he wanted to.

"I'm sorry, Dr. Weir, but I am not going to be able to follow that order," John said, bracing himself against the guilt he knew was going to follow.

Elizabeth looked at him with wide eyes. "John?"

"If he's going to be human, I have to give him the same rights as any prisoner of war. I don't have discretion on this matter."

"You certainly do," Carson objected. "We're not talking about having him be a prisoner. In fact, quite the opposite. He could become a functiong member of society."

"He'd still be Wraith," Ronon objected. He'd never really hidden his feelings about this whole matter.

"John, I really do feel it would be best to give Carson's cure a chance to work." Elizabeth's voice had an edge to it that John recognized as a warning.

"And I agreed to that," John said. Honestly, he wasn't sure he should have, but he did trust Elizabeth. She'd put a lot on the line to back him, and most of the time when they disagreed, she was right and he was wrong. When he'd broken quarantine for the whole nanovirus, he'd proven how very wrong he could be. This time he couldn't give her the benefit of the doubt. "However, I cannot allow any member of the military to lie to a prisoner of war about his medical condition or treat him in any way inconsistent with his own best interest." And John was definitely not going to consider the Wraith prisoner he’d handed over to the Hoff, although at the time, he had been in a desperate enough situation and cut off from Earth. Those were excuses not reasons, and he wouldn’t repeat his mistake.

"Bloody hell. This is his best interest. You're being a bloody pedant, and quite frankly, I didn't expect it out of you, Colonel." Carson was good an angry now, and John wanted to flinch away from all that anger. He didn't want to be the one to shut other people down, but Samas was right on this. John knew it all along, but it took Samas and Tony's threat to arrest someone to remind him that Elizabeth wasn't the end of the chain of command. They all had others to answer to. Personally, John couldn't tell this Wraith that he was a member of the Air Force and then look General O'Neill in the eye.

John looked right at Carson. "I follow the same military code of conduct as all members of the Air Force--the law. I didn't write the Geneva Convention, but I support every line in it and I won't have my men going against it, not when the prisoner is human."

"What are you talking about?" Carson asked, and he looked honestly confused.

"Article thirteen. Experimenting on prisoners is not allowed, and the second he is a human, then we can't argue that there's a loophole for alien species that consider us a food group because he will be human."

Carson looked utterly stricken, so clearly he had never even considered how someone else might see this situation. "He's not a prisoner," Carson finally said, his voice strained.

"Really? Was he captured during a mission? Is he an agent of an enemy power? Is he free to leave?" John asked.

Elizabeth stepped forward and put a hand on his arm. "John, I see where you're going, but this isn't the way to look at it. Carson's cure gives us a new option, a new way to pursue peace."

"And a potential arrest record."

"What?" Elizabeth pulled her hand back. John was just pissing everyone off today, but if he had to make his friends angry, that was better than testifying in a secret court as they were charged with violation of international law. Unfortunately, John's time working for General O'Neill had made it very clear that Atlantis had political enemies who would make hay out of this.

"It's illegal. Carson, if Michael is human, you cannot use him for experimentation."

"You make it sound like I'm a monster. Can ya not understand what I'm trying to do?" The pain in Carson's voice was worse than the condemnation.

John cringed. "Of course I can, Carson. I understand, but legally I can't follow an order that violates my oath as an officer."

"I agree with John," Teyla said. "I have been reviewing your laws for the treatment of prisoners, and to subject them to medical experimentation does appear to be a violation." John suspected he knew who gave her those records. Unfortunately, Elizabeth still had an expression of fond exasperation, as if the rest of them simply hadn’t yet seen what was obvious to her. And ninety percent of the time, she was right. John thought this was the other ten percent.

"Agent DiNozzo has already shown an interest in this," John added. He hated to throw Tony under the bus, but Elizabeth seemed unmoved, and she had to understand the seriousness of this.

"Tony?" Elizabeth looked confused. "You can't be suggesting he would get involved. This is not an NCIS case."

"He's the only cop around, and he takes his job seriously," John pointed out. He turned to Carson. "If you experiment on a Wraith, folks back home will be very happy to turn the other way. If you experiment on a human, I think certain IOC members will take too much of an interest."

"Colonel Sheppard, perhaps we should discuss this privately," Elizabeth said, and she was clearly angry enough that she was considering ways to dispose of his body.

"Elizabeth, this is a decision that affects the city. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the two of you having a private discussion," Teyla said. For a time, Elizabeth simply looked at Teyla as if unwilling to believe what she was hearing.

"It doesn't actually matter what she says in private or in public," John told Teyla. "The Geneva Convention is not negotiable."

"I understand that, John," Elizabeth said in a soothing voice.

"And if Carson treats it that way, I'm afraid that Tony might escort him through the wormhole in cuffs," John warned her.

"Excuse me?" Carson demanded.

"Do your actions not violate your own laws?" Teyla asked him. "I can understand why Tony is concerned. His position is one that requires him to uphold the laws of your people."

"John, you can talk to him," Elizabeth said in a tone that made it clear that she would accept nothing less from him.

"I can," he agreed, and for a half-second she looked relieved. "Then again, Everett asked me to talk to him on behalf of the four assholes who were bothering Rodney. I actually threatened him if he didn't back down. I ordered him to back down. You can see how well that worked." John shrugged. At the time he'd been quietly furious, but in hindsight, Tony had been right. Laws needed to be upheld. "When it comes to his job, Tony is not going to listen to me."

"He understands that I'm helping," Carson said weakly.

John sighed. "He is not comfortable with this, and his first instinct as a cop is to file charges and let the courts settle the moral ambiguity."

"Sheppard!" Ronon shouted, and John whirled around. Ronon had his hand on his gun and he was staring down into the isolation lab. In seconds, John saw the problem. Michael had one restraint off and he was struggling to free himself from the chest straps.

“Shit,” John cursed and then he started running for the lab. He could hear footsteps right behind him, but he didn’t have time to check to see who might have followed. Two airmen guarded the entrance to the lab, and they snapped to attention as John stormed around the corner. “Open! Open, open!” John yelled. His people were good because they didn’t even hesitate. They both opened the lab doors, and John bolted through.

Micheal’s ankles were still restrained, as were his legs and hips, but he had both hands and his chest free. John dashed around the table. “Grab his arm,” John ordered the airman. The Wraith was struggling with the belt around his hips, so one of the airmen grabbed his wrist and the other his elbow. That just left John trying to hold the other side himself.

“I will not be Guide!” the Wraith yelled. He flung John across the room, and he landed in the middle of a tray of medical equipment which promptly flew everywhere. Ronon had his arm and was struggling to hold it while Carson ran for the counter where he had a needle and hopefully a buttload of sedatives.

“What the bloody hell is he talking about?” Carson asked as he started preparing a shot. Ronon had his arm pinned so John started strapping it down again.

“They have some sort of weird religious objection to being different or guiding or something,” John yelled over the Wraith’s wordless cries.

“Religious objection?” Carson turned around, needle in hand. “What do you mean they have a religious objection?”

“Carson!” John said in his best ‘fix this now’ voice. Ronon couldn’t keep the Wraith’s arm still enough for John to get the strap around it, and the two airmen on the other side looked like they were barely holding on.

“Oh, right.” Carson quickly pushed the needle into Michael’s neck. As the medicine went in, Michael’s struggles slowed. “Now, what do you mean they have a religious objection?”

John quickly got the restraints straps in place, checking to see the airmen were doing the same before he answered. “Samas talked to him. Apparently Wraith call people who lead ‘guides’ only being a guide and leading people somewhere new is some sort of terrible fate. He was horrified at being the first to be turned human.”

“Oh.” Carson looked down at the sedated Wraith, and John got the feeling that for the first time Carson was really considering what it might mean to force an individual to change his species.

John’s back had taken a real hit on the medical tray and he reached back to rub a particularly sore spot, but his hand hit something smooth and cool to the touch. John stretched farther, poking it until he realized that something was sticking in his back.

“Um, Carson?” John said, and there was a horrible feeling taking root in his stomach. By the time Carson looked up at him, John had gotten his fingers around the syringe and pulled it out of his back. Yep, he’d been jabbed good. He brought it around to the front. “Please tell me you had something nice and safe like vitamin D in this,” he asked desperately.

Carson stared at the syringe, his eyes slowly growing large. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Did that break through your skin?”

“That sunk so deep I think I can feel it in my lung,” John answered. “What was in it?”

Carson finally made eye contact. “The Wraith cure. It had a bloody Wraith retrovirus in it.”

John closed his eyes. “Shit.”

The curse of the Atlantis commanders

When the door opened, John turned away from the window prepared for another round of Carson’s endless cheer. It was getting a little old. Instead Gibbs stood at the door, his back military stiff so it was definitely Gibbs and not Samas. It might even be a pissed off Gibbs, but it was hard to tell angry-Gibbs from just-hasn’t-had-enough-coffee-yet Gibbs. “Hey, Gunny. How are things out there?” John asked. He’d asked Lorne to have the gunny report, but that had been yesterday. John had pretty much given up on having anyone obey his orders anymore.

Gibbs gave him a long stare before he finally said, “I'm sure Lorne is giving you updates.”

“Really? Because I'm pretty sure that he's trying to make me feel better. Unless something blows up loud enough for me to hear it, Weir and Lorne are doing the annoyingly cheerful act.” And it was true. John had kicked both of them out until they’d decided to stop annoying him with their optimism. It wasn’t like Atlantis commanders had a great track record. John wondered if he should sit down and write O’Neill an email telling him that he’d been wrong. Atlantis cursed all her military commanders, not just the ones who weren’t named Sheppard. Pushing that thought aside, he pulled up the bottom of his t-shirt and twisted around to show the gunny his skin. “Does my back look worse to you?”


John huffed and dropped the shirt. “See? That's honest. I'm not getting a lot of that. Even Rodney's trying to be nice, and Rodney's attempts to be nice are actually a lot more offensive than his normal behavior.” He had a chair and a small desk in the room, and he turned the chair sideways to sit. His back was too tender for anything else.

“I hadn't thought that was possible,” Gibbs said in an unhappy tone. John wondered how it worked between him and Samas because Samas definitely liked Rodney, and Gibbs made no bones about the fact that he really didn’t.

“Yeah, well he told me that blue was a good color--that if he had to turn any color, he'd choose blue. That’s when he realized that Nurse Sheila was in the room and then he was stumbling over his tongue to explain that black skin would be fine, that he wasn’t one of those racists who would rather be dead that be a minority. When she stared at him blankly, he then freaked and said that she wasn't really black, more like dark brown, and dark brown was nicer than blue. At which point he came full circle and told me that blue was a nice color, too. He then completely froze.” Under other circumstances John might have been amused or maybe even rescued Rodney from his own mouth. However, things weren’t looking good, and John couldn’t summon the energy. “Not exactly comforting,” he pointed out.

“Not really,” Gibbs agreed.

“Well that's Rodney.” John gave a weak smile for a second before he ran out of energy to fake it. “I asked him to leave before he cheered me up anymore. Besides, he doesn't need to see this. So how are things really going out there?

Gibbs gave John another of those stares that made John mentally cling to his rank. He outranked Gunny. He absolutely did, even when that stare of his made John feel about five. This is why John went out of his way to avoid ever giving Gibbs a direct order. It was wrong. Eventually Gibbs nodded moved over to the wall with window into the corridor and looked through it. John suspected that if he walked over there he’d find people were watching. John preferred his little corner desk where the window didn’t have a good line of sight. “I think whatever you said got through to Carson.”


Gibbs turned to look at him. “He asked what the Wraith's name was.”

That made John feel irrationally relieved. If Carson moved on this issue, then Elizabeth would too. Maybe that would bring her around when John had failed to. “Maybe he does get it then, not that the Wraith are ever good with sharing their names.”

“Actually we do have a name for him.”

“Oh?” That was new. Then again, Gibbs had more experience with interrogation, so maybe John shouldn’t be surprised.

“Wraith apparently use telepathy and scent to give names. I smelled chemicals associated with a general sense of great skill and long experience. Teyla got the image of a Wraith warrior being beamed down from a dart to engage the enemy.”

John waited for Gibbs to give him the actual name, but he just gave John one of those expectant expressions, like he was waiting for John to put the pieces together. “Wait. Are you telling me that his name is One Who Kicks Ass At Sweeping In On A Wraith Culling Beam To Kill Enemies And Has Done It For A Long Time?”


“I'll stick with Michael.”

Gibbs graced him with a small smile. “Yes, sir.”

John expected Gibbs to give him something more, but he just stood there. “So, nothing in the city is in danger or on fire?”

“Just you.”

“Thanks, Gunny.” Gibbs was definitely waiting for something. “Speaking of that, is Carson telling Elizabeth anything that he's not telling me?”

“The retrovirus is posing a real problems. He keeps trying to turn it off, but the Wraith DNA is very persistent.”

John let out a breath. He’d suspected as much, but Carson kept giving him all those cheerful reports of how they were going into a new trial and they had lots of different ideas. If John got one more promise that he was fine, he was going to hurt someone—which is why he’d asked Carson to get out. “So he can't cure me,” John said. He tried to keep his voice steady. That changed things. He needed to start making plans to protect the city. Part of John wondered who they would send after him. He was the fourth Atlantis commander to go down to death or disgrace—or in his case transformation into an alien life form. There weren’t going to be a lot of people lining up for his job, and John really hoped Lorne didn’t get promoted into it. He liked Lorne. He really didn’t want Lorne being the next to fall.

“Carson is convinced he still has several possible treatments.”

“Okay, Gunny, I really hate being the practical one. I'm supposed to be the comedic sidekick. However, if I were being responsible, I would say that I don't have all the time in the world, and we need to start thinking of security measures to protect people from me.”

“Is that why you asked me in here?”

“In part, yes,” John said. He wondered if someone in command had appeared in the hall and if that’s why Gibbs was suddenly willing to have a real conversation. If so, that implied either Gibbs or Lorne recognized the danger of having a compromised commanding officer. That should make John feel better, but it really didn’t. “The other part is that I’m hoping Samas can keep an eye on Rodney. He doesn't take care of himself when he gets stressed, and he's going to stress over this because he can't control it. Rodney does not do well with helplessness.”

Gibbs nodded. “Both Samas and I have noticed. We’ll keep an eye on him.”

John relaxed. He knew that Rodney would listen to Samas and Radek, even if he ignored the rest of the world. “That's good. So, will you sit down with Lorne and force him to start looking at some contingency plans? I know from the reports with Ellia that she was exceptionally strong, and of course we know Wraith have regenerative abilities, so I think you need to assume worst case scenario and plan for a future where I have both.”

“Are you assuming that you're going to lose control and pose a threat to the city?” Gibbs gave him a sharp look.

Considering that John had been fighting an urge to grab Rodney and fuck him into the mattress in front of witnesses, considering that when the nurse’s last IV of medicine had burned, John had a flash of homicidal rage, he was pretty sure that was a safe assumption. “I'm already having instinctive responses,” he told Gibbs, leaving it to the gunny to fill in the blanks, “and I'm sure they're only going to get worse, so yes. I am assuming that, and you should as well.”

“There is one way we can help Carson isolate the DNA damage and target the treatment.”

John shifted in his chair. If there were a medical solution, Carson should be in here. “Oh?”

“If you would consent to have Samas sample some of your blood directly, he would have a better chance of describing the structure of the live virus in your system.” Gibbs sounded oddly neutral about it.

“Hey, it's not like Carson isn't making me feel like a vampire victim already. The more the merrier. Now, we're talking about my arm, right? I don't think the IOC would be amused by me hosting Samas.” Truth be told, John wasn’t thrilled with the idea of hosting either, but he wouldn’t say that to Gibbs. He respected the man and his decisions, and enough people already gave him grief about Samas. Every new batch of Marines that arrived had two or three knuckleheads who made trouble until Gibbs’ Marines put them on the right path or helped them have a training accident just serious enough to get them a ticket home to Earth. Not that John officially knew anything about that. He just figured that anyone who was narrow minded enough to target Samas would also run into problems with any number of the other non-Earth people they had on the city.

“No, he can take it from your arm,” Gibbs said.

John held his arm out. “Tell Samas to come out and get his sample then.”

“I have to go get Samas.”

John stood. “Wait. You plan on asking for a sample, but you don't bring Samas in here with you to get it? What's going on, Gibbs?”

The door opened again, and Lorne was standing there. “An abundance of caution, sir.”

“Lorne?” John stood up and took several steps toward his second. He could feel the anger pushing him toward violence. If Lorne was going to turn on Samas after all this time, John wanted to hurt him, to hit him until Lorne understood that he was under John. He would take John’s orders.

A hand caught him by the arm, and John stopped long enough to see Gibbs’ holding him. John pulled back.

“Sir, Rodney has been insisting that Samas join with you to control the infection. Dr. Weir feared that he might take you as a host, not out of any malice,” Lorne said quickly, holding up his palms in surrender, “but as a favor to Dr. McKay.”

John looked at Gibbs, and Gibbs was nodding. “Rodney was rather insistent. Samas and I both told him that it wouldn’t happen, but I think the rest of the staff worried that we might change our minds if we were in here.” Something made John trust Gibbs more than Lorne. That wasn’t right. John frowned as he realized that he was losing track of the conversation. He really shouldn’t be making any command decisions at this point.

He walked over to his bed and sat on the edge. “So, is Samas going to take the sample or not?” he asked.

Lorne frowned. “Dr. Weir and I wanted you to be aware of the danger. If Samas decides to go inside you, there’s not much we can do other than contact Stargate Command.”

“Then I’ll be taken over by an alien I respect instead of the virus that’s turning me into a bug. I’ll take the risk, Major.” John still felt that irrational anger flowing through his veins. He knew he should appreciate that Lorne was protecting him, but he couldn’t.

“I’ll go get Samas,” Gibbs said.



“Take Lorne with you,” John said. He couldn’t look at Lorne right now. He couldn’t risk having the man refuse his order because John wasn’t sure how much control he had over his temper.

“Yes, sir,” Gibbs agreed. That quick agreement soothed John’s nerves, and he closed his eyes as the two of them left. He was losing his humanity.

The door opened again, and Elizabeth stood there with one of the new sergeants, a man who had years of experience with the SGC and a really big gun.

“John,” Elizabeth said softly.

John closed his eyes.

“I’ll be fine sergeant. You can leave,” she said softly.

John sat up, his eyes open wide even though the light hurt them. The sergeant was turning to leave. “Sergeant Anderson!” he snarled, his control slipping as he gave serious consideration to eviscerating the idiot.

The sergeant snapped to attention. “Yes, sir.”

“Do normally leave command staff in vulnerable positions when they are unarmed and unable to defend themselves from a superior force?” John demanded.

The sergeant flushed. “No, sir.”

“Then I suggest you not do it now unless you want to have a very short stay on Atlantis and a trip back through the Gate with a disciplinary complaint on your record.”

“Yes, sir.” The sergeant was just short of saluting, and John knew that put him in a difficult spot. John was the dangerous superior force and he had just ordered the sergeant to shoot him to defend Elizabeth. It wasn’t the sort of order John had expected to ever give.

“John,” Elizabeth said softly. “I don’t need a guard.”

“You really do,” John said, “although not as much as Lorne. That stunt with Samas has not left me in a good mood.”

“You dislike that we suspected he might take you as a host,” she said softly.

“He’s been our strongest supporter, Elizabeth.”

“He’s done things behind our backs.”

“And they’ve generally turned out well.” John frowned and smelled the air. That scent. He knew it. “Certainly having the Genii here has worked well for you… personally,” he commented. Elizabeth gave a slight blush—just a faint darkening of the skin of her neck and cheeks. Without enhanced vision, John never would have recognized the guilt in her face or the scent of Ladon Radim on her body. He was brilliant, so John wasn’t sure why he was surprised. They were all violating the fraternization regs around here.

“John,” Elizabeth said again, and that was a clear warning.

John smiled, but that seemed to make her more nervous. “I trust Samas, and if he can help Carson identify the genetics of this thing, it’s worth the risk.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Agreed. Lorne and I simply wanted you to be aware of the circumstances. Rodney would also like permission to visit you again. He promises to not say anything offensive this time.” She gave a wry smile as if knowing that was impossible.

“He’s not safe coming in here,” John said. “And he shouldn’t see me like this.”

“He cares about you, John.” From the tone, she was well aware that caring went past what the regs allowed.

John shook his head. “Teyla and Ronon can defend themselves. Rodney has no business being in the same room with me, and quite frankly, neither do you.”

She sighed. “John, if this isn’t reversible…”

“I’m screwed.” John gave another smile. “I know that already. Tell Ronon to take care of things if it comes to that. He won’t let it tear him up like some of the men would.”

“We can’t talk like that,” Elizabeth said sharply.

“I thought we already were.”

“I was talking about the options if Carson can’t reverse some of the physical changes. I have no doubt he’ll be able to stop the progress of this virus neurologically.”

That was a bit of wishful thinking. “So, you’re just worried about what happens if I stay blue?”

“It would pose a problem.”

John laughed. “Yeah, I don’t think the IOC wants a blue commander in charge of their city. But you know, if it comes to that, I’ll let you and O’Neill argue it out with them.” John could feel his aggravation rise as he thought about the IOC. They were so far away, and yet they thought to control him. They thought to tell him what to do, and John could feel a slow burning fury that left him almost trembling with rage. He smiled and played the fool while the IOC schemed behind his back, and John wanted to see every one of them dead.

They’d taken the city from him. They’d put his people under the command of fools. They’d risked everything—shut Elizabeth out of the command structure—shut Teyla out. They didn’t understand, and yet they pranced around wearing their own ignorance like cloaks. They claimed status they couldn’t defend. John distantly heard an alarm go off.

He kept his eyes closed as footsteps rushed around him. He had to control his temper.

“Just calm down, lad. This will ease your heart rate. Someone get another dose. Nurse, put that there.” Carson’s voice was low and soothing, and John let the medicine soothe the terrible anger in his heart. After all, ripping out the guts of an IOC member would definitely look bad on his service record. John felt the moment when the medicine pressed him to sleep, and he didn’t fight it. Sleeping was better than living with these thoughts that weren’t his.

The best laid schemes of mice and Samas

Gibbs walked out of the treatment room Carson had set up for Sheppard feeling more pessimistic than ever. Samas had never seen DNA do what the iratus DNA was doing. The similarities with Wraith were unmistakable; however, Wraith DNA appeared fairly stable, and iratus DNA was not. They had to be, like onac, a fast mutating species, but Samas could see no coherent design behind the mutations. Perhaps the bugs reproduced in such numbers they could allow for random mutations and the unfavorable ones simply fell by the wayside.

Tony was waiting for him, but Gibbs signaled for silence and kept walking. Tony fell in beside him. Even without Jo in him, they understood each other. Gibbs led them to the transporter and chose a small, out of the way tower where Samas had cut the audio surveillance.

"Boss?" Tony asked when the door closed. He took a step forward, and Gibbs rested his hand on Tony’s hip. "Oh, I know that look.”

"Colonel Sheppard is accidentally infected with the anti-Wraith virus when he is the only person in the city that has been bitten by an iratus bug." Gibbs laid the facts out on the table.

"That pretty much sums it up," Tony agreed, "which seems like a pretty huge coincidence considering that Carson's Wraith cure wouldn't have affected anyone else."

"You know what I say about coincidence," Gibbs said.

Tony frowned. "Um, yes, but you also know that the colonel backed into that tray."

“Where Carson left out the retrovirus,” Gibbs said. “A breech in protocol he has never committed before. His nurses say that failure to follow protocols is one of the fastest ways to get disciplined in Carson’s unit. He drills the medical staff on following procedure.” Gibbs watched Tony. Even without Jo he could practically read his mind. They’d worked together for long enough that he could see the moment that Tony picked up on Gibbs’ suspicion.

“Someone would have to be invisible if they were going to get in there and infect Sheppard,” Tony said slowly.

Gibbs just raised his eyebrows.

"Oh shit," Tony said softly. “Ascended Ancients?”

Gibbs gave a satisfied grunt. "The odds of the same member of the expedition both getting bit by an iratus and being stuck with that needle are about one in a hundred and ninety thousand. The odds get infinitely bigger when you consider that most people would have died when the iratus bit them and that Carson has never before left out a needle with medicine."

Tony had paled, but that was understandable. With the Ori kicking up trouble in the Milky Way, Gibbs really didn’t want to even consider that they might have an ascended enemy, but it didn’t pay to hide from the truth. "You think one of the ascended Ancients is trying to kill Sheppard? Isn't that a huge violation of their prime directive?"

"I think they break that prime directive any time they feel like it." Gibbs didn't even bother to hide his disgust. "But you're jumping to conclusions, DiNozzo. Do you have the evidence for an attempted murder charge?"

Tony gave him an odd look. "Boss, if something doesn't change, this virus is going to kill Sheppard."

"Which isn't evidence," Gibbs pointed out. He suspected Tony was right, but they didn't get ahead of the evidence--that was a basic rule with investigations. "We do, however, have a case for assault. Get Abby. I want everything you have on this."

"On it," Tony said, but he had a look on his face that meant he definitely wasn’t sure where to start. Gibbs wasn’t either, but he’d discovered that if he just ordered Tony to get something done, he figured it out. He hadn’t worked so hard to recruit Tony for his good looks. At the time he’d met Tony, he was still married and his sex drive had been firmly in reverse.

Tony turned toward the door, but then he was backpedalling as Rodney bulldozed his way into the room.

“That idiot won’t even let me into the room to see him,” Rodney ranted. Gibbs suppressed a flash of frustration and stepped back to let Samas handle the conversation. For Samas it was no different than an onac being denied access to his queen, or for two onac who had a close alliance being divided over the attention of a queen. Such things happened in the water. Gibbs doubted that either analogy covered this situation, but he still preferred to allow Samas to handle McKay.

"Hey, Rod, calm down. He'll be okay," Tony said. He managed to suppress most of the tells that appeared when he lied, but it was clearly a lie. Samas had hoped to get a clear view of the DNA within Sheppard’s body and immediately have a solution, but he had more questions than answers. He would go to the lab and detail the mutating structures he had observed, but he couldn’t see any immediate solution.

"Oh yes, because no one ever dies around here,” Rodney snapped at Tony. “We haven't had any number of people die for the stupidest reasons ever." Rodney started to get his hands flying.

Ronon came in behind Rodney. “Sorry. He moved fast,” he said. Rodney gave him a dirty look. Clearly he wasn’t interested in being managed.

“Rod,” Tony said soothingly, “Carson’s the best. They’ll figure this out. And now Samas can give them a more detailed picture of the genetic structure.” Tony gave Samas and Gibbs a look that practically begged them to do a little reassuring, but Samas had no reassurance to offer.

"They might as well wave voodoo wands over him for all they know about this. How could this happen? How does one person have this much bad luck?" Rodney’s hands were flailing now.

"But on the good side, he's still alive. He's got the good luck to go with the bad," Tony pointed out.

Rodney pointed at Gibbs. "You. Send Samas in there. At least if Samas were in there, he could stabilize the DNA." It was the same argument he’d been making for three days now.

"That's not a good idea," Gibbs said.

"Don't give me all that crap about stupid people not being able to tell the difference between Igigi and Goa'uld." Rodney took a breath. Samas started to say something, but Rodney was off and running at the mouth again, "and the idea of not taking unwilling hosts doesn't count. John isn't unwilling. Yeah, he isn't exactly willing, but he’s not in his right mind. That leaves the decision up to his next of kin, and as his next of kin, I’m telling you to get in there."

Samas felt a flash of aggravation at being told what to do in such a manner, and Gibbs’ own displeasure reinforced that. Perhaps Rodney realized he’d gone too far because he had gone silent as he stared at Samas.

"I wish I could do as you ask. However, I am far too large. An onac of my age was never intended to still be in a host and I have needed to make certain compromises with Gibbs' brain that I fear I cannot make in Sheppard's case, not in his current condition. Even attempting to join with him would likely kill him."

"Then send one of the baby onac." Rodney snapped the words out. He knew. He knew of the joining waters. Samas had an instinctive need to get out of his host, to get out now and ready for battle. Gibbs had about the same reaction.

“Rodney?” Tony asked. “What are you talking about?”

Samas kept his face blank when all he could think about was his children. Who had Rodney told? How many people knew of them… threatened them? Ronon had stepped forward, and he was watching Samas.

"What?" Rodney demanded, clearly oblivious to all the emotions around him. "They can go in there, can't they?" Rodney looked around with a confusion that didn't match the verbal napalm he had just dropped on all of them. "What?" he asked again. "Oh." His lips twisted into a frown. "That was a secret. Ronon, don't tell anyone about that last part."

Gibbs appreciated that bit of irony; Samas was still too worried for any sort of amusement. He was upset enough that stress hormones ran through Gibbs’ body, making him stiff with rage and fear—two emotions Samas did not handle well.

"What?" Rodney asked again. "Will you just go get one of the little ones?" Rodney demanded. "Time is short people." He snapped his fingers, and for one nanosecond, Gibbs thought that Samas might kill someone, with Rodney near the top of that list.

Maybe Tony realized the danger because he moved so he was physically between them. "Rod, the colonel isn't going to die in the next hour or even the next day, so just slow down. How did you find out about the children?"

Depending on the answer, they might already be screwed beyond repair. Gibbs had horrific visions of the command staff having secret meetings without them. If that was the case, the military would already have some kill switch in place--some sort of delivery system for symbiote poison. Rodney's mouth twisted into a frown. "I got anomalous readings from one of the sensors back before we even reestablished contact with Earth. Radek told me I was being paranoid, but I appropriated a MALP and used it to film underwater. It's not like they're hidden.” Rodney looked at Samas. “You have thousands of them down there. Or you did. Once I recalibrated the life sign detector that's slaved to my station, I realized that your kids have a really bad habit of dying. But you have little ones that would fit in John." Rodney was watching Gibbs and Samas with a sort of bewilderment. "You can save him," he said in a small voice.

"He can try, but that leaves the problem of the others finding out about the symbiotes," Tony pointed out. Samas began to sort through this new information. Rodney had no scent of shame or deceit, so it did appear that the Turi were safe for now, but this did change the situation. Samas also thought it strange that Radek would tell Rodney to ignore sensor readings. It was more likely that he had already seen the readings; however, Radek was even less likely to tell someone than Rodney. However, that didn’t preclude other members of the science team discovering the Turi.

Rodney threw his hands up in the air in frustration. "Oh please. Igigi are not Goa'uld, and anyone who's too stupid to understand that has no right even being in this galaxy. That’s the whole reason I tried to lose the mini-sub that O’Neill sent us because that man is not open minded enough to see reason.”

“Your people do seem kinda stupid,” Ronon offered.

Rodney spun around and glared at Ronon. “Wait. You aren’t surprised. You knew! You knew and you never told me!”

“You never told me, either,” Ronon pointed out, and that was his smug look. Samas could practically smell his pride in having been a host when Rodney didn’t trust him enough to even tell him.

“Of course I didn’t. It wasn’t any of your business,” Rodney whirled around, “but you have to have one of the small ones go in Sheppard and stabilize him.”

Samas shook his head. “They might be able to strength him temporarily, but no symbiote could reverse this virus. I don’t even know if I could, and I cannot join with Sheppard without killing him. I did not lie about that.”

Tony rested his hand on Rodney’s arm. “And if Samas tries and anyone finds out that Sheppard has a symbiote in him, that’s not going to end well.”

Samas thought that was an understatement. He had visions of the SGC sending symbiote poison through the Gate. Before this conflict over the Wraith retrovirus, Samas might have counted on Teyla and Weir to be a defense against that, but Weir clearly had more of the killer warrior in her than he’d given her credit for. She truly would eat her enemy alive and not care about the ethics of it. Samas admired that sort of dedication to a goal, but it meant that he could not count on her, and clearly Teyla was not able to temper Weir’s voice. Samas needed stronger allies in order to ensure survival, and he could not play the long game as he had intended.

"Yes, yes, people are stupid about the Igigi," Rodney agreed. "But we can treat it like some sort of secret mission. Can we save Sheppard now? Chop, chop."

"Rodney, you're asking one of Samas’ children to die for John," Tony said.

“What?” Rodney turned white as a ghost. “No I’m not.”

"Tony, no," Samas said firmly.

“You said yourself that you won’t have any symbiote coming back into the water unless it completed the trials. Are you changing your mind?” From Tony’s tone it was clear that he wanted Samas to bend the rules, which surprised him. As Jo’s host, he understood the danger. After all, Tony had come up with the one trip compromise. It would mean that the Turi would have a culture based in the water—one that saw the host culture as a place to visit, not a realm to take over or a people who lived to serve Turi. And Turi would have to prove themselves in the water—they would have to fight in the rite of hosting. Now Tony would undo all that in order to save one person. Samas wasn’t comfortable.

“You can’t let Sheppard die. I swear, I don’t care if I have to go down there with a fishing net, you aren’t going to let John die without trying something.” McKay sounded frantic, and Tony wrapped an arm around him. It spoke to McKay’s trust in them that he spoke those threats when he was in a position that he couldn’t defend himself. However, Samas would not betray that trust, not even for his children.

"I could call for one who is still a shadow,” Samas said.

“And then ask it to die, its genes unused,” Tony said.

Samas stared back.

Rodney stared at them in confusion. “Why would one of them have to die? Just carry it to John and then carry it back.”

Samas gave Rodney a small smile. “It is not that easy. My people were compromised because the rites of joining were ignored. Would you compromise them again?”

“Oh please. Helping someone is not the same as taking unwilling hosts,” Rodney snapped. “So have junior go in there and then let him go home.”

Tony spoke. “Samas is determined that until the Turi culture is truly established, that no onac can come home with any sort of corrupt story to tell. Taking a host that did not fight to earn the joining and then joining only to be exposed to a corrupt DNA code… Samas would not let the symbiote live to sing about that in the water,” Tony said, and the way he said it was a clear condemnation. Samas was surprised at the open defiance, but Gibbs sent up only amusement. Tony didn’t back down, not even from them. He never had, and Samas had best remember it.

“You would kill your own kid?” Rodney asked in a small, horrified voice.

Samas could not afford to have McKay as an enemy, so he hurried to explain even if it was not Rodney’s right to know. “It is not the same as giving up a child. I myself have killed some of those that proved weak. A symbiote is nothing but the memories it carries. The word in our language for one with no unique memories is close to the word shadow. I may spawn a thousand symbiotes with the memories of a single symbiote who has gone on some adventure, and all of them are shadows of each other, identical in every way.”

“Are you saying they aren’t real until they take a host?” Rodney asked.

Samas shook his head. “No. Many have their own adventures. They explore the underwater parts of the city. They go out and fight native wildlife. They do not need a host to go out and develop their own personality apart from what they have inherited from me. Those are not shadows. But those who have only listened to others’ songs are not unique. If all but one of any spawning die, then all that exists in the thousand shadows is still saved in that one creature. And if every shadow dies and I still exist, I can create a thousand more shadows. An individual is only unique after having adventures of his own."

"If you ever want to have hot water or a safe night's sleep again," Rodney said in a low voice as he pointed a finger at Samas, "you'd better find a way to help John. I just… I don’t want to know if you kill your kid afterward.”

“Samas is trying to protect his people,” Tony said soothingly. Then he gave Samas a look that meant he wasn’t fond of the idea either.

If Samas allowed the hosting, Tony would be unhappy about the death of a shadow. If he did not, Rodney could pose a threat to the Turi. Samas knew what he had to do. “I will have one of the symbiotes join with Sheppard,” Samas said.

"How do we do this, boss?" Tony asked.

This did not make Samas happy, but he did have to admit that this course of action was logical if one thought saving Sheppard was the ultimate goal. "Very carefully," Samas said. “We're going to need a distraction in the medical ward in order to get inside Sheppard’s room. Tony, I am closely watched because Lorne fears that I will take Sheppard as a host. You will need to carry the Turi."

Ronon offered, "I can provide a distraction."

"So that leaves the sensors and surveillance." Gibbs looked at Rodney.

"Yes yes. I have those. But you can help him, right?" The desperation in Rodney's face had been replaced with a sort of weak hope.

"I don't know. I will send in a symbiote that has my own technical knowledge and Tony's persistence, but that guarantees nothing."

Rodney frowned. "Wait. Tony's persistence? You're using human DNA?"

Samas drew himself up and glared at Rodney with such hatred that Rodney startled back.

"I do not have abominations for children. Tony carried a symbiote and faced down a corrupt Goa'uld. With the help of SG1, he stole one of the great mother ships and ensured that the Goa'uld would never again use the onac of homeworld to enslave your people or mine. I used the DNA of his symbiote, the one who sings of his bravery and persistence, and knows his heart."

Tony noticed that Ronon was giving him a very strange look. Yep, Ronon might think of himself as the premier carrier of the male Turi, and he was… now… but Tony had been there first.

"You know Rodney, boss, he just talks without thinking first. You would never be a Goa'uld trick like putting the DNA of the host into the kids. So no eating the scientists." Tony gave Samas a goofy grin. It only took a second for Samas' aggravation to vanish and for Samas to roll his eyes.

"Rodney is a little large to eat. Besides, he's not inferior, and I generally only kill the weak and inferior,” he said.

"Or the strong and morally inferior," Tony added. "But we need a timeline on this plan."

The next few minutes were full of schemes and timelines. Samas had much to prepare. He had to get Carson the detailed structure of the iratus DNA. If Carson still felt he needed iratus eggs, Samas could fool a creature that relied so heavily on scent, but that meant only taking those who hosted Turi on the mission. Samas eyed Rodney and wondered if he would host if they could convince Lorne that Sheppard’s team should be the ones to get the samples.

But that posed a new problem. Rodney had many talents and great bravery, but he did not have the physical strength to traverse the physical obstacles Ronon had built to protect the joining waters. Samas disliked having to move quickly, and right now he felt as if everything was spinning out of control too quickly for him to see where they led. It was a most unpleasant sensation.




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