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Title: Happiness is a Warm Gun
Author: lunasky
Recipient: argosy
Pairing: John/Rodney
Rating: R/NC-17
Word Count: 16,483
Timeline/Spoilers: Takes place during 402—Lifeline (between getting ZPM but before landing on the new planet).
Summary: It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes. ~Douglas Adams

A/N: I hope you like this dear! I hope you have a very Merry Christmas. Many thanks to my two betas who I will thank profusely after the reveal. All remaining mistakes are mine. Also a big thanks to our mods for putting this all together. You guys rock.


1300 hrs


"What did you touch?"

"I didn't touch anything."

Rodney blinked several times in the complete darkness. Releasing his death-grip from the side of the lab bench, he fumbled to where his laptop had been and patted around in the dark until he found it under the lab bench.

"We're not moving anymore, are we?" Sheppard asked.

Rodney hit his head on the table. "Obviously not. You know, I just want to stay in hyperspace for more than a few minutes. Is that so goddamn hard? Is that too much to ask?"

Tapping the screen, he let out a small sigh as the computer sprang to life, emitting some light to see by as well.

NO INPUT, the screen told him.

"Of course," Rodney muttered under his breath as he saw the shambles that used to be his lab. Picking up a broken coffee mug, while Sheppard tried the radio, he grimaced when he saw the puddle of coffee that bathed a circuit board underneath.

"Control room, come in."

Rodney looked up but Sheppard just shook his head. "Radio's dead. So what the hell happened, McKay?"

Rodney punched a few more buttons on his screen. "I don't know. I need a hard connection. Here, give me a hand." Rodney passed the laptop to Sheppard while he started lifting computers and other debris off the floor, trying to find the connection to the main computer. Sheppard, who seemed more interested in making shadow puppets, held the laptop at an angle that actually prevented Rodney from seeing anything useful. Rodney grabbed the laptop back, stuck it under his arm and traced the cable from the wireless router, hooking it up directly to his laptop.

The laptop still complained that it had no connection. Rodney swore as he climbed back into the mess.


Trashed technology, circuit boards imprinted into his knees, life-threatening environmental conditions (he nearly fractured a fibula tripping over a toolbox, hunting for the direct-access connection to the Atlantis mainframe), the apparent extinction of anything resembling a goddamn alligator clip in the entire goddamn laboratory, and oh yes, the most annoying (though possibly the prettiest) Air Force Colonel in the history of ever, remembered only after Rodney came very close to suffering a concussion walking into a server box, that he had a goddamn flashlight in his tac vest: it was all fairly normal, really.

Rodney swore again for emphasis while pulling apart wires and twisting them onto the contacts he'd molded into his laptop months ago in expectation of pretty much this exact scenario. The machine beeped and started to scroll data.

With a sigh, Rodney flipped it over and started to read. "This isn't good."

"What happened?"

"I don't know. It's like we hit something and that dropped us out of hyperspace."

"I didn't think we could hit something while in hyperspace."

Rodney rolled his eyes, wondering why he even bothered. "I said 'like, like we hit' obviously we didn't really hit a planet or sun. But we've stopped and something's damaged our navigational system. I can't even get the co-ordinates of where we are."

"Anything on sensors?"

The headache was starting to get worse, but whether it was from the injury or having to deal with Sheppard, he didn't know. "I can't tell anything from here. The damn computer's telling me there's no data being transmitted from the sensors to the mainframe."

"We should try and make our way to the control room then."

Rodney surveyed the disaster in his lab once more. "You know, if the shield has failed, we could be in a pocket of air and the moment we try and open the doors, we'll end up in the cold vacuum of space."

"Well, we could stay here, and use up our precious air talking about all the ways we could die, and in the end die from suffocation anyway, or we could try and do something to maybe save ourselves."

Rodney put his laptop in hibernation, reducing the light in the room to just Sheppard's flashlight, and gestured towards the door.

1315 hrs

"Tell me again why this is a good idea," Rodney grunted with Sheppard pressed up behind him.

Sheppard, flashlight in mouth, mumbled something incoherent.

With a horrible grinding sound, the doors unsealed far enough for Rodney to work his shoulders between them. The leverage gave him another few inches, enough to get the rest of his body through.

Sheppard followed easily enough. "See, Rodney? Knew you could do it."

Rodney snorted. There was still no wireless signal in the hall. "That door is never going to work properly again. I can't believe there wasn't any power going to the emergency override mechanism."

"As long as we live to bitch about it later, that's fine by me. We've got a long way to go and I have a feeling the transporters probably aren't working either."

Together they headed down the hall, pausing only long enough to discover that Sheppard usually didn't bring his sidearm when he came to hang out in Rodney's lab.

"Weren't you ever a boy scout? What happened to always being prepared?" Rodney asked.

That earned him a glare. "Don't worry, Rodney. Keep talking. I'm revising that procedure as we speak—Hey! Did you see that?"

Rodney looked, but all he saw was darkness outside of the illuminated spot from Sheppard's flashlight. "See what?"

Sheppard swung the light around but this was one of the main corridors and the beam couldn't reach more than twenty feet.

"Hello?" he called out.

The echo sent a shiver up Rodney's spine. The hallway was deserted. Sheppard tried his radio again, but there was no answer.

"Where is everyone?" Rodney asked. "There should be people around trying to figure out what happened. I think Zelenka had a team in that lab over there."

Sheppard pulled out the life-sign detector and showed him the pale green glow of the empty screen.

"It's not picking them up," Rodney noted.

"It's not picking us up either," Sheppard said. Rodney took the detector from him and gave it a good whack.

"Does that usually help?" Sheppard asked. The screen remained blank.

Rodney grimaced and gave it back to him. "Obviously it's malfunctioning just like everything else around here."

"Or we're dead," Sheppard replied matter-of-factly.

Sheppard gave the door a loud knock. "Zelenka, you in there?"

No one answered.

"Come on. Maybe they're hurt or something," Rodney said, squeezing by Sheppard so they could repeat the process they'd gone through to open the door a few minutes back.

Eventually, they got the door opened, but there was no one inside. Computer equipment lay trashed around the room.

"They probably went to work on something," Sheppard said. "Let's keep making our way to the control room."

Rodney followed him down the hall. Zelenka and his team had been preparing the city for re-entry; it was possible they could have finished diverting power back to the sub-light thrusters ahead of schedule and gone down to the base of the control room to start physically bringing all the systems back on-line. Maybe. Of course, another possibility was that Zelenka and the other scientists were sucked into a micro-crack in the universe and were currently being crushed to death by dark matter.

"You don't really think we're dead, do you?" Rodney couldn't stop himself from asking, mostly because he wanted to hear Sheppard talk. Now that the idea of a micro-crack in the universe had taken hold, it seemed entirely too likely that that's where Zelenka had gone. Or maybe they'd been sucked into an alternate dimension. The possibilities were endless, really.

Sheppard snorted. "If there is an afterlife, I'm holding out for fluffy clouds and angels singing and less for walking through creepy, deserted hallways."

"Angels, huh? I never figured you for a classicist."

They passed junction AA8, their footsteps echoing eerily. Sheppard said, "My dad dragged me to church on Sundays. I mostly used the time to throw spitballs at Molly Anderson, but I did catch a few things every now and then. The angels thing and the part about brimstone are about all I remember."

"So there might have been stuff about walking through creepy hallways, you just weren't paying attention."

"Maybe, but I'm pretty sure I don't remember anything about having to drag an astrophysicist around as part of the afterlife. That I would have re—"

A cool breeze and a half-seen movement down the corridor spun Rodney around. Sheppard swung the flashlight to the same spot, but there was nothing there.

Just an empty hallway with a fish tank sitting silently in the corner and some empty chairs.

Then the flashlight slowly died away, leaving them in complete darkness.

Rodney grabbed Sheppard's arm. "Please tell me you have another set of batteries."

"Sorry," Sheppard replied.

"So now what are we going to do? We're stuck here."

"I think we should keep going. We'll just take it nice and slow, and turn on your computer when we need light. Come one, we know Atlantis like the back of our hands. I'm sure we can get to the control room."

Moving slowly, taking small steps so he could feel things with his legs and elbows, Rodney tucked the computer close to his body and tried not to panic.

1333 hrs

"I'm tired of being on the bottom. I think we should switch." Rodney was on his knees, prying at the door open while Sheppard, directly behind him, tried to open it from the top.

"It doesn't work that way," Sheppard said cheerfully. "People either top or bottom. They usually don't do both."

Rodney let out a grunt as they forced the gears. The doors must have been locked down when power was lost; it was the only reason he could think for why they were so difficult to open. Wanting to make the most out of his already wasted time, he'd spend the past twenty minutes organizing a few choice words for the idiot who'd triggered this because he had no doubt someone, somewhere had done something stupid.

Unfortunately, Sheppard's stupid double entendres were annoyingly amusing and he had a hard time keeping his scowl.

Rodney felt his way around in the dark, mostly using Sheppard as an anchor. He climbed to his feet and found himself practically plastered against Sheppard's body in the process.

For the first time, he was a little grateful for the complete darkness. Gathering courage from nowhere, he jokingly reached out and patted Sheppard on the cheek. "Live a little, Sheppard," he said. "Besides, my knees are killing me."

1345 hrs

"I think we missed the hallway," Rodney said, halting them both. "We should have hit junction AA5 already and hung a right."

"No, this is it. We haven't even gone sixty paces yet."

"Junction AA5 is only thirty meters from junction AA8. I'm telling you, I think we missed it."

"Normally I get about a yard a pace, but we've been taking small steps so I'm guessing half a yard per pace and a yard's about a meter...This is the right hallway here."

Rodney rubbed his face with his hands. "Oh, God. This is going to be another Mars Orbiter catastrophe. I'm telling you, we missed the hall."

The light from the laptop barely traveled a few feet, but it was enough to show that this hallway wasn't junction AA5, at least.

Rodney turned off his computer and pulled Sheppard back down in the direction they had just come, down the correct hallway and twenty-five meters closer to the control room than when they'd started. And judging from the time he'd seen on the computer, it had only taken them half an hour.

"I really hope no one's waiting for us to save the day," Rodney said with a sigh.

1430 hrs

Five doors, two hundred and sixty-three steps later, Rodney had the sinking suspicion that they were lost.

"Okay, this is either the transporter, the entrance to the cafeteria or the door to stairwell A5," Sheppard said jovially.

"You're awfully chipper for someone who could be facing imminent death at any minute." Rodney scowled.

"And you're awfully miserable for someone in the same condition. If these are our last few hours alive, Rodney, don't you want to spend them being happy?"

Rodney figured it would be wise to refrain from answering that. "Aren't you at all freaked out by the fact that we haven't run into anyone yet?"

Sheppard started humming. "Not really. We had less than half the people on board, remember? Atlantis is pretty big for only a hundred people. So which do you think this is?"


"The transporter, the entrance to the cafeteria or the door to stairwell?"

Rodney sighed. "Knowing our luck it's probably the entrance to the waste disposal section. Come on, let's just do it." He settled into the routine of cozying-up so Sheppard could stand behind him and force the doors far enough apart for Rodney to get a fingerhold between them.

There was an odd glow as they pried the doors open. "Hello? Anyone there?"

"Rodney? Is that you?" came a feminine voice from inside.

"Katie?" The light was strong enough that Rodney could see Katie standing deep in a pile of...things... looking happily at him.


It appeared they'd actually found the botany lab. Stranger still, the odd green glow was all around them.

"Rodney! It's so good to see you. I was getting worried that something had happened to you."

Rodney stared at her in shock. "Something happened to all of us. Didn't you feel that crash that jolted us out of hyperspace?"

Katie gave him a smile. "I figured it was something like that. But then I couldn't reach you on the radio—"

"Because you can't reach anyone on radio. What are you doing here? Where's everyone else?"

Katie gestured around the lab. "I'm helping people, Rodney. In case you haven't noticed, it's dark. Here, have a potato."

Rodney barely had time to catch what she threw at him, especially because he was still trying to understand what she'd just said. "A potato?"

Sheppard went over to her, looked her up and down and then grabbed a potato of his own. "Can we eat them?"

Katie giggled nervously. "They're not bad if you cook them first, but applying heat makes them loose their phosphorescent properties. At the moment, they'll probably give us about fifteen hours of light."

Rodney stuck his finger in his ear and gave it a good shake but when he was done Katie and Sheppard were still talking about triplet states and forbidden quantum mechanical states as they applied to potatoes. "If I'm not interrupting, you said you're helping people. Have you seen anyone else since we dropped out of hyperspace?"

"Sure," Katie said, reluctantly putting down the potato she'd been playing with. "Radek came by here a half hour ago. I gave him, Peterson, Hansen, and Miller three potatoes each."

"Where'd they go?"

Katie shrugged. "I'm not sure. They said something about rewiring the panels on B-3...or maybe it was V-3. I don't know."

"Did Zelenka say what had caused us to drop out of hyperspace?"

"No..." Katie trailed off. "But now that you mention it, he was acting a little nervous. He wanted to know where you were. When I said I didn't know, he told me to stay here until midnight and to tell anyone I saw to do the same. Err...except you. He wanted you to go help Simpson. I offered to pack him some carrots as he was leaving, but he said he wouldn't need them."

"What do you do with the carrots? Use them for heat?" Sheppard asked.

Katie gave him a look. "No, you eat them. It sounded like he would be gone a while."

"Did he say where Simpson was?" Rodney asked, interrupting.

Katie shook her head.

"Thanks anyway," Rodney said, putting his potato in his pocket and tapping his computer on. There was still no wireless signal here. "You want to come with us? We're going to the control room to see what happened. There's no point in you staying here all by yourself."

"Oh! I almost forgot. Radek said to stay away from the control room at all costs."

"Anything else?" he said, fighting the urge to snap.

He managed to upset Katie anyway. "No. Sorry, Rodney. I don't remember, but they were all talking so fast."

Rodney forced a smile onto his face. "No, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have shouted. It's just, we're looking for him. Look, why don't you come with us. I guess we're going to go look for Simpson, wherever she might be. There's no point in staying here by yourself."

Katie shook her head again. "I can't, Rodney. I don't want to leave the Galas plants—they're flowering and they need someone to talk to. Besides, I'm helping here. I've got a lot of potatoes to give out, and everyone needs a little light to help them see in the dark."

Beaming, Sheppard nodded in understanding, irking Rodney a little more.

1440 hours

Rodney stood outside of the botany lab and looked back, reluctant to leave but Katie waved and smiled, and Sheppard motioned for him forward. With Sheppard's potato providing some light, they quickly found their way back into the main corridor.

"So where are we going? Any idea where Simpson would be?" Sheppard asked.

"Not a clue. I thought they were in Zelenka's lab before all this started, remember? I think we should go to the sensor array instead. If Atlantis' systems aren't talking to each other then at least I'll be able to interface with them directly. Assuming they're still functioning, of course."

They set about opening another door and making their way down the hall.

"So how are things going with you and Dr Brown?" Sheppard asked ten minutes later, as they came to another junction.

Rodney paused and put his head against a partially open door. "She's handing out potatoes. Isn't that a little strange?"

"Not really. She is a botanist."

Rodney turned to look at Sheppard, and Sheppard took a small step back out of Rodney's personal space. "Doesn't something strike you as odd?"

Sheppard tilted his head. "Other than the fact that something has obviously gone wrong with Atlantis and caused us to drop out of hyperspace and made all the computers and radios stop working?"

"Yeah, besides that." The greenish glow from the potato illuminating Sheppard's face made him look more than usually boyish. "I mean, Katie didn't seem very worried. You don't actually seem very worried either."

"I'm worried. I'm the one that suggested we go to the control room. You were happy just hanging out in your lab, remember?"

"I guess," Rodney said, though something still bothered him about the whole situation. The last time he'd looked at his laptop it had shown an elapsed time of two hours since the crash. Rodney turned back to the door and finished prying it open. They passed through and continued down the corridor.

"So does that mean things are serious between you two?"


"You and Brown. Are you guys serious?"

Rodney leaned against the wall; he needed a rest. It felt like they'd already traveled several kilometers, but that was impossible. "I don't know. She's nice and sweet, and she puts up with me. In case you haven't noticed, no one else is lining up to ask me out."

Sheppard leaned against the wall next to him and slid down to the floor. "I think I need to increase my workouts with Ronon. It feels like we should be there already."

Joining him on the floor, Rodney pulled out his tablet and brought up a schematic of Atlantis. "We've only gone two four meters; it's over a kilometer to the sensor array when you take into account all the stairs. I can't believe it's taking us so long."

"Well, there are doors every ten feet practically."

Rodney studied the schematic. "Something doesn't make sense. Katie said Zelenka was going to B3 with Miller, Hansen, and Peterson. But Miller and Hansen are your guys, so why are they working with Zelenka? And why would he leave Simpson on her own? Then there's the small fact that the B3 wiring panel is for environmental controls."

Sheppard looked over his shoulder at the schematic Rodney smelled a mixture of sweat and Sheppard's aftershave and felt his heart do a little flip-flop.

There was a pause when Sheppard's eyes flicked up and met his own, and for a second Rodney thought he would say something—they were a little too much in each other's personal space not too—but instead Sheppard said nothing, making it all seem a little more intentional.

Rodney forced himself to his feet and powered down the computer before he did something stupid. "Well, shall we? No point in dilly-dallying, I guess."

Sheppard got up easily, as if nothing strange had happened. "At least the sensor array is closer than the control room—we just have to go to the next tower over, and all the way up."

"At least there are no doors in the stairwell," Rodney said with a sigh, pushing the strange feelings to the side. Maybe they were all in his head. It wasn't the first time he'd noticed Sheppard in that way, but it was the first time in nearly a year and a half—to be honest, Rodney had thought he was over it. Had hoped he was over it, at least, but he was willing to concede that maybe he was just having a moment of weakness brought on by the current situation.

Or maybe it meant he really had a thing for people in uniform.

Rodney gave himself a mental shake and watched Sheppard walk on ahead and decided that maybe it didn't matter. It meant disaster either way, if he were ever foolish enough to act on it.

1530 hrs

"Are we there yet?" Rodney said, panting as they pushed open the fifteen-millionth door. While Sheppard had been correct in saying that the sensor array was closer than the control room, Rodney should have realized that he'd failed to take the stairs into account. Twenty flights down and thirty-four flights up, to be exact.

Beside him, Sheppard was panting just as hard. "I don't know. You're the guy with the map."

Rodney was about to turn on his laptop when he heard a loud clang.

Instantly, Sheppard had his pocket knife out and was scanning the corridor junction they were in. The clang repeated itself, followed by a series of dull thwats, and some muted grunts that were apparently coming from down the hall.

They took off at a run.

As they rounded the corner, they found the door to one of the gymnasiums open, and the warm glow of candlelight spilling out.

Rodney got there close on Sheppard's heels, stopping barely in time to keep himself from plowing into Sheppard's suddenly immobile back.

Inside the room, Teyla and Ronon were sparring.

There were a hundred lit candles on shelves and ledges, casting more than enough light to see by. The two of them were oblivious to their arrival and Rodney revised his initial assessment of their activity when Ronon, knocked off his feet with a single strike, grabbed Teyla's arm and brought her down with him. When she landed, he pinned her arm above her head and settled over her in a decidedly suggestive manner.

Rodney swallowed hard and stared, open-mouthed.

Teyla hissed and used her free hand grab Ronon's hair. She pulled back until he yelped with pain and slid off, then did a quick reverse that pinned him to the floor under her straddled legs. Only judging by how she moved her hips, she wasn't necessarily trying to hold him down.

Ronon groaned and thrust up against her, wrapped his arms around her hips and lifted her whole body up, to bring it back down against him even harder. She threw her head back.

Sheppard cleared his throat, finally.

Teyla's head snapped to the side. She stopped moving "John," she said breathlessly.

Ronon grunted at the interruption and then turned back to Teyla and continued to grind against her.

"Um..." Rodney began but really didn't know what to say. He'd been about to ask whether he and Sheppard were interrupting, but obviously they were, and it seemed rude to point that out. But then Teyla and Ronon both looked over, clearly expecting him to continue, and he had to come up with something. He risked a glance at Sheppard and saw a beaded line of sweat on his forehead, which further derailed his train of thought. "So, any idea what happened?" was the best he could come up with.

Teyla casually got up and grabbed her towel. "I do not know," she said, wiping her face. "I was in the infirmary helping Doctor Keller when Ronon came in. He was mildly injured so I began tending his wounds. There was a very loud noise and the lights and medical equipment stopped functioning."

Ronon eventually got up off the floor, adjusted his crotch and walked over. "We were hoping you knew what happened."

Rodney just stared at him. "And you thought I'd be in the gym?"

Ronon shrugged.

"Lieutenant Miller asked us to help him find Doctor Simpson. When we found her, they left together. We were waiting for you. Lieutenant Miller said you might find your way here." Teyla looked a little embarrassed. Her face was still flushed with exertion and possibly something more.

"I thought Miller was with Hansen, Zelenka and Peterson?" Sheppard asked.

Teyla shook her head. "Some time after the lights went out, Lieutenant Miller brought Sergeant Hansen into the infirmary. He was badly burned. I could not get a clear answer as to what had caused his injuries, only that they were with Zelenka when they occurred. It was then that Miller asked us to help him find Doctor Simpson. He said that she would need help activating the cell."

"The cell?" Rodney asked, trying to get it all straight in his head.

"Yeah," Ronon elaborated. "We tried to get more information out of him, but he just kept offering us a potato."

"Right," Sheppard said, pocketing his own potato. There was enough light with all the candles that they didn't currently need it.

Rodney confirmed their probable location with the map on his laptop and then gestured towards the hall. "Look, we came all this way, we might as well check out the sensors. Maybe they'll give us some clue as to what's going on."

They all filed out of the gym, Teyla pausing only to pick up her fighting sticks and hand out a candle to each of them. Ronon pulled out his gun.

1548 hrs

The server room was just as dark, quiet, and empty as the hallways they'd been traveling for the last few hours. Rodney put his candle on a console just as the wax dripped onto his fingers and burned them. "Ow!"

"Careful," Sheppard said unhelpfully.

Rodney tried not to roll his eyes. "As stupid as it sounds, I think I prefer the potato. Less of a fire hazard. You're all aware that we're in an oxygen rich atmosphere, right? Oxygen—combustion hazard. Granted we're not over-pressurized, but hello? Apollo 1, anyone?"

"Right," Sheppard said, wetting his fingers. The lights went out with a quiet sizzle as he pinched the wicks. He pulled out his potato.

Rodney went to the main computer and got to work. With all the Wraith attacks they'd experienced over the last few years, most of the sensors had been worked on, which meant that Rodney knew almost exactly which wires he needed.

The almost was due to the fact that Rodney hadn't done all the repairs himself, so of course, there were redundancies and loops that were totally senseless and unnecessary and caused him to spent a good five minutes just trying to trace the power input circuit.

"Rodney?" Sheppard called out.

Rodney waved him off, pulling wires out of the output interface. "What? Can't you see I'm busy right now? The moron who worked on this system placed four redundant voltage regulators instead of three. This is not a case of more is better. I'll have to deactivate the whole thing or I'll never be able to interface my computer—"

"I think you should see this," Sheppard said, and something in his voice made Rodney pause.

"All right, hold on, let me just unhook this one—there...Now I should be able to power up..." Rodney flicked the switch, but nothing happened. Tracing the power lines to the power converter, he saw that the power supply itself had been sabotaged. "What the—"

This time, Teyla interrupted. "Rodney?"

Rodney dropped the wires in his hands onto the floor. "What? What's so import—"

When he finally looked up, he could see directly out the window and into the nothingness that everyone else was looking at. Rodney stood up and walked over to stand beside them.

"Where are we?" Rodney asked, staring out where all the stars should have been. The shield emitters offered a faint light that illuminated the city, but beyond its borders there was just a vertigo-inducing darkness.

"That's what I was trying to tell you," Sheppard said. "Last time I checked, there were stars in space. Lots of them."

"We must have jumped off course."

"Did we jump into the void between galaxies?" Sheppard asked.

Rodney shook his head. "We were only in hyperspace for five minutes. There's no way we could have crossed that much distance."

Rodney turned away from the window and back to the mess of equipment.

"The sensors cannot tell you anything?" Teyla asked.

"Not unless I spend three days rewiring the power supply. Someone purposefully cut power to the sensor array."

That got Sheppard's attention. "You mean someone inside the city is sabotaging us?"

The words gave Rodney a sinking feeling in his chest, but he couldn't ignore what his eyes were telling him. "It looks like that."

"I heard Doctor Simpson telling Lieutenant Miller that she could do nothing further here," Teyla said. "That is when they said they would relocate to a research lab on the East pier."

"Maybe she saw this mess and is trying to fix it?" Sheppard asked. "There's a large power distribution center over there."

Rodney shrugged, picking up his laptop and looking at the useless equipment. "I don't know. Maybe. There are a dozen different labs down there. Look, we should split up. We need find Simpson and Miller and I think we also need to find Zelenka. One of them must know something."

Sheppard nodded and turned to Teyla. "Can you and Ronon go after Miller and Simpson, while we take Zelenka? We have no way of communicating, but we'll meet in the mess hall at 2100 hours. It seems to take a lot longer to move around right now, better to give ourselves lots of time."

Teyla and Ronon nodded and were about to leave when Teyla turned back. "I have just remembered that Lieutenant Miller directed us away to stay away from the control room, and to stay to the inside corridors, especially at midnight. Does this mean anything to you?"

Rodney shook his head. "We'll just add it to the growing list of questions I plan on asking him as soon as I can."

"Hey," Sheppard called out, as Teyla and Ronon started down the corridor. "Do you guys need a potato, or something?"

Ronon took one out of his pocket. "No thanks. We ran into Doctor Brown on the way here." He also pulled out a carrot from his other pocket and started munching.

1625 hrs

"I should have taken a carrot. What was I thinking? I'm hungry, thirsty, and tired," Rodney complained. They were in corridor JO5. If they continued down this hallway, they would eventually reach junction J3, where they could access a stairwell that would take them to the main level. From there they could cross over to Bravo section and find a stairwell to the third level, where the environmental controls were housed. Rodney had almost forgotten how convenient it was having the transporters. He figured it would take them another two hours to reach it, assuming of course that they didn't get lost, or distracted.

"You're always hungry, tired, and thirsty," Sheppard pointed out. They hadn't run into anyone else since leaving Teyla and Ronon.

"It's not like I had time for a snack between coming back from the Wraith and activating the ZPM. I think it's fair to say it's been a long day."

Sheppard just nodded, and that's when Rodney remembered Elizabeth and their trip to the Replicator planet. It seemed like it had all happened weeks ago, but the pain of losing her suddenly flared up again. The weight of everything bore down on him and he had to stop, sitting down on one of the couches the Ancients had so conveniently left scattered around.

Sheppard sat down next to him. Rodney could tell he was feeling the same thing.

"I haven't even thought about her since this started. What's wrong with me?" Rodney asked.

Sheppard put a hand on Rodney's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "I think it's too much for us right now. One problem at a time, Rodney. We'll get her back after we sort this out. I'm not giving up."

Rodney rubbed his face in his hands until Sheppard got up, grabbed his arm and forced him up off his seat. "Come on, I've got an idea."

Rodney let himself be led a few feet, feeling the warmth of Sheppard's hand on his arm and how it traveled up through his body. The pain of losing Elizabeth receded, went into a corner of his mind he could close off if he thought hard enough about other things. As though helping him along, his brain supplied other ideas; ones he'd accepted as impossible a long time ago. But he couldn't deny the fact that Sheppard was acting friendlier than normal.

As Sheppard dragged him along not only did the grief and guilt he felt over Elizabeth lessen, but so did the urgency of their current mission. Rodney tried to remind himself that they had to find Zelenka—that something weird was going on: they were floating in nothingness and that could only be a bad thing. But all he could focus on was the fact that Sheppard was touching him.

"Let's go in," Sheppard said, starting forward. They were, Rodney saw, directly in front of someone's personal quarters.

"But this is someone's room—" he protested. He rubbed the place where Sheppard's hand had been. It felt much colder now.

Sheppard didn't seem to notice. "I know. And their bathroom will have drinkable water, and if we're lucky, they might even have a snack or two."

Rodney's priorities shifted. He put his computer down and helped Sheppard open the door.

They stepped inside to the light of Sheppard's potato, which Rodney could have sworn was getting smaller. The room wasn't very big. There were books everywhere, mostly anthropology, but there was one called Neuro-Linguistic Programming propping up the screen of a laptop hooked up to a docking station. Clothes littered the room: some blue shirts, khaki pants, some folded over the back of a chair and some on the floor in what appeared to be a laundry pile. Everything smelled vaguely of lavender.

Checking his computer, Rodney discovered the room belonged to a Doctor Susan Greene, but that didn't help at all.

"What is it with you scientists—how do work in all this mess?" was Sheppard's light-hearted comment.

Rodney almost tripped over a pair of running shoes. "I'll have you know there's a perfectly logical order to where I put my things; it's just that I have a lot of stuff and I can't always organize it as I would like. Plus, you know—everything moves toward entropy, no use fighting it."

Sheppard picked up an IKEA catalogue lying haphazardly on a table, atop some papers ringed with coffee stains. "Don't give me that. Changing the location of a large object does not change its physical thermodynamic entropy. You guys are just packrats. Really, tell me how useful this is in the Pegasus Galaxy."

The words thermodynamic entropy coming out of Sheppard's mouth pretty much derailed any comeback Rodney might have launched. "Oh my God. You are a geek. I bet you know what Boltzmann's equation is, don't you?"

"Rodney..." Sheppard said, tilting his head to the side in embarrassment.

"You do! I can't believe it. And you always pretend not to know what I'm talking about."

"Most of the time, I really don't. You tend to go off on tangents—"

Rodney smiled. "Ha, you did it again. Tangents. You know, you're pretty hot when you talk science..." He choked on the rest of his sentence. "Well, you know, hot in a perfectly platonic, guy that's friends with another guy who happens to be in the military sort of way..."

He trailed off into an awkward silence which made him shrink even further into his shoes.

"Relax Rodney," Sheppard said, not unkindly. "I get it."

Rodney sighed. "Right. Didn't we come in here to get something? Water. Right. And food. Do you really think she's got any food in here? What I wouldn't give for a Mars Bar."

"A what?"

Rodney shook his head. "Never mind. I'll take the bathroom. I need a drink."

Rodney escaped to the small bathroom at the other end of the room. He'd almost forgotten about the potato in his pocket; now he used it to maneuver in the small space, getting himself to the tap and filling a glass he found sitting on the counter. The water was lukewarm, even after running the tap a few minutes. He drank down several glasses regardless.

When he was done, he looked around to see if there was anything of use. Amid the mess of bottles—face cream, hand cream, under-eyelid cream, body cream—his eyes settled on a strange metal contraption he'd never seen before.

"Here, Rodney," Sheppard called out. Rodney went back into the main room, still turning the thing over in his hands. He looked up in time to catch the Power Bar Sheppard threw in his direction.

"Thanks," Rodney said, eagerly unwrapping it and taking a bite. The bar was slightly stale but Rodney didn't mind. That just made it crunchy. He tossed the metal thing he was carrying at Sheppard. "You know women. Any idea what this is?"

Sheppard looked it over while eating his own Power Bar. "It's an eyelash curler."

"Really? How do you know that?"

Sheppard sat down on the bed and put his feet up. "My ex-wife."

Rodney leaned against the desk, knocking over some journals and a few DVDs. "I've known you for four years, and I'm only finding out you were married now?"

Sheppard shrugged and looked away. "Does it matter?"

"It's one of those big lifetime events. I thought we were friends."

"We are. I was married for six months, and then we got a divorce. I've been deployed overseas longer than that. Do you want me to run down all my previous postings for you, as well?"

"I don't know. Did you get married during any of them?"

Sheppard rolled his eyes and shifted around on the bed, trying to get comfortable.

"So what happened?" Rodney couldn't help but ask; it wasn't often Sheppard opened up about his past. But it seemed that the moment had already passed.

"These beds aren't comfortable at all. How's that prescription mattress of yours?" Sheppard asked. He continued rustling around the bed and a moment later he was bouncing slightly on it. "What's the sex like on these, anyway?"

Rodney slipped off the desk, and had to scramble so he didn't end up on the floor. "Excuse me?"

"You and Katie Brown. You've been together for what, a year now? You've had sex, haven't you?" Sheppard said, turning to the side so his feet could dangle off the edge. He bounced again.

"Sure. Of course," Rodney tried to find his footing but stepped on a plastic plate from the mess hall instead. His mind was racing. He wasn't about to tell Sheppard that the few times they'd done it had been less than stellar memories. The single beds in the city were hardly made for one, let alone two people. He changed the subject. Two could play that game. "Oh come on. You're telling me you haven't had sex here?"

"In these beds?" Sheppard asked, pointing to the obvious size issues. "I can't even fit lengthwise."

Rodney rubbed his face. "On, I get it. You've had it elsewhere. Maybe in a storage closet or something? On the flight deck of a jumper?"

"Not exactly," Sheppard said, suddenly looking embarrassed. "The thing with Chaya wasn't exactly conventional and Teer—well, that wasn't here on Atlantis. My question was about these beds, specifically. The Ancients must have been short."

"If only Doctor Greene were here. I'm sure she'd love your analysis. Not that I've been keeping up with all of that group's work, but I do occasionally read a summary report. I don't remember anything about the Ancients being shorter. The scientists," Rodney mimed a double quote in the air, "think that the Ancients liked to keep things separate, though. Especially as they got further along in their evolution. Beds in their quarters were just for sleeping. Sex was just for procreating, but judging by the fact that there weren't that many of them, I don't think they got around to it too often."

"Doesn't sound too evolved to me," Sheppard said, jokingly.

Rodney sat down on the bed next to him, since his legs found the whole conversation too surreal to support him much longer. He suddenly wanted to clarify his relationship with Katie a little. "Just so you know...Katie and I—well, we're not really together. The beds are too small, you're right, and she's not the kind of girl you can take up against the wall, if you know what I mean. She likes ...romance, and candles and flowers...and I'm not really good at those sorts of things. In fact, I pretty much suck at them."

Sheppard turned his head to look at him, and Rodney shivered. The tension between them was back; it was thick in the air and for a second, looking into Sheppard's eyes, Rodney thought that yes, maybe Sheppard actually felt the same way about him.

The silence stretched, and Sheppard's gaze didn't waver, and Rodney felt himself leaning forward, wanting to find out once and for all if this damn thing was only in his head.

Sheppard's lips parted and that was all Rodney needed. He was so close he could feel John breathing, warm and slow, when a shadow passed through the room.

The cold that followed was instantaneous.

Sheppard was off the bed almost as quickly, with Rodney close behind. They turned, chasing a shadow that seemed to be just outside their field of vision, leaving a trail of bitter cold as it went. Then, just as quickly as it had come, it was gone, draining the two potato-lights in the room until the two of them stood side by side, in utter blackness again.

1736 hrs

"I think you should take back all those mean things you said about our packrat tendencies," Rodney said, adjusting the headlamp he'd found in Doctor Greene's underwear drawer.

Sheppard used his flashlight to light up the hall. They'd also found a set of double-A batteries in Doctor Greene's underwear drawer, but that was something Rodney didn't want to think about.

"You look like a geek with that thing on your head," Sheppard said with a smirk. They moved down the hall.

Neither of them brought up the kiss that had almost happened back there, though Sheppard seemed skittish. He alternated between walking really close to sprinting up ahead.

Rodney cursed himself for risking their friendship He lost sight of Sheppard and only noticed the huge potted plant half-hidden in shadows when he walked into it. He sputtered and thrashed at the foliage in his face.

"You okay?" Sheppard asked, coming back around the curve he'd disappeared from. He put his hand up to his eyes to block the headlamp's light when Rodney turned to look at him.

"Yeah, fine." Rodney said, untangling himself. "Did you notice it's getting colder in here?"

Sheppard nodded. "I guess. I thought it was just me."

"You know, I just thought of something..." Rodney said; though the idea turning over in his head made him feel even colder.


"Zelenka was heading over to Environmental Controls. What if the cold flashes and the lower temperature are because of something he's doing?"

Sheppard leaned against a fish tank. "What do you think he's doing?"

Rodney shook his head. "I don't know, but remember how I said the power conduits into the sensor room been purposefully cut?"

Sheppard nodded.

"Well, the way they were done is a trick Zelenka uses all the time when he's in a hurry to short circuit a panel. It's effective, but a pain in the ass to fix later."

"You think Zelenka is sabotaging the city?"

Rodney gave him a painful smile. "I don't know, but I think we should get to B3 as soon as possible."

1845 hrs

The third floor of Bravo tower held the primary environmental controls for the entire city: air purification and oxygen concentration controls, temperature and humidity controls, carbon dioxide scrubbers, monitors for the artificial gravity, and links to the waste management systems to account for any problems in the recycling rate.

Rodney breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the faint glow from the control crystals responsible for the main circuits.

"Does that mean everything's still working?" Sheppard asked, shining his light over the rows upon rows of control panels.

Rodney went to the main consol and plugged his laptop in. His computer had two bars left to the battery charge. "I don't know about everything, but part of me was worried that this would all be just as dead as the other systems we've seen." He flicked a switch and waited for his laptop to pick up the readings. When it finally connected, he said, "Crap."

"What?" Sheppard came to read over his shoulder.

Rodney tried to ignore that and concentrate on the readings that made no sense. "Zelenka did reduce the temperature of the city to eighteen degrees Celsius—sixty-four for you. It's still within a comfortable range, though a bit on the cold side. The really strange thing though, is that he reduced the temperature in the lower gymnasium to freezing."

"Why would he do that?"

"Sadly, I didn't get to keep my mind-reading abilities, and he didn't leave a note."

"Well, can you fix it?"

Rodney hit a few buttons, but the computer only gave him an annoying little beep. "He's locked me out." He tried again. The computer beeped a second time.

Rodney tried to interface directly with the temperature control console. It locked him out as well.

"Can't you override it? I thought you were a genius," Sheppard said, following him around as he went from control panel to control panel, trying to find one that would give him access.

Rodney glared at him. "I am a genius, and I can override it, I just need time. My computer only has a little bit of power left, and if I use it all to crack his code, I'll have nothing left to make any actual changes. Happy?"

"Not really," Sheppard said, sitting down in a chair that had been shoved aside.

Rodney sighed and did the same. "It looks like all the systems are being run with only minimal power from the main control panel. They're in a holding pattern, maintaining the temperature and atmosphere—wait. The controlling program is set to run until eleven fifty-nine tonight. Then it's set to over-pressurize the city and change the oxygen level to almost one hundred percent."

"That's less than six hours from now."

"I know."

"Can you stop it?"

Rodney threw his laptop down in a fit of helplessness. "The only thing I can do is shut the power down altogether, but there's no guarantee I'll be able to turn in back on. If that happens, we'll suffocate or freeze to death."

Whatever Zelenka was up to, he'd essentially tied their hands. Unable to give up completely, Rodney retrieved his computer and was powering down to save what energy he could, when he heard a quiet groan.

It was coming from one aisle over. They immediately ran toward the sound.

"Peterson!" Rodney dropped to his knees by the man's limp body.

Sheppard checked for a pulse and did a quick pat-down for blood or other gross injuries.

All Rodney could see was that Peterson's face and hands were red and covered with blisters. Peterson groaned again and his eyes flickered open.

"What happened?" Rodney asked.

Peterson tried to look around. "Zelenka? He got away?"

Sheppard helped him sit up. "Did Zelenka do this to you?"

"Do you know what he was up to?" Rodney asked at the same time.

Peterson closed his eyes again. "He's going to the ZPM. We haven't got much time." The effort to speak cost him too much. He passed out again.

Sheppard hoisted Peterson up onto his shoulders and stood with a grunt. "We should get him to the infirmary."

Rodney raced back to check his laptop for the most efficient route. "It's on the other end of the city."

With a sigh, Sheppard shuffled over to the door, shifting Peterson's weight more evenly across his shoulders. "Of course it is."

1917 hrs

"After we drop Peterson off, we should swing by the mess and see what Teyla and Ronon found out," Sheppard huffed. He put Peterson down on one of the couches. "It'll be close to nine o'clock by then."

Rodney consulted the map. "Sure. It's sort of on the way, we just have to go down three flights of stairs and we can take the connecting corridor to Alpha wing."

"That's on the way?" Sheppard asked, still out of breath.

Rodney shrugged. "The infirmary is on the other side of the city. Everything's sort of on the way. And maybe at some point we could also schedule in a trip to the ZPM room, since it appears that's where Zelenka's heading."

Sheppard was about to pick Peterson up again, when he looked over at Rodney. "I don't suppose you want to carry him for a bit?"

The idea of even trying seemed ludicrous. Before Rodney could think of a way to describe how much he didn't want to, he had a better idea. Holding up a finger that meant "Wait," he got his bearings and then walked back down the corridor in the direction they'd come from. There, three doors down, he found the lab he was looking for.

He came back a few minutes later pushing a trolley with one shaky wheel.

"You only thought of that now?"

Rodney gave him a sheepish smile. "Sorry."

"Remind me to volunteer you sooner, next time." Sheppard said, laying Peterson down on the cart. It wasn't long enough, so they had to curl him up on his side in a fetal position. Sheppard paused to check his heartbeat and breathing and then started pushing the cart down the hall.

1953 hrs

The shaky wheel on the cart rattled relentlessly, and every few minutes they had to pause as Peterson slid from one side to the other.

"Whose stupid idea was this anyway?" Sheppard asked, grumpily.

Rodney got in front of the cart just in time to push aside a plant before it got hit. "Hey, this isn't my idea of fun either."

They traveled in silence a while longer until suddenly, Sheppard stopped the cart and cocked his head to the side. "Did you hear that?"

Rodney looked around. "What? Is the shadow thing back? I don't see anything."

Something stepped from the shadows, nearly sending Rodney into a fit.

Ronon looked at them with a calm smile.

"You almost gave me a heart attack!" Rodney wailed, bracing his chest with his hand. "Where'd you come from?"

Ronon gave him a friendly slap on the back. "Over there," he said, pointing to the direction they'd just come from.

"We didn't see you. Where's your light?" Rodney asked.

"Didn't need one. You guys have enough to light up the city."

Sheppard looked less surprised by Ronon's ability to sneak around undetected. Instead, he spread out his arms, encompassing the space around Ronon, and gestured. "So, where's Teyla?"

Ronon shrugged. "She's with Simpson. The two of them got this thing from one of the labs and they're taking it to the Jumper Bay."

"Thing?" Rodney asked.

Ronon held out his arms to indicate something a meter long. "I don't know. About this big. Cylinder. Hums. They said they needed it to escape."

Rodney rolled his eyes.

"Wait. You said the two of them. What happened to Miller?" Sheppard asked.

"He's having a nap."

"A nap?"

Ronon paused a moment as if trying to remember, then nodded. "He said he was tired."

"Right," Sheppard said, cocking his head to the side. "Of course he was. And you? Why aren't you with Teyla and Simpson?"

Ronon patted his stomach. "I'm going over to the mess for some food. Want to come?"

Everything they still had to do swam in Rodney's head: take Peterson to the infirmary, track down Zelenka in the ZPM room, find out what the hell was happening at midnight and why they had to stay away from the control room; and, adding to the list, maybe find out what Teyla and Simpson were running from. Still the idea of going down to the mess with Ronon was tempting.

Just in case Rodney wasn't having enough trouble concentrating on the mission, his stomach grumbled loudly.

"No thanks," Sheppard responded quickly.

"You know, it's not a bad idea. Grab some food, relax a bit. I think better on a full stomach too—" Rodney started babbling, but Sheppard took him by the shoulders and turned him around so that he was facing the direction they had been traveling in.

"Sorry, Ronon. You're on your own. We've got people to see, things to do." For emphasis, Sheppard put Rodney's arms on the cart and started pushing them both down the hall.

Ronon didn't seem bothered. He started walking down the hall and disappeared into the shadows. "Okay, suit yourself."


Part 2


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 25th, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
Ooh mysterious! I love this. I have been insane preparing for Christmas, and so I haven't had a chance to sit down and read it until now, but it's wonderful. And you've got me singing the title song nonstop, thanks.

Some favorite lines so far:

It doesn't work that way," Sheppard said cheerfully. "People either top or bottom. They usually don't do both."

"Oh, God. This is going to be another Mars Orbiter catastrophe. I'm telling you, we missed the hall."

I've got a lot of potatoes to give out, and everyone needs a little light to help them see in the dark."

Jan. 3rd, 2008 01:24 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you like it sweetie. I hope it makes up for all my blatant lies. :)

As for the song that really inspired this fic, you'll have to check out the post on my LJ. (Though I did spend a fair bit of time singing HiaWG too. :)
Dec. 26th, 2007 10:59 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow, this is brilliant! I keep wanting to read faster to find out what's going on, but also wanting to read slower, because of all the wonderful and wacky details. Potatoes! Vibrator batteries! Yay! -->and onwards
Jan. 3rd, 2008 01:25 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm very glad you liked it so far. I'm always worried with humour--what's funny in my head is rarely funny outside of it. *g*
Jan. 3rd, 2008 12:02 am (UTC)
I can see it... they'll reach the control room by midnight only to fnd Zelenka and all the others scientists with paper hats and cake and candle and a big poster saying:'Happy Birthday!!'

Ain't I right?
Jan. 3rd, 2008 01:27 am (UTC)
LOL! You don't really want me to spoil it, do you? ;)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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