Character(s)/Pairing(s): John/Rodney & Team friendship. Supporting Ronon/Jennifer, Teyla/Kanaan, Rodney&Radek friendship, brief Rodney/Jennifer.
Word Count: 11,284
Warnings: Crack. Descriptions of insects and other arthropods. A few minor characters die (but no one who was ever alive during the show).
Spoilers: General (mainly for casting) through season four.
A/N: Huge thanks to my betas, as well as others who gave me suggestions or feedback. Any remaining shortcomings are mine, particularly errors concerning arthropod anatomy or reproduction.
Disclaimer: As always, I make no money from this.
Summary: Gender identity crises, sneaking into physics seminars, daring rescue schemes, and the complicated relationship between sex and eating. Oh, plus they're all insects (and one arachnid).
Recipient: For yesj, who asked for "crack where they're flowers or puppies or paving stones or something" and happy endings. I hope this is cracky enough, and that you enjoy it.
From the time Rodney was a young nymph mantid, all he ever wanted was to be a great musician.
"Don't be ridiculous, Meredith," said one of his several dozen siblings, Jeannie. They were nestled together beneath blades of grass, sharing a small aphid for supper.
"Hey!" yelled Rodney, his mouth full of aphid, "I told you not to call me Meredith. It's Rodney."
"Mother named us all when we hatched out of the egg mass, remember? She called you Meredith, so that's what I'm going to call you."
"She thought I was a female!" said Rodney. "But I'm not. I'm male."
Jeannie shifted her forelimbs and tilted her head in his direction. "Can you really be sure? It's not like we've developed functional genitalia yet."
"Whatever," said Rodney. "I'm sure." He hunched his torso unhappily until he realized his antennae were nearly hitting the ground, then straightened back up. "And anyway, why is it ridiculous for me to want to be a musician? Do you think I can't do it?"
"No Meredith, I don't." Jeannie nudged one of his forelimbs with her own. "We're mantises. We aren't designed to be great musicians. You're only going to get your hopes crushed."
Rodney could feel his body vibrating with nervous energy. "You're wrong! I can be anything I want to be! I don't care what you or any of the other mantises think." Without realizing what he was doing, Rodney rose up on his hind limbs, spreading his forelegs wide, and he saw Jeannie tense and jump back a little in shock, and then-
Then, somehow, Rodney felt air blowing out through the small openings on his abdomen, and heard a kind of hissing sound. He froze, and Jeannie stood still as well. For a moment, none of them seemed to move, not Rodney, or Jeannie, or the surrounding blades of grass. (And certainly, not the dead aphid.)
"Did you just-" began Jeannie.
"I think I..." Rodney stared down at his torso in wonder.
"You did it!" yelled Jeannie, hurling herself toward Rodney and wrapping her forelimbs around him. He flailed his limbs around wildly, trying to keep his balance, but it was no good; they toppled backward onto the soft soil.
"You did it," said Jeannie again, gazing down at him with pride in her eyes. "Maybe you really can become a musician."
Rodney scoffed. "Oh please. As if there were ever any doubt."
Of course, Rodney's sense of pride and optimism lasted about as long as the trip to the nearest meadow in search of an adequate music instructor.
"Don't be ridiculous," said the cricket with complete disdain. "You call that music? You're completely lacking in the physical structure necessary to become a great musician. It doesn't matter how much you practice, how much technical sufficiency you obtain. You will never be able to do more than hiss like that. Real music, proper music, requires finesse, skill, and above all, the ability to chirp by rubbing your forewings like so." And here, the cricket began to rub its wings together to produce a demonstration of one of its various cricket songs. Rodney could not deny its beauty, and realized he would never be able to create music like that.
So, in the end, Rodney didn't feel that bad about giving up his dreams of becoming a musician. It helped that the cricket was especially filling, which would hopefully give him the energy he needed for the long journey ahead. Rodney needed to find a new purpose for his life.
A few days' journey from the meadow, Rodney realized he had yet another molt coming on.
"Oh great," he moaned to himself. "At my most vulnerable and I'm in the middle of nowhere! I hardly know this area at all. And it's not like Jeannie or any of the others are around to look out for me. Perfect, just perfect. Great timing, you stupid hemimetabolic metamorphic life cycle."
But thankfully, he was able to locate a small crevasse in the underside of some rocks. It looks like it'd been used by other insects in the past, but there was no one there now, so Rodney took a chance. He ducked in and began to molt, peeling off his old exoskeleton bit by bit, keeping a nervous eye on the sliver of light coming in from the outside.
He'd almost finished the molting process when suddenly it grew darker. Rodney froze; he'd become turned around in the middle of shedding his old body covering, and had his back to the crevasse's opening. Slowly, Rodney twisted his head to peer back around.
"Hey," said four intently staring eyes, surrounded by a very hairy torso, supporting several very large, very hairy legs (that Rodney could see), as well as, at the front, two very, very large fangs dripping with venom.
Rodney screamed and passed out.
When Rodney came to, the first thing he became aware of was that he was in the middle of molting. The second thing he realized was that he was in some completely unfamiliar crevasse in a rock, rather than the usual locations Jeannie and he and the other young mantids from home chose to complete their molts. The next thing he noticed was that the largest, hairiest, most deadly spider Rodney had ever seen was staring in at him through the opening to the crevasse in the rock.
"Finally," the spider said. "I thought maybe you had died."
"Oh my god," said Rodney, "Look, please, I'll do anything, just please don't eat me. I can, I can, well, I don't really know what I can do for you, but please, don't eat me. I swear, I'm not in very good shape, I probably wouldn't taste very good at all. I mean, I'm always eating all this junk food. I eat aphids constantly, all the time. My mother keeps yelling at me and telling me to be more nutritious, saying that I'll ruin my figure- You know, I think she still thinks I'm a female! Just because I haven't developed any genitalia, I mean, it's obvious I'm a male, isn't it? I'm sure you can tell- Oh shit, that isn't why you want to eat me, is it? You've got a craving for a male nymph mantis, don't you. Because look, I can tell you, you probably wouldn't want to eat any of us! I swear to you, we're disgusting, and really not worth your time, and hey, don't think I'm not going to put up a fight, here, I'll, I'll bite you! I may not look like much but I've got, um, super-venom! That's right, so if you even think about trying to reach one of your big hairy legs down in here to pull me out, I'll-"
"You're funny," said the spider. "Kinda annoying, but funny."
"Um," said Rodney, feeling the racing rhythm of his heart begin to slow a bit. "Does that... Does that mean you aren't going to eat me?"
"Nahhh," said the spider. "You're too small and scrawny. I mostly eat lizards. Besides, I just had a really nice field mouse."
Then the spider opened his mouth very wide, and Rodney was about to pass out, wondering if the spider were going to regurgitate this field mouse to make room for eating Rodney, instead. But suddenly, he realized the wide jaws were somehow the spider's way of expressing friendliness. It was... What was that word? Oh yeah, a smile.
"I'm Ronon," said the spider. "You're not from around here, huh?"
"Um, no," said Rodney. He realized he was still mid-molt, and cautiously began to peel the rest of his old exoskeleton off, moving toward the crevasse's opening as he did so. The enormous spider conveniently moved over to one side to allow Rodney passage, and Rodney paused. "Er, you're really not just trying to eat me, right?"
Ronon's four small eyes glittered at him, and the spider moved his fuzzy mouth appendages from side to side in what seemed to be amusement. "No," he said.
Rodney nodded shakily, took a deep breath, and pushing his discarded exoskeleton into the rock behind him, took the last few steps to pull himself out of the crevasse into the open air.
Rodney felt his body freezing up immediately once he saw the full size of his new arachnid acquaintance. Ronon had seemed large from inside the crevasse, but Rodney had only been able to make out a small portion of his body through the crack. Standing before him, Rodney thought that Ronon was the largest arthropod he had ever seen. And yes, maybe Ronon had said he wasn't going to eat him, but Rodney was suddenly terrifyingly sure he'd been lying. He was so enormous, and every inch of his body seemed to be vibrating with physical strength, and Rodney began to sway and think of Jeannie and his mother and his failed attempts to find his calling in life...
"So," said Ronon. "What are you, anyway? I've never seen an insect like you before."
Rodney slowly stilled his swaying, turned his head up toward the enormous spider and tried to remember how to breathe. "I... I'm a mantis. Well, a nymph mantis, anyway. We, we taste really bad, you know."
"I told you I wasn't going to eat you," said Ronon, sounding a little annoyed. "So what are you doing all the way out here? I've never heard of a mantis before."
And so Rodney, cautiously, still half-convinced Ronon was going to eat him, began to explain his quest to find his purpose in life, his past desire to become a musician, the cricket's crushing words (he left out the part about his subsequent meal, not wanting to bring up feeding right now), and his current lack of direction. Ronon, to his surprise, listened pretty attentively, barely saying a word at all until Rodney had finished. Only then did Ronon ask,
"So why don't you do something that uses those wings of yours?"
Rodney said, "What? I don't have..." Stopped, because he could feel something different on his back, and barely daring to move, he began to flex his muscles, this way, that, and he felt appendages he'd never had before rise up, felt the wind fluttering between them as they vibrated above his back and he lifted slightly off the ground.
"I've got wings..." said Rodney, soft voice barely audible, filled with wonder.
"What, did you just get those, or something?" asked Ronon.
Abruptly, Rodney had another thought. "Hey!" he shouted, looking down with joy. "Ha! Take that, mom! I am definitely a male."
From the time John was a phasmid, all he ever wanted was to be able to fly.
"Don't worry, I'm sure we'll be able to fly someday!" said Mitch, one of John's buddies, a fellow phasmid.
"Yeah," said Dex, also a stick insect, standing to the side of Mitch and munching on some bramble. "I mean, we've only been alive about a month. Who knows, anything could happen!"
John sighed and shifted his weight. It was dusk, and the three of them were feeding together. He was thankful for his pals, but sometimes he thought they just didn't understand. If they hadn't developed wings by now, what was the chance it was ever going to happen? For that matter, John had seen plenty of much older stick phasmids in his month of life, and none of them had had wings of any kind, or hinted about any ability to fly.
Unnoticed by John, Mitch and Dex exchanged a glance. "Look, John, you think too much," said Dex, forcing a cheerful tone into his voice. "Try some of this bramble, it's-"
"It's what?" asked John, raising his head and turning to look for his friend, but then he froze. Dex was nowhere to be seen, and Mitch was sitting frozen, staring upward, stark terror written in his eyes. John felt something cold sweep into his body, and looking at the ground beneath him, despite the fact that it was almost completely dark, he saw a slight shadow pass over his body. John turned around as slowly as he could, raising his head to stare in the direction Mitch was looking...
To spot a beast, enormous, wingspan twice the length of John's body, descending upon them like lightning.
Every instinct in John's mind told him to freeze, to try to blend in with his surroundings, but he knew instantly that it was too late, the beast had spotted them, and already Dex had paid the price. Dex, he thought, and that was all John needed.
He dove to the side right as the beast was upon him, its beak scooping through empty air instead, an irritated cry screeching out of its throat. "Mitch!" yelled John, turning to find his other friend still frozen in place. "It's already seen us. Move. Now!"
And somehow, Mitch managed to hear John; he broke out of his shocked stillness, jerking around to stare wildly at John, then at the air, where they could both see that beast had finished climbing and was circling around, preparing to make another pass at them.
"We have to move!" said John in the most commanding voice he could muster. He looked anxiously around him, barely spotting through the darkness a thick tangle of branches far off in the distance on his left. "Come on, follow me! Try to stay under cover."
They tore through the underbrush. John could hear the evil creature above them, calling, beating its wings, and even through the terror he was feeling, John was suddenly struck with a moment of thinking, Wings, and feeling a horrible burning jealously that such a horrible being should have them, should know the sky and the feeling of flight, of the wind rushing past its body as it dove toward the ground, even now, as it was trying to kill him. John heard Mitch behind him, rushing frantically, trying to stay in the shade of the short plants as they made their way closer and closer to the dense clump of branches and logs that would mean salvation.
Suddenly, a burst of wind; the creature had come down on them again, and John hurled himself to the left, feeling the disturbance against his side as its beak and then feet narrowly brushed past him.
"Almost there, almost there!" John shouted. And they were, maybe a meter now until they reached shelter, and then John felt the ground drop off under his right leg and threw himself to the side without thinking about it, pressing onward, pulling himself beneath the dark shadow of a thick fallen tree trunk and into safety.
We're safe, he thought, and he called out joyously, "Mitch, buddy, we made it!" as he looked behind himself for his friend.
Instead, John saw the reason the ground had dropped off, that thing he had narrowly avoided: a miniature pond, some cavity in the ground that had filled with water. Mitch had run straight into it.
The sky-monster landed, hopped over to the puddle, and neatly plucked Mitch out of it, making quick work of him, spreading its wings, and flying away into the night sky.
For a while, John just wandered.
He stayed close to the ground, tried to keep to the thickest vegetation he could find, looked out for obvious signs of predators and always, always kept an eye out for shadows from above. He gave up being active only at night, ignored his baser instincts and began to travel during the day, as well, so he could cover more ground.
And for a while, he survived that way. Every now and then he'd run into a group of insects, sometimes phasmids like himself, and he'd stop himself before he got too close, before they could notice him.
Eventually, the other insects would go on their way, or John would slink back the way he'd come and find a different path. No one ever noticed him.
One bright afternoon, John was traveling as usual when he noticed a sound in the brush to his right. He froze. It could be a group of small insects like himself, or a larger predator that would pay no mind to him, or it could be something of exactly the right size.
And then John heard another noise, and he was sure of it now: the loudness of the crunching vegetation, the stillness of the surrounding air, not even any smaller insects like ants about. This was Danger.
John stood frozen, hoping to blend in with his surroundings, and then: a rush of movement and sound from the brush. He changed his mind, once again going against instincts, and darted forward and to the side right as a thick tongue whipped past him. A lizard, he realized, and he could feel it now, vibrating the ground as it threw itself toward him, almost upon him, and John felt his hopes sink as he realized there was absolutely no way he'd be able to outrun the beast, this time.
Then suddenly, the underbrush was gone; John had burst out of the grass onto a clear, dark stone, and he cursed himself for not being more aware of his surroundings, because in the next second, the lizard would surely take him.
Only, it didn't. Instead, John's world was inverted; he felt himself rising through the air, trapped, surrounded by some kind of dark mesh, and he flailed and tried to regain his purchase, but it was no use. It was over. The lizard hadn't got him, but some other beast, something worst, had made him its prey, and soon it would eat him.
But then John was inverted again, and falling, and he found himself landing on the smoothest surface he had ever felt. His body was vibrating with terror, and he looked down, swaying, to find himself staring through whatever he was standing on. He was suspended high in the air, somehow, floating far above the ground and yet supported by a strange, clear surface. He looked around himself, and saw four walls made of the same strange clear material, and above, some kind of dark grating sealing him in. Wherever he was, he was trapped.
And yet, he was still high above the ground, and when John looked down, he thought that if he concentrated hard enough, he could almost believe he was flying.
"So where are we?" Rodney asked, clinging with his forearms to the thick hairs on Ronon's abdomen. Ronon had been running most of the afternoon, and they'd long ago learned that they could cover more distance at Ronon's running speed than with Rodney flying by himself.
The mantid and spider had forged a strange friendship. After he'd developed his adult form, Rodney had realized he had no real desire to go back to his family. He wanted to see the world, wanted to find another purpose in life. Ronon (whom Rodney had learned was not simply an enormous ordinary spider after all, but rather, some special variant called a tarantula), had, for his part, apparently decided that Rodney was really amusing, and too small to bother eating. And when Rodney had informed Ronon of his desire to learn more about flight, and how it worked, Ronon had mentioned a place he once knew where Rodney might be able to learn something. Since then, the two of them had been traveling together in search of this "university."
"Didn't you hear me?" Rodney said, then repeated himself, "Where are we?"
"Heard you," said Ronon, shifting and shaking his eight limbs as he stood in place. "Didn't answer."
"And why not?" demanded Rodney, reminding himself that he must not bite the giant tarantula in irritation, as Ronon could easily take him out in return. (Though Rodney might be able to evade his friend for a while if he took to the sky.)
Rodney twitched, and was about to give Ronon a diatribe on false hope, and leading innocent young bugs astray, and most of all, having no idea where they were going, when Ronon spoke again, "I think it's in this direction."
And then the tarantula was off and running, and Rodney barely had time to take hold once more with his forearms before being flung off Ronon's back. It was definitely too bumpy back here, and Rodney was sure he'd end up with sores and pulled muscles all over his body. Why, he might never be able to recover from this journey; might never be able to fly again, even, and then what good would it do him? Even if they ever reached this place that supposedly existed, according solely to Ronon, who had a weird sense of humor anyway and possibly was just doing all this as a prolonged sick joke, at the conclusion of which he really would eat Rodney after all, well, what good would it do him if he couldn't fly, to learn about flight? Rodney shifted his rear limbs and tried to pull himself forward so he could shout his irritation at Ronon, when abruptly, the tarantula halted.
Rodney, obviously, went flying forward and landed on his head. "What in the world do you do that for?" he yelled. "I may never recover! Do you have any idea how sore I already was from all your jostling and swerving? You could have been a little more considerate for the well-being of your passenger, you know."
Ronon opened his mouth extremely wide and his fangs glistened, and Rodney felt his heart stop, thinking, Oh shit, he's actually going to eat me this time.
"Stop whining, Rodney," said Ronon. "We're here."
Rodney turned around, slowly, and there was nothing but enormous white cliffs as far as his compound eyes could see.
Ronon soon informed Rodney that the "cliffs" were actually buildings, and the university was composed of many of these buildings, in which large mammals of some kind came together to learn about absolutely everything under the sun. Including the dynamics of flight.
"How do you know all this, anyway?" Rodney asked suspiciously.
Ronon shrugged two of his front legs upward. "Dunno. Just do."
So Rodney began to sneak into buildings. It was fairly difficult: there were doors to contend with, first of all, and also, these mammals didn't seem to take kindly to arthropods of any kind, even the relatively harmless ones like Rodney. He usually tried to find a hiding spot on the ground outside a doorway. Then, he'd wait for a mammal to open to the door and enter the building, flying in low to the ground where it wouldn't notice him. There'd be several such doors to contend with inside the buildings as well, but eventually, Rodney became pretty experienced at getting into the important, inner rooms.
These were the places that really mattered. Equations, variables, pure beauty: Rodney had worried that none of it would mean anything to him, that he'd traveled all this way for nothing, but he found to his continuing amazement that he understood all of this as naturally as killing an aphid, as flying, as blowing air through his abdomen, as gripping Ronon tightly with his forelimbs.
Physics. It was the language of the universe, spread out before him.
"And oh, it's so much more than just flying," Rodney said to Ronon one afternoon. The two of them were hiding in a bush in the middle of campus, Ronon feeding on some lizard he'd killed and Rodney partaking of a small cricket, though Rodney was eating much more slowly, since he couldn't seem to stop talking. "I mean, aerodynamics is great and all, but there's so much more... Subatomic particles, the Big Bang, cosmology, M-theory, dark matter, Ronon, it's the meaning of everything, the whole universe."
Ronon lifted his head from the lizard he'd been finishing spraying with digestive juices and beginning to suck up. "Oh yeah? Sounds interesting."
Rodney blew some air from his abdomen in irritation. "Well, fine, maybe it's not interesting to you, but believe me, this stuff is amazing. And yeah, okay, some of it is completely wrong, which just irritates the hell out of me, because it's not like I have any way of telling the mammals which of their theories are utterly false, so instead I'm forced to sit back and watch them base even more work on assumptions that are just wrong, wrong, so wrong, but still, just to be here, to get to learn these things." He exhaled softly. "It's more than I could have ever asked."
Ronon turned his head and looked at Rodney. "You've picked everything up pretty fast, huh?"
"Well, yes." Rodney raised his head haughtily, not noticing he had a mouth full of cricket. "I am a genius, after all."
After enough wheedling and pressure ("Ronon, please, I'm going to go crazy if I have to listen to these horribly incorrect seminars one instant longer"), Rodney finally managed to talk Ronon into helping him infiltrate a computer lab. They found one in one of the lesser-used buildings, out of the way, rarely frequented. Usually, there was no one in there at all, and the gap at the bottom of the door was large enough that Ronon and Rodney could squeeze through without waiting for someone to open it. It was ideal. Occasionally a couple of students dropped by, but there was a large bookshelf in one corner of the room, which Rodney and Ronon found they could easily make it to in time to hide behind. Rodney had a hard time with his keyboard accuracy at first, but with practice he got better, launching himself into the air and then jumping down hard on each key, one at a time, to type his messages. He had a harder time with the mouse, and so on the occasions when he couldn't just use the tab key (which he usually relied on in web browsers), he'd call Ronon over for help on manipulating the instrument to the part of the screen Rodney required.
Most of the time, though, Ronon kept a look-out, poised near the computer lab door and listening for footsteps in the hallway, in order to give warning, in case they needed to hide.
They'd worked out a similar system previously for attending the library. Rodney found he couldn't get all the information he needed from lectures and seminars alone, and so he and Ronon cautiously learned to infiltrate the physics stacks, Rodney flying up to point out the books and journals he needed, and Ronon climbing the shelves to pry them loose with his legs. Sometimes, with the heavier books, Ronon had to crawl inside the shelves and push the books out, but he was almost unnaturally strong, and they almost always managed to get the books out one way or another. Then Rodney would read voraciously, Ronon turning the pages for him and keeping his watchful eyes and vibration-sensing legs focused on their surroundings, in case they needed to hide. They made a pretty good team. (It also helped that the graduate library was notoriously infested with mice, which kept Ronon satisfied on these little outings.)
One day, they were heading toward their usual computer lab, but as they neared the door Ronon suddenly froze and said, "Wait."
"What?" asked Rodney. "Do you hear a mouse, or something? Look, there's a paper that was supposed to be published today that I really want to read, so how about I go on ahead, and you can-"
"Move!" shouted Ronon, "Rodney, on my back, now!" And Rodney started, then noticed one of the large mammals standing before them in the hallway, staring directly at Ronon. It shrieked, the sound echoing through the halls, and Rodney thought, Oh, shit, and launched himself onto Ronon's abdomen, gripping the tarantula's hairs tight.
The human threw a book at Ronon, but they were already off and running, taking off down the hall. Unfortunately, the scream seemed to have alerted more of the mammals, who were peeking out their doors as Rodney and Ronon sped down the hallway, and more shouts and thrown implements followed in their wake.
Then they turned a corner, and Rodney saw a darkened doorway with a large enough gap beneath it, and yelled, "In there, in there!" and Ronon turned sharply, squeezing himself flat to fit through the gap as Rodney detached from Ronon's back and spread his wings, flying through into the darkness at top speed.
John had never known the proper name for himself. Sure, he'd thought of himself as a phasmid, but it wasn't the actual word phasmid, of course, but rather the concept of it. In the wild, it was all "us" versus "them," and broad conceptual categories of what made an insect, a vertebrate, a predator. But now, he knew: Carausius morosus, aka the "common stick insect," and more specifically, "rare wild gynandromorph type." John had been able to figure out the stick insect part, though he'd been a bit put-off by the "common"; he'd figured out by glancing at the dozens of other tanks in the small room he was now kept in that the long italicized words were some kind of fancy organizational scheme. He'd been a bit stuck on the last, "gynandromorph," until one day he wondered out loud and the creature in the cage next to him answered.
"It means we are both male and female," the mystery beast said. John couldn't see into the enclosures to either side of him, since only the fronts were translucent. He could observe what was in front of him, though, and since what he saw was endless shelves full of small enclosures like his, each containing a single insect, he came to suspect that all the cages contained various other insects like him. So, probably, his neighbor was an insect of some kind, though who could say what kind it was.
John debated whether or not to reply. He'd only been in this place a couple of weeks, and while a few of the other insects could sometimes be heard speaking to each other, most of them seemed to spend their time lying dormant and mute, and John did the same. It had been a long journey from his capture in the strange clear box to this place, mostly kept in the dark during what he assumed was transit, and since reaching his destination, John had begun to lose hope of ever seeing the sun again. He was given food once a day, but through a tiny opening at the lid of his enclosure; he couldn't fit his entire body through it even if he tried. He had a constant supply of water, but that came through a hole in the side of his prison automatically. An automatic mister in the ceiling of his unit kept it sufficiently moist. There was no way out to be seen, and the lid was never opened.
Dreams of flying had long ago been forgotten. All John wanted now was to get out, someday, and see that open sky once more, but it seemed impossible. Why bother talking to neighbors, forging connections, if there was no hope for a future anyway?
But on impulse: To hell with it, John thought. "...what do you mean?" he answered.
John heard the insect beside him let out a loud breath, and realized it had been waiting a long time for his reply. "Hello," it said. Its voice had a lyrical quality to it, with an odd cadence. "I have not been spoken to in some time. It is good to hear the voice of another being. None of my other neighbors have been given to conversing."
"Well," said John, feeling a little uncomfortable at the other creature's obvious relief. "I guess we've got nothing better to do, right?"
"I am Teyla," said the voice. "What is your name?"
"John. What did you mean, we are both male and female?"
"That is the purpose of this place," Teyla said. "We are prisoners in a human laboratory. These researchers are studying gynandromorph insects of many species, mainly insects. Each of these containers houses a specimen. You have been taken here because you are both male and female."
John shifted uncomfortably in his cell. "What do you mean, 'male' and 'female'?"
Teyla did not respond right away. Then, when John was about to repeat his question, Teyla said, "You are not familiar with these concepts? Is it not necessary for procreation in your species, that there be one sex that supplies the eggs, and another which fertilizes them?"
Feeling suddenly very awkward, John said, "No. At least, not that I was ever aware. I thought we were all just the same."
"You didn't have a mother and a father?" asked Teyla gently. "I know many species are abandoned by their parents before birth, but perhaps you simply did not know them."
"I don't know," said John, a coldness spreading in his body. "I don't know."
Part 2 of 2