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McKay was loud and obnoxious, arrogant and rude, an overall pain in the ass but Sam had insisted that he was the best person in the entire world to take the lead in the scientific study of the Antarctica outpost. Begrudgingly, she had admitted that he was probably more knowledgeable about Ancient technology that she was. McKay had spent the last few years studying the Stargate and the Naquadah that powered it, along with any number of Ancient artifacts uncovered and brought back to Area 51. Of course, Jack hadn't exactly been around to argue the point at the time, instead he was frozen inside a cryogenic chamber having taken the slim hope that the Asgard would turn up eventually and stop his brain from overloading on the Ancient knowledge downloaded into his head.

Well, the Asgard had come and he was now himself again with no more Ancient words filling his fron or ruining his dolmata each night. He quirked his lips, knowing it still annoyed Daniel when he slipped in the odd Ancient word. Stepping off the elevator, he sauntered through the outpost, taking note of the amazing architecture. Last time, his head had been too full of Ancient knowledge to really appreciate the beauty of this place. Jack frowned as he carried on towards the Chair platform, hearing raised voices.

Sam said McKay was a genius and Jack thought it was a shame that, unlike Sam, his 'genius' didn't run to people skills but even he had to admit that it was refreshing to have someone who said exactly what they thought rather than trying to manipulate him with honeyed words or follow his orders without question. There was no duplicity to McKay. Unfortunately, no internal censor either, he thought as he heard McKay's sarcastic put-down slice into yet another member of the scientific team, knowing Sam would never treat her staff that way, always smiling brightly as she covered for their incompetence. He winced as the scientist in question strode through the archway with his back rigid with anger, almost plowing into Jack but too angry even to offer an apology.

Jack raised an eyebrow as he watched the scientist stalk off down the corridor; he heaved a put-upon sigh and stepped into the Chair room with a cheery, "Fire another one, McKay?"

Jack squinted at the bright orange-clad figure who shone out against the dark and neutral colors of his fellow scientists, wishing he'd left on his sunglasses. Yet, something about that color felt both familiar and comforting in this setting even though this was his first time back in The Ancient outpost since Thor resurrected him.

"Ah! Colonel O'Neill. You're looking a little less...frozen."

Jack raised an eyebrow because he'd almost forgotten that he'd been somewhat of an ornament around here for the past few months, a living statue staring out into the world beyond but seeing and hearing nothing. Part of him wondered if anyone had taken advantage of that. He frowned as the familiarity of that bright halo of orange fleece played on his mind some more when McKay approached him with blue eyes fever-bright with excitement, reminding Jack of Daniel on the cusp of a great discovery.

"It's Brigadier General O'Neill now."

McKay looked confused for a moment and then seemed to dismiss his words as unimportant.

"Please tell me you brought Daniel with you so I don't have to deal with these imbeciles any longer." He babbled onwards on the merits of Daniel over the other linguists present, and even Jack had to wince and feel sorry for them as they muttered in discontent before slipping out the emergency exit on the opposite side of the Chair room. McKay's ranting should have grated on him but, strangely enough, even the sound of McKay was familiar to Jack though he'd not had a lot to do with the man on the few times they'd met at the SGC. "And you! Don't expect..." McKay froze when he realized his finger was pointing at an empty space where one of the linguists had been standing only moments earlier. "Huh? Where'd he go?"

Jack looked at his wristwatch. "Dinner."

Blue eyes widened in surprise before McKay flicked a glance down at his own wristwatch. "Hmm!" He exclaimed brightly, rubbing his hands together expectantly as he bounced on the balls of his feet. The pleased smile froze on his face and his eyes darted around a little nervously. "Eh! Can we do this later? After...?"

"Or I could join you." Jack smiled broadly. "I hear they have cake."

McKay brightened considerably and started off towards the elevator only to stop and look back in annoyance. "Come along, Colonel." He snapped his fingers and then looked contrite when Jack stared him down hard.

"General O'Neill."

"Oh yes...right."

Jack fell in step beside McKay and they entered the elevator together as the only occupants heading back up to the surface, where the cafeteria and sleeping quarters were situated.

Inside the small elevator, Jack breathed in carefully but deeply as the scent of McKay's aftershave reached him, again vaguely familiar and yet triggering no memories in flashback. It was a nice scent, almost subtle considering the man wearing it, unlike the heady almost cloying perfume that Sam preferred when she dropped around his house unexpected during their downtime. McKay's aftershave had a slight musk to it but, beneath that, Jack could scent the man himself, just a little overripe from spending a day working hard below in a bright orange fleece that probably didn't get washed that often. It was a nice scent though, adding to that feeling of security and comfort.

McKay's appalling table manners had Jack wincing in memory of Sara berating Charlie not to talk with his mouth full. Obviously, McKay's mother had not been so stern with her offspring. Of course, Carter's manners had always been impeccable, making Jack feel like the uncouth barbarian at the table in comparison. Yet, once again, Jack almost found a sense of familiarity about McKay's eating habits that really couldn't be the case unless... Jack held that thought in check, not really wanting to open it up and play with it until he had a few facts.

His chance came ten minutes later when another scientist approached McKay and dragged him away to deal with a crisis. Jack made his way to the security room that doubled as a weather station. Within a few minutes, he was seated at a spare monitor on the other side of the small room from the suddenly nervous security officer, fast forwarding through the old security feed for the camera focused on the alcove containing the cryogenic chamber. Daniel was there often, standing before him, his lips moving but no sound was recorded. Another figure joined him regularly, the bright orange fleece bleaching out the rest of the scene to grays, whites and pale blues, fingers grazing Daniel's charcoal grey fleece, offering comfort. Then there were long stretches of days when only McKay appeared, sitting on a stool right in front of Jack in his bright orange fleece and talking, always talking, even with a mouthful of sandwich.

Jack stilled the image of McKay and smiled softly. When he asked his team to put him in the Cryogenic chamber, he had told them 'dolmata' - sleep - but it was apparent now that his brain had still been partially active, the images and sounds recorded even as he slept with his eyes wide open. Well, his eyes were wide open in other ways now. He was surprised that McKay had been such a comfort to Daniel during those long weeks because Sam had never rated McKay on his people skills, and to discover that McKay had been his friend too was even more sobering. Perhaps it was time to cut McKay some slack over the whole Teal'c stuck in the 'gate incident.

Jack flicked off the monitor as the door opened and a soldier with messy, dark hair stuck his head through to speak to the security officer, asking for a weather report. The major didn't see Jack seated there and Jack was not such a stickler for protocol that he felt the need to announce his presence. Gaining the information he required, the major stepped back out, obviously straight into the path of Rodney McKay.

"OW! Are you seriously trying to injure me. If so, good job!"

From the live feed on the security camera positioned in the corridor beyond, the major apologized and walked away before McKay had even raised his head from his trodden-on toes, but Jack noticed McKay continued to stare until the major turned the corner. Was he checking out the man's ass? Jack stood up as McKay pushed his way into the security room.

"Ah, Colonel! There you are."

Jack didn't bother to correct him this time. Instead he let the babble of words wash over him as McKay led him back to the elevator to where he had promised Elizabeth that he would take a turn in the Chair so McKay could advance his studies of the technology. Only for one day though, he thought. Tomorrow he would be leaving the white snow and ice of Antarctica behind, heading back to the SGC...and to Daniel.

THE END