The mess hall was starting to quiet down, the light dimmed so the nighttime view of the city outside the big windows was visible. Most people had already left for their quarters or to go back to their labs or duty shifts, and the Nones, who had had a big day even for them, were mostly asleep.
Teyla sat down across the table from Elizabeth, unwrapping one of the last ice cream bars. "I have never had food like this before," she said. She broke off a piece, admitting, "It is very good."
"I should have asked Jack to bring us an ice cream maker," Elizabeth said wryly. "He's one of the few people who would have thought it was a reasonable request under the circumstances."
Teyla's brows drew together as she gave her ice cream bar more attention than it warranted. "On board the Iapetus, there was a conversation between Major Sheppard and General O'Neill that I do not think I entirely understood." She shook her head slightly. "That is, I understood the words, just not...."
"Tell me," Elizabeth said. She had heard about Bergstrom and his plan to space Teyla, then John, leaving their radio channels open so Atlantis would be able to find their bodies and assume they had been killed by the SGC. She also knew that O'Neill had interrupted Teyla's execution and that John had found them after he and Mitchell had escaped. But John's attempt to take the Iapetus was a surprise. Elizabeth frowned through the story, finishing off her ice cream and absently folding the wrapper around the stick. When Teyla finished, Elizabeth said, "Thank you for telling me. No one else knows?"
"No." Teyla lifted her brows. "You wish me to keep this between us?"
"Yes. I think that would be for the best. If John wants to talk about it, that's one thing, but if he doesn't, I don't want any rumors getting started."
Teyla smiled a little. "Rodney will wish to know, but I can deal with him."
Elizabeth let out her breath, propping her head on her hand. "If that hadn't been O'Neill up there, John might be facing charges. Or we'd have the Iapetus," she added ruefully.
"I do not understand." Teyla spread her hands on the table. "I know they are your people, and they can send us weapons and other things that we greatly need, but why does Major Sheppard feel he is under their control?"
Elizabeth hesitated, then explained carefully, "Because to some extent, he is. He volunteered to come on the expedition, but the SGC controls the military assignments, and the Pentagon -- technically -- controls the SGC."
Teyla frowned. "But they would not attempt to steal him away from us?"
Elizabeth could hear the shock in Teyla's voice. In Pegasus, people weren't just friends or family or tribe members, they were resources necessary for the entire community's survival. The Athosians would see any attempt to reassign any member of the military contingent as an attempt to injure Atlantis as a whole. An attempt to remove John would probably be taken as a declaration of war. Fortunately, it wouldn't come to that. "There will probably be those who will try, who want to assign a new commander, but the situation has changed here and I'll be able to block that." Elizabeth tapped her fingers on the table, wondering. Surely John knew that. Or maybe I'd better talk to him about it tomorrow. Even after three years of close companionship, the man was adept at hiding his feelings from everyone.
Teyla's thoughts must have been running along similar lines. She looked across the mess hall, where John was sitting at a table with some of the Athosians and Marines. He had his head propped on one hand, just listening to them talk, and he still looked exhausted. Teyla said, "He has been through a great deal. He feels the loss of Ford terribly, as we all do, but-- And after what almost happened today...."
Elizabeth nodded grimly. Once they got the city operating normally, there would be appointments for Dr. Heightmeyer with everybody. But John was so adept at obfuscation she didn't know if those appointments actually did him any good or not. Under the influence of some Athosian wine, Kate had once accurately described John's brow-furrowed wide-eyed expression as "the one where he's pretending to listen and you know all he's really hearing is 'blah, blah, blah.'" Elizabeth knew exactly what she meant.
Maybe what they all needed at the moment was a return to normality, a reassurance that their losses hadn't changed everything. Most people seemed to have been able to relax at the party tonight. Even Bates, who was as bad as John, had seemed to unwind a little. "I don't even remember what day of the week this is," Elizabeth said. "If this was an ordinary day, what would we be doing?"
Teyla looked thoughtful for a moment. "I think it is movie night."
John was just getting up to leave when Rodney waved at him in passing. "Come on, we're going to watch a movie."
John stared after him a moment, then remembered the Daedalus had also left them a box of recent DVDs. "A new one?"
"No, one of the ones we've seen four thousand times," Rodney called back impatiently. "Come on."
There was a lounge near the mess hall, a room with more high windows looking out over the city and a couple of Ancient couches, curved to match the figured silver metal in the ceiling above them. It had been made homey with Athosian rugs and cushions and knitted blankets, and someone from the science team had fixed the interface for the holoscreen so it would play DVDs from the drive of a dismantled laptop. There were other lounges scattered through the living quarters with similar setups, but this was the biggest one and the best used, since it was so convenient to the mess hall. The couches were up front near the screen, leaving an area in the back where people who were less interested in the movie tended to congregate. John hadn't been back there since he had gotten up once to look for extra pillows and accidentally caught Ramirez and Dr. Simpson making out.
The room must have been restored to order with this section of the living area, since it looked fairly normal. People were already gathering inside, mostly assorted science team members and some of the kids and the younger Marines and Athosians. The Nones were staying in the mess hall, which was just as well, since all movies, even romantic comedies and slow dramas and especially cartoons, scared the crap out of them. John really wasn't in the mood to have to say "it's not real" every thirty seconds.
He figured he wouldn't stay long, and so settled on the floor in front of one of the couches, right below where Elizabeth was already sitting. He leaned his head back to ask her, "Who picked the movie?"
"We're letting Jinto do it, so it should be interesting," she said, her lips quirking, and passed him the popcorn bowl. They hadn't had popcorn for two and a half years, so a crowd gathered immediately.
The kids had the box of movies spread out on the floor, marveling over the pictures on the cases. All the older movies had come to Atlantis as files in computers or disks tucked into other items, to save space. Then Jinto seized one with an excited exclamation, tore it out of the case, and practically slammed it into the player. Teyla settled next to John on the floor and everyone else started finding places.
"Why do you have all the women?" Rodney demanded, plunking down on the floor with a laptop. "You even have Biro, and she's a lesbian."
"I don't know," John said, fishing around in the popcorn bowl while the other occupants of the couch and the floor around it eyed Rodney with varying degrees of displeasure. "Maybe because I'm not talking about them like they can't hear me?"
There was the usual shifting around, and people walking in and out, and Simpson giving Rodney crap for sending email to Zelenka when Zelenka was six feet away on the other couch with his laptop, and Rodney's protests that it was work-related. John made it about ten minutes past the opening credits before he fell asleep.
He woke abruptly when most of the room yelped in unison, Rodney said, "What the hell is this movie rated?" Grodin gasped, "Good lord!" and Zelenka blurted out, "Mizera!" John realized he had slumped over, his head on Teyla's lap and his feet propped on Rodney. He started to sit up, but Elizabeth said, "Teyla, Teyla, quick--" and Teyla clapped her hand over his eyes.
"Ow," John protested. "What--"
"I do not think you want to see this, Major," Teyla said, sounding a little queasy. "It is a...creature. It is large, and very...realistic."
"It's a giant spider," Rodney elaborated. "They think it might trigger an Iratus bug flashback."
John subsided, realizing he wasn't that much inclined to move, even though he was too warm and in an awkward position, with Rodney using his legs to prop up the laptop, and the rivets on Teyla's pants scratching his neck. "I'm not going to have a flashback," he complained.
"I think I'm about to have one," Elizabeth muttered. "Oh my God."
"Oh, really," Rodney said, talking past a mouthful of popcorn. "So when that plate-sized spider dropped out of the cave roof on M32-987 and you shrieked and threw yourself into Ford's arms, that was a sudden outbreak of claustrophobia?"
John swore under his breath. "I did not-- Somebody hit Rodney."
From the ensuing scuffle, there was apparently at least two or three takers for that one. John really meant to get up after they got past the spider part, but then he fell asleep again.
John woke sometime later, with no idea where the hell he was. He was lying on his side on the floor, which made him think of Steve's cell. But it wasn't cold and damp, and there was an Athosian carpet and cushions that smelled of wool and incense, and his back was against something warm and lumpy. Processing further data, he realized one arm was numb because Teyla was using it as a pillow, and he could see Deona and the twins asleep on the floor a couple of feet away. He could also hear more than one other person snoring, and he was pretty sure one of them was Elizabeth.
He lifted his head enough to see that there were people sprawled unconscious all over the room, with Zelenka, Simpson, Miko, and Chuck the operations tech asleep on the other couch. The screen was still playing something that looked like a documentary, but the sound was turned way down. Daniel Jackson was sitting over by the player, explaining something to a fascinated audience of Jinto and several of the other kids.
Then Rodney, who was apparently the warm lumpy thing John was leaning against, said, "The fucking movie was four hours long and everybody but the kids passed out before Mount Doom. They're watching the extras now. Go back to sleep."
"Umph," John said, and collapsed back on the pillow, already drifting off.