Work Header

Oolon Colluphid Was Right

Work Text:

Teyla gave them full points for design: the prisoners' cells opened onto a narrow corridor; any escape was thoroughly blocked by a transparent force-shield, but the view both into and out of the cells was unobstructed, and the glinting lenses of security cameras made it clear that they were always observed. Between the cells, however, were solid stone walls; with one prisoner per cell, they could hear but not see each other. It was a clever setup, if what one wanted most of all from one's prisoners was information: they could not use any coded writing or hand signals to communicate, and spoken language would, of course, be immediately understood to any who had traversed the Stargates.

The only way for the prisoners to prevent knowledge from reaching their captors would be to remain incommunicado even from each other, despite the ease of conversation. After a few weeks of this, she supposed, even their team would begin to take risks, if only to banish the silence for a little while.

She'd expected Rodney to crack already, she admitted, but he'd noticed the cameras while they were being led in and only let out a small barrage of their remarkably scatological curse words before descending into a sullen silence. After a while he'd tapped out a message in code, on the floor of his cell - "Do you either of you understand this?". Ronon had tapped back, shortly, "Sound - It translates," and they'd heard the frustrated smack of a hand against the wall, and then more silence.

Now they were waiting: waiting for John to be dragged back from the chamber he'd been taken to. There was always the chance, of course, that he wouldn't be brought back at all, but they had seen four cells prepared for occupation, and in a scenario like this, it was all the better that he would be returned, to inspire them to speak to each other.

And he was returned: before what Teyla would have calculated as a day's passage. In the glimpse she saw of him, he was bruised and strained, but still smirking, and stumbling against the guards at least mostly under his own power.

When the corridor was empty again, John called out, "Are the rest of you okay?"

There was a moment of silence as the Teyla and Ronon tried to work out how to reveal the minimum information: and then Rodney said, "We're a proper string quartet." And then he added, "Older Brother's doing just fine, too."

It hadn't occurred to Teyla to wonder what Rodney, with his never-still mind, had been doing in the hours of silence. He had been figuring out a way to communicate with John, it appeared.

John answered, after a short silence, "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra?"

"Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra," Rodney answered, delightedly. "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, twice over. Amanda Grayson weeps for her masterwork."

"I should get myself a button that says, 'Oolon Colluphid was right,'" John answered. "---also you had better not tell any of the men that this worked."

"...More importantly, you two, you with us?" Rodney asked.

Teyla had been on Atlantis just long enough to begin to understand what they were doing, with the barrage of incomprehensible names and phrases. "I know of your older brother," she said, cautiously. "He is indeed thriving: one of your colleagues read me a missive from home." The tendency of the Atlanteans to pepper their speech with untranslateable homeworld allusions had, at first, bothered her greatly; it had seemed like deliberate unfriendliness, until she realized that, in a culture grown up without the Stargates' aid in communicating with others, they had never been taught to avoid them. It had not occurred to her, until now, to use this oddity as a weapon.

Ronon answered, "I'm with her," which was answer enough.

"Hah! I thought it would work," Rodney said.

"Yes, who knew biting the heads off of poultry would come in this handy?" John asked, his usual insouciance back in his voice. Teyla frowned. With John, that either meant that he was fine, or he was working twice as hard to hide his pain.

"How was Room 101?" Rodney asked him.

"More like a briar patch," he answered. "I'm pretty sure there will always be four lights."

Rodney made a completely noncommittal noise in response. "You ready to call forth the spirit of Harry Houdini?"

"Houdini didn't believe in ghosts. And not unless you want to risk a dianoga."

"....Grues, yes. Dianoga, blech," Rodney answered.

"Are grues a possibility?"

"Maybe. But we'd need Obi-wan, right before he died. And an Ariadne."

"Hmm," John said.

"...have you found an Ariadne already?"

Silence from John.

"....Kirk," Rodney muttered. That one, at least, Teyla had heard before.

"Kirk and Charlie in his chambers," John replied in a sing-song voice.

"Yeah, well, you'll notice I didn't follow the obvious thr-- go the obvious place and say Theseus," Rodney grumbled.

"Anyway, not exactly," John said. "More... hmm. Éponine at the street of feathers."

"What?" Rodney said. "Sorry, a street of feathers?"

"No Broadway phase in your youth? No?"

"You know Broadway?"

"...we are definitely never telling the Marines," John muttered. "This is harder than it sounds, I'll try to come up with something else--"

"Wait. Broadway. Eponine. I think I had to play accompaniment for that once. Give me a second. Um. Luke bathing Artoo?"

"Close enough. Anyway, yeah. Perdita and Pongo at twilight; the thing with feathers; Scheherazade and Shahryar; Haldir at Helm's Deep."

"...Haldir at Helm's Deep was just Jackson. I revoke your chicken-biting license."

"Bite me," John answered cheerfully.

"As you wish," Rodney sighed.

There was a moment's silence, and then, "I know," John said.

Rodney choked and sputtered for a minute. "Seriously?"

"What, you thought it would take carbonite?"

"I'm not talking to you any more," Rodney answered.

Teyla had gotten very little of that, but she knew John and Rodney: whatever the news was, it was not bad; whatever the plan was, it did not call for immediate action. She thought for a moment, and recalled the recent lesson in typed English that she and Ronon had been given by a young lieutenant, which had been interrupted by a tour through her 'macros folder'. Perhaps.... "A bunny with a pancake on its head," she said, firmly.

"Ah," said Ronon from one cell over, as John, very quietly, started laughing.