Work Header

Oh Crap, Not Again: The Continuing Misadventures of SGA-12

Work Text:

This mission would have been fine, Tony thinks, if PX1-453 hadn't had that weird plantlife that made everyone's hands turn green.

"I wish to convey the Council's sincerest regrets for the detainment of you and your people," the Elder Senior Councilor of the Tratorian Government Council of Diplomatic Affairs and Public Transit says. "There are strong taboos against wearing the color green amongst the Tratorians. Several laws were put in place a few years ago regarding acceptable public use of the color, and wearing the color on the hands is strictly prohibited. However, if you fill out these applications for diplomatic immunity, I am sure we can process them in twelve cycles of the sun. Then, you can petition the council for an exemption to Code 10549 by justifying it as a cultural misunderstanding."

Gibbs says, "I'd rather you just let us go now." His face is doing that impenetrable-Gibbs thing, the one where he tries to intimidate people with his eyebrows. (Granted, his eyebrows could probably intimidate the entire state of Rhode Island if Gibbs was having a good day. They were very intimidating eyebrows when Gibbs wanted them to be.) Ziva's eying the Councilor as if she's imagining all the ways she could rip out his liver. McGee's trying to keep his face neutral, but he can't quite hide the furrow of his forehead. Not that Tony can blame them. Their cell, quite frankly, sucks. No one who is passingly familiar with a mop has come near it in the past decade or so, and the one teensy tiny window does not make up for the Tratorians' incredibly inefficient lightbulbs. The metal bars have a nice old-school feel to them, but they're also rusting, so grabbing them just leaves behind gross residue on your hands. It's incredibly frustrating when you're trying to reenact a scene from A Fistful Of Dollars. Also, McGee is subtly fighting Tony for cot space. Tony elbows McGee in the stomach. McGee kicks Tony in the shins.

The Elder Senior Councilor blinks at Gibbs several times in utter confusion, as if the thought of releasing a group of prisoners without twenty pages of paperwork is so strange, he had never contemplated it before. Tony fiddles with his life signs detector, which is being slightly stubborn and refusing to show him anything but the four people in the cell with him. He knew that McKay was totally lying about how easy it was to use these things. Also, he kind of wishes the gene therapy had worked on McGee so he could be the one who has to deal with all the annoying technology thingamabobs without having to call Tony over to think things at other things every two seconds.

Oh yeah, and then that way, he could be in charge of the life signs detector, and Tony wouldn't have to spend his free time learning Ancient so that he could read its annoying error messages. Once, it insulted his mother, but he might just be getting the word for 'being who gave birth to you' confused with the word for 'insufficient signal.'

"I'm afraid that is not an option," the Elder Senior Councilor says. His hands disappear into the sleeves of his robe. The robe is actually kind of cool-looking, a deep, rich red, covered in a vine-like pattern made with gold stitching. Tony wonders if they can trade for a few of them once this whole misunderstanding gets cleared up. He knows he could probably get a high quality DVD rip of Battleship Potemkin and two Snickers bars off of Lt. Buchanan for one of those things. Buchanan's been putting the word out that she wants a new DM robe for her D&D games with the anthropologists. When the Councilor's hands reappear, he's holding two rolled up sheets of paper, which must have been hidden somewhere in his giant sleeves. "Hmm. I assume you will be filing as a single delegation?" he says. McGee shoots a look at Ziva, who is quiet, because even she seems to know better than to open her mouth on the Planet of the Deranged Bureaucrats. Back when she first joined the team, she would try to explain the international nature of the Atlantis mission to people whenever a Pegasus native tried to comment on the strangeness of their customs, as if there were any people on Atlantis who didn't wear shoes on their feet.

"Yeah," Gibbs grits out, and Tony's suddenly really glad for this guy that there's a whole bunch of metal bars separating him from Gibbs.

The Councilor doesn't seem to notice. "Splendid!" he says. "You'll need forms A-1 and A-2 to give us the relevant cultural information and coordinates, as well as the primary leader's name and rank. There's a place to put the secondary leader's name and rank right below there, just in case. You never know when the Wraith are going to get hungry. " He laughs, tittering at his own joke. "If you would like to set up a permanent embassy in the inner ring of the Capital, you will need form P-2 as well as a letter from a trusted world that we can use as a reference. We've had a few problems with Wraith worshipers in the past. You understand. If you would like to set up a permanent embassy in the outer ring--"

"Just give me the damn forms," Gibbs says, holding out a hand with an impatient flick of his wrist. "That first thing you said."

The Councilor gives Gibbs' still-green hand a look of obvious distaste, and seriously, Tony is never going to collect samples for the Botany department ever again. No matter how many grapefruits they promise him. Despite his expression, the Councilor hands over the forms with a slight bow of his head. Gibbs yanks the rolled up paper into the cell and hands it to McGee. The Councilor sniffs the sniff of the supremely smug. "Call a guard when you're ready to submit the paperwork. There is a contact frequency at the bottom of each page if you have any questions. Please make sure to say the 15-digit form number of the form you are currently having problems with when you request assistance."

"Sure thing," Gibbs says, and the Councilor leaves, along with two personal guards. After they're gone, he turns his patented Gibbs-glare on McGee. "Well, what are you waiting for? Fill them out."

McGee blinks for a second, startled, before his giant brain kicks in. "Uh, yes. Of course, boss." He pulls out a pen from his vest and gets to work, unrolling the forms with careful fingers. His pen is shaped like a lightsaber. Must have stolen it from Abby, then. She has a cup full of them on her desk in the lab. Some weeks, she and the infirmary gremlins do a reenactment of the Battle of Geonosis with them, despite the fact that it's from The Trilogy That Does Not Exist, according to McGee. And he would know.

Ziva is beginning to pace, back and forth, back and forth, and her restlessness is a little contagious and a lot irritating. Tony hates being put in the same cell as her whenever they get captured offworld. On M45-J67, they almost resorted to stabbing each other with the plastic sporks that came with their food, and they sniped at each other all the way back to the jumper. Even as they were trying to avoid getting shot while running through an empty clearing. "How much longer, McGee?" she says.

"Uh, it's been five minutes," Tony says. "Even McTypesALot can't write that fast." He grins at her, which he knows is a really bad idea, but he does it anyway.

"I do not see what you have to be so cheerful about," she says, a tiny hiss at the end of her words. "I am becoming annoyed with this pattern."

"C'mon, Ziva. You're not used to it after the last five hundred times we've been thrown in jail for some arbitrary and ludicrous reason?" Tony asks.

"I think it's actually closer to one hundred," McGee says without looking up. Gibbs is staring holes into the back of his head as if he'll finish things faster that way. Which is actually probably true. McGee's sweating pretty hard.

"One-hundred and seven, McGee," Gibbs says. "We're about to beat SGA-4 after today."

That seems to defuse things for a bit, and Tony goes back to imagining how he might be able to bribe Abby into setting up solitaire on his life signs detector. She's usually into caffeine of any type, but for something like this, Tony might need to secure all of Atlantis' Caf-Pow! rations for a month. Maybe he can make a deal with Sergeant Oki to get her to accidentally misplace the whole lot in exchange for the third season of Gossip Girl. Or maybe he could just cut through the bars with the sheer power of his mind, and then they could get out of this fucking cell and then he could maybe rewatch that one badass scene in X-Men 2 where Ian McKellen demonstrates exactly why one should be careful about the amount of iron one allows into one's bloodstream. Or maybe he could just sit here until the Council decides to approve their paperwork, which will hopefully happen before Tony dies of boredom. Fairly unlikely, but it's still a possibility.

"Uh, boss?" McGee says, interrupting Tony's line of thought. McGee's mouth is turned down in a grimace, his eyes still fixed on the page. "On a scale of one to seventeen, what would you say Atlantis' level of agricultural development is?"

They all got their orders that they were being transferred to Atlantis at the same time.

Abby and McGee were excited, like the nerds they were, but Tony did have to admit that living in an Ancient-built city does sound pretty damn cool, might even be the coolest thing Tony's done all month. Gibbs didn't seem to care one way or another about it, but there were rumors that he'd had a meeting with Landry right before they all got the news. The reason for the meeting was mostly unknown, but the speculation amongst the various SG teams was that maybe they'd only wanted to transfer Abby at first. Apparently, Gibbs put his foot down and insisted that they all go together.

Tony figured that he might as well go along. He knew there would be a few withdrawal issues, what with being permanently separated from his Netflix subscription and all, but when he joined NCIS, his first assignment was as Agent Afloat on the USS Seahawk. This couldn't be any worse than that. His team would be right there with him, even if they had to watch Wrath of Khan for the twenty-millionth time for team movie night.

Kate was the only one who decided against it. "The food is better here," she said when Tony asked her about it during lunch. "And I'm actually speaking to the rest of my family."

"Not your sister," Tony reminded her.

"She stole my Barbies when I was eight," Kate said.

McGee nodded with what seemed to be sympathy. "My sister painted my favorite typewriter purple," he said, a little morosely, "and then she wouldn't let me watch the Legend of Zelda on Saturday mornings."

So Kate stayed behind, and Tony would die before he admitted it to anyone, but he was a little sad to see that the team was being broken up. Kate was annoying, and she made fun of his hair, and she had weird sexual hang ups, but Tony still always trusted her at his back, especially after that giant rhinoceros tried to trample Tony to death on MT4-5GI.

Atlantis was, well, Atlantis wasn't anything Tony could have imagined, even though he spent an unreasonably large about of time around Ancient architecture. It was an entire city of stained-glass windows and red-tiled floors, surrounded by an ocean that was the most perfect blue Tony had ever seen, and it was beautiful and alien all at the same time, so different from the sterile bunker concrete of Cheyenne Mountain. After a week, Tony had already decided that James Cameron was the only director he trusted to make the inevitable movie based on his life.

Having come straight from the SGC, it wasn't that hard to settle in. Unlike most of the Atlantis gate teams, SGA-12 was formed pretty much before they ever set foot in the Pegasus galaxy, so they didn't really have to do team bonding exercises or trust falls or anything like that (which was good, because Tony wasn't sure he wanted a run-in with McGee's scrawny nerd-arms). Their new teammate was from the IDF, Ziva David, who was hot in a way that reminded Tony a little of killer whales. They may look cuddly on the outside, but deep down, they were vicious killing machines.

"I find the thought of going into the field with you quite terrifying as well," Ziva said during their first meeting. Tony might have said something right beforehand about how he found her scary, but he also said a lot of other things as well, so he wasn't sure. She turned to Gibbs. "Are you sure we are required to bring him along?"

"Colonel's orders," Gibbs said. "Every team needs at least one member with the ATA gene."

"We tried trading him to SG-7, but they didn't want to give up Nadir for him," McGee said, chiming in.

"Hey!" Tony said. "That didn't happen. Stop being such a liar, McPantsOnFire."

"Abby was really against the idea," McGee said, ignoring him. "She put up a good fight, but in the end, she was outvoted."

"You're making that up," Tony hissed. "Gibbs would never vote against me." He looked at Gibbs for confirmation.

Gibbs was wearing his best 'I am not involved in this shit, you deal with it' face. They'd all become very familiar with that face when Tony was having an ongoing argument with Sergeant Simmons over whether Apocalypse Now or The Godfather was Coppola's greatest work. (And it was so clearly The Godfather that Tony didn't even want to know what sort of drugs Simmons was smoking.)

"Well, I am relieved to find that this mission will most likely never become boring," Ziva said. "Not with the three of you on my team."

McGee said, "We were all kind of sad when it didn't pan out. Kate was going to throw in a bag of M&Ms, too, just to sweeten the deal."

"Uh, boss?" McGee says, interrupting Tony's line of thought. "I think the hallway is trying to kill us."

"Ya think, McGee?" Gibbs says, taking a quick step out from the cover of a support beam so that he can shoot at a hallway laser with his P-90. It doesn't do enough damage, because after Gibbs ducks back behind the beam, a flash of red light passes through the space where Gibbs just was. Tony's trying to cover Ziva as she dodges from blind spot to blind spot, trying to get close enough to the turrets to attack them up close. Thankfully, the internal sensors kind of suck in this part of the city due to some unspecified Wraith attack back during the time of the Ancients, so their aim is not entirely up to par. It's still bright outside, the sun filtering in through the still-damaged windows, which is good, because the hallway's lights have gone dark. Except for the light coming from the two laser-shooting things hanging from the ceiling halfway down the hall. It's kind of convenient, the way they light up before they try to kill you.

"No," McGee says, frantically typing on his computer. It's still attached to the wall, and every once in a while, it will make angry beeping noises. "I mean, it's trying to kill the whole expedition, not just us. I'm seeing some very strange activity on the internal Atlantis network. See, there are several subsystems that work independently of one another but are also in constant communication with each other, and right now the subsystem in control of this hallway is trying to issue commands to other subsystems in an attempt to force them to take on its objectives. Normally, this is fine, but when the objectives are 'kill all the nearest lifeforms,' that is not a good thing."

"In English, McGee," Tony yells after he takes a few more shots. A laser almost singes his arm, so he thinks he's justified. McGee also still owes Tony for that one time he had Tony touch the Ancient portable head massager without telling Tony what it was, and no matter what Ziva says, screaming at the top of your lungs is totally respectable when there's something small and mechanical and with scary legs trying to climb up your face.

"Yes, that would be helpful," Ziva shouts. She's gotten to one of the lasers and is trying to keep the other one from shooting her while she's attacking the other one with a hatchet. There's something extra vicious about her swings, probably because she hadn't wanted to explore this part of the city at all today. But Tony had insisted. He'd had a good feeling about this hallway as they passed it by, but then it betrayed him, betrayed them all. Tony wonders if he should nickname it Jessica, after the cruel love of Tony's sophmore life.

McGee says, "I think this hallway is trying to take over the city and kill everyone inside." He wearing that sulky expression he gets when they force him to simplify his explanations, but he keeps typing, mouthing words as he does so.

"Then why don't you make it stop doing that?" Gibbs says. This is beginning to remind Tony of that time they visited that one Ancient outpost with the AI that was trying way too hard to be H.A.L. from 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Though Tony can't fault its taste. You should always steal from the best.) It had even sung a few words of the Ancient version of "Daisy Bell" as McGee was pulling crystals out of its belly as fast as he could, desperate to shut it down. Or, at least what Tony thinks is the Ancient version of "Daisy Bell," which is close enough for government work.

"It's got a dozen different security protocols that I need to crack in order to get to the section of code controlling the takeover, and then a dozen more to get to the section of code that's controlling the defense mechanisms in the hallway," McGee shouts. Ziva manages to dislodge her laser from the wall, causing it to clatter on the floor. Tony can imagine McKay giving her long lectures about damaging the city on a foolish whim, but since that particular laser is not trying to kill him anymore, Tony can't bring himself to care. She takes a break, still breathing hard, still frowning in a vaguely murderous way. Tony's seen her kill a dozen Genii soldiers looking less pissed off.

Gibbs takes another shot, and this one manages to damage the remaining turret enough that it's facing the other end of the hallway and can't seem to turn back towards them. Tony lets out a breath, and Gibbs steps out from his own hiding place. Ziva attacks the remaining turret with a zeal Tony hasn't seen since she beat the crap out of Chambers during practice because he'd said something about how girls couldn't fight for shit.

"Can't you just unplug the damn thing, McGee?" Gibbs says. He's wiping a bit of sweat off his forehead and reloading his P-90.

McGee winces, even as his fingers keep moving at ludicrous speeds over his keyboards, and Tony thinks it's Ziva's turn to try to translate the reasons from geekspeak into Gibbs. It's been Tony's turn for the last five months. McGee starts, "Well, seeing as the electrical grid of--"

He's interrupted by the crackle of their radios. "What the hell is going on down there?" McKay snaps. "Wait, I don't want to hear your bullshit excuses. I don't even know what you braindead morons did to that section of the city, but you better fix it in the next thirty minutes, or I will come down there to fix it myself."

McGee pales a little, and Tony's heard the rumors around Atlantis about what happens to you if Dr. McKay is forced to clean up your messes. And everyone had seen how Kohler had begged and sobbed about how much he wanted to go home right up until the Daedalus had come around again. Not that Tony's really worried for himself. McGee's the only one of them who's a part of the scientific contingent, after all.

"You should probably invest in a rowboat, McScrewed," Tony says. "Or you could start paddling right now." McGee spares one moment of what little time left to live he has, and he uses it to give Tony a death glare, which is not nearly as good as Gibbs'. But then again, sometimes McGee is responsible for ensuring that Tony's bed doesn't suddenly throw him out of a window in the middle of the night, so maybe Tony should be a little more careful of how much he mocks McGee's tragic, inevitable fate.

Gibbs smacks the back of Tony's head. "Let him work, DiNozzo," he says, and Tony remembers that hey, the hallway is still trying to kill everyone on the rest of Atlantis as well. Maybe he should let McGee handle it. And maybe he shouldn't think of all the ways McKay could take his ire out on the rest of them as well. Some of the Marines Tony doesn't know very well still wince whenever McKay walks by, and Gibbs is living proof that Marines don't intimidate easily.

A little bit further down the hallway, a turret comes crashing down, its twisted remains laying at Ziva's feet. "Well, that was quite satisfying," Ziva says.

Tony's first day at the SGC consisted of a bazillion medical examinations with tests for things Tony's never even heard of before and a semi-awkward lunch with his new team, which was a lot more fun before Tony realized that Kate wasn't playing hard to get, but was, in fact, threatening to put her fist through his head if he kept flirting with her.

The Marine, Gibbs, had looked more amused than anything else, and the Goth scientist, Abby, had spent most of the time quizzing him about what it was like to have the ATA gene. "What's it like being able to control them?" she had asked, her pigtails bouncing as she squirmed, restless in her seat. "Do they, like, talk to you or something? Or is it something more twilight zone-y?"

"Well," Tony had said. "I touch things and things happen." Dr. Marcos had tried to explain it to him, but like a lot of the scientists, she had forgotten that Tony didn't know the lingo, so she had lost Tony right around the third time she uttered the words "nucleic acid."

"Oh," Abby said, looking disappointed. Maybe she expected something with more cosmic energy or possibly the Force. "Well, that's still pretty cool."

Their first mission was a milk run to the alpha site, and Tony didn't freak out when he stepped through the wormhole at all, despite the fact that all the cells in his body were being pulled through an astrophysics thing he didn't entirely understand, and it kind of tickled a little. Other than that, the mission went smoothly. Abby did some tests on atmosphere or something while Gibbs and Kate and Tony played Rummy on a portable stool Kate brought along. After Tony found out that Kate used to be OSI, the two of them exchanged stupid perp stories until Abby had her results, and Tony did find it fun to reminisce. Tony didn't really hate his time at NCIS, really, but it wasn't like there was anything there for him. He'd done his job, and he'd liked it, but it was just a job, and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Gibbs listened quietly and systematically cleaned them out of all their quarters.

When Tony stepped back through the wormhole into the dull, gray walls of the SGC, he thought that maybe space travel didn't quite live up to the hype. No mysterious aliens had attacked them with laser weapons, and if Tony really wanted to see a bunch of trees, he could rent a cabin in the woods whenever he wanted.

During their second mission, they had a run-in with the Jaffa, and Tony thought that maybe cabins in the woods were underrated, and laser weapons were a lot less cool when they were shooting lasers at you.

After a few missions, Tony acquires (a) a sprained ankle, (b) a new appreciation for Gibbs' aim, and (c) a slip of paper that says 'Good For Ten Free Hugs From Abby.' The basic training the SGC had provided to civilians going off world had not come anywhere near preparing Tony for any of this. Not that he was resentful or anything like that.

Still, a few months later, Tony was pretty sure he had most of this whole 'gate team' thing figured out. Then Abby decided that she liked the labs better than doing field work. "It's not because of you guys!" Abby said, before anyone could even imply that she might have had that in mind. She gave each of them huge hugs and then settled back down next to her microscope, beaming and squeezing Bert tight against her chest. "It's just that I like my lab, and I don't like trying to carry my lab everywhere, and they won't let me take the really, really expensive equipment anyway. Plus, I'm less likely to get shot at if I work here."

That was how they ended up with McGee, who technically should be Dr. McGee, but since he only had one doctorate, no one thought it actually counted. It was kind of nice, having someone around who was even worse at things than Tony was. McGee pissed off Gibbs every third day by talking too quickly and too incoherently, and his weapons skills were kind of lackluster, but he could do things with a computer that could probably bring even Bill Gates to tears. Still, McGee was the sort of person who grows on you, like a puppy who maybe used to follow you around looking lost, but now fetches you sticks and does your paperwork for you.

During their sixtieth mission, McGee broke his arm by tripping over the edge of a small cliff, Kate found out she was allergic to Towa, a leafy plant that bore fruit that looked uncannily similar to raspberries, Gibbs sort of pissed off a local dignitary by refusing to repeat all three pages of the proper greeting ritual, and Tony was left with the responsibility of smoothing things over.

"He comes from a family that didn't give each other enough hugs when he was growing up," Tony said, gesturing at Gibbs, who was as stone-faced as usual. "And now he sometimes has issues with memorization."

The dignitary managed to look confused and offended all at the same time. "I do not see what one has to do with the other," he said, frowning. The bells on his ceremonial hat jingled a little.

"It's a cultural thing," Tony assured him. "We don't really talk about it with outsiders."

"Well, that was quite satisfying," Ziva says. The crackling of the plasma cutter stops, and Tony can hear the panel's cover being pried off with a crowbar "How long until we reach the gate?"

"Another ten minutes," Gibbs says, and Tony kind of wishes they did have an airman on their team, no matter how much Gibbs loathes them. Just for the times when having someone actually trained to fly things would be useful.

"This would not be a problem if Tony piloted more quickly," Ziva says. She's fiddling around with the crystals, Tony knows, because the displays keep doing weird, flickery things every single time she grunts.

"Well, Ziva," Tony says, turning to give her a glare. "If I had been going any faster, those tiny bits of space debris would have gone through the windshield instead of just the pod controls." The planet they'd been visiting was about three hours by jumper from the nearest space gate, and Ziva was pretty much the worst backseat pilot ever. Two hours in, and Tony was tempted to take his toys and go home. Let the three of them figure out how to pilot the damn jumper without the ATA gene. He did not need the constant commentary.

"I really do not see the reasoning behind putting those controls on the outside of a ship," Ziva grumbles, and Tony's a little meanly glad that she's the one being forced to fix this, and he takes a good look at her ass just for good measure. Tony was the one who had to hold McGee's laptop up for almost an hour while he was trying to repair the shield generator for the very friendly (read: grab-assy) Korganians, and he's pretty much loathed being McGee's lab assistant ever since.

"Well, if Tony hadn't opened that hatch, the pod controls wouldn't have been exposed, and we wouldn't be stuck here trying to reroute them," McGee says. He's bent over his own panel, fiddling with his own set of crystals. Tony would probably be offended if it wasn't so obvious that McGee was just jealous of the way that jackalope thing on M26-509 totally liked Tony better. Animals love Tony. It's a fact that is now backed up with scientific evidence.

"Eyes on the road, DiNozzo," Gibbs snaps, and Tony realizes that he's about to fly them into yet another piece of space debris before he manages to yank them hard to the right. McGee tips over with a loud squawk. "If the three of you don't stop arguing, making sure we can fit through the gate will be the least of your worries," Gibbs says.

That shuts them up good, because being stuck in the jumper with an angry Gibbs for any length of time sounds an awful lot like one of the threats they use on some of the newer, greener marines when they step out of line. Tony has visions of Ducky organizing their remains while singing a jaunty tune about the bluebells of Scotland. And then maybe drinking some Earl Grey tea. And maybe having odd conversations with their gravestones. That image is enough to ensure Tony's cooperation.

When they get to the gate, McGee is still trying to coach Ziva on which crystals she needs to move where. It's not going so well. McGee tends to talk too fast when he gets nervous, and Ziva tends to get impatient when she can't get something right the first ten times she tries to do something. Tony parks them right in front of the gate and cloaks the jumper. No need to make themselves a tasty snack for any passing Wraith. Tony once forgot to turn on the cloak when they landed on an P10-542. Zelenka nearly cried when he saw the damage, and half the Air Force contingent glared at him for months, even after the jumper had become operational again.

"That crystal does not fit in that slot, McGee," Ziva hisses. A few more seconds, and she'll probably remember that McGee still has those pictures of her on his hard drive, and McGee's life will really be in danger.

McGee says, "No, no, not that slot. You need to slide it underneath the crystal right above it." He does something to his own panel that makes one of Tony's consoles beep. Continuously. For five minutes.

"How long is this going to take?" Gibbs says, and his face has that Gibbs non-expression that means you are in deep, deep shit.

"Uh, well." McGee says, carefully avoiding Gibbs' eyes, "we have to take into account the fact that--"

Gibbs says, "You've got half an hour." There's something about him that reminds Tony of that time he visited the circus when he was five, and then Mrs. Bennett told him that it was a bad idea to poke caged lions with sticks, and that Tony should stop doing that now.

"Half an hour. Got it, boss," McGee says. He looks like he's trying not to throw up all over the jumper. Which would mostly suck, because Tony would (a) be stuck in the cockpit with McGee's stinky vomit until he fixes things and (b) be responsible for cleaning it once they got back to Atlantis. Sheppard has very weird Air Force ideas about a pilot's bond with their jumper.

Twenty-two and a half minutes later, McGee sits back and says, "That should be it." He replaces the panel he pried off with a crowbar, and through the door separating them from the cargo bay, Tony can hear the familiar click that means that the pods have fully retracted.

McGee holds out a hand, and Ziva slaps it. They're both wearing matching grins, because nothing says 'bonding' like fixing Ancient equipment together. "Good job," Gibbs says to them. It's very reluctant praise, if Tony does say so himself.

"Hey, don't I get any credit?" Tony asks. He had to do some fancy piloting to get them to the gate, after all. The reason they were in this whole mess in the first place was because there'd been a ship ten times the size of the jumper firing on them before Tony blew it up with some drones, and then he had accidentally opened a hatch in the roof open, and the flying debris from the explosion had destroyed several key crystals. Really, the Ancients were kind of really stupid for not creating a cloak that could be used at the same time as the shield.

"No," Gibbs says.

Tony's life as a member of a top secret government conspiracy began with Lance Corporal Officer Hua. It wasn't really Tony's fault that Hua had sticky fingers, but apparently it was Tony's fault that someone really far up his family tree fucked an Ancient at one point or another. At first, he was just picking through a discarded pile of electronics in Hua's bedroom, and the next thing he knew was holding a tiny glowing thing that didn't look like anything Tony had ever seen at Best Buy before.

It wasn't a huge deal, so he wrote up his report (including the glowing thing) and submitted it. The next thing he knew, the Air Force was breathing down his neck and he was being shipped off to Colorado. Then he was sitting in front of a two-star Air Force general in an interrogation room and being questioned on how much he knew about aliens and space travel.

Tony said, "I've seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And all of the Star Wars movies. Have managed to miss out on Battlefield Earth, which I think is one of the few achievements in my life that I'm actually proud of. Oh, and I've seen Alien, because I would probably die of shame if I had gone through the last thirty years of my life without ever watching it at least once."

General Landry didn't even blink. He did take a look at the file in his hand before once again looking Tony in the eye.

"I also don't know anything about anything, so if you shoot me for knowing too much, you're really just wasting bullets," Tony continued.

The general pulled something out of his pocket and placed it on the mental table. It made a slight clink in the quiet of the room. The object was small, metal wrapped around crystal, and there was something about it that reminded him of Hua's trinket thing. "I want you to pick this up," the general said.

"What?" Tony said.

"I want you to pick this up, Agent DiNozzo," General Landry repeated. "Right now."

This wasn't the weirdest interview that Tony had ever had -- that honor belonged to Petty Officer Brooks and his penchant for smuggling foreign 'medicinal remedies' onto Navy ships -- but it was right up there. At this point, everything was so weird that Tony figured that there was no harm in picking the damn thing up. But when he touched it, the thing came to life, lighting up in his hand. A warm feeling spread through his chest, a lot like the one he used to get when his dad would pat him on the back and say, "Not bad, Junior. Not bad." The interrogation room was now so brightly lit Tony needed to squint in order to see.

Tony said, "What the fuck?"

"Well," Landry said, taking the object from Tony's hand. It shut off instantly. "I guess that clears that up. You're being read into the program ASAP."

"What program?" Tony said. He tried not to sound completely confused, but he knew he wasn't exactly succeeding. So he had held a tiny glowy crystal-y thingy, so what? That didn't exactly rate top secret clearance, did it?

Landry looked as though he wanted to laugh at Tony, but he was being too nice (or too professional) to do so. "Oh, you'll find out soon enough," he said.

Well, he was right about that. After Tony managed to process 'wormhole,' 'stargate,' and 'space travel' as words that people use outside of bad sci-fi movies, they offered him a choice: he could go back to NCIS, and the many, many nondisclosure agreements would ensure that he kept his mouth shut, or he could join the SGC, and the whole universe would be there for the exploring.

In the end, there really wasn't any choice at all.

"No," Gibbs says.

It's a Gibbs 'no,' so there's no point in arguing with it. That doesn't stop anyone from trying. "But," Abby says, pouting, "Miko's totally sweet, and she doesn't talk too much, and we have the room, why can't she come?"

Tony was never the smartest kid in class, but he knows the answer to this one. "Team movie night is for team only, Abby," Tony explains. "And Ducky." There's a delicate balance at work here. Gibbs always sits in his favorite armchair. Abby, Ziva, and McGee squeeze themselves on the couch, with Abby always taking the center. Ducky gets the armchair with the plaid cover on it. Tony doesn't know how it got here, because the Ancients (with surprisingly discerning taste) did not believe in plaid, but he suspects it has something to do with Dr. Beckett. Tony sits in his old beanbag chair that has permanently migrated into McGee's room. McGee was the only person on the team who bothered to figure out how hook a DVD player up to one of the really sweet Ancient viewscreens, and for his sins, he is now responsible for hosting the weekly movie nights.

Sure, in theory, they could steal a chair from one of the empty rooms, and there's plenty of room on McGee's floor if one is willing to sit on the hard tile, but the new chair could not be situated in such a way that the person could still see the screen comfortably between and over everyone's heads, and anyone on the floor would probably end up leaning back against the feet of the person behind them. Abby seems to take accept that explanation, but she still pouts, just a little, to show her displeasure.

McGee picks that moment to step in. "So what are our choices tonight?"

There is a very precise and very complicated algorithm Tony uses to pick out which movies to put on offer. No one argued (for once) when Tony was given the responsibility of being the Movie Guy of the team, and Tony takes this particular responsibility very seriously. It's important that they avoid all science fiction movies, of course, because the magic is gone once you've stared down an alien trying to suck the life out of your chest. Gunfire makes everyone twitchy these days, so their action movie selections are extremely limited. Abby has vetoed crappy romantic comedies, and Ziva has a hard time with indie dramas about familial dysfunction (which makes no sense to Tony, because Ziva's family dysfunction is way more dysfunctional than anything in these movies). If they choose a historical of some sort, they all have to brace themselves for Ducky's non-stop comments on the accuracy of the portrayal of the time period. Gibbs doesn't really have movie preferences, but he seems to enjoy the comedies, which kind of freaks the rest of them out when he laughs for five minutes straight after a dick joke. On top of their preferences, they're limited by the tastes of the other members of the expedition and what they've brought with them. Tony has been trying to fill in the blanks on his few trips back to Earth, because there is a surprising dearth of German expressionism amongst the Atlanteans (though he did accidentally get into a long discussion about the imagery of Metropolis with Dr. Weir in the cafeteria, which was a little surreal). Tony says, "We can either do This is Spinal Tap or Vertigo. On one hand, a goofy mockumentary about 80's rock music, and on the other, one of Hitchcock's finest thrillers."

"I heard Zelenka had a copy of Gigli," McGee says, and Tony somehow manages to resist the urge to break into tears.

He shudders. "Say that name one more times, McGee, and I will make sure you never work in this town again."

"It could be fun," Abby says, but then again, Abby likes Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, so Tony is never giving her a chance to inflict her bad taste on the collective group.

Ziva shakes her head, because she, at least, can recognize one of the most horrific things ever inflicted on all of human civilization. "No, definitely not."

"We could make fun of it the entire time," Abby says, visibly brightening at the thought.

Tony makes a noise that can only be described as 'pure horror.'

"We're watching the Hitchcock," Gibbs says. "Stop arguing."

McGee shrugs, unaware of the magnitude of what he suggested. Tony's pretty sure this whole thing was engineered by Zelenka, who is still annoyed at Tony for creating, as he describes it, a monopoly on the city's supply of Caf-Pow! He's probably just jealous that he didn't think of it first. Zelenka's reach in the Atlantis black market was long when Tony got here, and it's still long now, but he's limited by his responsibilities as McKay's second-in-command. Tony's not military, and he's not a scientist, so he mostly spends his time being bored out of his mind by paperwork and his occasional light-switch duties. He's got plenty of time to think about what it would take to get Rabin to give up his Bollywood collection. Before they start up the DVD, Ziva disappears to go make the popcorn.

The nice thing about the beanbag chair is that it means that Tony's the one with the best access to the DVD player, especially since McGee had to cannibalize the remote control for some doohickey that they used to take out the replicators on PQ2-432. He pops in the DVD, hits play and settles in for the long haul.

Tony really likes the rush of watching a movie for the first time, tracing the twists and turns of the unfamiliar plot (as predictable as they may be). He likes to watch movies when it's quiet and dark, all the better to immerse himself in this other world, these other rules. There was a point at which his frat buddies refused to watch movies with him anymore, because he was always telling them to shut the fuck up and stop talking.

During team movie night, everyone talks, constantly. Ziva likes to snort at the fight scenes, McGee starts lecturing in technobabble every time someone says the word 'firewall,' and Abby has to make loud exclamations of glee whenever an adorable animal appears on screen. Ducky likes to fill in any lulls in the conversation, just on principle. No one bothers to turn the lights down, because at the first movie night they held at Tony's tiny apartment, Abby elbowed Kate in the ribs four times, Kate accidentally stepped on Tony's foot once, and they somehow they all managed to cover the floor of Tony's living room in a fine layer of popcorn. It seemed wiser to just leave the lights on ever since.

It should be all wrong, watching the movie he's seen a dozen times in a group of talkers with the lights dulling the vivid colors on screen. But it's not. There's nothing wrong about it at all.

Ziva steps back into the room, the smell of burning popcorn following right behind her. "That microwave is evil," she declares, holding out a tub of singed popcorn. "I do not understand why the engineers have been beating around the tree about fixing it." She gives McGee a pointed look.

"Bush," Tony says. "And before you mangle any more of the English language, give it here." He gathers a handful of popcorn into his own bowl and settles in to watch James Stewart and Kim Novak dance around each other, only half-listening to the movie as McGee and Ziva argue about resources and priorities under their breath.

The burned popcorn tastes like crap, and Abby might start sobbing halfway through the movie, because she hates it when characters suffer, and Ducky is describing his reaction to the first Hitchcock movie he ever saw, and Tony's pretty sure he wouldn't trade any of this for all the home movie theaters on Earth.