Carson Beckett poked his head into the primary astrophysics lab hopefully, and sniffed the air. “Oh,” he said softly to himself when he realized it was empty and the enticing scent he was searching for was not there.
“Doctor?” a voice called from the back corner, and Carson looked up.
“Oh, aye. Hello, Radek.” Carson strolled into the lab, hands in his deep labcoat pockets, and tried to look like he wasn’t casing the joint. “What are you up to?”
“Same as you, I think,” Radek admitted, setting a box down back onto a stack. “Rodney’s good coffee.”
“No, I... I wouldn’t...”
“You smelled the air. Sniffling like animal.”
Carson scowled. “Oh, fine, yes. I wanted to know if Jenn sent him back with more of the good stuff.”
Zelenka shuffled over to his own desk, where the glow of the laptop was the only light. The screen was filled with squiggles that Carson couldn’t possibly hope to decipher and so didn’t try. “I think there is maybe no coffee from Jenn ever again,” Zelenka said morosely.
“What?” Carson asked, blinking, “Why?”
Zelenka held up a hand and began to count things off on his fingers. “One: No lovely marvelous good coffee. Two: we have been in Atlantis eight days, and I have not seen Rodney pull one Kiss out of his pockets. Three: Delightful picture of Rodneysaur eating Kavanaugh is nowhere to be found. Which is shame, because I wanted to hang it in Lab. Four: Rodney is cranky.”
“Cranky?” Carson repeated, a slow horror building in him as all the pieces began to slot into place.
“No sex,” Zelenka clarified.
“Radek,” Carson said, scandalized.
“What? You are a doctor, yes? Sex makes Rodney less cranky.” Zelenka stared up at Carson like a kicked puppy. “The data points to only one conclusion.”
Carson nodded. “Jenn and Rodney broke up.”
“Is unfair,” Zelenka muttered. “Rodney is bad with women, and whole city suffers!”
“You are aware,” Sergeant Bates said, looking up from the requisition form Zelenka had handed him, “That you can’t actually requisition a person?”
“I am desperate, Sergeant,” Zelenka said, and he certainly sounded like it. “I think it is the only solution, yes? She has the gene! It is proven.”
“She makes wonderful, heavenly, orgasmic coffee. Secret blend.”
“If we had a non-combatant assigned specifically to act as initializer in labs, we would stop manipulating time with your marines.”
Bates seemed to ponder this. “No.”
“And someone to take care of social events?”
“It will make Rodney less Emo.”
The sound of the approval stamp slamming down hard and fast on the form made Zelenka jump.
Jenn opened the door cautiously, not entirely sure why a woman in a dress Air Force uniform was standing in the hallway out side of her apartment, knocking on her door.
“Yes?” she asked, warily.
“Miss Jennifer Barnett?” the woman asked hopefully, clutching one of those strange flat hats in her hands.
Jenn narrowed her eyes. “Yes.”
The woman seemed six shades of relieved. “Wow, you actually do exist.”
Jenn blinked. “What?”
“Never mind. My name is Colonel Samantha Carter. I work at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex.”
Jenn opened the door a little wider, eyes going round. “Is this about that strange round iPod? I swear I didn’t mean to.”
“The iPod that...?” Understanding dawned on Carter’s face and she chuckled. “No, no, it’s not about that. It’s... may I come in?”
“I, uh...” Jenn hesitated for a moment before she realized that this woman was in the Air Force and probably could kick her ass to Sunday and back, so opened the door all the way and gestured towards the sofa. “Yeah, yeah, okay, uh. Sorry for the mess, I’ve been working...” She held up a hand with a fresh scar still pink with healing. “Just got the doc`s okay to start drawing again and I had a pile up. Jinx, shoo, don’t get fur on the nice lady’s dress uniform!”
Carter sat on the couch and reached down to pull the tabby into her lap. “Is this McKay’s cat?”
“Uh, Jinx?” Jenn dithered a little. “Yeah. Coffee?”
Carter looked up from the cat’s contented face. “Yes, please.”
Grateful for the momentary reprieve, Jenn retreated to the kitchen and after a moment’s hesitation decided that she better pull out the really good beans, the ones that Rodney had squirreled away in the back of the freezer and had left behind.
The automatic grinder was loud enough to make conversation possible, and to shove out the slowly rising panic that was building between Jenn’s ears. Something was wrong wrong wrong, because Air Force Colonels didn’t turn up on your doorstep when they had good news.
While the coffee was brewing, Jen went back into the living room (you also don’t leave strange Air Force Colonels alone with your cat) and found Carter staring at the set of character sketches Jenn had left clipped to the drafting table against the window. She normally put them away when guests arrived, but she had been surprised by Carter.
The other woman was unabashedly staring intently at the first version of the mage, which bore no small resemblance to Rodney – his broad shoulders, his crooked sneering mouth, his sandy hair. He still wore the original over-robe, peppered with the blocky alphabet from Rodney’s computer file.
“Can you read that?” Carter asked, pointing to the border of squarish runes.
“`One continually force feeding the nebula do not purple spot ratchet.” Jenn said. “At least, that’s was Rodney said it says.” Then she sucked in a breath and some courage as well, and said, “Colonel, why are you here?”
Carter turned around, clasped her hands polietely behind her and said, “It’s about McKay.”
Jenn felt her knees turn into blue jello and managed to drop down into the sofa before they dumped her on the floor. Jinx hopped up into her lap, glaring territorially at Carter.
“Something’s happened, hasn’t it?” Jenn whispered, staring at the Lt. Commander Data figurine on the top of her playstation. “You’ve come to tell me that Rodney’s dead. Oh my god he’s dead.” She felt her stomach try to crawl out of her throat and swallowed hard, tasting copper and worry.
“McKay is fine,” Carter said quickly, crossing the room with haste to sit on the sofa beside Jenn and cover her hands. “I didn’t come too... oh, that beep. Is the coffee done?”
Jenn nodded once, numbly, suspended between horror and relief.
Carter got up, vanished into the kitchen, and made soft clinking noises. Jinx butted his head demandingly against Jenn’s hand and she obliged distractedly, rubbing her scarred palm over his little head, flatening his ears and feeling them spring back up against her wrist, velvety soft.
Carter re-emmerged with two mugs in her hands, pressed one on Jenn, and sat beside her. They sipped in silence for a long moment. Finally, Jenn asked, “So why are you here?”
Carter took another heady swallow of her coffee, her expression slightly blissed out, and asked, “How much do you know about what McKay does?” She set her coffee cup down on the side table.
Jenn grimaced and said, “Nothing. He always just tossed the ‘C’ word at me.”
“ ‘C’ word?”
“Classified,” Jenn clarified with enough accumulated hatred for the word and all it embodied to turn it into the foulest cuss ever uttered in the human language.
“Ah,” Carter said, with a sympathetic wince. “I, uh... I don’t exactly know how to expain then. See, he’s the head of an experament, very special scientific projected partially headed by the Air Force in--”
“Some country whose name you can’t tell me, I know,” Jenn snapped. "It's classified."
Carter blinked, and a smile leaked out of the corner of her mouth. “Another galaxy, actually.”
Jenn swallowed once. “Oh,” she said. “I see,” but didn’t. “I, uh...” She licked her lips once, set down her cup, pushed Jinx off her lap with shaking hands. “I still don’t see why you’re here.”
Wordlessly, and with the barest tinge of a sly expression, Carter handed Jenn a paper folded into thirds from her pocket, and picked up her coffee to sip and observe in silence.
Jenn skimmed it, went back and read it, bugged out her eyes and went back and read it again.
“Can he even do this?” she asked with a trembling voice.
“It has the Quartermaster’s approval stamp,” Carter said, and the sly smirk blossmed across her face.
“Are you sure you don’t mind?” Jenn asked as she set down the folding chair right in middle of the Daedalus’ engine room.
“I am not at all bothered by your wish to render me,” the Roswell Grey said with a long, slow blink.
“Cool,” Jenn said, and with an oversized sketch book balanced on her knees, set to work trying to capture him in watercolours and pencil crayon. "I'm not sleeping so well on this boat, and the Engine room's pretty peaceful right now. I’m Jenn, by the way,” she said conversationally.
“Hermiod,” the Grey replied, not looking up from his button pushing.
“As in, the trainer of heroes from Norse mythology?” Jenn asked, dipping the tip of her brush into the black colour puck.
Hermiod paused and looked at her full on for the first time. “Has no one briefed you on the origin of my species?”
“No,” she admitted. “I mean, they gave me this huge stack of files to read, but they’re all really dry so I figured I could use them to help me get to sleep later, you know? And I don’t understand the technobabble from all the nerds and the grunts from the jarheads in the mess.”
Hermiod blinked again, and Jenn was starting to get that blinking was as expressive as this guy got. “My race are called the Asguard. We are those upon whom your ‘Norse Mythology’ were based. We are also incredibly long lived.”
Jenn frowned. “So you’re the real Hermiod.”
Jenn smiled. “That’s pretty cool.”
Hermiod resumed his button pushing and Jenn her art. After a what would have been ten minutes or three hours of concentration, wrinkled foreheads, and flipping pages, Hermiod asked, “For what reason are you travelling to Atlantis?”
“Hm?” Jenn asked, looking up from applying the blue undercoating to indicate a vein before the grey wash that would be skin. “Oh, lots of little things. No official title, you know? Except maybe ‘Turn-er on of Things.’ They need someone with the ATA to be available to all the science departments to initilize gizmos, someone who doesn’t really have another job they may get pulled away to. There was talk of me doing some consulting for the Anthro folks too, because, hey, Masters of Art History.”
Hermiod’s small mouth made a tiny half moon of amusement. “You speak like Doctor McKay.”
Jenn sat up. “You know Rodney?”
Hermiod made a face that explained exactly how aquainted with Rodney he was.
“He’s all hot air,” Jenn said reassuringly.
“You are aquainted with him as well, I take it?”
Jenn’s only answer was to turn pink.
“... of course, then I lobbed a breadroll at his head.”
From inside Sheppard’s office, Rodney could hear the distinct laughter from each of this three team mates. Not again, he gripped mentally, and swiped his hand over the door. John obligingly opened it. His body blocked the door, and he didn’t move aside.
“What?” Rodney blurted. “What?” Still John said nothing, only smiled. Rodney crossed his arms over his chest, huffed once, and said, “What, Colonel? What could possibly be so important that you insist on tearing me away from my critical work tyring to make sure we don’t all die horribly the next time the Wraith get peckish? Who could possibly be that interesting from the batch of new jarheads from the Dedalus and why can I smell vanilla caramel coffee?”
John’s grin went into mega-watt territory and he stepped aside.
There, sitting on John’s couch, was Jenn.
“Oh my god,” Rodney said, and utterly froze.
“So,” she said, colour appearing high on her cheeks. “You weren’t there when I got back from the hospital.” She raised her hand, showed him the long pink line on her palm. “So I had to track you down.”
John, Teyla and Ronan beat a strategic retreat. Rodney stood unmoving steps beyond the doorframe, and they had to squeeze by him. In the corner, the coffee pot gurgled.
“You’re not real,” Rodney said softly. “You’re not really here.”
“Yes I am, Rodney,” Jenn said, standing slowly. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“I’ve been captured by the Asurans again,” he whispered to himself, hands clapped tight against his temples. “This isn’t real. This is just torture. More torture.”
“Torture?” Jenn repeated, horror making her eyebrows caterpillar upwards and voice jumping a full octave.
Rodney craned his head back, shouted at the ceiling. “Whatever it is you want, I’m not giving it to you!”
Jenn moved to stand in front of him, stopped an arm’s length away. “Rodney? Are you okay?”
He jerked his chin back down, glared hatefully at her. “You’re not really here,” Rodney insisted vehemently.
“Of course I am!” Jenn insisted back. “You requisitioned me, so here I am!”
“I never requisistioned you!” Rodney snapped, face slowly going puce. “You can’t requisition a person! You’re lying and you’re trying to trick me.”
“I’m really here, Rodney." She lifted one hand, the scarred one, palm out. "I left Jinx with your old neighbour in Nevada. It’s me.”
“Really?” Rodney asked, lips trembling so hard that the word was nearly stuttered. The hope in his wide eyes was heavy and desperate. “You’re really here?”
He reached towards her, fingers twitching, then jerked his hands back to his sides. “But you broke up with me.”
“You moved out before we could talk.”
“You told me to.”
“I was angry. And in pain. I wanted to at least talk.”
“About the ‘C’ word?”
Jenn flashed him a grin, gestured around Sheppard’s office. “Which doesn’t exactly apply any more.”
“Oh,” Rodney said, breathily. Then, “Oh.”
Jenn closed the gap between them, reached up to wrap her arms around the back of his neck, and pulled him down for a slow, soft kiss that tasted like coffee and chocolate and forgiveness, which was everything Rodney had ever wanted.