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Rodney took the matter as well as John would have predicted, had anyone bothered to ask him his opinion in advance. Since nobody had, John found himself lending Rodney a sympathetic ear for perhaps five minutes, and then a no-longer-quite-so-sympathetic ear for five hours or so.

"You know what this is, don't you?" Rodney demanded.

It was a purely rhetorical question. "A conspiracy." On the other hand, John was getting really tired of listening to Rodney ramble on and on and on without ever seeming to get closer to the point where he'd basically have said 'This sucks' and then John would be able to say something like 'Yeah' and give him a manly slap on the shoulder and then they'd both get back to work.

"No, it's a conspiracy!" Rodney said. "A conspiracy!" he repeated, apparently under the impression John might be suffering from short-term memory loss or some such thing. "They bring in a bunch of ... of high-school kids and then they expect me to work with them!"

"Scientists," John said. High-school kids might have been impressed by his uniform, his gun, or his ability to make candybars appear out of nowhere. John could have handled a bunch of high-school kids. Or, well, four of them, surely.

Rodney frowned. "I'm supposed to give them lab time."

"You give lab time to Zelenka." Strictly speaking, this was not true. On the other hand, Rodney used the lab and Zelenka used the lab and Rodney did not complain ... much, or tried to get more time than he was allotted according to the roster ... more than once a week or so.

"Zelenka is - well!" Rodney made some vague gesture that indicated he could not quite bring himself to use words like 'intelligent' and 'smart' in reference to another person. "That's different."

"Of course it is."

"For starters, Zelenka's just one person. There's four of them!"

John nodded slowly, as if he had not quite realized this before.

"I mean, what am I supposed to do?"

'Learn how to share?' John thought but didn't say out loud. Rodney was all for sharing his worries, his irrational fears and the fact that he was feeling hungry, slighted or put upon by the universe. He'd let John have half of his muffin once, after complaining it tasted stale.

"Just be yourself," he said. Perhaps scientists were like generals. Put two on the same base, and you got professional (and occasionally unprofessional) rivalry. Put five of them on the same base, and you got a team.

"Be myself? How is that going to help me?"

 

"What is more likely: that we are truly in another galaxy through the use of a technology the workings of which someone has yet to explain to me, or that we are merely suffering from a mass hallucination produced by our brains in some attempt to blind us to the fact that we are, in fact, in the process of freezing to death?"

"All four of us at the same time?" Leonard objected, a little weakly. It did all seem rather far-fetched.

"You're right - that's hardly a likely hypothesis." Sheldon frowned, before his expression brightened again. "It would be far more likely to assume I am freezing to death and the rest of you are all figments of my imagination. How clever of me to point that out to myself."

"Thank you?"

Sheldon's face fell again. "Tragic. I still had so much to do. How will the rest of you get on without me?"

"Enjoy a quiet three months of research?" Raj suggested to Howard.

"Oh yeah."

Leonard turned and sent them a mildly disapproving look. "Guys!"

"Funny, I never took myself for the kind of person influenced by the opinions of lesser minds," Sheldon said. "I assume it is possible this is a side-effect of freezing, although I certainly can't think of any scientific explanation for the effect."

"Well, maybe you're not freezing to death," Leonard said.

"Oh, now I'm just trying to give myself false hope. After all, who is going to save me? You?" Sheldon scoffed. "I hardly think so."

"Giving mouth-to-mouth to Sheldon? No, thanks." Howard shuddered. Raj grimaced.

"Hey, we all took the first aid class," said Leonard. "I could save your life."

"Correction: Leonard might save my life. If he remembers what to do, which seems unlikely and why am I talking to you - or rather: to me, again? That's something only crazy people do."

"I don't feel like a figment of Sheldon's imagination," Raj said.

"You mean: icky and more than a little bit disturbed?"

"Of course you don't," said Sheldon. "That's the whole - oh, hello. Clearly my imagination didn't get the memo about what a proper uniform should look like."

"Don't pay any attention to him; he's just crazy," Leonard said quickly.

"Excuse me, I am - oh. Oh. Well played, me."

 

"They're a little weird," reported John to Rodney, "but, well, scientists." By which he meant that scientists in general were a little weird, but which Rodney would hopefully take to mean that John had quizzed them extensively and found them skilled and knowledgeable enough to be entrusted with the lab and the (Rodney claimed) delicate equipment it contained.

Rodney looked suspicious. "Weird in what way?"

"One of them's got a peanut allergy," John said with his best pokerface on.

Rodney relaxed. "That's not so bad."

"Glad you feel that way. So, how about a nice dinner?"

Rodney blinked, then asked: "Your place or mine?"

 

"I'm just saying it's weird we've been here for three weeks and never even seen the guy, that's all," Howard said.

"Maybe he's shy," said Leonard.

"Or maybe he was involved in a freak accident several months ago that has turned him invisible." Raj's expression made it clear he was rather taken with this idea. "And so they made a call to Earth to send them their very best scientists to turn him visible again."

"That would certainly explain my presence, but what about the rest of you?" Sheldon adjusted the settings on a piece of equipment Leonard was fairly sure he knew nothing about. "No offense."

Leonard considered pointing out that actually, that was sort of offensive. It was this place, he thought; there were all these people who didn't know anything about Sheldon. They were normal - accepting, yes, even of Howard, but at the same time, they gave you that feeling that if they wanted to, they could beat you up pretty easily.

It made him forget to be grateful for the small things, like Sheldon saying 'no offense' instead of 'I'm sorry'. "If I got turned invisible, I'm not sure if I'd want them to turn me back." Or if it would really make much of a difference.

"Ooh. I get your point," Howard said, leering.

"No, I don't think you do."

"You could sneak onto the set of that new Green Lantern movie they're making and take a sneak peek at the script," Raj said. "And spend the night in the comic store."

Sheldon looked up. "An excellent idea. The suspense is simply killing me. I mean, obviously, it will suck, but will it be bearable suckage? Unbearable suckage? Suckage to the point where we'll be better off waiting for someone to post it on-line?"

"Guys - I'm not invisible, okay?" Leonard said. "And what do you mean: obviously it will suck? It could be great."

"I have two words for you: Green Lantern movie."

"Technically, that's three words."

"No, it's not."

"Gentlemen." Sheldon snapped his fingers. "Focus. I move that we ditch my own vitally important project and whatever unimportant willy-nillies you're wasting time with and instead start working on a way to render a person invisible so that we may discover the truth about the Green Lantern movie. All those in favor?"

"This is crazy," Leonard said.

"And the majority has it. Sorry Leonard - the people have spoken. But don't worry, in this place, nobody expects you to work on something you're not fully committed to."

"You don't?"

"Of course not. We'll need a test dummy, anyway."

 

Rodney was adjusting well, John thought. No joint projects yet, but at least it didn't take two guards anymore to make sure Rodney stuck to the roster John had come up with.

Great sex worked just as well, and it was much less of a bother, too. It did seem to leave his uniform in a perpetual state of crumpledness, but if people noticed, nobody was rude enough to say so. John liked that kind of problem: the kind that you could just ignore without any harm done.

"You know, I find it just a little bit suspicious you're always doing this when I'm not allowed to be in the lab," Rodney said. "It makes me wonder how committed you truly are to this relationship."

"Huh?" John said, because, well, great sex. Cuddling afterwards was fine - he could definitely manage cuddling. Or sleeping. Napping. Fine things to do, all.

"Yes, yes, you're very considerate, only bothering me when I can't be getting on with anything important anyway," Rodney went on. "I'm just saying I'm not an idiot."

There was rather a lot in that statement John felt warranted a reply, but he decided to go with the first thing. "I'm bothering you?"

"What else would you call this?" Rodney asked.

"Uh," John said, because that sounded like a trick question.

"It's not that I mind," Rodney said. "I mean, obviously, I could do better, but we're friends and, you know, I like you. Really. I understand you have needs and everything, and I'm happy to help you out with that."

"Thank you." He could smother Rodney in his sleep, John thought. Right after a power nap.

 

"Do you see that man over there?" Sheldon asked. Leonard turned. "No, don't look."

"Who, Ronon?" Leonard stared at his lunch tray. He'd worried about taking too much but compared to Ronon's, his looked rather modest - if also a little low on vegetables. "He's cool." Also: big and a little scary and looking like he could break people like Leonard in two without breaking a sweat.

"Cool?" Sheldon frowned. "What does that mean? Chilly? In need of a warm coat, a scarf and a pair of mittens? Like someone you'd want to father your children?"

Leonard sighed and poked at his (small) salad. Welcome to the Sheldon Cooper Express, destination: Weirdville. "I can father my own children, thank you very much."

"You'd want your children to not only suffer from physical inadequacy but to also be far, far less than brilliant? Really, Leonard. If brute strength and an average amount of intelligence are your goals, I think you could do a lot worse."

The jelly was pretty good. "I'll be keeping that in mind, shall I?"

Sheldon nodded, placated for the moment.

Leonard finished his jelly and eyed his salad again.

"He growled at me," Sheldon said.

Leonard decided to try the bread roll first. "Who, Ronon?"

"Indeed."

"Well, I'm sure he had a reason. Maybe you insulted him." Probably, knowing Sheldon. The bread roll was pretty good, too, although Leonard thought it might have tasted even better with that special butter they didn't have over here.

Sheldon sighed. "It's so hard to keep from saying anything other people might experience as hurtful sometimes. Honestly, I don't know how anyone manages it."

"I know what you mean."

 

"Sex!" Rodney said. "In the lab!"

John had been doing a lot of thinking over the past few days and he'd decided that Rodney had had a point. Rodney had also not had a point several times, but it was true that John had not been right to try and make things run more smoothly by dragging him off to have sex.

As such, he supposed he owed Rodney something.

"Kind of in the middle of something over here?" he said, reasoning that Rodney wouldn't really appreciate the gesture if he agreed too easily.

Rodney blinked. His face was rather red. Initially, John had assumed it had been due to excitement. "What?"

"Just give me a minute to wrap this up and I'm all yours." Could Rodney have been infected by something? There'd been a few missions this past week, sure, but nothing that had looked like alien sex pollen. Not that John had any idea what that kind of thing looked like.

"What?" Rodney said, again.

John decided a trip to the sick bay might be a better idea than sex in the lab, for all that the latter didn't sound unappealing, precisely. "We can have sex in the lab, if you want. Soon."

"Great," Rodney said. "I'll just relabel the lab as a 'place for people to have sex' then, shall I? And I thought you were pouting."

John had been ... keeping a dignified silence and distance, yes. "You don't want to have sex with me in the lab?"

"Why would I want to have sex with you in the lab?" Rodney asked, looking annoyed. "It's a lab! It would be like - like having sex with you in a puddlejumper."

Having sex with Rodney in a puddlejumper did not sound like a terrible idea. "Oh."

"But anyway, I just want it to be known that I won't stand for this. Absolutely not. The lab is - it's the lab." Rodney glowered. "I have been very cooperative so far - the spirit of cooperation, in fact, but this is going too far."

"Oh," John said. "You mean someone else was having sex in the lab."

"Wasn't that what I said?" Rodney bristled. "Would it kill you to listen to what I have to say every once in a while? You - you're just impossible sometimes, you know that?"

 

Leonard did not believe he'd ever been quite so tempted to strangle Howard as he was right this moment. Here they were, in another galaxy, for crying out loud, and okay, so maybe there were no lightsabers and princesses in golden bikinis (also no Ewoks, so there) but it was still pretty amazing.

He'd met Ronon and Teyla and if he'd stayed another month or so, he thought he might have talked someone into letting him tag along on a visit to another planet.

Getting sent home early because Howard was an idiot had not been part of the plan.

"We were simply - " Howard made a vague, flaily gesture, " - overcome."

"With lust," Raj added, nodding solemnly.

"It was a force stronger than ourselves."

"Swept away on a tide of sheer carnality."

Leonard turned to Colonel Sheppard. "They're very sorry and they'll never do it again, so please forgive them?"

Howard gasped. "Leonard, I don't think you quite understand what's going on." Sheppard arched an eyebrow. "He's led a very sheltered existence. The truth is: we're not sorry, and if you let us stay, we would definitely do it again."

"What?" Leonard said.

"There's this thing called a 'bedroom'," Sheppard said. "Maybe you've heard of it?"

"A bedroom, well." Howard shrugged. "Just doesn't do it for us, sorry. We're scientists."

"I'm a scientist," Leonard said.

Sheppard gave Howard a long look. Howard smiled guiltily. Leonard decided that Sheldon really wasn't such a bad friend - annoying at times, sure, but really quite considerate.

"We need to get married," Raj said. "I don't want my parents to think they've raised a hussy."

"You could probably get married somewhere around here," Sheppard said, but not like he was really offering it as an option. "It's not all barbarians and homophobes out there."

"Wouldn't work," Howard said, entirely too cheerfully. "I mean, what's he going to say? Mom, dad, I got married on planet Krypton?"

"All right then. Guess you guys had better start packing," Sheppard said.

"I don't know these people," Leonard said. "Can I stay?"

 

"Good riddance," Rodney said.

"They weren't so bad," John said. A bit strange, perhaps, and he hadn't seen the whole lab incident coming - they could have just asked for a trip back home - but he'd met and worked with worse.

Rodney scowled. "I caught one of them looking at my whiteboard. To find my errors, he said."

"Did he?" John asked, unable to resist.

"Did he what?"

"Find your errors."

"Of course not," Rodney said. "My work is flawless and I deeply resent the implication that it would be not. I pointed this out to him, even offering to let him borrow one of my excellent papers and do you think he was at all appreciative of my efforts?"

John didn't really need to think about that one. "I'm going to go with 'no'."

"Got all huffy," Rodney huffed. "Like I was insulting him."

"Uh-huh," John said.

"And now they've canceled the Green Lantern movie. Canceled," Rodney repeated.

"You told me it was going to suck."

"Well, yes, but I was hoping it would be an acceptable level of suck," Rodney said. "I mean, there's Watchmen level sucking and Daredevil level sucking."

"I liked that movie."

"You've got lousy taste."

"Lucky for you."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

 

[epilogue]

"I don't understand why nobody's bid on our invisibility device yet," Sheldon said. "It's an absolute bargain and we've clearly stated the money will go to an emimently worthy charity."

"A Green Lantern movie that doesn't suck." Raj sighed dreamily.

"We could always put up the script," Leonard said. "I mean, hey, that's kind of a collector's item, right?"

Howard gasped. "Leonard, we're scientists. We have a responsibility. We cannot bring that ... that abomination back into the world."