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Scars Like the Stars

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Bob is a professional. He does not sigh, roll his eyes, or argue with his superior officer. He just nods at Major Lorne and accepts his assignment gracefully. When he walks out of the conference room, Smith is waiting for him in the corridor. "Who'd we get today, Captain?"

"Biologists," Bob says and continues walking.

"Skiba and Grant? Yay," Smith says in a deadpan voice. "I needed more sexual harassment in my life."

"You're more than welcome to go back and ask Lorne for a new assignment," Bob says, glancing at Smith as they round the corner and step into the transporter.

"Are you kidding? And miss all the fun? No fucking way." Smith laughs as he taps the control for the jumper bay.

They step out a second later and Dr. Skiba gives them a cheery wave from over by their jumper. "Captain Bob! My favorite Marine in all of the Pegasus Galaxy."

"Hey, Bob. Spencer." Dr. Grant doesn't even look up from the crate of collection containers and equipment he's double checking.

"Are you guys ready to go?" Bob asks.

"Yeah, everything is loaded up, except for that one." Dr. Skiba points at the crate and then smiles at Bob. "I call shotgun."

"You can't call shotgun on a mission. This is not a trip to Disneyland."

"No, no, that's fine with me," Smith interjects, obviously fighting back a laugh. "I'll ride in the back with Dr. Grant."

"Then you can help him load that crate." Leaving them to it and trusting Smith to get it done, Bob walks inside and does his standard pre-flight check with Skiba hovering behind him. He flips a couple switches, takes his seat, and says, "Did you need anything else, Dr. Skiba?"

"Yes, I need you to call me Matt," Skiba says as he slides into the seat next to Bob.

"Uh huh," Bob says absently and then contacts the control room to tell Chuck he's ready for take off.

"You're not going to, are you?" Skiba asks as they are flying away from Atlantis.

Bob looks over and shrugs. "Probably not."

"All right then. I'll keep calling you Bob, though, okay? Can I call you Bobby?"

"Not if you value your life."

"Bobert?"

"No."

"Captain Sexypants?"

"Fuck no."

"But that's what you are."

"Shut up." Bob can feel his cheeks getting warm and seriously, he's going to have to talk to Sheppard about relaxing the rule about facial hair. He misses his beard. Nobody takes him seriously clean-shaven. Stupid fucking military and their stupid fucking recruiters talking about special genes and amazing opportunities to go places that nobody's ever been before. They never mentioned he'd be in a different galaxy dealing with life-sucking aliens and mouthy scientists, and some days Bob can't honestly say which is more annoying.

Flying jumpers makes up for it, though. This is his favorite part of the job. He glances at the HUD and the jumper responds so smoothly to the change in direction it's like she's a part of him. He can't help smiling and patting the console, letting her know she's doing a good job.

"Man, that's sweet," Skiba says and smiles at Bob softly. "You really love flying, don't you?"

"Yeah, I really do," Bob admits quietly, then turns away and keeps himself busy as a distraction. Something about the way Skiba watches him is unsettling. It stirs things deep inside Bob that he has ruthlessly squashed for years.

Skiba pulls out a small book from the pocket of his jacket and writes in it for a while. Bob can hear Smith and Grant murmuring occasionally, but mostly it's peaceful. Just the four of them flying through space toward a planet that nobody from Earth has ever visited before.

"Hey, Bob, what's a ten letter word that starts with M and ends with A-T-E, meaning self-love--Oh, I got it. Never mind." Skiba scribbles in his book and then says, "Eight letter word, female sexual organ, starting with C and there's a T and a--"

"What the hell kind of crossword are you doing?"

Instead of answering directly, Skiba just grins at him and says, "Want to do one?"

"No." Bob scowls, because this? This is not professional.

Skiba leans over until he's looking up at Bob with a delighted grin. "Are you blushing, Captain Bob?"

"Marines don't blush," Bob snaps, silently cursing his pale skin.

"That is so butch," Skiba sighs and Bob just shakes his head and ignores him for the rest of the trip.

***

 

The planet seems pretty quiet--uninhabited with an orbital Gate and, most importantly, no sign of Wraith. Nevertheless, Bob is scanning the area for danger when Skiba crawls up under a bush and says, "Holy shit, this is fantastic!"

"What?" Bob asks absently, his gaze fixed on some strange shadows at the base of a nearby cliff.

"Look at this," Skiba says from behind him and Bob turns around just in time to have Skiba's gloved hand come up in front of his face with the biggest fucking spider that Bob has ever seen. He makes a strangled sound before he can stop himself, but Skiba doesn't seem to notice. He just looks at the spider and says, rapturously, "Isn't he gorgeous?"

Bob takes a couple quick steps back and says, "You're insane. Keep that thing away from me."

"You're not scared of spiders, are you, Bob?" Skiba actually moves the monster closer and tilts it up so Bob can see its terrifying mouth. "Look at his fangs. They're not even that big."

Bob tightens his grip on his P-90 and stands his ground. Skiba's eyes go wide and he carefully puts the spider into a container and stows it in his pack. "Sorry, Bob, I didn't know you were arachnophobic."

"I'm not scared of them. I just don't like them. They're all--" Bob loosens his grip on his weapon and waggles his fingers. "--creepy and shit."

Skiba looks like he's going to say something--probably defend spiders or something--but Bob's radio clicks in his ear and he holds up a hand for silence. Skiba nods and then Smith says over the radio, "Captain, I'm getting some weird readings on my scanner. It's picking up something--not human, I think, but something big."

Bob instinctively looks at those shadows that were troubling him earlier and they seem bigger than before and maybe....moving? "Get Grant back to the jumper. We'll meet you there." He clicks off the radio and says, "Get your stuff together. We gotta move."

Skiba is already ahead of Bob, shoving his things into his pack and hefting it onto his back. He takes off running toward the jumper with Bob right behind him, weapon at the ready. They are still 500 yards away from the clearing when the ground shakes and a blood-curdling screechy roar echoes across the forest. Something moves through the trees ahead of them, and Bob can't get a good look but it's big. It's so big all he can see are flashes of a massive grey-green body, and it's between them and the jumper.

He lunges forward and grabs Skiba's shoulder and points him toward an overhang in the rock face that might give them some cover. They're not a dozen feet away when a shadow is cast over both of them and then a clawed reptilian arm sweeps down out of nowhere and knocks Skiba off his feet.

"Matt!" Bob yells and fires off a quick burst of rounds at whatever-the-fuck is attacking them. It falls back into the trees enough for him to jump over a fallen log and snag Skiba by the front of his vest and drag him to safety in the opening of what turns out to be a small cave.

Quickly making sure it's unoccupied, Bob shoves Skiba toward the back of the cave and then assumes a defensive position at the front. Keeping an eye out for the creature to come after them, he calls back, "How bad are you hurt?"

"It's just a scratch. The bleeding has almost stopped already." Skiba's voice sounds strained and he's more out of breath than the run should have made him, belying his reassuring words. Bob takes another scan of the immediate area around the mouth of the cave and determines it's clear for the moment, even though he can still hear the creature nearby. He moves back to check on Skiba, only to find him pale and sweating, clenching his teeth and clutching his bloody arm.

"Your shoulder's dislocated," Bob tells him, kneeling on the dirt next to him. He doesn't warn him what he's going to do. He just reaches out, braces him carefully, and pops it back in.

Skiba gasps so hard he can't cuss Bob out, but Bob can see how bad he wants to. "Hold still while I take a look at your wound."

Skiba nods, catches his breath and says, "You fucking bastard. That hurt like a motherfucker, son of bitch."

"Yeah," Bob agrees because he's been through it and knows exactly how agonizing it is. As he gingerly eases Matt out of his vest and jacket so he can see the bloody gash on his arm, he says, "But it would have been worse if you'd had time to think about it."

Skiba doesn't have anything to say to that. Bob gets the first aid kit out of his pack and immediately finds the syringe of morphine and gives him the shot in his good arm.

"It should feel better soon," Bob says as he cleans the blood away and sees the gash is about six inches long and goes right through the tattoo of a black cat on his left biceps, one of the dozens covering both his arms. It'll probably need stitches and it'll definitely leave a scar. Matt's going to be upset when the morphine wears off. For all that he doesn't take himself very seriously and says inappropriate things all the time, Bob knows that his tattoos mean a lot to him. But all that can wait until they get back to Atlantis. Bob could do it because he's got the supplies, but the bleeding isn't life threatening so he doesn't want to risk infection.

When Bob is almost done, Skiba says quietly, "You called me Matt."

Bob glances up at him and then back down at the binding he's smoothing down on Matt's bare skin. "No, I didn't."

"Yes, you did," Matt says and he's definitely more relaxed now that the morphine is taking hold. "Come on, Bob, admit you like me a little."

"I never said I don't like you," Bob says, packing away the first aid supplies and offering Matt a canteen of water.

"It's okay," Matt says as he reaches for the canteen and misses. He grabs it on his second try and winks at Bob. "I know you can't give into your burning desire for me. The military is so oppressive that way."

"I don't-- You shouldn't say things like that," Bob says, and he sounds unsteady to his own ears. He clears his throat and gets to his feet. "Just rest for a minute. I'm going to see if that thing is still out there."

"Fuck, what I wouldn't give for a beer or ten right now," Matt groans and he slumps back against the wall of the cave.

"Yeah," Bob snorts and shakes his head, "that'd go real good with the morphine."

"Don't care," Matt says. "Beer is awesome."

"Yeah. Maybe I'll give you some of my stash when we get back," Bob offers and immediately realizes he made a mistake.

"You wanna give me your beer? How easy do you think I am?" Matt grins and points at Bob with his good hand and says, "Pretty easy for you, Bobert."

"You're high as a kite right now. Stop talking." Bob walks back to the mouth of the cave and looks out. He ignores Matt giggling to himself, and radios Smith. "Smith, come in. What's your twenty?"

"We just made it back to the jumper. Where are you?"

"Skiba and I are kind of...trapped in a cave. Skiba's injured and there's a huge creature of some sort between us and the jumper."

"Is he all right?"

"He'll be okay, but I think he's gonna need stitches and I don't want to do it here." Behind him Matt makes a puttering noise into the radio. "I had to give him some morphine."

"Fun. Hey, did you get a look at that thing?"

"Not a good one," Bob has to admit and that annoys him to no end. He really likes to know his enemy.

"It looked like a dinosaur."

"It's not a dinosaur," Dr. Grant interrupts. "There's no reason to assume the development of--"

"But it looked like a dinosaur," Smith says over top of his evolutionary tangent.

"Whatever the fuck it is, it's between me and my jumper and you know how I hate that."

"You do hate that, Sir." Bob finds himself comforted by the steady response. If Smith is staying calm, then they've still got the situation under control.

"You know what we're going to do?"

"Blow shit up?"

"Got it in one. We're going to blow that fucker up."

"I've got some C-4, a few flashbangs, and half a dozen concussion grenades."

"Glad you came prepared as always." Bob takes stock of his own equipment. "I've got the same and a couple incendiaries."

"Hold on, Captain, Dr. Grant is getting all worked up about something. Dr. Grant, push the button again so you can tell him yourself." Bob rolls his eyes and listens to the creature let out another one of those screechy roars that raises every hair on his body.

"Captain Bryar," Dr Grant's voice comes over the radio sounding oddly formal and strident. "You can't kill this creature. We don't know if it's sentient or anything about it. We should study it and--"

"I know it tried to kill me and Skiba," Bob says reasonably. That's as good a reason as any to make sure it can't try again.

"But Captain--"

"Dr. Grant, if you can figure out a way for me to get your injured colleague back to the jumper without hurting the dinosaur, I'm all ears."

"But you said Matt would be okay."

"Yes, he'll be all right if I can get him back to Atlantis. Can I blow it up now?"

Grant makes an unhappy sound and then sighs. "If there's no other way."

"I'm sorry," Bob says and he almost is. But mostly he just wants to go back to Atlantis and get the fuck away from dinosaurs that aren't dinosaurs and spiders bigger than his hand. An unhappy thought occurs to him. "Dr. Skiba? What happened to the spider?"

"Oh, it's right he-- oh shit." Bob looks back to see Matt holding a broken container that has no spider in it.

"Shit. Find it, find the spider, find it," Bob says and he looks around frantically, even as he keys his radio and tells Smith to create a diversion.

"You don't even have to kill the dinosaur," Bob tells Smith in generous deference to Dr. Grant's wishes. "Just make sure it stays away from the jumper until we can get there."

"Yes, sir, I'm on it," Smith answers smartly, but Bob can hear the wicked grin in his voice. The kid loves his explosives maybe a little too much.

"I found the spider, Bob," Matt says cheerfully and Bob glances over his shoulder to see him pointing at Bob. The little furry fucker is crawling up the back of Bob's leg. He jumps and shakes his leg until the spider goes flying off and smacks into a rock. It lies there for long enough that he thinks it's dead and starts to relax, but it must only be stunned because its legs start moving and it's getting up and moving toward Bob again.

"I don't have time for this," Bob sighs and kicks the spider away with the toe of his boot, and then goes to get Matt ready to run. Bob helps Matt get his vest back on over his t-shirt and stuffs his jacket in his pack for him, then helps him get his pack on. Then he has to get Matt up on his feet and over to the mouth of the cave, which is not an easy task since Matt is all loose and relaxed and not as worried about this whole situation as he should be. "There's nothing wrong with your legs, Skiba. Come on, let's go."

"They're all bendy," Matt says, poking at his knees with his fingers as he stumbles along. He glances up at Bob and gives him a sweetly stoned smile. "Call me Matt again and I'll do anything you want."

"Fuck, how is this my life?" Bob mutters under his breath, but finally he gives in. "All right, Matt, would you please get your bendy legs ready to run when I tell you to?"

"Sure thing, Captain Bob." Matt gives him a sloppy salute that makes Bob wince when he nearly pokes himself in the eye, then leans up against Bob's side and says, "I'm ready," kind of breathy and soft.

Bob shakes off the shiver that snakes down his spine and tells Smith they're ready. He takes his P-90 in one hand and Matt in the other and as soon as the explosions start, he runs.

By the time they get to the jumper, Matt is pale and shaky and blood is seeping through the bandage on his arm. Bob has no choice but to shove him into Dr. Grant's hands and radio Smith, "We made it. Now get your ass back here."

"Yes, sir," Smith says and Bob can hear another bang and a roar, echoing through the radio and the forest at the same time.

Bob throws himself in his seat and fires up the jumper, so the minute Smith runs in the door, he's closing it up and taking off. Smith grins maniacally and takes the seat next to Bob. "Dr. Grant needn't have worried. I didn't hurt it. I think I just pissed it off."

"Good work, Smith," Bob says as the jumper lifts off the ground. The dinosaur takes a swipe at them as they fly off overhead and really, this planet can just go fuck itself.

***

On the trip back to Atlantis, the jumper is pretty much doing all the work so Bob leaves the pilot's seat and goes to the back for a minute. Skiba is stretched out on a bench seat with a blanket pulled up to his chin, eyes closed and mouth drawn into a tight thin line.

"How's he doing?" Bob asks Grant quietly.

Grant shrugs and says, "I changed the bandage, but I'll feel better after a doctor gets a look at him."

"You can talk to me," Skiba says suddenly, his eyes popping open and staring up at Bob. "I'm not asleep."

"I can see that now," Bob says dryly.

"Yeah, I don't sleep well alone." Skiba looks up at Bob from under his lashes and it should be utterly ridiculous. Bob swallows hard and lifts the blanket to look at the bandage.

"Looks like the bleeding's stopped. You probably still need stitches." Bob lets the blanket down gently and starts to move back to the cockpit, then says, "At least you'll have a pretty badass scar."

"It fucked up my ink," Skiba says with a mournful frown.

"I'm sorry," Bob says, sincerely. The black cat will look appropriately battle-hardened now, and maybe Skiba will come to appreciate that later.

"But hey, not many guys can say they have a dinosaur scar," Skiba says a little more cheerfully.

"It wasn't a dinosaur," Grant says quietly from across the jumper, but his heart doesn't seem to be in arguing it any more.

"Fuck off, Derek. It didn't exactly take the time to introduce itself." Skiba closes his eyes again. "Wake me when we get home."

***

Skiba insists on walking to the infirmary because, "There's nothing wrong with my legs. They are as lovely as ever."

Bob rolls his eyes and makes sure to stay within arm's reach in case Skiba passes out or gets dizzy from the blood loss. Smith follows along behind them like a man who's just out for a casual evening stroll, but the smirk he tries to hide whenever Bob looks at him says that he finds this all very entertaining.

When they walk into the infirmary and Dr. Urie rushes over to meet them, it all becomes a little clearer to Bob. Urie ushers Skiba over to a bed but looks over his shoulder and smiles at Smith. Smith grins back and there are practically cartoon birds and hearts flying around their heads. Subtlety: they are doing it wrong.

As Smith's superior, Bob ignores it, but as Smith's friend, he resolves to have a quiet off-duty chat about keeping things on the down low a little better.

"This is going to need some stitches," Urie says after he gets the bandage off. He glances at Skiba's tattoos and then smiles. "But I guess you're not afraid of needles, are you?"

"Nope. Penetrate me, Doctor," Skiba says with cheerfulness that seems strained, and when he glances at Bob with a smirk, there are lines of pain around his eyes.

"You need more morphine?" Bob asks, crossing his arms over his chest and looming behind Urie's shoulder. He doesn't have to be here but can't make himself leave yet either.

"I think morphine would be overkill at this point," Urie says dryly. He injects a local anesthetic into Skiba's arm and gives it a moment to work before he closes the wound with small neat stitches. "All done. Now we'll check out that shoulder and make sure there's no damage. Then we'll turn you loose." He turns to Bob and says, "You don't have to stay. I'm sure you have debriefings and reports to write."

Bob nods and turns to go, but Skiba calls out, "Don't forget the beer you promised me."

"Yeah, okay, when you're better."

"I'm already pretty damned good," Skiba says and laughs kind of low and dirty.

Bob walks out without looking back, when he realizes that he's alone, he sticks his head back in the door and says, "Smith!"

Smith joins him after one last lingering smile for Urie.

***

"I came for my beer," Skiba announces when Bob answers his door a few nights later.

Bob steps back and waves him in, shutting the door before going over to the little refrigerator in the corner. He pulls out a couple cans and hands one to Skiba before cracking open his own. "You're not on pain meds or antibiotics are you?"

"Nope, I'm clean and sober, and I'm here to hopefully change that." Skiba opens his can and takes a long guzzle and Bob doesn't watch the way his throat moves when he swallows. Bob doesn't do that anymore, doesn't even think about it. Except lately. Just since he's been working with Skiba. Fuck. Skiba lowers the can and swipes his tongue over his lips and Bob has to look away.

Leaning against his desk, Bob sips at his beer and watches Skiba wander around his little room before finally settling on the edge of the bed, stretching his long legs out across the floor until the tips of boots brush against Bob's. Something about Skiba makes him nervous, but Bob forces himself to stay still. "So. " Bob motions at Skiba's arm. "How are you?"

"Just a little sore. And not in a fun just-been-fucked kind of way." Skiba kills his beer and sets the empty can on the floor. "Don't suppose you'd want to help with that?"

Bob's eyebrows shoot up and his tongue gets stuck to the roof of his mouth. Did he just...really?

"Flirting's not working, so I figured I'd try a more direct approach."

"You...flirting? What?" Bob straightens up as Skiba gets to his feet and slowly comes closer, holding his hand out like you would with a skittish animal. "But I'm a Marine."

"Yeah, and that is fucking hot," Skiba says, his bright eyes pinning Bob in place as he gets right up in Bob's personal space. "Tell me no and I'll leave you alone."

"Skiba--" Bob shakes his head as all the things he's been repressing since before he came to Atlantis come rushing to the surface, all the desires and feelings that he knew weren't wrong but were inconvenient, and he can't. He can't fight it, can't just turn it off again, can't deny the attraction anymore. "I can't. I can't say no."

"Then you really should call me Matt."

Matt reaches for Bob and Bob opens his arms, and then they're too busy kissing for Bob to say anything at all.

 

The end.

 

Outtake #1:

Lorne hands out assignments and Lieutenant Wentz lets out a whoop when he gets his. Sergeant Stackhouse looks over and asks, "What'd you get?"

"Two botanists and a physicist--"

"That sounds like the set-up to a joke," cracks Captain Saporta. "Two botanists and a physicist walk into a bar..."

"It's no joke when the physicist in question is Dr. Stump." Wentz grins and literally pats himself on the back.

"If the botanists are Hurley and Trohman, you've got a fun day ahead," Schechter says and Bob has to agree. Those two get into more trouble than almost anyone except--

"You got Skiba and Grant?" Pete looks over Bob's shoulder and cackles. "Oh, man, I'm not the only one having an exciting day."

Schechter pats Bob on the shoulder as he stands to leave the room. He can afford to be sympathetic, since he's only going out to scout a Wraith hive ship.

 

***

Outtake #2:

 

Once he's got the fire going, Bob digs some jerky out of his pack. He offers some to Dr. Skiba who looks at it like it's roadkill.

"I'm a vegan. The only meat I put in my mouth is human." Skiba gives Bob a look that makes his meaning perfectly clear, but when Bob doesn't reply, he adds, "That means I suck dick."

Bob chokes on his own spit and after a minute of coughing, manages to say, "I got that, yeah."

Skiba pats him on the back and says, "Okay, just making sure."

Smith comes back to the camp, takes a long look at both of them, and asks, "So what'd I miss?"

"You don't want to know," Dr. Grant says, and what seems like most of the blood in Bob's body rushes to his face. He'd completely forgotten Grant was even there.