A Slightly Different Quality of Light
Rodney finds the memory of it during the third week, between sifting through Sheppard's apparently encyclopedic and unending mental filodex of airplanes, like he stole and ate a copy of Jane's register. There are B52 bombers in perfect, linear detail, yellow, clean lines against a background of black like a 3D model in Maya, brain ticking in slope and shape and the way a shadow would fall on the curves. There are sense memories of Apaches and Blackhawks, all the planes and helicopters John has known intimately--like a lover. John has tucked away knowledge of their changes and improvements along with their flaws and personality ticks, a tendency to be stubborn or flirtatious or a little too reckless, like children or people that John has known--and Rodney realizes it with a smirk as he digs through miles of coded images, scrambled text.
Rodney is being distracted and astounded and comforted by John's memories of the puddlejumpers, their humming blue consoles and eager rise, their pushing and squalling jealousy for attention, the way that the flank of the ship felt underneath John's hands when there's a sudden flash--a short--a shift--
Rodney finds himself in an entirely different organic file tree, with miles and miles of memories laid out like the world's largest puzzle, and for a second Rodney thinks, "Oh, thank God--I'm finally in," and in the next he thinks, "Holy shit, what do we do now? " but that's all playing second fiddle to the feel of a sphere under John's hands, the cool edge of a table.
The hundred million sensory perceptions and mental processes that Rodney has always intellectually known the mind put away for store in temporary folders or permanent gray matter are flooding the computer monitors. Rodney watches in mute awe as he sees John process everything: from the exact temperature of the room to the smell of the air (a little like sun, more like ocean, because everything in Atlantis is gritty with salt and the fresh, snapping smell of the sea) to the way he sees Rodney, in the very same practical curves and lines but with a very slightly different quality of light--and that alone changes everything.
This is how John remembers it:
Rodney turns, and waves his hand dismissively. He says, "We think it might be some kind of Ancient moveable harddrive. It has nearly unlimited storage capacity, but it won't interface with any technology we've got--and it totally ignores all of the Ancient stuff."
John is rolling the ball in his hands, and it is warm and pale pink, the color of the webbing between his fingers and John thinks for a second about holding hands and how Madeline Brown's hands had looked with his own, two delicate shell-curves of pink and clumsy thumbs and then John smiles vaguely in memory because that, like most of them, ended badly. He is watching Rodney watch a laptop screen and for just a single, interminable second, John thinks:
But it's good to remember things. Even when they go badly.
And then the world blanks out into an oblivion of information overload. John sees, for a single split second, every single atom in Atlantis, every piece of information and stream of data, every problem and interface and the answer to every single mystery--the full weight of a city and its people and its 10,000 year old history and then he sees nothing at all because it's being pulled out of him, like a black hole draining a star.
This is how Rodney remembers it:
"What's this?" John asks.
Rodney turns, and waves his hand dismissively. He says, "We think it might be some kind of Ancient moveable harddrive. It has nearly unlimited storage capacity, but it won't interface with any technology we've got--and it totally ignores all of the Ancient stuff."
He watches John turn the sphere from the corner of his eyes and admires the clean lines of John's hands. Rodney has always liked John's hands. He'd like them more if they'd--
And the thought cuts off because John is suddenly falling, the sphere dropping with a deep, metallic clunk onto the ground and rolling under a counter while John crumples like every bone in his body has suddenly melted away. Rodney falls to his knees next to John, whose eyes are open and wide and completely blank and when he presses his shaking hands to John's heart, his neck, his face, he finds a heartbeat and nothing--absolutely--nothing else.
It took four hours and a dozen Atlantis terminals, married to government issue laptops and run on networking cables to act as data receptors and nothing else to store the wealth of things that poured out, and so much was already lost that by the time Rodney figured out what had happened he breaks down in a bathroom for sixteen whole minutes, thinking, "What if John forgets flying? What if John forgets Atlantis? What if John forgets himself?"
John's very first memory, the one Rodney finds after he goes through six separate data terminals--all of which he has relocated to a roomy lab with lots of windows--is of the sky. It is blue and shocking and heartbreakingly close, and Rodney sees the way the golden shimmer of the sun fractures between John's small, meaty fingers as he reaches out toward it, to the endlessness of it. It's all blue and drowning and huge until he sees the hazel of a woman's eyes, the soft brown curtain of hair, the pale, pale skin on the inside of a soft arm and the sky is put away for the moment, set aside like many other dreams Rodney thinks that he will find here.
Elizabeth had been furious. Radek had been furious. Rodney had been furious.
Kavanagh had said, "He should have been more careful, frankly, I'm not surprised that something like this happened--what with the namby-pamby, ham-fisted way that McKay and Sheppard have their little Let's Play With Unidentified Ancient Devices club meeting once a--"
Ronon had made sure Kavanagh didn't say anything else by punching him, which gave him a gold star in Rodney's book, a scowl and a reprimand from Elizabeth, and a handful of gauze and an X-ray from Carson. Teyla actually gave Ronon a pat on the back .
"So lay this out for me," Elizabeth had said.
Radek had said, "Apparently, it is experimental memory device. It--what is word?"
Rodney had said, "It's a parasitic piece of crap!"
He had said, "It drains the person's head completely!"
He had snapped, "The best I can guess it was used either against the will or in last ditch moments, to save data or steal it, only it's got this one beautiful flaw that it hit's control X instead of control C and pools the data into the larger subcategory of city memory store!"
Elizabeth said, "So what does that mean?"
"That means," Radek had answered quietly, looking at the twelve terminals, slapdash with wires going everywhere, the rush apparent even in the aftermath, because Rodney had recognized one thing and then another and then he'd started shouting and waving his hands, "Colonel Sheppard is inside all of these terminals with all of Atlantis."
Elizabeth had gone white.
One of John's later memories, lost in the indistinct nebula that is his years as a toddler, is of his father's five o'clock shadow, warm and scratchy on John's forehead, the way lips pressed to his temple. Rodney just watches the whole thing, the way that Ancient code translates into shoddy video and sometimes sound and feels so amazingly loved that Rodney plays the memory over and over again--and when he finally forces himself to stop he restores it to the sphere with such carefulness that his hands shake as he presses the keys.
It's a slow process, but at least Rodney is comfortable with the experimental design.
When boiled down to its most essential, it's very simple: Rodney downloaded the contents of the sphere, which has perfect recall but no delineation between one upload and the next. This means that all of John is mixed in with all of Atlantis, which has been swirling in this orb for God knows how long, waiting and treacherous, and that now the two are mingled like yearning souls--as if Atlantis feels one of its own even in molecular desire, the weak and strong forces between electrons.
The six terminals where Atlantis and John are stored are run on several different power sources, and in a move which was controversial but ultimately approved by Elizabeth, Rodney had hooked them up to the ZPM because they can lose the naquadah generators, they can lose backups, they can lose almost anything but they cannot lose John.
John knows how to dance: waltz and foxtrot and cha-cha, and Rodney feels his feet tapping out the steps as ghosts of the music float through the room. When John's mind slips from a fumbled quickstep into a tango Rodney stops, astounded, and just watches as a dance hall shakes around John, pushes and pulls and promenades around the room. Rodney can feel the hands of a woman on his shoulders, in his own palm, the delicate bones of her fingers and the slim curve of her collarbone, the proud arch of her neck.
She's not pretty, Rodney sees, but she's beautiful dancing, and for the first time ever, Rodney understands that, and he cannot help but feel a huge, huge smile break out over his face as he watches John walk her into the center of the room, feel her thigh against his own.
Rodney is fierce about privacy, bites out responses to people who question this and growls freely.
Lots of other people offer to help but Rodney declines, he says he's come up with formulas, and he has, so that all but the most intricate slivers of Atlantean systems and history are all mathematically differentiated.
"You're being stubborn," Elizabeth says, dropping off a tray of food and coffee.
She's frowning and the crease between her eyes is deepening every day, like the lines around her mouth. She will always be a beautiful woman but Atlantis will write on her, like it writes on John and Rodney and everybody else: in scars and bruises and like a brand. Rodney thinks that if and when they ever leave, he will always feel the city written all over him: a blueprint in flesh.
"I am, for once," Rodney snaps, pulling the coffee to his mouth, "being thoughtful. I figure that the fewer the people who know about the deepest, darkest secrets of one John Sheppard the less likely he is to kill us when we get him back to normal."
Elizabeth almost smiles at this. "Why, Rodney."
He holds up a quelling hand. "Don't even start with me," he warns.
"I'm already done," she demurs, and leaves the room after she presses a hand to Rodney's shoulder.
He turns back to the terminal.
John lost his virginity with a man, which is part of what Rodney figures he doesn't want to become common or even scientist knowledge.
His team may be sort of discrete and properly cowed by now but they are human and Rodney can only frighten them so many hours of the day. He doesn't like the idea of everybody whispering about John and some scumbag named Noel--and what the hell kind of Bible Belt white bread name was that, anyway?--when he was fourteen. It was awkward and strange and sticky and painful and Rodney feels it rush over him like an adolescent wave, and when he manages to open his eyes again, Noel's licking John's heaving chest with a smug smile on his face.
Rodney knows assholes like Noel: thirty-year-old queers who prey on confused kids and tell them they're pretty and so cute. Rodney was neither, and he hates pedophiles.
Rodney's itching for a fight. He thinks that when they go back to Earth again he's going to drive down to Florida and knock on doors until he finds Noel Harrison and then punch him in the motherfucking mouth and say:
"You were supposed to teach him math ."
All the large scale labor is done, so now Rodney is just going through all of the data--one organic file to the next, reading and watching and sometimes he can almost feel and smell and taste the things John did and waits for the soothing blue shock of Ancient binary to disrupt the flow.
It takes collapsing during a senior staff meeting before Rodney admits feebly that he's been hoarding powerbars and essentially living in the lab. He thinks he should be insulted when Radek comments acidly that he should have figured it out sooner--the entire science team has been so much happier recently.
"This is not going to work, Rodney," Elizabeth says. "You can't do this by yourself."
"Don't be ridiculous," Rodney says around a huge piece of chicken. He's eating six days worth of food in the infirmary, Carson watching him with a vaguely disgusted expression.
"You have to let somebody help you," Elizabeth insists.
"You complimented me on my discretion!" Rodney protests.
She stares at him hard. "The situation has changed," she says, and her voice is softly diplomatic.
Rodney rolls his eyes. "I'm sure the Colonel will be overjoyed that you're trying to turn the contents of his entire brain into the Saturday afternoon Atlantis movie matinee," Rodney snaps.
Elizabeth narrows her eyes at him. "Rodney, I understand your concern, I do , but I have to make a judgment call here--and the best thing for John and for you is to share the burden.
There's something mean and biting welling up inside Rodney's chest at the thought of Radek or God forbid, Kavanagh carding through John's head. There are of course, all the obvious problems of Radek's big, Czech mouth and Kavanagh's inability to fake basic human decency , but more than that, Rodney has been in John's head long enough now to know that the reason John's so good at sticking up for everybody in the whole fucking universe is because nobody ever stuck up for him.
That's the problem with intimacy. Once you've gotten comfortable in somebody else's skin, you start thinking of it as your own, and John is Rodney's now. Rodney's project and Rodney's team leader and Rodney's friend and Rodney's distraction--in every possible sense of the word.
Rodney's crap at relationships and he's a cat person by default and not inclination, but he's vicious about his great loves: science, innovation, being right.
He thinks that he's learning to be mean about the littler ones, too, because John is the closest thing to a best friend Rodney has ever had, and this is a fight Rodney's going to win.
"You must be getting altitude sickness from your moral high ground ," Rodney sneers, and Elizabeth almost manages to hide how much it stings.
"Rodney, I know you're angry, I understand that," she reassures him, hands open in a gentling move.
Rodney stands up, points at her. He says, "I'm not backing down." He's tired and he's pissed off and this is wasting time. "You if you want to stop me, you can throw me in the brig--but I'm losing minutes here and Carson doesn't even know what this is doing to Colonel Sheppard so you sit there while I go back to work."
He's so jittery from the rush of escape that he doesn't come down off of it until three hours later, locked into his lab, listening to several Marines half-heartedly attempt to break through his impenetrable security measures.
John's first bike was a red ten-speed, extravagant and beyond his parents' means, really, but John was their favorite, their only, the best thing they ever did together, and Rodney feels all of this even if John doesn't seem to consciously register it. He feels instead the plastic pedals beneath his feet, the handlebars in his sweaty palms, the way light glints off of the shimmering, metallic paint, and sunbursts overhead. There is green grass and sprinklers and houses in military, cookie-cutter rows. Finally, there is, when Rodney-- John , it's John --turns a corner, the outrageous red and orange of a huge beach umbrella, under which a smiling woman with brown hair and enormous sunglasses sits. She waves and John waves back and Rodney feels a sudden sense of belonging so powerful he has to step away for a moment, disengage.
"How long is this going to take, Rodney?" Carson asks, concerned, wringing his hands.
Rodney says, "Soon--soon. I'm working on this nearly twenty-four hours. Atlantis is on stand-down. We should be fine. Two weeks. Three weeks, tops."
Carson winces. He says, "Hurry, Rodney," and shuffles away again.
They're keeping John in a quiet, private hospital room. He's turned several times a day to avoid bed sores and Carson gives him eye drops and keeps his wrist and ankle restraints loose. John seems to have maintained all critical reflexive functions--he breathes, his heart beats, his hair is still ridiculous. He is pale and thin and brittle-looking, vacant when his eyes are open and morbidly peaceful when they are not. Carson can't explain why John sometimes will open his eyes, or why if he can do that he can't turn his head or eat. They have him on a nutrient drip and he's once again on intimate terms with a catheter, and when Rodney's not working on putting together John's mind, he's mostly sitting at John's bedside bitching at him about the ordeal.
"You could really file your memories better," Rodney whines. "Your whole brain is like one huge, cross-referenced crapshoot. Sure, it's kind of interesting to see that you connect any and all memories of sailing with Post-it notes--and I'm going to ask you about that one, as soon as you wake up--but it's starting to get old."
Rodney doesn't buy into the mumbo jumbo about coma patients being able to hear, and anyway, John's basically an empty jar at the moment.
Still, he leans in to whisper, "Don't worry. I'm not telling. But just for future reference? 'You're so pretty' is not a pick-up line you want to keep falling for."
John's first time flying is in a helicopter over an army base. Rodney sees the tiny, boring houses John has always known grow inward, turn into tiny dots, and for a second his breath catches the way John's did, his heart pounds and his skin flushes, blood rushing to the surface for more contact, more weightlessness, and he goes dizzy and light. Rodney--for just a moment--understands, and he cannot help but to press his palm against the screen of the console, to try and touch the sky John remembers in his bones and his skin, stretched out like the most perfect infinity just within reach.
The end of the third week is when Rodney finds John's first love: sunshine yellow and sweet. John is stubbornly indiscriminate in his lovers: laughing boys and smiling girls and women with a mystery in the curves of their mouths--the smile is what reels him in, wit with an edge. Rodney thinks it's strange that while he's carding through images of a girl with red hair and fair skin, a dash of freckles across her nose, green, green eyes, all Rodney can see is the summertime burn of lemonade. The tang and sweet of something he's never tasted--and he tries not to die of irony at that.
He closes his eyes and lets the memory of it wash over him, the drowsy haze of it, the way the kisses taste, and he slips--by accident, it must be an accident--and just lets the warmth of it wrap around him, to let it sink into his skin and muscle and bone, to love and be loved so well by John Sheppard--without any regrets or hesitation.
When Rodney opens his eyes to find himself lying on the floor of the lab, staring up at the ceiling. He throws an arm over his and feels hot tears slide down his face because it's not real--none of it is real and none of it is his, and Rodney thinks he knows the other half of Elizabeth's concern now.
Rodney gets up off of the floor and wipes his face with his sleeves and tells himself that this is no worse than watching John's puddlejumper disappear off their monitor that first time and knowing it was his bomb that sent John on his way, no worse than watching John dying through a grainy video feed.
He burns through ten years of John's life--snatches of smells and the taste of salt on skin and sand gritty on his knees, on scrapes in his palms, blood, and sky --before he wakes up to realize he's in the infirmary, strapped down to a one of the beds, hooked up to an IV, monitors beeping softly around him. And in the next bed over in the quiet, dark room, is John, eyes still closed in death-like sleep.
"You know better, Rodney," Carson tells him gently, later, when he comes in with a tray of food for Rodney, to check on John's feeding tube. And Rodney's so tired--feels it wrapped around his ankles like a chain--that he can't even remember the words to argue. "Elizabeth had Radek break into the lab and you were in a state--terribly dehydrated. You can't fool around with your health like that, lad."
"How's the colonel?" Rodney manages to say, looking blearily over at John.
"He'll keep," Carson says firmly. "And before you ask: yes. Elizabeth's divvied up the work between Radek and Simpson, with their signed confidentiality and highest confidence."
Rodney puts his hands over his face, tries not to let out the noise that sounds like a sob.
"You did your best, Rodney," Carson tells him. "But an entire life--that's too much for one man to manage. No one faults you."
Rodney wants to say that's not true, that he would spend the rest of his life in Sheppard's head if he could, drowning in the comfort of knowing and finally understanding and to taste love like the burn of sun and sweetness and stars--whether or not it's his to know. But what he really wants to say, and what he won't, Rodney knows, is that he doesn't want anybody else to know, anybody else to feel the way Rodney does now--this, whatever it is, is his .
Rodney thinks that Carson must be slipping him drugs to keep him so docile so long, and it's on the third day after his disgrace--after John's taken away from him--that Radek's finally allowed in for a visit. And when he shuffles into the room, Rodney knows immediately something is wrong, that this was a mistake, that he should have fought to go back the moment he woke up in the infirmary, kicked everybody else out of the labs.
"Well? What?" Rodney snarls. "Have you caused irrevocable damage?"
Radek scowls at him. "It is good to see you, too, McKay. Your star burns bright in my heart."
"Yes, hilarious, sarcasm in the face of a crisis with a time element," Rodney snaps. "You keep making your little jokes while I help the nurses turn John to prevent bed sores--go!"
Rolling his eyes, Radek leans back in one of the uncomfortable visitor's chairs and gives John a look--it's at once affectionate and protective and Rodney feels a flare of jealousy so intense he can taste acid on the back of his tongue.
"Between Simpson and I," Zelenka says finally, "we are mostly done. Only most recent memories--three years, I think--remain."
Rodney closes his eyes and leans back on the bed. "Good," he says, and even he knows he's not masking the bitterness in his voice very well. "Then I imagine you'll be done by evening?"
"No," Radek says easily. "Simpson and I agreed it would not be appropriate."
Blinking, Rodney sits up to stare at Zelenak. "Excuse me?"
"Colonel has higher security clearance than we do," Zelenka says. "We do not feel comfortable."
Narrowing his eyes, Rodney says, "That's a lie."
"Yes," Radek admits easily, standing up. He gives a reassuring squeeze to Rodney's shoulder and a tight smile. "But it will work--come back to the lab. We do not wish to intrude more than we already have."
John's last memory before Atlantis is of a guy with blurry features at McMurdo, his hands sliding down John's sides and making short work of his fly, sucking John down, greedy. No finesse, going for a speed record, and Rodney can nearly feel the soft, fine hair that John has clutched in his fingers when he comes with a jerk, like somebody's kicked out his knees. He tries not to think about Zelenka and Simpson and all they might have seen, if they got flushed and hot and felt want the way Rodney does, tries to focus on sorting John away, putting all his pieces in the right places, slotting them together.
John thinks Atlantis is a suicide mission; he's been bullied into going, and Rodney is sorry for that--sorry that whoever had forced his hand hadn't told him the whole truth, let him know the hugeness of possibility in the Stargate, as huge as John's favorite sky.
The first time Rodney sees himself in John's memory is a wordless shock:
It's a misplaced thought--far too early in the order of things, but the color orange makes John think of Rodney and so suddenly Rodney sees himself: raving and ranting and waving his hands at the scientists, insults blending into white noise until he sees himself turning around, eyes blue and large. John says something and Rodney sees himself smiling, coming away from the lab, sees from John's view the grateful and amused-indulgent smiles on the faces of his team.
But it's the rush of affection, the enormous fondness that makes him breathless. It's like a punch to the gut, and Rodney watches it over and over and over again before he finally sets it away, savoring it like chocolate melting away on his tongue.
And that helpless warmth turns into helpless laughter when he realizes why orange = Rodney as he finally finds John in the chair for the first time, John and Atlantis stroking fingers across one another the first time, and sees himself, wide-eyed and astonished--in a fluorescent orange fleece.
"Oh, Jesus," Rodney moans, thinking about first impressions.
It's the day after--after Atlantis rising and the sheer childlike joy of shoving Rodney off of a balcony, after the storm and John's heart-rending hurt at his people being injured, at Atlantis being taken away from him--that completely by accident Rodney finds something else. It is small and shy and tentative and it feels like sun through the fog. It translates into a line of code that's strange and brief, that Rodney can't quite decipher, either in the view machine or in programming or even as it's being moved back into the repository, that brief flash unyielding.
That night, body unclenching as he's clearing the last of the Atlantis files out of John's most recent memories--mostly in order although pockmarked and separated strangely from sudden inclusions of Atlantis' city schematics, information about the desalinization tanks, a thousand different monitors that have rushed into the space occupied by John's feelings for the city.
The way John feels about Atlantis translates into the deep blue of ocean where light doesn't filter in, swallowing and huge and steady, still: John is unwavering in his devotion, constantly aware, and the shimmers in it make Rodney shiver. He can't understand how John feels about Atlantis, how Atlantis feels about John--but to be so close to it makes Rodney feel small and curious and grateful that Atlantis loves somebody here among them, that she'll protect them, if only to protect John.
But in the background there has been a steady, sweet hum that Rodney keeps finding, threading its way through everything, murmuring more loudly when John remembers Rodney. He finally isolates it as the city is brightening slowly into morning, while Rodney is doing last minute checks, and when he takes the continuous line of it, plays it back and forth and over again so he can feel that burst of sun--and it grows and grows and grows.
It's different than the shock of lemons, tempered with all the soft edges that Rodney remembers, melted faintly the color orange--but Rodney knows this, Rodney knows what this means, and he has to put his head down and take deep breaths for a long time, a voice murmuring in wordless gratitude in his head.
The actual process of transferring everything back into John's body is anticlimactic.
The month-long coma seems like an afterthought once the repository is pressed into John's unmoving hands, when Rodney notes with his EM monitors that the transfer has worked and Carson has noted with his own monitors that John is still healthy. They won't know exactly what John has lost until he's woken up--but Rodney doesn't remember seeing anything of Japan, where he knows John spent a few months as a child, only remembers snatches of Afghanistan.
(But Rodney made sure of the flying, memorized John's service jacket and referenced it, double-checked that John hadn't lost a single helicopter in the process, even if he's lost three countries he visited as a child.)
"It'll be a while," Carson warns, when Rodney takes up a post at John's bedside. "His body's been through a tremendous amount of stress--and we still don't know the long-term ramifications of this."
Rodney shakes his head. "If I'm tired, I'll crash out on the next cot over," he promises. "I just don't want him to wake up alone."
Carson's smile softens. "That confident in a job well done, are you?" Carson jokes.
He's giving himself away again, Rodney knows, but he can't help the smile that creeps across his mouth.
Beckett's smile goes from fond to amused. "I see," he says, and slipping his hands into his pockets, says, "Well then, don't overtax yourself--I'll be in my office if you need me."
Rodney waves him off, distracted and unconcerned, settles into the chair to watch John sleep, to see the color seep back into his too-pale skin. They have all the time in the world.
This is how Rodney will remember it when John finally wakes up:
He sees John stirring and reaches out to slip John's hand into his own, and when John opens his eyes--blurry, confused, groggy--Rodney puts his free hand on John's forehead, stroking, soothing. He says, "Hey there--long time no see."
"Where was I?" John asks, sounding far away.
"Here," Rodney tells him, voice soft. "You were here. I had you."
John's eyes are already closing again when he says, "Good. Good."
(This is how John will remember it when he finally wakes up:
He sees first a crack of light, a shiver of awareness that makes him open his eyes slowly into the dimness of the room. He feels fingers in his own, papery and cool, a hand on his forehead, brushing his hair away from his brow. He smells Rodney before he sees him: coffee and white board markers and the faint sweetness of the Atlantean washers. "Hey there," Rodney says, "long time no see."
John can't remember what happened or where it happened, but he feels like he has been gone for a long time, so he asks, "Where was I?"
"Here," Rodney promises him. "You were here. I had you."
Oh , John thinks, and lets himself rest again. He's really very tired; he doesn't know why.
But it feels good to have Rodney so nearby, like a wash of warm water across his skin, so he doesn't worry about it. Rodney had him; he must be all right. So John only says, "Good. Good," because he means it, and lets the dark take him back--safe, deep, listening to Rodney by his bed, the sound of his breathing, the stroke of Rodney's thumb along the back of John's hand.)
Author's Notes: Much gratitude must go to to Pentapus for braving the edit of a story she referred to as "The Ancient marble that ate John's brain" story -- which, to be fair, is pretty much the plot. This story turned out to be...if not very different than what I anticipated, at least a step to the left; the original draft in my head was much darker, but it's SGA, and I can never really deny them a happy ending. — Pru (1/31/2007)