unadrift: (understand)
[personal profile] unadrift
Title: Talk Amongst Yourselves
Author: [personal profile] unadrift
Categories: Gen, humor. Daniel, Rodney, with mention of Sam/Jack
Rating: PG
Words: ~2500
Notes: Missing scene for First Contact, written for the Season 5 Tagathon on [livejournal.com profile] sga_episodefic, with spoilers for The Brotherhood and Progeny, and for the SG-1 episode Reckoning, Part 2.
This fic was last-minute beta'd by [livejournal.com profile] tacittype (Thank you!), and last-minute tinkered with by me, therefore all remaining mistakes are mine.

"This is familiar." Rodney's voice is a little higher than usual, Daniel notices. Other than that, there are no indicators for the patented McKay panic attack that is bound to hit Rodney at some point.

Daniel raises his eyebrows. "Really," he says. Because he has seen the craziest stuff himself, and he has been in the business much longer than Rodney, but this situation doesn't quite compare to anything that has happened to Daniel so far.

"Yes, of course," Rodney answers and waves his hand dismissively at their surroundings. "Well." He takes another look around. "Except for the fact that the cell wasn't triangular. And that it was bigger than this. And that it was of Ancient design." He pauses. "And of course there were other people there. More people. Elizabeth, Ronon, Teyla, John." Rodney swallows and takes a few steps to the far (not actually very far) end of their holding cell, studying the barrier again, careful not to touch it this time. "It wasn't this dark. Not nearly as dark as it is in here. And there was a different kind of barrier, not like this green laser show."

"But in every other way, it was exactly the same situation," Daniel deadpans.

"Uh-huh," Rodney answers absentmindedly, inspecting the ceiling. "Except that our captors were Replicators." He stops, then his head whips around, eyes widened in terror. "You don't think they're Replicators, do you? Because that would be bad. Very, very bad."

"Yeah, I know," Daniel agrees. "Extremely bad."

It must be either Daniel's expression, or it's the fact that Rodney has read (and maybe even memorized) the SGC report that paints a detailed picture of Daniel's untimely death-by-Replicator, or maybe it's a trick of the greenish light, that makes Rodney look kind of sympathetic. It's disconcerting, and it almost convinces Daniel that, by Rodney's assessment, they've got one foot in their early graves already. Daniel really, really hopes that isn't the case. Because he doubts that he will be able to play the Ascension card. Not again. And anyway, Jack would be so pissed if he did.

"No," Daniel says. "I don't think they're Replicators."

"But you can't be sure!" Rodney takes three quick steps and then he's up in Daniel's face again. "How can you be sure? Replicators can disguise themselves as virtually anything! Why not impersonate the Ironman? If I had to choose between all superheroes, the Ironman would be my first-- Well, maybe not my first choice, but it would definitely be amongst the top--"

Daniel marvels at Rodney's ability to drift completely off topic in the space of one sentence. With a start he realizes that this is how Jack must have felt all those years, when the rest of SG-1 had been talking military strategy to get them out of some literal or metaphorical shit hole, and Daniel had started arguing the finer points of ethical and moral conflict in their situation. He still stands behind his arguments, and most of the time the team had needed to hear the points, but now Daniel understands Jack's why the hell can't you just shut up for once face much better.

"Replicators don't need body armor," Daniel interrupts pointedly. "Building themselves bodies like that would be an impractical choice. Besides, the Replicators are--" Daniel almost says 'dead', but switches gears at the last moment and finishes with, "destroyed."

"That's what they always want us to think," Rodney mutters.

Secretly, Daniel agrees. "So," he says into the uncomfortable silence. "Can you do something about the force field?"

Rodney glares at him. "I'm expected to solve this in, what, thirty seconds?"

"That's a 'no' then."

"And it's really more of an energy barrier than a force field," Rodney continues and points a finger at him. "Before you ask, I can't explain the difference to you. I mean, I could. But you wouldn't understand."

"That's still a 'no', right?"

"Yes," Rodney grates out, "it's a 'no'. Satisfied?"

Daniel shrugs. "Not really. I know it's hard to believe, but I would actually prefer getting out of here to the chance of seeing you fail at something for once."

Rodney frowns at him, like he's trying to figure out whether he has just been handed an insult wrapped in a compliment, or if it's the other way round. Daniel isn't clear about that himself.

"There's nothing I can do from in here," Rodney finally explains, then indicates a wall beyond their cell. "I bet there's an access point behind that panel, but--"

"It's outside the barrier," Daniel finishes. "So, what now?"

"We wait for our horrible death," Rodney says glumly. "And this is not exactly a new and unique situation either."

"Right. It really isn't." Daniel flashes Rodney a humorless little smile.

Then, there is silence.

"Uh," Rodney says, shifting from foot to foot, with his eyes darting around the room, frantically and aimlessly. "How about a game of 'I spy'?"

Daniel slips off his glasses and rubs his eyes. "I'm going to pretend you just didn't say that."

"Okay. So, um," Rodney tries again. "How's Sam?"

"Good. Sam is good," Daniel answers. Talking. Talking is much better as distractions go. He slips the glasses back on and studies Rodney's face. Daniel has actually been waiting for the question. Rodney's obsessive and partly delusional attachment to Sam is legendary at the SGC. "She seems really happy with Jack. It's a long distance relationship, but they're making it work."

There is a pause. "Jack as in Jack O'Neill!?" Rodney's face is the epitome of disbelief and shock.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Rodney had obviously never taken note of the rumors that had been flying around at the SGC, much less stepped back and taken a good look at what happened right in front of his eyes. Admittedly, Rodney had never been around for long, but an hour or two in Sam and Jack's presence had usually been enough to clue most people in.

Daniel just can't resist. "Sam hooked up with Jack after we broke up," he explains with a shrug.

Rodney's expression grows even more horrified. Daniel is far too amused to take it personally.

"After Jack and I broke up, I mean," he adds with a straight face.

After that, Rodney looks like he's in serious danger of rupturing a blood vessel in his brain.

Daniel savors the moment. Then he grins and says, "You should see your face."

"Oh," Rodney says, relieved. "You're joking."

"Not entirely. Not about Sam and Jack."

Rodney frowns in dismay. Dismay, Daniel notes, not jealousy. "But-- But O'Neill is--"

"What?" Daniel asks. "Stupid? No. Not by a long shot. Jack could have been in Mensa, too."

Their eyes meet, and they're both laughing again. Loudly, with gasps and giggles, until Daniel is holding his side. The extreme reaction is probably due to their highly stressful situation, Daniel knows. But that doesn't make it less funny.

"Can you imagine either of them at a Mensa meeting?" Rodney asks, between hiccuping breaths.

Daniel really can't. "Jack would be bored out of his mind. He wouldn't make it for fifteen minutes." He pauses. "Except if there were pie. In Jack's book, pie would make it all worth it."

"Pie, huh?" Rodney considers this. "John would agree. And if there were any speed racers, jet pilots, football players, golfers, or fairground owners around, he'd be in heaven. Not that that's likely."

"Er," Daniel says. "I'm almost afraid to ask."

"John likes Ferris Wheels," Rodney explains with a wave of his hand. "He's weird like that."

Daniel nods understandingly, since he is kind of used to weirdness in Air Force colonels.

"You know," Rodney says thoughtfully, "Mensa meetings really could do with more pie. Everything can be improved by adding pie."

"I wish Jack could hear you now. He'd approve."

"General O'Neill doesn't like me. He--" Rodney freezes for a moment. "Ha!" he shouts triumphantly. "It all makes sense now! He was jealous of me!"

"Um," Daniel says. "I hope Jack is never going to hear you say that."

"No, really, think about it. He must have been worried about my special bond with Sam. We're connected on a level that is beyond comprehension for anyone without in-depth knowledge on timespace fluctuations near the event horizon of an active wormhole."

Daniel knows enough about Rodney's 'special bond with Sam' that he has to struggle to keep a straight face. "I'll just take your word for it, then," he says, and the sarcasm bounces off Rodney without any effect. "I wouldn't mention your conclusions in front of Jack, though," he adds. Daniel secretly hopes Rodney will mention them at some point, and that he can be around to watch the reaction, and maybe record it for posterity.

"Okay," Rodney says reluctantly. "Since she's no longer on the market, anyway."

This is Rodney, bowing to Daniel's expertise. Sort of. Daniel tries not to feel like he has just scored a few points in some competition somewhere, because that would be a very Rodney thing to do.

"I need to sit down," Rodney suddenly decides. "Who knows how long this is going to take."

He lowers himself to the floor, then starts tugging on Daniel's sleeve. "I need a backrest. Get down here."

Daniel sighs. Getting off his feet seems like a good idea, so he does as ordered. Rodney squirms against Daniel's back until he's comfortable, which takes roughly an eternity. Then Rodney lets his head fall back.

"Ow," Daniel says and rubs the back of his own head. "Really. Ow."

"Don't be such a wuss," Rodney says over his shoulder. Daniel very nearly laughs out loud. Back to back, Rodney can probably feel him shake with suppressed laughter. "What?" he asks. "What?!"

"Nothing," Daniel says quickly. "Tell me about Colonel Sheppard's sudden displays of surprising intelligence. You get those too, don't you?"

"Uh-huh. Except that they're not quite so surprising anymore. Not to me anyway. For example, he's quite good at chess. Annoyingly random sometimes, but not half bad. And he's the only person on Atlantis who's willing and able to play prime/not prime with me."

Daniel lets that sink in for a moment. "Er," he asks carefully, "is that a euphemism?"

"What? No! It means that John is very good with numbers, and that he's enough of a challenge to make it fun to play math games with him, and that for some reason he seems to enjoy doing so. With me."

Even if his life depended on it, Daniel couldn't think of a reason why. "You said it yourself."

Daniel feels the movement of what must have started out as a nod against his back. "John is just weird that way," Rodney finishes. "But he really is bright. He solved a math puzzle on a mission once, with the threat of immediate death hanging over our heads. Granted, it was an easy puzzle. Well, not that easy, since I hadn't been able to figure it out before--"

And then Rodney is in the process of telling a convoluted twenty minute version of a story he could probably have told in five. After that, he drifts off into the topic of 'How John never sees it coming', which has Daniel alternately grinning and wincing in sympathy. "Not to forget the time where John thought he did see it coming," Rodney says, amused. "It turned out she really just wanted him to demonstrate hand-to-hand techniques to her. She ended up demonstrating them to him. The shiner was visible for a week. That was fun."

"Sam gave Jack a black eye once," Daniel says, and then he thinks: Oops. Because it happened during the The Mission They Do Not Talk About. Ever.

Naturally, this draws Rodney's interest. "Really? I would have paid good money to see that. What happened?"

"I can't tell you."

"What do you mean, you can't tell me?" Rodney sounds almost insulted.

"I was sworn to secrecy. I'd be a dead man if I talked." And Daniel would be. Sam would hunt him down mercilessly. Not even hiding in another galaxy would save him, especially if he spilled the beans to Rodney, of all people.

"Oh, come on. What do you think John is going to do to me if he finds out that I--" Rodney's voice fades away as realization seems to hit him. "Um, you're not going to tell John, are you?"

Daniel waits a beat longer than necessary, then assures Rodney, "No, I'm not."

"Okay, then," Rodney says, relieved. "Now, quid pro quo, Daniel."

It's only fair, so Daniel tells him.

"Oh my god," Rodney wheezes afterwards, trying to catch his breath. "Really? 'What's the harm?' O'Neill really said that?"

"If memory serves, the full quote was, 'What's the harm? Women have taken their clothes off in front of an audience for centuries.' I think it was supposed to be funny."

"After a mission like that, no wonder Sam punched him in the face." Rodney sounds satisfied and a little proud, in a brotherly way. "I have to admit, I expected a drugged-out, accidental fistfight kind of story. But this? Is just awesome."

"Awesome?" Daniel asks, grinning.

"Yes," Rodney says, and Daniel can easily imagine him rolling his eyes now. "Since it involved Sam Carter without any clothes whatsoever, and Sam Carter delivering a solid punch to Jack O'Neill, this story is awesome enough for me to keep quiet about it and save your miserable life. What happens on mystery abductor planet, slash space station, slash ship--"

"Stays on mystery abductor planet, slash space station, slash ship," Daniel agrees.

In a strange way, they seem to have-- bonded, a little, somehow. The thought isn't half as reassuring as Daniel would have expected it to be. Because this is Rodney McKay. Daniel was perfectly fine disliking the guy for being the pompous ass that he is. Instead, Rodney proves to be kind of human, in a strangely comforting, yet annoying way. For the first time Daniel realizes that Rodney is in a situation similar to the one Daniel had found himself in less than ten years ago.

Daniel had learned the hard way. Rodney is well down that road, too. He seems to be taking the scenic route, though.

Rodney clears his throat. "Once we've figured out what it is they want from me, I should be able to--"

"Hold on," Daniel interrupts. "Why are you so sure that it's your cooperation they want?"

Rodney barks out a short laugh, then the lack of response registers. "Seriously?" He asks, incredulous. Daniel can feel him try to twist his head around to look over his shoulder. "What could they possibly want from you?"

Daniel sighs. Even though he really wants to strangle Rodney now, or maybe because of it, he suddenly feels one hell of a lot better. He can still dislike Rodney McKay. This probably means that Rodney is still brilliant, too.

Between them, they're going to figure something out.

- end -

Not Quite Fair Play (tag for 5x09) // Something You Don't Know (tag for 5x11)

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