With Friends Like These
Top Secret Security Clearance Application:
Lorelai Leigh Gilmore
Department of Air Force Civilian (DAFC), Cheyenne Mountain.Character Reference Interview
Name: Paris Gellar, MD
Relationship: College roommate
"Now, Miss Gellar--"
Gellar," the young woman snapped. "I've been certified since last week. I can't believe Rory didn't put that on the forms!"
"We received Miss Gilmore's paperwork two weeks ago, Dr. Gellar." The FBI agent adjusted the papers in front of him. "Since Miss Gilmore listed you as a character reference for her application for security clearance, I assume she told you that we will be asking you questions on your relationship with her."
Dr. Gellar, a woman with the given name of Paris, glared suspiciously at the man. "She said it was in a civilian position, so what do her relationships matter?"
"We don't necessarily mean that sort of relationship, ma'am." The agent made a note on his papers. "But perhaps you can start by telling me about that."
"We didn't have a relationship
," Paris said hastily. "We were friends in high school. And roommates in college."
"Of course it is!" Paris frowned. "I suppose she told you about those kisses, didn't she? Well, the first was part of a high school English project and the second was a sociological experiment."
In spite of himself, the man's pen slowed, then stopped. "You and Miss Gilmore kissed because of a high school English project?"
"I was Romeo and she was Juliet. And while there is nothing wrong with an alternative lifestyle," Paris added quickly, "I'm completely heterosexual, even taking the Kinsey Effect into account. Ask Doyle."
"Doyle McMaster, your boyfriend of several years?"
"Yes." Paris edged forward in her chair. "Wait, how did you know that?"
"From Miss Gilmore."
"Man, Rory can't keep her mouth shut!"
The man flipped over a page. "Does Miss Gilmore often speak freely? Perhaps too freely?"
"Of course not!" Paris crossed her arms over her chest, defensive. The agent wrote something down. "She's like any good reporter, she gathers information and writes a good story on the facts."
"You were her editor on your high school paper and on the college paper in Yale, is that correct?"
"Yes. What does that have to do with anything?"
"Did you often assign Miss Gilmore stories of a political nature? Did she suggest to you that she cover such stories?"
"Some of both." Paris narrowed her eyes at the man. "Is this some kind of political witch-hunt? Just because the girl's been talking about voting Democrat since she was sixteen doesn't mean that she's a national security risk! She's even a Daughter of the American Revolution!"
The man laid down his pen. "Dr. Gellar, we are only interested in the truth. This is not a witch-hunt. We are tasked with bringing in a complete profile of the individual. I was under the impression that Miss Gilmore had explained this to you before you agreed to act as a character reference."
"She did," Paris admitted. "But I..." She cleared her throat. "Fine. Go on with your questions."
The man inclined his head and picked up his pen once more. "In the time that you have known her, has Miss Gilmore demonstrated any changes in personality?"
Paris considered. "You said that you want honesty?"
"We do, Dr. Gellar."
"Fine. When she met Logan Huntzberger, she told you about him?" Without waiting for a response, Paris went on. "She went a little Britney Spears loco, stealing a boat and dropping out of Yale for a semester and living in her grandparents' pool house, talk about low expectations. But she finally came to her senses and came back to Yale."
"Do you know what prompted this change?"
Paris looked left, then right, then leaned across the table. "My therapist said that it was a combination of too-high expectations combined with self-esteem problems and problems with older men in a position of authority. The girl's got daddy issues."
"Can you give me specifics?"
"Mitchell Huntzberger, Logan's father, told her she wasn't good reporter. I've said that to her at least three times over the years and she always ignored me, but oh no, Daddy Huntzberger apparently knew something I didn't, and she listened to him." Paris slumped back in her seat. "If Rory's father had been around when she was growing up, it's unlikely she'd have bothered to listen. Anyway, it set her off. Would she listen to me when I told her she was stupid for dropping out of Yale for a year? No."
The agent continued to write as Paris nattered on. When she stopped for breath, he moved on in the line of questioning.
"Can you tell me about Miss Gilmore's spending habits since you have known her?" Do you know where she got her money?"
Paris settled in for the long haul. "You want to talk money? Let's talk money."Character Reference Interview
Name: Logan Huntzberger
Relationship: Former boyfriend
"Now, Mr. Huntzberger, tell me how you met Rory Gilmore."
The agent waited. "Mr. Huntzberger, if you could perhaps offer a little more explanation than that?"
Logan shifted in his office chair. "We met at Yale, Agent Smith."
The man blinked. "I'm not here in an antagonistic capacity, Mr. Huntzberger. Miss Gilmore informed us that she told you that."
Logan fidgeted. "Maybe she did."
"Can I take this to mean that you and Miss Gilmore are not on the best of terms?"
"Sure, if you want. You want some coffee?"
"No, thank you." The agent flipped through his papers as Logan got up and moved to the coffee pot. "Miss Gilmore said that you asked her to marry you, and she declined your offer, and that you refused to continue a cross-country relationship."
"You were interested in marriage, but not in continuing with Miss Gilmore after a rejection? Why not?"
Logan set the coffee carafe down with a thud. "Maybe I wasn't a huge fan of being made a fool of," he snapped.
"Do you consider that Miss Gilmore made a fool of you?"
Logan carried his cup to the window and looked out. "What do you want me to say?"
"All we ask is the pure and simple truth, Mr. Huntzberger."
"Truth," Logan muttered. "The truth is rarely pure and never simple."
"Is that so, Mr. Huntzberger?"
"It's a quote," Logan said, condescension dripping from his words. "Oscar Wilde. Look, I asked Rory to marry me in front of everyone we knew. I didn't know how to deal with she said no. Maybe if it had been..." He shook his head. "I wasn't too fond of Rory Gilmore for a while there."
The agent's pen scratched on the paper. "You and she were in a relationship for two years?"
"You lived together for part of that time, is that correct?"
"You co-habited prior to discussing marriage?"
Logan finally turned around. "What the hell does that matter?"
The agent ignored the question. "In that time you were living together, were living expenses shared?"
"No, I took care of things." Logan went back to his chair. "What does that matter? Rory was on a budget and the money didn't matter to me."
The agent continued to write. "Did Miss Gilmore ever approach you for gifts, cash or otherwise?"
"What? Of course not! Rory's not that kind of girl!" Logan was beginning to get upset. "Rory doesn't ask for charity!"
"And yet when you lived together, she didn't pay for the living expenses."
"I told you, she was on a budget--"
"So you offered to pay for the expenses."
"Yes!" Logan sat back. "I mean, not exactly, I asked her to move in so it was sort of assumed."
"I see." The man's pen scratching was expressive.
Logan's jaw clenched. Character Reference Interview
Name: Dean Forrester
Relationship: Former boyfriend
"Mr. Forrester, this will only take a few minutes."
The tall man, still covered with drywall dust from his day at work, sat back in a chair in his kitchen. "You want a drink?" he asked. "I've got beer and some pop."
"No, thank you." The agent waited while Dean cracked open a cola. "As I was saying, Miss Gilmore informed you what we are doing?"
"Yeah, she did." Dean swallowed some of the cola. "She's working for the Air Force? That's pretty cool. Never took her for someone who was into the military."
"You have known Miss Gilmore since she was sixteen?"
"Since we both were sixteen, yeah."
"In that time, did she ever express a view on the military to you?"
Dean shrugged. "Sort of. Like, she wasn't all that into the war in Iraq, but she was totally behind the soldiers, you know? I think she even did some fundraising for vehicle amour. But that was a year or so after we-- I mean, after we drifted apart."
"And you know about her activities because?"
Dean knocked back the rest of his soda. "It's a small town. Lorelai tells Babette, Babette tells Miss Patty, Miss Patty tells Taylor Dose, Taylor tells me. That sort of thing."
"Indeed. So Miss Gilmore never expressed any other opinion towards the military?"
"Not really. We usually talked about other stuff."
Dean fidgeted with the empty can. "Books and movies and college and stuff."
"I see." The man scribbled on his paper. "Now, Miss Gilmore has told us that your relationship had two phases."
"I guess you could call it that."
"And the second 'round' started while you were still married."
A long pause, then, "Yeah."
"Tell me about that."
A deep flush colored Dean's cheeks. "It's not something that I'm proud of."
The agent didn't comment.
"I got married too young and it was a mistake, that's all."
"Who initiated the affair, you or Miss Gilmore?"
"It was sort of both of us."
"Who ended it?"
Dean slowly crushed the can between his hands. "I just did."
"There has to be a reason."
It took Dean almost a minute to answer. "I wasn't part of her world, not really." He dropped the mangled can onto the table. "And she knew it."
The agent went back to his writing. "How would Miss Gilmore react to the knowledge of this affair being made public?"
Dean finally looked up at the man. "Everyone in town knows about it already, they have for years," he said, confused. "I thought Rory told you. Lindsey's mom tells everyone about it whenever anyone asks why Linds was divorced."
"I see." The man flipped over a page. "Have you spoken to Miss Gilmore recently? For example, when she returned to Stars Hollow this winter?"
"No." Dean straightened in his chair. "Rory wasn't doing much talking to anyone back then."
"Was that in character for her?"
"No, but her dad was dying of bone cancer, I think."
"Did you speak with her at all?"
"No." Dean shook his head. "I don't talk to Rory these days. Just... I don't."
The pen moved over the page.Character Reference Interview
Name: Lane Van Gerbig nee Kim
Relationship: Friend since 1989
The agent sat at the kitchen table, waiting while Lane Van Gerbig paced back and forth across the floor, her arms full of squirming toddler.
"I'm sorry," the young woman apologized for the third time. "Kwan's not usually like this, he's getting over a fever."
"No need to apologize, Mrs. Van Gerbig," the agent said. "Thank you for seeing me on such short notice."
"Anything for Rory," Lane said. She shifted her son to her hip and pushed the hair back from his forehead. The little boy glared sulkily at the FBI agent. "She's really working for the Air Force? That's so cool." Lane smiled wistfully. "She was always going to get a really cool job traveling the world."
A wooden brick flew across the room, bouncing off the table and landing beside the agent's coffee cup.
"Steve!" Lane whirled on her other son, who gave her wide innocent eyes. The agent had to bite his lip to stop from laughing. "We do not throw things at guests!"
"Sorwy, mommy" the little boy said, but his antics had set his twin to giggling. With an exasperated sigh, Lane put Kwan on the play mat next to Steve, then headed back to the kitchen table.
"Agent Smith, ma'am," he reminded her.
"Agent Smith." Lane adjusted her chair so she could keep a close eye on the twins. "You wanted to ask about Rory?"
"Indeed." The man went back to his papers. "You have known Rory Gilmore for how long?"
"Since kindergarten, almost twenty years," Lane said. She looked faintly surprised by the fact. "We went to school together until sophomore year, then she transferred to Chilton and we just hung out in the evenings and on weekends."
"So you consider that you know her very well."
"Oh yes," Lane said without hesitation.
"Then can you explain the changes in her personality over the last year?"
Lane blinked at the man. "I'm not sure what you mean."
The agent waited.
"Well, I mean, she changed a little bit," Lane finally confessed. "She quit her job without having another one back in December, that was a little out of character, but it was because her dad had leukemia."
"Our information states that Ms. Gilmore found out about Christopher Hayden's illness in January."
"It does?" Lane looked flustered. "Then it must have been something else."
"And after that? Between January and March? Can you tell me about Miss Gilmore's behavior then?"
"Well, she was... I mean, she was still Rory, just distracted and stuff. She was doing a lot of research and working at the dinner, covering for me when I was taking care of the twins, when they had the chicken pox." Under the weight of the silence in the room, Lane twisted her fingers together. "She was just a little spacey. It wasn't like she was on drugs or anything."
"Are you certain on that point?"
"Of course! Rory never does drugs. She doesn't even smoke."
"Does Miss Gilmore have any bad habits? For example, does she gamble?"
"No, not even a little." Lane looked over at the twins, more as an excuse to avoid the agent's gaze. "She's a great person. A great friend. She's always there for me. She's my best friend."
The agent turned over a page in his folder. "Did she tell you about her father?"
Lane frowned. "Of course she did. As soon as she found out that he had leukemia, she told me and started helping him look for a bone marrow donor."
The agent wrote several lines on his papers. "Thank you. Now, since you have known Miss Gilmore for so long, please think back. Have you noticed any changes in her spending habits over the years?"
"Not really." Lane gave a slight frown. "When we were kids, it didn't really register, but I sort of knew they didn't have a lot of money, her and Lorelai. Rory had a bit of spending money in high school and stuff. Then she went off to Chilton but she wasn't rich, same thing at Yale. She had enough to live on. No big spending or anything."
"She attended a private high school with a fifty-thousand-dollar enrollment fee and ten thousand a year tuition, for three years. She did not receive financial aid to attend Yale. When she was eighteen, she became the registered owner of a new hybrid car. If she did not come from money, can you explain how all these things were financed?"
"You should ask Rory about that stuff, I'm not really sure..."
"You said that you were Miss Gilmore's best friend. You didn't talk about these things?"
"No, we did, it's just--"
"Mrs. Van Gerbig, it would help us, and Miss Gilmore, if you could answer to the best of your ability."
Lane's cheeks colored. "Rory told me that her mom borrowed the money for Chilton from her parents. Her grandfather gave her the car when she graduated from high school, and Rory borrowed the money for the first few years of Yale from her grandparents, then her dad paid for the rest. He inherited a ton of money and gave Rory the money for school. That's all. Just family."
The agent spent a few minutes writing. "Now, Mrs. Van Gerbig, a few questions about Miss Gilmore's personality. Can you name for me some of Miss Gilmore's personal weaknesses?"
Looking more uncomfortable as the questions mounted, Lane hesitated a minute before saying, "I'm not really sure what you want to know."
"I am only trying to get a complete picture of Miss Gilmore's personality. Nothing more."
Lane took a deep breath. "We made a pact when we were thirteen that we'd always call each other on our annoying quirks, anyway. She's... well, she can be a little sarcastic at times. And she doesn't deal all that well with stupidity. She sometimes can't stand it when someone can't grasp a point she's talking about."
"Other than an over-reliance on obscure pop culture references?"
"Yes, other than that."
Lane tapped a staccato beat on the table. "I can't think of anything else. She's really a great person. I'm glad she's my friend."
The agent set his pen on the table. "And yet she didn't explain what has been happening with her since December?"
"She said she needed some time to work through stuff. She'll tell me eventually."
It seemed to the agent as if Lane Van Gerbig actually believed that.Character Reference Interview
Name: Luke Danes
Relationship: Mother's boyfriend
"I don't know what I can tell you."
The agent set his briefcase down on the diner counter. "Mr. Danes, you have known Rory Gilmore since she was twelve years old. You are currently dating her mother, after being engaged once before, and you gave Miss Gilmore a temporary job in January when she returned to Stars Hollow. You can tell me about Rory Gilmore."
Luke Danes didn't stop moving; filling the coffee filter, organizing napkins, anything to keep his hands busy. "She's a good kid."
"Why did you give her a job in January?"
"She needed some money and Lane was out sick with the chicken pox boys. I needed another set of hands around the diner."
"Miss Gilmore has a journalism degree from Yale. You didn't consider her overqualified?"
Luke shoved the coffee filter back into the machine with more force than necessary. "She can take orders and she's damned efficient. And she yells less at the customers than I do. I figured it was a good trade."
"Her mother didn't suggest it?"
Luke let out a snort. "Lorelai wasn't impressed at all with what Rory was up to. But Rory needed the money and I needed the help, like I said."
"Your offer wasn't charity?"
"I don't do charity, ask anyone."
A tall lanky man, who had just entered the diner, came up to the counter. "It's true, Luke doesn't give charity. He's not very civic minded."
Luke threw a dish rag over his shoulder. "Kirk, don't help."
"But you said--"
"What do you want?"
Kirk settled back, grumbling. "Hot chocolate and chili fries. To go."
The agent waited until Luke bundled the curious Kirk out of the door, chili fries in hand, before continuing. "While she was working here, what did you discuss?"
"Not much. Rory was pretty quiet when she worked here."
"According to my other interviews, that was not in character for her."
"Well, sometimes people go through phases."
"Has Miss Gilmore ever gone through such a phase before?"
Luke shrugged. "How should I know?"
"Because Miss Gilmore, to paraphrase her own words, ate breakfast and most dinners here for over half her life. Because you almost married her mother, and because you were the first person she listed as a character reference on her security clearance application forms." Luke's head jerked up. He apparently had not known that. "Now, Mr. Danes, had Miss Gilmore ever before exhibited the sort of behavior she did between January and March of this year?"
"No, she hadn't," the man said grudgingly.
"Did you ask her what had precipitated the change in her behavior?"
"Maybe I did. Once or twice."
"Did she answer?"
"She said she was just going through some stuff. That was it."
"And you didn't press her for more information?"
"No, I didn't. If she wanted to tell me, she'd tell me."
"Would she feel comfortable discussing things with you?"
"Maybe. You'd have to ask her."
The agent pulled out a pen and scribbled something on his notepad. "One last question, Mr. Danes. Would you consider Miss Gilmore as family?"
Luke pulled the cloth off his shoulder and pulled it between his hands, thinking. "There's nothing to consider," he said finally. "She is family."
The man closed his folder. "I see," was all he said.Character Reference Interview
Name: Emily Gilmore
Relationship: Maternal Grandmother
Name: Richard Gilmore
Relationship: Maternal Grandfather
"Mr. Gilmore, Mrs. Gilmore. Thank you for taking the time to see me."
"Anything for Rory," Richard Gilmore said. "Now, Rory said that you'd want to know details of the money we hold in trust for her. I've arranged to have the information sent over." He pushed a folder across the table to the agent. "As you'll see, it's all very simple. My mother, Lorelai Gilmore, left the money in trust for Rory for when she reaches twenty-five, and I was left the administrator after my mother passed away."
"According to my records, you've been taking care of Miss Gilmore's financial needs since she was sixteen."
The jovial expression on Richard's face slid away, and he and his wife exchanged a glance. "How exactly do you mean?" Richard asked.
The agent open his briefcase and pulled out a sheaf of papers. "You financed Miss Gilmore's Chilton education through a personal loan to her mother, your daughter Lorelai." He turned a page. "You bought Miss Gilmore an expensive car when she was eighteen. You arranged a personal loan with Miss Gilmore herself to finance her first two and a half years of Yale. She and Mrs. Gilmore went on a month-long trip to Europe one summer that was paid for entirely by Mrs. Gilmore. All told, it has been your money that has educated, fed and clothed Miss Gilmore for many years."
"And what if it has?" Emily said suddenly. "She's our granddaughter, and we're in a financial position to support her if we want."
"If I may broach what Miss Gilmore indicated might be a delicate situation -- when your daughter Lorelai moved out of this house at seventeen, a teenage single mother, you did not support her financially."
Richard cleared his throat. "Lorelai decided that she did not any financial support from us," he said emotionlessly. "It was her choice."
"What prompted you to offer her the money to pay for Miss Gilmore's education at Chilton Preparatory School?"
"Lorelai asked, and it was a loan. Not a gift."
The man flipped through his papers. "Before that 'loan', Miss Gilmore said that she saw you only a few times a year, on holidays. After the loan for Chilton, she and her mother saw you at least once a week. What prompted this change?"
"Can't we just have wanted to get to know our granddaughter a little more?" Emily began, but Richard stopped her with a hand on her arm.
"Emily," he said. "It was an informal condition of the loan, that Lorelai and Rory come over for dinner on Fridays."
The agent pulled out a pen. "After Miss Gilmore graduated from Chilton and began attending Yale, this pattern of dinners continued."
"When Rory borrowed the money to attend Yale, she suggested it as a term of the loan," Richard said before Emily could interrupt.
"Who approached whom about the Yale loan?"
"Rory came to us," Richard said. "It was completely her idea."
"I see." The agent wrote on his papers. "What other conditions exist on that loan?"
"I'm not sure what you mean," Richard said.
"There is no paperwork on the loan, no signed terms of collateral or repayment. We cannot be sure what other terms Miss Gilmore may be held to, legal or implied."
"There's nothing else," Emily said quickly. "And the very implication that we would hold anything
over our granddaughter--"
"A very expensive and crucial loan for your granddaughter's education brought your daughter back to this house after fifteen years away," the agent pointed out. "If Miss Gilmore is under obligations to anyone, financially or otherwise, we need to know about it." Before Emily could say anything, the agent turned a page. "If you could, please explain why the loans for such large amounts of money were never certified with repayment terms."
As Richard tried to answer, Emily glowered.
The agent made another note.
There was a knocking at the door of her borrowed apartment. Rory lay still on the couch, head buried under a pillow, and tried to ignore the noise. She hadn't slept in over twenty-four hours and her mind wouldn't stop whirling long enough for her to calm down.
Of course, when the door clicked open, Rory couldn't ignore it any longer. She moved the pillow off her face to see Vala kicking the door shut behind her. "Hey," Vala said brightly. "How are you feeling?"
Rory closed her eyes again. "Don't look at me."
"Why?" Vala tossed the keys onto the counter and went to the fridge. "Did something happen to that pretty face of yours?"
"I'm a horrible person."
"Uh huh. Do you want popcorn or chips?"
Rory stared at the ceiling. The setting sun glared orange and harsh through the glass of the high rise, shattering words hastily written against the chandelier glass. "Didn't you hear me?"
"I heard you." The microwave beeped a few times. "But after eating MREs off-world for two weeks, I want popcorn. Did you know, there's a whole universe out there, with all kinds of highly evolved technology, and no other planet ever thought to slather a dried grain with artificially flavored fats and then irradiate it into a snack food?"
Rory let the burning light sparkle and burn in her eyes, Vala's words washing over her.
"I like what you've done with the place," Vala went on. "It's starting to lose some of that museum stuffiness and actually look as if someone lives here. I'm glad I talked Daniel into letting you stay here."
"I thought Daniel offered," Rory heard herself say.
"He did, but after I suggested that a little thing like you might want to live in a place that wasn't miles underground." The microwave beeped again. Vala poured the popcorn into a bowl and carried it over to the couch. She sat down by Rory's feet. "So you should say thank you."
"Thank you," Rory said quietly.
Vala nudged Rory's calf. "What's wrong?"
Rory curled up into a ball, unable to look away from the chandelier. "Just... everything."
Vala put the popcorn bowl on the table. "All right, up you get," she ordered. She put her hand under Rory's elbow and hauled the girl into a sitting position. "Eat some of this and then tell me what's got you in such a twist."
Being ordered to eat microwave popcorn and tell Mommy all about it was too familiar for Rory to disobey, and if the interrogator in question was an interstellar con artist who doubled as Miss Save The World 2008 and the Anti-Blessed Mary... well, that was just weird enough to be normal.
"I spent the last few days doing my interviews for the security clearance," Rory said after she'd downed a few handfuls of popcorn.
Rory rolled an unpopped kernel between her fingers. "And I'm a horrible person."
Vala frowned. "In exactly what way are you a horrible person?"
"Where do you want me to begin?" Rory said bitterly. "I've been lying to my mother about my real father, I slept with my married ex-boyfriend and broke up his marriage, I leave all my friends behind--"
Vala whistled sharply, cutting Rory off. "Thank you," she said into the quiet. "You do realize that your sense of scale is galactially off, right?"
Vala pulled her legs up onto the couch, her shoes scuffing against the leather of the cushions. "Have you ever killed anyone?"
"Ever stolen anyone's child away from them? Destroyed a sun? Sent a people into slavery? Kicked a puppy?" Slapping Rory's cheek lightly, Vala went on. "You need to get a sense of proportion. I'll bet you don't even jaywalk."
"But I stole a boat!"
"So? I've stolen a hundred spaceships. Well, maybe thirty-seven," Vala amended. "And yes, you've done some things that don't exactly exude virtue, but so? That doesn't change the fact that Jack O'Neill has been bending over backwards to get you the clearance on paper that you seem to have in fact, which by the way don't mention to Mitchell, he's in a bit of a snit about something. Anyway, what was I saying?"
"Jack O'Neill's acrobatics?"
"Oh, right. And since Daniel tells me his joints aren't what they used to be, it's certainly saying something."
Rory stared at Vala. "Is there a point you're trying to make?"
"My point, sunshine, is that you haven't done anything bad
in your whole life and so you need to stop whining and concentrate on what's important." Vala stretched her legs out on Rory's lap.
"And what's that?"
"Your daddy issues," Vala said. "I took a look at the character reference interviews. Did you really kiss Paris Gellar? That certainly puts a disturbingly Electra spin on your 'Rodney McKay is the new Paris' comment from a few weeks ago."
Rory shoved Vala's feet to the ground. "You saw the interview files?" she said incredulously. "Those are confidential! No one is supposed to see those!"
"And who exactly are you talking to?" Vala raised her eyebrows. "And you sure do know how to pick them. That Logan kid is a piece of work."
Rory felt her insides turn to ice. "Did... did he say anything bad about me?" she asked, hating how weak the question made her sound.
"What? No, it's not that." Vala's gaze was disconcerting. "But quoting dead playwrights in an interview with the FBI isn't exactly indicative of a healthy attitude towards authority figures who can make him disappear."
Rory shook her head. That sounded like something Logan would have done. She wouldn't have asked him to help her at all, but the period they had spent living together had set off warning bells with the interviewer. She hadn't had much choice.
"I don't think I'd like him," Vala finished.
"I think that's an understatement."
"See? You're starting to use multi-syllabic words again," Vala said with a smile. "You're going to be just fine."
"But," Vala stopped her. "Why are you sitting in the dark picking this all apart?"
Rory pressed her forehead against her knees. "Everything just feels wrong. I spent three days trying to defend every single action I've ever taken and it's not a fun sensation to have your entire life dismantled by men in black suits."
Vala snorted. "Three days? If you had me in there, it'd take months. I think that's maybe why they've never tried."
Rory managed to smile.
"So, what are we going to do tonight?" Vala asked. "I've got two whole days off, and as long as I promise to stay with you or Mitchell, I can be off-post."
"What's Daniel up to? You usually stick around him."
Vala looked distinctly disgruntled. "Dr. Jackson is going to be spending the next three days getting unmarried."
"Daniel got married?" Rory squeaked. "Off-world? What happened? Who's the bride?"
Rory's eyes grew wide. "Captain Martin
Jones? The RAF captain who was working temporarily with SG-8?"
"Yes, yes, that one," Vala said impatiently. "Apparently on P3X-7R1, when the lips of two men touch in public, it's a sign of betrothal."
Rory blinked. "Daniel and Captain Jones started kissing
? Off-world? Did aliens make them do it?"
"No, aliens didn't make them do it." Vala made a face. "Daniel fell into the river and Captain Jones had to perform CPR. Daniel's just fine, but married."
"Wow," Rory breathed. "How's Captain Jones taking it?"
"You know the RAF contingent. Drinking tea and being all understated. Their Colonel is having a great time with this."
Rory frowned. "Hey, if Cameron or Teal'c had performed CPR on Daniel, would that make them married?"
"Yes, as I heard numerous times from Cameron," Vala huffed. "I mean, it's not my fault that Jones was a champion sprinter. He just got to Daniel first, that's all. It could have been me."
"Huh." Rory settled back on the couch. "So, Daniel and Martin Jones."
Vala glared at Rory.
"It's just, you know. It's not like Captain Jones has been hit with the fugly stick."
"Not the point."
"When he first got to the SGC, I heard you say that you'd hit it."
"I meant I could slap him," Vala clarified.
"Is that what the kids are calling it these days?"
"You can't tell me you didn't spend at least five seconds thinking about Daniel and Captain Jones--"
"I said stop it!" Vala shook her head. "You're supposed to be the voice of reason and not
to be encouraging me into depravity. You just wait until you get your off-world clearance and you get accidentally married for the first time!"
Rory couldn't help smiling. "It depends, can I go off-world with the British guys?"
"Stop it, or I'll tell Daniel that you're hitting on his husband." Vala sprang up off the couch. "Let's go out to dinner, I need food that isn't from an oversized condom wrapper."
"You just ate a whole bowl of popcorn."
"Sneaking into top-secret confidential files burns a lot of calories," Vala protested. "Plus, I've spent the last two days mocking Daniel mercilessly. That takes an intense amount of effort."
"Yes, I'm sure it was a great work-out," Rory said as she stood. "Is Daniel ever going to talk to you again?"
"Probably not." Vala sighed. "But he's nicer to be around when he's not talking."
"As long as he just lies back and thinks of England?"
Vala beamed approvingly. "Exactly what I've been thinking."~~~
They were halfway through dinner when Vala asked, "I can understand not telling your mother that she's been wrong about your father your whole life, that might cause some angst over the dinner table. But are you ever going to tell McKay?"
Rory concentrated on her burger and didn't answer.
"Not that I care... well, much." Vala reached for her milkshake. "But wasn't that one of the points in your interview? How this whole 'Who's your daddy' mess was a point against you in the security clearance situation."
"It is." Rory fiddled with her fries. "And I am."
Vala lowered her glass. "You are? How? When?"
"In today's data burst to Atlantis."
Vala stared. "Are you seriously trying to tell me that you're sending Rodney McKay an email
telling him that he's your father?"
"Sort it. It's kind of at the bottom of that math proof I've been working on."
"So he's going to read pages and pages of how very wrong he has been and then at the end you're going to spring it that you're his offspring?" Vala considered. "That's just mean."
"It's not mean, it's just... complicated." Rory bit her lip. "It made more sense last night when I attached the message to the data burst. I hadn't had a lot of sleep."
Vala started laughing as she checked her watch. "The data was set to go through two hours ago. So when Rodney checks his email..." She kept laughing. "Darling, you sure know drama."
Before Rory could come up with an appropriately witty remark, Vala's cell phone rang.
"One second," Vala said. "Hello?"
Rory barely had time to register as Vala's face when blank, when her blackberry started to beep. She snatched the device from her purse. She had one new message from Bill Lee at the SGC.Phone call to the barn didn't work - get back here. Now.
Vala clicked her phone closed. "We have to go, right now," she said without any hint of the humor she'd shown only moments before. "Go get the car, I'll take care of the bill."
Rory got to her feet, numb. It shouldn't be anything to worry about. Maybe there was a problem with the dialing sequence to the Pegasus Galaxy, what Bill Lee had referred to as the 'barn' in his email. It was a minor glitch, Rory was sure. They'd fix it, and the SGC would dial Pegasus and her message would be delivered to Rodney McKay.
Everything was going to be fine. Everything had to be fine.
Somehow, she'd gotten outside. She stood on the sidewalk and looked around. She'd parked the car around here somewhere, but where?
The SGC couldn't dial Atlantis and she couldn't remember where she parked the car.
Vala was at her side then, taking the keys from her hand and guiding her down the sidewalk. "How about I drive us back?" she said.
Rory was sure she was supposed to protest, something about Vala not having a driver's license, but her mind was racing.
The SGC couldn't reach Atlantis. What if something had happened to Atlantis?
What if something had happened to Rodney McKay?
Once they were on the road, Vala only breaking a few inconsequential laws, Rory managed to ask, "Who was on the phone?"
"It was Daniel," Vala said. She slowed enough for appearances-sake at the stop sign, then accelerated again. "The dialing sequence got as far as the relay station between galaxies, but then the gates on the other side wouldn't dial through to Atlantis."
"Maybe they had a wormhole open?"
"The SGC has been dialing every five minutes for the last two hours. The other wormhole would have shut down by now." Vala bit her lip. "There's more."
Rory watched as headlights flashed by, silent and uncaring in the dark. "What more?"
"General Landry sent a MALP through to the relay station. There was a message there. Written on a sheet of metal, in what Daniel thinks is Sam's handwriting."
"What did it say?"
Vala cut across traffic to the exit to Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base. "It said there was a foothold situation. Atlantis scrambled the dialing macro that uses the line of stargates to link our galaxy and theirs. They were cutting themselves off from Earth to protect this galaxy."
"Protect us from what?"
Vala's hands tightened on the steering wheel as they slowed on approach to the security checkpoint. "She didn't say. But..." Vala's voice was nearing the breaking point, wavering as it had since she started speaking about Sam Carter. "The message on the metal, it was written in blood."
Rory's hand closed over Vala's in the dark. "They're going to be okay," she said, not recognizing her own voice. "They're always okay. Just like SG-1. They'll pull through."
Vala sniffled as the armed airman headed over to their car. "They'd better be," she said. "I'm not a huge fan of losing people I care about."
The night air pressed in on Rory, a dark more threatening than any under the mountain.
All she could imagine was a ragged sheet of metal spinning in zero gravity, bloody words written as a warning scream across the stars.Foothold situation.~~~
The blood on the metal, while human, hadn't belonged to Sam Carter after all. It hadn't matched any of the expedition members, not even the Pegasus Galaxy natives on Atlantis. But there had been an energy residue consistent with Wraith blasters all over the metal.
The IOA and the Joint Chiefs collaborated for days on the matter, and finally decided against sending the Odyssey or the Daedalus to the Pegasus Galaxy. In the absence of any information on the type of foothold situation on Atlantis, they hadn't wanted to risk the ships, by now both bristling with Asgard technology, falling into the hands of the Wraith or the Replicators or any new alien that had managed to infiltrate Atlantis.
The IOA forbade the SGC from attempting to rebuild the dialing macro from the relay station to the Pegasus Galaxy. But the Joint Chiefs had negotiated a loophole where the SGC could attempt to dial Atlantis on occasion, just in case the Atlantis team eradicated the threat and rebuilt the gate bridge.
And so, life went on. Rory's security clearance moved forward with glacial slowness; she started classes at the University of Colorado and continued working at the SGC; even managing to save the world all by herself for the first time on a hot day late in August. SG-1 still managed to top out the quarter in the 'Save the World' pool, and Daniel and Vala took Rory to Las Vegas on her birthday with the winnings.
But, in spite of all that, in spite of the danger and fading hope, every Friday at eleven hundred hours, the SGC tried to dial Atlantis.
For six months.
Without success. to be continued