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Physics of the Spin

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Summary: Rory Gilmore always thought she was Christopher Hayden's daughter, but things are a little more complicated than that... (Gilmore Girls/Stargate xover)

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Gilmore Girls
Stargate > Non-BtVS/AtS Stories > Crossover: Other
(Past Donor)MhalachaiFR1321125,802150702188,6712 Jan 0812 Oct 09No

Family Ties

This was it. Rory took a deep breath and hoped her knees weren't shaking too visibly. In one minute, the Stargate would open to Pegasus and Rory would be off to another galaxy.

"It's not too late to change your mind," Vala said at Rory's side, giving voice to the idea Rory had been fighting against all morning.

But she'd gone over this with herself all night, and she had an answer for Vala. "Yes it is," Rory said with a smile. Vala's hopeful expression fell. "It'll be okay, I'm only authorized for a six-month mission. I'll see you soon."

"Ha! You might think it's only six months, then an unstoppable robot army will come out of nowhere and eat your head!" Vala exclaimed.

At the sound, Daniel turned away from the Atlantis replacement scientists and came over to the women. "Careful, Vala, you'll scare the Marines," he said.

His voice was bland, but it made Rory look over his shoulder to the gaggle of young men by the gate. The shortest of the crowd had gone pale, even though his expression did nothing to give him away. He looks so young, Rory thought, forgetting for a moment that she was only twenty-five herself. "More than likely I'll be the one to run screaming from the room," said Rory. She gave the Marines a slight smile before turning back to Daniel. "Do you have any advice?"

Vala made an obscene hand gesture Rory took to mean 'suck up', but luckily for them all, Daniel didn't see. "Just do what you do here," he suggested. "Work in a team and listen to your instincts. You've proven you're great in the field."

The praise was distinctly off-hand, but still, Rory blushed.

"You've got everything you need?" Daniel continued.

"I hope so," Rory said. High above them, the Stargate began to rumble and spin. Sudden panic flared in Rory's stomach, and she gripped the strap of her backpack just a little tighter to keep her hands from shaking. "I think I'm suddenly out of time."

She turned to face the Stargate just in time to see the wormhole engaging. The imposing and magnificent sight never failed to send a thrill of excitement through her. She felt like Alice about to tumble through the looking glass, into a world of impossibility on the other side. She wished she could have shared this with Lorelai.

A familiar voice came over the loudspeaker, saying, "You have a go to Atlantis." Rory glanced up to see General Jack O'Neill in the control room beside General Landry and Colonel Mitchell. He gave her a wink through the glass. "Marines, move out!"

The highest-ranked Marine, a Captain of indeterminate hair color, shouted an order at the gathered men and they moved en mass up the ramp. The scientists followed slowly, one of them pulling a cart filled with equipment.

Then it was Rory's turn. On the other side of that wormhole was Atlantis and the knowledge of the Ancients... and Rodney McKay. She took a deep breath and put her foot on the ramp.

"Hold on!" Vala exclaimed. She grabbed Rory's shoulders and planted a big kiss squarely on the cheek. When Vala let go, Rory stumbled back and up the ramp. Daniel's smirk wasn't helping any. Vala just smiled in a self-satisfied way and made shooing motions with her hands. "Go on now, you've got a city to see!" the woman said.

Rory shook her head, putting Vala's odd way of saying goodbye behind her. Vala was right, Atlantis did await. Straightening her shoulders, Rory walked to the event horizon. Just before she went thought, she turned back and gave General O'Neill a wave in the control room. He gave her the thumbs up.

Rory took a deep breath and stepped across the galaxy.

~~~

"And that concludes the debrief on P5X-2Y7," John finished. It didn't really matter, as no one had been listening to him for the last ten minutes, but he persevered. "Does anyone have anything regarding the next point on the agenda?"

No one did. No one ever did. All these team meetings did was give his team new and exciting ways to ignore him. It was worse now, because Teyla had the baby to play with, and Ronon only ever came because of the muffins. And Rodney...

Well, Rodney was even more distracted than usual today.

"So I decided that the new Marines we're getting in today's dialup should shadow existing teams to learn about the galaxy," John tried again. Ronon never looked up from his knife-sharpening exercise. "I thought I'd try surgically grafting locator beacons to them so we'd be able to find them easier when they fell down their first hole."

Teyla broke first, giving John an annoyed glance.

"Or we could just make them go out in gaggles, like sending first-graders to the bathroom in packs."

On behalf of children everywhere, baby Torren blew a raspberry at the suggestion.

"Or airdrop them on the mainland and see how long it takes them to reenact Lord of the Flies."

Teyla could take no more. "John," she scolded. "They are trained warriors. They will be fine."

"Being on Atlantis isn't the same thing as being at the SGC, where you get to go home in the evening. Look what happened when we first got here." No, wait. That hadn't come out the way John intended. "If someone had tied us up when we arrived..." Hell, that wasn't it either. Teyla's increasing incredulity wasn't helping John's mental processes. "The new Marines are my responsibility and I want to make sure they're well-prepared." There. That at least sounded coherent.

"By abandoning them on the mainland and making them worship insects?" Teyla asked. Torren drooled up at them.

"It was a metaphor."

Ronon grunted. "It's still a good idea," he said, flipping his knife over in his hand. "Toughen them up."

"See?"

Teyla shook her head. "Colonel Carter will not allow you to abandon the new Marines on the mainland," she said with finality. "Of that much I am sure."

John knew that too, but what fun was that? He popped a piece of muffin into his mouth for something to do. No matter the variety of muffins he brought to the meetings, he always ended up with carrot, when all he ever wanted was lemon poppy seed. But an enjoyable breakfast wasn't worth having Rodney freak out about 'airborne death particles' again.

Such were the sacrifices John made for his team.

"Who else is coming?" Ronon asked, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he really hadn't been paying any attention. "Just more Marines?"

John shrugged. "All I got was the list of soldiers," he said. "Colonel Carter sent the other lists to the head of the science department."

As one, the three adults and Torren turned to the head of the science department. Who never looked up.

"Am I actually speaking out loud?" John wondered.

"Hey McKay," Ronon said, kicking Rodney's chair for good measure. That finally got the man's attention. "What's going on?"

Rodney shook his head hard. "She's coming," was all he said.

Ronon looked at Sheppard, who could only shrug. "Who's coming?" John asked. He smiled. "Hey, should we have baked her a cake?"

"You're not nearly as cute as you think you are," Rodney muttered.

"Actually, most people find me quite witty," John said. He was ignored.

"It's Doogie Howser and Wesley Crusher, all rolled into one annoying package," Rodney said.

John tried to work his way through that one, but there was nothing to hold on to. He leaned his hip against the table and picked the raisins from Rodney's muffin.

"The SGC is sending my nemesis and I just know Sam Carter is behind this," Rodney went on.

John frowned. "Since when do you have a nemesis?"

Rodney refused to look at him.

"Because I've never heard of this nemesis," John went on, enjoying the feel of the word in his mouth. "You seem like the kind of person to mention a nemesis."

Rodney stopped typing. "What kind of person is that?" he demanded.

John made himself stop before he alienated Rodney completely. Ronon, who had no such compunctions, said, "Like the kind of person who talks a lot."

Rodney threw his hands up. "Okay, so she's not my nemesis! She's the pebble in my shoe, the-- the toast crumbs in my butter!"

John made a face at the mental image.

"All put together to ruin my day, and Sam put her in my department! Like she'll be of any use at all! Some Connecticut Yankee with a Yale journalism degree in my court!"

Something in John's mind pricked. He lowered his muffin top to stare at Rodney. What was it?

"--And all I get is a week's notice that some child who's convinced she can extend the ZPM's life by half, based on science she probably pulled out of a My Little Pony half-time show--"

John interrupted to ask, "What's her name?" That idea of a Connecticut kid with a Yale journalism degree wouldn't leave him alone.

Without missing a beat, Rodney look at John with wide blue eyes and said, "Rory Gilmore."

John's stomach flopped over. This had to be some kind of joke. Rory Gilmore? Couldn't be coming to Atlantis. Not the Rory Gilmore he'd slammed into on a New York street all those years ago, a girl with cobalt-blue eyes and that curious McKay expression on her face. Not the Rory Gilmore that had been born nine months after a young Rodney McKay had left Hartford, Connecticut, in 1984.

This had to be some other Rory Gilmore.

...Who graduated from Yale with a journalism degree.

It was Teyla who broke through his little freak-out by asking, "John, are you all right?"

He had no answer for her. He pushed away from the table, scattering crumbs everywhere. "Are you sure it's Rory Gilmore?" he demanded.

"What are you blathering about?"

"Not some other name that sounds like Rory? Like..." His mind scattered around unlikely-sounding appellations. Gory? Snorey? "How about Corey?"

Rodney stared at John as if the man had lost his mind, which wasn't that far removed from the truth. "Yes, I'm sure!" He stood. "What does it matter to you?"

Teyla rose, her son in hand, and said with that infuriating intuition, "I believe that John knows this woman."

Rodney's eyes grew impossibly wide. "How could you possibly know her?" he demanded. "She's only twenty!"

"Twenty-five," John said before his brain caught up with his mouth.

With the way Rodney was gaping at him, John was pretty sure he was about to be accused of some high debauchery. So instead of waiting for it, he turned on his heel and left the room. His confused thoughts finally started to sort themselves out as he strode through the corridors of Atlantis. Why didn't you warn me about this? he mentally demanded of the city.

Atlantis hummed disapprovingly at him.

John could hear Rodney and Teyla behind him, their voices muted soft with distance. Ronon's bass punctuated the melodic line, indistinct and rumbling. John walked faster.

He made it to the Gateroom before the wormhole opened from the Midway Station. Sam Carter stood at the top of the stairs, her non-regulation long blonde hair tied up in a loose pony-tail. She greeted John with a nod. "Colonel."

"Colonel," John replied automatically as he stopped at Sam's side, down a step and totally off-balance. Why was the Gateroom so packed? Practically everyone on-base was there, in the control room or huddled nearby. Zelenka was helping Chuck with diagnostics, Lorne stood lounging with a bunch of Marines by the lower hallways. And what looked like the entire Jumper repair crew was taking a coffee break by the walkway to Sam's office. Didn't anyone have any work to do?

John wondered if he could resign his commission and escape back to Earth before Rory Gilmore (that had to be a mistake) came through.

"So," John said hesitantly. Sam looked at him curiously. John cleared his throat and tried again. "McKay said that he's got a girl coming through the Gate?" And how wrong did that sound?

Was it his imagination, or had Sam winced? "I don't know if I'd go that far," Sam said. Her hands twisted together, and it was John's turn to cast suspicions on Sam. He knew his CO, and she was certainly hiding something. "She's not coming through only for McKay, there's also a lot of work she can do here she can't accomplish back on Earth."

"Huh." John blinked at Sam. "Wait, what do you mean, 'not only'?"

McKay barreled past them, making John jump. "All right, is she here yet?" he demanded.

Sam exhaled. "Not yet, McKay."

"Well, while we wait then, we can find out from Sheppard exactly how he knows Doogie Crusher." The last bit was a little pointed, even for McKay.

Sam's mild Rodney-induced irritation morphed into an uncertain frown aimed at Sheppard. "You know Rory Gilmore?" she demanded, a myriad of questions in her gaze.

In that moment, John somehow knew that Sam knew something. He didn't know what, but he wasn't the only one keeping secrets. He opened his mouth to demand what Sam knew and how long she'd known it, when the wormhole from Earth opened and a gaggle of Marines and scientists cleared the event horizon and a small figure stepped through after them, and John found himself staring at the biggest complication of his whole damned life.

~~~

She'd have to rewrite all she knew about light physics, Rory thought distantly as she walked through the event horizon into Atlantis. Atlantis. Brilliant sunlight streamed in through stained glass windows to illuminate the Gateroom. Light moved carefully around this room, not splintering as light should.

She suddenly remembered where she'd seen this phenomenon before, around the Earth Stargate deep underground at Cheyenne Mountain, but this was impossibility writ large, light turned to spun glass, dripping liquid illumination over the brilliant naquadah-laced surfaces.

It was beyond stunning. It was overwhelming.

And it was making her head ache.

A familiar figure detached itself from a gathering on the stairs and moved towards her. Light shone through blonde hair, but it took Rory a few moments to recognize Colonel Sam Carter. She gripped the strap of her knapsack and tried desperately to pull herself together. She hadn't gotten lost in the light for so many months now and she wasn't going to embarrass herself now.

"Ms. Gilmore," Colonel Carter said, smiling at Rory and holding out her hand. Rory wondered if Sam could see the way the blue lights from the windows curved ever-so-slightly before they hit the floor. "Welcome to Atlantis."

Rory made herself stay still and shake Sam's hand. At least Sam was somewhat familiar in this strange place. "Thanks," she said. "How are the repairs going?"

Sam grimaced. "Slowly. We had a lot of work to do." She glanced over Rory's shoulder. The Marines were being corralled by a man in uniform, who gave Sam a brief nod before turning back to his shepherding. Sam drew a deep breath. "While Major Lorne takes care of the Marines, there's someone who you should meet."

Rory's heart started pounding. Oh god, this was it. Almost a year of work and determination, at learning about everything she could to find Rodney McKay, and this was it.

She wasn't ready.

Sam stepped aside, but the man hovering behind her wasn't Rodney McKay at all. He was tall, all angles and sharp edges under his uniform, and not even the curved chase of light could soften him.

And, impossibilities of impossibilities, she knew him.

"You!" she exclaimed before she thought. "You're the jerk who stole my luggage tag in New York!"

The man's shoulders curved forward slightly, body defensive even as he raised his eyebrows. "That was an accident," he stammered.

Later, Rory would blame her reaction on the stress of the situation, but now, she wasn't really thinking. "A luggage tag that survived the delicate attention of Parisian baggage handlers just 'accidentally' came loose in your hand?"

The man lifted his shoulders in an exaggerated shrug. "There was the bike and the hot dog vendor and the 'pulling you out of traffic' going on, it could have happened," he said quickly.

Rory felt an echo of the adrenaline surge she'd felt that day at tumbling towards the road, and the hard pressure on her arm as someone pulled her back firmly onto the sidewalk. It had been this man, with his bright green eyes and the same faint edge of stubble on his chin.

Only that had been New York City, and this was the Pegasus Galaxy, and any potential coincidence melted under the impossibility.

Her irrational irritation dialed back under the onslaught of memory. "I didn't thank you, then, for saving my life," Rory said. She watched the tension in the man's shoulders relax. "So thank you." She waited a moment. "And I want my luggage tag back."

The man winced. "I don't exactly have it with me," he hedged. "It's with my stuff on Earth."

"You kept a random luggage tag off someone you saved from certain death?" That bordered on stalkerish behavior. "It's not like you couldn't find out who it belonged to."

"Yeah, with the whole address thing," the man said. He smiled sheepishly at her, and Rory felt something twist in her middle. That smile should have been illegal. "John Sheppard."

"Rory Gilmore. But you know that, with the stealing of my luggage tag."

Someone cleared her throat at their side, and belatedly Rory remembered she was in the middle of a very crowded room in another galaxy. "Also because he's military commander on this base and he's supposed to read the daily briefing notes," Sam Carter said. Her voice was distinctly amused.

John remained silent.

"But that's not what I meant." Sam indicated a man standing just behind John, and Rory immediately pushed problems with Sheppards out of her head. "Rory Gilmore, meet Dr. Rodney McKay."

He didn't look much like his pictures, Rory processed as she looked. At him. At her father. His hair was close-cropped, his jacket worn on the edges and a tablet computer held to his side in the same way Rory carried around coffee cups as a defense mechanism.

As she looked at him, he seemed to lose some steam. "Hi," he said finally. "Welcome to Atlantis." He fidgeted with the edge of his computer as he searched for words. Then he blurted out, "Your calculations in the tertiary energy complex are wrong."

"No, they're not!" Rory argued automatically.

"Yes, they are! You're using a base eight variable just to show off! Base ten would work just fine--"

"The original fractal structure of the ZPM was designed on a base eight variable--"

"How could you possibly know that?"

"It has to be! There's no other explanation for the layering effect! If the Ancients were working off a base ten variable structure, any sort of power layering would have resulted in the ZPM exploding and taking half the planet with it when it dropped to half-power!"

"Excuse me," Sam interrupted the argument. Belatedly, Rory realized that almost everyone in the room had stopped working to stare at them. "As fascinating as this argument is, there's something we need to discuss."

"What?" McKay asked, a frown still creasing his forehead.

"Up in my office."

"What?" McKay asked again.

"Up. In. My. Office," Sam repeated. With a quick roll of the eyes, McKay turned towards the stairs. Sam gave Rory a weary smile. "You can leave your bag here, we'll have it delivered to your quarters."

The only other person in the immediate vicinity was John Sheppard. He held out his hand. "I'll schlep it over."

Rory handed him the bag reluctantly. "What exactly does that mean?"

"I'm not going to rifle your things on your first day here. Promise."

She didn't find that phrasing to be reassuring, but Sam was moving towards her office and Rory had no choice but to follow.

The machinery in the control room hummed faintly at her, snagging her attention, but she kept her gaze forward and didn't let herself be dragged off-course by the distraction. Everyone was so busy, working hard, and Rory had a sudden surge of panic. She didn't belong here. She only worked with numbers, not with real things. Not like these people.

The hum of the machinery reverberated in a feedback loop that set her teeth on edge. But the pills Dr. Lam had given her were in her bag, and that was yards in the wrong direction in the hands of a man who had looked at her like he knew her deepest secrets.

She kept moving forward.

In the sparsely decorated office, McKay flung himself onto the couch. Sam waited until Rory was in the room before closing the door behind her. The nervous energy in her limbs from Gate travel and lingering adrenaline from the unexpected scientific argument wouldn't let Rory sit. The collection of photographs on one shelf drew Rory's attention. Familiar faces stared out at Rory from behind glass; Daniel, Cam, Vala, Teal'c and Jack and Cassandra Frasier, along with people Rory had only seen memorialized on paper. Jacob Carter. Janet Frasier. Jonas Quinn.

"Rory?"

Rory snatched her fingers back from where she'd been about to touch the frame holding an old photo of SG-1. But she would not apologize. "Everyone says hi," she told Sam, skirting the couch and perching on the edge of an uncomfortable chair. "General O'Neill sent a care package. It's in my bag."

At the mention of Jack's name, Sam smiled tiredly. "That could be potentially unfortunate," she said. "I don't suppose he attached any warnings? 'Will explode if dropped'?"

"There was something about not setting it on fire, but that's a good cautionary tale for life in general." Rory edged back on her seat, not sure she could take much more of the easy banter without going crazy. "I'll get it for you later."

"Thanks." Sam glanced over at McKay, who was watching the exchange with growing impatience. "You're here for a reason, Rodney."

"Are you going to tell me what that is?" he demanded.

"Yes, I am." Sam sat back and unnecessarily straightened several objects on the desk. "Which I'll get to any day now," she said under her breath.

Rory breathed deeply. This was her story. She had to be the one to tell Rodney. It wasn't Sam's responsibility, when Rory hadn't been able to find a way to explain over all these months. "Dr. McKay, there's something I need to... I mean..." she stammered to a stop. It wasn't helping that Rodney was staring at her like she had brain damage. She tried again. "Do you remember a woman named Lorelai Gilmore?"

A deep frown creased Rodney's forehead. "What are you talking about?" he asked uncomfortably. "I did know someone with that name, years ago." The tips of his ears were going red. "Why?"

Rory rubbed her hands together, wondering briefly at the liquid drip of light over her skin. "She's, um... She's my mother."

"So?" he demanded, but the question was too soon. Rory wondered how long it might take someone as smart as he was to do the math, play with the similarities in names, to subtract her age from the years separating him from Lorelai. His eyes widened, even as he pushed the suspicion away, shutting down.

His immediate reaction closed Rory's throat.

"Rodney, when Ms. Gilmore came to the SGC in March, they did a battery of tests on her," Sam said, her voice dancing carefully on the razor's edge of compassion and steel. "There is... I suppose you could call it a definite genetic relationship."

"I'm your daughter," Rory said, words dropping like stones into the silence.

Rodney didn't move. He didn't even blink. He only stared at Rory with wide blue eyes. Then a loud crash from out in the Gateroom broke the stillness and he looked away. "This isn't possible," he said quickly, standing with jerky motions.

"It's possible," Sam told him. "I've seen the tests. It's not a mistake."

Rodney held the tablet computer across his chest like a shield. "You've seen the tests?" he demanded. "When?"

The little bit of color in Sam's cheeks faded. It took her a moment to answer. "Last month, when I was on Earth."

"And you didn't tell me? Why didn't you tell me?" Rodney's rising questions stopped suddenly. He looked down at the Gateroom, then back at Rory. She opened her mouth to say something, anything, but Rodney jumped back before she could figure out what to offer up. "Welcome to Atlantis, I have to go," he said in a hurry.

"Rodney--" Sam tried, but the man kept moving backwards until he bounced off the door. He fumbled with the latch and almost fell out onto the bridge. Somehow, he recovered and made a hasty exit through the control room. Everyone paused in their work to watch him go.

A lump rose in Rory's throat, threatening to cut off her oxygen. Even in her wildest nightmares, she'd never envisioned this response. He hadn't even been able to look at her.

"Are you okay?" Sam asked, jerking Rory back from growing hysteria.

Rory swallowed hard against the lump in her throat. She would not cry. Not in front of Colonel Carter, not on her very first day in Atlantis. She was here for a reason beyond Rodney McKay. "What happens next?" she asked, voice wavering slightly. She coughed and tried again. "I mean, what do I do now?"

Sam watched her carefully. "Someone will show you to your quarters and you will report to Dr. Keller for a preliminary medical exam. It's routine."

Rory nodded once. "I shouldn't take up any more of your time, then."

"Rory, he'll come around," Sam offered.

Frankly, Rory doubted that. But she couldn't afford to think about that right now. "Thanks for letting me come to Atlantis, Colonel."

Sam sighed. "Get back to me with that in a week," she said. She motioned at a Marine passing through the control room. The man immediately changed course to stand in the doorway. "Staff Sergeant, can you please show Ms. Gilmore to her quarters?"

"Yes, ma'am." The Marine motioned at the stairs. "It's not far, ma'am."

Rory smiled wanly at Sam. "Thanks." Then she followed the staff sergeant across the control room.

Once out of the colonel's office, the man's smile was open and cheerful. "Staff Sergeant Carlos Herrera, ma'am," he introduced himself.

"I'm Rory Gilmore," she said, focusing on the now and not the pain in her head or the lump in her throat. "How long have you been on Atlantis?"

"Just over a year. I came out here with Colonel Carter's main contingent." He looked around, aping secretiveness. "So you're the wunderkind sent to challenge Dr. McKay?"

Even the mention of the man's name sent Rory's heart racing. "I don't know if I'd say that," she said carefully.

"Still, it'll be interesting. He works better with competition." He winked. "Dr. Zelenka wants to meet you, soon."

Rory gave the staff sergeant a look. "Are you always this open with the new people?"

The man's smile split into a grin. "I've been working with Dr. Zelenka for months. I'm only giving out the commonly known scuttlebutt."

The walk to her new room didn't take long, thanks to a matter transport closet that ramped her headache up into migraine territory. With instructions on how to get to the infirmary and a "Call me Carlos," the staff sergeant left her at the door.

She stepped into the cold room, with its big glass windows overlooking the sea. Someone had placed her luggage on the bed, beside a stack of linens. A piece of paper was attached to the bag with a zip-cord.

I'm sorry I stole your luggage tag in New York, so I made you a new one. Welcome to Atlantis.

Sheppard

PS: If you don't like your room, we'll get you a different one. There's a good view of the south pier from this one.


He'd added a scribbled smiley face after his name. Rory stared at the paper until tears clouded her vision with the disappointments of the day and pushed down on the ache in her head, and she started to cry tears of loneliness and pain.

What was she doing here?

~~~

John finally ran Rodney to ground in the ZPM control room. None of the scientists liked working down here, preferring the upper-level labs with their natural light and sufficient air flow. But there Rodney was, poking away at the tangle of wires in the wall.

"Hey," John said in greeting. Rodney did nothing to acknowledge his presence. "So... how's your nemesis?"

The resulting silence was unnerving.

John bit his lower lip, trying to figure out what to say next. "What was with that ZPM argument in the Gateroom, huh? Sounds like you two have plenty to talk about."

Rodney slammed the wall panel shut, the noise cracking through the air like a shot. John shut his mouth. When Rodney turned around, John wasn't prepared for the guarded expression on his face. "That was her, in New York."

"What?"

"Years ago, when we were in New York with Elizabeth." As he spoke, Rodney wrapped a handful of red wires around his power monitor. The motion didn't quite disguise the shaking of his hands. "You almost knocked some girl into the road and yanked the luggage tag off her bag. That was her."

"I didn't know it was her then," John argued. He tried to stand straight against the sinking feeling in his gut. "It was just some girl."

Rodney shoved his tools back into the carrying bag. "Two weeks later you showed up asking me where I was in February 1984. You asked me if I'd been in Hartford. Why were you asking me things like that?"

John couldn't think of a single thing to say.

"It's just--" Rodney stopped wrestling with the bag strap. "I can get Sam not telling me for a month, because seriously, who the hell could have gotten that even with DNA tests and genetic mapping? I don't like it but I get it, because it's Sam and it's a month. What I don't understand is you!"

John wrapped his fingers around the sharp edges of the console, his nails scrapping uselessly on the metal. "So, Rory really is your daughter?" he said awkwardly.

Rodney stopped talking, stopped moving, stopped everything. For a long minute, he just stared at John with a barely hidden mix of hurt and anger. Then he grabbed his computer and stormed out of the room.

He never looked back.

John was left in the empty room. Around him, Atlantis hummed softly, moving up and down chords like she did on quiet days. Even so, there was no one around to hear John when he said, "I'm sorry," and so it really didn't make any difference.

end part
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