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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)MhalachaiFR1321125,802148701183,6882 Jan 0812 Oct 09No

Twentieth Century Boy

John Sheppard woke up, and things seemed kind of okay.

He hummed to himself as he showered and shaved, thinking all the while that it was a lovely day outside in spite of the rain. He wasn't sure why he was so optimistic, he reflected as he concentrated on not cutting his throat with the razor. Maybe it was because Dr. Keller had said the previous night that Major Teldy would be just fine in a few weeks. Maybe it was that John knew there was no way in hell he was discharging Herrera, one of the best Marines John had ever served with, because of the gay thing.

So basically, in spite of everything, Atlantis was ticking along as close to normal as could be, and that was just fine with John.

Trying to subdue his hair made things worse. John gave up after a few attempts, instead trying to find something to wear that didn't look like it had been through four years of combat. Maybe he should raid the supply room to see if they had any new BDUs in his size. A commanding officer ought to look his best, after all.

In the meantime, John found a relatively clean shirt, its only sign of wear being the mended rip across the shoulder where he'd been on the wrong end of a knife fight a few months previous, and dressed quickly. He'd slept in and was running a little late.

Maybe he could see if Rory was free for breakfast.

The thought of seeing Rory quickened his step and, it had to be admitted, made John stand straighter. He knew he was being ridiculous, that whatever had motivated Rory to come to his room the previous night wasn't going to be long-term or anything, that the mere idea of him and Rory Gilmore was wrong because she was younger than him, and he was in charge of the military on the base and then his mental reasoning descended into blah, blah, blah and John stopped listening to himself.

What would happen, would happen, and John would be a gentleman about the whole thing, but if Rory wanted a repeat of the previous night, he wouldn't be adverse to the idea.

(And there was the small physiological factor that John hadn't had sex in a really, really long time. Funny how a thing like that could change a man's outlook on things.)

He headed out, enjoying a stroll through Atlantis' warmly lit hallways, until he very nearly collided with Rory outside the mess hall. She looked... well, horrible. She had dark circles under her eyes and her shoulders were hunched defensively. Worry stabbed into John's chest. Unconsciously, he stepped closer to her and touched her arm. "What's up?" he asked, mentally kicking himself at the lameness of the greeting.

"It's, um, nothing's up." Rory couldn't meet his eyes. "It's just that..." Her breath caught in her throat, and she pulled her arm out of John's grasp. "Can I speak with you for a few minutes, Colonel?"

Her use of his rank kicked John in the gut. After the previous night, he'd thought...

What, that sleeping with the twenty-five-year-old daughter of your best friend was a good idea?

When John didn't answer, Rory lifted her gaze to John's, her face pale. "I wanted to say..." Her voice stuttered to a halt. She took a deep breath and tried again. "Regarding last night, I believe that I made an error in judgment and that my actions were inappropriate."

John couldn't do anything but listen, fighting down the hysteria building in his chest. It sounded like she was reading some kind of script or something. At least she hadn't called him Sir.

"And I hope that my ill-advised behavior won't negatively influence your opinion of me if we are obliged to work together in the future," she finished, embarrassment coloring her cheeks. She took another step back, then another, banging into a wall and overcorrecting by nearly stepping into a post. It was as if she couldn't wait to get away from him.

There was a moment of horrible silence, when John should have said something to fix this train wreck of a disaster he'd created, but the words and his breath stuck in his throat in a sticky lump and for a moment, John thought he might be sick.

"I'm sorry," Rory blurted out suddenly, then whirled on her heel and hurried away down the corridor, nearly knocking over an Australian anthropologist and a British Lieutenant. The lieutenant looked at John, and whatever she saw on her CO’s face moved her to grab her companion and haul him bodily away.

John took a moment to lean against the wall and take stock. After a few quick breaths, he managed to force down the worst of the nausea. Mostly, he was just confused.

He'd thought...

What had he thought? Sure, Rory had been coming down from her first off-world injury, where she'd nearly been massacred with her entire team, but she was fine when she came to John's room, where he'd reassured her and distracted her with the lights of the city and by touching her until she'd made the decision to kiss him...

Oh shit.

Could he have possibly misread the situation that badly? Rory was just a kid who'd nearly died off-world. How had John managed to forget that? Had he seriously been so intent on the fact that a pretty girl seemed interested in him, that he'd thrown all his common sense out the window?

John straightened up. No, no matter what happened, no matter how completely mistaken he had been about last night, even if he'd been wrong, even if he should have known better, he hadn't done anything heinous. It wasn't like he'd started the night with the intention of sleeping with the injured and mentally fragile daughter of his best friend--

John gave his head a good shake. No, he wasn't going to think about that. He was the military commander on a floating city in the Pegasus Galaxy. Rory had made herself quite clear on what she thought of John. He didn't have time to spend thinking about the disaster of his personal life. He had work to do.

He detoured through the mess hall to grab some breakfast, spotting Major Lorne talking to Dr. Parrish by the coffee station. "Major," John said with a jerk of his head. They may as well get to work on examining the mission reports from Teldy's team the day before.

Lorne glanced at John, smiling at something Parrish was saying. "Be right there, sir," Lorne said, his gaze going back to Parrish for a moment.

On any other day, John would have taken Lorne's reluctance to cut off a conversation in stride. But today, John had a Major in the infirmary and a Staff Sergeant threatened with a dishonourable discharge. He had no damned time for insubordination from his 2IC.

"Major Lorne," John said again, his voice lower than before, but Lorne snapped to attention and was following John before Parrish had a chance to finish his sentence.

Silence rippled out across the crowd in the mess hall by the time John and Lorne exited the doors, but for once John didn't care what the expedition thought about him. He had too much to do.

They took the long way to John's office, including three flights of stairs that let John burn off enough irrational anger to trust himself to speak. "Have you had a chance to review Staff Sergeant Herrera's mission report?" John finally asked.

"Yes sir," Lorne answered. "He wrote up the remainder of his report last night and submitted it before he went off-duty. I have compared his report with that of Sergeant Mehra, and the reports are consistent."

"What about everyone else?" John asked, refusing to let himself think about names.

"Major Teldy is expected to be awake this morning to give her report," Lorne said, following John into his office. "Dr. Howard gave Ms. Gilmore a medical exemption last night due to her injuries."

John had to clamp his jaw down to avoid talking about Rory. "What about Captain Andrews?"

Lorne couldn't keep the corner of his mouth from twitching at the Captain's name. "I do believe he submitted his report directly to Colonel Carter," he said smoothly.

Perfect. John went around his desk to dig his computer out from under a pile of Torren's toys. "Get Andrews' report from the Colonel," he directed. "Then get the report from Gilmore, and construct a reconstruction of the scene. I want to know what they used to block radio transmission around the Gate."

"And the Major?"

"I'll talk to Major Teldy when she's conscious," John said. He tapped the screen of his computer to pull up the medical records. Sure enough, Dr. Keller had changed Teldy's status to "Stable" at four that morning. "We'll meet again after lunch to discuss progress. I want something to take to the Colonel by fifteen hundred hours tomorrow."

"Yes sir." Lorne hesitated, then put his hands by his sides and assumed a slightly more attentive position. "Sir, may I have permission to speak freely?"

John looked up from his computer. Lorne had a particularly mulish expression on his face. If John hadn't been trapped behind the desk in his own office, he'd have turned around and walked out. "If I say no?" he asked, just to be a bit of an asshole.

Lorne ignored it. "Then I'm still going to say this. We can't afford to lose Herrera."

"Rules are rules."

Lorne wasn't buying it. "How does it matter to Atlantis if Herrera's gay? Are the Wraith going to be any less eager to kill us all because of it?"

"Major, you know that is not the issue--"

"Do you have any idea how many times Herrera's saved everyone on my team? Hell, everyone on this city?"

John dropped his computer on the desk. "No, Major, I don't," he said sharply. "Why don't you tell me about it?"

Suddenly oblivious to sarcasm, Lorne stared at John and said, "P6R-Y65. Staff Sergeant Herrera put himself in harms' way to disarm an old Genii landmine that had accidentally been tripped by Dr. Brown. M7W-XJ8. Staff Sergeant Herrera risked going out blind into a sandstorm to get help from the Stargate when my entire team was stuck down with airborne poisoning. P3--"

"P3I-D7P, PK8-E01, four times on Atlantis with the Drones, I know all this!" John snapped. "You don't need to tell me how much this city needs someone like Herrera!"

"So drop the investigation!"

"We're in the United State Military, Major, we don't get to pick and choose which regulations we enforce!" Now John and Lorne were facing down over his desk, and the worst part was that Lorne was completely right and John hated that he had to be the bad guy on this.

"If I may speak off the record?" Lorne demanded, then went on before John could speak. "This is the Stargate Program, and history would suggest otherwise."

A cold splash of rationality washed away John's rising anger. He stared at Lorne, close to horrified. "Major, I don't ever want to hear something like that from you again," John said. "And don't ever hint at something like that around the Colonel!"

And still, Lorne didn't back down. "Colonel Carter has been with the Stargate Program since the beginning. She served with Herrera on Earth, same as I did."

"I know!" John shoved his hands through his hair in irritation. "I know all of this, Lorne, but I can't not follow up on this accusation!"

"So shove it to the bottom of the pile! It's not like we don't have enough to keep us busy for the next four years," Lorne retorted.

John eyed the other man. "Would you want the threat of a dishonourable discharge hanging over your head for years?" Something occurred to him then, a conversation he'd had with Elizabeth Weir years before concerning the personal relationship developing between two of the male scientists, and Elizabeth's outrage that John had even thought to bring the issue to her attention.

For the first time in years, the memory of Elizabeth didn't fill him with regret and guilt.

"What?" Lorne asked, and John realized he'd sighed.

"Just thinking that Elizabeth would kick my ass six ways from Sunday for this."

A flash of understanding crossed Lorne's face. "Isn't that answer enough on its own?" he asked, then left the office before John could fire him.

After all, Lorne wasn't all that wrong.

~~

Major Anne Teldy was groggy from the meds, but she gave John enough of a report that he could fill in the blanks from Herrera's battlefield tale. He finished before Dr. Keller could do more than glare at him, and was standing to leave when Teldy asked, "Did something happen to Herrera? Doc said he hadn't come down for his exam."

John made a mental note to move faster next time. "There has been an, um... accusation made against Herrera," he said.

Teldy narrowed her eyes. She didn't have to ask what he was talking about. "By who?" she demanded, trying to sit up. "Was it Andrews?"

Dr. Keller rushed over to prevent the Major from escaping. "Major, you are not cleared to leave," the doctor said, shoving John out of the way as she reattached monitor wires. "I don't want to become more acquainted with your insides, now be still."

"Thanks for your report, Major," John said, edging his way out of the infirmary. He heard Teldy mutter something uncomplimentary about Andrews, and made a mental note to exclude her exact phrasing from his report.

Even if he didn't disagree with her.

~~

John returned to his office and got to work. Well, he meant to work. After a few minutes of staring at the preliminary paperwork on the investigation into Carlos Herrera's personal life, he decided it wouldn't hurt if he tidied up his office a little.

An hour later, he finished wiping the alien dust off the light fixtures, straightened the box of Torren's toys and clothing he'd been meaning to return to Teyla, and sat back to his task.

But then he got an email from Zelenka, and after rattling off a reply John figured it was high time to tackle the mess of his inbox. After all, a tidy desk, a tidy mind, right?

It took him two hours to deal with all his email, and also to remember that his father had been the one to use phrases like that, and by then he was too tired to mess up his email out of remembered spite.

Then a report on food production came in that he really did have to deal with, then another report, and a few trading requests, and so on. He exercised his rarely-used commander's privilege to get a subordinate to bring him some food from the mess hall (and all it cost him was his cookie ration for two weeks, and Chuck didn't even glare at him too badly when he slapped down the tray). By the time he ran out of things to distract him from the Herrera investigation, it was twenty-five hundred hours and John couldn't keep his eyes open.

It was so late, he didn't run into anyone in the corridor. He stumbled into his room, kicked off his boots, and collapsed fully clothed into bed.

Only to open his eyes a minute later. His pillows still held the faint scent of Rory Gilmore's shampoo.

Acid churned in his stomach as Rory's carefully chosen words about errors in judgment and inappropriate actions danced across his memory, how she'd shied away from a simple touch. From his touch.

How the hell had he messed things up so bad? How hadn't he remembered that she'd been through a traumatic day?

She came to borrow a book, and you had to keep touching her, John reminded himself bitterly. You've been touching her all over the place since she got here. It's surprising she hasn't slapped you with a sexual harassment suit yet. Or just slapped you.

And because his own brain hated him, the idea of touch mixed with the scent of Rory's shampoo from his pillow and his memories of the previous night, sending John to his feet to pace across the room.

In the end, John ended up on the couch for the night. It was, he knew, an admission of his own failure, but at least he could close his eyes without too many reminders of the previous night.

~~~

John slept badly and woke early, a kink in his spine from sleeping on the couch. He showered in cold water to wake himself up, trying to forget the details of the dream in which his ex-wife Nancy had married Rodney McKay onboard a Wraith Hive ship. John had carried the bouquet, and might have been naked, he couldn't recall.

He staggered into the mess hall for breakfast, only to trip (literally) over Rodney McKay himself. Because his reflexes were too slow, John couldn't avoid being dragged to a table and plied with coffee, all because Rodney wanted to talk.

"I don't think Rory's okay," Rodney began, then stopped when John nearly choked on a bite of rye toast. Coughing only bought John a few minutes, however, and then Rodney was back at it. "She says everything is okay, but she's pale and all, you know, quiet."

"Do you have any idea why that is?" John asked, ready to make a run for the door if this was Rodney's sick psychological lead into you slept with my daughter and I've poisoned your coffee.

Rodney stared at John like John was the one with brain damage. "She was shot! She nearly died!"

John slumped in relief. So they were only talking about work, not the fact that John had very probably seduced his best friend's daughter.

"How am I supposed to know what's wrong with her? Everyone around here shouts and yells a lot when they almost die!" Rodney went on, gesturing so hard with his cup that he splashed tepid coffee on John's arm.

"So push the point," John said, wiping his hand on his trouser leg.

"She doesn't want to talk about it!"

"When the hell do you let that stop you?" John demanded, louder than he intend, but at least he didn't blurt out any of the words in his head about I had sex with your daughter or something that would equally justify Rodney killing him.

"You're not helping!" Rodney accused, and oh god, wasn't that the truth.

John stood, giving up on the idea of breakfast. "Maybe she's upset about Herrera. Maybe she needs some time to deal with the ways we all come close to dying every Friday, who knows? Go talk to her yourself!"

"Wait, what happened with Herrera?" Rodney called after John, but at that point nothing short of a Wraith stunner could keep John in the same room as McKay.

~~

By hiding in his office, John successfully avoided everyone for hours, catching up on the review of months-old paperwork. He knew he was engaging in some world-class avoidance, but maybe if he ignored the whole Herrera investigation, it would go away.

That lasted until Zelenka found him and badgered him into the Jumper bay to test out one of the faulty ships, which ended.... well, all right considering the volume of the explosion. John was on his way back from the infirmary, his arm already itching from Keller's burn cream, when Teyla found him.

"John," she called, hurrying after him as best she could with Torren on her hip. She smiled up at him wryly. "I heard what happened. Will you be well?"

"Yeah," John muttered, brandishing his arm. "This was the worst of it, hardly more than a scald. Just some sparks." He turned to leave.

"I had hoped you might join Torren and myself for lunch," Teyla continued. "We have not eaten together in some days."

John made the mistake of glancing down at little Torren, the boy's dark curls a halo around his innocent face, and the memory of yet another failure was too much. "I've got a military base to run, Teyla, I don't have time for this," he snapped to cover his discomfort as he stalked away down the corridor.

He had only made it five steps when Teyla's sharp, "John!" brought him around involuntarily. He fought the urge to look away, because now Teyla was pissed. At him. Her glare very nearly made John cower like a schoolboy. "Perhaps you should attempt to make the time!" she said sharply.

Around them, the corridor mysteriously cleared of bodies. John glared back at Teyla, wondering what the hell was wrong with her, with everyone, why everything was his fault these days.

Then just as quickly as the anger came, it left. John's shoulders slumped forward and he momentarily closed his eyes. When he opened them again, Teyla was in front of him, her hand tentative on his uninjured arm.

On Teyla's other arm, baby Torren clung to his mother's shirt, staring with open-mouthed uncertainty up at the adults.

John held out his hands for the boy and with an exaggerated huff, lifted Torren up so they were face to face. "Sorry about that, buddy," John said, patting Torren's tummy in reassurance. "Being a grown-up really sucks some days."

The baby's uncertainty vanished into smiles as John tickled him. He grabbed a handful of John's collar as he babbled nonsense words.

"See? He forgives me," John told Teyla, smiling hesitantly.

Teyla brushed the curls back from Torren's face. "He is a good judge of character," she admitted. "Most days."

John kissed Torren's cheek, holding tight as the boy twisted around, giggling in delight. "What do you say, buddy, how about something to eat?"

That was how John ended up having lunch with Teyla and Torren. Well, more like he held a wiggly Torren while Teyla ate. He succeeded in getting some milk into Torren's mouth from a bottle, counting that as the biggest win of his day.

Teyla recounted some off-world trading story, while John let his mind run down from two days of self-recrimination and the potential destruction of a good man's career. He even let himself smile at Torren's antics, and he didn't try to analyze how much easier it was to deal with someone who wasn't continually disappointed in John's screw-ups.

This good mood vanished when Teyla leaned in and quietly asked, "John, what is a 'fag hag'?"

John froze, holding Torren securely against his chest while the baby drank from the bottle. "What did you say?" he demanded.

Teyla drew back at his vehemence. "It is a phrase I had not heard before--"

"Did someone call you that?" John asked, anger building in his chest.

"No, it is a term that Ronon mentioned..." Teyla took one look at John's face and prudently rounded the table to retrieve her baby. "I take it from your reaction that it is not a complimentary term."

"No, it's not!" John wiped baby saliva from the back of his hand. "Where did he hear it?"

"Perhaps you should discuss this with him," Teyla said. "In the meantime, is this a question I should not bring up with anyone?"

"What?" John asked, halfway to his feet. "No. Yes. Whatever, it won't matter after I fling myself out a goddamn Jumper." This last was muttered, but perhaps wisely, Teyla didn't call him on his threat.

~~~

To say Ronon wasn't helpful would be an understatement.

"No."

John blinked at the big man. "What?"

"I said no."

"I heard what you said. What the hell won't you tell me where you heard that?"

Ronon shrugged. "Not sure it's my place to say."

Would it be unmanly to throw a tantrum? Probably. "Then who said it?"

Ronon stared.

"Fine, then who did they say it about?"

Nothing. Just as John was about to order Ronon to tell him, for all the good that might do, Ronon finally unbent enough to say, "I'm not saying anything, but you might want to talk to Gilmore."

"Did she overhear too?" John asked, before his brain caught up with reason. "Wait, someone was talking about Rory?"

"To."

Again, it took John a moment to translate Ronon-speak. When it finally came to him, he restrained the urge to kick something. "Someone called Rory a fag hag to her face?"

John knew he shouldn't be quite so angry, that he wouldn't be having this internal reaction if, say, Dr. Keller had been on the receiving end of such a comment, but this wasn't Jennifer they were talking about.

Ronon crossed his arms over his chest. "Not at first. But they did after she confronted them about it. Sort of."

John rubbed his hand over his face. This was officially out of control. He'd turned a blind eye to a certain level of banter amongst the Marines over the years, but he'd never heard of a Marine actually harassing a civilian like this, on his city.

"Who was it?" John asked again, holding in his temper. After all, Ronon was just the messenger.

"Ask Gilmore."

Make that the frustrating messenger. "Ronon--"

"She's good," Ronon interrupted. "You should trust that she'll take care of herself."

John decided that he was finished with this non-conversation.

"Sheppard?" Ronon called as John headed to the transporter. "You got problems around here you got to deal with."

"I'm aware of that," John replied without turning around.

~~~


In spite of his best intentions, John still stood outside of McKay's lab for a few minutes, trying to gather up his courage.

It was just a conversation, he tried to tell himself. He needed to ask Rory vital information about the continuing military function of Atlantis. It was part of an ongoing investigation.

He was still trying to convince himself when the door opened to disgorge one of the physicists. The man looked at John strangely as he headed off, and John was left with no alternative but to enter the lab.

Rodney was going at full tilt, talking at thin air as he worked through a problem, and no one paid him any attention. Other scientists went about their own tasks. It took John a moment to locate the person he wanted, sitting all alone in an alcove by the window, staring at her computer. The bandage on her neck was very visible against her grey jacket, a spot of blood a vibrant red against the white gauze.

John's hand twitched as he remembered the feel of Rory's throat under his fingers, a memory he couldn't quite push away.

He took a deep breath as he skirted around the lab, trying hard to avoid attracting Rodney's attention. He got as far as the desk when Rory looked up.

"Hey," John said. Rory just stared. "Can I speak with you for a few minutes?"

Her eyes grew even larger, and John wondered if this was one of those times they would be obliged to work together she'd talked about.

"It's a work thing," John added hastily, then hoped no one else heard him because really, what else could they be talking about?

Maybe Rory had the same idea, because she climbed to her feet and threaded her way out of the lab before John could so much as blink. The door had barely closed behind them in the hallway when she whirled on him. "Yes, Colonel?" she demanded, chin held high.

Just a work thing, John reminded himself. "It's come to my attention that you were involved in..." In a what? John changed tact, lowering his voice and stepping closer to narrow the ten-foot gap between them. "Ronon mentioned that there was an altercation between you and, well, someone, and that someone may have uttered some... derogatory comments."

Rory crossed her arms under her breasts. "He did?" she demanded. "Did he also mention that this officially sanctioned homophobia in the workplace is archaic and reprehensible?"

"Ronon's not what you'd call a big talker," John said with a shrug.

It was the wrong thing to say. Rory stepped closer to John, furious in a quiet way so unlike Rodney that John had to pause to make sure he was reading her right. "Carlos saved my life, he saved everyone's life when we were attacked!" she said urgently. "I wrote an article on Don't Ask Don't Tell at Yale, so I know exactly how many people are discharged every year from the U.S. Military under completely asinine reasons!"

"Rory--"

"I thought the Stargate program was different!" she went on. "But no, you're waltzing around here asking questions and--"

John couldn't take any more. "We are different!" he exclaimed quietly, leaning into her personal space to keep the conversation low. "I'm not going to do anything to get Herrera discharged!"

He heard himself say the words, but he didn't really understand what he'd said until Rory snapped back, stunned. "But I thought there had been formal charges made."

"There are," John said, rubbing the back of his neck. "But these things take time and I'll come up with something."

Rory blinked her big blue eyes at him. "Does the IOA have other rules I didn't know about?"

"No, but--"

"Because if they do, you'd better tell..." She stuttered to a halt. "Well, the people who think otherwise."

"Like who?" John asked, jumping on the opening. "Anyone in particular?"

Rory shook her head. "Just everyone."

"Like 'everyone' who made certain comments about you?"

But Rory wasn't falling for it. "The certain person, who I'm not going to name, apologized for that."

"Who, exactly?"

"Someone who apologized for calling me... what he called me." Rory's eyes were clear now, stronger than she'd been the previous morning. "And he did it on his own, so I'm not going to tell you."

"But underlying issues...."

"You can't blame one person for the rampant homophobia in the U.S. Military!"

John let out a sigh. Talking about this was giving him a headache. "Rory, it's not a simple issue..."

"Did you ask?"

"What?"

"Did you ask Carlos if he was gay?"

John hadn't asked, and he was never going to ask. "No."

"And did he tell?"

John couldn't help himself as he answered, "Do you really think I go around encouraging people to tell me about their sex lives?"

Rory stared at John for a long moment, then wandered over to a window. Outside, the sky was gathering into a spectacular storm. "What are you going to do?" she asked after a minute.

John sighed, slumping on the wall a fair distance from Rory. "I'm going to fix this."

"How?"

"I'll get back to you on that."

Rory looked out at the storm, her expression inscrutable. John should have left, gone off on his insane self-imposed mission to circumvent established military procedure, but he stayed where he was, watching her.

After a very long time, Rory licked her lower lip. "I meant what I said yesterday," she said. "That I hope we can still work together without it being weird."

"We're working together now," John pointed out.

"Yeah." Rory finally looked at him. "Thanks." She hesitated, then blurted out, "You won't mention anything about what happened to Rodney, will you?"

"God no!" John exclaimed, physically recoiling from the mere idea.

"Good," Rory said quickly. She tugged her jacket straight. "I should go back to work."

"Right."

Rory gave John a quick smile as she ducked back into the lab, the door closing on Rodney's continued rant.

John let out a breath. See? That hadn't been too awkward. They'd talked about work, and it had been just fine.

You just keep telling yourself that, Sheppard.

~~

John tracked Captain Andrews down to one of the storage rooms, working on inventory.

"Don't talk, just listen to me," John ordered, coming straight to the point. Andrews stood perfectly still. "We're a long way from Earth, and I have a lot of paperwork to do. I'm only really interested in a person's fitness to complete their job to highest expectations. So if you have any complaints or issues related to on-the-job conduct, I'll investigate that. Otherwise, I don't want to hear about it. Do I make myself clear?"

Andrews drew himself up to his full height and stared at a spot over John's shoulder. "Yes, sir."

"So if you have any complaints on anyone's on-the-job conduct, I'll expect that on my desk tomorrow morning. Otherwise, any after-mission verbal comments made to Colonel Carter in the past few days are going to be disregarded as irrelevant."

"Yes, sir," Andrews said again. "Sir?"

Honestly, what part of shut up and listen did these people have trouble with? "What?"

Andrews cleared his throat. "I wanted to say that I understand."

"Good." And because apparently this whole talking thing was contagious, John went on, "You're an officer. The men look to you as a model for acceptable behavior. What I've been hearing over the past few days isn't acceptable on any post, under any commander. I want it to stop. Now."

Andrews nodded, his face going a little pink. John left it at that.

~~~

He met Ronon to spar, got the crap kicked out of him, had a shower and went back to work, feeling refreshed if not entirely satisfied. He'd have to keep an ear out for problems among the men, but that left what he was going to do about Herrera. He had to do something. If he did nothing and accusation just went away, it would leave the door open to future accusations of a similar nature.

And the less John Sheppard had to think about the sex lives of his Marines, gay or straight, the happier he'd be.

The answer came to him as he crossed the Gatrium floor on the way to Carter's office. It was so blindingly obvious that John wondered how he could have missed it. With a wide grin, John made his way up to the glass-enclosed room that held Colonel Carter and Major Lorne.

"Colonel Sheppard?" Carter said, eyebrow raised. He realized he was still smiling, and quickly schooled his features. "Is something up?"

"You could say that," John said, settling into a chair with more ease than he normally felt around Carter.

Lorne looked worried. "You're not planning something, are you?" he asked, then added "Sir," as an accusatory afterthought.

"I've solved the issue with Herrera," John said, smiling again at his CO.

"Solved?" Carter repeated. She was beginning to look worried as well.

"Solved," John confirmed. "You know how Lorne's always really busy?"

Carter frowned at the non sequitur. "What does that have to do with anything?"

John shrugged. "Simple. We promote Herrera to Gunnery Sergeant and put him in charge of the Marines. Everyone wins."

Lorne's mouth opened, but no sound came out.

Carter, on the other hand, had no problems with speech. "You realize that's not the usually prescribed course of action in cases such as this."

John looked at her. "I believe the word you're look for is 'innovative'."

"If you're certain about this..."

"I am."

Carter rested her chin on her hand and glared at John for a long moment. Then she surprised the hell out of him by saying, "Then fill out the paperwork requesting the promotion and I'll get it to the SGC for approval."

Lorne interrupted. "Not that I don't agree that Herrera deserves the promotion, but do you know the message this is going to send?"

"What, that hard work and dedication to the continued protection of the city and its people will move one up in the ranks?" John asked.

"I guess there's that," Lorne said, still seeming confused.

"Look," John said, throwing off the air of nonchalance. "We need to do something. This solves all our problems."

"Except the Wraith," Lorne muttered to himself.

"Except the Wraith," John amended. "Am I wrong?"

Carter pursed her lips. "Like I said, write it up," she said after a minute. "Now, about that Durrae attack..."

The meeting went on about its prescribed business, but John felt like a certain weight had lifted from his shoulders. It wasn't a happy ending, but it was something.

Outside, the clouds split open and thunder crashed over the city, and John was content.

He loved Atlantis after a storm.

to be continued

The End?

You have reached the end of "Physics of the Spin" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 12 Oct 09.

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