Mathématique: Fair Share of Abuse

It doesn’t seem like October. Unfortunately, the main reason it doesn’t seem like October is that Mitchell has a hard time believing that he’s lived this long. That they all have.

Revised Author’s Notes: This is a piece of fan fiction. It’s a trope-twisting, epic-length, crossover AU that spans all three series of Stargate. There’s a lot of science. A lot of plot. A lot of emotions. Timelines have been slightly altered so that season 4 of Stargate Atlantis (without Carter in command) occurs contemporaneously to season 10 of SG-1, which occurs in the year prior to season 1 of SGU.

Disclaimer: I’m not making money from this; please don’t repost to other sites. 

Warnings: Stressors of all kinds.

Fair Share of Abuse

The sun is sharp-edged, lighting up yellow-tipped trees against dark clouds. Mitchell, driving, slows for a light. He keeps his velocity change nice and smooth, because he knows what a bitch short stops can be when one’s recovering from a broken back.

Oh, how he knows.

He flicks his blinker on.

The Stones are playing over the radio.

I saw her today at the reception

A glass of wine in her hand.

I knew she would meet her connection

At her feet was a footloose man.

That speaks to Mitchell. That speaks to Mitchell on an ungodly number of levels. On so many levels that there are at least some of them no god can see. Not his grandmother’s God, not some dead false god, not a living example of evil godhead conferred by some bizarro Ancient cousins who seem to have a particular dislike for one of his teammates and a particular fondness for another teammate—the teammate who is missing, the one who’s presumed dead, presumed to be a traitor to the cause she had tried so hard to become a part of—so hard, so hard, so hard that he can’t really swallow when he thinks of the stupid box for the stupid badge that they had requisitioned for her.

It’s sitting in a drawer now. In Mitchell’s desk. So it won’t have to sit in a drawer in Jackson’s.

Cam wishes that he could do one of two things.

Thing A. He wishes he could go out, alone, buy Vala a tombstone and engrave her name on it, using the birthday she had picked for herself and the day she’d disappeared, and then go stick it on some nice ground somewhere and stand over it, without telling a soul. That way, there’ll be no one looking at him, no one seeing him, no one judging him for the steely look in his eye that’s awkward and that’s frightening and that won’t go away, that looks nothing like the grief he really feels for someone who was fucking fucking fucking fucking perfect, for all her annoying, grandiose, deity-sized and derived imperfections.

Thing B. He wishes he could get drunk on Jameson’s, or maybe on bourbon, but a shitty bourbon, not the fancy stuff the hipsters are drinking these days, maybe with Everett, maybe with David in some kind of parallel universe where the guy wasn’t a mostly unambiguous piece of shit, and sit on the trunk of a car. He’d look up at the night sky and he’d scream, ‘Fuck you, Vala Mal Doran, I knew it all along. I knew from the minute you slapped that bracelet on Jackson that you were nothing but a whole mess of hot, smoking trouble, and we’re well rid of you. Set the universe on fire, you glorious piece of work. Well played, m’am. Live long and prosper, may you swim in the jewels that you con off of every idiot that you meet; may you suffer karmicly forever for breaking Jackson’s heart.’

But no. Mitchell gets option C. Like one of Vala’s stupid Cosmo Quizzes—there’s always one crap option out of three. This time it’s Thing C. 

And he’s doing it.

Right now.

Thing C is driving what remains of Colonel Everett Young home to his apartment after the NID finally cleared him. Thing C is being pretty sure that he should stay and have a beer but Thing C makes it three o’clock in the afternoon, which is awkward but also masks the fact that he doesn’t want to have a beer, and Everett doesn’t want him to have a beer, and no one should be having beer anyway.

Misery drinking is always bad, but it never stops anyone from doing it.

Thing C is going back to work and trying to decide where the line that demarcates the point at which Jackson has worked too much, gone too long without sleep, tried too hard to find Vala and not hard enough to find Rush who is, technically, the more valuable asset. Thing C is trying to fall asleep himself in a world where the guy who had carefully reached down and helped Mitchell position his bad leg across his lap in the back of J Shep’s tinyass Mustang is also the guy who has sold them out to the Lucian Alliance, who’s knifed the guy who'd been riding shotgun so hard, so effectively, that Young had been benched for months, and now might be out of a job and might be half out of his mind.

Everett is next to him, staring out the window of the Camaro at the yellowing edges of the leaves. It doesn’t seem like October. Unfortunately, the main reason it doesn’t seem like October is that Mitchell has a hard time believing that he’s lived this long. That they all have.

Except Vala.

And Rush.

Rush, in whom Young has or had an intense personal interest. There was something going on there a little bit outside the norm. But Mitchell gets that. He does. At least, he thinks he does.

He’s responsible for people. He’s been responsible for people before, he’s responsible for people now, in the weird-but-never-uncomfortable, loosely-mutual “authority” type way he has going with Colonel Carter, who arguably ranks him. He’s got a variant of that with Teal’c who’s the Jaffa equivalent of a badass senatorial war hero, and with Jackson who’s—god, Mitchell doesn’t even know what to call the man. Brilliant transhumanist human? Transhumanist transhuman? Post-human human? There-and-back-again human. Whatever.

He’s responsible for them. He had been responsible for an ex-host, intergalactic con artist with a heart of gold, but she’s outside of his current supervisory capacity right now.

Because he failed to keep her safe. That’s the bottom of the bottom line.

It doesn’t make perfect sense, blaming himself, but it’s some kind of bedrock at least—the place where all of them stand. Him. Young. Sheppard. Telford.

Telford. Sure.

He breathes out long and slow because he’s got nothing else.

So, yeah, Mitchell gets it. He gets what Young is feeling. He knows that feeling.

Or does he? Maybe not. Because much as he likes Jackson, much as he would throw himself a million times in front of a million bullets to save Carter and her magnificent brain and her wicked sense of humor and her ability to supe up a car, she doesn’t make him dinner every night. And neither does Jackson.

There had been some intense stuff going on between Young and Rush. The kind of intense stuff that went on every time a major wing of the Stargate Program was created. The kind of intense stuff that had happened between Jackson and O’Neill, between Sheppard and McKay, and between Young and Rush. They could have been, they still might be, the third axis.

Seven chevrons.

Eight chevrons.

Nine chevrons.

The idea of cutting through those kinds of intrapersonal dynamics makes Mitchell wince. It’s the kind of thing that’s maybe forming between him and Sam, that’s coming together slow and progressive—the sideways glance, the understood half sentence, the trajectory of gaze and gun.

But with Young and Rush it’s something different, because they’re not in the field together, they’ve never been in the field together, and even if things had gone perfectly maybe they never would have gone into the field together. They’re a different kind of team. A mathematician with a gift for cracking the abstract wide open and an otherwise solid commander who’d had his back cracked.

Rush wasn’t Carter. That was for sure.

Rush couldn’t effortlessly pull shit out of fires and make it look damn good. Rush might be as quantitative as they got, but he was straight out of the Jacksonian tradition of the guy who opens the interesting door. Straight out of the Jacksonian tradition of setting more fires than he put out.

And Young isn’t Mitchell.

Young can’t let things go the way Mitchell can, with the steely eye and the grit in his mind and his weird and secret tombstone and the thousand other little symbolic ways he finds to say his goodbyes and pay his dues. Young can clench his jaw as hard as any of them, but the shit he clamps down on isn’t shit he ever lets go.

“You okay?” Mitchell asks, and if he can’t get the ice out of his voice or out of his eyes, well, he’s only human after all. Only a guy who found out that one of his closest friends had nearly killed another of his closest friends in some kind of hellish parasite ritual that Mitchell never wants to see or hear of again, cultural sensitivity bullshit be damned.

“Yeah,” Young replies.

It’s a lie. It’s a raging, ridiculous, whopper of a lie, the kind of lie his grandma would never brook and the kind of lie Mitchell himself has told a thousand times a thousand ways and meant from the most stubborn reaches of his mulish heart.

“Yeah,” Mitchell agrees, trying to help Young make it a little more true. It doesn’t work.

The mountain yields to the little sprawling city, this place with too much space and not quite enough strip malls.

He can literally think of no way to start a conversation.

He can literally think of no way that a conversation, once started, could possibly end well.

“You have food, right?” Mitchell says, going straight for the basics.

“Yeah,” Young replies, not looking at him. Everett’s silhouette is strange and slightly unfamiliar—with hair that’s growing into something as regulation-skirting as Sheppard’s, in its own way. His face has the gaunt look of a guy who’s not eating as much as he should.

The man probably doesn’t have an edible thing to his name at home. He’s been in custody for a month.

Lack of edible things. That’s a problem that can be remedied. By Mitchell. Later today, after work, presuming nothing face-meltingly awful happens between now and seven PM. This is not a given. It never is.

“You want to roll the windows down?” Mitchell asks. “It’s nice outside. Not so hot. You missed the end of the summer.”

“Yeah okay.  Whatever,” Young replies.

He does not roll down his window.

Mitchell rolls them all down at once, and a crisp, October breeze sweeps through the car.

“It’s ah—” Mitchell begins, feeling like a man faced with an ice wall to climb without pick or rope. “It’ll be—”

“Shut up, Cam,” Young says, a little bit of fondness creeping in under the exhaustion.

“Yeah,” Mitchell says, thinking of Rush, of Vala, and of a guy he once knew, name of David. That guy is dead, though. That guy is dead and gone with the burning summer wind. Maybe he’d never existed at all. It doesn’t really matter. He’d been real to Mitchell, with his snappy grin and his neat notes about physics, and the way that he would let the scientists go on and on about whatever they liked. The way he tried to talk to them. To plant a real foot on their turf.

Someone should mourn that type A nerd with his bright eyes and shiny boots and ready gun. Too bad no one knew if he’d ever been real. But if he had been real, if, it was a damn shame that no one noticed on the day that that guy died.

The real David.

Not this other person, that Mitchell didn’t know and didn’t care to ever fucking know. Maybe someone had felt something, somewhere. Maybe they all had. One of Jackson’s meditation candles had flickered. On a Lantean dock, J Shep had thought of Telford as he sent golf balls in parabolic arcs to vanish under an alien sea. Everett had looked up from his Kafka and poured a little beer out onto the lawn. Mitchell had felt an extra stillness, a special inner Zen as he piloted an alien ship over Antarctic ice. 

Something like that.

Small things must have happened to brook passage for the good part of a dead soul.

Mitchell brings his blue Camaro, long ago christened ‘Sheila,’ to a stop in front of Young’s building and rolls up all the windows. He gets out, opens the back, and hauls out Young’s bag. Spend a month under lockdown and you accumulate a few things, if you’ve got any friends. Young’s got plenty, and Jackson counts for at least five people.

“I can take it from here,” Young says, pale behind sunglasses, underweight, deconditioned, and definitely not able to take anything from anywhere.

“Shut up,” Mitchell says, “is what you would have said to me eighteen months ago when I was recuperating from a shattered spine and tried to carry my own bag out of misdirected manliness.”

“I’m not you,” Young points out, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans to prevent Mitchell from taking one of his arms like the stubborn bastard that he is.

“No,” Mitchell says. “You’re stupider and handsomer.”

Young doesn’t react to that at all, just looks up toward his building.

Mitchell wonders if anything about this is a good idea. Probably not. He wonders what would happen if he shoved Young back in the car and drove him to his own place.

Maybe it would be the best thing that had happened to either of them in past thirty days.

Maybe Young would deck him across the face.

“You wanna stay with me?” Mitchell asks.

“Nope,” Young says, in a polite, understated way that almost masks how horrified he is by the suggestion.

“Eh,” Mitchell says, trying to smooth the whole thing over as they walk across dark asphalt and then over a bright strip of sidewalk. “Just a thought. Let me know if you change your mind. I’m still trying to improve my chess game.”

“Sure,” Young says, limping noticeably even with the cane he’s backslid into using. “You get Dr. Lam to play you yet?”

“No,” Mitchell says, not at all defensively, watching Young open the glass door to his building. “Nah, she’s ah—she’s still out of my league, um, chess-wise. Chess-wise. Not friend-wise. Friend-wise we are doing awesome. We are awesome friends. Like um, all those friends that you hear about.” Mitchell tries to think of any example, any example at all, to support this crappy argument he’s making. He’s glad Jackson’s not here; the man takes this kind of rhetorical garbage apart with the sort of glee that Mitchell has only ever seen in his four-year old cousin when she decides to purposefully loose at Jenga. “In books. Or movies. Or TV shows. Like The X-files.”

“Pretty sure they sleep together, Cam,” Young says, as they cross the floor toward the elevator.

“Who?”  Mitchell replies, holding the elevator doors for Young.

“The X-files team,” Young says.

“No way,” Mitchell says, as the elevator shuts.

“Pretty sure,” Young repeats.

“I’m going to have to look into this,” Mitchell says, because he can’t say that he’s going to ask Vala. It doesn’t matter though, because like most shit things in the universe, it passes between them unsaid.

Mitchell decides that he’s going to email Sheppard. He’s going to email the guy tonight. He’s going to email J Shep because he hopes that’s what Everett is going to do. He’s going to contact J Shep because the man is a vault, the man is a lock-up in perpetual lockdown, the man is the only guy in the universe who can deal with Rodney McKay, and definitely the person that Young is going to email when he feels like talking to someone because J Shep doesn’t talk back all that much, he just listens, beer in hand, says normal inane stuff, until the point where the inane transforms into the  profound and then you want to climb into the man’s laid-back red wheelbarrow, leave the white chickens in the yard, and burn shit down.

He hasn’t talked to Shep for months. And—

And god, Mitchell is sure that the guy doesn’t know yet. Doesn’t know any of it. Sheppard probably doesn’t Need to Know, and so he won’t have been informed that David Telford is missing, confirmed as a true defector by some bullshit sacred Jaffa rite. He doesn’t Need to Know that the guy who’d sat in the back of his own stupid, tiny sports car, with Mitchell’s foot in his lap had—

Had stopped being the person that they’d known.

The guy should be told, and not through a memo from the NID whenever they decide Pegasus should get the word. Shep should know what’s up, so that when Everett scrapes himself together to the point he contacts him, he’s not blindsided by how genuinely, profoundly screwed up things are in the Milky Way these days.

They walk down the hall to Young’s apartment in a silence that Mitchell can’t think of a way to shatter.

Young unlocks his door, swings it wide, and holds it open for Mitchell.

Mitchell steps over the threshold, his eyes already adjusting to the dim light, and then he stops short. 

The blinds are shut, the room smells like dust, and there is Ancient on Young's wall.

It takes him a few breaths to realize that it wasn’t Young who put it there. “I didn’t know you guys were, ah—” Mitchell says, starting a bottomless pit of a sentence. “Doing the wall-writing thing?”

Young just glances at the perfect circle, divided into nine equal arc-lengths, and shrugs, leaning against the edge of his open door. “The guy was more than a little out of his head after he came back from that planet,” Young growls, like a man who’s keeping his hackles down but wants like heck to raise them. “We never had a conversation where I said, ‘feel free to write on my wall’. I just woke up one day and he’d already done it.”

“I hear that song,” Mitchell replies, hearing it a little too well, and wondering if maybe he should insist that Young spends a few nights with him. There’s something ghostly about that math on the wall. Mitchell doesn’t like it—there’s much too much of Rush in this apartment, and there’s something about leaving Young alone here that feels cruel.

But he can’t say any of that. So instead, he stares at the wall and says, “That’s, like, a really perfect circle.”

“I noticed,” Young said dryly.

“You sure you don’t want to—”

“Yes,” Young says, gruff and pointed, and literally leaning against his doorframe, waiting for Mitchell to leave.

“I’ll be back later,” Mitchell says, stubborn to the end, glancing one more time between his already haunted friend and the literal writing on the literal wall. “I’m sure you were lying about having food.”

“I’m fine, Cam,” Young says, nearly out of patience.

“Yup. Cool. See you tonight,” Mitchell says, backing out of the apartment.

Young shuts the door in his face.

He stands there, looking at it, imagining Young on the other side. Then, he turns and starts toward the elevators. Walking down the dimly lit hallway, he feels the need to talk to Sam.

Sam is fast becoming his main man. Sam is the only one of them who seems to be on an even keel despite being shot in the chest by the Lucian Alliance. Sam is holding her shit together, or if she’s not, she’s holding her unglued shit inside where no one will ever see it. He needs Sam right now, damn it, not Jackson, who’s walking a narrow ledge and can’t quite hide it, not Teal’c who’s too quiet, too much a self-possessed leader, and too prone to comparing Mitchell with O’Neill when Mitchell talks about his feelings, which is something that wasn’t Jack O’Neill’s style.

He wants Sam, who makes him laugh, who’s always working on something kickass, who’s building the next new technology, who will lance holes in stupidity with a polite, spring-loaded shower of darts that when they hit sound something like, ‘No, I don’t think that’s going to work,’ when they hit their targets.

So, after Mitchell drives back to the base with the windows down and the radio on, letting all the ragweed in the area blow through his car, he shows up at Carter’s lab. She’s sitting hunched over her bench, pouring over something on her laptop—maybe the latest potential Vala-sightings. They’ve chased down about eight leads in the past month, six offworld, two onworld, and had absolutely no luck.

“What’s up?” he asks, boosting himself onto the bench next to her before she’s even looked over at him.

“Tweaking,” she says, dragging her fingers across the touchpad on her laptop.

“Tweaking,” he says, already feeling more optimistic about the world. “I like it.”

“Yup,” she says. “Tweaking.” She finishes whatever thought her badass brain is in the middle of, and then looks up at him. “I’ve been trying to figure out a way to track Dr. Rush by the cortical suppressants he’s hopefully still wearing.”

“That sounds awesome and useful,” Mitchell says.

“Agreed,” Carter replies, grinning at him. “Thanks for noticing. I’m programing the software for an incredibly sensitive detector. It’s going to be a pain to haul around—boxy and heavy—but the range on it should approach the theoretical maximum, meaning that it should be equal to the range the signal has before it decays and is absorbed by the atmosphere.”

“Sweet,” Mitchell says. “What kind of range we talkin’ about?”

Carter sighs. “Unfortunately, McKay designed the device to be minimally trackable—so it’s mostly shielded and it broadcasts in a band that doesn’t transmit very far.”

“How far is not very?”

“Ten kilometers,” Carter replies, looking up at him with a half-wince.

“Well that’s not great,” Mitchell says. “But it’s better than nothing.”

“So true,” Carter replies. “Did you—” she breaks off at the sound of a knock against the metal of her doorframe.

Mitchell twists to see Carolyn Lam standing in the doorway. She’s wearing a white coat over a black top and skirt. Maybe it’s a dress, actually, but her shoes are burgundy heels that match the color she’s painted her professionally short nails. Her hair is down, and she looks tired and brilliant and brave and really just anything but extremely beautiful, nope, she does not look that, because that’s not a thought he thinks about kickass women who are general’s daughters and who give up their kidneys to save his team members and who cure plagues and who have already saved more lives than he ever, ever will.

“Carolyn,” Carter says. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Lam says, not smiling, looking uncertain, taking a step into the room.

Mitchell tries to say ‘hey’ also, but he doesn’t quite manage it and it turns into a choking sound as he slides off Carter’s lab bench.

“Is this a bad time?” Lam asks, now even more uncertain, probably because Mitchell looks both guilty and flustered. Oh god. This is terrible. She probably thinks he and Carter are a thing. Which they are not. She probably doesn’t think that. Carter’s out of his league. Everyone’s out of his league. Literally everyone. Mitchell doesn’t date. Romantic relationships are easy for him. Because he doesn’t have them.

“No,” Carter says, like the poised Awesomeness Incarnate that she is. But that makes sense because these ladies are peers and Mitchell is just the relatively savvy local flyboy with a gun and a steely look. “Come on in.”

“I saw your door open,” Lam says, walking forward, “and thought I’d say hi.”

Mitchell should leave his door open, maybe.

“How’s the parsimonious analysis going these days?” Carter asks.

“Oh you know,” Lam says, “I’m watering my little trees and they’re branching all over the place.” Her hands come up and her fingers spread apart.

They both laugh.

Because Lam made a joke of some kind? Apparently? Mitchell has no idea what they are talking about and why it might be funny. Normally he would say, ‘trees?’ but he doesn’t feel like it at this precise moment, not because he’s intellectually intimidated, but for other reasons. Probably a lot of other reasons besides that one. This is terrible.

“It was a good idea,” Lam says, looking at Mitchell, like he has something to do with the branching trees.

He says, “Oh yeah?” in a vaguely questioning way that hopefully does not reveal he has no idea what she’s talking about.

“The genetic comparison between the Ori virus and the plague that wiped out the Ancients,” Lam says.

“Right,” Mitchell says. “But this has what to do with trees?”

“It gets a little jargony around here in the afternoons,” Carter says, smiling, making the tree thing totally normal, like a boss. “Mapping of evolutionary relationships is usually done in the form of branching trees, with each branch point representing a mutation.”

Sam. Sam is probably the best ever.

“Oh right,” Mitchell says. “Parsimony. Right. I knew that.”

“Would you guys excuse me for a minute?” Carter asks. “I need to run down the hall to pick up a form.”

Sam is probably the worst ever.

“Yeah,” Mitchell says, trying not give her a death glare. “Sure. Hopefully we’re not phase shifted when you get back here.” He yells that last part after her as she leaves her own lab.

Lam is looking at him, almost smiling.

“That only happened the one time,” Mitchell says, in a manner he hopes is reassuring.

They look at one another for a span of time that feels too long and feels kind of vertiginous and maybe a little seasick before Mitchell blurts, “so I’ve been playing chess a lot recently,” and Lam says, “would you like to come over for dinner,” in the same exact set of seconds.

Lam looks at him in nervous anticipation.

Mitchell looks back at her like a guy who’s been hit in the face by a two-by-four. Right. In the face.

Oh god.

His day—his totally depressing and awful day has turned into a day where Thing D is happening. He didn’t even know there was a Thing D, let alone that it might happen to him.

Thing D is that one of the smartest, toughest, most beautiful people he’s ever met in his life showed up in the doorway and is asking him out. Thing D is that his badass teammate left the room so that this could happen. Thing D is that he thinks he might die of shock before he can say ‘yes.’ Thing D is that Carolyn Lam is probably the most amazing person on this entire base and she just asked him to dinner. 

Like a baller. 

In a way that looks like it might not be just a friend thing. She is just so pretty and she is just so great and she is just so good at stopping plagues and she’s giving him a sort of nervously determined look right now and he can’t think of anything except watching the surveillance footage of her running through the base in that hellish white haze, running with an expression on her face like he gets on his face when he’s got something awful that needs doing, remembers watching her run to get the thing that would probably kill her, shoes off, coat and hair flying, running for the thing that would poison her to a painful death, a slow death, just so she could use it to save Carter. She had run. She had run for that naquadah. Flat out sprinted for that naquadah. No one could watch that footage and not love her.

No one.

And so it’s probably not his fault that when he says, “Yeah, sure, dinner,” he sounds like someone is strangling him.

“Great,” she says. “How’s tomorrow?”

Tomorrow is amazing. Does tomorrow even exist? He can’t remember anything that might be occurring tomorrow.

“Seven o’clock?” he says, clearing his throat.

“Bring your chess set,” Lam says.

“You think you can handle the game I’m gonna bring with it?” Mitchell says, totally thoughtlessly. “Um.  By which I mean skill. At chess. Just to be clear.”

Lam smiles in a way that’s almost a laugh, sticks her hands with their perfect painted nails into the pockets of her perfect white coat, and looks down at her perfect shoes before looking back up and saying, “I’m pretty sure I can handle any game that you bring, Colonel.”

“Cam,” Mitchell says, snipping that right in the bud for the third time or so and then smiling back at her. “Definitely Cam. Always Cam.”

“Cam,” she says.

They look at one another in awkward, promising silence.

“I should get back to work,” she says.

“Yeah,” Mitchell says. “Me too. People to find, planets to save; you know how it is.”

“Oh I know,” she says, turning to go. “See you tomorrow,” she calls over her shoulder.

“See ya,” Mitchell says.

He watches her walk away, waits for her to vanish around the corner, then rounds Sam’s lab bench, drops onto the floor, and releases a shuddery breath. Carolyn Lam just asked him out. Dr. Carolyn Lam just asked him out. This is amazing. This is a terrible idea. Is this even real?

He shuts his eyes, only to open them a few minutes later to Sam, gently nudging him with a steel-toed boot. He looks up at her.

“That bad?” Carter asks sympathetically.

“She asked me out,” Mitchell says, looking up at her. “A little bit. I think. Maybe. I’m pretty sure.”

They grin at one another for a moment before Carter extends a hand, saying, “She asked you? Teal’c owes me another twenty bucks.”

Cam lets her pull him to his feet and give him a clap on the shoulder. “You bet against me?”

“Daniel bet against you for forty,” Sam says.

“That bastard,” Mitchell says, shaking a fist in the direction of Jackson’s office. “What are you people doing? Betting against your fearless leader when there are teammates to rescue from their pasts, mathematicians in distress, and traitorous bastards who need their comeuppance?”

Carter laughs, a single, delicate exhale. “Go cheer up Daniel, he needs it more and I’ve got electronics to calibrate.”

“I also have important duties, other than just morale boosting,” Mitchell says, with whole pile of authority.

“Yes,” Carter says. “You’re very good at shooting things.”

“Team night this Saturday,” Mitchell says on his way out. “October is Adopt-A-Miserable-Colonel month and I’ve got just the guy for us.”

He walks toward Jackson’s office, not dreading the coming conversation, certain that something’s going to give soon, certain that they’re going to find their people, that that badge in his desk is going to find its way to a non-regulation tailored jacket, certain that scientists are going to be extracted straight out of the hands of the Lucian Alliance, because sometimes there’s a fourth, non-crap choice that’s hiding under three crap options.

Fourth choices follow Jackson around like lost children.

Everything’s going to be all right.

He can feel it.

This is SG-1, after all.  

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