Missing Piece

by Kass

Written for the "Family" challenge at SGA Flashfic. Set immediately before S4 x 20, "The Last Man," and contains spoilers for that episode.
Many thanks to Sihaya Black and Lamardeuse for beta.

When his alarm clock goes off Rodney winces and flops over, mashing his face into the pillow. Just a little more sleep, God — he's too old for this, his body is rebelling. But his mind snaps awake instantly. Soon his brain is running at full speed, assessing the work he tried to do last night and all the ways in which, it's obvious in the light of day, he took completely the wrong tack.

Eventually he drags himself up and stands under the showerhead for a while, thanking his own private pantheon that that Ancients built good plumbing that will, apparently, last forever. Too little sleep, and the worst part is he's not even sure he got anywhere. Maybe Radek will have good ideas this morning; he left the lab at a reasonable hour yesterday, which probably means he'll be well-rested, the bastard.

Rodney yanks his clothes on, rubs a towel over his hair (it's fine enough that it will be dry by the time he gets to work), grabs his laptop and heads out the door.

He buzzes the mess hall for exactly ninety-five seconds. That's how long it takes to fill his first coffee cup of the day (it's a small mug, but he has a big one at the lab, and Radek will no doubt have made the first pot by the time he gets there) and ponder the selection of portable pastries. He settles on an "apple" danish — the filling is actually a fruit from M3B-291 which in its whole form looks like an eggplant and tastes like cardboard, but stewed with a little cinnamon and sugar it's surprisingly apple-like — and he's off to the lab.

It's not as if he and Teyla ever breakfasted together, so he doesn't consciously notice her absence. Not in the morning. Besides, he has too much to do. Work to do. Answers to find.

"No, no, no," Rodney says, walking briskly back out the door. "You're on the wrong track, this is completely ridiculous!"

"You are not listening to me," Radek calls, catching up with him without trouble. "If we configure like so," his hands are sketching the schematic, "I think it is possible —"

"And I think you're dreaming," Rodney says. They skirt a pair of soft scientists walking at soft-science pace — ambling, really, which is just a sign that their discipline doesn't involve important work! — and remain on their beeline for the mess. "Besides, the problem isn't the configuration, it's —"

"The damaged three crystals, I know, this is obvious to everyone. Salisbury steak, please," Radek says to the woman behind the counter.

"Yes, fine, for me too," Rodney says absently. Something about the way Radek said "three crystals" is sparking a realization.

He follows Radek to a big lunch table. No one will sit near them anyway, not when they're like this, but Rodney likes to have room to spread out. "What if we don't actually need to get all three crystals functioning? What if we could tap in to the clean end of the two that sort-of work —"

"Ne, we need more surface area," Radek begins, but then he tilts his head and goes silent. "It is possible. Maybe."

"This could be it! The breakthrough!" Rodney's already standing up, excitement coursing through him.

"Don't get your hopes up," Radek cautions him, but it's already too late.

"I'm not hungry anymore," Rodney says. "I'm going back — I'll see you there," and he's carrying his tray to the busing station, meal almost uneaten.

"At least take a sandwich," Radek calls, but Rodney's already out the door. In his mind he's already striding into Sam's office, announcing that they've solved the puzzle, they know exactly where they need to go, success is within their grasp.

"The bartender on Samos was a talky guy," John said. He and Ronon and Rodney were in the briefing room; Sam had called them there as soon as John got back. "He said there were rumors of a Wraith who fit Michael's description on L2I-6B2, but their gate was down. So I took the jumper to the nearest working gate and flew the rest of the way."

"Right, and?" said Rodney, impatient.

"The guy I interrogated there said sure, he'd seen him. Apparently Michael demanded supplies from the town, and between his goons with guns and his threats," John said, "the people complied."

"I should've killed him when I had the chance," Ronon muttered.

"As he was leaving, somebody finally grew a pair," John said, "and shot at him. There was a little skirmish, two townspeople were shot, and as Michael and his men disappeared, the DHD was damaged." He dropped a lumpy fabric bundle in front of Rodney.

Inside the bandanna were the control crystals, darkened with smoke and in a few places melted right through. "Let me take these to my lab," Rodney said, pushing back from the briefing table.

"See what you can do," Sam agreed.

After an hour, Radek declared the project too complex to begin at dinnertime; they would do better, he said, to sleep on the matter and begin in the morning. Rodney glared at him and refused to leave his desk...

Some good that did. Rodney blinks back to awareness and realizes he's holding up the dinner line. People are moving around him to get to the salad bar, some of them throwing him odd sidelong glances as they pass. He knows he should eat; his "lunch" was a powerbar he ate at his desk without even noticing the flavor. But he doesn't feel hungry.

They've spent a entire day on the crystals — plus the hours Rodney put in late last night — and they still can't get whole gate addresses out of them. And now Rodney has to walk over to the dinner table and admit that to everyone.

He tried sitting somewhere else, one night right after Michael took Teyla. It felt weird and wrong and traitorous. He had to stand up midway through the meal and carry his tray over to where he was supposed to be.

Ronon's already there tonight, and Keller. She's a relatively new addition, but that's all right; it doesn't feel like an imposition. She's already been through enough with them that she's unofficially graduated to old-timer, and besides, Rodney's pretty sure there's some kind of unspoken rule that anyone who's seriously dating team is kind of...team-in-law.

Radek joins them sometimes too, though at dinner he and Rodney don't argue about work. Ostensibly because they don't want to annoy anyone, though it's really because it used to bother Teyla. Funny; when she was around, Rodney wasn't all that worried about getting on her nerves. Radek's not there tonight, though. Maybe because he doesn't want to admit failure, either.

John isn't back from wherever he and Lorne went today. He hasn't called in with news, so Rodney's guessing that's not a good sign. It's not a bad one either, per se, except in the sense that the longer it takes them to figure out where Michael's taken her, the colder the trail grows. All of them are counting the weeks until her due date, though no one wants to say that out loud.

The thing is, even if there isn't an empty chair at their table, there's an empty place.

"We didn't get anywhere," Rodney says flatly. "The crystals are a mess."

There's a long silence.

"So," Jennifer says. "Other than that, how was everybody's day?"

She's trying, but the mood is too heavy for her to lift.

Rodney grabs a wrapped sandwich to go and heads for John's quarters. If John isn't there, he'll override the lock and leave the sandwich on John's desk with a note.

But John's home. He answers the door in a pair of sweatpants and a faded Stanford t-shirt. His hair is damp and standing up in spikes, which makes Rodney smile a little.

"I brought dinner," Rodney says, pushing past John to put the sandwich on the desk, like he'd been planning.

"Thanks. I had an MRE in the jumper."

John doesn't like them half as much as Rodney does — something about actually being military, Rodney guesses — so he must have been really hungry.

"Long day?" Rodney asks, sitting down on one of the chairs, making himself at home. If John doesn't want him there, he'll say so.

But John sits on the other chair, legs akimbo, and shrugs. "More or less."

"Anything worth —" Investigating, he's going to say, but John shakes his head.

"Just a whole lot of keeping this face on," and his mouth tightens and his eyes look furious and there's barely-restrained anger in every line of his body until he releases it all and melts back into the chair. "It's getting kind of old."

Rodney nods. He feels as if he ought to say something, and he's pretty sure this isn't the right thing, but it's all he's got. "We'll find her," he says. "We don't leave people behind."

"She's not just 'people,' Rodney," John says. He leans forward, elbows on his knees, and one hand is rubbing and pushing at his other palm. A sign of a stress headache; Teyla taught them how to find that knot in the hand that releases the pain.

"I know," Rodney says. "She's team." She's family, is what they mean, and they both know it. "Here, give me that," and he reaches for John's hand.

"I'm fine," John protests, but he lets Rodney take his hand.

The back of John's hand is dusted with fine hair and his palm is warm. It's not hard for Rodney's thumbs to find the place to push, and he digs into it, not gently.

"Oh," John sighs, closing his eyes and letting Rodney work.

He looks tired and vulnerable and so beautiful that Rodney's heart catches in his chest. He's objectively handsome; Rodney noticed that the day they met, and hated him for it a little bit just on principle. But after these years in Atlantis Rodney can't entirely remember what it was like to look at him and only see the good looks.

For that matter, he knows Teyla's objectively beautiful, but that's not what he thinks about when he remembers her. Ronon's as good-looking a man as Rodney has laid eyes on, and who cares? They're so much more than that, now.

"Come on." Rodney pushes John toward the bed.

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm kind of tired," John begins.

"You don't have to do anything," he promises. "Just — let me."

"Rodney," John protests, but he's lying back, surrendering.

He sucks John's cock gently, one hand bracing himself on the mattress and the other hand loosely gripping the base, thumb stroking down to his balls. John lets his legs fall apart, inhales hard, but he's mostly silent tonight.

Rodney wants to stretch this out, to make it good for so long that they'll both forget the day they've had, the frustration at not getting anywhere, the fear. The tape looping endlessly in both their minds: where Teyla might be, what Michael might be doing to her now.

He doesn't want John to be thinking about that. Rodney pulls back, admiring John's cock in his hand, and John shifts beneath him, restless; when he returns to his task John gasps a little, squirming up, which feels like victory.

Rodney is getting hard too, his trousers on the verge of becoming painful against his trapped erection, but he pushes that awareness to the side. His attention is on John's cock under his tongue, John trembling under his hands. The little hitch in John's breathing that means he's close already.

He slows it down, lightens his touch. No pressure, no suction, just the warmth of his mouth, and John groans, planting his feet and thrusting up, trying for the traction Rodney won't let him have.

"Jesus, Rodney, come on," and John's voice is low and gritty. It goes straight to Rodney's cock, which is aching now; Rodney reaches down and pops the button on his pants, unzipping hastily because he can't stand the feeling of being bound for another second.

He means to keep things slow, to stretch this out, but John makes a frustrated sound and pushes up and Rodney's body responds, tightening his grip, and that's it, John's off, arching up under his mouth and his hands.

Rodney wants to stay curled there, his head pillowed on John's belly, but the bed isn't big enough for that to be comfortable. And besides, he needs to get himself under control enough to stalk back to his quarters and jerk off before bed. He pulls back.

"C'mere," John says, beckoning lazily.

"You should sleep," Rodney says, but he climbs up John's body. John's kiss feels like he's saying "thank you," in delicious and dirty ways.

John tugs him closer and his erection makes contact with John's hip.

"Mmm," John says, kissing him more.

Rodney's brain is spinning out of control with all the things he can't say — I was going go home and deal with that, you're supposed to be sleeping, I wanted to take care of you — but his body is one hundred percent with the program, rubbing against John shamelessly. Sparks fly up his spine every time his cock catches in the soft cotton of his underwear.

And then John's hands are moving down his back, grabbing his ass and pulling him close, holding him snug against John's body. Rodney breaks the kiss and presses his face into John's neck, gasping, because suddenly he's way closer to coming than he realized, he didn't mean, not yet —

"That's it," John murmurs, low and satisfied, right into Rodney's ear. And Rodney flails for an instant as his cock jerks between them, coming all over himself, but John's holding him tight.

Another morning. Sunlight slanting into the mess hall. Rodney's up early for a change; he sees Keller sitting alone at a table with coffee and a bagel, and on impulse he joins her.

"Morning," she says, brightly.

He nods a little. "So. What's on your agenda for the day?"

She shrugs a little. "For once, no one's critical. I thought I might do a little inventory, see where we are with everything."

Neither of them mentions the obstetrics textbook sitting beside her on the table, unopened. She set herself on a refresher course weeks ago. Every moment that goes by might render that studying moot.

"And you?"

Rodney grimaces. "DHD crystals."


"Still." He finishes his muffin. "We got some partial addresses yesterday; I'll see whether I can narrow them down this morning into something we can work with."

"Ronon's antsy to keep looking," Keller says.

"I think John's planning to go out with Lorne again today," Rodney says absently. As the coffee kicks in, he's realizing how he can limit the database search based on the partial parameters they've managed to coax out of the burned crystals, and adrenaline courses through him. "If you'll — I think I just —"

"Yeah, sure, go," Keller says, waving her hand, and he's already up and heading for the door. This might be the breakthrough they need. Maybe today's the day they can put the pieces of their family back together.

The End