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Imperfect (Part 1) - Hotitudinosity
fiction by jalabert
jalabert
jalabert
Imperfect (Part 1)
Title: Imperfect
Author: Jalabert
Category: Crossover with Stargate SG-1
Rating: R
Warnings: None
Series/Sequel to: Perfect
Pairing: Aiden Ford/Daniel Jackson
Summary: After Aiden's encounter with the Wraith could things ever return to the way they were before?


Aiden wasn't sure how to react when he heard the news. He just happened to be looking down at his hands when Elizabeth made the announcement. When he was able to look up again he saw a variety of reactions registered on the faces of those around him. Elizabeth's conveyed pleasure at the prospect of having special visitors in Atlantis, as did Rodney's. Teyla and John seemed completely indifferent, but a few of the science staff present seemed to be very animated. Aiden briefly wondered how his own expression might be interpreted and carefully schooled his features.

He'd lost track of earth time since settling into life in the Pegasus Galaxy, as had most of the residents of Atlantis, so he wasn't exactly sure how long since he'd seen any of his old friends from the SGC. He'd tried not to think about those he'd left behind when he joined the Atlantis expedition. Now his past was coming to meet him here.

That wasn't precisely the case, Aiden told himself as he rose and left the conference room. His past was catching up with him but it wasn't necessarily coming to meet him, was it? It was merely paying a visit to Atlantis.

"Ford!"

Aiden turned and waited for John to draw near.

"Where are you off to in such a hurry?" he asked as he fell into step with the lieutenant.

"I'm headed to the mess. I thought everyone in the room could hear my stomach growling," Aiden replied with an easy laugh.

"I thought that was thunder I was hearing," John teased. "Let's find some chow."

The pair entered the dining hall and collected sandwiches, dessert and drinks before settling into seats at a table in a quiet corner near a window.

"So do you know these guys?" John asked, wiping the corner of his mouth with a napkin.

"Which guys?"

"The ones paying us a visit," John replied. "Everyone seemed to be making a big deal of it. I've met Dr. Jackson, but I don't know any of the others."

"Well, Colonel Carter is the leader of SG-1, the SGC's first contact team," Aiden said.

"I've heard a lot about SG-1," John said. "Most of it would make a great sci-fi movie."

"And all of it is probably true," Aiden said with a smile. "They've been in some weird shit out there."

"Hey, is 'Colonel Carter' the same 'Dr. Samantha Carter' Rodney's been babbling about since I met him?"

"The very one."

"Is she really a babe?"

"She's the hottest colonel I've ever seen," Aiden conceded.

"So we can expect Rodney to be even more insufferable than usual."

"Can he be more insufferable?" Aiden asked as Rodney approached their table with a tray.

"You have no idea, lieutenant," he said as he pulled up a chair and sat down.

"I suppose we're about to find out, though," John said with a wink at his second in command. Rodney shot him a dirty look, but he was far too eager to launch into a discourse on the commendable qualities of Dr. Colonel Samantha Carter to respond to the barb.

"Dr. Carter's theories about gate technology are far from perfect, mind you," Rodney said as he slid a dish of rice pudding across the table to Aiden and spared a moment to offer a quick explanation. "Someone named Mandy is serving tonight and she said that if I didn't give this to you I couldn't have any."

"I hate rice pudding," Aiden replied.

"Eat it anyway," John said. "We wouldn't want to offend Mandy, now, would we?" he said with a nod and a smile at the corporal on the serving line.

Aiden sighed heavily and resumed eating while John feigned interest in Rodney's description of Samantha Carter's attributes, occasionally prompting Rodney' with questions as Aiden tried in vain to suppress his amusement. When Rodney finally paused to taste his sandwich, John turned to Aiden.

"So tell me about this Dr. Jackson," he said. Aiden's smile slid from his face and once again, he schooled his features.

"Dr. Jackson's cool," he said averting his eyes to the slice of pie on his plate. "He's responsible for the entire Stargate program, actually. If he hadn't figured out how to open the gate--."

"Please," Rodney interrupted. "Dr. Carter was this close to opening the gate well before Dr. Jackson arrived on the scene."

"But she wasn't on the scene, was she?" Aiden said. "Dr. Jackson was there and he's the one who interpreted the gate symbols. He took part in the first mission to Abydos and he's been the lead scientist on the Stargate project since then."

"He's been the head of the 'soft' science unit since then. Dr. Carter is in charge of all the real science, lieutenant," Rodney said disdainfully. Aiden raised his eyebrows and John shrugged.

"What kind of guy is he?" John repeated.

"He's nice enough," Rodney said. "I didn't have much to do with him."

"...Him being a 'soft' scientist and all, I could understand that," John quipped. "What does that mean, exactly?" he asked Aiden.

"Dr. J is an anthropologist and linguist, sir," Aiden replied. "He speaks 25 or 26 languages fluently, including Goa'uld and Ancient."

"Many of us in Atlantis can read Ancient, lieutenant," Rodney said dismissively before John could ask about the Goa'uld. "It's not that hard."

"No, I suppose not--since Dr. Jackson figured it out and provided the Atlantis team with glossaries," Aiden shot back. Rodney looked up in surprise. Aiden sat back smugly.

"So we're getting two geeks," John said with a conspiratorial smile at him. "What about the third member of the party?"

"I don't know the other guy," Rodney said. "He may well have joined the SGC after my exile to Siberia." John looked at Aiden.

"I don't know either, sir," he said, averting his eyes again. Truth be told, he'd stopped listening after Elizabeth announced that Samantha Carter and Daniel Jackson were coming to Atlantis.

"Yeah, I kind of zoned out, myself," John admitted. "Eat your rice pudding, lieutenant."

"I just had pie and I don't--."

"Eat," Rodney and John said in unison. Aiden laid aside his fork and reluctantly picked up a spoon.

"I'm out of the loop here," John said self-deprecatingly. "I don't know anyone at the SGC."

"Well, you joined the Stargate program kind of late in the game, didn't you, sir?"

"And it's not as though anyone's coming to see you, is it?" Rodney said offhandedly. John glared at him for a moment.

"No, it's not and thank you so kindly for pointing that out," he said peevishly. "I'm looking forward to meeting this Dr. Jackson again," he added with a pointed look. "He sounds like a breath of fresh air."

"...As opposed to the sound of hot air. Ha, ha," Rodney replied unperturbed. Aiden laughed as the two men continued to snipe at each other. But as soon as lunch was over and he left the dining hall, he was free to think again. He had less than six hours to prepare for what was to come.

Aiden managed to keep himself busy for the next few hours, catching up on his paperwork and having a martial arts training session with Teyla before retiring to his room for a shower. He'd just finished dressing when he was hailed on the intercom.

"We need you in the command center for the meet and greet," John informed him.

"Yes, sir," Aiden replied. He arrived at the command center two minutes later, just as the gate was activated. He found himself holding his breath till he was distracted by an elbow in the ribs. He glanced up at John, who in turn gave Rodney a sidelong glance. Aiden followed his line of vision and saw that Rodney was positively thrumming with excitement.

"Wait till he finds out that Carter is doing the general," John whispered. Aiden turned to gape at him. "I have it on good authority," John added, but before he could say more, the sound of the shield falling captured his attention. Aiden took an involuntary step forward and watched as people began to pour through the ring.

Since the Daedalus arrived in Atlantis with a fully-charged Zero Point Module, the Atlantis outpost had been in regular contact with the SGC, which sent badly-needed supplies as well as relief personnel, enabling the denizens of Atlantis to return to Earth to work or visit their families. Aiden had been anticipating the return of several people who promised to bring him back things from earth, but that was forgotten as soon as the first of their visitors stepped through the gate.

As a squad of marines placed cartons of supplies on the deck, Samantha Carter stepped through the gate. Rodney made a strangled noise in his throat and John glanced over at Aiden, who neither heard nor saw either of them. His eyes were on the man standing in the middle of the gate room, reading the Ancients' welcome message on the stairway to the command center. He looked up at the group standing at the top of the steps and when his eyes alit on Aiden, he smiled. Aiden could only manage a slight nod before the sound of Elizabeth's voice nearly made him jump out of his skin.

"Shall we go down and greet the new arrivals?" she said. Rodney nodded vigorously and led the way.

"Dr. Weir," Sam said as she stepped forward to greet her hosts. Daniel followed her over to the base of the stairs to await the welcome party.

"Welcome to Atlantis," Elizabeth said warmly. "Dr. Carter... and Dr. Jackson, it's good to see you again."

"It's great to be here," Sam replied, extending her hand. Rodney quickly took hold of it as soon as it was aimed his way. "Dr. McKay."

"Dr. Carter," Rodney said with a face-splitting grin.

"Hello, Elizabeth," Daniel said, eschewing the handshake for a brief hug. "I can't believe I'm finally here."

"I've been looking forward to this moment since we first arrived. There's so much I want to show you," Elizabeth replied. She turned to John. "I don't believe you've met Colonel Sheppard and Lieutenant Ford."

Sam carefully withdrew her hand from Rodney's and extended it to John.

"Colonel."

"Colonel." John shook hands with Sam before she moved on to Aiden.

"Welcome to Atlantis, ma'am," he said formally.

"Thank you, lieutenant," Sam said with a smile.

"Dr. Jackson," John said as he took Daniel's hand. Daniel nodded, but his eyes had already fixed on Aiden.

"Hello, Lieutenant Ford," he said.

"Good to see you again, sir," Aiden said softly. They didn't shake hands, but the warmth of Daniel's gaze conveyed far more than Aiden felt comfortable with, so he quickly averted his eyes.

"And this is Teyla," Elizabeth continued. "Teyla is an Athosian who has left her people on the mainland to join our expeditionary team."

"I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Colonel Carter, Dr. Jackson," Teyla said with a slight bow.

"Thank you," Sam said, as Daniel stepped forward to greet her.

"I've heard a lot about the Athosians and have been looking forward to meeting you," he said eagerly. "I'd like to learn more about your people and your culture. I hope to have an opportunity to speak with you and others of your clan while I'm here."

"I would be happy to take you to our village and share our culture with you," Teyla replied as the third member of the visiting party finally made his appearance. He was a molecular biologist who was there to do an analysis of Wraith DNA. He was quickly introduced to the others as Dr. Michael Forrester.

"Why don't we let you all get settled into your quarters? Then we'll give you a tour of the city," Elizabeth suggested.

"I'd be delighted to show you the science wing," Rodney quickly volunteered. "We've been doing some fascinating work with some of the Ancient technology we found."

"I'd like that, Rodney," Sam said affably. "I'm eager to see your labs here."

Rodney gestured for her to proceed and would have led her away if John hadn't grabbed his arm.

"Let her unpack first, Rodney... settle in a bit. Then you can bore her to death with all your geek stuff," he said.

"You obviously don't know Sam," Daniel laughed.

"No he doesn't," Sam agreed with a smile. "It's okay, Colonel. I'd rather do the 'geek stuff' first." Rodney grinned smugly and led her toward the labs.

"If you don't mind, I'd like to head straight to the biogenetics lab," Dr. Forrester said apologetically.

"Teyla would you--."

"I will take him to Dr. Beckett," Teyla volunteered. She waited for her charge to shoulder his pack and led him away.

"Well, I'd like to see my quarters," Daniel said graciously. "Then I'd like to see the city."

"Good," Elizabeth said. "Lieutenant Ford, would you escort Dr. Jackson to his quarters?"

"Yes, ma'am. This way, sir." He headed back up the stairs and Daniel followed. John turned and watched them go.

"We'd better see to getting our provisions stowed away," Elizabeth said. John turned back and looked at the stack of cartons cluttering the gate room.

"Yeah," he sighed.

"What's on your plate for the rest of the day?" she asked as they waded into the fray.

"As soon as Stackhouse has them squared away, I've got a squad of replacement troops that needs an orientation to Atlantis," John replied. "How about you?"

"I'd like to catch up with Daniel, but that can wait, I suppose. He'll be here for a month, after all. And why are you doing the orientation? Shouldn't that be Bates' job?"

"Bates is going on leave, remember?"

"What about Ford?"

John winced slightly. Elizabeth had unwittingly touched upon a sore spot and John seized the opportunity to vent.

"He's the one who should be going on leave, you know," John complained. "He took himself off the rotation list--twice. The kid has had absolutely no down time since--."

"Neither have you, as I recall," Elizabeth replied archly. "In fact, there were two names omitted from the rotation list--twice," she added pointedly. "So don't go complaining about Lieutenant Ford unless you're willing to practice what you preach."

"Yeah, but I've been needed here to help with the Ancient technology. Ford's just been--."

"He's been what?"

"Well, I don't know, exactly, but if I didn't know any better, I'd say he's been avoiding going home."

"That also sounds like someone else I know," Elizabeth replied. John glared at her for a moment, but his expression softened.

"You know he's been more than a little out of it since--."

"Can you blame him after what he's been through? I would have thought he'd be eager to go home afterwards. I even put his name at the top of the leave roster. I was surprised as you were that he's refused to go. In fact, I half expected that he'd want to leave Atlantis for good."

"Maybe he's afraid to go home because of what happened. I don't know," John said wearily. "I'm beginning to worry about the kid."

"Me, too," Elizabeth said, now that you've brought this to my attention.

"Liz," John asked, looking up at the stairs. "Do Ford and Dr. Jackson know each other?"

"I have no idea, but it's possible. They were both in Antarctica last year," Elizabeth replied. "Why?"

John shook his head and turned to one of the cartons. Elizabeth pondered the question as she reached for the manifest.

**

"How are you, Aiden?" Daniel asked as the two men walked down the corridor.

"I'm fine," he replied crisply, earning himself an appraising look from his companion. "How about yourself?"

"I'm fine," Daniel replied in the same tone. He and Aiden exchanged a look and then continued down the hall.

"We'll take a transporter from here," Aiden said as he opened the door to the small compartment.

"Transporter? Not an elevator?"

"No, not an elevator," Aiden replied. He reached out, touched a spot on the city map and turned around. Before Daniel could speak, Aiden smiled and said "We're here."

"Already?"

"Ancient technology is very cool," Aiden replied as he stepped out of the transporter and gestured in the direction of the guest quarters. "We've put you in the VIP wing."

"What does that mean, exactly?"

"It means you'll get a nice view of the ocean," Aiden said laughingly.

"What's so funny?" Daniel asked as they approached a door at the end of the corridor.

"All the rooms in Atlantis have ocean views. It's a--never mind." Aiden opened the door and allowed Daniel to enter first. Daniel immediately strode to the window and gazed out at the view.

"Wow!"

"Get used to it," Aiden said. "It's all you'll see everywhere you look."

"Can't you see land from any of the windows?"

"The nearest land is over a hundred nautical miles away," Aiden replied.

"Very cool," Daniel said, turning around to look at him. "You look well."

"I am well."

"I, uh, saw your tape--the one you sent back to earth before the Wraith attacked Atlantis," Daniel said awkwardly. Aiden couldn't meet his eyes. "It made me think of you. I've thought about you a lot since then."

"Yeah...uh..." Aiden cast about for something to say. Unable to respond to Daniel's comment he pointed toward the bathroom. "You've got a private bath and there's a closet in there. And this panel here," he said, walking over to the wall, "is an intercom that will allow you to communicate with anyone on base or within range of a personal com link." Daniel opened his mouth to speak, but Aiden pressed on. "If you need anything, just hit the button and say the name of the unit you want to reach and your message will automatically be directed."

"And what if I want to talk to you?"

Aiden looked up.

"We haven't spoken in eighteen months," Daniel said simply.

"I know."

"I was hoping we'd get a chance to talk while I'm here."

"Yeah, sure," Aiden said weakly. "I'd like that. Look, I'd better let you--."

"Yeah," Daniel said. He looked on wistfully as Aiden left.

**

Several hours later, Daniel entered the lounge, where John, Teyla and several others were relaxing.

"So this is nightlife in Atlantis," he quipped as he strode in.

"Pull up a seat, doc," John said affably. "We're just about to watch a movie."

"Do you do that a lot?" Daniel asked as he sat down and helped himself to some of the popcorn Teyla offered.

"We used to watch movies every night when we first arrived," John replied. "I guess it was our only connection with home, you know? But now that we're settled in, we're less dependent on it."

"So you've all established new lives here," Daniel asked diplomatically.

"More or less," John said. "...What passes for one, anyway. In a real sense, being in the Pegasus Galaxy is no different than being in Antarctica."

"Yeah, I suppose you're right," Daniel said thoughtfully as he looked around the room. "Where's Aiden? I would have expected to find him here."

"Aiden?" John replied pointedly. "Uh, haven't seen him this evening."

"Oh."

"I saw him earlier in the dining hall, but that was nearly an hour ago," Teyla volunteered. "He said he might take in the movie."

"Well, if he's not here soon, he's going to miss the beginning," John said. "And it's a new DVD, too."

"Perhaps he is not a fan of your Jackie Chan," Teyla suggested.

"So you and 'Aiden' were buds back at the SGC?" John asked curiously.

"Yes," Daniel said carefully. "We hung out a bit."

"Seems a little odd," John said bluntly.

"What?" Daniel said defensively.

"A geek and a jarhead--pardon the expression," John hastily added. "Around here, they're like oil and water."

"Dr. McKay and Lieutenant Ford are good friends, as are you and the lieutenant. And both you and Dr. McKay are geeks," Teyla said.

"I am not!" John protested.

"Lieutenant Ford said that you were," Teyla insisted. "But he does not seem to hold it against you."

Daniel tried without success to suppress a smile as John sputtered.

"You have something against geeks, colonel?" he asked.

"No, no; well, I don't like being called one," John admitted.

"Even if it is true?" Teyla teased.

"I am not a geek and I don't know why Ford told--. Ah, here he is now. Ford, why did you tell Teyla I'm a geek?" John demanded as Aiden entered the lounge. Aiden frowned at him and then froze when he spotted Daniel.

"When did I say that?" he replied with a deer in the headlamps look in his eye.

"You said it when I asked you what 'Mensa' was," Teyla said. "You told me it was an--."

"Yeah, yeah, I remember now," Aiden said hastily.

"You told her I was a geek?" John demanded.

"I told her that you were a member of a geek organization," Aiden admitted sheepishly.

"I didn't join!" John insisted.

"But you were accepted, weren't you?" Daniel surmised. "...Sounds like a geek to me," he said genially.

"What is it your people say about a fitting shoe?" Teyla asked smugly. She sat down and patted the seat beside her. "Come Lieutenant Ford. We are going to see a Jackie Chan movie."

"Cool," Aiden said, but he hesitated to move. He glanced at Daniel, who was studying him and then at John--who appeared to be studying Daniel. Aiden suddenly felt very uncomfortable, but he forced himself to take the seat she offered.

Daniel didn't stay for the movie, leaving after about ten minutes to go in search of Elizabeth. He found her in her office.

"Daniel," she said warmly as she gestured for him to enter. "Come in and have a seat. What do you think of Atlantis so far?"

"I think it's amazing, what little I've seen of it," he replied, easing himself into a chair. "I was hoping to have a tour of the facilities."

"Didn't Lieutenant Ford show you around?"

"He showed me to my room. I managed to find my way back here by sheer luck."

"Oh, I'm so sorry. I assumed--."

"It's all right. I think he assumed differently."

"I'm sorry, Daniel. I'll make it up to you tomorrow with the full tour."

"I'm sure you're very busy. I'll make Lieutenant Ford give me the full tour in the morning. Then you and I can just sit down and talk."

"I'd like that very much. We've got a lot to catch up on," Elizabeth said. "How's the general?"

"General O'Neill has left the SGC to become the new head of home world security."

"Oh? When did that happen?"

"About a month ago; General Hammond decided to retire and Jack was next in line for the post. He jumped at the opportunity."

"That surprises me."

"It came as no surprise to us. I don't think he minded riding a desk so much as riding a desk at the SGC. It was a difficult transition for him and he could never get past the urge to grab a P-90 and go through the gate with SG-1. I think that being in Washington will be better for him in a lot of ways."

"And how about you, Daniel? How are you coping with the changes?"

"The new commanding officer is a good guy. We're getting along well, but it's a bit of a transition for me, too, I must admit. Sam, Jack, Teal'c and I have been there since the beginning. I think we're the only team that's been intact for that long. Now, Sam and I are occasionally assigned to other things and neither of us goes through the gate on a regular basis anymore."

"How do you feel about that?" Elizabeth asked. Daniel smiled at the question.

"When did you become a shrink?"

"When we came here and I realized that I would be responsible for the physical, psychological and emotional well-being of 200 people," she replied.

"That sounds like a challenge."

"It hasn't been easy. We've been through some very difficult times. But we've also made some remarkable discoveries and had some amazing experiences."

"Yes, I've been reading the reports," Daniel replied as Elizabeth glanced at her watch and frowned.

"Oh, I missed the movie!"

"I'm sorry," Daniel said rising.

"Oh, it's not your fault. I've been sitting here working. I probably would have forgotten about it entirely if you hadn't come by and distracted me."

"I'll let you get back to your work, then," Daniel said diplomatically.

"No, no! Everyone keeps telling me that I work far too hard. I'm using your interruption as a sign that it's time to call it a night. Want to catch the end of the movie with me?"

"I'm not much of a Jackie Chan fan, but I'll walk you," Daniel offered. They made small talk as they walked back to the lounge. When they walked into the area, Daniel's eyes immediately went to the spot where Aiden sat, between John and Teyla. He whispered a goodnight to Elizabeth and headed for his room.

**

The following morning, Elizabeth spotted Aiden on her way to the dining hall.

"Lieutenant Ford?"

"Morning, ma'am."

"Good morning, lieutenant. Would you take Dr. Jackson on the tour of the city this morning? I was busy yesterday and didn't get a chance to meet up with him. I've got a lot on my plate this morning," she said regretfully. "Show him all the major facilities and whatever else he asks to see. Oh, and please tell him that I'll arrange a visit for him to the mainland whenever he's ready to go."

"Yes, ma'am," Aiden replied. "Ma'am? Wasn't I supposed to be in that meeting a half hour from now?"

"You're excused. Colonel Sheppard can get you caught up later."

"Yes, ma'am," Aiden replied with a nod.

"Thank you, lieutenant," Elizabeth said with a smile. As soon as she strode away, Aiden sagged. He took a deep breath and drew himself up again. Then he turned back the way he had come and returned to the dining hall.

**

"Come in," Daniel said groggily when he heard the knock at his door. Aiden entered bearing a tray. "Aiden?"

"I know you can't do shit without a cup of coffee first," he said as he poured a cup and handed it to Daniel.

"Did you make this?" Daniel asked suspiciously before taking a sip.

"No--and I did eventually learn to make decent coffee, remember?"

"Eventually," Daniel agreed as he sat back against the pillows. "So to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?"

Aiden was about to take a seat when it suddenly occurred to him that Daniel was still in bed and very likely naked. He colored slightly and turned so that he was looking away from him as he answered.

"Dr. Weir asked me to take you on a tour of the city this morning."

"Oh yeah, she said something about that last night," Daniel lied as he abruptly sat up and threw back the covers, revealing a pair of grey boxers. He swung his legs over the edge of the bed. "I need a shower first... and a few more cups of coffee."

"I brought you a whole pot," Aiden said, carefully averting his eyes as he rose to his feet. "I'll come back for you in half an hour."

"You don't have to leave, Aiden," Daniel said, picking up his coffee and heading to the bathroom. "I can be ready in ten-fifteen minutes."

"I have to check in with Colonel Sheppard," Aiden said. "I'll be back." He was gone before Daniel could reply.

Aiden strode down the hall and turned into another corridor. A dozen or so yards further on, he stopped at John's door and knocked. John opened the door looking as groggy as Daniel had earlier, although he was fully dressed and ready to leave his quarters.

"What, Ford?"

"I should have brought you coffee, too," Aiden said puckishly.

"Don't we have some sort of meeting to go to this morning?" John said as he walked by Aiden and started toward the transporter.

"The new staffing plan meeting, yeah," Aiden said. "That's why I'm here. I won't be there."

John turned and looked back at him, only just realizing that Aiden hadn't followed him. Aiden closed the distance between them and when John began to move again he followed.

"What do you mean you won't be there? Your attendance is mandatory."

"Dr. Weir just assigned me another task this morning."

"What other task?"

"I have to take Dr. Jackson on a tour of Atlantis," Aiden said sheepishly.

"Why you?" John asked suspiciously. Aiden shrugged.

"I'm just following orders, sir."

"You didn't volunteer?"

"I didn't even know he wanted a tour! I thought he had one yesterday."

"Huh," John said, scratching his head. "I'll speak to Liz about it."

"Sir?" Aiden replied, confused.

"Carry on, lieutenant," John said. He stepped into the transporter and left Aiden staring at the closing doors. When John stepped out on the upper level he spied Liz speaking to Rodney a short distance away. "Liz!" he called, jogging to catch up with her.

"Good morning, John," Elizabeth said.

"Morning; Rodney," John said with a nod in his direction. "What's this about Ford taking Jackson on a tour this morning?"

"He's asked to see the facility," Elizabeth explained as Rodney took his leave, wandering off without a word when he caught sight of Sam down the hall. "There was apparently a little mix-up yesterday. I thought Ford would show him around after he got Dr. Jackson settled into his room, but apparently he just delivered him to his quarters."

"So you're making him do it today," John said, baiting her.

"I asked him to, yes. Is that a problem?"

"We have a staffing meeting this morning," John reminded her.

"I'm aware of that, John."

"Well, Ford's supposed to be there."

"Aren't you the one who said Ford was working too hard? Showing Dr. Jackson around will be fun."

"So you're letting him skip out on a meeting to have fun?" John said incredulously.

"Jealous?" Elizabeth teased. John pouted at her.

"Yes. I want to have fun, too."

"You're welcome to give Dr. Forrester a tour. I'm sure Rodney's already taken care of the Colonel," Elizabeth said archly. "Of course, it'll have to be after the meeting, since Lieutenant Ford won't be there."

John opened his mouth and shut it again.

"You look like you could use some coffee," Elizabeth said. "I've got a pot in my office... fresh coffee--from the new shipment."

"Lead the way."

**

Aiden went back to his own room and waited precisely ten minutes before emerging again. He laid on his bed and closed his eyes as he remembered the last time he saw Daniel. From the top of the ramp at the gate, he'd turned and looked back one last time and saw him standing at General O'Neill's side... Aiden turned over and tried to erase that thought.

He turned his mind instead to the weekend before his departure. He and Daniel had technically ended things weeks earlier, or so Aiden had thought after their awkward discussion in Antarctica. Aiden had abruptly backed out of their budding relationship and volunteered for the Atlantis expedition. Daniel reluctantly returned to Colorado Springs but called him two weeks later with an invitation to spend the weekend together.

Aiden was surprised to hear from Daniel. He initially said no to the invitation, fearing that Daniel would try to talk him out of his decision. But Daniel promised not to importune Aiden to remain at the SGC. He was better than his word. They never talked about the Stargate program or anything remotely related to their work. It turned out to be the best weekend of Aiden's life. Daniel took him to a little cabin and they spent a few idyllic days totally absorbed in each other. By the time they returned to the city, Aiden deeply regretted his decision to leave, but he knew it would be for the best.

Aiden honestly never expected to see Daniel again. He'd purposely avoided returning to the SGC for fear of having to deal with what he might find. Aiden hadn't ever considered the possibility that Daniel might come to Atlantis, but it stood to reason that it was inevitable, just as he'd inevitably appeared in Antarctica.

Aiden got up and checked his watch. He straightened his clothes and reluctantly returned to Daniel's room. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door. Daniel opened it immediately, dressed, freshly showered and shaved. He looked so good that Aiden averted his eyes as he entered the room. Daniel sighed and locked the door behind him.

"Aiden, look at me," Daniel said in a gentle voice, a tone he knew Aiden would be unable to resist. It was the tone that had lured Aiden into his bed their first time together. It was the tone that lured Aiden into a risky yet very rewarding relationship; the same tone that lured him into traveling nearly 200 miles to spend a weekend in a tiny cabin with a man he'd broken up with weeks earlier. It was the tone that even now had the power to make Aiden tremble. He looked up. Daniel took a step toward him and Aiden raised a hand to stop him.

"Daniel..."

"We're going to have to talk sometime."

"What do we have to talk about?" Aiden asked. "There's nothing between us anymore."

"Look me in the eye and say that," Daniel said. He folded his arms and waited. Aiden turned away and stared out the window.

"It doesn't matter anymore, anyway. It can't," he said softly.

"Because you're with Sheppard?"

"Huh? No!" Aiden replied, spinning back around. "Whatever made you think that?"

"The way he looked at me last night," Daniel said, relaxing a bit and dropping into a chair.

"How did he look at you?"

"I'm more concerned with how you're looking at me," Daniel said. Aiden immediately turned away again. "...Or not. Aiden..."

Daniel rose to his feet and went to him, even as the younger man shook his head. He gently turned Aiden around to face him. He lifted Aiden's chin and watched him nervously lick his lips.

"Still perfect," Daniel whispered. Aiden tried to speak but no sound came out. When Daniel leaned in to kiss him, he held his breath and closed his eyes. Daniel kissed him anyway and Aiden felt his knees crumble along with his resolve. He found it again the moment Daniel let him breathe.

"I'm on duty," Aiden said softly. Daniel immediately released him. They had one hard and fast rule: never on duty.

"I'm sorry," Daniel said, taking a step backward. "Maybe we should take that tour." It took Aiden a moment to compose himself and lead the way to the door. They were silent for several minutes as they made their way back to the gate room.

"We'll start the tour there," Aiden said, his voice not as assured as his outward demeanor. "It'll give you the best impression of the place."

"Cool," Daniel said. He followed Aiden to the gate room and allowed him to lead him on a tour that he was no longer interested in. Oh, he was occasionally distracted by a magnificent piece of architecture or a fascinating artifact of Ancient culture, but for the most part, Daniel was content to simply listen to the sound of Aiden's voice and to bask in his close proximity.

He'd fallen in love with the much younger man the first night they'd spent together at his place, after hamburgers and beer and long conversations about travel to exotic planets. Daniel was attracted by Aiden's beauty and youth but he ultimately fell in love with Aiden's innocence. He had many other endearing qualities, but even now Daniel was struck by it, though he now knew--as he'd then suspected--it was merely a façade. The man was, after all, a seasoned officer in the Marine Corps. And in the interim since their last meeting, Aiden had seen some very serious combat.

"You've been wounded," Daniel said suddenly. Aiden paused mid-sentence. He'd been describing the complex system of vaults that supported the city's enormous central atrium when Daniel spoke.

"Yeah; a few times," Aiden said, confused by the interruption. "We've been in a war out here, Daniel."

"I know," he replied, reaching out to touch Aiden's shoulder and then self-consciously drawing away. "And you were injured by the Wraith during the siege." Aiden turned away. It was something he preferred not to think about. Even now, months later, he never spoke of it.

"Yeah."

"Are you all right?" Daniel asked gently, both worry and love evident in his voice.

"Yeah," Aiden replied dryly. He walked on and Daniel knew that he'd lied, but he also knew that it wasn't the time to push.

He'd read the reports, every last one of them. Since the first communication from Pegasus, Daniel had pored over every bit of information looking for word of Aiden and was stunned when he'd learned how he'd suffered at the hands of the Wraith. He knew that the Wraith had somehow altered Aiden's physiology and had asked the SGC doctors for a detailed explanation of what it meant. But the doctors there could tell him little beyond what the Atlantis physicians had written in their reports. Daniel had been worried about him ever since. Daniel subsequently learned that Aiden had become addicted to a chemical the Wraith manufactured in their own bodies. Weaning him from the substance had been difficult and painful, but Aiden had recovered--at least physically.

Daniel had been relieved to see Aiden standing on the balcony when he arrived. He looked as good as he had the last time Daniel saw him. A bit bulked up, more fit, but otherwise he looked the same--perfect, in Daniel's estimation. But that didn't stop him from worrying about Aiden's psyche. And Aiden's reticence was frankly worrying him.

Daniel didn't expect to be welcomed with open arms. In fact, he expected Aiden to be seeing someone--back in Colorado the handsome lieutenant had no shortage of admirers of either sex. He initially thought that Aiden was involved with his commanding officer, but Aiden's shocked reaction to that suggestion told him he was mistaken in that quarter, which made Colonel Sheppard's close examination of Daniel the previous evening all the more interesting.

"Would you like to see the science wing?" Aiden asked. Daniel looked up and then turned around. He found Aiden standing a short distance away.

"Sorry, I was thinking."

"Yeah, I know. You do that a lot," Aiden smirked.

"It's a geek thing," Daniel said with a shrug. "I'm not ashamed to admit it." Aiden laughed and Daniel enjoyed the familiar sound of a relaxed and happy Aiden Ford. "So you're way outnumbered here, huh?"

"By geeks? Yeah, we're outnumbered all right."

"You've always seemed to get along with us, though," Daniel said in a slightly suggestive tone and was pleased to see Aiden's cheeks color.

"Some of you," he conceded.

"How well do you get along with Colonel Sheppard?" Daniel asked. Aiden stopped and turned to him.

"Listen, we're not together, all right?" he said in a fierce whisper.

"I'm sorry about that," Daniel said sincerely. "I misspoke earlier."

"What made you think we were?"

"I don't know," Daniel said. "He looked at me curiously last night and I guess I thought he was sizing me up as a rival." Aiden snorted at the suggestion.

"Paranoid much?"

"...Or I could be paranoid," Daniel conceded. "I guess I hoped that you'd find someone. I didn't like the idea of you being out here all alone."

"Is that why you kissed me earlier?" Aiden said with another snort. "You thought I was lonely?"

"I kissed you earlier because it's one of the great pleasures of the universe," Daniel said with a wicked smile. But it faded just as quickly. "You do look lonely. You haven't found someone, have you?"

Aiden shook his head.

"I haven't been looking. Guess I was too busy trying to stay alive at first. Now..."

"Now..." Daniel prompted.

"Now we've reached the science wing," Aiden said evasively as he gestured at the corridor before him. "I suppose you'll want to speak with the anthropologists first."

"Aiden--." Daniel closed his mouth and reconsidered his response. "Lead the way." He'd get to the bottom of the mystery of Aiden Ford later.


On to Part 2

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