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Darkness and Light

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“The power readings are definitely coming from in there,” said Rodney, glancing at his scanner again, then back up at the clearly-Ancient doorway in the side of the mountain.

“Of course it is,” said John. He keyed his radio, “Teyla, Ronon, we found McKay’s energy signature. It’s an Ancient structure, and we’re heading inside.”

Be safe, John,” said Teyla. “We will expect your check-in one half hour from now.

“Will do, Sheppard out. McKay—”

“Half an hour,” Rodney interrupted. “I heard her. So let’s not waste time.”

John grinned. “Okay, let’s go.”

The doorway looked like any of the other Ancient structures they’d seen, cut into the surrounding rock. With one hand on his P90, John walked steadily up to the door, waiting for it to open and everything to light up.

Nothing happened.

“Huh,” he said, trying not to sound disappointed.

“Well, it’s good to know that not every piece of Ancient tech will roll over and beg for you, colonel,” said Rodney.

He scanned the door for a moment, then ran his fingers along a nearly-invisible seam in the solid-looking façade. A tray of control crystals popped out, and he looked them over.

“Well?” John prompted.

“It’s locked,” Rodney told him.

“Then open it.”

“Maybe it was locked for a reason,” the scientist grumbled, even as he plugged his laptop into the control console.

“Maybe it’s powered by a ZPM,” John countered.

Rodney shook his head. “It’s not registering enough energy to be a ZedPM. Unless,” he added, brightening, “most of the equipment was shut down and not drawing any power.”

“Well, let’s find out,” said John, approaching the doorway again.

Rodney gave him a dirty look, but pressed a key on his laptop and the door slid open.

Inside was a single room, maybe fifty feet across, with no obvious lab equipment or weaponry, but also without any other exits.

Rodney followed John inside, keeping one eye on his scanner. The energy reading didn’t change until they had walked about ten feet – then, there was a power spike, the door slammed shut, and all the lights went out.

After blinking for a few seconds, Rodney’s vision cleared. He could see, but everything had that grayish tint of the eyes not being able to pick up enough light. He looked at his scanner again – it had dimmed, too, but was still working – and headed toward a console along the nearest wall that looked most promising to be the Ancient fuse box.

“Rodney, don’t move!” snapped John, with more panic than seemed necessary, given how often things lit up or shut down suddenly, thanks to his super-gene. “We don’t need to go bumping into anything.”

“What am I going to bump into?” Rodney said, indignantly, then winced when John lifted his P90 to aim the light directly at him. “Hey! Point that thing somewhere else!”

There was a beat of silence, then John said, “Rodney? Can you see?”

“Not well, but of course I can…” He trailed off, realizing that John was looking vaguely at a point above Rodney’s left shoulder. “Sheppard, can you not see?”

Another beat. “No.”

“There’s nothing else in here but us,” Rodney said, quickly. He knew that John would be extra stressed to be somewhere unknown where he couldn’t see, couldn’t protect Rodney from anything that might happen to them. “It’s exactly what we saw from the outside, nothing changed when the door closed and it got dark. So, we’re stuck in here, but otherwise not in any danger, okay? And – wait, can you not see anything?”

“Not even the hand in front of my face,” said John, wiggling the fingers of his free hand.

“Okay, that’s probably not good,” said Rodney. “That means that this, whatever this is, is affecting us differently, so it’s not something with the room or the lights, there is something in here affecting our brains and—”


“Right, not helping.” In the dim light – or rather, his dim perception of what was probably a fully-lit room – Rodney could see the tense set of John’s shoulders and his white-knuckled grip on his gun. “Sheppard, stay put.”

“What? Why?” John demanded.

“There’s nothing in here but us,” Rodney said, as calmly as he could. “And the only thing moving is me. So I’m going to come over to you. Okay?”


“Okay,” Rodney repeated. Slowly, he walked a few steps back toward John, stopping when his tac vest hit John’s outstretched hand.

“Hey,” the colonel said, curling one hand into the lacing of Rodney’s vest and letting his weapon hang from his own vest to bring his other hand up to Rodney’s face.

The scientist leaned into the touch for a moment, then scowled. “Just because we’re alone in the dark doesn’t mean we can make out like teenagers at the drive-in.”

John smiled. “Yeah, we can save that for later.”

He still wasn’t quite focusing on Rodney, and the scientist took a moment just to look at him. Even in mostly black-and-white, John was beautiful, content to let Rodney stand well inside his personal space, even when he couldn’t see him.

“We need to get whatever is causing this to stop,” said Rodney, instead of the dozen-or-so very sappy things he’d been thinking. “Do you trust me enough to walk us over to that console?”

John leaned in to kiss him with unerring aim. “Absolutely.”

The floor was Ancient stonework, completely level even after thousands of years, so simply holding John’s hand was enough for Rodney to guide him across the room.

“Still operational,” said Rodney, when the console lit up ghostly blue at his touch. “Let me see what it thinks it’s trying to do, then I can make it stop.”

“Sure,” John agreed. He was leaning against the side of the console, one hand keeping the laptop steady on the uneven surface and the other tangled in the laces of Rodney’s tac vest. “You do your magic, McKay.”

“What I do is complex and sophisticated science, Colonel Slouch,” snapped Rodney. “And I’ll have you know that— Oh, here it is.”


“It’s another damn ascension cheat!”

“What?” John repeated. “It’s supposed to be blinding us?”

“According to this, yes,” said Rodney. “Taking away your vision is supposed to make you focus on your other senses, so you can hear one hand clapping or feel the heartbeat of the mountain, or some other new age hippie nonsense.”

“Focus on your inner self if you can’t see what’s outside,” John suggested, with mock seriousness. “Well, since we don’t plan on ascending, can you turn it off?”

Rodney scowled, then remembered that John couldn’t see him. “Just so you know, Sheppard, I am currently giving you a look of professional indignation that you would even ask.”

John grinned lopsidedly at him. “I’m somewhat familiar with that expression.”

“And just for that…” said Rodney, giving John no warning as he covered his own eyes and shut off the device.

“Hey!” John yelled – from his perspective, the lights had just come on full-blast after more than ten minutes in absolute darkness. He tightened his grip on Rodney’s vest involuntarily and pressed his face against Rodney’s shoulder. “You’re a dick, McKay.”

“Yes, but you love me anyway,” said Rodney.

John lifted his head, glare firmly in place – but it slid into a smile the moment their eyes met.

Rodney let him star for a moment, then two, then blurted, “Okay, what?”

“Your eyes are really blue,” said John. “I mean, I know they’re blue. They just seem really, really blue.”

“O…kay,” said Rodney. “Should I be checking you for brain injury?”

John snorted a laugh and took a step back. “I do love you,” he said, seriously. “You know that, right?”

Rodney pulled him in for a quick kiss. “I know.”