Day by Day
by Perri Smith
Spoilers: Mild for "The Hot Zone".
Disclaimer: All characters are mine except Rodney McKay (natch), although Marcus Corrigan appears briefly in "Suspicion"; blink and you'll miss him. Thanks to Atlantica for supplying his last name.
Author Notes: As usual, I blame Kiki entirely. She blames me. What are friends for? Thanks to the usual suspects for feedback, and to Bruce for spotting the bonehead mistake.
"Day by day, the world goes 'round
Bit by bit, it all falls down around me..."
--"Day By Day," Tristen
"...fuzzy logic and wild-ass hunches masquerading as science!"
"Fuzzy logic that means you can actually read those buttons you're so fond of instead of pushing them at random. Except-- oh wait! You do that anyway."
"I can read Ancient perfectly well, thank you, Santos!"
"You should thank me, linguists like me taught you how!"
The door to the main Xeno-Anthropology and Linguistics Lab slid closed, leaving Rodney McKay and his aggrieved "You're an anthropologist!" on the other side. Maggie leaned back against the door and blew out a frustrated breath. "Madre de dios! If that man wasn't nearly as smart as he thinks he is, I swear we'd have drop-kicked him into the ocean by now. Fuzzy science, my ass!"
"I know at least five people who would like to drop-kick him regardless," Astrid observed without raising her eyes from her laptop. Li snickered on her way out the side door towards the private offices, gracefully avoiding the piles of reference books littering the floor. Jamil continued to bop away to his iPod, utterly oblivious.
Maggie rolled her eyes at all of them. "Yeah, and you're one of the wishful sinkers. Just because he tried to hit on you when we first got here...."
Astrid looked up at that, shoving her blonde ponytail back over her shoulder. "I don't object to being hit on, even if his technique needs an enormous amount of work. I object to the fact that he couldn't remember my name when he was doing it."
"Cheer up," a pile of clothes stretched over three chairs and a bin on the other side of the room offered sleepily. "He doesn't remember your name now."
"For which I am devoutly grateful."
"Amen." Maggie snorted, shoving a piece of curly black hair back into the braid it invariably came out of. "I just wish he'd forget mine."
"Not likely, you having to go to all those department head meetings with him and everything. What set him off this time?" the pile of clothes asked. Maggie walked over and yanked the uniform jacket off Corrigan's head. He yelped, shielding his eyes against the sudden light from the broad windows, and tried to grab the jacket back. The subsequent tug-of-war was furious, but brief; Marcus lost.
"McKay's pissed because he wanted to go back to M3X-568 to check out that phantom power signature he claims he found, but Sheppard said no joy," Maggie explained, taking over one of the anthropologist's chairs when he grudgingly sat up. His dark hair stood up in rumpled spikes as he tried to rub exhaustion from his eyes. "He is now taking his pissiness out on me because Elizabeth and Sheppard did approve the trip back to Loreena--"
"Lorelei," Astrid and Marcus chorused, the latter brightening considerably.
"--Lorelei for Story Time." She threw Marcus' jacket at his head. "The good news, amigo, is that you get to go back and see what you can dredge out of those Wraith myths the Lorelei natives mentioned. Try and find us a long-lost, but easily found, superweapon, okay?"
"I'll do my humble best, jefe. When do we leave?"
"0800, briefing at 0700. You're with Miles and Aleesha, plus two of Beckett's staff to do check-ups while you make nice with the elders. Don't forget to raid the toy stash before you leave here; happy kids mean cooperative parents." Maggie stretched as she stood up again; the chairs in the conference room were hell on backs tired from hunching over laptops. The Ancients had had some weird ideas about comfort sometimes. "Y'all could try and see what you can get for us in the way of fresh supplies, too. If I have to eat one more MRE, I'm going to vomit in the mess hall."
"Lovely image." Astrid wrinkled her nose. "Thank you for sharing."
"De nada. You want to go with?"
"No, thank you. I have enough work to do here without going back to Lorelei." She said the last with another eloquent wrinkle; Maggie didn't think the place had been that bad. Sure, there was the issue with blackfly-analogs the size of Montana, but given the other, much worse things Atlantis teams were prone to finding on strange planets.... "Dr. Zelenka and Dr. Beckett are very intent on having the databases from the nanoviral lab translated as soon as possible."
"As are we all," Marcus said, mostly under his breath.
Astrid winced slightly. "I'm sorry, Marcus, I didn't--"
He waved his hand in her general direction, looking annoyed with himself. "Don't worry about it. I don't need you walking on eggshells around me all the time. It's not like I was married to Gabrielle or anything."
"We know, Marc." Maggie patted his shoulder awkwardly. "But we still worry. It's only been a few weeks, you're entitled to still feel like shit."
"Thank you for your permission," Marcus said dryly, but the side of his mouth curved up a tiny bit; Astrid and Maggie exchanged silent glances. After a moment, Marcus' head snapped around and up towards Maggie. "Wait a minute, you said good news. That implies bad news as well."
It took an effort for Maggie to keep her face straight. "Oh right, I forgot. Major Sheppard feels the situation on Lorelei is stable enough -- a 'milk run', in military terms -- that he doesn't have to take your team through the gate himself."
"Oh, don't tell me...."
Maggie grinned evilly. "Lieutenant Ford will be leading your military escort."
Marcus said something rude and vehement in Goa'uld, following it up with something equally rude in Arabic. Astrid, who spoke both better than he did, gave him a mildly reproachful look. Maggie's smile widened. "Look at it this way -- you'll have two of Beckett's people with you. They've been dying for a chance to try to surgically remove that 'in command' stick from up his ass."
"I'm remarkably comforted." Marcus fell back onto his makeshift bed, in the process knocking over another pile of books. They dominoed into Jamil's notebooks, scattering papers all over the floor; Jamil was going to be pissed when he emerged from Ancient database translation and the Backstreet Boys to reality. "O my God, how have I offended thee?"
"By leaving crap all over the lab?" Maggie suggested over her shoulder as she went into her office. "Christ, the physics geeks keep their labs cleaner than y'all do."
Since she had to clear away yet another pile of books, three empty MREs and a jacket from her desk before she could sit down, the reprimand lacked a certain amount of force. Astrid surveyed her own pristine work space with barely concealed smugness; Maggie made mental plans to TP the linguist's office the next chance she got -- or better yet, get Aleesha and Marcus to do it before they left, then disclaim all culpability. It was good to be the boss.
"Did Li finish those translations from PX7-056?" she asked the room at large through her open doorway.
"In your folder, waiting for review, but don't get your hopes up." Marcus levered himself to his feet with a groan, then began rummaging around in the bins against the east wall to assemble field gear. "She says she didn't find much."
"We'll see. Her definition of 'not much' has been significantly different from our Earth definition lately." Maggie propped her feet on her desk, staring out the windows at the Atlantis skyline as it glowed in early twilight, and toyed absently with the serape on the ceramic skeleton figurine that guarded her laptop. Finally, she forced herself to open her laptop and find Li's files, only to discover that Li had labeled them in Chinese again. Well, she'd better have written them in English. Or at least Spanish.
"Mierda. Chinese." Well, that explained why Li had been so hot to get out the door. "Damn it, does Li always have to be such a pain in the ass? Between her and Davies and Thurlwell, I'm going to go insane -- or postal -- before we even hit the nine-month mark. I never gave Dr. Jackson this much trouble."
"Well, if you'd just let older and wiser heads run the department instead of insisting on doing it yourself...." Astrid's voice trailed off wryly, and Maggie rolled her eyes so hard she could almost see her own brain.
"Oh yes, and pulling stunts like this is the perfect way to prove to Weir how much more mature and professional Li is than I am." Maggie reflected on her own words, winced slightly, and mentally revised her plans for the TPing of her subordinate's desk. "Well, she'd better produce the English version by end of shift or I'm going to drop-kick her into the ocean. And I mean it this time."
Maggie shoved her chair back hard as she stood, pacing irritably out into the main lab again. "Speaking of which, Sheppard's still on the warpath about the science departments qualifying on 9mm and P-90. He's decided he's not going to let anyone go through the gate who hasn't, and Elizabeth is backing him up."
"Horrors," Astrid mumbled.
"Hey, I qualified." Marcus held his hands up, a digital recorder in one and a tattered notebook in the other. "Weeks ago, when the Major told us to."
"Good for you. Now we have to get your co-workers to do the same." Maggie aimed a pointed glare at Astrid.
"I haven't had time," Astrid responded without looking up, not even bothering to make the lie convincing.
Maggie sighed and shoved her hair out of her face again. "Astrid, the major was serious about the gate thing -- no fieldwork until you qualify."
"How will I find the strength to live on?"
Marcus craned his head up and over from his cross-legged seat amidst his growing pile of gear. "Why did you even come to Atlantis if you hate fieldwork so much?" he demanded.
It was Astrid's turn to sigh. "Because I'd forgotten." Maggie and Marcus looked at her incredulously; the linguist ran her hands over her ponytail again, then took her glasses off with another long exhale. "I'd been lecturing to students for 15 years before the SGC, then spent two years in a very small office underneath a mountain; I thought surely fieldwork must be more attractive than I'd remembered. I'd forgotten about the dirt and the sleeping on the ground and the itching." She squirmed slightly in her chair. "So, I will keep myself here on Atlantis, thank you very much, and the rest of you may run free over the galaxy in my place."
"Whatever." Maggie shook her head at the thought of not wanting to go through the gate at every possible opportunity (although Astrid had a point about the itching), but let it go for the moment. "We'll revisit the fieldwork thing later; right now, I want you qualified before the end of next week."
Astrid looked appalled. "I just told you--"
"Do you honestly think nothing nasty is ever going to come visit Atlantis? Like maybe energy-sucking shadow monsters, or psychopathic Nazi wanna-bes, or the Wraith?" Astrid flinched, and Maggie pressed the point. "I know we sit here all fat and happy with our glorious, pain in the ass military escort most days, but Atlantis is not a safe place, and every single one of us has got to be ready for the shit to hit the fan. Ojala, it never will -- but if it does, I will be damned if any of my people are going be sitting ducks!"
"Qualify. By end of week. Comprende?" Maggie held Astrid's eyes until the older women's gaze finally dropped. "Good. Talk to Sergeant Bates, he's setting up range time."
Astrid looked like she still wanted to argue, but she settled for biting out a single "Fine!", before gathering her laptop and notes and making a straight-backed, extremely dignified exit towards her office.
Maggie watched her go, then stalked back into her own office and slumped down in her chair, picking her skeleton up again and running her thumb over its grinning face like a rosary. She swung her chair back and forth, bitching in a matching, sing-song rhythm, "'Run your own department, see a new galaxy, make exciting discoveries!' If we ever get back to Earth, the first thing I'm going to do is drown Daniel Jackson like a kitten."
Marcus snorted from the other room. "Ha. As if you weren't ready to trample over Jackson's dead and bleeding body for this assignment. Relax, jefe, Astrid'll get over it." He stood, abandoning his packing in mid-mess to walk over and lean in through Maggie's doorway. "Come on, the Real Genius brigade is running the next part of their Babylon 5 marathon in 10 minutes. BYO popcorn."
Maggie sunk lower in her chair, still swinging it, but otherwise refusing to budge. "Come on," Marcus coaxed, "we're almost up to the big battle scene against Earth. You love that episode."
"Bad-quality uber-compressed .avi's smuggled through on a laptop," she muttered petulantly. "And we ran out of popcorn three weeks ago."
"Actually..." Marcus leaned a little further in, stage-whispering, "I know where Thurlwell keeps his stockpile. Want to go raiding?"
Maggie's eyes lit up as she bounced to her feet, abandoning her skeleton and her sulk without a backward glance. "You're on." Marcus grinned and followed her out the door of the lab, which slid closed behind them.
A second later, it opened again and Maggie crossed the room to pull Jamil's headphones away from his ears. "Babylon 5," she said over his instant protest.
Jamil saved his work, shut off his music, and beat his boss out the door.