Three things Ros Myers was surprised by in the Pegasus Galaxy

by Domenika Marzione

1.There is nothing new under the sun(s).

The thing about the Milky Way galaxy is not that it's full of aliens. It's how very un-alien they all are. Even those societies that don't trace their roots back to Earth aren't very odd. They have socio-cultural norms that are recognizable, if not necessarily ones Ros would willingly adopt, and they generally live their lives in a way she could imagine taking place on Earth at some point in the past. The Goa'uld are warlords of recognizable stripes, their accouterments and peccadilloes not unfamiliar to someone who has spent the better part of two decades tracking and trafficking with military juntas, dictators, arms dealers, and the odd religious freak. She understands these creatures well, alien origin or not, and her success in the Stargate Program reflects that.

Pegasus, however, is an entirely different ball of wax. The Goa'uld want power. The Wraith have power; they want lunch.

You cannot negotiate when you are the entrée, although Ros is unsurprised to see that some do try. But most don't. And this, too, is not completely alien, although it takes Ros a bit to realize why it is familiar.

They are finishing up a successful-but-unsatisfying visit with the Ortal, a pleasant agrarian society that is willing to trade wheat (or something close enough) to Atlantis in exchange for a visit from the zoologists who can pretend to be veterinarians. Ros has tried and failed to engage the Ortal leaders in a meaningful discussion of the Wraith - meaningful being anything that garners actionable intelligence and not just the usual defeatist palaver - when she hears Sergeant Markham sigh and mutter "insha'allah."

And then it clicks. Because Markham, whose willingness to show off his encyclopedic knowledge of deviant pornography is not quite balanced out by his ability to fly the jumper competently, is not, despite all appearances, a complete idiot.

She does not tell him this; he functions better when he fears her wrath. But she brings up his insight when talking to Weir and Sheppard, knowing that both will recognize the concept from their pre-SGC lives. They've both worked in the Middle East, seen and been frustrated by the particular fatalism that drives Westerners batty. Sheppard, who has been off-world in Pegasus enough to have seen it for himself, laughs. Weir, who does not travel among the peoples of Pegasus and thus retains a diplomat's worldview, looks speculative and smiles wryly. "Insha'allah" has a literal meaning, which is sometimes even how it is intended, but most of the time, it is a warning that if you are expecting something to happen, you are going to be sadly disappointed. It's not usually malevolence, although it is occasionally shocking laziness and the utter unwillingness to do more than the minimum, but it is the rule and not the exception. We are not masters of our own fate and thus there is no need to put in the extra effort because the results are not ours to decide.

"Well, then," Weir says. "That's something we can work with."

It is a sign of how they live in Pegasus that being able to recognize a pattern of behavior considered unproductive and inefficient is considered something of a victory.

2. She misses Ba'al.

The Wraith are a very pedestrian enemy. Their motives are straightforward, their means predictable (more or less), their results guaranteed by millennia of success. They are superior to Atlantis's forces by every conceivable metric and Ros is not unaware of how very dangerous that is, but they are a comfortable nemesis. See Wraith, kill Wraith.

The marines, bless them, couldn't be happier. An uncomplicated opponent for an uncomplicated band of warriors. They don't have to worry about anything other than their ammo supply, which is perfectly well by them.

Ros is a little embarrassed that she feels... underutilized in this fight for survival. She is an intelligence agent, one very good at her craft, and she does not have a worthy opponent. There are no potential moles to turn, no amount of espionage is required to discern the Wraith's ultimate goals, there is no degree of finesse or sophistication necessary to assess the situation.

"It's like playing Space Invaders," McKay says once. "You don't have to be very smart, you just need a good feel for the joystick."

At the time, he means it as a slight of Sheppard, who simple retorts that he liked Pole Position better, but McKay is not wrong. Ros hated Space Invaders, too, but here in Pegasus, it's the only game at the arcade.

It's also not a game they are doing particularly well on, at least by the goals they've established for themselves. Which is why Ros really shouldn't be wishing for a better challenge -- it's turning over the board and announcing she doesn't want to play anymore because she's losing. But yet she does wish to do just that.

If the Wraith are Space Invaders, the Goa'uld, tacky and ridiculous in their stylings, are chess. They are inconstant and unpredictable and the end result is never a foregone conclusion, oftentimes not even a binary choice of "win/lose." Going up against the same opponent more than once brought additional challenges as well as additional advantages and, sometimes, an entirely different game altogether. The Goa'uld are ruled by their whimsy and their arrogance; their appetites are far less literal than the Wraith, who despite their walking upright and wearing clothes and carrying weapons and even, in some cases, speech, are not evolved from their insect forebears.

Ros misses tradecraft, a skill set totally wasted on the entire Pegasus galaxy. She misses the respect of and for her opponents; Ba'al refused to kill her because he didn't want to rob himself of the joys of their conflicts. The Wraith simply don't care; Ros tastes as good as Ford or some miscellaneous Athosian.

And therein lies the root of the matter: she wants an opponent where her cleverness, her physical and mental prowess, her experience and her intelligence matter more than her aim and the blind luck of being 'not lunch' instead of 'lunch.'

She wants to not feel helpless in a fight that will consume them all.

3. Life goes on without you.

When they come back to Earth the first time, after the debriefing and before the planning for returning begins, Ros gets a week to go back to the UK for personal leave. She flies Denver to Heathrow with Carson Beckett, who is quite content to train it up north. She wonders -- not aloud -- if he will actually meet her at the airport for the return flight. Carson on Earth is a younger man, almost illuminated from within by the joy of being back in familiar surroundings and being safe. He desperately misses his family, misses Scotland, and he admits in a whisper no one can overhear, so surprised at how much lighter he feels without the everpresent weight of the Wraith's threat upon him like a millstone.

The siege scarred them all.

"I think I could have flown here myself," he says with a self-deprecating smile. "Of course, I'd look a bit daft flapping my arms like wings. But I think I could have if they hadn't gotten us the flight."

When they part at the Green Park underground station, he hugs her -- impulsively, since Ros has spent a year making it abundantly clear that she needs no comforting or cosseting from anyone -- and tells her to have a lovely time in Merry Old, then disappears into the just-arriving train.

Ros has no blood relatives she especially wants to see, so she gets off at Vauxhall and goes to see the only family she actually misses.

There are a few double-takes as she passes through security levels and signs in and a few surprised greetings of various warmth, but nobody asks where she's been. That's not done in this line of work and Ros is more grateful of that now than she used to be back when she was living in Colorado and commuting to the stars.

From the outside, Section D is as she remembers it, all plexiglass and hissing hydraulics, but once she passes through the door, all familiarity ceases.

She does not recognize a single face, all of which are turned toward her as if she were an alien visiting from afar. The irony of the matter does not escape her and she feels laughter bubbling up that she squashes ruthlessly because there's a good chance it might come out sounding hysterical.

"My god, Ros, it is you."

Malcolm, sweet, sweet Malcolm, puts down the file he is carrying to greet her like a prodigal princess. He grabs her hands and holds her at arm's length, looking her over for changes -- or for what he remembers and recognizes. Most of her wounds from the fight for Atlantis are hidden or healed; the SGC would never have let her go if she couldn't have traveled without raising too many questions. But she still wonders what Malcolm is looking for and what she is showing and whether they are at all commensurate.

Whatever it is, he finds it acceptable and pulls her in to a hug that chips a bigger crack in her armor than she'd like to admit. It has been a year without any contact but violent, it seems, and she has forgotten how to accept gentleness.

"Welcome home," he tells her as he pulls back. "Our Lord and Master awaits you with pleasure."

She doesn't ask where Adam is; her visit is not a surprise and if he could have been here, he would have been. And despite technically still being a member of the unit, she is no longer entitled to all of its secrets -- such as where the head of section is.

This does not mean that as they approach Harry's office and the angle of the blinds allows her to see a male back seated across from Harry that she does not hope that Adam is sitting in there waiting, a surprise to be unwrapped with the opening of the doors.

She's been gone without word for more than a year; it was a little giddy-making to think of her return to Earth and to London as an intergalactic booty call, but she has no right to expect him to be interested or available.

Which does not mean that she won't drag him off to the ladies' loo for a quick shag if he gives so much as a hint of interest.

But the doors do not part to reveal Adam. Instead, there is a tall, dark, handsome stranger with sorrowful eyes and a wary expression. And Harry, who has not changed at all. He never does.

"You have returned to the bosom of Mother Britain," Harry greets her, the aloof words and understated gestures a sharp contrast with the warmth of his eyes. "Hale and hearty, I trust."

"Nothing a couple of pints can't correct," she replies as she accepts his hand to shake. The other man steps forward hesitantly, as if he's not sure Ros will have anything to do with him once she knows who he is.

"Ros, this is Lucas North, another prodigal son," Harry introduces and it takes Ros a moment for the name to ping. Good god, he's the fellow the Russians got in... 2000? 1999? The cautionary tale for every British agent -- don't assume they'll rescue you right away. Or at all. But clearly, someone did. "Lucas, this is Ros Myers, one of our very best."

"Which is why you punted me to the Americans and haven't let me back since," she retorts tartly. She's stopped resenting it years ago, but it is a part she has to play -- sacrificial lamb for the Cousins and not grateful space-spy.

"Delighted," North murmurs -- rumbles, really -- and offers his hand. "Your legend precedes you."

She does not say that the same could be said of him. He undoubtedly already knows.

"Lucas is our head of section," Harry explains and waits for the information to process.

Ros takes a step back once it does, the realization coming like a blow. "He's dead, isn't he. Adam."

He could have retired to take care of Wes, but it's unlikely. Adam loved his son with a simple and unconditional purity, but this life was his calling.

"November," Harry answers. "Remembrance Day, actually. He saved thousands of lives."

"Of course he did," she says, words sharp to her own ears. "It's who he was."

She's angry, she realizes. At Adam. For turning what was supposed to be a relief from the death and sorrow of the Wraith siege, from the privations of Pegasus, into its continuation. She came back to London to look for someone for whom she did not have to be strong, someone she felt safe enough with to let her lay her burdens down for just a little while. But she can't because Adam is dead, gone a hero. And she is selfish for resenting that as a personal inconvenience, so she turns her anger inward.

Harry tells her what happened, where Adam is buried (next to Fiona, which is as it should be), and that Wes is with Adam's sister and her family and won't have to ever worry about anything financial. That North wasn't the immediate replacement, instead he is replacing Ann Sutherby, recalled from Algiers for the job she held four months before her death at the hands of the FSB. Ros accepts the details -- Ann was a good acquaintance -- with what she hopes is good grace. Harry asks her if she'll be free this evening for dinner -- or any evening this week. Her instinct is to say no, but that's her anger talking, so she says yes, tonight will be fine.

Harry dismisses them both -- apologetically, but he is too busy and she knows it -- and North escorts he back into the pit.

"It doesn't get easier," he says to her quietly -- does the man ever raise his voice to audible levels? -- before they part at the plexiglass doors. "To be endlessly confronted with all that has happened in your absence."

She turns to him -- on him, really, ready to lash out at his unwanted advice. Expert though it may be. But she looks at his eyes, concerned and a little deadened, and she stops herself. She wonders if that's what she'd see in her own if she bothered to look too close in a mirror.

"It doesn't get easier," he repeats. "You just get better at covering the tender spots."

It's cold comfort -- and terrible advice so far as healthy behavior is concerned. But Ros has never been a model for healthy behavior and she wonders if North recognizes that as a kindred spirit or just because that's what the house gossip says.

Ros nods and smiles a little bitterly, feeling brittle in a way she hadn't before.

He offers her his mobile number in case she wants to talk.

"I'm a familiar stranger," he explains when she cocks an eyebrow at him. "I won't get offended by the meaningful silences."

She thanks him again and pockets the paper. She's not sure she'll call or, if she does, whether she'll seek out a less complicated and more physical comfort from him. Her gut says he wouldn't turn it down if she offered.

One of the other unfamiliar faces calls for him and he turns, making his apologetic farewell and Ros is alone once more. Malcolm is not visible and she does not have the energy to face his kindness right now. So instead she leaves, goes out into the weak sunshine and pushes in to the crowds that still feel strange after a year of Pegasus, and starts rebuilding her armor.

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2 August, 2010