Title: Experiments in Socialization
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds belong to Whedon and SyFy.
Summary: Oz was still savoring his first bite of pie when the door to the corridor swished open, and a strange change in the room's scent reached his nose. 2400 words.
Spoilers: Post-Chosen for B:tVS; between SGA 2.3 "Runner" and 2.4 "Duet".
Notes: For butterflyflame. For the Oz-in-Atlantis 'verse, set after "A Hire Well Made". Also, if you're curious about the unfamiliar word Ronon uses... check Wiki.
Oz had spent his first couple of weeks on Atlantis mostly getting to know the details of her computer systems. Or, more accurately, the spaghetti mess of cabling and translation programs that let the scientists' laptops link up with the original crystal-based networks. It was kind of a crude interface, but it got the job done; a miniature subset of the Earth expedition as a whole.
Not that he was passing judgment. He was kind of impressed, in fact, that they'd got it to work at all. Ancient technology was centuries in advance of anything Earth could muster, and at least as much art as science; it looked more like something he could imagine Willow building than anything he'd have expected from a high-tech culture. Even the parts of it the expedition understood were decades beyond their ability to manufacture. They still had to build the tools to build the tools to build the tools, et cetera, before they could even hope to make their own crystalline computer architecture from scratch.
Oz would have liked to see what a technomage could do with it, but he had to admit that was unlikely. How many could jump through the hoops required to join the program? He didn't think anyone who lived day-to-day in the supernatural world was likely to have the records or aptitudes the SGC was looking for. Oz only had because he'd managed to master his furry little problem, and he didn't focus his identity around even its more positive aspects. He wouldn't bet on there being many witches or Slayers or other nonstandard sentients who'd be able to say the same thing.
Then again, this would be a perfect place for someone who had managed to get into the military to find a safe haven. The Stargate program, from what he'd read so far, protected its people well- even the ones who weren't of human stock. But the air in the Mountain- never mind the air in Atlantis itself- was a little too reprocessed and mixed with alien scents for him to be sure. A little hacking in the personnel systems might tell him if any of the staff in the SGC or the city had made a habit of being off-world at certain times of the month, but it wouldn't expose any less exotic differences.
He was content to let things happen in their own time for now, though. If he was the only one here, cool; if not, that was cool too. He'd been plenty busy so far just following Dr. Zelenka around- the excitable Czech seemed to know the city better than anyone else except maybe Dr. McKay or Colonel Sheppard- or hanging around the control room talking to the Canadian sergeant in charge. Chuck was a good source for details on the average user's frustrations with the network; he heard everything, and saw everything, from his usual seat behind the Stargate control panel.
In his off-hours, Oz had mostly either explored the wicked acoustical chamber tentatively marked as an Ancient music hall on the city map, or hung around the mess hall getting to know his new neighbors. Not so much the leadership; he'd figured their heirarchy out pretty quick. Their ultimate boss, Dr. Weir, was more or less a Giles; McKay was kind of a paranoid science-only Willow with the filters off; Sheppard was the city's Buffy, even down to his natural Alphaness and complex behavior around other authority figures; and Teyla had that heart-quality about her that Xander had embodied back home. It was the others Oz needed to pay attention to; he'd never been part of a cohesive pack that large before.
He was engaged in that very pursuit the night after AR-1 reported back from Planet Sunshine- officially P3M-736, but he'd probably remember it better as That Place To Send a Bloodsucker If We Ever Find Any In Pegasus. The mess hall was alive with rumors; several old hands were discussing some runaway Marine Lieutenant named Ford, and a group of newer guys were talking about a man with dreadlocks they'd seen in the corridors. AR-1 had brought him back with them- and they had a habit of collecting strays that weren't what they seemed at first glance.
Exhibit A sitting right there in his seat, in fact, Oz acknowledged with a smirk.
No one was really all that worried, though, about either subject; he knew the sharp scents of fear and adrenaline, and all he scented from the nearest tables was a light mix of curiosity and concern. Could be Sunnydale syndrome; could be that their weird-o-meters had been as thoroughly broken as Oz's by the strangenesses they lived every day; could be simply that they trusted their leaders to make the right decisions. It was too soon for him to tell, though so far he was betting on a little of all of the above.
He nodded politely to Zelenka as the other man got up from their table, muttering something about more repairs; he'd catch up with the scientist again later. Then he lifted his fork to take a bite of pie- the last of the apple crumble, according to the cooks, before they had to switch over to Pegasus-native fruits. There was nothing like sweet tangy goodness to put the cap on an interesting day of tech support in another galaxy, with another just like it scheduled for the morrow.
He was still savoring the first bite when the door to the corridor swished open, and a strange change in the room's scent reached his nose. He sneezed, then rubbed his sleeve over his face to reset his sense of smell, and sniffed carefully to get a fresh sample as he turned his attention toward the doorway. It was kind of human, but not; and nothing like the snaky scent he'd learned meant Jaffa or Goa'uld. It almost smelled like... but not quite... but what else could it be?
A stranger stepped into the mess hall, and Oz got a good look at the man he suddenly found himself thinking of as Exhibit B.
He had skin a few shades darker than Oz's, probably partly genetic and partly evidence of a life spent outdoors. Long dreadlocked hair, half-obscuring a bearded face. Clothes made from leather and dark, rough spun cloth showing evidence of hand-stitching, probably his own. A high-tech gun at his hip that Oz didn't recognize.
Definitely AR-1's runner. And under the surface of the stranger's skin-
The runner took a deep breath, narrowed his eyes, and turned to look directly at Oz.
Oz took another deep breath, both to calm his own nerves and to try to get a better read as the guy headed straight for Oz's table, ignoring the pair of Marines following at his heels. Then he deliberately straightened his posture and leaned back a little in his chair, projecting as much nonchalance as he could. It was kind of an instinctive reaction, and he rolled his eyes at himself as he moved; but the guy wasn't quite Alpha, whatever he was, and Oz's inner wolf wasn't about to accept another notch down the dominance order just because the newcomer's human shape had more muscles than his own.
He finally came to a halt across from Oz, staring at him intently, then snorted. "Ronon Dex," he said.
Oz allowed a wry smile to curl up one corner of his mouth; not enough to show teeth, but the suggestion was there. "Oz," he replied.
Behind Ronon, one of the Marines raised his eyebrows; Oz cordially ignored him in favor of keeping his focus on the interloper.
Ronon considered that, then nodded. "So." He nudged a chair away from the table with his foot, then took a seat and leaned forward slightly, resting his weight on crossed arms.
Oz waited a moment, making it clear he didn't feel threatened; then crossed his own arms and mirrored the other guy's posture. "So," he echoed back.
Therefore. Just as. And. A way to indicate a discovery. There were lots of meanings for those two little letters: it was a good word. 'So'.
Ronon seemed to agree. His eyebrows went up a little at Oz's reply, and his mouth twitched a little, as if he wanted to smile. "Any others here?" he asked, finally broaching the subject at hand.
Oz shrugged. "Nah. Back home. You?" He could still be wrong. But he didn't think so.
Ronon looked away abruptly, forfeiting the staring game without warning. "You haven't heard?" he asked.
So, that was a sore point. Oz winced. Culled; right. The realities of life out here made questions like that a minefield, like they had been in Sunnydale. He'd learned the polite realities of normal small-talk only after he'd left; might be time to unlearn them.
The second Marine watching Ronon had apparently wandered off to grab a tray, because he took that opportunity to approach and set a selection of the evening's culinary offerings between them. "Hey man. I didn't know what you'd like, so I just got the basics; you can go up for more if you want."
Ronon glanced up at him, then gave a short nod of dismissal and tugged the tray toward him. Then he returned his attention to Oz. "Well?"
"Heard rumors," Oz admitted, then glanced down at the partially-eaten pie still on his plate. "Mostly bad. Like the spices on today's mystery meat." He picked up his fork, then gestured toward the main dish taking up a third of Ronon's plate, offering an out to change the subject if Ronon wanted. "Rest of the meal's pretty tasty, though."
"So were my people," Ronon replied, a bitter twist to his mouth. Then he picked up a single limp green bean, scowling at it curiously.
"Wraith," Oz acknowledged sympathetically. Bad enough they ate you, but they didn't even have the courtesy to leave an attractive corpse.
"Yep," Ronon grunted. Then he bit into the bean, chewed a couple of times thoughtfully, and scooped up a second, much larger handful.
"Didn't see you around earlier," he added, when he'd finished that bunch, moving on to the mashed potatoes. He trailed a finger through it, licking thoughtfully; then nodded and grabbed the roll off the tray, scooping a wide swath through the white, buttery stuff. "What are you?"
Oz quirked his mouth at the question; he knew what was being asked, but he wasn't going to make it that easy. "Computer tech. Musician. You?"
Ronon finished the roll in a few large, messy bites, then threw Oz a scornful look. "That's like saying I'm a runner. Or a soldier. What else?"
Oz tilted his head a little, looking the guy over, letting Ronon watch him study the silver clasp winking from among his dreadlocks and check out the length of gun-callused fingers. "Some kind of artist, maybe? Or a poet?" A creative type would have a leg up in surviving seven years of solitude without losing his marbles, and Ronon definitely seemed sane- just a little skittish, and understandably vague on the concept of etiquette. He must have been pretty young when he started running, because he didn't seem more than a few years older than Oz.
Ronon started, and straightened in his seat again, genuine anger lurking in the pinched lines around his eyes for the first time since he'd sat down.
"Sorry, man." Oz threw his hands up placatingly. He didn't think the guy was that impatient, given his economy with words; Oz must have struck a nerve again. "Wolf," he said quietly, glancing back at the escort Marines to make sure they were out of earshot. "You?"
The anger faded, but the frown didn't. "Wolf?"
And there was the main reason Oz hadn't made any more headway on the musical files in Atlantis' database than anyone else had, despite his eagerness to decipher the sheet music: terminology. Whatever magic was in the Ancient tech- and he was pretty close to convinced it had to be magic- that let races from different planets and cultures communicate as though they were all speaking the same language, it still choked on the more unique phrases. And what the translators couldn't say, they had a hell of a time deciphering from the digitized page.
"Canis Lupus?" he tried, then shrugged and described the key features of a typical member of the species. "Social pack predator. Fangs, four legs and a tail. Normal one's eighty pounds or so."
"Hnh." Ronon nodded slowly. "Nimravus?"
Oz shook his head. Yeah; definitely a significant difference in animal species. Which he supposed only made sense. The Ancients were freaks about terraforming and seeding human life wherever they went, but it would hardly have been feasible to transplant entire biomes on every planet. Or if they had, time and variant environmental conditions would've taken care of the rest- like with the smaller plantlife.
"Solitary predator. Similar features. More like seventy pounds," Ronon explained grudgingly.
Oz smirked slightly, but didn't comment on the reversal. "Lunar?"
Ronon shrugged. "At home. Sometimes when I was running. Here?"
"No moons," Oz informed him.
"Really." Ronon sat back a little in his chair, apparently thinking that one over.
A stray without a home, used to a much larger territory in which to range… Oz wondered what he would make of this place. "Have to compare, sometime. Not in Atlantis, though."
Ronon shot a thoughtful glance toward the door. "They don't know?"
"Not from me." Oz shook his head. "Though, Sheppard?"
Ronon made a face, then deliberately turned his attention back to the remains of his meal. "Matriarch," he muttered, then he carefully tasted a piece of the meat, wrinkling his nose at the flavor.
"I'd have said Alpha," Oz agreed. "But, yeah. He is. So, if. I doubt he'd make a big thing of it."
"Good to know," Ronon commented. He nudged the rest of the meat aside, then gave Oz's half-eaten pie a hungry look. "You going to finish that?"
Oz chuckled. "Be my guest," he said, shoving the plate over. Then he eyed Ronon's guards again, satisfied they hadn't heard anything they shouldn't, and stood up. "So, if you stick around," he suggested.
Ronon nodded slowly. "I just might."
It would be interesting, at least. Oz smiled as he left, and wondered what the next day would bring.
Pegasus tech support: interesting times.