Rodney sighed when the people of Taros became animated following the finalization of the trade agreement. Despite his love of food it was never a good sign when they started bringing out the tables and setting out the huge cooking pots. One of these days he was sure they were going to insist on one of the team jumping into the biggest pot as the main course, or more likely slaughter him or Sheppard over the top of an Ancient console like a sacrificial lamb. He watched worriedly as Bayor, the head hunter of the village, began to sharpen his blade. It reminded him of those early days with Ronon on the team when Rodney was convinced Sheppard's caveman was going to eat him if the cafeteria ever ran out of food. That fear had never truly left him but he was still not going to let Ronon steal the food off his plate without a fight. Verbal fighting of course, but Rodney was nothing if not inventive with his threats.
A large hand dropped onto Rodney's shoulder.
"You have come at an auspicious time, my friend." Bayor turned his face heavenwards and Rodney couldn't resist looking up too. "Tomorrow, the first harvests will be brought in and the days will grow shorter."
With a low groan, Rodney realized that Bayor meant it was their summer solstice, and that was never a good thing for strangers visiting a primitive farming community. Despite it not exactly being the right time of year, visions of The Wicker Man filled his head and he hoped the group of old women in the corner of the square really were basket weaving.
"It is a day of blessing, a day for renewal." Bayor wiped the shiny, very sharp-looking blade against his tunic and smiled with a glint in his eye that never boded well. "You will participate, of course."
"Um. Isn't that better suited to, say, the Spring equinox?"
"Eck-in-ox? What is this you speak of?"
Where was Daniel Jackson when you needed him? In fact, where was O'Neill and the rest of SG-1 because he could bet they'd had their share of strange rituals to flee from. Or, failing that, Lorne's team, though hopefully without Parrish, who'd probably stop to tell the Taros what herbs went best with boiled human flesh. Bayor was still awaiting an answer.
"When night and day are the same length. Erh...before the day with the most...light."
"Ah! Lucatenebra. The Day of Virgins."
"Seriously?" Though Rodney was wondering what surprised him more, that the word sounded remarkably like the Latin for Light and Dark, or the fact that every primitive farming community seemed to have its equivalent of Virgin Sacrifice Day. The Wraith had thrown most every known civilization in Pegasus back into the Dark Ages so he really couldn't be sure what kind of participation would be required; Rodney held up a hand nervously.
"Not a virgin," he stated, just in case the practice was to sacrifice one to whatever god these people worshiped in the lamentable belief that it would afford them protection from both the Wraith and the elements, and bring in a good harvest.
Bayor stared at him in confusion for a moment before a slow smile and a speculative look crept over his weathered face.
"Good. That is good."
That was another phrase that rang alarm bells in Rodney's head. The natives of Pegasus seemed to have an entirely different idea of what was good to the rest of the known universe. To him, good was getting to the last of the blue Jello before Ronon. Good was convincing Jennifer that life was short, especially after Tunney's miserable attempt at combating global warning, so they really shouldn't wait for sex until after they were married. Which was fortunate really as it hadn't been great sex, and that would have come as a major disappointment if they had waited until the wedding night--if he could come at all. He flinched at the thought because after all the build-up, the sight of her had turned him off, fortunately not completely. He had always thought that joining the mile high club would have been the pinnacle of his sexual success, not his worst moment ever. He sighed. Sadly, there was a time when he would have considered even bad sex better than no sex but neither of them had made any moves since that not-so-great experience.
Since returning Atlantis to Pegasus following its brief stay in San Francisco, they hadn't even shared a meal let alone a bed. In fact, he couldn't recall the last time they were even in the same room together.
"Oh my god. We've broken up!"
Sheppard was walking towards him with Ronon in tow, and he looked concerned. Rodney pointed an accusing finger at him, suddenly realizing why Sheppard and the others had seemed so supportive recently. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Tell you what?"
"That I broke up with Jennifer."
He saw both of Sheppard's eyebrows crawl into his hair and gained the hundred yard stare of disbelief from Ronon.
"Told you," Ronon stated to Sheppard, and what was that supposed to mean? Told him what, exactly? Sheppard's only response was to pull that constipated facial expression and step closer until he was right in front of Rodney. He grasped Rodney's arm gently and began to tug at him.
"Come on, Buddy. Let's get you a drink."
Seriously though, if he wasn't spending all his time with Jennifer these days then what was he doing with all his off-duty time?
His steps faltered and he frowned at Sheppard for digging those bony fingers in his fragile forearm but it didn't stop him thinking. After the hectic weeks of getting Atlantis ready to return to Pegasus, he'd simply fallen back into old patterns; eating meals either in the lab with Radek or with his team, racing cars on the east pier with Sheppard, watching movies and TV shows with Sheppard, playing chess and that stupid golf program with Sheppard.
And where did Bayor go while he was having his latest Epiphany? Hopefully Ronon was standing by ready to play who's got the bigger knife if Bayor had any ideas for casting any of them in the role of sacrificial virgin. He looked across the village square and saw Bayor carving something, and had a worried moment before Teyla appeared at Bayor's side.
The food was excellent though Rodney couldn't quite shake the perhaps slightly irrational fear that Bayor was simply fattening them up. Especially Sheppard who needed to put on a few pounds to put meat on that bony ass. Though why he should be thinking about Sheppard's ass at all was confusing to say the least.
At the end of the meal the moment of dread arrived. Bayor stood up and raised his mug towards Rodney and the rest of the team.
"To newfound friends and allies. May the Leimoniads of the pastures honor and obey our commitment to your people. May they provide us with a bountiful harvest to share amongst both of our people."
"Did he say lemonade?" Rodney whispered harshly, admittedly a little too loudly. "I knew it! They are trying to kill me," he added, causing a few heads to turn in his direction, and said "Ow!" just as loudly when Sheppard kicked him. He took the hint and shut up. When the festivities ended without anyone screaming to throw them into a cooking pot, Rodney had to admit that perhaps Bayor's people were some of the more enlightened in Pegasus.
During the walk back to the Stargate they passed the time in pleasant conversation, only parting company from Ronon and Teyla once they had completed the necessary medical checks back on Atlantis. Jennifer had been noticeably absent but that was hardly surprising really as it was well after midnight, Atlantis-time.
Rodney walked down the hallway and into the transporter with Sheppard. Moments later they were on the level that housed most of the expedition's quarters but instead of peeling off in the opposite direction towards his own quarters, Sheppard remained at Rodney's side. When Rodney stopped outside his quarters, Sheppard stopped too and made no move to leave.
"Is there a reason why you're following me?"
Sheppard gave a contorted shrug that was part nonchalance, part unease. "You just broke up with Keller. At least, you just figured it out."
Huh? He'd already had a few hours to not think about it after realizing pretty quickly that he truly wasn't that bothered. Jennifer had been great but it had been a strain trying to be a better person for her. As a scientist he did at least now have incontrovertible proof that trying to change his personality just so he could get regular sex was never going to work for more than a few months at a time. His relationships with Katie and Jennifer were all the proof he needed to support that hypothesis.
"Yes. Well." A noise further along the corridor made him realize that this was probably not the best place to discuss his poor relationship skills. The door swept open and he went in, assuming Sheppard would follow but, instead, he loitered on the threshold.
"Want to go for a beer?"
Rodney stared at him . "Actually, I think I've had enough to drink today." Sheppard turned to leave so Rodney grabbed his arm and pulled hard. "Oh for...get in here."
The door closed behind them and Rodney stalked into the small kitchen area and grabbed two beers from the Ancient refrigeration unit. He handed one to Sheppard and sank down onto the side of his bed. Sheppard sat down next to him.
"You know, I don't think I'm actually missing her."
"I think that was obvious."
"Oh, well forgive me for not noticing that my girlfriend was avoiding me."
"That's just it, Rodney. You didn't notice."
"I've been busy!"
Getting Atlantis ready to fly back to Pegasus had demanded long hours from most everyone. It just always seemed that Jennifer's free hours never coincided with his. Though he doubted he would have noticed even if they had as any time not working had been spent grabbing a quick meal and sleeping. Perhaps he should have invited her to go with him to see Jeannie on that forced week of leave but it hadn't even occurred to him until Jeannie mentioned Jennifer's name on the last day of his visit. Perhaps that should have been his second clue after the abysmally bad sex on the plane.
"Look, Rodney. Keller is a...nice...person but she wasn't right for you." Sheppard patted his hand awkwardly as if restraining himself from leaving his hand permanently attached to Rodney's skin.
Looking up in thought, Rodney caught sight of his reflection in the mirror, and of Sheppard's too, and recalled a memory of when Rodney was courting Jennifer's attention. His eyes widened in the mirror as he replayed the moment when Sheppard walked into his room seemingly annoyed that Rodney had volunteered for an off-world mission without him on his day off. Looking directly into Sheppard's reflection, he stabbed his finger at him again.
"No. No. No. You can't deny it. You most definitely flounced." He turned to look directly at Sheppard, this time stabbing him in the chest with his pointing finger. "You were jealous."
"Of Keller?" Sheppard looked like he wanted to take back those words the moment they were uttered.
Epiphany number 3. Despite what he had originally thought, John had never been jealous of him.
"Yes. Of Jennifer. You were jealous of Jennifer."
"I've got to go now."
Sheppard placed his half-empty can on the bedside cupboard and started to push to his feet but Rodney followed and grabbed his arm, ignoring the annoyance crossing Sheppard's face.
Sheppard managed to twist away and was halfway to the door in seconds but he faltered when Rodney called out again.
John licked his lips worriedly.
"Technically, I'm bisexual."
"Yes. I mean, I know I mention hot blonds... Female hot blonds."
"Yes. Admittedly, I do find them very attractive but I've noticed that mentioning the hot men isn't such a good idea around your homophobic military, and as I don't want to find myself beaten up in some darkened corridor, I've tended to..."
"I'm surprised Carter hasn't beaten you up yet."
Rodney folded his arms. "Yes, well she's done worse than physically assault me. She had me exiled to Russia." He huffed out a laugh. "But still, better than being beaten to a pulp. Just..."
John had stepped closer while he babbled, eying him curiously.
"I wouldn't need to pretend with you."
"That I can be a better person. That I can change."
"I don't need you to change."
By now they were standing only a few feet apart. Just one step was all it would take, and Rodney took it, reaching out to stroke the already bristle-roughened cheek. John remained motionless, watching him warily as Rodney leaned in and kissed him softly, silently hoping that he wasn't making a huge mistake.
"Oh thank god," he breathed against John's mouth when John finally kissed him back.
When Rodney woke the next day, he stretched out before pushing back up against the warm, definitely hairy and very male body sharing his bed. The sex had been great. Better than great, and he was so thankful that his poor performance with Jennifer was simply a bad omen of their relationship rather than a dysfunctional problem. Instead, his morning hard-on was an easy match to the hardness pressed tight against his ass. A warm hand slipped around him and grasped his erection while lips began to nuzzle at his shoulder and neck, and Rodney groaned as the pleasure rippled through him. He let John move him, let him slick his already well-used body from hours earlier, greedy for more. He snickered because, according to his data on this world, today was Bayor's Lucatenebra--The Day of Virgins--and he'd lost the final piece of his virginity to John in the early hours of this morning.
The sun was shining, the hum of Atlantis inside his head was warm and comforting, and the feel of John slowly pressing inside him again was perfection, and that alone was the best omen for their future. Finally together.