Aromas to Truth
“McKay, what do you think you are doing?
Rodney startled, dropping the tiny flask he had opened and was about to sniff. It had looked like some sort of perfume bottle. He eyed the major standing in the doorway, brows raised in question and P-90 held ready in both hands. Blinking once, Rodney tore his eyes away and looked down at the bottle now lying upon the floor. Blue mist was floating out of the opening, accompanied by a light violet liquid.
Hastily, he bent down, grabbed the bottle and replaced the lid, but not before finishing what he had started in the first place. Taking a small whiff of the stuff, he found that it did remind him a bit of perfume. Possibly French?
Placing the bottle back upon the dresser, he knelt and, pulling a handkerchief from one of his numerous breast pockets, quickly cleaned up the spill and turned towards the doorway where Sheppard was still standing.
“What?” he asked irritably.
John rolled his eyes. “We were supposed to be on our way by now, McKay. Or did you forget that today is the day we were going back home?”
Rodney glared and picked up his pack from the bed and stepped forward, preparing to brush past John and out into the hallway. “I didn’t forget, Major,” he snarked. “Unlike certain people I know, I can manage to remember more than a few things at one time.”
“Oh, very grown up, McKay. And give me that. It’s mine anyway. I was only letting you borrow it. Not keep the darn thing.”
Rodney held out the offending article and sniffed. “Fine. Take it. I didn’t want to keep it anyway.” However, from the way the handkerchief did not readily leave Rodney’s hand when John reached for it seemed to tell a different story. As if realizing this, Rodney hastily let go, his ears pinking slightly. He turned away and marched off down the corridor as he called behind him, “Hurry up, Major. Wouldn’t want to keep the others waiting now would we?”
John frowned in annoyance and slipped the piece of cloth into his pocket as he quickly followed after McKay, careful to pay close attention to his surroundings. The last thing he needed was for Rodney to get into any trouble. He wanted to get home and nothing had better delay them any longer.
Sheppard knew that everything was going too smoothly. Would it have been too much to hope that they would make it out of the village in a timely manner? Apparently so.
They made it as far the center of the village before they were delayed by the village’s elder.
“Visitors, please, may I have a last word?”
John sighed and nodded to McKay who had stopped to look back at him and then wandered off to check the immediate perimeter, leaving McKay to deal with the elder. She and Rodney seemed to miraculously get along anyway so he foresaw no problem there.
Rodney frowned at the way Sheppard was acting but decided not to make much of. They had been on the planet for about a week and they were all ready to get back home. It was just slightly unusual to see Sheppard acting so edgy.
Turning to the chief of the village, Rodney smiled his best polite ‘I’m not arrogant, no matter what the others say’ smile and asked, “Is there something that I can help you with, Chief Yuan?”
Yuan, a woman in her late fifties was the leader of her people. She was currently sporting a long feathered head dress atop her rich dark hair which had only recently started to grey near her temples. She returned Rodney’s smile and asked, “I was wondering if you slept well, doctor.”
“Very well, thank you.” And that was the truth. The beds in Atlantis were 10,000 years old. It was a miracle they had not turned to dust long ago. The beds here were better than the one he slept on back home. Not that he would ever admit that out loud. He valued his present life, thank you very much.
“That is good to hear. Please, come back some other time. Perhaps we can trade some more in the future.”
Rodney nodded. “I will have to check with our leader, but I am sure that wouldn’t be much of a problem.”
“Good. I will be awaiting word then. Have a good trip and if there is anything that my people can help yours with, don’t hesitate to ask.”
Rodney nodded and slightly bowed his head. He turned and quickly caught up with Sheppard who was presently trying to intimidate some of the ingenuous children with his glare that seemed to only work when it mattered most. Currently it was only serving to amuse the three boys attempting to untie his boot laces.
His glare turned nasty as his patience was stretched too thin and he was about to bark at them when he happened to glace up and see Rodney coming towards him. A look of relief crossed his face and he started forward so they could continue on their way towards the gate. When he attempted to place one foot in front of the other however, he tripped and fell, landing in a sprawl on the packed dirt of the village proper.
Rodney smirked and crossed his arms over his chest as he watched the three children suddenly swarm all over Sheppard and begin pulling things from his pack, tossing them away if they did not seem interesting enough. When one of the boys pulled out a spare 9 mm, Rodney surged forward and quickly snatched it away, snapping at the kids to back off as he did so.
“Hmfh,” John said, pushing himself into a sitting position so he could pick at the knots the kids had put in his laces while he had been briefly distracted. “Glad to know that you seem to care so much, McKay.”
“Hey, I got them off you, didn’t I? And I thought that you liked kids. Didn’t you entertain all those Athosian brats a while back?”
“I was telling them stories. And yes, I do like kids. Normally.”
John didn’t say anything for a moment as he finally got the knots out and began to gather his things into his pack, politely asking for the boys to return some of objects they were playing with. Rodney did not say anything as he studied the other man. Shepard was looking more open and vulnerable than usual, his eyes tired and sunken with slightly dark rings beneath them. Hadn’t the major gotten any sleep the night before?
When Sheppard had finally pulled himself together and stood up, Rodney handed him back the gun.
“Thanks,” John muttered, quickly checking to see if there was any ammo in it and was relieved that his memory had been correct in that it was not loaded. The weapon had been, after all, in his pack. Putting it away, he shrugged his pack on and nodded to Rodney that he was ready. He patted the boys on their heads before turning and leading them to the village’s border where they were to meet up with Teyla and Aidan, knowing Rodney would follow without being told. Hopefully now they could get back home and he could get some decent sleep. The idea of his bed was sounding very nice at the moment. Nice and warm… With a sigh, he pushed those thoughts away. He had a job to do right now. So thinking, he raised his P-90 and went back to scanning their surroundings, always on the lookout for any sign of danger.
“Ma’am, we’ve received the iris confirmation code. It’s AG1.”
“Thank you, Chuck. Lower the shield.”
“Yes ma’am,” Chuck answered, pressing some of the controls before him that would disengage the force field over the gate’s vortex.
A moment later a ship drifted through and came to a quiet landing on the Gateroom floor. A moment later everyone present in the observation area watched as a door in the side of the Puddle Jumper opened up and three scowling figures stepped out followed by a frowning McKay. Elizabeth sighed and went to meet them.
“What seems to be the problem, team? How did it go?”
As soon as she spoke, her primer team looked at her and all three scowling faces cleared as they looked around and took a few deep breaths. The looks that crossed their faces could only be described as relief. This only served to make Rodney scowl harder in confusion.
“Peachy!” exclaimed John, rocking back and forth briefly on his heels, a big smile blooming on his face. “We’re back. It’s shining outside. Everything couldn’t be better.”
Elizabeth looked at Aidan and Teyla, her eyes seeming to ask for confirmation.
Teyla smiled reassuringly. “The major is right. For some reason I feel much better now that I am back.”
Aidan nodded and Elizabeth frowned but nodded. “Alright. Just remember to see Doctor Beckett. In the meantime, do you want to do the debriefing now or wait until after your physical?”
“You know, it really isn’t necessary to undergo a physical after and before every mission.”
“Major, we’ve been over this before.”
“Yeah, I know. Just being hopeful.”
“Right,” she drawled. “Well then, debriefing in five.”
“What? I thought you said that we were going to get a choice.”
“Yes, well, that was before. Don’t be late,” she replied. She turned and paced off in the direction of the debriefing room.
“Well, let’s get this over with,” John commented, already moving away. “Sooner it’s done, the sooner we can all get to bed.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Teyla agreed, already following Sheppard, Aidan immediately behind.
Rodney stood there for a moment, trying to figure out what was going on. Had not any of them slept the night before? Deciding that the answers were not going to revel themselves unless he had more info, he hurried after the others.
Elizabeth shared her smile with those around the table as Aidan finished his part of the report. “This is a relief. I was worried that we wouldn’t have enough new vegetables. Are they interested in trading with us again, do you think?”
Rodney nodded. “Chief Yuan said they would be willing.”
“Great!” Elizabeth exclaimed, clasping her hands together. “We’ll keep this in mind for next time. Meeting adjourned.”
“Wait a second!” Rodney called, another frown forming on his face.
Elizabeth asked, “What is it now, McKay?”
Rodney looked around at his team before returning his attention to her. “You can’t seriously think that this problem we have will just go away. Unless we get more farmers on the mainland soon, we’ll never stop trading away our medical supplies. What happens when we run out? It may seem that we have a lot now but we are running out and we’re going to be here for a while longer. Unless one of you knows something that I don’t; which isn’t likely because I happen to know a lot. I keep saying we need to set up a complex trade system with these other cultures. No one seems to be listening to me!”
Elizabeth’s eyes had started to cross and glaze over by the time Rodney had finished speaking but she quickly recovered. “What do you propose we do then, McKay? There aren’t a lot of options right now.”
Aidan spoke up. “It’s sort of like Zeus and Pharaoh.”
The others at the table looked over at him. He smiled sheepishly and asked, “Any of you ever played… Ummm… guess not.”
“Why don’t you enlighten us then, Lieutenant,” Elizabeth offered graciously.
“Umm, well, you start off by making a small town and growing crops thereby encouraging immigrants to come to your small city. As the game progresses you can learn to make pottery and other things that you can use around your town or trade with nearby neighbors for things that your town may need like wine, barley or other things.”
“So, how will that help us here, Ford?” Shepard asked.
“Well, sir, it’s a perfect place to start. We’ll start with growing things that other planets may need. Now, we may not really need what they have to offer but that doesn’t mean that other planets don’t. So we trade those things with others for things that they can offer that we need. And so on. After some time we have food and cloth and other things. And who knows? Maybe we can find a planet that will be willing to trade some of our unwanted stuff in return for sewing our acquired cloth together to create clothes and other textile materials.”
He stopped speaking, for the first time realizing that the others were looking at him in amazement.
“Aiden,” Teyla said with a bright smile. “That is a great idea.”
Aidan blushed lightly and looked down at the table.
“You know,” Elizabeth commented after a moment. “That really is a good idea. I’ll have to run it by some other people. But I don’t see any reason why we can’t try it if it’ll work. I’m just surprised that none of us have thought about it so thoroughly before now.”
They all sat in silence for a moment, all thinking the same thing that Rodney was. They had not thought about it before now because it was a long term solution. No one had wanted to give up the hope that they would never get home again and thinking of long term solutions represented the start of all of them giving up hope. The hope that home was really just a spare ZPM away.
Rodney ordered the door to his room to open and quickly went in, changed and immediately left and headed for his lab. He had been away for a week and who knew what trouble the other scientists had gotten into while he had been gone. He hated leaving on long trips. Not only did he have to go through a thorough physical when he got back, he also had to fix all the damage the rest of the science teams had managed to accomplish while he was away.
Quickly surveying his beloved lab, Rodney immediately noticed that the three other scientists in the room were rushing around, doing all sorts of things at once. He stood silently in the doorway for a moment, waiting, and was finally rewarded for his patience when one of the them saw him and came to a faltering stop, the expression of anxious anxiety turning to panic as he noticed Rodney standing there.
Rodney slowly developed a very predatory smile and the young scientist swallowed audibly. He was quickly joined by the other two scientists, both having noticed Rodney soon after their companion had.
Stepping into the room, Rodney asked with dangerous curiosity, “So, what have you three been up to while I’ve been away?”
The three scientists glanced at each other, the color draining from their faces and Rodney, carefully watching these proceedings, just smiled even more.
When John went to the lab several hours later to see if he could get Rodney to get some sleep that didn’t include catching three hours sometime after four in the morning, he found the man alone in the lab. He was bent over another of his weird looking devices and appearing to the rest of the world as if he could stay up for at least another twelve hours without any difficulty. John himself had immediately made his way to bed after his physical and had slept for five hours. He felt as if he could continue to sleep for at least that many more. He didn’t know how McKay did it. Aidan and Teyla had been exhausted as well. Why wasn’t their wayward scientist?
“I see you scared the rest of your minions away. How do you manage that so quickly?”
Rodney didn’t look up from his fascinating… whatever it was, opting to reply instead with, “What do you want, Major?”
“I came to see if I could get you to go to bed at a reasonable hour.”
“Nothing doing, Major. Can’t you see that I am busy here?” He looked up briefly and scowled darkly at John. “You’re always stopping by to check on me. But I am fine. I’m not tired. Besides, you should know better by now than to interrupt my genius.”
“No, Major. You go ahead and go to bed. It looks like you need it. I’ll go when I feel like it.”
John watched as Rodney quickly typed something into his laptop and then went to the far side of the room, coming back with yet another gizmo. After a moment he glanced up, noticed that Sheppard was still there and snapped, “Is there anything else, Major?”
John glared, recognizing the dismissal for what it was and left the lab, attempting to order the door to slam shut on his way out. He didn’t quite manage it but the attempt made him feel slightly better. Though it did nothing for the sudden weird, pained feeling he realized he was feeling. Deciding not to analyze why it felt so much like the first time he had been rejected by one of his teenage crushes, he stepped into the nearest transport and ordered it to take him to the east side of Atlantis. There was a favorite balcony there and at the moment he really didn’t think he would be able to get the sleep he so desperately wanted.
It started out small.
Rodney leaned back and rubbed his eyes, opening them again to peer blearily at his screen. Standing, he left the lab to grab a cup of coffee. Or at least what was passing as coffee that week. If Aidan’s idea worked out, the entire scientist group and several others would make sure that coffee beans were the first thing to make it to the farmer’s pastures.
Out of the corner of his eye he noticed someone walk past the open door. Thinking nothing of it, he poured a cup of the dark liquid and made his way back to the other room and his current experiment.
He didn’t notice anyone entering but hardly five minutes later he felt a hand land lightly on his shoulder. Startled, Rodney looked up, his cerulean colored eyes meeting the light brown ones of Doctor Russ. He was one of the younger scientists who worked the early morning shifts. Usually as far away from McKay as he could get if they were both working at the same time.
Too surprised for the moment, he forgot to be his usual caustic self as he asked, “Doctor Russ. What are you doing?”
Ross nervously backed up, but only a step, still within what McKay would consider his personal space. Nervously he licked his lips and his eyes drifted to McKay’s own. “Well, umm… I was wondering if you were hungry.”
“And why would you be wondering that?”
“Well, I was passing by and saw you still working and so I decided to check on you…”
“I appreciate your concern but as you can see, it’s misplaced and I’m really busy at the moment so if you don’t mind…” So saying, Rodney turned back to his laptop and proceeded to do his best to ignore the other man but after a minute the man’s fidgeting finally got to him and he looked up in irritation. “Don’t you have somewhere you need to be?”
Doctor Russ took a deep breath and his eyes were very intent as he asked, “What are you doing tomorrow?”
“Working,” he replied irritably.
“Because I was hoping that we could maybe, you know, eat together tomorrow…”
Rodney’s eyebrows rose and for the first time in a while he couldn’t think of anything to say.
Doctor Russ smiled smugly and briefly reached out to run a hand lightly across Rodney’s right cheek. “Think about. I’ll be by to get your answer tomorrow.” He left, glancing back once to slowly wink before he disappeared around the door.
Rodney leaned back in disbelief and it was several minutes before he was able to mark the incident off as a hallucination most likely brought on by stress. Deciding that it most likely meant nothing, he got back to work but lacked the level of concentration required and shut his laptop down. Rodney tidied up the worktable before mentally commanding the lights off on his way out. He would get some sleep and go back tomorrow to finish. Hopefully while avoiding Doctor Russ. Just to be sure.
But soon increased and started to grow.
Rodney was relieved when the next morning he arrived in the lab to find that Doctor Russ hadn’t arrived yet. He quickly logged onto various systems to perform his daily morning checks before heading to the cafeteria to scrape up some breakfast. His relief was short lived as three minutes later a cup of pseudo-coffee was placed before him and a soft, sultry voice asked, “Doctor McKay. I didn’t expect to see you here this early. Is there something I can do for you?”
Rodney warily raised his head at the sound of the voice and slowly turned to find Doctor Nutria leaning against the table. Her knee length skirt was riding high on her smooth, cream colored thighs. This left nothing to the imagination when combined with the image of her usually tucked and buttoned blouse open halfway, reveling warm globes. Rodney’s eyes bugged as he managed to drag his eyes up to her face. Which was not much better as her hair was slightly disheveled, a few locks of her scarlet hair escaping a perfect bun to frame green eyes that were half-mast and looking right at him in a clear, suggestive manner.
Rodney absently licked his lips and managed to croak out, “NO! I mean, I’m fine… Thanks…”
“Are you sure, Doctor McKay? I can also be great company…” Doctor Nutria smiled warmly and crossed her right leg over the left, an action that managed to cause her skirt to ride up even higher. He could imagine he was almost able to see her undergarments at this point.
With an audible gulp he hastily stood, his chair crashing to the ground as he backed away, aware of the thin sheen of sweet that was starting to bead over his forehead. “Sorry, but no thanks. I’m swell. Really. Just need air.” The last was no more than a gasp as he quickly fled the stifling room, getting as far as the transporter before he ran into another person just getting off.
Colliding with the individual in his haste, he barely acknowledged the hands that grabbed him to keep him from falling. “McKay, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”
Rodney, recognizing Grodin’s voice, flashed him a quick smile that qualified more as a grimace and began to straighten his shirt. “Fine, thanks. Just in a hurry.”
Grodin nodded as his hands began to drift from Rodney’s shoulders down to his hips as he stepped closer. “What’s the rush? If you were looking for me, congratulations, you found me.”
Rodney could not believe it. That had to be one of the corniest pick-up lines he had ever heard and managed to say as much while trying unsuccessfully to dislodge himself from an embrace comprised of hands that were starting to roam more freely.
“Look what you do to me, Rodney. I see you and suddenly all my synapses fry and I become incapable of speech. Didn’t you come with a warning sticker? Because you look too hot to handle.”
Rodney was thrown. He suddenly realized he had lost his momentum. Not just now or even a moment ago in the lab, but last night when Russ had approached him. And he had yet to gain it back. He decided that could be his apt excuse on why he was finding it so hard not to respond to the wonderful way Grodin’s hands had found his posterior. Grodin pulled Rodney’s pelvis forward to meet his own. He started a steady, kneading message that only served to increase the friction between their lower extremities and start Rodney’s brain on the road to nuclear meltdown.
‘Okay,’ Rodney managed to dizzily think. ‘Maybe this can’t all be blamed on last night and Russ.’ Realizing he really needed to get away, he tried to coach his remaining brain cells into action but was saved by the timely arrival of the transporter swishing open behind them and Stackhouse stepping out.
Stackhouse looked surprised at the taboo he seemed to be interrupting. He opened his mouth as if to apologize, because his face certainly seemed to give that suggestion, at least for a moment, before he stepped forward and placed a hand on Grodin’s shoulder. “I don’t suppose you happen to share?”
It seemed that was all the shock Rodney could handle at one time because his eyes widened and then rolled into the back of his head. Only Grodin’s strong possessive grip stopped him from hitting the cold, hard floor of the corridor.
McKay tries to seek some illusion of serenity.
The fog was beginning to lift and out of the haze voices started to drift Rodney’s way along with a feeling of coolness and lingering, drifting, light pressure. Curious, Rodney managed to drag his eyes open and glace in the direction the soft voices was coming from but the speakers were too far away to be the owners of the new one that suddenly spoke up beside him.
“Ah, Doctor McKay. You’re awake. That’s great. How do you feel?”
“Why am I in the infirmary?" Rodney countered, turning to see one of the nurses beside him, one hand reaching out to replace the damp cloth she had been adjusting on his forehead. As he watched, he saw her free hand reach out to rest upon his thigh. The light pressure he hadn’t noticed disappearing upon waking returned in full force and he jerked reflexively away. His nurse only smiled indulgently at him and her hand drifted up to lie upon his abdomen instead. Knowing that this was a losing battle didn’t make containing his instinct to retreat any easier the second time.
“Why, you fainted of course, Doctor McKay. Don’t you remember?”
Oh yeah. He remembered. How could he possibly forget? But he hadn’t fainted. He had… passed out. From somewhere he pulled together his usual sarcasm and managed a glare but his comeback was interrupted by the appearance of Doctor Beckett.
“Ah, Rodney. Ay see yer awake. How are ye feelin'?” he asked, his Scottish accent light and lilting.
His sarcasm at the ready, Rodney simply redirected it. “You, you quake! I’m fine. I don’t need to be here taking up valuable space.”
Beckett’s smile was bright and sunny as he ignored Rodney’s typical comment about Beckett’s carrier in medicine. Leaning forward, his voice dropped several bars. “Rodney, I’m prescribin' ya special doctor’s orders ter speak ter me that way every day.”
This would have shocked him like it had the other times, especially now that it was Beckett, never mind the last person had been Stackhouse, but he was finally starting to get his momentum back. Rodney’s glare was hot as he ignored the statement and asked, “How did I get here?”
Beckett reached out to lightly run a hand through Rodney’s hair, avoiding the cloth that was still occasionally being pressed against his forehead by the young nurse. “Ye were brought in by Grodin and Stackhouse. They were quite worried about ya and want ya to stop by and see them after you are out and feelin’ better. ‘Course, I’m finding that ya may need ter spend the night ‘ere with me. Just so ay can keep an eye on yer of course and make sure that ya really are okay. Maybe we could even get ta know one another betta... You’re lucky I’m civilized. Else ay would’ve plundered yer body already…”
The nurse looked over at Doctor Beckett and asked, “Could I be allowed to join?”
Beckett nodded charitably. “O’ course. The moor the merrier, right? Now, ah jus’ have ta get a few supplies fer when things take their natural course tonight. Miss Ronda, if ye could give meh a hand?”
“Of course, doctor.”
Rodney watched until they were out of sight before springing from the bed and making his way carefully out into the corridor. There seemed to be no one in sight so he headed to the transporter, safely making it inside. He ordered the transporter to drop him off in a remote part of the city that was far enough away from the main population. This far away, there was a relatively safe bet that he was unlikely to run into anyone else until he could figure out what was going on. And he would have to do it on his own. He certainly could not go back to Doctor Beckett with his problem. Who knows what the man was planning if he managed to get Rodney alone with him.
Best not to think about that possibility, Rodney scolded himself as he began walking, searching for a nice deserted room he could hide out in. Eventually he found a storage room many corridors down.
Palming the door open, he was about to go inside when he heard his name called in question. Turning, he glanced up the corridor and saw Sheppard making his way towards him with Aidan and two scientists. Rodney’s face blanched and he rushed inside the room. He quickly locked it and backed away from the door, hoping that would be enough to deter the major and get across the hint and he did not want to be disturbed.
John glanced at his companions, eyebrows raised. “What was that all about?”
Aidan glanced up the hall and then back to Sheppard. “Sorry, sir. I didn’t see anything.”
“That’s alright, Lieutenant. Why don’t you and doctors Zelenka and Defray get started?”
“Yes, sir,” Aidan obediently replied and nodded to the other two to follow him down hall and to the left.
Meanwhile, John wasted no time in quickly pacing down the corridor. Reaching the door he tried to order it to open, finding his efforts thwarted with strong resistance. Face grim, he opened his mind to the city, using his connection with Atlantis to ask her nicely to open the door before him. The door silently whooshed open and he quickly sent his thanks to the city before closing the connection off and entering the room. Inside, he glanced around, trying to locate the familiar form of his friend and teammate.
When he did not readily see anyone, he walked further into the room and absently ordered the door closed. He heard it lock behind him while he took a look around. He cataloged crates of stored supplies, various miscellaneous unclaimed objects and a large grand piano that had been part of a trade negation from a while back.
When he had stepped around several crates without having spotted his elusive quarry, he called out, “McKay?” Not really expecting an answer, he was startled to immediately receive one, sounding as if it came from somewhere off to his left.
“Go away, Major.”
“No can do, McKay.”
“I came here to be alone, Major.”
“And you thought that I would just leave you be when I saw you run off without any explanation? Sorry to disappoint. That is not how friends treat each other.”
“So now I’m your friend, huh?”
“Don’t be silly, of course you are.”
As he was speaking, John had silently continued his search and finally spotted Rodney in a corner created by several crates and a table with a strange lamp-like device on it. Getting closer, he noticed that Rodney had managed to find several blankets which he was currently sitting upon with his back pressed to the wall.
Quickly closing the distance between them, John knelt before Rodney and smiled warmly. “Hey there. Mind telling me what the problem is?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do mind,” came the gruff reply, fully accompanied with a solid glare directed right at John.
John sat, brought his legs up and wrapped his arms about them as he peered over his knees. He studied his friend for a moment before asking, “What happened?”
“Nothing,” was the quick reply and John merely looked at him until Rodney fidgeted and looked away. “Look, it’s really nothing to concern yourself with, okay? I’m alright. I just need to be somewhere quiet to think for a while. So you can leave without worrying about me. I did, after all, go out of my way to come here and now you’re disturbing me.”
John just continued to look at him in disbelief until Rodney trained his glare back on him and stressed with absolute conviction, “I’m fine, Major.”
John searched Rodney’s eyes before finally nodding and standing. “Okay, I believe you. I have to get back to the others. How about you join me?”
Rodney’s first instinct was to decline but John had been with two other scientists. It might be interesting. And there was no proof yet that everyone would start acting weird when around him. But he could not be sure and that made him hesitate long enough for John to smile winningly at him. John reached out a hand to pull Rodney to his feet, startling him enough so that he automatically accepted the help up. “I don’t know, Major…”
John grinned and just started to pull his unsure friend behind him to the door, deftly maneuvering around crates and scattered items littering the floor. “Ah, come on, McKay. It’ll be fun.” He turned briefly to waggle his eyebrows at Rodney, narrowly missing bumping into another small table similar to the one he had found Rodney next to. “The scientists are testing out subroutines,” he tempted.
Rodney bit his lip in contemplation and finally nodded. “Okay. But only for a little while!” The last was said in more of a squeak as John suddenly tugged on his arm and dragged him through the door and down the hall.
“Great! I’m sure Zelenka and Defray will be more than happy to see you.”
“Right,” Rodney drawled but did not offer any further comment.
They walked in companionable silence for several yards, and then out of the blue John asked, “When was the last time you had something to eat?”
Rodney thought about that for a moment and found that he could not think of an answer. He shrugged. “A while.”
John nodded and looked everywhere but at Rodney for another few yards before asking, “Would you like to go with me to get something to eat in the cafeteria? I hear that they are serving Chicken Surprise again.”
“Really? Great! They haven’t served that in a week.”
“How can you seriously eat that junk?”
“Are you kidding?” asked Rodney, meeting his astonished gaze to Sheppard’s slightly disgusted one. “It’s a good dish.”
“Yeah, you know what? Never mind.”
“You know, at least my favorite dish isn’t microwaved popcorn.”
“Hey! No dissing the popcorn.”
“Yeah, whatever. Empty carbs, that’s all. Want carbs? Eat pasta.”
“This coming from a guy that seems to enjoy MREs like they’re candy?”
“And who seems to think that all cafeteria food, hospital or otherwise, is the ambrosia of the gods?”
Rodney glared. “Your point?”
John just ignored him as he continued. “And finally, talk about carbs. That’s all those protein bars are made of.”
“They’re healthy! Not like your popcorn. How much did you eat while on Earth anyway?”
John sniffed indignantly. “How is that any of your business?”
“Ha! I knew it. It was probably your main food group. How did you manage to stay so thin with instant popcorn as one of your major food groups?”
“How did you?” John countered and then flushed slightly. He realized he was giving away too much information on material he really did not understand all that well himself just yet. Like why he was checking Rodney’s form out at all. Luckily Rodney didn’t seem to catch John’s meaning, his attention fixed on the equipment contained within the room they had finally reached.
Rodney happily detached himself from John’s grip and bounced into the room, his hands quickly flying across the nearest interface he could reach. John grinned and decided to join Aidan who was probably doing another perimeter check. Probably to get away from the techno babble the two other scientists were spouting at each other, as of yet unaware that Rodney had joined them. Once they did, the three of them would immerse themselves in their own private tech world. John’s grin turned into a smirk as he ordered the door shut. He would just come back in an hour or two. He had a very good feeling that the three geeks inside wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
However the infection cannot be ignored and the whole of Atlantis is soon affected.
Rodney was so intent on what he was seeing on the console before him that it took several moments to remember that there were others in the room. And even then, it was not so much that he remembered as he was forced to remember. He suddenly became aware of a hand placing itself on his posterior as another gripped his right shoulder. Rodney’s eyes widened and he jumped slightly when a voice sounded right beside his left ear, warm breath gusting against his flesh to tickle slightly as Defray spoke. “Is that a mirror in your pocket? Because I can see myself in your pants.”
Rodney startled and broke out of the light possessive hold as the words were punctuated by squeezes he would rather not think about. Backing up, he bumped into another form and spun around, coming face to face with Zelenka who smiled at him and reached up to cup a cheek. His Czech accent was thicker than normal as he asked, “Do you believe in love at first sight, or do I need to valk by again?”
Rodney blinked at him for a moment and then his eyes narrowed as he pulled his sarcasm around him like a cloak. “No,” he snapped. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“That’s too bad, because I’m falling hard for you,” Doctor Defray whispered huskily from behind. “Will you be there to catch me?”
“What? No!” Rodney protested, backing away. The room suddenly felt much too small. He situated himself at a good angle so he could see both men clearly at what he perceived to be a good enough distance away. “Is this some kind of joke that’s going around? Because I have to tell you, after the first few times it ceases to be funny. Wait, no, it was never funny to begin with.”
Defray gasped and pressed a hand to his left breast. “You wound me, Rodney. I have crossed universes to finally find you. Why would I throw that away on a jest?”
Rodney’s eyes narrowed. “Weirder things have happened.”
Zelenka meanwhile had stepped forward and before Rodney could back up ever further, a hand was in his hair and another stroking his chest.
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing. You just had some fuzz. I vas getting rid of it for you.”
“In my hair?”
Zelenka smiled and looked into Rodney’s eyes, holding them as he began to lean forward, his intent crystalline clear.
“Um, Zelenka? Radek? You know, as much fun as this is, I really don’t put out on first dates, so if you could excuse me -” Rodney backed hastily away, sidestepping Defray’s arm when it reached out to him.
He had almost made it to the door when Zelenka caught up with him, grabbed his forearm and pressed in close. “If I said you had a nice body, vould you hold it against me?”
Rodney shook his head at the double entendre and as politely as he could, removed Zelenka’s hand. He turned and fled the room, ordering the door to lock behind him and was relieved when the door obeyed with protest.
Rodney didn’t waste any time in fleeing down the hall, darting down several corridors before he finally ran into Aidan.
“Hey there, Doc. Something the matter?”
Rodney eyed the dark, cheerful man warily and asked, “Not thinking of rottenly appalling, clichéd pick-up lines are you?”
“What? No.” Aidan reached up and scratched the back of head while looking at Rodney as if he thought the man might finally be losing it.
“What about now?”
“Doctor, are you okay? Do I need to call Beckett?”
“No!” Rodney took a breath and sheepishly released Aidan’s arm. Aidan lowered it so he could clasp his hands together before him. “I’m fine. Do you know where Shepard is?”
“Ah, yeah. Major Sheppard and I split up a few corridors ago.”
“Well, hurry up and hail him for me.”
“Okay, okay, patience.” Aidan grinned and hailed Sheppard on the radio.
“This is Sheppard.”
“Sir, Rodney’s with me. He would like to talk to you.”
“Yeah, just a bit spooked.”
“What! I am not!”
Aidan just grinned at Rodney as Sheppard’s next comment came through.
“Ford, I don’t want McKay having bad dreams tonight. Make sure you keep the bad shadows away until I get there.”
“Will do, Sir. Ford out.” Turning to McKay once more, he held out his hand and spoke as if placating a young child. “Come with me, Rodney. There’s a nice bright room up the hall. You’ll be safe there.”
“I do not need watching,” Rodney snapped, extremely irritated. “And you don’t have to do everything that Sheppard tells you to.”
Aidan just smiled brightly and they waited in silence for John to finally round the corner and make his way down the hall.
“Keeping my favorite scientist safe, Lieutenant?”
“Of course, sir. Though he refused to go to the safe room.”
John tsked. “Rodney, Rodney, Rodney. Whatever am I going to do with you?”
“Sir, I’ll just continue my patrol then, shall I?”
“Yes, Ford, go ahead. I’ll take it from here.”
Aidan saluted smartly and hoisted his P-90 before heading off, reaching the end of the hall and taking a left. John turned to Rodney and asked, “What’s going on McKay?”
Rodney suddenly realized that he had no ready response available for why he had left the lab so uncharacteristically early and since he knew he couldn’t lie his way out of soap if his life depended on it, decided to tell John what had been going on lately.
As he spoke, John looked at him with increased, barely suppressed disbelief. “You’re trying to tell me that you have been propositioned by about half a dozen individuals in the last eighteen hours? You expect me to believe that?”
Rodney adapted his best put upon face. “Yes! It’s true. Something is seriously wrong.”
John grinned and reached out to place the back of his hand against Rodney’s forehead. “Well, you don’t seem to have a fever -”
“What? Now all of the sudden you’re the resident witch-doctor? I’m fine. It’s the truth and I can prove it.”
“You can, huh? Well, then. Let’s do that. We were going to go to the café to get something to eat, remember?” John paused and then smiled softly at Rodney and held his hand out. “I’m going to walk there. Could you hold this for me?”
Rodney crossed his arms over his chest, glared at Shepard and dryly said, “Haha. You know, I don’t find this to be a joking matter, Major. Furthermore, I’m really not that hungry. I think I’ll just grab a power bar in my room, if you don’t mind.”
“Uh-uh. Nope, sorry, Rod. You’re stuck with me. I really want to see this effect you suddenly have on people.”
“I could just take you back to the lab and you can watch what happens with Zelenka and Defray.”
“Nope. Mind’s made up and besides, I’m hungry. I’ll just call Ford…”
John trailed off even as he reached out and took Rodney’s arm with one hand to prevent his escape. With the other, he radioed Aidan, informing him where they were going to be. Getting confirmation, John deftly pocketed his radio and then slung his P-90 onto his shoulder. He grinned and began to tug Rodney with him down the hall.
“I can go there on my own, you know?”
“Yes, but that isn’t as much fun. And as much as I wouldn’t mind chasing after you on any other day, I really have to get back as soon as possible. So side tripping is out of the question.”
“You’ll have to release me when we get back to the inhabited part of the city.”
“Nope, I really don’t.”
“What are you saying? It’ll look like I’m a prisoner.”
“Yep, my prisoner. And really, that wouldn’t be too bad.”
“You’re insane, Major.”
John just smirked at him and did not say anything else so Rodney did not either, choosing instead to remain silent as they made it to the transporter and entered it. John reached out to palm in their desired destination closest to the cafeteria.
There was no one in the hall when they existed and they did not encounter anyone on the rest of the way to their destination but there sure were a lot of people inside the cafeteria when they got there. Rodney halted right outside and nervously surveyed the area. He did not have any time to try and make a final break for it as a moment later, John pulled him forward into the room, halting only when they were standing in the middle of the area.
John looked around, noticing the individuals going about, minding their own business. He turned to Rodney and said. “See, I told you.”
Rodney shook his head and warily watched the people milling about, conversations flying about stuff that didn’t interest him. He got in thirty whole seconds of observation time before the first person passed close enough to touch on his way to the lunch line. The man had not walked more than a few steps past before he turned and sidled up to Rodney, a predatory look upon his face. “Hey there, gorgeous. Where have you been all my life?”
John gaped. Rodney cast him a smug look before focusing his attention on the man before him and bit out, “Hiding from you.” As comebacks went it was not that great; but it was the best he could come up with right then.
The man was not to be denied and simply grinned, coasted closer and placed an arm around Rodney’s waist. This placed him close enough to say in a conspiratorial manner, “I know it never snows on Atlantis, but we can still have a white Christmas if you come over to my place for a little recreation time.”
“I don’t think so,” Rodney replied with an upturned movement of his chin. “Thank you for the offer. Sorry, but I must decline.”
The man looked upset by the rejection and glanced over at John. His eyes narrowed. “Are you with him?” he asked of Rodney.
Rodney turned to John and seemed to contemplate his companion for a moment before asking, “Why?”
“He’s not one of us,” came the cold response.
“Now wait just a moment -” John began in confusion but was cut off by the arrival of four more people. They pushed him back slightly, separating him from Rodney, and pressed around the man, touching and fondling him with no regard for the scientist’s comfort.
“Doctor McKay, those pants look great on you but would look even better on my floor.”
“I seem to have lost the map to my place. Why don’t you and I go back to yours instead?”
“Hey doctor, are you my complementary angle? Because we're right together.”
“The word of the day is ‘legs’. How about you and I go and spread the word?”
Rodney’s eyes had long since bugged out of his skull and then resettled. His surprised face took on more of an angered edge as the touching picked up and the outrageous pick-up lines grew in number as more people steadily joined them. They gathered from all around the room, drawn towards the group because of the public spectacle and then did not leave. As the anger built he managed to regain some of him composure.
"Just call me dictionary. Why?" Bates flexed his admittedly ample arms, showing them off. "Because I have definition."
“Not the dictionary I want to read,” Rodney replied. He glanced surreptitiously at Shepard’s arms, hidden beneath his uniform jacket. It would definitely be best if he kept that to himself.
“Hey doctor, can I plug my USB into your computer?”
Rodney rolled his eyes at Chuck. “Forget it. I don’t handle viruses well.”
“Baby, are you magnesium iron silicate hydroxide? Because you’re cummingtonite,” Kavanagh said with a leer.
Rodney was slightly impressed at that one. It was surprisingly clever. He certainly was not going to say it aloud though and end up inadvertently encouraging the man.
“Rodney, you must be stage three neurosyphilis. I can’t get you out of my head.” Biro said, placing a hand on his arm.
Rodney shook it off. “Really, doctor, that was in extremely poor taste.”
Biro simply smiled, undaunted. “I’ve loved you before I ever met you.”
Rodney glared at her but the glare soon drifted away to move from one hopeful face to the other. When he had catalogued all fourteen people, a number that was continuing to grow, he asked, “What the hell is going on here?”
No one answered. Instead he found himself pulled along by several crazed Atlantian inhabitants. Rodney quickly discovered that protesting and struggling did not work and if anything, only served to future excite the crowd. The roaming touches never faltered as he was escorted from the cafeteria in the midst of the rather large crowd.
As he passed through the door, he managed to yell one last, “Shepard! Help!” before he was rushed down to the corridor to the transporter.
And Major Sheppard did something about it.
John had tried to get to Rodney. However, as he did not want to hurt anyone, he could not be too rough. He stood in the middle of the empty cafeteria and began to furiously think about the situation. Contrary to the image that he was cultivating as a military grunt, John was actually very intelligent. Not as intelligent as Rodney, sure, but he could figure a puzzle like this out.
Moments later, he fled through the cafeteria doors to the transporter, hailing Rodney on the coms as he went. “McKay, can you hear me?”
“This is all your fault, Major! What do you have against believing me?”
“Rodney, I really don’t think this is the time to–”
“No, there is plenty of time for this. You were just jealous at seeing me get all the attention for once, that’s it. And look what’s happened? I warned you!”
John frowned as he exited the transporter and quickly made his way to the Gateroom. Rodney sounded out of breath. “Talk to me, McKay. Where are you?”
“I managed to get away. No thanks to you. And no. I will not tell you where I am going. Other people listen to this frequency too, you know?”
John sighed and did his best no gather his patience. “Find a safe place to hide. I’ll send Teyla to keep you safe until I get back.”
“Back?” Rodney asked, a hint of panic in his voice. “Where are you going?”
“We need answers McKay. I’m going back to G3X-948 to get them. I’ll be back soon.” John did not wait for a reply. He hailed Aidan next.
“Ford, there is a situation. Escort Defray and Zelenka back to the main labs and then gear up. Meet me in the Gateroom.”
“Teyla,” John said next.
“I need you to locate Rodney and keep him safe until I return.”
“Do not worry, Major Shepard. I am with him now.”
“Already?” John asked in surprise.
“I was headed for the transporter when I intercepted Doctor McKay. He is safe with me.”
“Good. Thank you.”
John charged into the Gateroom and quickly spotted Elizabeth standing in front of the Stargate. He rushed over and came to a halt before her. “Doctor Weir, I need permission to take Ford with me to G3X-948.”
“And here I thought you wanted to discuss preparations for the dance in four days.” Elizabeth said.
“Where would you get that idea from?” John asked surprised.
Her expression was severe as she looked back at him. “That would make a lot more sense than you announcing the intention of going off planet without clearing it with me first.”
“Which is exactly why I came straight here and said that I need to speak with you,” John replied. He was trying not to let his impatience show.
She cocked her head slightly, her red curls bouncing with the movement. “I’m listening.”
John ran his hand through his dark hair. It was getting a little long and in serious need of a cut. Even though Rodney claimed otherwise, John could tell that the man really liked the way John’s hair looked. His hand paused. The cut could wait a bit longer. “So, McKay has apparently been affected by something from our last mission. Now, when someone gets close to him, they, I don’t even know. What to jump him? Or something. They are all spouting some of the worst pick-up lines I have ever had the misfortune of hearing. It seems that only my team are not affected.”
Elizabeth raised one eyebrow. “Pick-up lines?”
“Yes. You know: Can I borrow a kiss? I promise I’ll give it back.”
“Classier than most but still not very good, Major.”
“Forgive me. I don’t often have to think of lines to hit on my boss with.” John glanced at the gate and then his watch. He wondered how Rodney and Teyla were holding up.
Elizabeth coughed. “Right. Anyway, I cannot grant your request. There is no way of knowing that you yourself are not infected or will not become so while you are there.”
“Do I seem infected to you?” John asked, extremely irritated. “Are you getting the sudden uncontrollable urge to ask me back to your place? Because that is what is happening to McKay right now. And I really need to figure out what is going on so I can help him.”
“Major, I understand you are concerned, but we don’t know enough about what is going on. Have you spoken to Doctor Beckett?”
“No. I believe he’s affected too,” John said absently. Rodney had certainly been adamant about not talking to Beckett earlier. John’s mind was carefully walking him through the mission. They had arrived at the village and were asked by the locals for a show of good faith by looking into a fungus affecting their trees. They had, of course, agreed to look at them and Rodney had the problem figured out within the hour. Rodney really was knowledgeable about everything. Including botany. Even though he had claimed disinterest in all the ‘soft sciences’.
“I don’t think the trees or their fruit we debriefed you on upon our return are the cause. There has to be something else there that Rodney was around but not us.”
“Do you have anything more than that to go on? Because—”
John suddenly snapped his fingers. “I got it!” His eyes were bright as he looked at her. “The bottle in McKay’s room. That is the difference. McKay was smelling it when I came to collect him.”
“Do you know what it was?”
“No. He spilled some though. Wiped it up with one of my handkerchiefs. Unfortunately, I washed it when we got back or I would have a sample to analyze.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “While a sample would have been nice, it is fortunate that you are not affected also.”
“Right. Agreed. Look, can I go now? Teyla can only hold off the hoard for so long.”
Elizabeth frowned. “I still don’t think that is a good idea. If there is an epidemic—”
“What epidemic! Look, Doctor Weir, I understand that you are trying to protect everyone here. But the fastest way to do that would be to let me go and get answers. If there is actually an epidemic, like you are determined to believe, then we are going to need an antidote. And I can go and get that.”
Elizabeth’s lips tightened into a thin line just as Aidan ran into the room. He stopped next to John and held a pack out. “I grabbed your pack too, Sir.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Shepard replied, unslinging his P90 in order to shoulder his pack on. He turned to Elizabeth. “Elizabeth, please.”
She sighed. “You can’t run off half-cocked every time you think Doctor McKay is in danger.”
John frowned. “I don’t.”
She pinched the bridge of her nose. “I know. I am just warning you so that it won’t become a problem.”
John’s voice dropped and he asked in a dangerous tone, “Why would it?”
Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed. “Careful there, Major. You are really close to acting insubordinately.” She studied his face. “Alright. You and Ford are granted permission to leave as soon as you get two more to go with you.”
John shook his head. “There isn’t time. Besides, the planet is safe. And if the Wraiths do happen to show up, there is no guaranty that having two extra people would help. So…”
Elizabeth stepped aside and gestured to the gate. “Fine. But be careful out there?”
Shepard grinned and gave her a jaunty wave as the gate dialed. “Aren’t I always?”
John stepped through the gate and arrived on the other side. A moment later Aidan stepped out behind him. “Alright there, Ford?”
“Great. Let’s get there and back in time for tea.” Shepard readied his weapon and began to walk toward the village.
“Sir, it was rather tense between you and Doctor Weir. Is it really safe to come here alone?”
“We’re not alone. We have each other,” John was feeling in a much better mood now. Having a plan of attack really helped with that. He also did not have to resort to mutiny in the end. Always a win, that.
“Yes, Sir,” Aidan replied.
When they arrived at the village, they went straight to the village center. They stopped to wait and only moments later Chief Yuan walked towards them. She smiled and bowed her head slightly. “Travelers. So soon you return. Is there some way we may be of assistance?”
“Thank you for meeting with us, Chief Yuan,” John greeted. “I need to ask you about the tiny flask that was in Doctor McKay’s room. The rest of us did not have one.”
Chief Yuan’s kind brown eyes looked troubled. “There was supposed to be one of those in each of your rooms.”
“What is it for?” John asked.
“All of us wear the fragrance to protect us from the harmful effects of the yucata trees.
“Those are the trees that Doctor McKay helped cure, Sir,” Aidan helpfully said.
Chief Yuan nodded. “As previously stated during your last visit, the yucata trees are vital to us. Their bark has pain relieving purposes. Their sap is used to purge certain ingested poisons. The fruit is a main part of our diet. However, the trees produce an odor this time of year to attract bugs. Our ancestors said this was something the trees did because they use thermogenic tissues to heat up the air around them and the strond odor they produce is used to attract insects to assist them in spreading their pollen to reduce inbreeding.”
“I’m sorry. Ancestors?” John interrupted.
The corners of Chiefs Yuan’s eyes crinkled as she smiled and nodded, the feathers of her headdress swaying with the motion. “Yes. Those that gave us our portal to the stars.”
John could not quite hide his surprise at that. “That must have been a long time ago. How do you know all that?”
“The past must be carefully documented and remembered if we are to learn from our mistakes or plan for the future.”
“Of course. You’re right. I’m, we’re, just not used to meeting races that seem so…”
Her eyes were warm. “Knowledgeable?”
John winced. “You aren’t offended?”
“No. The Wraith take a lot from all of us. We have been more lucky than most. Hopefully that does not change.”
John nodded. “Please. Continue.”
“The odor of the yucata trees is similar to a poison. It causes agitation and prevents people who smell it from sleeping. In the spring when the fragrance is especially thick, the odor can be incapacitating. However, getting rid of the trees was not an option. Our ancestors instead fashioned an antidote from the tree’s leaves and the ondary lichen that grows around the tree's base. The antidote is administered topically and stays effective for two moons. If it is inhaled as well, it is more effective and takes longer to wear off. When worn, the odor from the yucata trees has no effect. The antidote must be used together with the tree’s fragrance, though, for on its own it has a variety of side effects.”
“What sort of side effects?” John asked, already having a clear idea of what some of them were.
“They vary from culture to culture. We have gotten reports in the past of insanity, violence, sexual arousal and other symptoms. Individuals that are exposed to the yucata tree’s odor are not affected. Their properties are symbiotic and need to be used together.”
Aidan’s eyes were wide as he asked, slightly horrified, “And we were all supposed to wear that?”
Chief Yuan looked truly regretful. “You were supposed to be told when you arrived to wear a little bit. By the time you left the effects would have worn off and while you were here, you all would have been able to sleep just fine.”
John scrubbed a hand over his face. “That is likely why we were all uncomfortable here.”
“Sir, Doctor McKay didn’t look to be suffering from the same effects as the rest of us.”
“He said that he had slept well. He must have gotten some on him when he greeted me as your people seem to greet each other,” Chief Yuan agreed.
John remembered that. Rodney had been the only one to shake her hand. The rest of them had taken Teyla’s cue and bowed their heads instead. “And then he got some more on him right before leaving.”
“How long will it take to wear off if inhaled?” Aidan asked.
“An additional half day.”
“And how long typically before those side effects kick in?” John asked.
“That varies as well. Sometimes right away. Other times, not until the antidote’s effective time has fully elapsed.”
John groaned. That explained why Rodney had not had problems right away after returning. “Is there something that I can use to cure Rodney before the duration?”
Chief Yuan smiled. “Yes. I have something that will work for your doctor. It will knock him out for a full day, however, as the antibodies go to work. Are you sure you still want to use it?”
“Yes.” He did not even bother to correct her use of pronoun. Because really, who was he fooling? He did not want any more people to hit on Rodney. Weir had obviously figured out or could see how he felt for his best friend and apparently Yuan could also. There was no doubt in Shepard’s mind that he wanted the cure for Rodney.
“Very well. Just a moment please.” Chief Yuan turned and entered a dwelling nearby.
“A full day, sir? What if there is an emergency in that time?”
“Better a full day with McKay asleep and the rest of the people on Atlantis able to work than a full day with McKay awake and everyone else being unproductive. If something were to happen, Doctor Zelenka could work on it until McKay is able to take over.”
Chief Yuan returned and pressed a tiny vial into John’s hand. “Your doctor needs to smell that. Be ready to catch him soon after. The effects of the antidote should wear off quickly and the ones affected will go back to behaving normally. I hope that our two cultures will have many years of working together ahead of us. So please keep it around. Just in case.”
John carefully tucked the tiny vial into a breast pocket on his tactical vest. “Thank you, Chief Yuan.”
She smiled. “Of course, Major Shepard. Safe travels to you both on your way home.”
When Aidan and John stepped out of the vortex and back into Atlantis, Elizabeth was waiting for them. “Were you successful, Major?” she asked. She still did not look pleased about the two of them leaving. At that moment, John really could care less.
“Yes. Chief Yuan gave us a liquid that works similar to smelling salts. With your permission, I’ll administer it to Rodney now.” John pulled the vial out and handed it over to her to inspect.
“Can we be absolutely sure that this is not a poison?” Weir asked, holding up the vial to look at the light pink liquid inside.
“It is not a poison. Chief Yuan wants to continue trading with us. I see no reason for her to lie to us.”
Elizabeth turned to Aidan. “Do you agree with that, Lieutenant?”
Aidan shrugged. “I believe it is completely harmless. Other than forcing those that smell it to sleep for a full day.”
Elizabeth did not look happy at all about that. “A day?”
“Which can only be a good thing,” John reasoned. “The guy will finally catch up on some sleep.” John paused then further tempted, “And we all will have a complete day of relative peace.”
Elizabeth’s lips twitched slightly in a smile. “That is a terrible reason to give it to him.”
John simply grinned, rocked back on the heels of his feet and waited.
Eventually Elizabeth nodded. “Alright. Go find McKay. Make sure he is comfortable then report to the infirmary for a checkup. After that I want to see you two for your debrief.”
John saluted smartly, took the vial back from Elizabeth and left with Aidan in tow. In the corridor, John hailed Teyla. “Teyla, come in.”
It was Rodney who answered. “Shepard, it’s about time you returned! Xena here is trying to force me to meditate.”
John chuckled. “Meditation is good for relieving stress, Rodney.”
“No, not having to put up with constant stupidity is good for that. Since I am constantly surrounded by morons, I do not see how meditation will help.”
John shook his head fondly. It seemed Rodney was never going to learn not to have long winded conversations over the coms. “Rodney where are you?”
John smiled at the reference to where Xena was from on the TV series. From the comment, he knew that Rodney was in Teyla’s room. “On my way.” John pressed the button for the residential level.
When they exited the transporter, John and Aidan approached Teyla’s door and John knocked. “Teyla,” he called.
The door was yanked open by Rodney, a fierce glare already on his face. “Oh, there you are. Decided to rescue me after all?”
John grinned, unable to hide the affection in his voice. “Good to see you too, Rodney.”
Rodney frowned at the effect John’s smile was having on him, causing his pulse to slightly race. He quickly stepped back to let John and Aidan enter. “Well don’t just stand out there as a beacon for trouble. Get in here.”
John and Aidan stepped into the room and Rodney closed the door. Teyla smiled at them from where she was standing in the center of her quarters. She looked as serene and put together as always. “Welcome back, Major Shepard and Lieutenant Ford. Were you successful?”
“We were,” Ford cheerfully replied. “McKay, you ready for a nap?”
“Nap? No! I’m behind on my work already. I need to get to the labs so that I can get back to work. The other imbeciles that call themselves scientists are no doubt destroying weeks of work as we speak!”
Okay, so John knew it was evil, slightly childish and very unfair. And Rodney would no doubt ignore him for a solid week, but the man could really do with a break. If he continued the way he was going, he was sure to work himself into an early grave. And John wanted the other man to stick around for as long as possible. John pulled the vial out of his pocket and approached Rodney with it held out. “Here you go Rodney. All you have to do is smell it.”
Rodney frowned as he took it. “What is it?”
John shrugged, looking completely unconcerned. “The antidote.”
“Is it made of citrus?”
John rolled his eyes. “Just smell it, Rodney.”
Rodney still did not look as if he trusted the vial’s contents but he un-stoppered it anyway and too a tentative sniff. He frowned and took another one before replacing the stopper as he said, “It doesn’t smell like anything.”
A second later his eyes rolled up into his head and John barely managed to catch the vial that slipped from Rodney’s lax fingers and Rodney himself at the same time. Teyla frowned as John juggled Rodney so he could replace the vial and then lifted Rodney across his shoulders in a fireman’s carry.
“That was very deceitful, John. Rodney will be most displeased when he wakes.”
“He would not have taken the antidote if he knew what it would do. Besides, he could do with a nap.” John started for the door.
“He has had plenty of sleep lately. I do not approve. That was very unkind.”
John sighed. He already knew all that. He did not need Teyla to lecture him about it. “Well, this way he will be able to store up some energy at least. Ford, get the door, please.”
Aidan stepped forward and opened the door. John turned slightly to Teyla. “Thank you for taking care of him for me.”
Teyla’s expression softened slightly. “You are welcome, John.”
John nodded then left and moved down the hall to Rodney’s room. The doors opened for them and while Ford waited outside, John walked in. Rodney’s room was surprisingly organized. Most likely because Rodney spent most of his time in the labs. John moved across the floor easily without tripping on the few articles of clothing that decorated the floor and lowered Rodney down upon the bed.
John made sure to arrange the man into a comfortable position and even removed his boots. John took a moment to simply study Rodney’s face, relaxed and peaceful from sleep. His lips were forming a little smile and John could not help the one that formed on his own face in response. John had noticed a while ago that Rodney had a very nice smile. He really should tell the man that. Who did not like receiving compliments?
After one last fond look, John turned away. On the way to the door, he schooled his face into one of professional indifference. As the door closed behind him, John said, “Alright, Ford. Let’s go get those physicals done.”
Rodney had been incredibly pissed off when he woke to find that nearly twenty-two hours had passed. He knew exactly who to blame too. Unfortunately, it seemed that the major was determined to avoid him altogether for the next several days. Rodney occupied his time in the labs catching up on all the projects that had gotten behind in his absence.
The only positive thing about waking up almost a day later was to find that everyone had gone back to normal. Most of them were so embarrassed by their actions, they avoided Rodney like the plague if possible and if not, immersed themselves in their work. The lab had never been so full of so many single minded, productive people.
Rodney just wished John would come by for a visit. After the third day, Rodney found that he was no longer mad. Well, not as much as he was at first. He just wanted to see his friend again. He even resolved not to yell at him. Much.
Rodney was correcting the work one of the junior scientists had left on the white board when a hand landed on his shoulder. Rodney took a deep breath and calmly capped the dry erase marker and put it down. John’s hand fell away as Rodney crossed his arms over his chest and turned to look at John. He waited.
John nervously shuffled his feet and scratched his jaw. “Hey, Rodney.”
John winced. “I wanted to say I’m sorry.”
“Why now? Why not yesterday? Or, heck, the day I woke up?”
“I wanted to talk to you about it tonight. Are you planning on attending the dance?” John asked, nervously.
Rodney frowned. “What dance?” He blinked. “Wait. That’s tonight? That’s the real reason why you haven’t stopped by isn’t it?”
“Mostly, yeah. I’ve been helping with the preparations.”
“There’s more? Is it connected to what you want to talk about?” Rodney guessed.
Rodney thought about that and finally sighed, doing his best to sound put upon. “Sure. I’ll go. Why not? It’s not like there is a lot of work around here that I have to do.”
John grinned at the sarcasm and his olive colored eyes danced in pleasure. “Great! See you tonight, then.”
Rodney watched John disappear through the lab door. He groaned and turned back to the board. Man, did he have it bad.
Rodney looked across the large room at the other party goers. The party seemed to be a great success. The room, one of the many large ball rooms that had recently been discovered, was tastefully decorated. There were ribbons and pictures on the walls and the color scheme appeared to be gold and blue. Good colors. Calming. Or, they were meant to be. They weren’t really working.
Rodney had arrived fashionably late to find the party in full swing. A section of music pumped through the room, alternating between fast and slow songs. Many people were even dancing. Rodney had had no idea that Elizabeth could even relax enough to dance. He looked down at the cup of punch he was holding. Maybe it was to blame. Someone had definitely spiked it. Likely Radek.
Rodney looked over to the buffet table and wondered if he wanted another serving of horderves enough to endure the effort of going over there again. He studied his co-workers milling about the table. They would likely try to drag him into meaningless conversation. He dragged his eyes away from the table to scan the room one more time. Where was John?
He went back to watching the dancers and before long noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. Rodney turned and felt his eyes widen and his breath catch in his throat. Rodney could not help but stare as John walked towards him. John’s tight dress slacks flatteringly displayed his shapely thighs as he walked and he was wearing a long-sleeved black satin dress shirt with the top two buttons tastefully undone. Rodney gulped and managed to take a breath as his friend came closer. He did not fail to notice the number of people who were admiring John as he passed. But Rodney could swear that the smirk John was wearing was just for him.
John stopped right in front of Rodney’s table just as ‘Wonderful Tonight’ by Eric Clapton came on. He lifted the glass Rodney had not noticed he was holding until then. “Good evening, Rodney. Do you mind if I set my glass here while we dance?”
Rodney gaped at the pic-up line, not sure if John was joking or not. “Really? That’s the one you are going to use?”
“Hey, I’ve been saving that one,” John protested.
Rodney studied John’s face for a long moment as he considered the request. “This is kind of a slow song,” he finally managed to say.
John nodded, the smirk transforming into a warm smile. “I know. And I’m completely serious.” John set the glass down on the table and held his hand out.
Rodney hesitantly took it, aware of the dozens of eyes on them as they crossed hand in hand to the center of the room. John stopped and placed one hand on Rodney’s waist and took his other hand. Rodney panicked for a second, not sure how to hold John in return, before placing one hand on John’s arm and the other on his shoulder. John looked into Rodney’s eyes as he confidently led him across the floor in a waltz.
Rodney blinked. “You can dance. I mean, of course you can dance.”
John chuckled. “I know a lot of dances. My family insisted that I learn. Thank you for agreeing to dance with me. Otherwise, I would have had to resort to a supper cheesy line like: Is it hot in here, or is it just you?”
Rodney snorted and shook his head in amusement. “It’s me. My body has trouble regulating temperature. Am I making you uncomfortable?”
John laughed. “No, you’re not. Look, Rodney, I should tell you the real reason I tricked you and essentially knocked you out for a day. I really did not want to hear any more people hit on you while we waited for the effects of the perfume to wear off. Turns out, jealously and worry can be a real eye opener.”
Rodney studied John. “What are you trying to say?” He really did not want to guess on his own and end up embarrassing himself of getting his hopes up.
“I’m saying that I want to get to know all you quirks. I want to argue with you about who is stealing all the covers at night and whose turn it is to cook dinner. I want to be there to hold your hair back, figuratively, when you have too much to drink.”
“Well, not all of us are capable of growing a head of hair that has a life of its own.”
“Admit it, you love the hair,” John teased as he maneuvered them around a slowly swaying couple.
Rodney flushed. John grinned. “I’ll take that as an affirmative.” He moved them in a slow circle as the music started its final verse. “But most of all, Rodney, I don’t want to wake up another day without you.”
Rodney’s heart was beating widely in his chest. “This is sounding really close to a wedding proposal.”
John grinned. “Not a proposal. I have a whole different speech planned for that.”
Rodney shook his head and smiled fondly at the cheek of that statement. “Jumping the gun, a bit, don’t you think? We haven’t even had our first date yet.”
“I think this counts, don’t you? Besides, if you think about it, we have been pseudo-dating for over six months now, right?”
Rodney thought of all the movie nights they had together and how often John came by the lab just to bring him coffee. Often it was through John’s insistence that Rodney even left the labs at all to get some sleep. “Wow, if you’re really counting that far back, then this has been the longest relationship I’ve ever had.”
The song ended and switched to a faster paced one. John smoothly rearranged their grips so he could lead Rodney through a tango. John grinned. “Oh, I am certainly going to count that far back.” He focused on guiding Rodney through several steps and then said, “Have I ever told you that you have a wonderful smile?”
Rodney flushed in embarrassment. “Thank you. So do you.” Rodney was silent for a minute as he marveled at how good a leader John was. Rodney had never been able to dance this well before. “I guess now would be a good time to tell you that I liked your hand line. And your dance one was quite tasteful too.”
“Thank you. That is exactly what I was going for.” He slowed them down to a stop, even though the song was still going. Reaching up, he cupped Rodney’s jaw and in a room full of people, pressed a light kiss to the corner of Rodney’s mouth. “You ready to get out of here?”
Rodney felt his stomach flip with nerves and excitement. “Yes.”
John happily smiled and Rodney loved the way it transformed John’s face making him look less stressed, almost carefree. John gripped Rodney’s hand firmly and led him back across the dance floor. “Your room or mine?”
“Yours,” Rodney replied.
John glanced at him and smirked. “Mine it is, then.”
The next morning, Rodney opened his eyes and turned to Shepard. He propped himself up with one arm and leaned halfway over his partner. The thought that Shepard was actually his was only just begging to really sink in. Reaching out his other hand, Rodney traced John’s cheekbones in wonder.
Shepard opened his olive green eyes and met Rodney’s cerulean ones. He smiled softly. “Hey.”
Rodney smiled shyly back with a small upturn tilt of his lips and figured, why not. It was definitely his turn. “Are you coffee? Because I need you in the mornings.”
Shepard laughed, reached out and pulled him close. “Why don’t you have a taste and find out?”
Rodney leaned in and their lips met in a kiss. How could he say no to that?