It started with ice cream and pickles, which sounded like a bad joke about a pregnant woman. Actually, it started with alcohol, but the answers to that were pretty boring. Ford was playing the "when's the last time you had comfort X of Earth" game, which was mostly an exercise in masochism, and the only reason he hadn't had alcohol since before leaving Earth was that the Athosians all thought he looked underage and hadn't let him have any of their hooch.
"Ice cream," Ford said fondly.
"Oh, God, I don't know," said Sheppard. "Not since before Antarctica. I mean, there's a limit to how cold you can be before your body starts to shut down." He shivered for effect, poking the campfire with a stick.
Ford looked over at Rodney. "What about you?"
"We ran out of the secret stash of astronaut ice cream last month," Rodney answered, although he suspected Zelenka might be hoarding a couple more packets. "None since then."
"Oh, astronaut ice cream doesn't count," Sheppard scoffed. "Real ice cream."
"The day we left," Rodney said promptly. "The mess in the SGC was serving sundaes."
"Seriously?" Ford asked. "Man, I couldn't eat. I was too excited."
"Traveling through the stargate is uncommon for your people?" Teyla asked.
"We keep it buried under three hundred feet of mountain," Sheppard answered, "to keep the tourists out. How about movies?"
"Catwoman," said Ford. "Was that ever a waste of ten bucks."
"I used to watch those stupid B-movies they made for Scifi," Rodney recalled. "In between shouting at the television, I'd have epiphanies about how the shape of pickles in five dimensions is the same as the shape of matter traveling through a wormhole, rotated."
"Pickles?" Ford said, frowning.
"Because the cucumbers shrink in brine, so the fourth dimensional component is a compression," Rodney explained. "Of course, when you eat them, the resemblance ends." They were all staring at him in incomprehension, so he said, "Well, when's the last time you--" and he floundered for something, "--got laid?" And then he cursed himself, because his teammates were all hotter than him, and less off-putting.
Ford surprised him. "Night before we left."
"You leave a girlfriend behind?" Sheppard asked.
"Not exactly," Ford said. "I mean--" He looked over at Teyla, who radiated serene interest.
"Oh, come on, 'mixed company' doesn't apply when she can kick your ass from here to Earth and back," said Sheppard.
Teyla's eyebrow arched.
Ford took a deep breath and said, "Bates and them, they--" by which Rodney assumed he meant the marines, who tended to stick together, "--they said we should all go out to a strip-club our last night on Earth, and I know I shouldn't have sir things just got out of hand and I don't feel right pulling rank on Bates sir he's like twice my age."
Sheppard snorted. "Breathe, Ford. You're not in trouble. Men have been going to hookers the night before they shipped out since before there were ships. There's a reason they call it the oldest profession, you know."
"How about you?" Rodney said, annoyed on Ford's behalf at the patronizing tone. "Have you gotten laid since Bambi the sex kitten took off the French maid apron, or whatever?"
Sheppard gave him an annoyed look. "Her name was Ricky, and it was a nurse's uniform, thank you. And it's been two, let's see, two and a half--" Rodney was perfectly prepared to be sympathetic, because he did know how hard it was to get laid in Antarctica. "Yeah, that's right, two and a half weeks."
"There's a hooker named Ricky in Atlantis?" Ford asked in wondrous surprise.
Sheppard snorted rather than answering.
"Two and a half weeks ago, we were on the planet with the purple flowers," Rodney pointed out, accusingly.
"Oh, yeah," said Ford. "They all had antennas. Were they funky, you know, down there?"
"Antennae," Rodney corrected before Sheppard could answer. "God, that's disgusting. You seriously had sex with someone from another species? That's bestiality."
Sheppard said, "They were sentient! And really easy on the eyes. And, yeah, a little funky, but good funky."
Rodney frowned. "You're making it up."
Sheppard pretended hurt, asking, hand on his chest, "Why would I make up a thing like that, McKay?"
"I don't know but you are," Rodney insisted. "You looked left! People look right when they're remembering the truth and left when they're pulling crap out of their ass."
"Ford's on my left," Sheppard pointed out. "Sheesh, where did you learn that, The X-Files?" He gave a little eye-roll and half-grin, like Hey, check out the crazy geek.
"Why?" Rodney demanded furiously. "Why would you lie about screwing aliens? To make the rest of us feel inferior because we can't get as much tail as Major Hot-Ass?"
"Hey," said Sheppard. "It wasn't like that. It's just sometimes, a man has needs."
"Oh, sure, it's so easy to become overwhelmed by your hormones," Rodney said sarcastically. "Gone through every woman on the base, have you? Chatted up at Elizabeth yet? Hey, Teyla, has he ever hit on you?"
Teyla's thoughtful reply was, "He has managed to land a blow on a few occasions, but he is still very unskilled at stick-fighting. I am sure he will improve eventually."
"Ha, ha, very funny, I'm laughing my guts out," said Rodney. "The question was, has he ever made sexual advances towards you?"
Teyla gave a little smile and said, "No. At least, not that I have been aware of."
"Because I'm smarter than to make a pass at someone I have to work with every day," Sheppard snapped. "Give me credit for some sense."
"Just not about women from other planets with things growing out of their heads?" Rodney said. "See, I think you do have enough sense for that, I just don't know why the hell you're lying about it! God, you need another notch on your belt that badly?"
Then Ford coughed and said, "When's the last time anybody's driven a car?"
Rodney, still glaring at Sheppard, permitted himself to be distracted, because it was a funny story, really. "Kavanaugh made a golf cart and we stole it from him and drove it off the East pier by remote control last week. Does that count?"
Rodney ended up complaining about it to Zelenka when they got back, because Ford was clearly going to stonewall in defense of his commanding officer, and Teyla claimed not to know Sheppard well enough to be able tell if he was lying, and at any rate he had always been honest with her, she said.
Zelenka said, "Yes, I think you are probably right. I cannot imagine Major Sheppard chasing the skirts of the alien women. Trying to get into the pants of the alien men, perhaps, although perhaps not, as well. He does try to be discreet."
Rodney said, "What?"
Zelenka stopped puttering with his project to squint at Rodney through his glasses. "You didn't know Major Sheppard is gay? But half of Atlantis knows this!"
Rodney said, "Half of Atlantis?"
"Eh, the down-low half, yes?" Zelenka clarified, making a gliding hand gesture which didn't mean anything to Rodney. "Perhaps I should not be telling you this, since you are straight?"
"I'm not straight," Rodney objected. "Nobody's straight. It's a scientifically proven fact." Well, not really, since it was biology, but close enough. "Everyone's omnisexual and anyone who thinks otherwise is just deluding themselves."
"Ah," said Zelenka sagely. "Well, perhaps it is not so strange that Major Sheppard should lust after alien women, then, if he is omnisexual."
"Sure, that would be normal," said Rodney. "Stupid, but normal. My point is he didn't and claimed he did, and why would he do that?"
"Because his employer is conservative and draconian?" Zelenka suggested.
"What?" said Rodney. He blinked. "Oh, Jesus Christ on a flaming cross. Americans don't actually take that crap seriously, do they?" Though it did explain why Ford had been so reluctant to question Sheppard.
"They do worry. It is their careers on the line, you know?" Zelenka said.
"God, that's so idiotic it's depressing," said Rodney. "I want ice cream."
Zelenka pulled open a drawer and handed him a packet of astronaut ice cream, mint chocolate flavor. "That is the last pack, and I give it to you because you are right, it is stupid, and you should use it to go make Major Sheppard feel better."
"What, you're out of Neopolitan?" Rodney asked, trying to look in the drawer.
"Yes," Zelenka said, glaring, guarding his work station with his body.
"First to be gone," Zelenka reminded him.
"How about the ice cream sandwiches?"
"Absolute last package of ice cream, there in your hand," Zelenka said flatly.
"You said that a month ago," Rodney reminded him.
"Major Sheppard likes mint," said Zelenka. "He brought six packages of Girl Scout thin mints with him. Go. Get out of my sight."
When Sheppard answered his door, Rodney barged in without giving Sheppard the chance to refuse. "So I've been thinking, Ricky is not really a girl's name. Ricky, Rick, Richard, Dick. Am I right? Huh?" Rodney plopped himself down on the end of Sheppard's bed, since there wasn't anything else to sit on.
Sheppard blinked and rubbed the back of his head. "Actually, I got the name out of a Steely Dan song. You know, Ricky don't lose that number, you don't wanna call nobody else, send it off in a letter to yourself?" Rodney stared in vague horror at Sheppard's attempt at crooning. Sheppard cleared his throat self-consciously.
"You know, I thought gay men were supposed to like Barbra Streisand, or Cher, or something," Rodney mused. "Steely Dan, I would never have guessed."
"I'm not--" Sheppard said automatically, then cut himself, sighing. "I really wish you'd left that alone," he said, instead.
"Well, if you're going to be a bad liar about it, maybe you shouldn't try to lie," said Rodney. "I mean, so Ford's not supposed to know, which is stupid, because you're the ranking military officer in Atlantis so it's not like he can go over your head and get you fired. But, what, you don't trust me?"
"Someday we will make contact with Earth again, and I'd like not be screwed over on that day," Sheppard answered. "It's not you. I don't trust anybody."
"Really? Because Zelenka said half of Atlantis knew," Rodney said. Sheppard stared. "Oh, by the way, he sends this. I think it's supposed to be an apology for outing you to me." He handed over the mint chocolate ice cream brick, minus one bite. He'd tried it and decided the mint was just as unappetizing as he remembered, so he might as well pass it on.
Sheppard took it, sighing. "Zelenka's got a big mouth," he said, and bit into the ice cream.
"Please tell me you did not just inform me that he's been giving your oral sex while simultaneously bragging about the size of your dick," said Rodney.
Sheppard hurriedly swallowed his bite. "What? No. Geez."
"Then how does he know?" Rodney asked.
"He's more socially observant than a rock, and kind of bi himself?" Sheppard suggested.
"I'm socially observant!" Rodney protested. "I knew you were lying!"
"Because apparently I was looking at the interesting tree behind your head," Sheppard said, rolling his eyes.
"You were looking to the left," Rodney said stubbornly, "because you were lying."
"Yeah, I was lying, but mostly you just guessed," Sheppard answered.
"Call it intuition," said Rodney. "Or gaydar. Why does everyone assume I'm straight, anyway?"
"Oh, please," said Sheppard. "If it'd been gaydar, you wouldn't have been breaking your gigantic brain over why I was lying, would you?"
"So sorry," said Rodney. "It just tripped my stupid-meter a lot harder than anything else. You don't sleep with alien things of any gender, do you? Because if you do, you're going to die of space-AIDS and I can't have sex with you."
The rest of the ice cream brick went crunch in Sheppard's fist. Luckily, the wrapper caught most of it, although a few freeze-dried crumbs drifted down picturesquely through a ray of sunlight. Sheppard squeaked, "What?"
"I'm going to assume that the only reason you haven't hit on me already is the whole closet case thing, because really, you'd be lucky to have me," Rodney informed him. "So I'll make this easy for you. Yes, I do call you 'Major Hot-Ass' in my head, and I would be delighted to share your bed."
Sheppard unclenched his hand carefully and said, "Did you totally tune out the part where I said I don't make time with people I have to work with every day?"
"No, but I thought that was just an excuse for not hitting on Teyla, who is extremely attractive, if you like women," Rodney said reasonably.
"It wasn't," Sheppard replied. "It's good policy."
"Oh," said Rodney. "Well, this is awkward."
"Yes, exactly!" Sheppard answered. "This is exactly the sort of situation that policy is supposed to prevent."
Rodney considered that. "But you like me. You're not just using that as an excuse."
"Actually," Sheppard said, "you're very annoying. And this busybody thing of yours is not at all endearing." He was looking directly at Rodney right up until he said, "I'm afraid I'm not remotely attracted to you."
"Ha!" said Rodney. "You looked left! You do like me!"
Sheppard blinked at his lamp, readjusted his gaze, and said, "Okay, you need to stop that now."
"What, being right all the time?" said Rodney. "Can't help it. Congenital condition."
"The real reason is I can't sleep with you is that if I had to put up with you more than I do in the line of duty, I would have to kill you," said Sheppard. "I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is."
"Don't be ridiculous," said Rodney. "That's just a sublimation of your actual desire to screw me through the mattress. If you do that often enough, all the murderous urges will go away."
"This is not an argument you're going to let me win, is it," Sheppard said.
"Nope," said Rodney, swinging his legs.
Sheppard ate a few more bites of ice cream, apparently thinking the matter over. "I could just kick you out and refuse to engage you," he suggested.
"Why would you do that?" Rodney asked. "All you'd get is chastity and embarrassing moments offworld."
"Somehow, I don't think the embarrassing moments would go away if I fucked you," Sheppard said dryly.
"No, but at least you'd be having sex," said Rodney.
"You know, I didn't expect to be bludgeoned into sex with logic," Sheppard mused.
"What, did you think it would be all, 'But you are my true love, Major Hot-Ass'?" Rodney asked.
"I still say I'm not attracted to you," Sheppard said to his lamp.
"Oh, sure, in public," said Rodney. "In case we ever get in touch with Earth again. I mean, who knows, it could happen. In an infinite universe, the highly improbable is inevitable. Also, you need to learn how to lie, because you look left every damn time."
"Yes, thank you, I'll work on it," said Sheppard ungratefully.
"Good, because if you lose your job, I'll have to support you," Rodney said. "And probably also commute from Earth, which would just be a waste of resources."
"I'm feeling that killing rage again," said Sheppard. "Can we try the screwing you through the mattress idea before I shoot you?"
Rodney grinned. "I'm all yours, Major Hot-Ass."