Werg - John had decided that if they didn't have names, he'd damn well give them some - was hunched over a sort of flat, sort of square thing. McKay was standing behind him, watching and saying things like "Oh" and "Wow" and "Cool."
"Rodney?" John felt like he was being a model of restraint, under the circumstances.
McKay looked up and smiled happily. "You've got to see this, this is the best thing ever."
"I have to see what, exactly?"
Rodney gestured impatiently at the unsquare. "Think of it like a computer, Colonel. A computer intended for very special purposes, that develops and designs studies and quantifies data all by itself, wow, it's like the ultimate experimental tool, here. Observer and analyzer all wrapped up in one - not-square."
"Does it explain why Wag and Werg and Woglinde have kidnapped us?"
McKay looked briefly startled, then said, "Well, actually, we were just getting to that." He paused. "Which one is this one?"
"Hmmm. OK, yeah, that works. So Werg was telling me - it's kind of hard to understand, because we're communicating about complex theoretical concepts when we have enough language in common to talk, maybe talk, about how this thing right here is called a nose. Anyway. Werg was telling me that they're engaged in a major act of, um, I think charity, in this galaxy."
"Where charity means abducting people from their beds in their lovely floating city and holding them for long periods of time in a very hot room on a ship with no right angles and waking them up every single time they get to sleep to make rude noises at them?" John figured he was, just maybe, entitled to some calm, laidback pissed-off hysteria. He'd been awakened fourteen times by Woglinde alone, and she wasn't the kind of person you wanted to wake up to. Even before she started with the noises.
"Yeah, I can fix that. They made some bad guesses about ideal conditions for us, based on the planet itself. But, yeah, basically, that's it."
"What happens when they stop being charitable, Rodney? I mean, their best efforts are like BCT with added sadism."
"No, no, we've got -"
Werg made a noise. It was one of those belchy noises. John tried very hard not to be xenophobic, and failed.
"Ah, good, we have - we have - huh." Rodney went suddenly silent, and unless John was mistaken, he blushed.
"Rodney?" Nothing. "Rodney?"
"Um." Rodney looked up, flushed even more, slid his eyes to one side, and all but held up a small sign reading 'I, Rodney McKay, am about to tell a really bad lie. If you are betting against me, you are going to win fabulous prizes.' "Colonel, you know, maybe we aren't communicating as well as I thought, so maybe, maybe if you went back to your room -"
John held up a hand. When that didn't work, he waved it around until McKay wound down. "First, no. I'm not going back to that damn place unless someone with a gun forces me to, and even then it'd depend on the caliber. And, second, I know you're lying. Werg knows you're lying. Hell, the chair-thing probably knows you're lying."
"Fine, fine. But, and I think you'll notice that I'm not lying here, you really would be happier if you went back to your room now."
John felt the hairs on the back of his neck go up, and he reached reflexively for a P-90 that wasn't there. "Rodney," he said flatly, "tell me."
John pressed his hands over his eyes. Didn't help the headache at all. "So they want us to - to what, now?"
Rodney was verging on purple. He was almost the same color as Werg, which was really just too disturbing to think about.
But then, pretty much everything was.
"Don't make me say it, Colonel."
"Fine. Then I'll say it. You're telling me that we've been abducted by aliens that want us to have sex?"
"Mate. They want us to mate. Breed."
"I don't know if they cover this in genius physicist school, Rodney, so let me just tell you now: we're never going to have babies together."
"I know that, yes, Maj - Colonel," and John was wounded; Rodney hadn't done the Major thing for a while. Maybe it was something he did under stress. "But they're having a hard time getting a handle on the concept of a bisex - I mean, a species that has two sexes."
"Great. We've been abducted by retarded sex-crazed aliens. "
"Actually, they're extremely intelligent, and their technological level is astonishing; everything we see around us has been simulated solely to make us comfortable. Based of course on the data they collected from Atlantis and the continent, which is why it isn't actually very comfortable."
"Right, right. So they're on a sort of continuing mission to right wrongs in the galaxy -"
Rodney made a helpless apologetic gesture. "And they're very concerned about the galactic population problem."
"And so they're forcing everyone into gay sex? One pair at a time? Do they have any idea how fast humans reproduce?"
"No, no. They're worried that we're underpopulated, so they're forcing everyone to have sex. They just, they don't know about the two sexes thing."
Wag, who had been doing something with a big lumpish box, made a very loud blatting noise. A few seconds later, a mechanical voice said, "Pegasusians, can you hear me?"
Rodney said, "I didn't get a chance to tell you yet that they wanted us to keep talking. So their translator would start working."
"Great, Rodney. Next time, tell me first thing that the nice aliens are eavesdropping, okay?"
"Pegasusians?" Wag poked at the boxy lump, which emitted painful squealing sounds.
"We can hear you." Rodney said hastily.
"Excellent. Are you prepared to do your duty?"
Rodney opened his mouth, but John held up a hand. "We're not sold on the whole duty thing, Wag."
"You're Wag. That one's Werg. I'm not sure where Woglinde is."
The translator sat in nonplussed silence. Behind it, so did Wag.
"Anyway. As I was saying. We're not so much with the sex, here, because me and Rodney, well, we don't - we can't - I mean, it takes a boy and a girl to make a baby, and we don't have a girl handy. So as much as I might like to get laid for my, um, adopted galaxy, see, it wouldn't work."
"We will provide all necessary reproductive assistance. This is merely a preliminary study to gather data that will facilitate galaxy-wide implementation of population boosting technology."
John winced. "I, uh, maybe you want to check with people before you start with that."
"It is for your own good," Wag said patiently - and, in John's opinion, terrifyingly.
Rodney said, "Colonel, maybe you and Wag can have a couple of beers later, get into philosophy then. For the moment, could we focus on more concrete questions?" He turned to Wag. "Why us? I mean, wouldn't, um, an already established mating pair be more, um, useful?"
Wag looked at him disapprovingly. And John really hated that he knew Wag well enough to tell that. "Obviously adequate mating is not occurring. We will be attempting to enhance mating between individuals without a prior pair-bond." Wag paused, then added, "It is our plan to begin with pairs that show the most likelihood of successful bonding and thus subsequent mating, so that we may induce it more easily."
"We - what - who -" John sputtered to a stop.
"Greatest likelihood?" Rodney bristled, like he did when presented by some seriously tragic ignorance from someone in his lab. "Based on what?"
"Proximity over time, ocular fixations, non-essential interactions, changes in basal metabolism rate - we evaluated over seven of tens of what you call variables." Wag paused, then added, "You are welcome to examine our data and results, if you like."
Rodney sat up very quickly. "Yes. Yes, I want to do that."
Wag rippled. A squarish thing appeared in front of Rodney, and Rodney went instantaneously into what John thought of as the Science Dimension. John put his head down on the table around which they were sitting. It was really a lot more comfortable than the 'bed' in his room, and he was exhausted; back on Atlantis, he'd had thirty-six hours of action-packed away mission followed by twenty hours of security crisis and then less than an hour of sleep before the whole alien abduction thing. "Wake me up when you've solved this, okay?"
Someone was shaking him. It was Rodney. Wag and Werg were gone.
Rodney was frowning.
"Problem not solved then?"
"The thing is, Col - John - they have a point."
"Rodney. They do not have a point."
"Well, John, the math checks, and it's a fairly ingenious study design, actually. Clean, elegant - very - "
"I am not having sex with you because some alien math paper got you hot."
"No, no, I'm not saying - huh. I guess I am saying - but, really, John. It's a very persuasive argument."
John pressed his hands flat on the table so he wouldn't accidentally wrap them around Rodney's throat. "It isn't persuading me," he hissed. Seriously, he wouldn't walk through a fucking door on the say-so of some big purple blobs. He wasn't even that good at taking orders from members of his own species.
Rodney sighed and looked away for a second. When he looked back, he seemed a little below par, a little subdued - maybe like pre-coffee Rodney. "They're not going to let us go," he said quietly. "Not unless..."
"Rodney." John took a deep breath, and then he just couldn't - he couldn't believe it anymore. It was too much to take in. He was in an alien spaceship talking to a supposed human who wanted to create a baby with him based on some kind of study. This was not his life, this was not his world, this was not happening. "No," he said flatly, coldly. "I don't put out without dinner and a movie, Dr. McKay." And even he could tell he was stomping as he headed for the door.
Of course, he had nowhere to stomp to except their too-hot, seriously uncomfortable room, but even that was better than the company of Dr. Alien Lovemachine back there.
John paced for a while, but eventually managed to get calmed down enough that he could go to sleep, so of course he was almost instantly awakened by one of the aliens - he'd decided he'd call their race the Pervians - prodding him. He sat up resignedly and waited for the farting noises to start.
But, as it turned out, the appendage on his shoulder belonged to Rodney. "Hi," he said, looking faintly guilty.
"Oh, god. Do they have another paper that shows that only fifteen minutes of sleep at a time is what's best for me?"
Rodney sighed. "They wanted us to get right on with it."
"I already said -"
"I mean, the dinner and a movie." Rodney shrugged. "I have no idea what they've rigged up for the movie, but dinner smells okay."
John stared at him, willing his brain to return from the Science Dimension, or the Crazy Alien-Induced Gay Sex Dimension, or wherever it was. Rodney stared back, looking faintly embarrassed but very, very stubborn. "Colonel, you know how you're always reminding me to respect the customs of the natives, especially if they have guns? Well, I'm reminding you to respect the customs of the aliens, especially since they pretty much own us right now."
John sighed, scrubbed his hands through his hair and across his face, and said, "I have to warn you, I'm usually better on dates where I'm conscious."
Rodney looked down at his hands and shrugged. "I think I tend to do better when I'm not." And his face looked kind of twisted and unhappy, so - hello, yes, okay. Apparently Rodney did get how weird and uncomfortable this whole situation was. Thank God.
John bounced out of bed, suddenly feeling a thousand times better. Unhappy Rodney brought out the best in him, and, whoa, he did not want to think about what that meant. "So, what kind of attire is appropriate to wear to a monitored dinner date on an alien spaceship?" he asked.
Rodney smiled a little. "I think informal is good. Boxers and a t-shirt, you know - come as you are kind of thing."
John pulled his t-shirt on. "Yeah, and if we ever get out of here? Remind me to sleep in sweatpants no matter what season it is down there. A sweltering death is preferable to facing down purple blobs in nothing but my underwear."
"Well, if you military types understood the value of very late nights, you could have my stylish outfit," Rodney said, gesturing at his coffee-stained blue shirt and black pants.
John sighed. "Any chance of getting clothes out of the W triplets?"
"You mean, given that they pretty much think that the survival of our race depends on us getting naked together?"
"Yeah, okay." John looked down at his bony knees and tried not to feel like a gigantic dork. "Could be worse, I guess. I mean, they could've taken me when I was wearing the pink polka dots. Shall we, Dr. McKay?" He offered Rodney his arm.
Rodney took it. "You, you, you have pink polka dot boxers." He sounded more surprised than he had when they'd woken up in bed together on an alien spaceship. John tried not to feel hurt.
"Yeah. I have West Point ones, too - two pair, actually, one of them tie-dyed. And a full range of plaid, and spaceships and planes and helicopters, and also these really disturbing ducks. You get caught wearing joke underwear just once, and you'll be getting gag boxers for your birthday until the day you die." John didn't mention that the ones he'd brought to Atlantis had been the tail end of a huge collection. Or that he'd taken these because the guys who gave them to him were all dead.
"Huh." Rodney sounded curious. "Dinner's that way," he said, pointing, then said, "How did you get caught in the joke underwear originally?"
"Long story. You know how it is."
"No, actually, I -" and then they turned into the room and stopped dead.
For a long moment, they were both frozen, and John had another this-is-not-happening-to-me episode; suddenly he was, like, way outside his own body, staring curiously at the schmuck in the ugly boxers and the grubby t-shirt arm in arm with the science geek, facing a huge table entirely covered with -
"Jello," Rodney said. "I'm not hallucinating, right? That really is all jello?"
"Yeah. I...wow. That's a lot of jello. And I don't think I've ever seen some of those colors before."
"Did I ever tell you about the summer I got my wisdom teeth out?"
"No. And if it involves puking up jello, you're not telling me about it now." John walked to one end of the table and prodded a big quivering mass of green. "Should I taste these to make sure they aren't citrus-flavored?"
"I - yeah, I suppose," Rodney said.
John looked around. "Spoons?" There were no utensils of any kind, anywhere.
"I guess we don't get those."
"These guys are the worst do-gooders ever." John made a sort of scoop out of two of his fingers and dipped into the green stuff.
Rodney watched him with interest as he slurped it up. "Lime?" he asked fatalistically.
John swallowed, hard. "Uh, no. Safe for you to eat, I think." He winced. "In the citrus-free sense."
"What flavor is it?"
"I think, um - broccoli."
Ten minutes later, John was lying flat on the floor of the dining room. Rodney was sitting up, staring in fascination at the table of jello, but John had had enough. He was very firmly not looking at the table; he'd tasted every jello mold up there, and he'd had enough to last him the rest of his life. He couldn't believe they were being held captive by people who thought "liver" was a good flavor for jello.
"Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if we mixed the mashed potato with the gravy," Rodney said thoughtfully.
"Gravy jello, Rodney, and no. If we even talk about it any more, I'm going to throw up."
Rodney flopped back next to him and covered his face with an arm. "I'm just trying to think," he said, somewhat muffled, "whether the movie is likely to be better or worse than this."
John cringed. "Just - just tell me it isn't porn. Porn made by the Pervians -" he shuddered.
"We'd never be able to have sex again," Rodney said, sounded terrified. "It'd be the kind of porn that makes you permanently impotent. It'd be - it'd be like porn starring your third-grade teacher and your mom, but much, much worse."
"Yeah." John couldn't ever remember having experienced precisely this flavor of fear before. This was not one of the fun fears, right here.
And, as if on cue, the voice of the translator said, "Pegasusians, if you have finished your repast, we will begin the filmed entertainment." And then the whole room went dark. Rodney whimpered, very quietly.
John reached out and grabbed Rodney's hand; Rodney clutched at him convulsively.
"Well, it wasn’t porn," John said, a full five minutes after the movie finally stopped running. "That's good."
Rodney retched again, and John tried to figure out if there was a safe part of Rodney to pat soothingly.
"I had no idea you got this motion-sick from movies." He'd never been motion sick from actual motion that John knew about. Only Rodney could do worse with the entertaining version than the real thing.
"That was worse than Blair Witch Project," Rodney said pathetically, holding his body very very still. "At least I could close my eyes during that."
"Why did you see that? Because, seriously, for you, that was the stupidest movie choice ever."
"The guy I was dating wanted to, and I figured, two hours with my eyes closed in return for sex - totally worth it."
John blinked a few times, then re-focused. "Uh. You ready to try standing up now?"
Rodney stood, shakily. John said, "Do you want your shirt?"
"God, no," Rodney said, recoiling in horror.
"Yeah, good call." John tugged gently on his arms. "Come on. We'll go back to the room, we'll see if we can't get you cleaned up, we'll mate. It'll be good."
Rodney's mouth turned down. "You mean my hot sexy vomiting act convinced you?"
John towed him down the corridor. "Let's consider this, in order. First: I know from torture. I know that everyone has his breaking point, that everyone breaks. So I'm breaking here and now and saving us more vomiting."
Rodney said, "You're now willing to have sex with me because it's slightly better than puking torture? Forgive me, Colonel Sheppard, if I'm not exactly -"
"First! I said first! So shut up and let me get to my other points." They'd arrived at their nominal quarters; John headed for the "sanitation works," as Rodney had dubbed the one frighteningly well-equipped corner, wet a square of what was either really wimpy paper towel or really abrasive toilet paper, and handed it to Rodney.
"I'm waiting," Rodney said quietly, wiping off his mouth and his face and his hands. He looked jittery, and he certainly wasn't doing it particularly well, but he was in fact waiting.
John, all out of hope for a diversion, sighed. "Okay, and, second, I didn't know you did guys. That changes things."
"Do I get to have points now? Because my first one is that you're the only person in the galaxy who didn't know that, so clearly I'm going to have to revise my estimates of your intelligence way, way downward, which makes you much less sexy, for your information. And my second one is - why?"
"Your second point's kinda sketchy, Rodney. Unbalances your argument."
"Fine, and I suppose you were captain of the debate team in high school. Whatever. Answer me, Colonel. I just suffered through two hours of nauseating film that I had to watch. After I'd eaten a bunch of fried chicken jello. Don't make me work for this."
John rolled his eyes. "Fine. Wouldn't want you to have to go all martyr on me." He took a deep breath, and then breathed out, and then breathed in, and Rodney's limited patience took a hike.
"Come on. Chop-chop. God only knows when they'll spring another date on us, and I don't want to find out what their version of a concert and a long romantic walk on the beach is." Rodney snapped his fingers several times.
"Yeah. That was pretty much my point number three." And John had never actually said this out loud to anyone. He had no idea how to put it. Bisexual? Flexible? Very fond of Ferris wheels?
Rodney made his, 'quiet, genius thinking' face, and then he said, "You're gay?" so loud that John cringed.
Rodney folded his arms and rolled his eyes and generally communicated vast and world-destroying impatience.
"I'm - look, I'm in the military. So, no, I'm not. I can't be." John paused, pushed himself way out on the limb, and added hesitantly, "I'm just - regulationally challenged."
"That is the wimpiest coming out speech ever. I mean that. Worse than mine to my parents at fifteen, John, and I'd just been caught with a Playgirl."
"So catch me with a Playgirl and I'll do better! Jesus, Rodney."
"You're just kidding, right? I mean, because we may be stuck in the Pegasus Galaxy, and have no real internet access to speak of, but we still have way better porn than that. Just Dr. -"
And John had to stop this conversation right there, before Rodney - God forbid - actually told him a name. "Rodney," he said.
And Rodney looked away, looked back, and said, "Yeah. So, John, I'm bent and I think you're hot and I'm more than willing to have sex with you, especially given how the future of the galaxy and our escape from this vessel relies on it, although, really, it wouldn't ever be a hardship."
John smiled and swore to himself he wouldn't blush and then blushed anyway. "Um. Yeah," he said, and took a step towards Rodney, who was stepping towards him, and he - Jesus, he could do whatever he wanted, here, even stuff that required a bed and more than first-names basis. The freedom itself was weirdly arousing, almost intoxicating, and John was riding that high when he reached his hand out for Rodney and encountered Rodney's hand reaching for him.
And then they both screamed and the world went black.
After the inevitable prolonged stay in the infirmary - Carson couldn't find anything wrong, but that didn't stop him from doing lots and lots of tests - came the debriefing. Which was from hell, seriously, although John was by then apparently projecting a rage so sincere and all-encompassing and galaxy-destroying that Elizabeth actually flinched halfway through her third question to him - and he wasn't answering any questions - and switched to talking to Rodney.
Rodney, it turned out, was not in a much better mood. He put up with five questions and then snapped, "I don't know what happened! We'd gotten communication, of a kind, but Elizabeth, this was not like making nice with the Vletians - it was contact with an extremely alien race, a race far more alien than the Wraith, the Goa'uld, and the, the, the mist beings from M5S-224. Combined. We tried to talk to them, and they fed us horrible food and showed us nauseating pictures even though I'm pretty sure they were trying to be nice, and then there was a lot of pain and we woke up back here." John noticed that Rodney didn't mention or try to explain the fact that they'd been holding hands when they woke up, which, combined with John's state of undress, had pretty much sent the regulationally challenged rumors through the roof.
"Horrible food," Elizabeth repeated, not quite making it a question.
"Jello," Rodney said sullenly.
Across the table, Zelenka made a happy, eureka kind of noise, and John shot him a vicious look. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Rodney doing the same thing.
Zelenka held up his hands. "It helps to explain a rather odd," and he appeared to be groping for a word, but Elizabeth broke in before he found it.
"It must be a gift!" she said. Zelenka made a dubious clicking noise. "Wait, let me," and she tapped her radio, "Weir to Control. Could you bring that strange shipment we found to the conference room, please?"
Rodney and John only had thirty seconds or so to stare at each other in horror before the on-duty platoon came trooping in, carrying lots of - oh, god. Nearly but not quite cubical vats containing suspiciously colorful stuff, and was that the weird golden brown that the liver flavor had been?
Rodney gagged, then dropped to the floor. John put his head in his hands and tried to think very, very jello-free thoughts. Distantly, he could hear Zelenka and Ronon hastily directing the removal of the vats - "Yes, yes, all of this, take it all away, right now, very quickly please" and "Take it now or you will clean up the mess" - and decided he loved them both.
"Rodney? John?" Elizabeth said gently, a few minutes later, and John opened his eyes and looked around.
"It's safe, Rodney," he said, and Rodney got to his knees, looked warily over the edge of the table, and then resumed his chair.
"So we won't discuss - that," Elizabeth said, and everyone around the conference table nodded in very enthusiastic agreement.
"But," Caldwell leaned forward. "What about this?" And he gestured to another not-quite-cubical container. This one, though, was not transparent.
John took a deep breath, reminded himself that he was not about to show fear in front of Caldwell, and stalked around the table to look into it.
He opened it, looked in, and frowned. "Huh."
"What? What? The suspense is killing me, John, and that was something else I didn't like about Blair Witch, so don’t drag it out here, okay?"
John said, "I have no idea what this stuff is. Except this." He hauled out one of the not-quite-square things Rodney had gone all orgasmic over back on the Pervian ship, and Rodney gasped out loud.
"Oh, god. Oh, god. I take back every bad thing I said about Werg and Woglinde, except for the parts about the jello and the movie. They left me a data analyzer!" Rodney scooped it up and cuddled it close to him. Zelenka raised an interested eyebrow, and John could tell Rodney was holding himself back from a snarl.
"But the rest of this, seriously, no clue." John took out a roundish, surprisingly heavy thing that ticked, and bunch of lumpy blobs, and something purple-brown and quivery.
The debriefing lasted another two hours. Caldwell wanted to talk security - "If they come for us, we're probably doomed," John told him very sincerely - and Elizabeth wanted to talk culture. Zelenka clearly only wanted to get his hands on the unsquare, and Rodney was crooning gently to it and muttering numbers under his breath and refusing to acknowledge the existence of the outside world. Eventually, everyone gave up.
The unsquare distracted the entire science team for so long that it took them three full days to discover that the round heavy object was completely impenetrable to any analyzing rays and completely unopenable. Rodney himself was totally inaccessible. John kept going to the lab and hovering around waiting for him to drop the unsquare already and get back into sex mode, and that was where Zelenka told him that he'd figured out that the ticking noise and the moving parts on the outside of the heavy thing formed a calendar.
"I believe," he told John happily, "that it is actually counting down, not up. Most unusual."
John's stomach went tight. "Counting down to what?"
"We are not certain yet, but we should have quite a while before it reaches zero."
"How long?" John said tensely, staring at it, trying to figure out if the Pervians, in their sincere desire to help, had sent back a time bomb or something.
Zelenka poked his handheld a few times, then said, "Interesting."
"What?" John asked.
"It is counting down - if I have converted the units correctly - from 6,648 hours as of this moment. So it would have been set to approximately, er, 6,720 hours initially."
John's hindbrain did the math - hours to days to weeks to months - and presented him with the solution a few seconds later.
"Huh," he said, and it came out strangled. He cleared his throat as he turned to look at Zelenka, and he said, very sincerely, "Oh, shit." And then he grabbed the heavy ticking thing, moved across the lab to grab Rodney by the collar, and hauled him - them - right the hell out of there.
"John, what? What? What?" Rodney asked him all the way to his quarters, but John kept his grip on Rodney's shirt with one hand and held the ticking thing in the other and refused to say a word until the door to his room was shut behind him.
Rodney was babbling incoherently by that time, his expression shifting rapidly as he tried to decide if he should be indignant or scared or horny or what. John carefully set the ticking thing down on his desk, took a deep breath, and kissed Rodney.
It wasn't a perfect kiss, but it was still the best one John had ever had, their lips finally coming together in a way that completely distracted him from the buzzing knowledge in his head. John took advantage of Rodney's surprise to slide his tongue into Rodney's mouth, and then he finished by dragging his teeth across Rodney's lower lip, which got him a very nice gasp.
When he pulled back, Rodney's eyes were vague and dazed and unfocused, and that's when John picked the ticking thing back up. "Rodney," he said sincerely, "I'm interested in you and I really think we can make this work. Also," and he took a deep breath and held up the thing, which he now knew did a lot more than just tick, "we're pregnant."