Six stitches that were fresh enough to keep John from going off-world did not preclude a trip to the white sand beaches of the mainland for a barbecue and a little team building. Little yellow birds with absurdly long red legs dashed after the receding froth of crashed waves and the sky was huge and endlessly blue.
"You'd really think that someone would get around to naming this planet," Rodney mused. "Or at least the continent."
"My people call this place Fioq," Teyla said, tying her hair up off her neck. She was wearing a teal sports bra and a pair of matching spandex running shorts she'd borrowed from Cadman—the closest thing anyone on Atlantis had to a swimsuit short of scuba gear. She looked pretty damned fine in it, arranged on a vast, brightly patterned Athosian blanket. Next to her a shirtless, napping Ronon stretched out with his face resting on his folded arms like a bronze by Rodin.
"The mainland or the planet?" John asked. He dug his toes in the warm sand; it was as fine and soft as flour.
"The land. Before the Wraith, when Athos had great cities, the first city, the oldest, was called Fioq."
"That's kinda nice," John said, folding his good arm behind his head and closing his eyes against the gleaming pressure of the sun, his sunglasses still folded into the neck of his T-shirt.
"I can't believe it," Rodney groused. "I forgot my sunglasses! Now the glare is going to ruin my eyesight."
"Relax, Rodney," John advised, not needing to look over to picture Rodney pawing though his gear, and knowing that the glare was the last thing that Rodney had to worry about.
Rodney had built himself a shelter out of two long stakes and a fold of tent anchored with the picnic cooler. He was wearing baggy cut-offs—apparently he'd sacrificed a torn pair of BDUs to the cause—and a faded navy blue T-shirt printed with a block of binary code that read "Smarter than you." He'd brought a set of speakers along with his laptop, and surprisingly good sound poured out of the Bose port where Rodney had docked his iPod.
"This music is quite lovely," Teyla said, sounding strangely dreamy.
John hummed in absent agreement and found himself nodding to the music, trying to find the words buried in the lush orchestrations, but the song faded out and a Beach Boys tune came on.
Rodney listens to the Beach Boys, John thought. Huh.
Classical music would not have surprised him. Even something punk and angry—McKay had been a kid once, too. But the sunny pop of the Beach Boys? John would have figured that McKay would have certain strong opinions about Oldies Stations and a withering glare for anything having to do with surfin' safaris.
"You listen to the Beach Boys," John said.
Rodney didn't seem at all offended by this accusation.
"Yes, I do. So?"
"But all their songs are about surfing and fun. You hate surfing," John pointed out. He tried not to be too annoyed about the fact that Carson had made him promise to leave his own surfboard at home.
"Ah, and according to your specious logic, it follows that I hate fun. Just because I don't want to get my limbs chomped off by whatever's lurking beneath the waves doesn't mean that the theoretical pleasures of sun and sand don't appeal to me."
Mutely, John reached over and held up McKay's wide container of hand-made 100 SPF.
"Well, I'm here aren't I?"
John tilted his head, accepting that, but Rodney continued on.
"Besides, the beach is nice at night, too. Moonlight and etcetera. Oh, whatever, the music is pretty, all right? Brian Wilson is a musical genius. His music is harmonically complex and... My dad had their entire collection on vinyl, and they were the only records he owned that didn't make me want to kill myself. Besides, they didn't just sing about surfing. They also sang about existential angst. As a theme, 'In My Room' ideally suits most moody 14 year olds. And don't let's forget that girls in bikinis feature heavily."
"Bikinis?" Teyla asked.
"Um. Bikinis are what pretty girls wear to the beach. Basically something along the lines of what, ah, you're currently wearing. Except—more—" Rodney gestured vaguely at his own beachwear, and then seemed to catch himself. "Less fabric," he said instead.
Teyla didn't smile, but there was a teasing glint in her eye. "I see."
Another song John didn't recognize cued up and he realized that both he and Rodney had shut up so that they could listen. It was followed by the Beach Boys again; this time, "Wouldn't It Be Nice".
"What was that one called?" John asked.
"Hmm? Oh. Surf's Up."
"Who's it by?"
"Brian Wilson. It's off an album that took him 38 years to complete."
"Really?" John was half-interested despite himself.
"He started working on it in 1966. It was supposed to be a follow up to Pet Sounds."
"Why'd it take him 38 years?"
"Well. Drugs, mainly. And mental illness. He wrote a suite about the elements, and he had the orchestra play the one about fire while wearing fireman's hats. Then he found out that there were a bunch of really catastrophic fires in the area about the same time he'd been recording, and he attributed them to his music. So. He stopped. Put it away. Turned into a famous recluse. No one heard the tracks he'd recorded until someone dug them out of the Columbia vault in 2003."
"Can music cause fires on your planet?" Teyla's expression was carefully solemn, but Rodney didn't notice her teasing.
"No, of course not," he said irritably. "He just thought they did because he was crazy."
Teyla only looked amused. Beside her, Ronon murmured in his sleep, subsiding when Teyla set her hand lightly on his shoulder.
For a long time, they were quiet, only the hush of the waves and Beach Boys eddying around them.
Eventually, Teyla touched Ronon's shoulder again, this time to rouse him.
"Ronon, Dr. Beckett warned us that prolonged exposure to this sun will burn us. It is time you applied some protective cream."
John could almost feel Rodney refraining from pointing out that sunblock is most effective when applied half an hour before going in the sun, and that "frolicking in the surf", as Ronon was bound to do once he was fully conscious, would simply necessitate the almost immediate reapplication of more sunblock.
John really had no problem with that at all.
"'kay," Ronon rumbled, and he sat up, rolling his neck and reaching for the tube of cream Teyla had held out. John tried not to stare, but Rodney looked too absorbed to even make a pretense of politely averting his gaze as Ronon lazily slathered his arms and his chest and his shoulders with SPF30. His own cut-offs looked maybe a size too small for him, digging a bit into the slalom of muscle at Ronon's hip, and positively clinging to his ass, but then Ronon was so big that it was kind of amazing that they'd ever found any clothes for him at all. Besides, shirtless was a good look for him. If there was a guy made for beach living, it was Ronon, John decided.
"I will apply the lotion to your back," Teyla offered and Ronon handed the tube back to her.
Teyla applied the cream to Ronon's sleekly muscled back in slow, even strokes, massaging the lotion in until his skin gleamed.
Ronon reached around and nabbed the bottle back and wordlessly began to rub cream along the graceful curve of Teyla's spine, his large hands moving gently, gently.
"You've got to be kidding me," Rodney said in a small, strangled voice.
The air smelled like cocoa butter and the green sea, and John wondered if Rodney was tenting his cut-offs in his little cabana over there; he was pretty much on his way, himself.
"John," Teyla said, "Will the sunblock irritate your wound?"
John thought about it. Thought about it a lot. At the very least, he'd need to take his shirt off. After all, you can get sunburned right through your clothes...
"Probably," he admitted finally.
"Perhaps you should shelter with Rodney, then. You are not so fair as he, but Dr. Beckett would be displeased with us if we brought you back in need of his care, and I wish very much to stay to see the sun set."
Rodney obligingly hitched his lawnchair over and John stood up and dragged his own into the shade beside him.
Teyla nodded approvingly and then jogged lightly toward the inviting ocean. They all watched her go. Eventually, Ronon turned to cock an eyebrow at Rodney, then John. Then he flashed a crooked, knowing grin and tossed John the tube of sunblock before following Teyla to the water.
When John glanced over, Rodney was pink-cheeked and gnawing anxiously on his lower lip.
"Do you think he knows?"
"That you think he's hot?"
"I'm pretty sure everyone who's breathing thinks he's hot," Rodney sniffed. "I meant... do you think he knows that you and I are... You know."
John put his hand on Rodney's bare knee and squeezed in a friendly way.
At the water's edge, he could hear Teyla's laughter as Ronon crashed against the waves and the music from another time, another galaxy, bright and soft and sweet. Rodney glanced their way once before covering John's hand with his own and leaning over to kiss him, apparently determined not to care if they were found out, after all. Rodney's free hand sank into John's hair and tugged him closer, and John grinned and opened his mouth to his friend, who tasted like summer, like cocoa butter and the green sea.