"Colonel Sheppard's IDC, m'am."
"Lower the shield." Elizabeth moved to the gate room steps, ready to welcome her flagship team home. Rodney came through first, looking peeved. "How was the--"
"I don't want to talk about it." He pushed past her and up the stairs without another word or look. The rest of the team comes through the Stargate together, none of them looking worse for the wear, but Elizabeth had been in pegasus long enough to understand that looks could be unbelievably deceiving.
"Did something happen?" she asked, searching their faces for some sort of clue.
"Rodney kind of had a bad trip," John explained.
Carson assured them the hallucinogen was already breaking down. Rodney should be completely clean by the next morning, with no lasting side effects.
Rodney remained stone-faced and unnaturally silent through the whole thing, glaring a hole in the table. John couldn't even coax him into a game of Prime-Not-Prime or Who Deserves to be Canadian during the debriefing.
Rodney left as soon as the meeting was adjourned, and John tried to keep his write up as clinical and vague as he could get away with. He must have let something slip, though, because soon everyone was humming stupid children's songs in the halls and replacing Rodney's sturdy coffee cups with dainty porcelain teacups. The really strange thing was that Rodney had started collecting them.
It took Teyla knocking him flat on his ass five times in a row for John to pick up that she wasn't just pissed, she was pissed at him. For something specific.
"OK, ow," he complained rubbing his abused bottom. Teyla merely arched an eyebrow and settled into her starting stance. "Is there something you need to get off your chest? Because I'm--" He let out a woosh of air as she neatly yanked his legs from beneath him. He wisely stayed down this time.
"Have you talked to Rodney since the last mission?" she asked, her head interrupting his study of Lantean ceiling design as he struggled to remember how to breathe.
"He's been hiding," John sucked in a breath, "or busy. Or something." Tela's expression darkened and John braced himself for another beating. Instead, Teyla retired her bantos rods and allowed her disappointment in John to show through.
"I would like to think," Teyla said slowly, in a way the reminds John of a disheartened mother, "that you would take your responsibilities towards Rodney more seriously."
John had no idea what to do with that. Because he got the feeling Teyla wasn't just talking about being team leader.
John found Rodney in his room, crammed into his tiny desk staring blankly at his computer screen. He looked absolutely miserable, and the wash of the screen made his skin look wan and sickly.
"Hey, Rodney." Rodney jumped and turned towards him. His eyes were red and glassy.
"Go away," he muttered, turning back to his computer. John craned his neck so he could see the computer. Rodney was staring at his plain, functional desktop background. And then John realized he wasn't staring at his computer, he was staring at a rather odd collection of mismatched teacups.
"You OK, buddy? Been missing you at dinner. Ronon's starting to get used to double desserts," John said, edging towards Rodney.
"I'm fine," Rodney lied through his teeth. He ran a finger absently along the rim of one of the cups, and John felt vaguely uncomfortable, his mind skittering down distracting, unhelpful paths. He was here for Rodney.
"You don't look fine." Rodney shrugged and sent the cup teetering. "Is this about the, uh, thing on Creta?" Rodney's mouth thinned into an impossibly fine line.
"I don't want to talk about."
John found himself nodding his head. He understood that. Hell, he had a list of Things to Never Talk About Again. "OK," he agreed easily. "I get that it was pretty traumatizing, and someone obviously hacked the server and read the report. This'll blow over, you know. People are just being assholes. So, uh. I just wanted to make sure you were OK."
"You don't understand!" Rodney yelled, hands gesturing wildly before falling back to his teacups. John frowned, because he'd been there and was pretty sure he had a good grasp of the situation.
"They made you think you were a teapot. They hypnotized you, slipped your a roofie, and you sang 'I'm a Little Teapot' in front of an entire civilization. I get that. You felt stupid and--"
"No, see, I was a great teapot!"
John blinked. He was definitely missing something here. "I...don't understand."
"Yes, I know, I already told you that!" Rodney snapped.
"You were a great teapot?"
Rodney nodded mournfully, looking even more miserable when John walked in. "With a beautiful blue glaze finish. I was flawless. My design was precisely calibrated so I heated the water evenly without making it too hot. I was made out of the finest insulating materials so the water remained at a wonderful warm temperature for hours! The alloys in my makeup didn't add unwanted flavors to the tea, nor retain the taste of previous pots. AND I poured tea better than all the other teapots! Combined!"
"There were other teapots?"
"That's not the point! I was great! I was adored! I was the whistle of the teapot world. I was the best goddamned little teapot in the history of teapots, and everyone loved me!"
John blinked and sat down on the bed, studying Rodney. "Is this one of those instances where we're not really discussing teapots, but we are discussing teapots because discussing not-teapots isn't something we do?" Rodney crossed his arms and scowled at him.
"You were an extremely dense teapot. Your tea was consistently too cold or undrinkably scalded."
"I'd apologize for that, but--"
"Go away," Rodney sighed turning back to his desk and resting his chin on his hand, staring at his collection of dainty teacups. His obsession seemed a bit more understandable, though John was pretty convinced he was in the Twilight Zone. Or on Candid Camera.
"Rodney..." John stopped abruptly and changed tactics. "Teapots can't win Nobel prizes."
"My world was the heating and pouring of tea. I was the prize."
"Rodney...are you even listening to yourself?" Rodney turned very blue eyes on John, looking absolutely wrecked.
"Can you imagine what it feels like to know your world is absolutely perfect?" Rodney asked him. "That you have everything you want or need, no cares or worries, that nothing is wrong? Because my world was flawless. I knew what I had to do. I did it well. I had friends. Colleagues. People respected me. There weren't Wraith trying to eat me, no one messing up calculations and potentially destroying my life's work, no sobbing incompetents. People weren't pretending to like me because they have to work with me." He sighed and slumped in his chair. "Did you know there's no crying in teapots?"
"I'll never get to feel that again. So just...go." And that's when John realized that Rodney hadn't had a bad trip; Rodney had had a great trip. John had done shrooms with a roommate in college once. Great experience for him, but Brad (the roommate) had, apparently, gone through a life changing experience and been completely depressed for months afterwards. In college, you could turn into an emo punk for a few months (or years) and no one would notice--or particularly care--about the difference. Atlantis didn't have that luxury. And this version of Rodney was really freaking him out.
"A completely worthless human being, but an utterly fantastic teapot. I just realized what everyone's been trying to tell me my whole life, and would appreciate some time to fully grasp what that means."
"You're looking at this the wrong way," John pointed out (very rationally, he thought). "See, your world just seemed perfect, when it's really not. It's kind of like The Matrix--"
"Oh, right. As long as it's not Back to the Future."
"Teapots don't talk," John pointed out meanly, and Rodney snapped his mouth closed and glared at John, a little of his normal bitchiness showing through. John thought that was a step in the right direction. "Now, as I was saying. Think of all the limits to you being a teapot. No higher math. No Ancient devices. No Doctor Who, hockey, or Baywatch. No unbelievable scientific breakthroughs."
"I wouldn't care about anything like that as a teapot. My world would be simple. A clean, linear line. I never really appreciated lines before."
"No. Sex." John smirked. "You'd definitely crack your carefully calibrated exterior." Rodney opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, eyes narrowing at John.
"I'm not getting sex anyways," he said sullenly, "so really, it's a moot point."
"Ah, but you're taking away even the possibility of sex. Cause it's kind of awesome." Rodney harrumphed and sank down in his chair, looking even more miserable than when they started.
"Great. Now I'm a second-rate human AND not getting any sex. Awesome. I'd like to go back to being a teapot. You know, if we were in ancient times, I'd probably have to throw myself on my sword for being--" John cut him off with a kiss. I was awkward because the angle was all wrong with Rodney sitting down and John bending over, but he adjusted. When he pulled away, Rodney blinked up at him in confusion. John nudged him out of his chair, amused at how biddable Rodney was when he'd been thrown for a loop. John kissed him again, because he'd wanted to for forever, and he kind of like the way Rodney's lips looked, all shiny and red.
"I like that you're prickly," John said, diving in for another kiss. "I like your snark." Kiss. "Your scientists respect you even if they hate you sometimes." Kiss. Kiss. "You save our collective asses on a regular basis." Kiss. "I like you." Kiss, cop a feel of Rodney's ass. "You...may be a little bit perfect." John pulled back and looked at Rodney with all sincerity, his hand slipping underneath Rodney's shirt, fingers finding taut nipples. "And I really like that you're not a teapot."
Rodney sat on the bed, breathing hard and staring at John through dark eyes. Then he lunged forward, mouth crashing against John's, and they tumbled to the floor.
Things got better after that. Rodney slowly got over his jealousy of teapots, even if he did keep all of the teacups people kept sending him. When he was feeling down, John would often catch him staring at them mournfully or cradling one in his hands. But then John would just haul Rodney over to the bed (or nearest available surface, if just to remind Rodney that a teapot would definitely break under these conditions) and remind him that teapots didn't get everything, and being human was pretty damn good.