On the night of February 13th, John finally made up his mind and went to see Major Lorne.
“I… um… was told you’re the man to see if I want something… special?” he asked the Major after excusing himself for being so late.
“The way you put it, it sounds quite ambiguous,” the Major laughed and invited John in.
“Sorry. It was only… Well, uhm…” John stared at the floor totally at a loss for words. In his quarters it had sounded easier. Not a lot easier, but at least he thought he’d be able to get the words out.
“You want a drink, sir?” Lorne offered.
“No, thank you. And no ‘sir’, please. I’m here on a private errand.”
“You mentioned something like that,” Lorne agreed and continued matter-of-factly, “Do you want your photo taken or do you want me to paint something ‘special’ for you?”
John looked up, relieved. So the gossip mill was right and he wasn’t the only one who wanted to commission Lorne’s talents. “A photo for a Valentine’s card,” he admitted and felt much better now that it was out in the open. “But nothing like those underexposed selfies, something more… classy?”
“No problem.” Now it was Lorne’s turn to hesitate a moment before he asked, “Do you want to get rid of some of your clothes for that photo?”
John took a deep breath. “Yes.” He wouldn’t back down now.
“Fine. Why don’t you undress while I arrange everything?” Lorne got all business like, fetched his camera and some lenses, a laptop, and switched on some additional lights.
John got rid of his shoes and after a moment’s hesitation also his socks and trousers. “Is that enough?” he asked Lorne.
“Whatever *you* feel comfortable with, s… John,” Lorne answered with a smile. “But let me tell you, full frontal nudity isn’t always the most erotic.”
“I’m relieved to hear that.” John grinned.
“And I’m relieved you’re not insisting on the ‘naked on a bear skin rug’ classic.”
Both laughed. Now that the ice was broken, Lorne took several photos of John and instructed him to roll up the sleeves of his blue shirt, to bend to the right, to lean a bit more to the left, and to say ‘cheese’. They were joking around, and it was only a tiny bit awkward when Lorne asked John to unbutton his shirt. John complied and Lorne took some more photos.
Half an hour later John was dressed again, and they sat down at the computer and tried to find the best shot and the right background for the card. They decided on a dark red heart. It was clear that Lorne was dying to ask who the card was for, but he refrained.
He tried another approach. “What do you want me to write on the card?” Lorne asked, the mouse cursor floating over the big red heart.
John laughed. “Nothing. I’ll take it from here.”
“Okay. It was worth a try.” Lorne shrugged and saved the Valentine’s card to the computer. “Then we’re done here. I’ll send all the photos to your email account.”
“Thank you very much. Let me know how I can pay you.”
“Will do.” Lorne nodded. “I hope the person who gets this will appreciate your efforts.”
John sighed. “So do I.”
John went back to his room, spent another ninety minutes finding the right words for the accompanying email, and finally sent his Valentine’s card.
The next morning John found a whole lot of funny Valentine’s cards in his mailbox, one more kitschy and pink than the other. He had to grin at the creativity of the Atlantis’ personnel. But unfortunately, there was no card from Rodney. John persuaded himself the scientist had more pressing matters to attend to and waited until lunch before he checked his mail again.
Nothing. After all the agonizing before going to Lorne, undressing in front of the Major, finding the right words for the mail – it was a bit, no, it was very disappointing not to get an answer. He’d been so sure that inviting Rodney for a Valentine’s dinner would win not only Rodney’s stomach but also his heart.
He checked that his card had been sent, which was the case, and didn’t know what else to do other than to see Rodney in person. John went to the lab.
When he approached Rodney’s desk he saw himself printed out, in color, big as the cover of one of those glamour magazines, sitting on one of Rodney’s unused computers.
There were three more Valentine’s cards, but much smaller and more conventional. He felt a heavy knot forming in his stomach. What the hell…?
“That’s amazing, isn’t it?” Rodney interrupted him and pointed with his index finger at *his* photo. “I don’t know who’s done it, but that’s a very good digital manipulation. If I didn’t know better, I’d really believe it’s you.” He beamed at John. Then he leaned forward and added in a hushed voice, “I think it was Miko. She has a lot of famous actors with their heads on faux sexy bodies on her computer.”
“Has she?” John managed to say after gulping down his incredulity. And his embarrassment. He had never meant for anybody besides Rodney to see him like that. Now in hindsight it seemed like a rather risky plan to gain Rodney’s attention and make him see him as a potential… boyfriend.
But how could his meticulous plan have failed to spectacularly? He had explained everything in his mail. “Wasn’t there a card or an email accompanying the… uhm… manip?”
“Yes! Whoever it was even went so far as inviting me to your quarters tonight at eight and promised pizza and chocolate cake!” Rodney shook his head, obviously not believing that the invitation was genuine. “And she was, uhm-whoever was good enough to make it look like it came from your email address! When I’m not so busy I’m going to backtrack it to be sure I’m right.” He added gleefully.
John would have liked to beat his head against the desk, but as it wasn’t possible, he shrugged his shoulders. “You could come anyway,” he said as nonchalantly as possible. Rodney in his quarters would be a step in the right direction. “I’ll make sure to have chocolate cake,” he promised
“Then I’ll come,” Rodney replied and returned to the graphs and calculations on his monitor.
“Fine,” John said and went in search of an empty balcony to sulk a bit before he resumed his colonel-y tasks.
At eighteen minutes past seven Rodney stormed into John’s quarters while John was polishing his golf cub.
“You!” he shouted and pointed at Sheppard. “You are the biggest moron in two entire galaxies!”
“Excuse me?” John asked and one eyebrow climbed up.
“Have an educated guess who I talked to five minutes ago?” Rodney slumped down in one of Sheppard’s chairs. He didn’t give John time to answer and continued, “Major Lorne! And can you image the absurd conversation we had, until he noticed I thought it was a fake, and I realized he did indeed take this photo of you?”
“Hey, it isn’t my fault you jumped to the wrong conclusion,” John replied. “And I never thought you’d print it out for everybody to see.”
“Everybody to drool over,” Rodney corrected grumbling. “I had more visitors today than I usually have in a whole month.”
John chuckled. “I’m sorry.”
“You’d better be. But… but… that’s not all. I’m afraid my conversation with Lorne was overheard by half of the science department. Within a few hours everyone will know that it’s you. And that you invited me to your quarters. How could you be so… careless?”
John sighed. “I thought you’d either come here, have dinner with me, and do whatever you do on a Valentine’s date, or if you weren’t interested you’d treat it like a joke. But I never imagined me printed out for everybody to see.”
Rodney got up and went to where John was sitting on his bed. He bumped his knee against John’s knee. “We both weren’t our brightest in this whole affair.”
“You may be right,” John conceded.
“For what it’s worth, I really, really like your plan with the Valentine’s dinner – and more,” Rodney confessed, laid one hand on John’s thigh and gave John a look full of longing.
John cupped Rodney’s cheek and pressed a first kiss to Rodney’s lips, which Rodney answered with enthusiasm. John let his hand rest in the crook of Rodney’s neck and said with a lopsided grin, “I would have preferred a less attention-getting way to announce our new relationship, but it’s okay. It isn’t against the rules anymore and I no way I’m keeping it… you a secret.”
“Sounds fine with me.” Rodney mumbled, already fumbling with the buttons on John’s shirt. “I very seldom say something like this – but we can eat later.” With these words he pushed John backwards on the bed.
John immediately pulled Rodney over him and kissed him again. “Cool.” And before losing his clear mind to the sensation of Rodney’s clever fingers brushing against his groin, he thought that he was a really lucky dog. Rodney was in his bed, and he hadn’t insisted on the ‘naked on a bear skin rug’ classic.
©Antares, February 2016