It's Halloween the night they meet. John doesn't normally do Halloween, or costumes, or dancing, but when Teyla insists they are going to the Hippo dressed as Natty Boh and the Utz girl, John gives in. It's been a while since he's been to a club, or cruised, or been cruised. Halloween's as good a night as any.
They split the drinks, buying every other round, and head out to the dance floor early. John's no kid any more, but it feels good to move his body, and take a look around at what passes for scratch at this place. There's a surprising amount of eighties nostalgia - all from kids who were clearly too young to live through it in the first place. There's some Disney princesses and villains, a few general sort of fairy/glitz/sparkle outfits, and a remarkably well done Frank N. Furter. Too skinny to really be Tim Curry, but a fantastic attempt, anyway.
There's one guy, always dancing close but not on top of John, dressed as a gypsy woman, with a multi-colored skirt that's got bells on it, long, curly black-haired wig under a bandanna, and hoop earrings that could put John's eye out from across the room. He's cute, a little short, but with broad shoulders and a nice smile. Teyla nudges him toward the guy and dances off to get another round, so John goes, to have company on the dance floor, if nothing else.
They dance companionably, if flailing in a small space can really be called dancing, and gypsy-boy gets in close, but not too close. Teyla comes back with four beers, handing him two and nodding to gypsy-boy. John hands it off, and gypsy-boy nods his thanks, taking a deep swallow and showing his throat.
John thinks maybe he should make a move, but other than dancing uncomfortably close, he doesn't know what it could be in a place like this. The music's too loud for conversation.
Teyla dances off, chasing a girl in a Princess Leia outfit, and John shakes his head and turns back to the gypsy. Thriller is up next, and they get crushed by the sudden rush to the dance floor. Gypsy-boy grabs his hand and leads him offstage. He goes, willingly, because most of the people on the dance floor apparently need much less personal space than he does. He spots Teyla grinding with Princess Leia and shakes his head.
The gypsy still has his hand and guides him through the club, back upstairs and out the door, and suddenly the quiet is overwhelming. He can hear the echo of the bass pounding in his ears. "Wow," John says. "I'm out of practice."
The gypsy shakes his head and grins. "It's not obvious at all," he says sarcastically, and before John can even come up with a retort, he holds out his hand. "Evan Lorne," he says, which is about two names more information than John has ever gotten out of anyone he's picked up at a bar before.
John shakes his hand, giving Evan his full name before he overthinks it, and Evan pulls him in for a quick kiss on the lips.
"I hope that was okay," Evan says, when John just blinks. "You look like you needed it."
John blinks again, and then laughs, because he supposes he did. "Listen," Evan says, wrapping himself around John's arm, "I'm not a huge fan of going deaf – why don't we go back to my place?"
John's never been talkative, exactly, but he's usually pretty good with words when he needs to be, and they have all but deserted him in the face of Evan's odd straight-forward charm. "Teyla," John starts, but Evan grins.
"She's dancing with my roommate," Evan says. "I'll text her, tell her to bring her friend home so you can sober up together. You're in no shape to drive."
John doesn't even ask how Evan knows he doesn't live close enough to walk, or that he didn't take the light rail or something, he just lets Evan lead him down the street, to a row house a few blocks away. It's nice, typical Baltimore, and Evan shrugs. "It's Laura's gramma's," he says. "Laura got it when she passed, and she didn't want to live here alone, so." He shrugs, opening the door. "Here I am."
Evan throws his keys on a little table just inside the door and slips his shoes off. There's a pile of shoes by the door, so John kicks his off as well and follows Evan inside. It looks like the whole placed has been dressed up for Halloween. There's a small round table with a crystal ball on it, the lamps have all been draped with scarves, and there's a china cabinet that's holding several different bottles, boxes, crystals, and odds and ends.
"Did you have a party before you went out?" John asks, though the place isn't trashed like he would expect.
"No, this is what it always looks like." Evan heads into the kitchen and John follows, not sure what to say. Maybe Laura's a fortune teller and Evan borrowed her outfit.
Evan pours a couple of glasses of water from a container in the fridge and hands one to John. "You get used to it," he says, and reaches out to put an arm around John's waist. "You don't have a problem with purple, do you?" he asks, and John suddenly has visions of a grape-koolaid-colored bedroom.
"Not generally," John says, taking a huge swallow of water to avoid more questions. Evan's arm is hooked around him companionably, and John wonders if Evan really was serious about sobering him up. He frowns, and decides to try a little harder. "I like the Ravens, anyway," he says, pivoting around so they're chest to chest. Evan's maybe four inches shorter than him, maybe a little less, so it's a bit of a stretch to lean down and kiss him, but Evan's game and tilts his face up, and before long they're making out and ass-grabbing like teenagers.
John comes up for air long enough to grab their glasses and set them on the counter. "Why don't you give me the nickel tour?"
Evan half-smiles and takes his hand, leading him through the other door of the kitchen. "Library," he says, as is if it wasn't completely obvious from the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves covering every inch of wall space. John can't make out any titles in the darkness, but he vows to come down and check it out later. Those shelves have got to be a custom job.
They've circled back around to the foyer, and they go up the stairs next to where their shoes are all in a pile.
"Laura's on the left," Evan says, pulling him to the right. "And I'm stuck without an en suite bathroom." He pushes open the door and thankfully, it's a nice shade of grayish-blue. There's a huge bed and dresser and not much else to speak of.
"A bit Spartan," John says. Even his place has more furniture than this.
Evan shrugs. "I moved in a hurry. Most of my stuff is downstairs."
John doesn't really know what he means, but now that they're here, he's really done with talking. He tackles Evan onto the bed and pins him for half a second before Evan flips him over as if he weighs nothing. Oh fuck, John thinks, and lets Evan press him down into the bed.
John's floating between dozing and contemplating a round two when the girls get home. The slam of the front door wakes him, but it's Teyla's drunken giggles that bring him awake. He'd know those giggles anywhere.
They generally get drunk together, watching each others' backs, and John must be lonelier than he thought, letting Evan pull him away from Teyla and the club, and what the hell was he thinking?
Evan's conked out, lying on his front, one arm hanging off the bed. He looks like an underwear ad. John pulls on his jeans and opens the door carefully, waiting at the top of the steps for a moment to see if they're going to come straight upstairs. He can't see them at the bottom of the stairs, and the muffled giggling sounds far enough away that he's pretty sure they're in the kitchen.
He tiptoes down the steps, skipping the couple of creaky floorboards he noticed on the way up, and rounds the corner into the library. He can't see into the kitchen well enough to get a glimpse of them, but the giggles have stopped and there's a breathless sort of noise that makes him uncomfortable. He clears his throat loudly and steps around the corner.
"Hey," he says, and Teyla breaks the kiss long enough to catch his eye.
"John," she says, clearly pleased to see him, though her eyes are pretty well glazed over, and when the woman she's with starts kissing her neck, she makes pleased little noises and lets her head fall back.
John's never been quite so thoroughly dismissed; he's pretty sure Teyla's aware enough to consent, and she does seem to be having a good time, but he can't really imagine her doing this in his presence unless she's a little off her game.
"Get a room," Evan says from the door on the other side of the kitchen. He picks up his glass of water from earlier and finishes it off in two long gulps.
"You get a room," the woman - presumably Laura - says.
"Already did," Evan says. "And if I have my way, we'll be heading back there as quickly as possible." He crosses the kitchen to pull open the refrigerator and fill his water glass. He hands it to Laura. "Drink this."
To Evan's credit, she does. He turns to Teyla and holds out his hand. "Evan Lorne," he says. "And you must be the Teyla that John can't stop worrying about."
"Teyla Emmagen, yes," she says. "Pleased to meet you, Evan."
"And this firecracker," Evan says, slinging an arm around the other woman's neck, "is Laura Cadman."
She waves at John with the hand not holding the water glass.
"Laura, John Sheppard."
John nods in greeting.
Evan kisses the top of her head and grabs a glass of water for Teyla. "You too," he says as he hands her the glass. She takes it and drinks dutifully. "And I was serious about getting a room. I don't want to trip over you guys when I come down to make breakfast tomorrow."
Breakfast? John thinks. That is not at all what he expected out of this gig. It's Friday night, though, and he's got nothing planned for tomorrow, and breakfast sounds pretty damn good. He lets Evan lead him back upstairs, and this time Evan doesn't wrestle him for a better position.
The next morning, the room covered in silk scarves looks even weirder; there's no light streaming in, it's dark and a little forbidding. John goes into the library while he waits for the rest of the house to wake. His body's 6:30 wake-up call doesn't make exceptions for having too much to drink or staying up too late.
The woodwork on the bookshelves is pretty damn good. It looks old, too, like they were custom built in the twenties maybe, early thirties at the latest.
He wanders into the crystal ball room, looking around for a light switch. The one on the far wall doesn't actually turn on any lights, and the singular visible window is covered with something heavy enough to block out most of the pre-dawn light. It's creepy.
He finally goes into the kitchen, scrounging through the cabinets for coffee and filters, and puts on a pot. The smell perks him up a little, and he throws a mug under the drip long enough to get a full cup and heads out to the porch to watch the city wake up.
There's a paper boy with terrible aim throwing plastic-wrapped bundles on people's lawns, one couple wandering down the street hand in hand, and a car trundling off somewhere on an early Saturday morning. He grabs Evan's paper, doing the crossword in his head since he doesn't have a pen. That takes him through to full-on morning, and he heads back in the house to see if anyone's awake yet.
Teyla's sitting quietly in the kitchen when he gets there, a full mug of coffee in her hands. "Hey, partner," he says quietly, and she looks up, only surprised for a half-second, and smiles at him.
"Good morning. Did you sleep well?"
John shrugs. "Good enough for four hours. He's got a huge bed."
"Mmm," Teyla says. "Laura's is pretty big too. But quite soft." She frowns a little.
"Too bad," John says, wandering over to the coffee machine to get a refill. He holds the pot up to her, even though he knows her mug is full. It's not steaming, so it's probably cold. She shakes her head. He knows she usually drinks tea, so maybe she was using it as a hand warmer.
"So," he says, joining her at the table. "That was interesting."
She grins at him. "Are you glad I made you come out?"
"Yeah," he says, and suddenly has an urge to crawl back into bed and curl himself around Evan. He sleeps hot, and it's cold this morning. "Evan's weirdly nice."
"He's new to Baltimore," Teyla says. "Laura said he just moved in a couple of months ago."
"Hm," John hums.
"Talking about me, are you?" Evan says from around the corner. He obviously knows the creaky steps already.
"Nothing bad," Teyla says, flicking his arm as he comes in.
"That's 'cause there's nothing bad to say," Laura says, entering the kitchen right on Evan's heels. "Evan's a goody two shoes. Everybody likes him."
Teyla raises an eyebrow and Evan shakes his head at John behind Laura's back. "That's just because I can cook blueberry pancakes," he says, and starts pulling ingredients down from the cupboards.
"Uh huh," Laura says, pulling buttermilk and blueberries out of the fridge. "And you make a mean margarita, constantly clean the kitchen, pay your half of the bills on time, and are generally quiet and unassuming."
"Those aren't all compliments," Evan says, and John finally gives in to the urge to kiss him good morning. Between Evan and Laura, he figures it's the only way he'll get a word in edgewise.
"How about a great kisser?" John asks. "I'm appreciating that."
Evan is actually silent for half a second, and the women are both laughing raucously. "Way to go, lover boy," Laura says, and that gets Evan to duck his head and concentrate on getting the pancake batter together.
Over breakfast they chat some more, Teyla and John talk about their business and Laura talks about her dance studio. Evan doesn't talk about his profession much and John would be more concerned about that except he's never been one to worry about that sort of thing, and who knows when (if, the distinctly discouraging voice in the back of his mind points out) he'll see Evan again. The blueberry pancakes are delicious and the bacon is perfectly crispy. The four of them lounge around for a while and John and Teyla don't head out until well after noon, Evan and Laura's numbers programmed into both of their phones.
The next weekend, Laura calls them up and says she has Ravens tickets, do they want to go. John hadn't gotten his hopes up for seeing Evan again, so it's nice to hear from her. She makes them all wear face paint and gives Teyla her spare jersey. John has his own, and it's only Evan sticking out like a sore thumb in his plain grey sweatshirt. Laura paints his whole face purple in compensation.
Teyla excuses herself to go home after the game, something that doesn't seem to bother Laura too much, and Evan pulls John upstairs, promising to drive him home the next morning. Teyla nods in agreement and kisses Laura on the cheek before she leaves.
When John gets up the next morning, Laura is still up, curled up in the library with a book.
"Couldn't sleep?" he asks, sitting on the end of the chaise longue.
"I'm a night owl," she says, grinning. "I don't normally go to bed before dawn."
"Ah, no wonder Teyla was so zonked last weekend. You kept her up all night."
Laura grins and shrugs. John wants to ask, but he knows better than to stick his nose in Teyla's business, so he forgets the question and goes with a harmless, "What're you reading?"
She holds the book up so he can see. Monstrous Regiment. "Nice," he says.
"Okay," she says, closing the book. "Let's do this."
"Excuse me?" John says, suddenly feeling trapped.
"Clearly Teyla is like family to you, and Evan is like family to me. Let's just get it over with. Bare our teeth so we can get on with things." John can feel his eyebrows going up and up and up, but he has no words to follow that statement.
"All right," Laura says, "I guess I'll go first." She sets the book down and tucks a blanket around her legs. "Don't hurt him. I hate having to pick up the pieces."
"Not planning on it," John says.
"Good," Laura says. "Your turn."
"My turn to what?"
"Tell me not to hurt Teyla."
John laughs. "Oh, I'm not worried about that. Teyla can take care of herself."
Laura smacks him with the Pratchett. "I don't like you anymore."
It takes four dates for John to figure out what Evan does for a living, and it's only because he likes the previews more than he likes the movies, so he turns up to one of their dates twenty minutes early.
"He's giving a reading," Laura says when she answers the door, "so go into the kitchen through the library."
Before John can ask what a "reading" is, Laura shushes him and pushes him away from where he can see Evan sitting with a woman at the table with the huge crystal ball on it and into the library.
"So," John asks on the drive to the theater, "you're a fortune teller?"
"Sort of," Evan says, grinning. "I read tarot cards. I'm not great with palmistry or crystal ball gazing or any of that. Just the cards."
John's never really gone in much for that sort of thing, so he doesn't honestly know what to say. Eventually he comes up with, "Do you make a good living at that?"
Evan laughs. "I think you'd be surprised."
"I'm sure I would be," John answers honestly. He's never met anyone who does anything like that for a living, but he would've put a lot of money on Evan not being the type.
"You should let me give you a reading sometime," Evan says. "You'd be surprised what the cards can tell you."
"Sure," John says, but he doesn't think he'll take Evan up on the offer anytime soon.
The dates settle down into more friendly time spent together. The four of them get together and play board games, or have movie and pizza nights, or occasionally go dancing at Central or the Hippo. Sometimes John and Evan will do stuff by themselves, but it gets to be less and less over time. They keep up the sex for a while until one night a couple of years down the line when John tries to kiss him, Evan turns away and says, "I met someone."
"Oh," John says, shifting back across the couch. "That's… I'm happy for you."
"No you're not," Evan says.
No, he's not.
"You weren't seeing anyone else. I know."
John smiles, as genuine as he can muster. "I know we weren't exclusive, I just…"
"You weren't seeing anyone else."
The silence stretches out for a bit, John not knowing what to say and Evan obstinately not talking for him. Eventually Evan gives in and says, "Why don't I give you a reading?"
John huffs out a laugh. "I don't know, Evan, I…"
"You don't believe in all this stuff, I know. Come on. One reading, what can it hurt?" Evan smiles at him and that's when John notices he's a little sad around the eyes, like maybe he'd been waiting for John to get with the program before he finally gave up. John sighs. He's terrible at this sort of thing.
"Yeah, all right."
Evan bounces off the couch, grabbing John's hand and leading him into the dark room. He pulls the scarf off the lamp when he turns it on, and it's the brightest John's ever seen it in here. "Won't that ruin the mood?" John asks.
"Ha, shows what you know," Evan says. He pulls out five different cloth bags out of the china cabinet, and sets them in front of John. "That's all theatrics. It works for the clients because it's what they're expecting. It's not what I need though, and you don't believe in this stuff anyway."
"I never said that." He didn't. John would never say it to Evan's face, even if he was certain what he thought about this stuff.
"I know, John," Evan says with fond exasperation. "Just sit down and take a look at these decks. See if one of them really appeals to you."
John takes a peek at the china cabinet and sees that there are dozens more cloth bags in there. They take up all three shelves, along with a few random quartz crystals and dragon statuettes. He looks down at the cloth bags in front of him, all different in size, shape, and color. He starts with the red bag – it's pretty eye-catching – and unties the knot that's holding the thing together. Once he gets the cord off and unwraps the silk square – a boring black on the inside – he sees a regular card sized deck with geometric shapes and bold colors. It's intriguing, but it doesn't give him chills or anything.
"Look through the cards," Evan says. "Sometimes something will hit you."
John fans the deck out, looking for anything that catches his eye, but nothing really does. "Eh," he says.
"All right, pick something else," Evan says, rolling his eyes.
John takes the white cloth covered one. This one is actually a bag with a zipper on top. The stitching on the flap is in gold thread and incredibly intricate. When he opens it, he gets a whiff of something he can't quite place. The inside of this bag is black as well, and he pulls out another playing card-sized deck with dragons on it in pastel colors.
"You have a thing for dragons?" John asks, looking back up at the china cabinet.
"Who doesn't have a thing for dragons?" Evan asks, and John hadn't thought about it, but yeah. Dragons are pretty cool. These dragons are very delicate, though, almost feminine, and while the cards are very pretty, they don't really spark his interest.
"Okay, clearly not," Evan says, taking the cards away and putting them back in their bag. "Pick another one."
John picks the biggest one, hoping a change in size will mean something dramatic. The bag is purple, Evan's favorite, the bright royal color. It has black stitching and a little flap that closes with a loop of elastic over a button.
He pulls the deck out of the back and is mesmerized by the card that's on top. It says Knight of Wands at the top, and it's a red-haired guy that looks like he's on fire. He has his fist to his forehead, like he's trying to think. John can't stop staring.
"Oh, I think we have a winner," Evan says, and pulls the cards out of John's hands. "Huh," he says. "This isn't you."
"How do you know that?" John asks. "Is there a card in there labeled John Sheppard?"
"No," Evan says, and starts shuffling them. "Maybe."
John laughs, he can't help it. "Which card is me?"
Evan sighs and flips the cards over, shuffling through them. He goes all the way through the deck, and the third to last card is the profile of a man surrounded by breasts and vulvas and penises. Evan pulls it out and lays it down right in front of John. Prince of Cups.
"I don't think I like this very much," John says.
"Look at it more closely," Evan says.
John picks the card up and looks at the lined notebook paper in the lower right hand corner. There are things written in several languages, German and English at least, in wide printed block letters and flowing script. Desire. Wishes. Promise of transformation. The man's eyes are closed and there are feathers on his forehead and cheek and silvery stubble on his chin. The card feels hopeful, like it's trying to go somewhere.
"Okay," John says. "I like it. But not as much as I like that other one. Can I see it?"
Evan flips through the deck again and pulls it out. The handwriting on this card is all in cursive and it's written directly on the Knight's clothing. Fire. Energy. Insight. Dynamic action.
"So if that one is me, who is this?"
Evan shrugs. "Let me do a reading, see if I can figure it out." He takes the cards back from John, leaving the Prince of Cups out of the deck and shuffling them. They're too big for him to handle like a regular deck, so he splits the deck, half in each hand, takes the upper corners and riffles them together, and then smoothes the deck back together. He does this nine times and then sets the divides the deck into three piles in front of John.
"Okay, now combine those to make the deck whole again," Evan says.
John looks at the cards, picks the middle one, places it on top of the right, and then that stack on top of the left. Evan gives a little chuckle.
Evan smiles. "Ninety percent of people will pick the middle pile when given a choice. It's remarkably consistent."
It's enough to make John never pick a middle anything ever again, but he smiles tightly at Evan. "Now what?"
"Now," he says, rubbing his hands together and taking the deck, "I give you a reading."
John doesn't even remember the reading until three weeks later, when he's in the emergency room for a nail through his foot.
"Wear your steel-toed boots to work for a while," Evan'd said.
John had tried not to make condescending faces at him and agreed to wear his steel-toed boots. He always wore them on-site anyway, it's not like that was anything unusual. Today, of course, he'd been working in the office, tallying up invoices and making vaguely threatening phone calls to try and get things delivered on time, and one of the clients had wanted a walkthrough on their new project. He wasn't planning on taking them through any unfinished parts of the building, but the CEO insisted, so John did – and stepped on a nail for his trouble.
So, here he is, getting a tetanus shot and a lecture, and all he can think about is Evan's tarot card reading. He never expected to get something as specific as wear steel-toed boots at work… but then again, that isn't specific, not at all. It's just a normal condition of his employment. It makes his head hurt. He can't wait to tell Evan and get another reading.
Two years later, when Laura's girlfriend moves in, John gives Lorne (he's Lorne now, just like John is Sheppard – just something that happened after John met Parrish) the front of his apartment. He's almost never there, and he's always wanted to use it as a storefront. He just didn't know what for. A tarot shop fits in nicely with the neighborhood though, and John doesn't even complain when Lorne wants to paint the front door purple.
The readings continue to be completely vague until they're crystal clear (he gets better about listening to warnings for his health), and when the Knight of Wands starts to show up in his readings, he doesn't even need to ask. He's been fascinated with this guy since he saw the card. He's pretty sure he'll recognize him when he stumbles into John's life.
He meets Rodney McKay, world-famous chef, six months later, while looking for a little lunch at Whole Foods one day.