“This is going to look ridiculous,” Rodney protested, fiddling with the tie holding the bathrobe closed.
“It will if you don’t relax,” Evan said. “Look, you’re beautiful, and John loves you, and he’s going to love pretty pictures of you. But you need to relax and trust me when I say this is going to turn out all right.”
Rodney eyed him.
Evan rolled his eyes. “Look, I get that for our day jobs you’re an incredibly brilliant, cranky scientist and I’m an overly-sarcastic flyboy, but that’s not who we are here. Here you’re a man who wants to do something nice for his boyfriend and I am an artist who’s good at what he does.”
Rodney glanced at Evan’s array of photography equipment, lights and lenses and flashbulbs, and he clutched his robe closed tighter.
“Do you want to look through my portfolio again? I promise this picture will bring out the best of you.” Evan reached for one of his photography portfolios.
“No. It’s just - I always look weird in pictures.”
“That’s because you feel uncomfortable or because the photographer was bad,” Evan insisted.
Rodney looked ready to pull on a hazmat suit over his bathrobe.
Evan took a deep breath. “Tell you what - why don’t you take some pictures of me? So you know what it’s like being on the other side of the camera.”
“But you -”
“Are no better-looking than you,” Evan said. “Maybe more comfortable in front of a camera, sure, but then I used to pose undraped for life drawing classes, so whatever.”
Rodney, who’d started toward the camera mounted on a tripod, paused. “You used to pose naked?”
“Yes. More money. Also important for learning human anatomy.”
“Also you soldiers have no sense of personal space or boundaries,” Rodney said, and he nudged Evan away from the camera.
Evan strolled out onto the makeshift set. “All right, what do you want me to do?”
“Do?” Rodney echoed. He’d already snapped a few photos. Thankfully Evan’s camera was digital and had a memory card with massive storage capacity.
“You know. How do you want me to pose?”
“I don’t know,” Rodney said. “Um...be sexy?”
Evan popped the top button on his shirt.
Rodney, who’d snapped a few photos, paused. “Wait, are you stripping?”
“Look,” Evan said, and popped another button on his shirt, “I’ve seen you pose for pictures before. You look all proud and heroic when you and Radek are taking pictures of ‘historical finds’ in the lab. And I know you’ve been totally calm in front of a camera when, say, Miko is photographing a work site while you and Radek are doing your thing. You’re not actually bad in front of a camera. What you are right now is uncomfortable with being naked in front of a camera.”
“How is you getting naked supposed to make me feel more comfortable?” Rodney protested. But he did snap a few more photos.
Evan, because he was shameless, winked at the camera.
Evan shed his shirt fully. “It’s like they always say - if you get nervous, pretend the audience is in their underwear. Or naked.”
“Pretty sure they wouldn’t say that if they were going to be naked too,” Rodney said, but he was starting to actually look in the viewfinder. “Have you ever done photographs like this before?”
“Like what?” Evan asked. “With naked people?”
“You know - boudoir photos.” Rodney flapped a hand at him. “Move a little more to the right.”
Evan obeyed. “Sure.”
Rodney peeked at him over the top of the camera. “Really? For who?”
“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” Evan drawled, not without a trace of irony.
Rodney blushed. “Right. Of course. And you won’t -”
“The only person who will know about this photo besides you and me is Colonel Sheppard,” Evan said calmly. He started to unfasten his pants.
Rodney sighed. “Keep your pants on. This isn’t working.”
Evan threw his hands up. “Look, it’s not like you’re trying to be all sexy for me. The person you’re doing this for is Colonel Sheppard. John. Don’t worry about what I think. I’m not interested in your body. I’m interested in light and form and shape and getting the right pictures. John loves you and thinks you’re beautiful. I’m just trying to do my best to capture some of that.”
Rodney drifted out from behind the camera. “So you wouldn’t want my body.”
It was Evan’s turn to sigh. “It’s not that. It’s just - you know, how you get in the zone, when you’re doing science?”
“It’s the same thing, for me and photography. For me human bodies are beautiful above and beyond sex.” Evan considered. “Look, how about you take off your robe and sit in that chair and - what do you do, to relax, after work?”
“Listen to music. Read. Have sex with John.” Rodney sat down in the nice chair Evan had found, but he was still wearing his robe.
“What kind of music?” Evan fired up his laptop.
Good thing Evan had access to Atlantis’s shared media servers, because he wasn’t a fan of classical himself. “Any particular composers?”
Evan picked a random song and pressed play.
“Oh.” Rodney smiled, sat back on the chair, listening.
Evan silenced the shutterclick on his digital camera and snapped some photos. Rodney really was beautiful in the right light. His skin was pale, flawless, glowed, and he had incredible blue eyes. Lost in thought like that, he looked serene and a little wistful.
“I used to play piano, you know. I was concert-grade by the time I was twelve. Haven’t played in years.”
Evan didn’t ask why he’d stopped playing, didn’t want to bring up bad memories and spoil the clean lines of Rodney’s current expression. Besides, he’d heard the things Rodney hinted at about his family and childhood, and it sounded unpleasant, as a whole.
“I could even play some of this,” Rodney said. He closed his eyes and tipped his head back, exposing the line of his throat.
Good. The music had been a good gamble.
Evan snapped some more pictures.
“What kind of things do you read?” Evan asked.
“Science journals,” Rodney said, and he opened his eyes, straightened up.
“Anything not work-related?”
“I actually enjoy the classics, Moby Dick aside.” Rodney considered.
Evan snapped some more pictures.
“John has surprisingly erudite taste in books, for a man who likes to play video games and prefers crappy horror movies,” Rodney said. “So sometimes I borrow his books.”
Evan smiled. Perfect. He went to his own bookshelf, poked around, and found a copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. “You ever read this one?”
Rodney’s eyes lit when he saw the gold-tooled leather-bound volume. “Why yes, but it’s been a long time. Often considered the first science fiction novel ever. And written by a woman, too.”
Evan handed it to him, and he sat back, flipped it open, and began to read.
Because Evan was a bastard - and conveniently shirtless - he nudged Atlantis, had her crank up the heat in his quarters. Sure enough, Rodney sprawled back in the chair, boneless and comfortable, and set about reading. He opened his robe a bit, then a bit more, and finally he stood up and, after only the briefest hesitation, took it off, set it aside carelessly. Evan snapped pictures the entire time.
Then he resumed his seat, kept on reading.
Evan took a few artistic shots, zooming in on just his face or his hands where he held the book, but he was pretty sure he knew what the winner would be.
“Tell me why you like the book, besides the fact that it’s science fiction.”
Rodney considered, set the book down on his lap, modestly covering his groin. “Besides the fact that it’s science fiction?”
Evan snapped photos like mad. He gestured just beside the camera, and sure enough, Rodney turned to look in the right direction.
“It’s a story about the foibles of humanity. What happens when brilliance is stifled, when it’s unbridled. And it’s a question about what really makes a person a person, a human a human.”
Rodney lowered his gaze for a moment, and Evan snapped as many pictures as he could.
“Sometimes I related to Dr. Frankenstein, misunderstood and underestimated for his genius. Sometimes I relate to the monster. If there’s no one else like you, are you really part of the species? Can you really survive alone? But I’m not alone. John’s incredibly brilliant, behind that smirk and ridiculous hair.” Then he frowned. “Are you going to take this photo or what?”
Evan straightened up. “I already got it.” He signalled mentally to Atlantis, and the cooling system kicked back on.
Rodney blinked. “What?”
Evan smiled. “Yeah. I got it. I’ll send you several versions for your final approval.”
“But - when?”
“But - we were talking about books.”
“Yes, we were,” Evan said. “And you were relaxed.”
“But - the camera wasn’t clicking.”
“It’s a digital camera. The shutterclick is just an affectation at this point. I can take pictures without making a sound.” Evan shut off the flood lamps.
“Oh.” Rodney tugged his robe back on. “How do I look?”
“Beautiful,” Evan promised him.
A week later, Evan delivered the printed, framed, and wrapped photo to Colonel Sheppard’s quarters, and then he walked away. The next morning, Sheppard clapped him on the shoulder as he passed Evan in the mess hall at breakfast.
“Nice work,” he said, and Evan murmured a polite,
“Thank you, sir.”
But it was Rodney’s smug smile that said it all. He’d seen the photo and finally seen his own beauty.
Evan smiled to himself. Mission accomplished.