John glared at the Zemba – the priestess or chieftainess or whatever the fuck she was. "Look," he said, between gritted teeth, "we're just peaceful explorers; we don't want any trouble." He figured he wasn't conveying the "peaceful" message too well, but then he and his team were being held at arrow-point by a posse of archers, and Ronon had muttered that the wickedly barbed heads had most likely been dipped in poison.
Great. Another supposedly straightforward scouting mission gone south; Carter was going to be seriously pissed. Teyla was radiating the need to elbow John aside and take over the negotiations herself but as soon as John had identified himself as team leader the Yengali had refused to speak to anyone else. Ronon was glowering and Rodney was pale and bug-eyed, clutching his tablet to his chest with white-knuckled fingers.
The Zemba, a tall stringy woman clad largely in skins, her long hair attractively dressed with what looked and smelled like dung, gestured angrily at the sky. John glanced up: it was blue with fluffy white clouds. "The rains are long overdue and our crops are close to withering in the fields. You offend the gods with your presence, strangers. You have not made the sacrifice. All must offer the sacrifice in this season, or the rains will fail."
"Look, lady, I don't think we–" began John.
"All must make the sacrifice. There is no exception!"
John took a deep breath and unclenched his jaw. "What sacrifice?" He was pretty sure he wasn't going to like the answer.
The Zemba raised her arms theatrically to the sky. John supposed she had to do that kind of crap to impress the villagers. "You must dance."
"Uh, we what?" John asked, thinking he'd misheard or the 'gate had mistranslated something even weirder. "We've gotta dance?"
"You must dance Johnsheppard, as leader of your people." John could see Teyla twitching impotently off to his left. "You must dance to bring the rains. If you do not succeed then you and your team will pay in blood for offending the gods."
Rodney moaned softly. Damn, John hoped he wasn't going to freak out and lose it. He caught a glimpse of Ronon moving a little closer to Rodney so their shoulders bumped.
"So…," John said, trying to get his head around this latest Pegasus weirdness. "I've gotta do a…rain dance? To bring the rain?"
The Zemba inclined her head in assent, displacing a small cloud of flies that had been snacking on the dung. "Indeed."
John frowned. "What sorta dance?" he asked, hoping it was something really basic, like stamping around in a circle while they beat some drums. He could do that, but jeez, any kind of fancy footwork just wasn't his strong point. Not these days, and not without at least six beers in him.
"You must choose a dance of your people, Johnsheppard. A dance which is effective in making rain." The Zemba gave him a hard stare. "Surely you know such dances?"
"Oh yeah," John assured her hastily. "Loads. Me, I do rain dancing all the time, it's a thing with me." He didn't think she was buying it: her eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Ah, can I just have a coupla minutes to talk with my team about…about which of our many rain dances would be the most effective?"
"You may confer."
And could it be any more like a reality TV game show? Next she was going to say he could phone a friend, or ask the audience. Not that this audience was going to be a lot of help, but the bow-wielding dudes did back off a bit, letting John's team huddle.
"Excellent. Trapped on Droughtworld and reliant on your non-existent dancing skills!"
John glared at Rodney. "Really not helping, McKay."
Ronon cuffed the back of Rodney's head and Teyla shot him an admonishing glance. "I do not think there is an alternative solution, Colonel," she said. "They appear intractable on this point. Can you provide a suitable dance?"
"I…." John racked his brains. What the fuck did he know about rain dances? "Uh, not really."
"Oh, for," Rodney muttered. "Look, they don't know what might be a rain dance back on Earth, or, or Atlantis, whatever. Just use anything that's about rain. Any song. I don't know – Singing in the Rain, maybe?"
"I'm not singing as well, McKay, it's bad enough that I have to do a goddam dance!"
"No, no, you're right, your singing voice is appalling – we can't inflict that on them. They'd kill us just to shut you up." Ronon rolled his eyes and cuffed Rodney again. "Ow! Leave off, you brute!"
"Well, quit it with the unhelpful comments. Shut up if you can't think of anything useful." John glared at Rodney, and Teyla put soothing hands on both their arms.
"Just do anything," grunted Ronon, clearly more interested in staring down the guys with the bows and arrows than in rain dance choreography. "Jump around some, wave your arms."
Teyla looked troubled. "I fear that will not suffice. The Zemba will want evidence that the dance is indeed a rain dance and likely to be effective. Can you not think of anything suitable?"
John swallowed, remembering her words. If you do not succeed then all of you will pay in blood for offending the gods.
Rodney snapped his fingers. "Okay, wait. I have an idea." He had that crackling-energy look, the one John always hoped for when they were seconds from disaster. "Here's what we're going to do."
John hoped Rodney had done his bit in the jumper. The Zemba had finally allowed the team to assist him, after he explained that rain dances on his world were group activities, not solo efforts.
He was going to have to lead, though, as Teyla and Ronon, although willing, were unfamiliar with 1980s pop. Thank Christ Rodney had a shitload of mp3s on his tablet's hard drive: enough that John had been able to find something suitable.
Well, kind of suitable. "You're sure?" Rodney raised an eyebrow at his choice of track. "I guess Cash didn't write about rain, huh?"
"He did some covers, but I dunno if I could dance to them. I'll just have to get back in touch with my clubbing phase." John peered out the back of the jumper. The dudes with the poisoned arrows were still there, bows trained on Teyla and Ronon. "You sent the transmission?"
Rodney nodded. "Yes. The 'gate's just the other side of that hill so we're still in range. It's one of the more useful pieces of Ancient tech we've located, the cloud-seeder. Much more effective than primitive cloud-seeding back on Earth used to be. I don't think Lorne will take long to get a cloaked jumper through the 'gate and start the process. I'm optimistic we'll see results within half an hour."
"Okay, fire up the music then, Mr DJ. I don't think we can stall them much longer."
"That's Dr DJ to you, thanks very much, or, wait, call me MC 'K', get it? Mc–"
John pushed Rodney in the direction of the tablet, now wired into the jumper's sound-system, and jumped down to join Teyla and Ronon. The villagers retreated, leaving them in the center of a flat, dusty clearing. "Okay, guys, follow me."
The build-up music began to emanate from the jumper, thunder rumbling in the background as Martha and Izora began the intro. John tapped his foot, half-closing his eyes and trying to channel his nineteen year old clubbing self, letting his hips sway in long-forgotten ways as he began to dance to the beat.
Humidity is rising - Barometer's getting low,
According to our sources, the street's the place to go,
Cause tonight, for the first time
Just about half-past ten,
For the first time in history
It's gonna start raining men…
Behind him, he felt Teyla and Ronon copying his moves, and as the song built he turned to face them and wow, they were naturals. He let himself go, pulling out all the stops, really getting into it. Ronon had a grin cracking his face, Teyla was flushed and beaming, and – hey! – that was Rodney joining them, singing along with the Weather Girls. He must have put the track on repeat.
It's Raining Men! Hallelujah! - It's Raining Men!
I'm gonna go out, and let myself get
Absolutely soaking wet!
"Way to go, Rodney!" John yelled over the music, which Rodney had cranked up to the max. They hip-bumped and circled each other, and Rodney raised his eyebrows at John and did the pistol-point as he sang "Dark and lean, Rough and tough and strong and mean!" then pulled John in for a fast bump and grind. John giggled like a thirteen year old girl, trying a few dirty dancing moves himself.
Ronon was hauling Teyla through his legs in some sort of athletic rock 'n roll slide, clearly having gotten his genres mixed, and oh man, the villagers were joining in as well, swirling and prancing and managing some passable disco struts. Even the Zemba was stomping along to the beat, shaking her dung-smeared locks.
God bless Mother Nature, she's a single woman too,
She took off to heaven and she did what she had to do,
She taught every angel to rearrange the sky
So that each and every woman could find her perfect guy,
It's Raining Men!
John's legs ached, and his mouth was dry, and jeez, but he could murder a can of Bud right about now. They seemed to have been dancing forever, but he guessed it was under half an hour. Rodney grabbed his arm, pointing upwards.
It's Raining Men! Hallelujah! - It's Raining Men!
The fluffy white clouds were coalescing and darkening, looking thunderous. Rodney dashed into the jumper and did his DJ number, fading the track out before it could restart. John collapsed on his back in the dust, gasping. Man, running with Ronon had nothing on this: he was totally wiped.
A shadow fell across him: the Zemba. "Your dance was most effective, Johnsheppard. You have brought the rains."
John felt a fat droplet strike his cheek, then another, and another. He opened his mouth and drank in the sweet rain pouring down on them all, not caring that he was lying on the dance floor which was rapidly becoming a sea of mud. He planned never to move again.
Lorne's recording from the cloud-seeding jumper won the Atlantis's Funniest Home Videos contest that year. John didn't care. It gave him an excuse to make Lorne do all the performance reviews, which left plenty of time for John to explore dirty dancing moves with Rodney in the privacy of his quarters.
- the end -