"He complained to Elizabeth again," said John as he eased himself down in the spare chair in Rodney's office. "So you should have a message in your inbox emphasising the importance of keeping your star happy."
Rodney huffed as he opened his inbox and, sure enough, found the message from the show's producer at the top of a bunch of emailed responses from his blog. From a skim of the other subject headers presently in his inbox, it looked like Starcrossed fans were complaining about the most recently-screened episode - mostly about the passionate farewell kiss between Colt and Ratcha as Colt went on another heroic jaunt out to save the galaxy, although a few had scientific refutations regarding the antimatter rifts that had threatened to tear the galaxy asunder and which Colt had been forced to close over the course of the episode.
It was television. Nobody expected it to make sense.
"Wonderful," Rodney grumbled as he previewed through assorted messages of, "Noooooo!" "R U crazy?" "They have no chemistry!" and "Why are you doing this to us? Don't you know that Colt and Zero were made for each other?" "I guess that means the planned B-plot for Ratcha and Zero for the second half of the season has been canned?"
John shrugged. "Don't look at me, I'm just the guest actor."
As a matter of fact, John was Ryan’s stand-in and stunt double, as well as the rubber-suited alien lifeform, and, briefly, back in first season, Colt's rival for Ratcha's affections in the show. In a non-mixed-up, non-crazy universe, John would have been the star of a much better show than the second-rate sci-fi offerings from Atlantis studios about a renegade starpilot making his way through the universe in search of his crew who'd been taken by slavers back in episode one, and Rodney would have been writing for directors like JJ Abrams, not GG Kavanaugh.
"So unfair," he muttered, only half-beneath his breath as he typed out a suitably appeasing email to Elizabeth with a promise to write a script that would give Ryan the full opportunity to display his acting skills. Or, at least, would give Ryan the full opportunity to display his acting skills if Ryan actually had any acting skills.
"Life is unfair," said John, rather unsympathetically. "So what were you planning to do with Teyla and Guy while Ryan is off wandering the crazy, mixed-up universe?”
"I'd like to know that, too" added a new voice. "Especially since the last time I was left alone on the ship with one other character for company, I ended up being half-strangled by Michael.”
Dressed in scruffy blue jeans and a long-sleeved Emily Strange t-shirt, with her dark brown afro of hair tied back in a confining ponytail, Teyla Emmagan looked very little like the silk-haired, galactic space siren, Ratcha, and very much like your average Earthling babe.
Just as long as average meant 'drop dead gorgeous' and you didn't mention the word 'babe' within earshot of her. In addition to playing second fiddle to Ryan Aird in Starcrossed, Teyla regularly practised her eskrima skills against the stunt director - and usually kicked his ass.
Rodney was very fond of his ass, thank you, and not about to take chances that Teyla might find a reason to kick it.
“Not one of your better experiences with Kenmore, then?"
Teyla grimaced. “You presume I have had good experiences with Michael,” she said, wedging her elbow along the back of the chair and sliding her fingers into her hair to massage her scalp. “Actually, I do him a disservice. He was a pleasure to work with last year. It was only after...” She trailed off.
“After the psychotic break-up with his girlfriend Queenie when she thought he was two-timing her with you?” John asked.
“I am still not sure if he blames me for it.” Teyla sighed and jammed her chin onto her hand as she rested her wrist on the
Rodney cleared his throat. “Speaking of girlfriends...” And found himself the beneficiary of two incredulous gazes - all right, one incredulous gaze (John’s), and one delighted one (Teyla’s).
“You’ve got a girlfriend?”
“So you asked her out?”
“Wait, he asked who out?”
“None of your business,” snapped Rodney. He could feel himself blushing at the smirky look Sheppard was giving him, and deliberately shuffled papers on his desk, making the little bobble-headed figurine of Dr. Derek McFinn from Poisedon X nod in agreement with his right to privacy.
“What isn’t?” Ronon Dex wedged one of his broad, well-muscled shoulders against Rodney’s doorframe, and tilted his head so his dreadlocks slid over bronze skin.
Disconcerted by the way his office had rather abruptly become crowded - to say nothing of the extreme discomfort he felt at finding the stunt director standing in his office doorway, Rodney snapped. “Why is everyone in my office? Honestly, people, is there not a sign on the door saying ‘writer at work, do not disturb’? I have deadlines to meet - deadlines which, I might remind you, are going to keep you all at the jobs you so love--”
“All right, at the jobs you so endure--”
“I love my job,” said Ronon, shrugging those extremely broad, well-muscled shoulders of his so his dreadlocks bounced off them.
“Oh, for God’s sake!” Rodney said. “Deadlines, things to do, why are you all here? Shoo!”
“Nicely rhymed,” said Teyla, one corner of her mouth twitching up in a lopsided smile.
Ronon peered around the entrance to the office. “There’s no sign on your door.”
John wasn’t about to let the conversation die down. “So was it Katie in catering, or Kate in costuming? Or Kaylee in the prop shop?”
“Oh, God!” Rodney put his elbows down on the desk and stuck his head in his hands. “It wasn’t intentional. Marilyn probably stole it. I’m not telling you. Now please, GO AWAY.”
It was too much to hope the absolute silence all around him meant they’d gone away - besides, he hadn’t heard them leave, and although these three could be alarmingly sneaky, they weren’t that quiet.
He lifted his head from his hands.
Teyla, John, and Ronon were all looking to the door. In Ronon’s case, he was looking pretty much right behind himself.
Standing out the corridor, looking more than a little puzzled and amused, was Ryan Aird, star of the sci-fi hit series Starcrossed, and prima donna extraordinare.
There was only on real rule at Atlantis studios. Okay, two if you didn’t want Elizabeth to fire you. Well, maybe three if it involved going up in a fight against Ronon. But whatever the second, third, fourth, and umpteenth rules of the studio, the Number One ironclad, break-this-and-your-ass-is-grass, do not think this doesn’t apply to you because it will Rule was:
Don’t Piss Ryan Off.
Don’t tell him to get out of your office, don’t tell him that his acting sucks, don’t make snide comments about the way he sucked up to makeup (especially not since he and Marilyn started going out), and really, really don’t write any storyline that might make Colt look even slightly less heroic than Ryan imagines him to be.
Telling Ryan Aird to GO AWAY was like signing your own death warrant at the show in your own blood, dipped from a vein slit lengthwise down your arm. And Rodney had a mortgage and a cat to support. The cat was particularly needy.
It took Rodney a moment to realise that, rather than the too-cool-for-cool, pleasantly smug expression that the star usually wore, Ryan was holding himself...differently. Almost hesitant, as though he wasn’t sure if he should be here.
“Uh, hi there.”
Jaws dropped, Rodney’s among them.
The accent was Scottish and definitely not Ryan’s.
Teyla was the first to find her voice. “Hello,” she said. “Can...can we help you?”
The guy smiled - a friendly smile. “I, uh, I’m looking for Ryan Aird.”
“Isn’t that you?” John asked. “I mean...”
“Oh, Lord, no,” said the man with a smile and a quick roll of his eyes. “Although I’ve been getting that a lot in the last half hour. Carson Beckett,” said the man cheerfully, holding out a hand for Ronon to shake.
It was the attitude - or the lack of it - that convinced Rodney this wasn’t some kind of a trick on Ryan’s part, with the camera hidden outside his window or something. The problem with any part Ryan played was that his ego got a bit too involved. In the last year and a half of writing for Starcrossed, Rodney had learned not to give ‘Colt’ any scenes that involved grovelling, apologising, or even being self-effacing or modest. It was about as successful as watching someone try to shade themselves with a giant magnifying glass.
“Hi.” Clearly, surprise made Ronon even more erudite than usual.
“You’re not from around here,”
“No,” Carson Beckett agreed. “I’m actually from Scotland if you can’t tell by the accent. Ryan’s my cousin on my mother’s side. And my father’s too, come to think on it.”
About to tell the guy-who-wasn’t-Ryan to get out of his office - along with Ronon, Teyla, and John - Rodney paused. “Huh? How’s that?”
“My father and his mother were brother and sister, and his father and my mother were brother and sister.”
There was a moment of thoughtful silence as everyone processed this.
“Anyway,” continued Carson-who-wasn’t-Ryan, “do you know where I could find Ryan? I’m only in town the one day - on my way through to a conference in Tokyo, and my Ma said I should drop by on the way through.”
“I left him in his trailer half an hour ago,” said Teyla after a moment. “Mari-- He was having his makeup removed.”
“Oh, God! Make sure you knock,” Rodney advised the newcomer. “One time, I went in there to talk to him about this scene he’d butchered, and she was there and they...” He hesitated, suddenly realising that this was Ryan’s cousin and there were probably things he didn’t need to know about his cousin. There were things Rodney didn’t need to know about Ryan, and he wasn’t even Ryan’s cousin! “Never mind.”
“I’m sure we can all use our imaginations, and not go there,” said John. “Anyway, nice to meet you - Carson, was it?”
“Carson Beckett. I’m afraid I don’t have the faintest idea of your names, though.”
“Right. So, I’ve never heard of any of you, and I probably won’t remember any of you, either,” said Carson cheerfully, “but when my box set arrives from Ryan next Christmas, I’ll keep an eye out in the credits for your names. You said he was in his trailer, love? I’ll go look for him there. Thanks!”
And with that, he ambled off, leaving a silent and flabbergasted room behind him.
“He’d have to watch an episode the way through to see the credits,” said Ronon after a moment.
“Oh, please. Join the twenty-first century and read the instructions on your TiVo!”
“Well,” said Teyla, “he seems nice.”
“You’re just saying that because he called you ‘love,’” John accused.
“Yes,” she agreed without a moment’s hesitation. “And because he is nice.”
“Teyla, everyone’s nice compared to--” Rodney broke off as the distant echo of voices wafted down the corridor towards them. Maybe it wasn’t Ryan, or his fan club (most of makeup, costuming, and catering) but that didn’t mean one couldn’t be cautious. It was never a good idea to burn your bridges in this industry. What you said while on set at one production could come around and bite you in the ass at the next.
Wasn’t that why Rodney was stuck writing for Atlantis studios, instead of the better-funded Star’s Gate studios up the road? As John had put it one day early on in their acquaintance, “Basically, we’re sunk.”
“Right. Anyway...as I was trying to say before we were so rudely interrupted...will you all get out of my office and leave me to do some writing in peace?”
“No,” said John. “Which is why I turned up here in the first place. We’re going to get some dinner.”
Rodney frowned. “Couldn’t you have sent a mail?”
“Not when you do not bother reading anything other than the replies from that atrocious blog of yours,” said Teyla with sweet pointedness. “This is the best way to get the message to you.”
“By invading my personal space?”
“It’s an office.”
“It’s still my personal space!”
“You don’t object to Zelenka coming in.”
That was usually because, unlike this lot, Rodney could get Radek out of his office with minimal effort. “Look, I’ve still got another two scenes to write...”
“You can write them later, Rodney.” Teyla spoke in the inexorable tone that suggested she was two minutes and forty-five seconds away from hauling Rodney up out of his chair, putting him over her shoulder, and carrying him off to dinner.
Not that too many men would object to this from Teyla. But that wasn’t the point. The point was that Rodney had things to do tonight and he was going to do them. He really was.
“It’s the Italian place down the road,” said John.
Rodney paused. “Italian?”
“The one with the waitress who took your order so...attentively.” Teyla’s inflections lingered on the adverb and her eyes gleamed with laughter.
Rodney sniffed. Okay, so he was a bit hungry, perhaps. And, if he had to do some writing, he could at least bounce some ideas off these guys. And the waitress had been very careful to get his order right - a spaghetti marinara that was entirely citrus-free. It was so hard to find places that took your allergies seriously.
“Well,” he said after a moment. “I suppose I could--”
“Let’s go,” Ronon announced.
“Hungry?” Teyla inquired dryly as she stood.
John snorted. “When isn’t he?”
Rodney rolled his eyes as he closed up his laptop and they left the office and the studio together.