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Winter Solstice

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"It is a tradition of my people that the leader of the visiting delegation, or their mate, wear the crown during the feast," Teyla announced. She held up a crown crafted from not-ivy and local flowers.

John could see her not-quite-a-smirk as she made that announcement in front of the crowd gathered in the village. It was the Athosian equivalent of a Winter Solstice feast and the Lanteans had been invited. (Although 'winter' was relative, it was comfortably warm even if it was the end of the growing season.)

"It would be pleasing if you would wear this in recognition of our alliance, Colonel Sheppard," she went on.

Knowing he really didn't have a choice, John stepped forward and ducked down so she could put the ring on his head. It fit relatively well -- at least for plants -- and it wasn't uncomfortable. For all the greenery, it was lightweight and easy to wear.

"My people and I thank you for your warm welcome," John replied. He had been coached on what to say by Richard Woolsey, who was coming later, the bastard -- he should be the one wearing this thing on his head. "We thank you for your hospitality and look forward to continuing our friendship with you and your people."

Teyla drew John in for the forehead-touch-thing. John gently placed his hands on Telya's shoulders, closed his eyes and counted to ten before straightening up.

"Please, enjoy yourselves!" Teyla announced to the crowd.

There was a smattering of applause as everyone present dispersed into a couple of directions. Some went off toward the food, the majority went to the beach or to the games -- Pegasus variations of volleyball and horseshoes.

"Good crowd," John said to Teyla.

"Thank you for arranging for your people to be able to come," she replied.

"It's good to get off the city once in a while," John nodded. "We all need some down time."

The Marines had done some form of rock-paper-scissors to determine who got to go and who stayed behind on the City. John had let Lorne and Master Sergeant Matias take care of those arrangements. John was learning how to delegate. Reluctantly.

Woolsey had pulled rank on him and pretty much forced John to go, although Teyla had made Woolsey promise to come for at least a short visit at some point.

The best part was that Rodney and Radek had collaborated to build a shield over the settlement, so they didn't have to worry about the Wraith crashing the party.

"I think Rodney and Ronon are checking out the food," Teyla said as she saw John looking around.

"Oh! Good to know," John replied, not quite embarrassed to be caught looking for Rodney. "Let me know if you need any help with anything!"

"There are many hands, John, and you are our guest," she said. "Please, enjoy yourself."

"Thank you!"

Deciding to check out the food himself, John wandered toward that area. He didn't want to eat too much now since he could smell not-cow and almost-chicken roasting on the fires. The all-day cooking would make anything tender and the Athosians had shown the cooks on Atlantis some of the spices they used in this type of cooking. In turn, the cooks had shared their experience with cooking seafood and had contributed a good number of steaky filets from fish that had been caught off the city piers.

John found Rodney poking at the appetizers.

"Hey, taste this for me," Rodney thrust a piece of fruit at John.

John automatically took the fruit and took a bite. It was something they all did for Rodney, check food out to make sure there wasn't anything that might have citrus. He chewed for a minute before nodding. "Should be good," he announced.

Rodney poked at the fruit with the mini-LSD in his hand. He looked at the reading and decided that since it agreed with John's opinion that it should be okay. He tucked the LSD in a pocket.

"Thanks," Rodney said absently, taking a bite of the fruit. "'S good," he said around the mouthful.

"It is," John agreed. "Looks like your thing works. Good to know."

"Yeah, although it's nice when you check it for me," Rodney bumped against John's shoulder.

"Like doing it for you," John admitted softly.

"Hey, I like the thing." Rodney made a motion circling his head.

John raised a hand to the crown on his head. He had forgotten already. "Oh, right. It's mostly ceremonial, I guess." He reached up and took it off. He held it out and placed it over Rodney's head. There was a moment when he realized this was important. The moment passed and he gently dropped it on Rodney's head, settling it into place.

"Looks good on you, too," John said softly.

Rodney grinned. "Hey, how much longer before the not-cow is ready?"

"Maybe half an hour," John replied. "Take a walk with me? How far can we go and still be inside the shield?"

"To the far end of the beach will be safe," Rodney said. "It goes further in the other direction." This end of the beach was too shallow and rocky for swimming and all the entertainment was on the other end. They should have at least the illusion of privacy.

They walked in comfortable silence.

"Good job with the shield," John said.

Rodney shrugged. "We wanted to try it here as a field test, and since it looks good, we can offer it for trade almost anywhere in Pegasus. The power source is self-contained and good for about two years."

"That's better than you originally thought."

"We're going to recommend that we fix the area that the shield covers when we install it. Whoever we're installing it for can pick, but we'll certainly add our two cents. At this point it can cover a pretty generous area, up to about ten square miles but there's a trade off in that it reduces the life span of the power source. But if we set up the area, we can seal the unit up so it's harder to reverse-engineer -- or get broken. We'll let folk who know what they're doing have access to some of the settings, but it's easiest to just set it up with an on-off switch," Rodney replied.

"I know you had mentioned that as an option, glad you got it to work," John replied.

"We'll have to work on return trips for maintenance but that's once a year for the most part," Rodney said. "It can keep us busy."

"We should find a way to delegate some of that work," John said. "While we're providing the shields, I don't necessarily want to be in the position to decide who gets one and who has to wait. It will take a bit before you'll be able to made enough to be able to give one to everyone we encounter."

"Throw that at Teyla, she may have some ideas," Rodney said.

"Okay, enough business." John took Rodney's hand. "I thought maybe we'd like to have a few minutes to ourselves."

"Oh? Oh! Yes!" Rodney blushed. "We don't get to spend too much time together, do we?"

"Come on, there's a good spot to sit down here," John guided Rodney to a flat, grassy area. In the shade, of course. "Hey, where's your sunscreen?"

"That is the clever part," Rodney admitted. "I put a UV filter into the shield. Just this one, since I knew it's more for testing than anything. We can do that as needed, but that's custom work. But I don't need it today."

They sat next to each other and John ended up with his arm around Rodney's shoulders. John ran his fingers up and down Rodney's arm. It was nice to just touch.

"This is nice," Rodney admitted after a bit.

"We should do this more often," John said.

"I know we agreed to be quiet about, well, us. But, maybe it would be easier if we just went public."

John sighed. "I had been thinking the same thing. I just wanted you to myself for a bit."

Rodney turned his head and kissed John. "Oh, I get that. I was being selfish myself. Just... it would be easier."

"We can just let it happen organically," John suggested. "We can see who notices first."

"Teyla!" They both said and laughed.

After a bit, John stirred. "I'll bet dinner is about ready, if you want."

"Sure," Rodney nodded, scrambling to his feet.

On the walk back, John took Rodney's hand and this time didn't let go as they approached the fest. He knew that was the right thing to do by the way Rodney smiled at him.

Of course, the first person they see is Teyla, who beamed at them.

"Congratulations!" she said as she drew John in for a head-touch. It wasn't until she and Rodney were doing the same thing that John realized that he had given Rodney the leafy crown-thing to wear.

Oh. Wait... what had she said before... Oh! "...leader of the visiting delegation, or their mate..."

"I am glad you finally are willing to announce your relationship," she was saying to Rodney.

Rodney laughed, turned to John and looked smug.

"The crown-thing," John circled his own head. "I'll explain later."

Rodney nodded. "Better be good!" He turned back to Teyla. "Is dinner ready?"

"It is, and I have seats reserved for you," she promised.

John caught a couple of the Marines nodding as they saw him with Rodney and he would swear there was some money changing hands. Interesting. He'll have to ask Lorne about that. Tomorrow.

Tonight was about their friendship with the Athosians. And his happiness about being with Rodney.

Rodney was sleepy and leaning heavily against John when Woolsey finally showed up.

"Looks like an excellent party," Woolsey said looking around at the scattered crowd. With the coming of darkness, some of the Lanteans who had been in attendance earlier had changed places with those on the city, to give others a chance to enjoy the celebration.

"It really is," John said, trying not to disturb Rodney.

Luckily, Teyla came up at that point. "Mr. Woolsey! So glad you came! Come, let me get you some food." She led Woolsey off toward the cooking area.

There was a bonfire lit down the beach a short way.

John nudged Rodney. "You want to go to the bonfire or go home? There's probably a shuttle leaving in a bit."

"Comfy right here," Rodney murmured into John's shoulder.

"And your back will appreciate sleeping in your own bed," John said with a grin.

"Don' wanna move," Rodney grumbled.

"We can go back and snuggle in your bed..." John said softly.

"Hmmm...." Rodney considered. "K. We kin do that..." He leaned more against John.

John laughed. He eased out from supporting Rodney and helped Rodney stand. He guided Rodney to the shuttle stop, just outside the festival area. He felt a small 'pop' as he went through the shield.

There was a Jumper waiting and John eased Rodney into a seat. He let Rodney lean on him for the ride back to Atlantis. John led Rodney by the hand to his room.

Rodney placed the headpiece on a table before stumbling off to the bedroom. They both took a quick wash and crawled into bed together.

In the morning, John dressed in the spare clothes he had left in Rodney's room. Rodney was getting up as John was about to leave.

"Hey, if we're doing to do this right, you should move in," Rodney said. "This is bigger than your place and, okay I have to make some room, but, well... move in with me?"

John leaned in for a quick kiss. "Sure! I don't have that much stuff, and we can see about a bigger place at some point."

"That would be good," Rodney nodded.

"I gotta check to see if anything happened overnight," John said. "See you at lunch?"

Rodney smiled. "Yes. I'd like that!"

John went off. No matter what happened, any day that started off waking up with Rodney was a good day.