Discretion - It's Not As Easy As You'd Think
Summary: Everyone in the city thinks they know what's going on
Notes: Written for the lj community stagesoflove 2006, round 3, Five Rooms
The Gate Room, aka The ZPM Affair
Rodney is still recovering from getting stung by the thing that wasn't a bee on PG3-15X three days ago. He's pottering about in the Gate room, making non-essential repairs while he doesn't wait for the rest of his team to come home. Home from the meet and greet that apparently couldn't be postponed a couple of days until he'd been cleared for active duty. He's not happy.
What he is is under the workstation - the one that's been fritzing out at the most inconvenient moments for the past week and a half - when the Gate is unexpectedly activated. The IDC's confirmed as Sheppard's before Rodney's even made it to his feet. He's so not happy.
John comes through the event horizon lugging something that looks like the Ark of the Covenant, or at least the one in that movie with Harrison Ford - the one with the hat and the whip that Rodney is sure would look incandescently hot on the Air Force Colonel who's almost vibrating with excitement. Huh.
Right. The Ark. Or box, or chest, or whatever the people of PG9-23F used to call it, before they handed over to Sheppard. To John - who's looking suspiciously over-stimulated as he stalks across the Gate room floor, Teyla and Ronon trailing serenely in his wake.
"We missed you, Rodney." John's grinning a grin that screams 'I have a secret!' and then he jiggles the Ark - box - whatever. "We brought you back a souvenir."
The unholy sparks of glee in John's eyes are reflected in Teyla's and Ronon's, and that gives him pause. Then Rodney's stomach does a kind of backflip half-pike double twist and suddenly he knows - he knows - what's in that box.
The lid folds back around itself as Rodney's fingers touch it, exposing a glowing orange lump of crystal that makes his heart stutter and flutter and try to crawl up into his throat so it can see this too.
It's a ZPM, and Rodney would bet his last full-sized Snickers bar that it's fully charged. He can read it in John's smile.
And suddenly his hands are in John's hair, tugging him over into an awkward sideways bend so Rodney can kiss him like he's never been kissed before - in front of a roomful of Marines.
It's over almost before it's begun, but not quite soon enough. The shockhorrorpanic on John's face makes Rodney stumble as he pushes past and snarls his hands in Ronon's tangled dreads.
This kiss is slightly harder, faster, and much less real, but Ronon goes with it anyway. Rodney mentally waves a solemn goodbye to that last Snickers bar. And then it's Teyla's turn.
The Mess Hall - aka The Cookie Incident
After about a week of cold showers, stubborn doors and double-timed pre-dawn laps of the perimeter of the city - including each and every pier - the gossip about 'The ZPM Affair' dies down to a dull murmur.
Simpson, Kusanagi and Brown band together to sigh and giggle every time Dr McKay and the Colonel are in the same room. It's annoying, and Rodney is tempted to chew their collective heads off every time he notices an incipient tripartite swoon. John usually manages to talk him out of it, or distract him.
So life goes on as usual, if a little busier, now they have a fully charged ZPM to play with.
And then 'The Cookie Incident' happens.
Milson develops the first Pegasus galaxy cookie recipe in secret. He uses flour from the blue-green wheat-type plant they found on PX3-49. He cuts it carefully with powdered Khemet nut from P36-85 and chops some cherry berry things from P38-4X to give it colour and that subtle spicy kick the fruit provides.
It takes time and a delicate palate to get the mix just right - too much Khemet and the berries taste bitter; if the flour's too fine the cookies turn out dry and lumpy. But Milson perseveres.
Once he's sure he's produced the perfect round of fruity, crunchy goodness, he takes the inaugural batch to Elizabeth's office. McKay is there. Milson hastily dumps the tray, declares the cookies citrus-free and disappears back to the kitchens. On his way, he tries to tell himself he hasn't thrown his children to a pack of baying wolves, but he's not convinced. He knows the gleam of cookie-lust when he sees it, and McKay's eyes were practically on fire with it. He figures his carefully crafted cookies are probably crumbs by now.
Elizabeth gives the go-ahead for mass-production and Milson keeps careful eyes on the mixing bowls. It's a delicate balance.
The results are included on the menu for the first time that evening, and Milson hands them out with quiet pride. When he drops a couple onto Colonel Sheppard's tray, he's surprised by the response.
"Hey, you made more! Cool!"
The blank look on Milson's face is Sheppard's cue to continue.
"Rodney saved me one from the batch you made this afternoon."
By the time John's taken a seat across from Rodney, the gossip has already reached the corners of the room.
"McKay gave Colonel Sheppard one of his cookies!"
The Ancient Armoury, aka The Secret of the Slippery Stuff
'The Cookie Incident' doesn't die an easy, quiet death; it lingers painfully for weeks, blurring into months. It's finally buried beneath the plethora of new discoveries, brought about by the ZPM that caused the kiss that still brings on the occasional swoon from Kusanagi, Brown and Simpson.
And then they find the Ancient armoury.
Lisa Hogan didn't mean to eavesdrop; she's not that kind of nurse. And this is a fact she makes certain to share with everyone she tells about what she overheard while tidying the surgery. They appreciate her honesty.
"…So then I suggested using regular gun oil, and Rodney turned purple and had to sit down."
"Ah, that's our Rodney. He does tend to over-react a wee bit every now and then."
Lisa Hogan doesn't quite manage to reproduce Colonel Sheppard's 'that's my Rodney' chuckle, but nobody minds that much. It's not like there's anyone in the city who hasn't heard it a hundred times before.
Brown and Simpson share a heartfelt sigh.
"I offered to sneak a bottle of extra virgin olive oil from the kitchens; I figured that'd do the job until the Daedalus arrives. He threatened to confiscate the 'toys' and shut me out of all the fun rooms! Carson, please, can't you spare just one bottle of…"
Lieutenant Dickerson is shunned for weeks for the crime of visiting the surgery at that most inconvenient time. He never finds out why.
Of course, everyone who hears the story knows exactly what the Colonel asked the doctor for - it's totally obvious. There's a second murmured conversation that trails in the wake of the first - why Dr McKay didn't ask his friend for the lube himself. Opinions are divided.
The big reveal of the latest treasure trove of weapons - Rodney threatens to injure John if he calls them toys again - falls surprisingly flat. Only the most militaristic of the ATA'd marines share John's awe at the silver 'sleeve' with its Heads-Up weapons system, and the smoothly, silently, articulated joints.
They're disappointed when he tells them it's the only one that's working - and that it's his. He doesn't hesitate to blame Rodney for not letting him use gun oil on the others to get them up to standard. They mutter 'Scientists,' and roll their eyes. They understand.
The Sauna, aka 'The Day McKay and The Colonel Got Hot and Sweaty In Public'
The door, when they discover it, proves stubborn and resists initial attempts to coax it open, but Rodney perseveres. He perseveres in urging John on to greater efforts, until the door gives in and opens and they step on in.
Unfortunately, it then slides closed. And stays that way.
Half the crystals on the interior door control panel are missing, which doesn't impress Rodney one bit. He curses the Ancients and their apparent inability to put up simple-to-understand 'Out Of Order' signs. If John considers pointing out that the fight they had to get the door open might have been a small clue, he doesn't mention it. He knows better.
The narrow hall they're trapped in opens into a white hexagonal room lined with tiers of wide plain benches. The clickclunkhiss and sudden rise in humidity only serves to shock them both into worried recognition.
Their words trip and tumble over one another, and then Rodney rolls his eyes and waves his hands in wild expression.
"A defective sauna if I'm not mistaken, if we take into account the way the door was rigged to keep us out. Infuriating Ancients. If it's not nanobots designed to kill us, or alien energy beings kept prisoner for eons in traps kids can screw up with one finger, its rooms set up to parboil whoever wonders in."
Rodney peels off his jacket and starts to check the walls for some sort of control system or removable panel.
"Well don't just stand there staring, Colonel, unless you want to rely on the rabble outside for your rescue. Once someone remembers to send for Radek, it'll still take hours to track him down. He's off with Halling building stills again."
As they search, the room gets hotter, and more humid. Clothing becomes a hindrance.
After an hour the heat and humidity begins to affect the radio signals, and the people outside can only hear the odd broken snippet of conversation.
"…you too tight…"
"…rder, dammit! Pu…!"
Someone does send for Radek, almost before they hear McKay mention the Czech's name. Almost. They find him singing songs with Halling and a group of other very merry Athosians, but he's not drunk. It takes more than half a gallon of still swill to take down an eastern European scientist of his renown.
It takes three hours to get the door to open, each team working on their side exhaustively. Or so they claim. When it finally slides back to reveal the pair - shirtless, shoeless, sweat-soaked and looking rather rumpled - and standing very close - a collective sigh ripples through the waiting crowd.
The Infirmary, aka 'The Time When They Held Hands For Three Days'
The mission is supposed to be an easy one - a planet Teyla has visited relatively recently, before Atlantis rose again.
They're greeted with open arms and smiles of welcome, loaded platters of meat and fruit and jugs of rich red wine, with sticky sweets to follow.
And after they're stuffed to the gills, replete and groaning, they're entertained by pretty dancers - boys and girls in loose pants and flowing sashes, shirts slashed to tantalise with flashes of rib and shadowed curves of spine.
The sun has set and both moons are hanging low in the sky before the elders come to usher them away to the temple halls.
The rest of the team don't need McKay to tell them that the buildings are of Ancient origin, but he tells them anyway - goes into details, and scientific flurries, scurrying from one dust-shrouded pillar to the next. And then he touches one.
The scream is one of shock, not pain, but the Colonel doesn't stop to quantify the difference - he simply lunges.
The second his fingers interlock with Rodney's outstretched digits they both drop like rocks and the pillar goes dark. The elders are loudly apologetic, offering stretcher-bearers - their healthiest young, as hostages - to transport the tightly joined pair back to the Stargate. Teyla lets them help.
The scene in the 'gate room is chaotic. Carson tries to pry the men apart, and manages eventually, with the help of three stone-faced marines. The screams are heartbreaking, the separated hands outstretched and shaking, clenching rhythmically.
Teyla intervenes before they reach the infirmary, convincing Carson that the stress of separation is too much, that Ancient business is at work here, and should be minded.
For three days, they lie in close quarters, hands clasped in silent comfort and connection. Physical contact with one causes reaction in the other - Carson's test results are indecipherable.
Elizabeth works unceasingly to translate the writings on the pillars - it's a slow job. It comes together in tiny fragments, a snippet here, a loaded word or phrase there. The meaning isn't really something that she wants to share, at least not without their permission.
At the end of three days, as Elizabeth is finally decoding the secret of their union, they blink themselves awake.
Nurse Hogan is the only one there to hear, from behind the curtains kept closed for discretion's sake.
"Colonel… John? Are you…?"
"Yeah. Wow. Can you still feel…?"
There's a shared sigh and then a snowstorm of rustling, and Lisa misses something murmured as they move.
"…amn idiots, the both of us. Are we the only ones who didn’t know?"
The Colonel's chuckle sends ripples down her spine and Lisa wonders how it feels to be the one it's meant for.
"Dammit, Rodney, you kissed me! In front of a roomful of marines! How the hell did I miss the significance of that?"
"Forget the kiss, I saved you a cookie! A good cookie! How did I not know I was in love with y…?"
Lisa doesn't know whether the cut-off is a choke of realisation or a kiss, but she doesn't worry. This little tale is not for sharing, it's hers to treasure.
She knows now - she knew before they did - and that's enough to keep her warm on cold nights.