Pairing: Rodney McKay/John Sheppard
Word Count: 2250
Archive: Fine, just let me know
Summary: John tells a story about two men, a chair, and an orange fleece jacket. Set in the Screen Savor 'verse, but may be read as standalone.
Teyla waited until the other volunteers stored the last of the boxes inside the second bedroom and only her team remained before presenting her housewarming gift. With a smile, she waved away all protests that she needn't have gone to the trouble. The Athosians had long held the tradition of gifting new householders, and she was pleased that she had the opportunity to carry it over to two of her dearest friends.
The package was small - no greater than Rodney's smallest laptop - and carefully swaddled in a piece of blue cloth that Teyla thought matched both Rodney's eyes and the sky John loved. She had briefly considered requesting a larger size but, from personal experience, she'd known that the smaller a valued item the more likely it would survive relocation.
"Teyla, it's…it's…." Rodney's inarticulate murmur as John tugged the cloth free brought a pleased smile to Teyla's face. John's delighted grin was confirmation that she'd chosen well.
Curious, Ronon leaned over Teyla's shoulder and asked, "Who'd you get to paint it? Lorne?"
Teyla smiled and nodded. "Yes, Evan was quite happy to work with the photograph I supplied, after secrecy was no longer required to protect John's position. He is now working on another of Kanaan and Torren."
"Have to see if he'll do one for me and Jennifer," Ronon rumbled. "You take good pictures with that camera McKay gave you."
"You really do, Teyla. It's from that night on the beach when we caught those fish. Right?" John glanced up from the small canvas in Rodney's hands; his eyes alight with the memory.
Clearing his throat, Rodney looked up and answered haltingly, "Yes…it is. I remember…thank you, Teyla. And thank Lorne for me…us, too."
Stepping forward to touch foreheads with each of her teammates in turn, Teyla murmured, "It was my pleasure, Rodney, John. I hope this represents the first of many such remembrances of your lives together."
During the first year on their new homeworld, the Athosians had discovered small fish with spawning habits similar to smelt. In the years that followed, the villagers celebrated the ocean's bounty with a communal supper before gathering around small fires along the beach to wait for the moonlit fishing to begin. Teyla had taken advantage of the occasion to negotiate some much-needed team downtime, claiming her people would appreciate some assistance and that Atlantis would reap a portion of the catch.
Bellies full of tuttleroot soup and tava bean sweetcakes, her team appropriated the furthermost firepit, settling down on either a log or a blanket spread on the rough-edged shingle. Rodney immediately began complaining about splashing about in wet sneakers and cold water.
"That's what the fire's for, McKay." Ronon tossed a pebble in Rodney's direction, laughing at the resulting squawk. "Run doesn't last long anyway."
The answering elevation of Rodney's chin was no surprise to Teyla. "Just remember that I'm willing to help catch, but I'm not cleaning them. I already spent the day working while certain others I could name were playing the wrong kind of football with children."
"Hey! They like American football!" John protested from his sprawl at Rodney's feet.
Teyla intervened with a smile. "Your improvements to the smokers were much appreciated, Rodney."
"Yes, well, I have been known to enjoy a kipper or two for breakfast in the past," Rodney admitted with a huff. "I'm looking forward to sampling a Pegasus version."
"I am certain we will return with enough for more than a few meals," Teyla assured him. She turned her attention to the small pack slung over her shoulder. "I should return your camera. Thank you for allowing me to take some additional photographs of the village and my friends. You will email them to me as before?"
Rodney raised a hand in refusal. "No, no, keep it. It's…I actually bought that one as a gift for you after I saw how much you liked using it the last time we were here. I know you don't get to visit as often as you like and…." He broke off with a shrug, color rising in his cheeks as John patted his leg in approval.
"I do not know what to say." Teyla felt a catch in her throat at Rodney's thoughtfulness and she left her log to walk around the fire to his side, narrowly avoiding stepping on John along the way.
Rodney rose to meet her, and they touched foreheads as he whispered, "Say nothing. Just enjoy it."
"Thank you, Rodney." She nodded and backed away to her seat, smiling downward when John added, "You did good, buddy."
"Well, I must say it's definitely chillier out here now that the sun's going down." Rodney scrubbed his hands along his arms before nudging John with a foot. "I guess I'd better bite the bullet and put my damn fleece on. Hand me that pack, would you?"
John sat up with a groan and relinquished the backpack he'd been using as a pillow. Teyla wondered at the scowl on Rodney's face as he rummaged through the pack and pulled out a bright orange jacket she'd never seen before. She was even more puzzled when Rodney grumbled, "Good thing no one will be able to see it once it's dark."
"Is something wrong?" Teyla asked with a frown, concerned by Rodney's sharper-than-usual temper.
Rodney yanked the maligned piece of clothing over his head without unzipping it first, leaving his hair in a state of dishevelment usually exclusively John's. Still grumbling in irritation, he returned to his log, swatting John's hands away when John reached up to restore the fine soft strands to their normal tidiness.
"Rodney?" Teyla patiently waited for her answer, the familiar byplay having coaxed a smile to her face.
"I deliberately left this behind when I packed for the first trip to Atlantis," Rodney huffed as he dropped the pack next to John. "However, it seems that the last time we went back for IOA reviews, 'Stickyfingers' Sheppard stole it out of the closet in my apartment." His eyes narrowed as he watched John pull a jacket from his own backpack to slip on.
"I didn't steal it. I was being thoughtful and I packed it for you." Teyla chuckled when John ducked his head to hide his grin as he admitted, "In my duffel."
"Fine, you didn't steal it." It was clear to Teyla that although he'd granted John that skirmish, Rodney wasn't ready to concede the battle. She exchanged an amused glance with Ronon and settled in to wait out the bickering. "However, you did force me to bring it for tonight."
John's raised eyebrows made his opinion clear. "Forced you?"
Rodney crossed his arms as he ranted back, "Well, what would you call it when all my other jackets mysteriously vanished after you appropriated that black fleece you're now wearing…."
"Hey, you gave it to me because I was cold after mine got chewed on by that goat…rabbit…thing." John tugged on the sleeves of Rodney's former jacket and positioned the collar so that the shirt underneath was visible. Teyla had to admit to herself that the contrast was pleasing to the eye and John had chosen well 'borrowing' Rodney's clothing.
Rodney was not ready to agree, continuing as if he hadn't been interrupted. "…leaving me the choice of courting hypothermia or wearing this thing. Well?"
"I'd call it being sensible?" John looked up from the blanket he was rearranging, obviously as puzzled as Teyla by Rodney's reaction over something as simple as a choice of jacket.
Rodney's lips thinned as he searched for a reply, then he finally muttered, "Try infuriating." His shoulders hunched inward, as if to protect himself, and Teyla found it hard not to ask why.
Ronon didn't share the same scruples. "Why so upset, McKay? Keeps you warm, right?"
"It keeps me quite warm, thank you, and it was also a very shrewd purchase when you consider how easily someone could end up lost out in the ice and snow of Antarctica." Rodney's tone was still defensive, but a little calmer as he expanded on his agreement. "High visibility was an important factor to consider along with loft and weight, hence the orange which otherwise would never have entered my possession considering its association with one of the banes of my existence."
Ronon grunted and tossed another branch on the fire. "So what's the problem?"
"Yeah. Spill, buddy. What's got you wound up so tight?" John settled back on the blanket to look up at Rodney's face. He reached out to touch Rodney's knee in what Teyla believed a mute apology for crossing over a line he hadn't thought important.
Rodney huffed once before explaining, "Obviously someone like you or Ronon has never been the butt of jokes like, 'Question: How can you tell the difference between a traffic cone and McKay?' Answer: The traffic cone manages to tell you where to go in less than two hundred words.' That was just one of many. I'd already dealt with enough of that juvenile humor as a fourteen-year-old college student and I didn't see the need to provide the opportunity for more on Atlantis." His voice had lowered to a mumble during his confession and he avoided making eye contact with any of his team.
"What's a traffic cone?" asked Ronon.
The question caused John to snicker and, after a moment, Rodney joined in. After the laughter subsided, John pointed out, "See? That right there proves the joke was stupid to begin with."
Rodney's voice was noticeably lighter when he agreed with John. "Of course they were stupid jokes. Consider the sources."
Teyla was glad Rodney's anger was lifting and she applied her own balm to an old wound. "I think the color is quite flattering, Rodney. You should wear that jacket more often."
"I wanted to see you in it because it reminds me of the first time we met," John confessed, sitting up and shifting closer so he could nudge Rodney's legs with a shoulder.
Sensing a story, Ronon did some nudging of his own. "You were in that Ant-whatever place, too?"
"Yeah, flying helicopters. One day I was bringing O'Neill in and Carson fired a drone at us." John grinned up at Rodney. "I outflew it, of course, and then later on I sat in a chair."
Rodney rolled his eyes, adding, "Completely disregarding General O'Neill's orders not to touch anything."
"A chair like the one in Atlantis?" Ronon asked.
"Exactly the same. Threw me when it did its thing and I ended up looking at the ceiling. Then this obnoxious guy in an orange jacket came in and told me to think about where we were in the solar system. There was this incredible light show, which made the obnoxious guy pretty excited. Next thing I know I'm flipping a coin to decide whether to go through the gate or not."
Teyla smiled in satisfaction at the conclusion. "And we are very glad you did, John."
It quickly became apparent that Rodney wasn't as pleased with the story. "If I'm so obnoxious, why did you want me to wear this and remind you? For that matter…."
Teyla was thankful for John's quick response. She didn't want the evening to end with Rodney storming away from the fire. "Because it proves first impressions aren't always right, genius." John's next action supported his claim. He settled down in front of Rodney, nudging Rodney's legs apart in order to sit between them. "C'mon. I'm still cold and you're warm and cozy."
"John? This is not being discreet." Teyla noticed how Rodney looked around anxiously to determine if anyone outside the team was watching, and it hurt her to witness his apprehension over a simple display of affection.
"Relax. Ronon and Teyla know, remember?" John tipped his head back and smiled. "They're the ones who pointed me in the right direction."
"But the others aren't very far away. I don't like having to hide any more than you do, but all it takes is one person…." Teyla watched with interest as John shook his head at Rodney and whispered what she thought sounded like "Mer." Rodney subsided with a sigh and allowed John to relax inside the circle of his arms. "Fine. It'll be dark soon anyway, and Ronon happens to resemble a wall big enough to hide behind."
At a nod from Teyla, Ronon shifted to make sure he blocked John and Rodney from casual observation. "Better a wall than a closet," he retorted.
"Did you just make a joke about…?" Rodney sputtered in disbelief while John just chuckled.
Ronon shrugged. "Been listening to some of the Marines. They think the rule's stupid."
"Stupid or not, it could get John sent back to Earth if someone says something to a bigot in his unenlightened military and they decide to…." Rodney snapped back.
John interrupted the oft-repeated complaint with a stage-whispered, "Shhh, I'm trying to take a nap here."
As the four teammates subsided into silence, Teyla watched John sink a little deeper inside Rodney's sheltering arms, his eyes slipping closed. Rodney remained strangely quiet, as if reluctant to disturb the rare peace, his gaze seeming focused on distant memories. It struck her how unusual it was for her to see the two of them so still together outside of injury and that contentment suited the pair.
She decided to put Rodney's generous gift to good use.
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Notes: Written for mcfleece. Icon and wallpaper are available for personal use - I only ask that you credit me so others know where they might find others to enjoy.
Standard Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters herein. The characters of Rodney McKay and John Sheppard as well as any supporting characters are the property of their creators and MGM Television/Sony Pictures Television/Associated Production Companies. Any deviation (or deviant behavior) from the originals, however, is mine.
Feedback is both welcome and appreciated.