To be rated NC-17, one day, I'm sure
Eventual McKay/Sheppard plus who knows what else might sneak in there
Currently about 2,000 words
Eighties pop music blared out of the radio and John Sheppard flailed for the snooze button. The alarm wasn't within flailing distance. He stared up at the bland white ceiling of Teyla Emmagan's two-room apartment and listened while she knocked the alarm clock to the floor. The music died instantly but John didn't go back to sleep. He listened as Teyla banged around her bedroom and the shower started up. He stayed still until the shower cut off again and then he swung his legs over the side of the couch and stumbled vertical.
He'd been living on Teyla's couch for three days, not long enough to forget the ice chill of McMurdo and the numb relief of the wind cutting through to his bones. Not long enough to get a job or even pick up all the books and music he'd missed in the past two years.
But he knew how to work the coffee pot and it was the least he could do for taking up a good quarter of the floor space in Teyla's apartment. She liked it black and he'd gotten used to it that way, so there was no creamer in the fridge and no sugar packets in the cabinet. He poured two cups and waited for her to emerge.
"Good morning," she said, and he remembered her, always civil, always composed, even in the sandy violence of Afghanistan, even when she was holding her weapon at the ready, even when Mike, and Mitch, and Dex had died and nothing mattered anymore.
"Good morning," he replied, his voice a little creaky from sleep but neutral. Teyla took the cup from his hand and watched him knowingly.
"I must ask you a favor," she said after her first sip.
"Sure," he said. "Anything." Because favors in New York City were not favors in Afghanistan. They were easy, lazy things, an inconvenience at worst.
"My friend Katie, who lives downstairs," Teyla said, and John remembered a vague greeting in the hall, red hair and doe eyes, and maybe a green sweater. "She waters the plants of a gentleman down the street and she's out of town visiting her sister. Would you be able to do that for me? I told her I would help but my schedule today is full."
"No problem," he said. He hadn't left Teyla's apartment since he'd arrived on her doorstep, fresh off a plane from the West Coast, from the Philippines, and before that from New Zealand, and Antarctica. "I've been meaning to hit Tower Records, too. See what I missed while I was gone."
"Good," Teyla said. "That is good." She set her coffee down and smiled hesitantly at him. He wondered what she saw when she looked in his face, like she was doing now. "I must go," she said. "I have an early meeting."
He nodded, watched her pick up her bag and keys, and hurry off, the keys clicking in the deadbolts after she was gone. Alone, he took his coffee back to the couch and sat down to watch the morning unfold on 82nd Street below him.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming," Rodney McKay shouted, tying a towel around his waist and trying to stumble out of the foggy bathroom without slipping on the tile and killing himself. He made it out just in time to see a massive, dreadlocked man letting himself into the apartment. "Oh, my God," he said, staring wide-eyed at the figure before him. "In the SHOWER!"
"Got any bagels?" Ronon Dex asked, ignoring Rodney's soapy, towel-clad state and sniffing the air.
"It was your turn to bring them," Rodney said, hiking up the towel. "Don't tell me you forgot. If you forgot, I'm going to have to revise my entire morning plan."
Ronon grinned, revealing surprisingly boyish dimples and a row of even white teeth. "Have I ever let you down?" he asked, lifting a bag and setting it on Rodney's countertop.
"Oh, thank goodness," Rodney said, heading back to the bathroom. "Toast one of those for me, will you, and don't forget to put a nice, thin layer of butter on before the cream cheese. It makes it spread better."
"It makes something spread better," he heard Ronon say before he closed himself in the bathroom to rinse the shampoo (volumizing!) out of his hair. He toweled off and threw on jeans and a t-shirt.
The entire apartment smelled like toasty carbohydrates and dairy fats when he emerged, and he followed his nose to the kitchen nook where Ronon was doing magical things with his toaster oven.
"I know tight pants are part of the whole image," Ronon said, taking a monstrous bite out of half a bagel, "but you might want to think twice about trying to make them tighter."
"Oh, shut up," Rodney said, accepting the correctly prepared bagel. (Plain, as he had an egg sensitivity and poppy seeds were known to cause false opiate positives and Rodney didn't need that kind of bad press.) "What's on the schedule for today?"
"'Whatever Happened to That Guy?' is rerunning at two on MTV," Ronon said.
"I already have it saved on TIVO," Rodney said around a beautiful, beautiful mouthful of bagel with butter and cream cheese. "I can't believe everyone voted for that kid from Growing Pains who became an evangelist."
"That's because no one watched it," Ronon said helpfully. "'Scott Baio, 45 and Single beat it by a tenth of a Nielson point."
"My life is hell," Rodney mumbled.
"Speaking of hell," Ronon went on, licking cream cheese off his thumb, "tomorrow night you're performing for a high school reunion. Class of '87, buddy."
Rodney sighed tragically.
"The county fair for next week is still on but Eddie Van Halen's in rehab again so no opening gig this fall."
"Again?" Rodney asked. "Well, that's just great." He put his bagel down and crossed his arms over his chest. "Couldn't he have waited until next spring to get clean?"
"Guess not," Ronon said with a shrug. "Got good news, though."
"I'm opening for Meat Loaf?"
"You wish," Ronon snorted. "You've heard of Laura Cadman, right?"
"The little…twinkly girl. In all the glitter. With all the hair?"
"She's hot right now," Ronon said. "And she's got a crush on you. Wants to meet you."
"She has a crush on me? Really?" Rodney squinted at Ronon. "Wasn't she like, three, when Zap! was still together?"
"You're a classic now," Ronon said, smacking Rodney on the shoulder.
Before Rodney could retort, the intercom buzzed and a voice said, "Uh. I'm here to water the plants?"
"Yeah, come on up," Rodney said without thinking, and pressed the buzzer. "I'm classic now?" he said to Ronon in disbelief. "Classic is like…Billy Joel. And Elton John. And U2 if we're talking Joshua Tree era. Not…not me."
Ronon shrugged. "I'll give you that," he agreed. "You got any milk in here?"
"All out," Rodney said, and then there was a knock on the door. "Come in!" he bellowed.
"You just let people walk into your house?" Ronon asked, as someone did that very thing. "Since when?"
"He's here to water the plants," Rodney said.
Ronon looked at the guy standing in the foyer. Rodney looked, too. He was tall and lanky, with dark messy hair and three days of beard growth to match. "I thought he was about five foot two with red hair and a stammer," he said.
"No, no, Katie's away this week," Rodney said. "This must be her friend. You're Katie's friend, right?" he asked the guy as an afterthought. Maybe he did just let some crazy stalker in off the street. Then again, a crazy stalker would probably just enhance his reputation.
"Friend of a friend, actually," the guy said with a creaky voice. "You have uh, stuff?"
"Under the sink," Rodney said dismissively and turned his attention back to the matter at hand. "So what does Laura Cadman want with me?"
"Call I got just said she wanted you to come over to her studio this afternoon," Ronon said, keeping an eye on the guy as he walked into the kitchen. Ronon was kind of paranoid like that, which was one reason Rodney kept him around - instead of paying a manager and a bodyguard, Ronon did double duty for the price of one as long as there were bagels and burgers thrown in. Rodney had no trouble accommodating.
"So you want me to go make nice with Britney Spears's baby sister?" Rodney asked in disbelief. "Don't you have another reality show to book me for? Anything?"
"Hey," Ronon said. "Good thing you got some free time coming up."
Rodney sighed and flopped in his chair. His moment of relaxation was fleeting - out of the corner of his eye, he saw the plant guy set the Miracle Gro and watering can down on the hood of Rodney's piano. "Not on the piano!" he shouted, springing from his chair and dashing into the room. The guy had moved on to water the philodendron in the corner so Rodney just moved the bucket of plant food and fertilizers to the nearest chair and rubbed off the piano as best he could with his shirt sleeve.
"It's fine," the guy said dismissively as if he'd know. "You sure have a lot of plants in here."
"Yes, well, it was suggested to me," Rodney said, "that as I occasionally like to entertain lady friends here, and that women liked plants, and so they would feel more at home with plants in my apartment."
"You have women over here?" the guy asked. "Seriously?"
"Yes," Rodney said indignantly. "I mean, okay, not really lately but - why do you care?"
The guy shrugged. "I don't," he said and then tilted his head at the Zap! poster hanging on the far wall. "But the plants aren't going to do you much good if they all think you're gay."
"They think I'm - I can't believe you - but that's - what?" Rodney gaped up at the poster. His own face grinned back at him. Sure he'd had more hair then - a lot more hair - but he wasn't entirely unrecognizable.
"I don't know what it was like where you grew up," the guy said. "But in my town? Having a poster of Radek Zelenka on your wall was a pretty good sign you're fourteen-year-old girl."
"You know, there were other people besides Radek Zelenka in Zap!" Rodney argued.
Then something happened and Rodney wasn't even sure what, but there was a pop, nothing big, nothing he would have noticed really, but the next thing he knew, he was flat on his stomach with the stranger hunched over him, one hand on the back of Rodney's head and one hand between his shoulder blades. "Stay down," he hissed in Rodney's ear and despite the incredibly ridiculous situation, Rodney shivered at the feel of warm breath on his skin. The plant guy was pretty hot but well, first, he was the plant guy, and second, he had Rodney pinned to the floor which was definitely kind of not normal and Rodney's manager-slash-bodyguard had yet to show up and pummel the guy for infringing on Rodney's person.
Rodney felt his head beating hard in his chest, almost as if it was pounding straight down into the hardwood floor beneath him and all he could hear was the stranger's harsh breathing and the traffic outside. He shifted his eyes from one side of the room to the other but there was nothing to see. At least not until a pair of size 13 Converses entered the room and then Ronon's knees appeared in Rodney's line of vision.
"It's clear," Ronon said softly. "Car backfired down the street 'cause no one in this city knows how to drive."
There was a moment in which Rodney was very confused, and then the plant guy shook his head and let off the pressure he'd been keeping on Rodney's shoulders. "Fuck, I'm sorry," he said and then he was standing, too. Rodney glanced back and forth and hoped that if he and Ronon were going to throw down, maybe Rodney could just roll a little to the left and find sanctuary under the piano. "I'll - I'll come back and finish the plants later," he said, and then he ran across Rodney's hardwood floor and out the door.
"Did you see that?" Rodney asked, rolling painfully to his back and craning his neck up to look at Ronon. Ronon was standing near the door, looking big and strong and kind of rueful. "That was so weird. Wasn't that weird?"
"Yeah," Ronon said finally, closing the door and walking across the room to help Rodney up. "Weird."