Rating: PG-13, for language
Category: First time
Summary: Rodney McKay learns the meaning of "Go with The Flow" when he hatches a scheme to transform a diamond in the rough.
Written for the reel_sga challenge.
Check out the My Fair Liar poster done by Deani Bean!
John Sheppard strolled into his client's spacious penthouse apartment and followed the unexpected sound of hip hop music down the hall. His ears led him to the media room, where he found Rodney McKay sprawled on a leather couch stuffing his mouth with M&Ms. His eyes were fixed on the huge television screen that took up most of the wall opposite.
"What the hell are you watching?" John asked as he dropped his briefcase on the ottoman.
"MTV Video Music Awards," Rodney replied absently. "Sit down. You're blocking the screen."
"Sorry," John said as he took a seat on the other couch. "Why are you watching--?"
"Shh," Rodney said. "This song actually has a decent beat. I could get into it."
"And the fact that you have a thing for young, hot black guys has nothing to do with your appreciation?" John asked dryly. Rodney turned to look at him.
"I've seen you checking them out."
"All the time, everywhere," John said sitting forward. "Look, I didn't come here to discuss your preferred sex partners. I've got--."
"They are not my preferred sex partners," Rodney said defensively. "For the record, I've never even been with a 'young, hot black guy.'" John raised a doubtful eyebrow. "They're just a fantasy object for me, all right? An object of desire, nothing more. You know, the way you look at Pamela Anderson's boobs. You lust after them but you don't really want them."
"Yes, I do," John said unhesitatingly.
"But that would destroy the illusion!"
"I don't think they're an illusion," John said. He smiled dopily for a second and then reached for his briefcase. "I just got that community service assignment you've been waiting for," he said, focusing on the purpose of his visit. He pulled a folder out of his briefcase and started to speak again, but Rodney hushed him and sat forward to watch the screen. John rolled his eyes, but he laid aside the folder and turned to watch the young singer who'd just won the award for best rap video give a brief but largely unintelligible acceptance speech.
"What did he say?" Rodney asked the television as it went to commercial break. "What did he say?" he repeated to John. "I didn't understand a word he said!"
"Here's your community service project," John said, handing him the folder. Rodney peered at it, blanched and reached for the remote. He muted the sound and sat back to read the contents of the folder.
"This is a joke, right? I verbally abuse one police officer--who deserved far more, I still insist--and my punishment is to put on a show?"
"You're not putting on a show," John replied. "All right, you are putting on a show. Sort of--actually--it's a charity fundraiser. You do those all the time."
"Not under duress!"
"Rodney! Look, would you rather spend a month in jail? That's your alternative."
"All right, all right," Rodney sighed. He flipped though the contents of the folder again. "What's 'Positive Youth'?"
"It's a pet project of the judge hearing your case. The program is designed to help at-risk inner city kids make the right choices, like helping them stay away from drugs or teaching them to accept parking tickets gracefully."
"Hah, hah," Rodney said. He glanced up at the screen and reached for the remote. "Oh wait; I love this song!"
"You listen to Madonna?"
"I'm a publicist, John. I keep my finger on the pulse of --."
"I've heard this speech before," John said, rising and going to the bar for a drink.
"Get me another one, will you?" Rodney said raising his glass. John returned and exchanged the empty glass for a full one.
"I don't know how you can drink that stuff," he said a minute later as he sat down and took a sip of beer.
"Iced coffee? Best thing on the planet. Love it," Rodney said. "Ooh!"
"You didn't tell me about the talent line-up," Rodney said as he read the list of names. "These are some of the hottest young stars in the entertainment world."
"That's not exactly a line-up," John said, reluctantly, not expecting Rodney to take the news well. "You're going to have to--."
"I have to procure the talent and organize the event?"
"That's about the size of it."
"Send me to jail."
"You don't mean that."
"Yes I do. Send me to jail."
"They want me to do this much work for free? I usually get $25,000 for organizing an event like this!"
"It's a charity event, Rodney," John sighed.
"That's my fee for charity work. I get upward of a hundred grand for regular events."
"You charge charities $25,000 for organizing fundraisers?"
"Hey, charitable organizations pay me for my work. If I did everything pro bono I wouldn't be able to afford--."
"Rodney! Just do it, please. It doesn't have to be elaborate, just... Look, this is your way to show the world that you care."
"I don't care!"
"Yes, you do," John said pleadingly. "How would it look if one of the country's top publicists went to jail? What would the media say?"
"If I wrote the press releases? They'd say all the right things. There'd be a groundswell of public outrage that would force that asshole of a judge to release me."
"Look! You're a spin doctor; just make the world think you care."
"All right, all right, I'll do it," Rodney conceded. "Ooh, maybe I can get him to perform." He pointed the remote at the screen and turned up the volume.
"I don't know. But I'll find out before the night is over. He's got a real voice and--."
"...And he's hot as hell?"
"You think so, too?" Rodney said, his eyes on the screen. John rolled his eyes.
"I was just--."
"He won! He won! Shut up! I want to to hear this. Here, have an M&M," Rodney said, thrusting the bowl in John's general direction. John took the bowl from Rodney and helped himself to the candy. "The Flow? Who the hell names himself The Flow? ? What the hell does that mean?"
"It's probably just a--."
"Shut up! He speaks! Well, at least this one sounds somewhat intelligent, but he looks like he found those clothes at the Goodwill. Is that what passes for style these days?"
"I thought you said you had your finger on the pulse of--."
"Never mind his clothes. I can fix that. I can fix anything. Damn, he's pretty! Another commercial. Good; I've got to start thinking about this." Rodney turned back to the folder and continued to read as he chewed another handful of candy. He suddenly sputtered, nearly spitting out the chocolate in his mouth. "There's no budget for this! They want me to pay for this out of pocket? I would definitely rather go to jail!"
"Young, hot black guys, Rodney," John said tauntingly. "The whole idea is to get hip hop and R&B stars to headline the event."
"What am I supposed to pay them with, my body?"
"If you do, I'd rather not know about it."
"I've got to get sponsorships. What the hell were you thinking when you agreed to this, John? I'm dying here! I've got to raise a couple of hundred thou just to put together a decent fundraiser--."
"Maybe The Flow will volunteer his services," John said archly. Rodney shot him a withering look, but John had long since grown immune to his client's behavior. He snapped his briefcase shut and rose. "I've got to go."
"Stay," Rodney said, tossing the folder onto the couch beside him. "Radek's cooking dinner."
"What's he making?" John said, his curiosity and hunger overriding his desire to get away from his sometimes difficult client and friend of many years.
"I don't know. It'll be edible. The man can cook, if nothing else," Rodney said distractedly. John turned to see what had captured his attention. On the screen was a shot of the audience. He assumed Rodney was looking at the young men in the front row, but his eyes were drawn elsewhere. "Do you think you could get--."
"Pamela Anderson? Right; she'd be perfect for a charity event to raise funds for inner city youth."
"You bet your ass she would. Who do you think is going to be attending this event?" John asked.
"All right. You want tits and ass? I'll get you tits and ass. They just won't be her tits."
"But you'll get tits?"
"Shut up, John. Zelenka! Is dinner ready yet?"
"You bellowed?" Carson Beckett appeared at the door to Rodney's office and leaned against the frame.
"I didn't bellow and stop slouching," Rodney replied. "Get in here."
"What's up, oh lord and master?" Carson said as he walked into the expansive office and took a seat.
"You're becoming more sarcastic every day. I don't know why I tolerate you."
"No one else wants my job," Carson replied mildly. Rodney gaped at him for a second and then chose to ignore the comment.
"Here," he said pushing a folder across the desk.
"What's this, then?"
"It's my community service project. Get right on it."
"Wait a minute; you're the one who got the traffic ticket and you're the one who got yourself arrested. Why am I the one who has to--."
"Because I pay you to do my dirty work. There's nothing in the judge's orders that says I can't use my staff," Rodney said. "I simply have to put on this event. Oh, and before you start looking for venues, look up someone called The Flow."
"The Flow. He's a musician."
"Right." Carson rose and collected the folder.
"And send in Liz, will you?"
"Right." Carson left the office and went next door to a more modestly sized but equally stylish office. "Morning, love. His highness beckons," he said with a gesture of his head.
"'His highness' can kiss my ass," Elizabeth Weir replied. "I'm up to my neck in--."
"Your ass has absolutely no appeal to me, you know that," Rodney said as he strode past Carson into the room. He sat down and crossed his legs before looking over his shoulder. "I thought I just gave you something to do." Carson sighed and left the room.
"You know, one day you're going to be found dead in your office and you know what?"
"What?" Rodney said dryly. Liz leaned across the desk and smiled in his face.
"Miraculously, there will be no witnesses and every single one of your employees will have an alibi." She kissed the tip of his nose and sat down.
"Thank you," she said turning back to her computer. "What do you want?"
"I've been ordered to put on a charity event."
"Ordered? By whom?" Liz asked curiously. "I was under the impression that you gave orders rather than took them."
"So was I, but this is a special case," Rodney explained. "It's the community service project my idiot lawyer agreed to."
"John's not an idiot, though he has one for a client," she replied. "Tell me about this project."
"Well, I was sentenced to 200 hours of community service just for yelling at a stupid cop--."
"I think yelling at the judge had more to do with your sentence," Liz said knowingly. "What's the project?"
"He had it coming! The man should have seen that I was right! The ticket was clearly--!"
"I have to organize a fundraiser for something called 'Positive Youth.' It's a citywide organization that's supposed to help provide positive alternatives for kids in community centers and that sort of thing."
"Sounds like a worthy cause."
"Yes, it is, actually," Rodney admitted. "Say; do you think you could get some of your rich bitch friends to cough up some cash?" Liz sighed and shook her head. She loved Rodney dearly but he seemed to take great delight in provoking her. She decided to ignore the taunt and smiled.
"Maybe? I need at least $250,000 to pull off a decent event, Liz!"
"And I suppose dipping into your own wallet is out of the question..."
"You took most of that wallet when you divorced me, you shrew," Rodney said mildly.
"There was barely anything in your wallet when I divorced you, Rodney. And since then I've helped you earn at least five times the amount of the settlement."
"And I love you for it," Rodney said rising to place a chaste kiss on her mouth.
"Go away," she said playfully, "or I'll slap you with a sexual harassment suit."
"You want more money? You vampire!"
"Tell you what--let me get this done and then I'll brainstorm with you."
"All right, hon. I've got a few appointments. How about lunch around one?"
"Anything for you, Rodney. Now go away."
When Rodney and Liz returned from lunch, he stopped in to check on Carson's progress. He entered the small, neat office and found his assistant at his desk, his chin propped on one fist. He was staring at the computer screen. Music was playing in the office, which wasn't unusual, but Rodney couldn't identify the song or the musician.
"What's this? It's...nice," Rodney said, pausing to listen. "Very nice."
"It's The Flow," Carson said distractedly. He turned the monitor and Rodney saw what he'd been staring at. On the screen was a music video. The Flow was sitting at the piano singing a slow, sexy ballad. Rodney sat down and both men watched him perform. The song ended and the spell was broken. Rodney glanced at Carson and smirked.
"So did you get any work done or have you just been drooling all morning?"
"The latter, mostly," Carson said dreamily. "The man is--." He cleared his throat and tore his eyes away from the monitor. "I've got a call in to his agent," he said.
"Good. And what's all this?" Rodney said looking at the printouts scattered across Carson's desk.
"I've been gathering information," Carson said a bit self-consciously.
"Icons? What the hell do you need icons for?" Rodney said, picking up a sheet and gazing at the images before him. Carson snatched the page from his hand.
"I've asked you time and again not to touch things on my desk," he snapped.
"And I've told you time and again that this is my desk. That's my chair you're sitting on, this is my office you're sitting in, that's my computer you're stalking The Flow on, and this is my paper you're wasting as you're building your little scrapbook!"
"You want it back?" Carson said, grabbing up the sheets. "Here, take it!" Rodney calmly grabbed his wrist.
"Stop being such a drama queen." he said calmly. Carson promptly dropped the papers. "What did his agent say?"
"He's getting in touch with his manager," Carson said wearily.
"Good," Rodney said as he picked up another sheet of paper. "He is lovely, isn't he?"
"Lovely? He's bloody hot! And that's mine, thank you," Carson said as Rodney rose and started to leave the room with the picture.
"My paper, my picture," Rodney said smugly. "You'll just print out another one, anyway."
"You're damned right, I will," Carson muttered, turning back to his computer.
Rodney was at his desk an hour later when Carson buzzed him. He absently lifted the phone and answered it as he reached out to lower the volume on the video that was playing on his screen.
"Teyla Emmagan is on the phone," Carson said.
"What is a Teyla Emmagan?"
"She's The Flow's manager."
"Oh. Well, put her through, then," Rodney said, reaching out again to raise the volume a smidgen. "Hello, Ms. Emmagan. This is Rodney McKay."
"Good afternoon, Mr. McKay," Teyla replied.
"Ms. Emmagan. May I call you Teyla? Please feel free to call me Rodney. Teyla, I caught your client on MTV last night and I thought he was terrific. He's exactly the person I'm looking to headline an upcoming charity event. Teyla, I'm calling to offer The Flow a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community that adores him and his wonderful music." Rodney proceeded to turn on the charm and in short order he'd arranged a meeting with the young hip hop artist and his manager.
"Should I wear the black or the grey?"
"What does it matter?" Radek said. "Is same suit."
"The difference is one is black and the other is grey," Rodney said impatiently. "Which one looks better?"
"They look the same--except one is black and one is grey," Radek said with a shrug.
"Why do I employ you again?"
"No one else would put up with you," Radek muttered in Czech.
"I heard that!"
"And you have no idea what I said."
"I know exactly what you said! Well, exactly what you implied, anyway," Rodney sighed. "I'll wear the black. Get me a tie."
"Here is your favorite tie," Radek said, laying it over his arm for Rodney to examine.
"No, no, no! Not that tie! That's--."
"Is beautiful tie. Mrs. McKay gave you this tie! Is your favorite tie!"
"It is beautiful tie. I mean it is a beautiful tie. A beautiful tie; you're driving me crazy, Radek! Speak English!"
"I am speaking Eng--.'
"You know damn well she's not 'Mrs.' McKay anymore!" Rodney cried. "And yes, that's my favorite tie, but that's too staid, too stuffy. I need something young, something hip and edgy," Rodney said, snapping his fingers in an effort to make his point.
"You want to borrow one of mine?" Radek said drolly.
"One of yours?" Rodney spat. His demeanor changed suddenly as he pondered the question. "What have you got?"
"You want to look young and hip? You aren't chasing younger man again, are you?" Radek asked suspiciously. "I'm not cooking for another teenager! Last one ate like horse--disgusting sugar-laden cereal, morning, noon and night. It took me months to wean you off that stuff!"
"I did not need weaning," Rodney said petulantly. "And he was twenty-three!"
"He was nineteen," Radek muttered in his native tongue, "maybe."
"I don't have a shirt," Rodney shouted from the bathroom. "Get me a shirt!" Radek rolled his eyes.
"You want young, hip, edgy shirt?"
"No, I want Liberace ruffles," Rodney said sarcastically. "Yes, I 'want young, hip, edgy shirt.'"
"You don't have young, hip, edgy shirt," Radek replied.
"Well, find me one! I have a meeting with one of the hottest young hip hop stars in music today."
"Find you one. How do I find you young, hip edgy shirt? You have old, stuffy shirts with no edge."
"Looking!" He entered the bathroom a few minutes later with a pale grey silk shirt. "Here: young, hip, edgy, and big enough to fit."
"Big enough? Are you calling me fat again?" Rodney said turning to the mirror. "I am not fat." He turned back around. "Good. This is good. This will look good with the grey suit."
"You are wearing black suit."
"I just said I'm wearing the grey suit, Radek. Are you deaf as well as dumb? Get the suit."
"Get stuffed," Radek muttered as he went to fetch the suit. Ten minutes later, Rodney emerged from the bathroom adjusting the cuff of his jacket.
"How do I look?"
"I do not look 'like pimp.' I look hip, elegant and--."
"You look like pudgy man in overpriced suit." Radek handed Rodney a watch, which he snatched from him.
"You're skating on thin ice, Radek," he said with a parting glare.
"At least I stay on top. On thin ice, you'd sink like--." Radek shut his mouth when Rodney returned to the room.
"You're fired," he said calmly.
"What do you want for dinner?"
"Surprise me--and don't make the poison joke."
"Are you bringing home boy toy?"
"For the last time, I'm not chasing a man, I'm going to a meeting."
"With a man, yes," Rodney sighed.
"I make big steak. If you catch him you will need protein."
Rodney arrived at the suite of offices where the interview with The Flow was to take place. Teyla met him in the lobby.
"Teyla," Rodney said smoothly, turning on the show business schmooze with practiced ease. Teyla was equally adept at schmoozing and they made empty small talk as she escorted him up to the suite, where they were met by a mountain of a man.
"Dex, this is Rodney McKay," Teyla said. "Where's The Flow?" Dex answered with a toss of dreadlocks. He eyed Rodney, silently concluding that he posed no threat to his boss, and then led him into the inner sanctum.
Rodney's first glimpse of the man did not impress. He was dressed in a baggy black pants, a grey hooded sweatshirt, and a black baseball cap turned slightly askew. His face was unshaven and obscured by a pair of large and very dark sunglasses and his feet were covered in thick white socks. His appearance was totally at odds with the sumptuous décor of the suite. The Flow looked as though he'd wandered in off the street, kicked off his shoes and curled up on the mohair sofa. Rodney sighed to himself. He was very likely dealing with someone who was either half asleep or hung over--possibly both.
"F, this is Rodney McKay," Teyla said. "Rodney, this is The Flow."
"Very pleased to meet you," Rodney said, stepping forward to extend his hand. The Flow slowly and reluctantly pulled a hand out of his pocket and tapped Rodney's hand with his fist.
"S'up," he said softly as Teyla offered Rodney a seat.
"May I offer you some coffee?" Teyla asked as Rodney settled in on the sofa opposite The Flow.
"Yes, I'd love some, please," he replied.
"Can I get you anything, F?"
"Nah, I'm good," he said. He turned to Rodney. "What's up? Miss T here says you got an offer for me."
"Yes, I do," Rodney began. "I've been asked to produce an event for a local grassroots community-based program called 'Positive Youth.' It's a program designed to offer inner city kids positive alternatives to drugs, violence and other negative, anti-social behaviors. I'd like to raise $250,000 to give this program a major boost and take it city-wide. And you're just the man to help me do it." The Flow smiled wryly.
"Me? Why me?"
"I've done my homework," Rodney said, wanting to use his given name--doing so would give his pitch more impact and he couldn't bring himself to call the man "The Flow" to his face. It still struck him as a stupid moniker and had he been the young man's publicist he would have sought something more sophisticated. "I've spent the last three days listening to all your music and checking you out. ...Checking out your background," Rodney corrected himself as The Flow's smile widened. It didn't matter that the smile was slightly mocking; it was drop-dead sexy and very disturbing.
"Your first album went platinum," Rodney continued as Teyla set down a tray on the table in front of him. "Your second album is about to go platinum. Did you know that more than half your sales were in this tri-state area?" Teyla sat down beside The Flow.
"Is that true?" she asked curiously. Rodney smugly handed her a sheet of paper. She studied it as The Flow leaned over and took a brief peek.
"This city is your strongest fan base," Rodney continued. "You wield a tremendous amount of influence in this market."
"Yeah, I got juice. I got mad juice, man. What of it?"
"Wouldn't you like to give something back to the people who buy your music?"
"What do you have in mind?" Teyla asked, directing the conversation. She already knew every detail of Rodney's pitch, but she wanted him to spin it for her client.
"I'd like for The Flow to headline the charity event. That will guarantee that thousands of tickets will be sold and assure that we achieve our fundraising goals."
"Hey, man, $250 G's is small potatoes," The Flow replied. "I can bring in that much in a heartbeat."
"We have to be realistic," Rodney said uneasily. He didn't want to be discouraging or negative, but the facts were the facts. "Sure, you can pull down that kind of money on a major tour but a single concert event--."
"You just got to know who to ask," The Flow replied dismissively. Rodney knew exactly who to ask, but he suspected that The Flow had very different ideas. "I can get you a million easy."
"The next thing you know, I was talking him into approaching potential corporate sponsors to raise matching funds. Hell, he even offered to match everything we raised over the first million," Rodney said. Liz and Carson exchanged a look. They were having an after-work drink at their favorite bar.
"That's wonderful," Liz said, raising her glass to him.
"Who are these potential corporate sponsors?" Carson asked.
"You'll tell me as soon as you've identified them," Rodney said. He turned back to Liz. "I had to talk him into it, but as usual, I prevailed. We got a little competitive; he wanted me to raise the money and he'd match it. I challenged him to get in on the fundraising and eventually got him to agree to appear with me when I approached potential funding sources. It wasn't until I left the hotel that I realized what I'd done."
"What have you done, Rodney?" Liz asked worriedly.
"I can't take The Flow into a board room on Wall Street or Madison Avenue and have him ask for money. They'd think he was the charity!"
"What do you mean?" Carson asked.
"He looks like a sixteen-year old juvie; they wouldn't open their wallets to him, they'd hide them!"
"That bad?" Liz winced and stirred her drink thoughtfully.
"I'd open my wallet for him," Carson offered.
"You'd open anything he asked you to--and a few things he didn't," Rodney sneered. Carson sighed and stared into his mojito.
"...If only he would ask," he muttered.
"So what are you going to do?" Liz asked. "You can't turn around and say you changed your mind."
"No, no," Rodney said. "I was good. I was really good. He was totally psyched about the idea of being the front man for the cause by the time I'd finished spinning it for him. He's not going to back down." Rodney sighed. "I've created a monster."
"Well, you can't let it happen, Rodney!" Liz said. "You've got to do something."
"You keep telling anyone who'll listen that you can do anything," Carson said as he toyed with a sprig of mint. "Why don't you just give him a makeover?"
"Why don't I--? Carson! On rare occasions you absolutely earn your overly generous salary!" Rodney cried. "Of course! I'll make him over!"
"Wait a minute," Liz said doubtfully. "Exactly what are you proposing?"
"What he said--I'm proposing to turn The Flow into a polished, poised, respectable young man who will so impress those rich bastards they'll be falling over themselves to give us money for the cause."
"I'd be happy to help," Carson said eagerly.
"Yes, I suppose you would. Too bad; I might actually need you."
"Why 'too bad'?"
"Can you imagine Carson's accent and The Flow's in the same--. And the first thing I'm going to do is find out that boy's name," Rodney sighed. "I can't go into a board room and introduce the man with a name that makes him sound like a toilet."
"Be very careful, Rodney," Liz warned. "You're talking about messing with his personal image. You're--."
"It's just an image. It's just surface. He's like a diamond in the rough. I just want to polish him a little."
"I'd like to polish him a lot," Carson said. Rodney took his glass from him.
"No more for you."
"I've only had the one!"
"How are you going to convince him that it's just surface?" Liz continued. "Young men, and especially young men of color, place a lot of--."
"Spare me the pop-sociology lesson, Liz. I know what I'm doing. All I have to do is convince him that if he wants to rake in the big bucks from the corporate sector he's got to learn to walk the walk and talk the talk. P Diddy became Sean John and made a fortune selling hideous clothing. Why can't The Flow take a page out of his book and learn that style opens doors. Style gets you financing. Style makes people--."
"Save it for The Flow," Liz said, rising. "I'm afraid you'll be walking a very fine line. Be careful, Rodney. If you approach this the wrong way it could backfire very badly."
"Hey, have I ever--. Never mind. I'll be careful," Rodney said reassuringly. "But this is going to be huge! Carson, back to the office. Get John on the phone. I'm going to need to have him in on this."
"Why?" Liz asked.
"He's the one who got me into this stupid deal; he's promised to help."
"And how can he do that?" Carson asked.
"Just call him, will you?"
"What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to come to the office Wednesday and--."
"And what?" John said incredulously. "What do you expect me to do? Model for the kid?"
"He's twenty-five years old."
"I still don't want to--."
"Just come," Rodney said impatiently.
"What the hell for?"
"You got me into this mess, the least you could do is--."
"You told me to keep your sorry ass out of jail by any means necessary," John shot back. "I did what you asked."
"Yes, and I'm eternally grateful that I'm not currently the novelty plaything of some 260-pound loser named 'Tiny.' But I never told you to--."
"You signed the court papers! Try and back out now and you could still be Tiny's bitch by the weekend," John threatened.
"All right, all right! I'm doing the event. Just come. Please," Rodney said, resorting to pleading.
"Give me one good reason why I should be there," John demanded.
"Well, for one thing I need you to draw up a contract for his appearance. For another, I pay you a big fat retainer. Earn it!" He hung up the phone and called Carson.
"Yes, dear?" Carson said sarcastically, poking his head into the office.
"What's the name of that stylist we used last year when we had to make that has-been cow look presentable on that press tour last year?"
"Who are you calling a cow?"
"Just get him on the phone. I want him here to take a look at The Flow."
"He's relocated on the other coast!" Carson said. Rodney sighed.
"Well, find someone else, then. We need someone who can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."
"If you don't mind my saying so, The Flow's hardly a sow's ear."
"Of course, I mind you saying so. Now go find someone. I want him here when The Flow comes."
"When will that be?"
"You have to schedule that, too, don't you?"
"Right," Carson muttered as he left the room.
Three days later, Carson was chatting with the receptionist at the front desk when a large man dressed entirely in black entered the suite and imposed himself in front of the door. Carson straightened up and pasted on a smile.
"May I help you, sir?" he said pleasantly.
"McKay," Dex said crisply. The receptionist gulped and reached for the phone. Carson opened his mouth and shut it again, but before he could think of an appropriate response, the human mountain stepped aside and The Flow entered the suite along with Teyla and several other members of his entourage.
"Lighten up, yo," The Flow said, moving forward to speak to the receptionist. "Morning, sweet thing," he said smoothly. "How are you this fine morning?" He smiled seductively and the receptionist forgot about the call. Behind her, the door to Rodney's office flew open.
"Hello? Katie, have you gone deaf? I said--." Rodney paused and took in the scene for a second before yanking the phone out of Katie's hand. "Stop drooling and get us some coffee. You too," he said to Carson softly as he moved around the desk to greet his visitor. "Good morning!" He extended his hand to The Flow and as he had done previously, the musician tapped his fist on Rodney's hand.
"S'up, yo?" Rodney said blankly. He suppressed a shudder and turned to Teyla. "Good morning, good to see you again. Why don't you both come through to my office. You can, um... Who are all these people?"
"Dude, this is my crew," The Flow replied. "This is my bodyguard, Dex," he said, extending his palm to touch him on the chest. "These are my boys: Joey D, Petey, Jay-J; and this is my lawyer." Rodney mentally dismissed the others and focused on the attorney, who stepped forward and extended his hand.
"Gene Bates, pleased to meet you," he said as he watched Rodney make a fist and then quickly open it to shake his hand.
"The pleasure is mine," Rodney said, immediately wary of the man. "Won't you come in, as well," he said apprehensively. "The rest of your, uh, 'posse' can hang here."
"Why don't you wait downstairs?" Gene suggested, sensing Rodney's discomfort and seconding it. "There's no need for all of you to be here."
"We was just hanging out with our boy," Jay-J said.
"Well, your 'boy' s going to be busy a while," Gene replied in a tone that clearly indicated his disapproval. Jay-J looked at The Flow, who gestured with his head.
"Dex stays," he insisted.
"Fine," Rodney said. "He can stay out here. I'll vouch for the safety of my office." He turned and led the way inside. "I can't say the same for my receptionist," he muttered. John rose from his seat as Rodney's guests entered the room. His eyes instantly went to Teyla, but he forced them back to Rodney, who was making introductions. "I'd like you to meet my attorney, John Sheppard," he was saying. "John, this is Teyla Emmagan, Gene Bates and this is The--. What the hell is your real name? I'm not going to call you The Flow for the next two months. What kind of name is that?"
John was shaking Gene's hand when Rodney snapped. He quickly tried to smooth things over by turning to the young musician, ready to apologize, but to his surprise, the young man was amused rather than angry.
"Chill out, man, before you pop something! It's no big thing. If you don't want to call The Flow by his formal name, I can deal with 'F.'"
"F?" Rodney spat distastefully. The Flow laughed again and slid into a chair, casually throwing one leg over an arm. Teyla sat on the sofa nearest to him and John quickly claimed a spot beside her. Gene bristled but he sat in the chair opposite The Flow and waited for Rodney to join the group. "No seriously; you do have a name, right? I mean The Flow? What's 'The Flow'? Who calls himself 'The Flow'?"
"Me," the artist replied a bit defensively. "I do. What's your problem with it?"
"What's your problem with your real name?" Rodney shot back. Gene averted his eyes, but John noted that he was smiling. "Are you in the Witness Protection Program? Or were you always identified by the attributes of a body of water?"
"It's my street name."
"Yo, I didn't come here to be insulted," The Flow said, rising.
"No, you came here to talk business," Rodney said, rising and going toe to toe with him. "I don't know about you, but I only talk business with people who don't hide behind an alias." The Flow backed down a bit, smiling at Rodney, who found it distracting.
"Aiden Ford," the artist replied louder. "My name is Aiden Ford."
"Was that so hard?"
"That's a lovely name. It's a perfectly good name. It's even a classy name. I like it," Rodney said, resuming his seat. "Aiden. Aiden Ford." Aiden scowled and sat down.
"It's a bad name for my line of work, all right? It's got no flavor, no style, you know what I'm sayin'? When I started deejayin' back in the day I picked up 'The Flow' and it stuck, 'cause I was as smooth as--."
"Glimmerglass; I get it," Rodney said.
"Glimmerglass; it's a lake in Cooperstown, New York, reputed to be--. Never mind," Rodney said, shaking his head. "The Flow still sounds like backyard run-off." Gene covered his mouth in an effort not to laugh openly; Teyla suppressed a smile. John was slightly horrified.
"Rodney, I thought we were here to discuss the event," he said.
"We are! I just can't get past that stupid name. Oh, sorry," he said absently. "But it's so... so--."
"You think 'Rodney's' a cool name?" Aiden challenged.
"No! I think it's a horrid name, but at least it'll never be mis--."
"Rodney," John said warningly.
"Gentlemen, why don't we agree to disagree about the name?" Teyla said diplomatically. Aiden sat back and smiled enigmatically. Rodney sat back as well, but he couldn't relax. He started to speak but Katie interrupted with coffee. She took her time serving the group. Rodney opened his mouth to say something but John silenced him with a stern look.
"Would you like some coffee?" she asked Aiden, who smiled up at her.
"I don't do coffee, baby, that ain't my thing, but I'd like to see what gets you percolatin'."
"How about some tea or juice? Mr. M keeps a really good selection of both on hand."
"Nah, I'm good, sugar," Aiden said, with another disarming smile.
"Katie!" Rodney said sharply. She shot him a dirty look and left the room. "Perhaps we should get down to business."
"Yes," Gene said, sitting forward to pick up his cup. "Exactly what is it you want Aiden to do?"
Rodney noticed the ease with which he used the name and suspected that he would have an ally in his cause. He forged ahead with renewed confidence. He described the proposed event: a benefit concert at which The Flow would be the headliner, followed by a gala reception and silent auction.
"Aiden has agreed to appear with me at a meeting of potential funding sources next month. We've identified two foundations which are considering underwriting both Positive Youth and the concert fundraiser. I want Aiden to be front and center in the fundraising campaign. He will be the face of 'Positive Youth,'" Rodney said. Aiden beamed, but John and Gene exchanged a glance. "Of course, before then I'd like to have a stylist come in and make a few suggestions about his attire, comportment, etc. I'll write the presentation, and John here will--."
"Say what?" Aiden cried. Teyla placed a hand on his arm, but he shook it off. "What do you mean suggestions about my attire?" he said. "What's wrong with my style?"
"There's nothing wrong with your...style," Rodney managed. "But it's not quite appropriate for the boardroom of a major corporation."
"Are you outside your mind? I got more style in my left pinky than all y'all in this room," Aiden said angrily. "What are you going to tell me about style?"
"He's got a point, Aiden," Gene interrupted. "You can't go into a boardroom dressed like that."
"No, but I--."
"And you can't wear that hideous excuse for a suit you wore at the MTV awards," Rodney said rolling his eyes. "It's a board meeting, not a Halloween party."
"Rodney!" John said with a wince.
"Look, man! I said I'd help you pimp for the cash. I didn't say I'd get tarted up in one of those sorry-assed things you think look good!"
"F!" Teyla said calmly. Aiden sat back, but he was clearly angry. Rodney swallowed and looked at John.
"Aiden, listen to them. Here's a chance for you to move into a whole new venue and make things happen," Gene said earnestly. "You can do this. It's no big. All you have to do is walk the walk and talk the talk."
"You mean walk they walk and talk they talk. Nah, man, I ain't up for that. Y'all can fuck that shit. I'm out," Aiden declared, rising to his feet.
"And here I thought you wanted to help those kids," Rodney said mildly. Aiden looked at him sharply and saw the challenge in his eyes. "Are you backing out?"
"That's exactly what you're doing," Gene said sternly. Rodney observed the two men and saw Aiden's defiance crumble. Gene stared at Aiden until he sat down again. Rodney was intrigued but he pushed his curiosity aside and focused on the matter at hand.
"Look, with my connections in the media world this event could be huge for you. It's the right kind of exposure," Rodney insisted. "You'd not only help thousands of kids, but you'd get your name out there in the community and impress their parents."
"I don't care if no parents want--."
"Those parents buy your music," John said. "Those parents will contribute thousands of dollars to your cause."
"...If they see a polished, young role model for their kids," Rodney added. "You can't expect them to open their wallets to someone they see as being a negative influence."
"I ain't no negative influence!" Aiden shouted.
"Aiden, listen to the man," Gene said. "You know he's talking sense. You and I have talked about this before--where you want to take your music, how you want to inspire creativity in young people--here's your chance to do that! Put your money where your mouth is!"
"I'm willing to put my money out there, but he wants me to dress up like a banker and talk all that shit to those old fools just to bring in a buncha dead presidents. That ain't my thing."
"It's not my thing, either, really," Rodney admitted. "I hate those people as much as you do. They have more to do with what's wrong with this country than anything you'll ever be accused of. But here's the thing," he said sitting forward. "You can go and sweet talk those old fools out of their money and use it to make a difference. Who knows? One of the kids who benefits from Positive Youth might end up being a CEO one day, or a senator or a community activist who could change the world. You'd like to be able to take credit for playing a part in that, wouldn't you?"
"Nah, I ain't interested in stealing some kid's props. If they make it, it's their own achievement. You know what I'm saying?"
"Yeah, but without you, it doesn't happen." Rodney smiled and waited for Aiden to mull over his words. After a moment, Aiden nodded and Rodney knew he won. As tempted as he was to gloat, one look from John silenced him and he settled for smirking behind his coffee mug.
"All right, man. I'll play your game," Aiden said with a glance at Gene, who smiled like a proud father.
"Excellent!" Rodney said, leaping out of his seat. He went to his desk and buzzed Carson. "Where's Peter?"
"He just called. He's stuck in traffic."
"Damn! How far away is he?"
"He said maybe another half hour."
"Well, I'll probably have to reschedule."
"Shall I tell him not to bother?"
"No, Carson; we still need to talk, but I'll have to make an appointment for us to start working on Aiden. Send him in as soon as he gets here."
"Will do." Carson hung up the phone. "Who's Aiden?"
"He's beautiful," Peter Grodin said as he stared at Aiden's head shot. "I'm sorry I missed the meeting. I've been wanting to get my hands on him from the first moment I saw him."
"I know the feeling," Carson said wistfully. Rodney shot him a sour look.
"Could you two pretend you're here in your professional capacity, just for a little while?" he said tartly.
"I was speaking professionally. Here's this young, gorgeous thing who'd look stunning in a Hugo Boss suit or something by Prada and he runs around looking like he sleeps in his father's clothes. And that hat! It takes so much away from his face...it's a bloody crime...." Peter trailed off and began to stare again. Rodney rolled his eyes.
"Okay, you get started on his attire. Liz, you'll take care of the press kit?"
"I'm already on it."
"I'll take care of the rest of him," he said. Carson frowned. "What?" Rodney asked exasperatedly.
"What will I do?" Carson asked hopefully.
"You'll sit quietly and try not to touch yourself while Aiden's in the room," Rodney said as he rose and walked out of Liz's office. Carson sat there, his mouth hanging open. Peter was equally shocked. Liz rose and followed Rodney.
"I'd forgotten how much of a prick he was," he said.
"You're lucky you were able to forget," Carson sighed.
"Rodney, why must you always be such a bastard?" Liz said when she caught up with him in his office.
"Jealous, Liz?" Rodney replied as he picked up and thumbed through a textbook. Liz opened her mouth and shut it again.
"No, I'm not jealous," she said finally. "Don't you think you were unnecessarily cruel to Carson?"
"Don't be ridiculous," he replied mildly. "Of course not."
"Well, one of these days you're going to go too far and you'll lose him."
"Carson? He's not going anywhere."
"I wouldn't be too sure." Liz turned on her heel and headed for the door. She paused to issue a warning. "Don't be surprised if he decides to leave. And if he does, I'll be giving him a glowing reference."
Rodney stared at the door for a minute after she left, but shook off her comments and returned to perusing the book. He made a few notations on a pad and buzzed Carson's office. There was no answer and after a moment, Rodney looked up. He dropped the book and raced out of his office, skidding to a halt when he saw Carson speaking to one of the event staff.
"Carson! Get your ass in here," he said before returning to his office. He went back inside and paused for a second, his hand on his chest, dropping it and pasting on a scowl when he heard Carson's footsteps. "Where the hell have you been?"
"Missed me, did you?"
Rodney averted his eyes and walked around to his desk. He gathered up the notes and textbook and began to issue instructions. When Carson left he sat back and closed his eyes. Perhaps it was possible to go too far.
"Now, when Aiden gets here--."
"I'll be at lunch," Carson said.
"You can't be at lunch! You're needed here," Rodney replied.
"Why?" Carson asked flatly.
"Oh, still sulking are you? Well, stop; it's tedious and you look like a depressed Bassett hound."
"Look, you've made it perfectly clear that you don't--. You don't--."
"I don't what?" Rodney frowned. But Carson's attention was drawn to the door.
"You've got company," he said. He walked away as soon as Rodney turned to greet the new arrival.
"Aiden! Welcome!" Rodney said happily. He extended a hand, but Aiden had both of his buried deep into his low slung pockets.
"How they hanging," he said softly. He looked less than thrilled to be there.
"Hello, Rodney," Teyla said, extending a hand. Rodney gratefully accepted it and gestured for them to precede him into his office.
"Come in, come in," Rodney said, as he signaled to Carson to do something. Carson had no idea what, so he followed Rodney to the door. "Get Peter in here. He was with Liz last time I saw him."
"Right," Carson said. When he returned with Peter few minutes later, Rodney and Aiden were in the midst of an argument.
"I ain't here to do no homework! I'm outta school, yo!"
"So you're backing out...again," Rodney deadpanned. "How utterly predictable. Look; we've already been through this. You agreed to it at our last meeting."
"I didn't agree to do no homework!" Aiden spat indignantly.
"Well, if you didn't speak like a high school dropout, I wouldn't be assigning any. So here's the drill; you brush up on what is ostensibly your native tongue and come in here speaking something that passes for English and your studying days will be over." Rodney thrust a stack of books at Aiden, who begrudgingly took them.
"You know, I don't need this BS, man."
"Here we go again. Go on, get it off your chest," Rodney sighed. "While you bitch, Peter here is going to take some measurements."
"Say what?" Aiden said, flinching as Peter grabbed him by the shoulders. "Who are you, fool?"
"This is Peter Grodin, stylist extraordinaire. Peter Grodin, meet The Flow, henceforth to be spoken of only as Aiden Ford. Aiden, let Peter take your measurements."
"This is bogus. I got clothes."
"We've been through this," Rodney said, rolling his eyes.
"Well, you didn't listen the first time I said it," Aiden replied.
"Shall we take a ride over to your place and inventory your business suits?"
Aiden huffed and backed down. Rodney smiled and sat down. Peter pulled off Aiden's hat and tossed it onto the desk.
"Hey!" Aiden cried as Peter cupped his face.
"You need to shave," Peter said critically. "You should be clean-shaven to accentuate your best feature."
"What's that?" Teyla and Rodney said in unison.
"Look at that mouth" Peter said, turning Aiden's chin toward the two of them. Aiden slapped his hand away. "We'll leave the sideburns. They're sexy and frame his face nicely."
"I agree," Teyla said, smiling. Aiden gave her a meaningful look, but she just sat back and crossed her legs. "So what do you intend to do with his wardrobe?"
"You too? What, all of a sudden I ain't good enough for you, neither?" Aiden pouted.
"His mouth is very hot," Rodney said admiringly. Aiden glared at him. Rodney was tempted to say more, but he held his tongue.
"I'm just curious as to what Peter has got planned for you," Teyla said.
"Oh, I've got a few ideas," Peter said eagerly. "In fact, I brought in a few things I'd like to see him in, but I'd like to take him shopping. We're going to have to have him fitted for everything, anyway."
"Just have some stuff sent over. We can bring in a tailor for the fittings later," Rodney said.
"I'd rather take him shopping," Peter said. "It'd give me a larger selection to choose from, and I might find something out there I didn't see initially."
"He's a man, not a mannequin, Peter. We only need a couple of outfits. Two business suits, a few shirts and maybe one business casual outfit."
"And who's paying for all this?" Aiden asked. "I ain't paying for this."
"We've already got a vendor who's willing to provide one of the suits for free," Peter replied. "He's a big fan of yours and in return for a--." Rodney nodded and waved him into silence.
"I'll pay for the rest," he said impatiently.
"Why?" Aiden demanded.
"Because you're a cheapskate," Rodney said, rising. "Or you can consider it an early birthday present, whichever you prefer. Can we get him some more subtle jewelry to replace those gold hoops, say tasteful little diamond studs?"
"You gonna buy me those, too?" Aiden said challengingly. Rodney walked around him, eying him appraisingly.
"He's already got a pair," Teyla said, with a glance up at Aiden, who smiled impishly and shrugged.
"What did you bring?" Rodney asked as he observed the exchange between the two of them and idly wondered if there was more to their relationship than business.
"Oh, I've got a few things," Peter said, turning to a garment bag that was hanging on the rack behind him. This is a fabulous jacket that would look--."
"I ain't wearing that," Aiden snapped. "That's gay!" Peter recoiled as if struck, clutching the black velvet jacket to his chest.
"Insecure about your manhood, Aiden?" Rodney teased.
"Hey, my manhood is undeniable!"
"I just bet it is," Rodney said as he leaned against the desk. "What else did you bring, Peter?"
"How about this?" he said less enthusiastically. He pulled out a deep grey suit and held it up.
"Now you're talking," Aiden said, reaching out to stroke the lapel. "Now this has flavor."
"Would you care to try it on?" Peter asked. He took the jacket off the hanger and held it up.
"No! Not over that," Rodney said, gesturing at Aiden's wildly colored tee shirt. "That would be an abomination. Have you got a shirt he can try it on with?"
"I brought a few, yes." Peter produced a green silk shirt. "How about this one? This acid green is cutting edge."
Rodney was less than enamored with it, but when Aiden pulled off his shirt to try it on, he was pleasantly distracted. Aiden's torso was lean and muscular and Rodney couldn't help following the line of fine hairs that began at his chest down to his navel, which was pierced and adorned with a golden ring, clearly visible above Aiden's low-slung jeans. Rodney let his eyes linger at Aiden's navel, which was suddenly obscured by green silk. He quickly looked up and met Aiden's eyes. Aiden held his gaze as he slowly buttoned the shirt.
"Here," Peter said, holding up the jacket once more. Aiden slid his arms into it and smiled at Rodney as Peter fussed over him, tugging the jacket into place and undoing a shirt button. Rodney slapped his hands away.
"Stop pawing him and let me look," he demanded. Aiden grinned at him boldly and Rodney couldn't meet his eyes.
"You look terrific, F," Teyla said.
"I know I make this look good," Aiden replied. "The Flow makes everything look better."
"Oh, please!" Rodney felt compelled to say, although he had little doubt that Aiden was right.
"You should wear it just like that," Peter concluded. "Don't tuck the shirt in; don't do the cuff. Very edgy, very modern--."
"...Very likely to end up in his soup," Rodney said rolling his eyes. "I hate the shirt. Get something else. He needs jewel tones. Something rich: deep plum, cobalt blue, pine green--."
"Are you a stylist now?" Peter replied.
"I know what looks good!" Rodney shot back.
"I like this green," Aiden said. Rodney turned and met his gaze. This time, Aiden didn't let him escape and it took every ounce of his will to look away again.
"All right, keep the shirt. Just don't wear it in my sight," Rodney said.
He went back to his seat feeling completely exposed. Rodney was screwed unless he kept his focus. But it wasn't going to be easy; Aiden was well aware of his attraction and Rodney suspected that he wouldn't be averse to using that knowledge to his own benefit.
On to Part 2