Category: First time
Summary: Brains versus brawn; winner takes all.
John put a bowl of Athosian yogurt on his tray along with a muffin and a cup of coffee and carried it over to a table where Elizabeth and Carson were engaged in conversation.
"You call that a decent lunch?" Carson said as he slid into a seat beside Elizabeth. From long habit, John ignored the question.
"What's the latest scuttlebutt?" he asked instead.
"We think Steel Jaw has finally been claimed," she said. "Carson was just saying that his nurse—Brenda, is it? She seems to have finally got her hooks into him."
"I thought he was holding out for Pocahontas," John frowned.
"He was, but she seemed to be more interested in you," Elizabeth replied.
"In me? No, no, you've got that wrong. She's hot on The Babe. Everyone in Atlantis is hot on The Babe."
"Not everyone, John," Carson said softly. John glanced at him, but Carson was staring intently at his toast.
"Anyway, you snooze you lose," Elizabeth said." Brenda's been doing a hard sell and Steel Jaw seems to be ready to buy. I think they're kind of cute together."
"You think everyone is cute together, Liz," John said. "A soldier and a nurse; how clichéd is that?"
"I doubt that Bates is thinking about clichés," Carson opined. "A man has needs--he can't wait indefinitely for the object of his affection to come round." Carson sighed and shrugged before rising to refill his coffee cup. John frowned as he watched him go and Elizabeth sighed empathetically.
"What's eating him?" John asked.
Elizabeth was torn between giving him an honest answer and simply thumping him on the head. But Carson turned back toward the table, preventing her from exercising either option. Carson reclaimed his seat with a smile that suggested he was past whatever funk had momentarily claimed him.
"So how are things with your pair of lovebirds, John?" Elizabeth asked. John broke into a grin.
"It's official--well, as official as a clandestine relationship could be. They outed themselves today."
"How's that again?" Carson prompted. John set down his cup.
"Well, The Babe was apparently a little under the weather; at least Rodney thought so. He kept asking him if he was sure he should be in the field, or if he had a headache or anything. The Babe clearly tried to shut him up, but Rodney was so blatantly implying that The Babe was unfit for duty I had to call him on it."
"I saw him this morning," Carson said. "He said he had a bit of headache but he checked out fine."
"And that's what he told me. Apparently, he'd neglected to tell his lover about his little visit to the infirmary and Rodney was royally pissed. They walked off arguing, as usual," John said with a roll of his eyes. "That's when Pocahontas pulled me over and asked if I'd noticed anything unusual about those two."
"You must have had quite a list," Elizabeth said with a laugh.
"Nah, I didn't think I should be the one to expose them so I played dumb," John admitted, earning a weary look from Carson. "What?" Carson just shook his head.
"Well, you know how forthright and honest she is. She walked right over and confronted them point blank."
"What did she say?" Carson asked before Elizabeth could get the words out. John sat back, stirring his yogurt with the tip of his spoon and smiled as he recalled the conversation that had taken place earlier that day.
"Something has changed in the nature of your relationship," Teyla said as she reached Rodney and Aiden. They stopped and turned to stare at her. "Although the two of you continue to squabble as before there appears to be a softening of your attitudes toward each other."
"What do you mean?" Aiden said easily. "The doc and I have always been friends."
"Your behavior is one of two people who have great affection for one another," Teyla persisted.
"Well," Rodney said hesitantly, "we've become... better friends. Aiden... Lieutenant Ford and I have been working out together. I've been trying to improve my physical skills for the team's sake and he's been kind enough to help me. We've been spending a great deal of time together--not that spending a lot of time together is a big deal..."
"What the doc is trying to say is that as a result of being around each other so much, we've become better friends," Aiden said with a warning look at Rodney.
"And when did you become lovers?" John blurted before he could stop himself. Aiden's eyes became as large as saucers. "Did I say that out loud?"
"You have become lovers?" Teyla asked, turning to Rodney. Aiden sighed. He knew Rodney would not be able to withstand her piercing gaze.
"Yes, Teyla, we're lovers," Aiden said. No point in lying, when Rodney's body language had already spilled the beans.
"I see," she said, turning her gaze on him. "In that case, Dr. McKay was right to be upset. You should have told him of your injury."
"He's the one who kicked me in the head!" Aiden declared, relieved that she was focused on the here and now, rather than her past attempts to pursue him.
"This is how you treat the man who shares your bed?" Teyla spat at Rodney. John folded his arms and observed them with a smile. This would make a great story to share with his gossip crew.
"Oh, for crying out loud, Teyla!" Rodney said. "It was an accident!"
"Yes, it was," Aiden said, with an affectionate smile and a pat on the shoulder for his lover. "And he was very apologetic."
"There's nothing better than make-up sex," John volunteered. "So how long have you two been together?" Aiden and Rodney exchanged a glance before Rodney attempted an answer.
"We... developed a more intimate relationship over the course of our training sessions."
"I have seen the changes your training has wrought," Teyla said appreciatively, "both physically and temperamentally. They are both to your betterment, Dr. McKay."
"Why thank you, Teyla," Rodney replied with unaccustomed modesty.
"I don't see any changes in you, physically or temperamentally, Ford," John said, "except... is that a hickey on your--?" Aiden slapped John's hand away as he tried to peel back Aiden's collar.
"Please tell me you're okay with this, sir," Aiden said as he wrestled with John's inquisitive hand. "We both know you and Dr. Weir suspected, but since neither of you has said anything..."
"Relax, Ford, it's fine. Liz and I have a 'live and let live' attitude toward this sort of thing. I just want to know when this all began."
"Why?" Rodney and Aiden asked in unison.
"I've got a bet with Liz," John said with a shrug. The two lovers rolled their eyes.
"What's your bet?" Aiden asked.
"You lose," Rodney said gleefully. "Now, if you don't mind, this is supposed to be a research mission--."
"Wait a minute!" John said, grabbing his arm. "What's the right answer? Just tell me it's not three weeks."
"It's not three weeks," Aiden and Rodney said, again in unison.
"Do you think that sleeping together makes them do that?" John asked.
"So how long has it been?" Elizabeth demanded.
"They wouldn't say," he pouted.
"Well, based on what you've said about them, things apparently began the first time they were alone together," Carson concluded.
"Their first workout session?" she asked.
"You're telling me that The Babe took one look at Rodney's tubby white ass and said 'I gotta get me some of that'? I find that hard to believe," John said.
"What I actually meant was before they began to work out together," Carson explained. "Why else would Rodney ask The Babe to train him in the first place? Why would The Babe agree to it?"
"That day in the vaults!" John said. "Damn!"
"They were down there a long time," Elizabeth agreed.
"But they went in arguing and came out...not so much. How the hell did Rodney pull that off?"
"Who's to say he started it, John?"
"Come on, Liz; can you see The Babe carrying a hard-on for the geek?"
"I agree with John," Carson weighed in. "It was more than likely our Rodney who made the first move."
"It must have been some move," Elizabeth said, shaking her head. She looked up. "I mean... he landed The Babe! That's like getting the Holy Grail in your box of Cracker Jacks! What does Rodney have that the rest of Atlantis apparently doesn't?"
"Well, he's got The Babe, for one thing," John teased, earning himself an elbow from Elizabeth.
"I'd dearly like to know what he used to snare the lad myself. I could add it to my repertoire," Carson sighed.
"And who are you carrying a torch for?" John inquired. Carson drained his cup and rose.
"You're the last two I'd ever tell. You're nothing more than a pair of old gossips." He turned and left without another word.
"Who, us?" John asked. Elizabeth rose and stared at John for a moment. "What?"
"Clueless bastard," she said before she thumped him on the head with her mug and stormed away.
"Ouch! What's that for?"
Carson was busy reading over a medical chart when he was summoned to the examination area. He walked over and found John sitting on an exam table.
"Doc, would you take a look at this?"
John moved his fingers from the spot on his head he was rubbing and Carson examined it closely.
"What am I looking for, major?"
"You're looking for an injury. Liz hit me!"
"With what, a feather? There's not a mark on you, John."
"Well, it hurts."
"I cannot see pain, man," the doctor said as he stepped back. "Why did she hit you?"
"I was hoping you could answer that."
"Me? Why me?
"Because she called me a clueless bastard and I think she was referring to you."
"Why would she be referring to me when calling you a clueless bastard?"
"...And she hit me. Hard!"
"Not hard enough, apparently," Carson said. "Not hard enough to leave evidence, anyway," he explained when John looked up sharply.
"I think she was trying to tell me something," John said with a critical look at Carson, who picked up his clipboard as an excuse to avert his eyes. "I guess she thought I should already know who you've got a crush on."
"But you don't, do you?" Carson replied, frustration now plainly evident in his eyes. "Well, you are a clueless bastard, then." He turned and walked away from John for the second time that day. John watched him leave, completely confused.
"I wish people would stop doing that."
"Maybe they would--if you weren't such a clueless bastard," Brenda said softly as she passed by him. John grabbed her arm to halt her progress.
"Brenda; give me a hand here," he said desperately. "If there's something I ought to know--."
"Major?" she said feigning ignorance and praying he hadn't heard her comment.
"Bren," he said as he steered her toward a quiet corner. "I gave you a hand with Bates; now it's time for you to return the favor."
Sometime later, John found Aiden sitting in the lounge with a few Marines.
"Ford? Got a minute?"
"Yes, sir," Aiden replied as he rose and moved to follow his commanding officer. John led him out onto a deck where they could speak privately. "What's up, sir?"
"Drop the sir. This is off the record," John said as he stared out over the water. He appeared to be struggling for words and Aiden looked at him suspiciously.
"If you're going to ask about--."
"No, no; this is about me," John assured him. He abruptly turned to peer at Aiden. "But I've got to ask--."
"No, you don't," Aiden said. "And I don't have to tell."
"All right," John sighed, "but this is kind of related. I want to know how to woo a guy."
"No wonder you've got a 'live and let live' attitude. Why are you asking me?"
"Well, you got one," John reasoned.
"I didn't woo him."
"Ah. So he made the first move. I kind of figured that."
"He didn't woo me, either."
"What did he do?"
"I am not going to answer that."
"Ford! I don't need specifics, I just--."
"Look, it just happened," Aiden explained. "One minute we were at each other's throats, the next we were at each other."
"You and The--? Rodney?" John said skeptically. Aiden shrugged.
"Spontaneous combustion, I guess," he replied with a smile that John would never have associated with his second in command.
"So who's the guy?" Aiden asked, dropping the lustful grin and turning to John.
"What if we aren't boiling over with unresolved sexual tension? Then what?"
"Rodney and I weren't--." Aiden abruptly shut his mouth. "Well, you apparently are."
"Actually, he is; I just boarded the clue bus and want to help things along. What should I do?"
"John, my relationship with Rodney hardly qualifies me to give advice about other people's love lives--even if I was interested," Aiden added as he squinted at him.
"About a hundred people on this base would beg to differ. The fact that you could see past Rodney's pompous, overbearing, superior--."
"Hey!" Aiden cried.
"Sorry," John aid wryly. "I guess I shouldn't bad-mouth your boyfriend."
"He's not--." Aiden sighed and smiled. "I don't exactly look past those things, either. I'm always calling him on them."
"Well, you went the extra mile to find the nice guy underneath the abrasive exterior," John said.
"Yeah, well so have you and Teyla. We all know what a great guy he is."
"Yeah, but we aren't sleeping with him. I still can't believe I never saw it coming."
"Neither did we," Aiden admitted. "But I thought we were supposed to be discussing your love life."
"So you're interested in this guy..."
"...And you only recently came to realize that he's interested in you..."
"That's about the size of it."
"They let you fly helicopters with that blind spot?" Aiden asked impertinently. "Doctor Beckett's been hot for you since the first time he laid eyes on you way back in Antarctica!"
"You knew about that?"
"You'd be surprised what I know, like the fact that you guys refer to me as the "babe magnet" behind my back."
"We do not!" John said too hastily. Aiden just glared at him. "We call you 'The Babe'--just 'The Babe.'"
"Because it's such a perfect moniker!" John argued. "You're both 'a' babe and 'the' babe around here." Aiden rolled his eyes.
"So just because I'm the youngest--."
"And you ranked as one of the top three hottest hunks in Atlantis--."
"What?" Aiden sputtered. "Wait; who are the other two?"
"Me and that Korean guy in life sciences. There was a three-way tie at the top because I voted for you."
"Who else voted?" Aiden asked curiously.
"Look, can we get back to my problem?" John snapped.
"Where did Rodney rank?"
"Not that high. He got great marks for looks, but he was totally screwed in the congeniality vote."
Aiden stared at him, unsure whether or not John was kidding.
"My life? Please?"
"So you're interested in Dr. Beckett," Aiden said as he tried to focus on the matter at hand. "Have you tried just talking to him?"
"The last time I tried talking to him he called me a clueless bastard and walked away," John sighed. Aiden found his revelation hilarious. "Laugh it up, lieutenant. Just because you're getting some--."
"That would be funny even if I was in the middle of a six month dry spell."
"Have you ever even had a dry spell?" John said with a slight wince. Aiden sobered and smiled sympathetically.
"John," he said seriously, "you've got to go back and talk to him. Don't ask me what to say; I don't know. But you need to give him a sign that you're interested. You are interested, aren't you?"
"Yeah," John said tentatively.
"Are you sure? I mean this isn't just a matter of you feeling left out and--."
"Hey, I'm a lonely guy, he's a lonely guy--we could be lonely together. What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing, I guess, but--." Aiden bit his lip and thought for a moment. "I kind of felt that way at the beginning, too. Neither Rodney nor I had anything else going on; we could have fun together. But I grossly underestimated what I was getting myself into."
"How serious are you two?" John asked bluntly.
"Well, I wouldn't call things serious," Aiden replied, "but what we have is important. Yeah, that's a good word for it--important."
"What does that mean, exactly?"
"I don't think either of us is ready to answer that question just yet," Aiden replied. John sighed at the evasion, but on second thought, he understood. "I think you're important to Dr. B."
"So I'd better not fuck this up." John nodded.
Rodney was staring at his computer screen when John entered his lab. He responded, as usual, without looking up.
"What do you want, major?"
"Do you snap at Ford like that when he comes to visit?" John shot back. Rodney turned around to confront the smirking interloper.
"So that's why you're here, to pry into my personal affairs?"
"No, actually, I came to ask for your help with a personal matter," John admitted as he ventured further into the room. Rodney was slightly taken aback by his admission, but he quickly recovered and turned fully around to listen.
"All right; what's up?"
"First, answer my question," John said, his smirk returning in full force.
"You have yet to ask me a question, major!" Rodney said exasperatedly.
"I just asked if you snapped at Ford when he comes to visit you here."
"He doesn't visit me here," Rodney sighed. "He's got better things to do than bug me when I'm trying to do my work. You might learn something from the man. And no, I don't visit him while he's inspecting latrines or counting bullets or whatever you military officers do when you're not out trying to shoot things."
"You know, I would have thought that getting some would mellow you out," John said as he winced at Rodney's testy response.
"You were mistaken. I'm still very much myself, thank you. Now--."
"Being with Ford hasn't improved your temper at all?" John asked incredulously.
"You spend more time with him than I do. Has it improved yours any?" Rodney shot back.
"Kinda... no; but then I'm not sleeping with him."
"No! I've got my own fish to fry; that's why I'm here."
"Thus we arrive at the point. And look, we haven't even reached the three minute mark. Too bad we aren't back in the Milky Way Galaxy; I'd put in a call to the Guinness Brothers."
"Have a seat, major," Rodney said with a wry smile that told John that Rodney was intentionally winding him up. He wondered at it as he found an empty stool and sat down. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, there's someone on base who's kind of interested in me. I need some advice on how to let him know I'm interested in him."
"For Pete's sake, you're not a five year old, John! Just go down to the infirmary and talk to him!" Rodney said as he turned back to his monitor.
"You know about Carson, too?"
"Right," John sighed.
"What?" Rodney turned around to face him again.
"I can't just go down there and say 'hi, I'm available if you want me.'"
"I wouldn't recommend that, no."
"So what do I say?"
"This is utterly fascinating," Rodney said. "You, the one man on base with an answer for everything, tongue-tied."
"How did you tell Ford you were interested?" John asked, forcing back the temptation to respond to his taunt.
"I didn't. I wasn't interested, actually," Rodney said with an amused look. "I mean I'd never considered the possibility until it presented itself."
"Then I took advantage; genius, remember?"
"But how did you--? I mean you must have let him know you were interested.... somehow." John knew he'd triggered a memory from the distracted expression on Rodney's face.
"Oh, I certainly did," Rodney said with a wry smile.
"Before you even think of repeating this conversation to another living soul remember that I'm on intimate terms with a Marine who not only blows up things for a living, but knows a few dozen ways to kill with his bare hands." Rodney leaned forward, encroaching into John's personal space. "He's even taught me a few of them."
John swallowed involuntarily. Rodney sat back and smiled.
"Maybe you're right--my relationship with Aiden is changing me," he mused. John rolled his eyes.
"No, you're just as obnoxious as you've always been," John quipped, "except now you've got back-up. So?"
"I licked him."
"I licked him," Rodney repeated with a shrug. "It totally caught him off guard, shot straight to his groin and caused a small cataclysmic reaction that I was very fortunate to be the recipient of."
"You licked him," John deadpanned. "Where?"
"Down in the vaults that day."
"I knew that," John said. "I mean where did you lick him?"
Rodney turned away.
"Where would you lick Aiden to achieve the best reaction? Not that I'm advocating it, mind you."
"Yeah, I know, I know," John said with a frown. He was seeing a completely different side of Rodney and was high amused. "You're giddy!" he concluded.
"Am not," Rodney spat back. "I'm just... sated."
"Say no more," John said as he rose to his feet. He took a few steps toward the door. "Assuming that licking Carson--anywhere--is out of the question, have you any idea what I should say to him?"
"I'd start by telling him that you're interested in him--assuming you are," Rodney suggested. "Tell him what you want."
"Is that what you and Aiden do, sit around and talk about relationship stuff?" John asked curiously. Rodney's response was a laugh that told John more than what he wanted to know about how Aiden and Rodney spent their time. "Just one more question, Rodney."
"You are actually working out with him, aren't you?"
"Hey, I've lost ten pounds, improved my lean body weight to fat ratio and--."
"...Learned how to kill," John said with a grin. "Yeah, you told me. Thanks, Rodney." He left the lab shaking his head.
"You wanted to see me, doctor?" Aiden asked as he entered the infirmary. Carson led him to his office, out of earshot of potential eavesdroppers.
"Dawson was just in here again," he said, "and that makes the third time in less than a month."
"Maybe the guy's accident prone," Aiden shrugged.
"Perhaps, but if you ask me, I'd say he's probably just bone idle. His first injury was genuine--a stomach virus that put him out of commission for a week--but since then he's come in with a mysterious back pain and now he's claiming to have recurring headaches. A man in his physical condition rarely has reason to seek medical attention once a month much less three times, especially if he hasn't seen any live combat."
"So you think he's a slacker."
"Aye, that's my conclusion. I've given him the requisite tests on our equipment and the Ancients' diagnostic machines and there's no sign of anything to justify his claim. He's got no history of migraines or any signs of other conditions that would predispose him to headaches. I'm formally recommending that Dawson be put under observation to determine whether or not his claims are sincere."
"You should be making your request to his supervisor."
"Well, I brought this to Sergeant Bates' attention; he said it would have to go above his head."
"And that would be Major Sheppard."
"Dawson answers to you, doesn't he?"
"Of course," Aiden replied. "He answers to everyone of a higher rank, technically, but Major Sheppard is in command of Atlantis military forces and any disciplinary action falls under his purview."
"I see," Carson said, not meeting Aiden's eyes.
"If you write up your request I'll forward it to him," Aiden said helpfully. Carson flashed him a brief, grateful look and promised to get the report to him by the end of the day. Aiden left the infirmary and headed for the dining hall, where he saw Rodney sitting with several scientists. He smiled and gave him a nod before continuing to the counter. After getting his food he joined Teyla at a table.
"Why do you not sit with Dr. McKay?" she asked in her usual plainspoken manner.
"He's sitting with his scientist friends," Aiden said with a shrug.
"You are his friend as well."
"And so are you," Aiden countered. "So what?"
"Should you not spend your free time with your--."
"Teyla, not everyone knows we're together and we'd prefer to keep it that way."
"Are you ashamed of your feelings for each other?"
"No, that's not it," Aiden said uneasily. "It's just that we'd prefer to keep our relationship private for now."
"Besides," Aiden smiled, "they'll be talking about geeky science stuff and I wouldn't understand a word of whatever they were talking about."
Over at Rodney's table, another conversation was taking place.
"Why didn't you ask him to join us, Rodney?" Radek Zelenka asked.
"Yeah, he'd certainly pretty up the table," Sandra Levin sighed.
"Thanks a lot," Rodney said sarcastically, but inwardly he gloated.
"Yes, thank you," Peter Grodin said. "We like being told our looks are inferior to those of a baby-faced Marine."
"Your looks are inferior to his," Sandra replied bluntly.
"I'm well aware of that, but do we need to be confronted with evidence up close?" Peter quipped.
"I, for one, enjoy examining the evidence up close," Radek said, pushing up his glasses to peek at Aiden across the room. "Invite him over." Rodney glared at him.
"Oh, please don't," another scientist said. "The last thing we need is a Neanderthal grunt at our table." Rodney turned his glare on the man sitting across from him.
"I'm with you, Radek," Sandra said with a wink. "I'd enjoy having lunch with the Neanderthal grunt, even if I am old enough to be his mother." She picked up her tray and said goodbye. Rodney also picked up his tray and rose.
"Where are you going?" Peter asked.
"I'd going to have lunch with my team," he said. "They're refreshingly open-minded and tolerant. They might even allow one of you at their table." Radek quickly joined him. "Where do you think you're going?"
"With you," he said plainly. "I, too, was offended by Sergei's remark." Rodney rolled his eyes but he allowed Radek to accompany him to Teyla and Aiden's table.
"Is this a private party or may we join you?" he asked. Teyla and Aiden looked up. Not waiting for a response, Radek claimed the seat beside Aiden.
"Sure," he said affably. "Hey, Dr. Z."
"Hey yourself. Would you pass the sugar, please?"
Rodney bristled as Radek flirted with his lover. Teyla smiled and patted his arm to soothe his ruffled feathers. After about five minutes, however, he'd seen enough.
"Don't you have some analyses to run?" Rodney asked Radek bluntly.
"No; I ran the data before we broke for lunch, remember?"
"Well, then, you'll want to go check on your results," Rodney suggested.
"I would rather sit here and enjoy my coffee a few minutes longer," Radek said with a smile for Aiden as he sat back and stretched out his legs. Rodney looked fit to burst. Aiden smiled at him and was about to speak when he saw John approaching with a tray. He rose and grabbed an extra chair, deliberately placing it between Radek's seat and his own.
"Sir," Aiden said crisply as he resumed his seat.
"Thanks," John said. "Hey Zelenka; you thinking of joining our team?"
"That depends," Radek drawled. "Would I get the same special treatment as Dr. McKay?" he asked with a hopeful look at Aiden.
"No," Rodney said flatly, echoed by John. Aiden simply smiled and shook his head.
"No offense, doc, but I don't think you're up to it," he said.
"Oh, you have no idea what he's up for," Rodney muttered as he spied Carson searching for a seat in the crowded room. "Carson!" he called. He flicked a glance at John, who blanched. Carson started over to the table, but froze when he saw John among the group.
"You may have my seat Dr. Beckett," Teyla said as she rose. "I am off to a meeting with Dr. Weir about supplies for the village."
John looked up and met Carson's eyes. Both men were trapped.