Pairing: McKay/Sheppard preslash
Warning: Bad language
Summary: John's team (and the rest of Atlantis) have their own opinions about the Lemon Incident.
The first John hears of it doesn't involve his hearing at all. Instead, it's his sight that tips him off. As he enters the mess, He sees it happening in how the crowd "ripples" out from where he's standing in the doorway -- a wave of heads turning, of some conversations stopping altogether and new conversations starting up.
He's not sure what it's about. In the Pegasus Galaxy, there are many choices when it comes to what people gossip about. The innocuous ones are usually wrong. For instance, it could be wild speculation about who he's sleeping with (no one, sadly, which makes the topic harmless). He can tell it isn't that though, as the people don't have wild speculation faces on. And secondly, betting on wild speculation over, say, Wraith attack, will lose you everything you have and your spare black t-shirt.
However, aside from the extra space given him as he walks in and picks up a tray (his first instinct, given that he can't shoot anyone here, was to flee, but then he'd never find out what's going on), no one approaches him until after he's sat down. Then it's Lorne.
An action that should seem reasonable, as Lorne is his second in command, but just sends John into a higher stage of alert. Lorne doesn't socialize with him. That's left to his team. Lorne usually follows a rigid military code of interaction that John's never bothered to memorize. He doesn't especially like it either, nor does he usually like dealing with people like that. But Lorne is a solid guy in other respects, does well by his own team, and also does John's paperwork without complaint. Plus Rodney seems to like him. All good reasons to not piss the man off.
Unfortunately, the sequence of events here is suggesting that Lorne is already pissed at him. However, no one ever called John a coward. "So, what's up?"
Lorne clears his throat, looking from side-to-side. John follows his gaze, amused despite the situation by the obvious air of subterfuge.
"Permission to speak freely, colonel?"
John frowns. "You know I don't care about that kind of thing. What's up?"
"Yes, yes, whatever. Spill."
Lorne's eyes narrow. "How could you? I admit, I'm not surprised that they went along with it -- I've heard things about how SG1 feels about him, we all have -- but you're supposed to be his friend."
"Whoa." John's picking up some clues here. Not enough to decipher the whole thing, but more than enough to get the 'I'd like to toss you off a pier without a lifejacket' vibe. "What exactly is it that you think I did?"
"Don't give me that. You gave Mitchell the lemon and you told him what to do with it."
"The lemon?" John asks. "This is about a lemon?"
"This is about someone who is supposedly Rodney McKay's friend giving his enemies an object that could kill him and telling them to torture him with it." Lorne's voice is chilly, with a snap like parachute cord in it. He clearly takes this seriously.
"Now wait a minute..."
"Are you trying to deny it?"
"Some of that may be true, but you're misinterpreting what happened..." John says, uncomfortable both with the idea of explaining and of explaining himself to someone like Lorne, who isn't a buddy, but a colleague. John rarely explains himself -- it fucks with the coolness vibe.
"Am I? I've heard stories about the way you've treated Rodney. Mocking him when he's down. But I didn't believe them until now, because it was clear he liked being around you. But now... I don't know why you're pretending to be his friend and then pulling stuff like this. But Rodney McKay has real friends, and we're not going to let you get away with this."
Before John can reply -- and it definitely would have been something along the lines of asking when exactly Rodney and Lorne became BFFs and starting braiding each other's hair and what Lorne's favorite shade of nail polish is -- Lorne stands up. "Sir," he says coldly, and leaves.
The gobsmacked expression on John's face fades as soon as he catches someone staring at him. There's actually a lot of staring faces, and John's not comfortable with that. Particularly not with what they're apparently thinking about him.
And then there's the question, which seriously hadn't occurred to him before now -- what does Rodney think about all of this?
The first really honest-to-goodness sign Rodney gets that there're problems is that Ronon isn't eating. Not, of course, that other people's eating habits affect Rodney's in any way, unless they're spraying bits of orange pulp across the table every time they exhale, but nonetheless. Ronon not eating is a sign somewhere on the pre-apocalyptic level. Not quite evidence of the riding of the Four Horsemen, but there's a definite smell of horseshit in the air.
Thankfully, SG1 isn't hanging around anymore. Not that Rodney has any problems with Samantha Carter's presence -- much the opposite -- but far too many of his really humiliating moments have happened in front of them, and any crisis that has Ronon not eating is ripe with possibilities for that kind of thing.
Rodney wraps an arm around his plate. "What's wrong?" he asks the man across the table from him. "And if it isn't the end of the universe, or Atlantis, it can wait until I'm done eating."
"It isn't," Ronon says in a low rumble. He looks amused. But then Ronon often looks amused. Even when he's killing things.
It took a while for Rodney to recognize that look inside the whole 'I will kill you dead' expression, but he does recognize it.
"Good," Rodney says and keeps eating.
He notices when the amusement turns into a glare. Not that Rodney looks up, but Ronon exudes an almost visible aura of menace when he's glaring and it's enough to disturb the smooth flow of food from the tray to Rodney's mouth.
"What?" Rodney asks, fork pausing. "Is there a Wraith standing behind me? And if so, why aren't you shooting it?"
Ronon's return smile is all teeth and threat. It also isn't at Rodney, but over his shoulder. "Not a Wraith. And sometimes, killing something is the easy way out."
As Rodney stopped listening at the 'not a Wraith' part, the last doesn't alarm him. When he does get around to looking behind him, nothing's there.
Teyla catches him off-guard. Not that he's actually, y'know, relaxing in the gym when she finds him. When people are trying to beat you up, you don't relax. You try to beat them up back. Especially when the Marines seem to be trying harder than usual.
"I need to speak with you," she says when he's mopping his sweat with a towel.
"Yeah, sure," he agrees, because it's Teyla and Teyla always has something to say when she speaks up. Not listening to her is a mistake on the order of trying to get all of Ronon's weapons away from him. Or leaving the powerbars behind and trying to appease a sulky, hungry Rodney.
She tosses him a pair of sticks.
It's reflex to catch them, which is apparently a signal for 'bash John time' to start, because Teyla slaps him in the shoulder with one of her own.
"Hey! That wasn't fair. You didn't say we were starting."
She catches him again, this time on his forearm, then gives him a serene almost-smile. "An enemy would not warn you. And -- we are starting."
"Yeah, yeah," John says and takes a more easily defended position. "This is going to be one of those conversations where I end up hurting a lot at the end, isn't it?"
She tilts her head. "Perhaps."
"That means yes." John doesn't *think* he has anything to feel guilty about. Usually Teyla's content to beat him up without an accompanying 'talk'. Unless it's a talk about how he should take practice more seriously.
Teyla's little mouth quirk smile can be a truly frightening thing.
In between bruises, Teyla's side of the conversation goes a little something like this:
"I thought I knew you well enough to believe that you respected our team. It is not enough to speak of the value of teamwork. How you behave is equally important. In the past, I have ignored your sometimes questionable sense of humor with regard to Rodney. I had believed that it was something shared between teammates, like the affectionate teasing of siblings. However, you took it outside of our team, and that I cannot ignore. You will apologize to Rodney. You will fix this. Do you understand?"
His side of the conversation is much shorter and consists mostly of "Ow" in various tones of voice. The part John understands is that he's going to be in pain regularly until Teyla's satisfied with his groveling.
Hell, maybe it'll get Lorne off his back, too.
"...so," John says, slouching against the wall, "I'm sorry."
Rodney blinks again. The door to his room's closed again, so it isn't in reaction to the brighter hallway light. "Sorry for what in particular?"
John scratches his chin. "I'm not all that sure to tell you the truth. For irrevocably scarring you by giving Mitchell a lemon?"
That earns him an eyeroll. "Worse than your counting doomsday clock? No. Hardly. The lemon would have been more motivational without the plastic seam sticking out."
He grins at Rodney. "I had to make sure you came back, didn't I? What if he'd slipped and thrown it at you or something?"
"There's this thing, colonel. It's called ducking." Rodney nods at the bruise across John's cheek. "You might want to try it."
John gives him a rueful little smile. "About that..."
They arrive together at the peak of dinner rush. John has a deja vu feeling as heads turn toward them.
"Okay," John whispers, "now we just have dinner together like normal and everyone will get the idea we're still friends and leave me alone."
Rodney raises an eyebrow. "What, no public apology?"
The bastard is grinning at him. "I didn't *do* anything! It was a fake lemon!"
"Dinner, and that's all, Rodney," John says. "They'll get the idea."
"Them?" Rodney jabs a thumb at the congregated mass of scientists and service personnel. "Sheep. No, you have to do this the right way."
Rodney whistles loudly. "If I may have everyone's attention, please? For those of you previously unaware, I've forgiven Colonel Sheppard for his transgressions with Colonel Mitchell and taken him back to my bosom like the lost lamb that he is. That is all. Feel free to get back to your mundane wasted little lives."
"Rodney!" John hisses.
"You didn't have to-- You just-- *Bosom*? Are you trying to make them think we're dating or something?"
Rodney smirks at him. "Or something. You could consider it motivation. If you like."