Spoilers: Season Two in general
Summary: "For the record, tramping around in mud, freezing my ass off, all while looking for some mythical beast does not make me feel honored."
Blood and First Snow
"Oh my god," said Rodney, "tell me why we're doing this again?"
"The Hunt for the Cornaniveous is a sacred tradition of Taeva. We are honored by their request that we participate in it." Teyla told him.
Rodney rolled his eyes. "For the record, tramping around in mud, freezing my ass off, all while looking for some mythical beast does not make me feel honored." He frowned. "And how exactly do you manage to speak in capital letters?"
Teyla merely arched an eyebrow at him. Sheppard laughed. "C'mon, McKay," he said, "the fresh air will do you good."
"I prefer my air hermetically filtered, thank you," he responded.
"Think of the food," advised Ronon, licking his lips. "Taeven feasts are legendary."
Teyla tilted her head. "I was not aware you had been to Taeva before," she commented.
"Just the once," Ronon replied, "but it was a memorable visit."
"Yet, as fascinating as it is to listen to you two compare travel tips, it still doesn't explain why a simple trading mission has to be prefaced with us playing The Great White Hunter," Rodney said.
Sheppard snorted. "Think of it as hike, then. If the Cornaniveous is as mythical as you think, then we're unlikely to catch anything."
"I hate hikes," Rodney retorted.
"What can you hate about this?" Sheppard's tone was all innocence. Rodney wasn't fooled for a second. "The sun shining, the birds chirping, the trees, um, treeing..." He raised his left arm and gestured around at the forest surrounding them.
Rodney took a moment to admire the way Sheppard's muscles moved in the air while preparing his scathing reply. Sheppard could be shockingly dense at times, but he was also disturbingly hot. But even that wouldn't keep Rodney from crushing his inferior intellect with the perfect retort.
Unfortunately, he never got a chance to say it, because that was when the creature attacked them.
Sheppard yelled and raised his arm up too late to shield his face. Rodney dropped to the ground, and tried to find a clear shot while panicking. The thing was huge, moving fast on two legs, covered in some kind of brown cloth and were those antlers? Behind him, Ronon took aim and fired, but the creature dodged the first round of bullets and then ran out of range. Teyla did some complicated judo-like move as it ran past her, but only succeeded in ripping off some of that weird covering. Then the creature was gone and it was all over.
Sheppard let his arm fall down to his side. His right cheek was bloody and Rodney could tell he had a nasty scratch there, but otherwise he seemed fine. "What the hell was that?" He demanded.
Rodney pushed himself up and brushed off the dirt, his heart still racing. "Best guess? Something between the Abominable Snowman and Rudolph the Pissed Off Reindeer."
"I believe that was the Cornaniveous," Teyla said. "I have encountered it before." She looked at John. "Are you well?"
Sheppard opened his mouth, then closed it again. Rodney sympathized. There was no use reasoning with Teyla when she was smiling smugly at you. "I'm fine," he finally said.
"So not so mythical after all?" Ronon asked.
"Apparently not," Rodney huffed. "We're not going to go after it, are we? I like to keep my near-misses with death to one a day."
Teyla shook her head. "We have managed to capture a piece of the Cornaniveous's wrapping," she replied, holding up the piece of tattered cloth, "and have shed blood in the process." She glanced at Sheppard, who touched his cheek and then looked askance at the blood on his fingers. "The Taevens will consider this a judicious start to both the season and our negotiations."
"Blood and first snow." Ronon nodded, sounding pleased. "We had this ritual on Sateda as well."
"It's not snowing," Rodney pointed out.
"Not yet," Ronon said, looking up at the sky.
Rodney made a face. "Oh, please."
Sheppard mock-frowned. "Be nice, children," he chided, turning around to head back to the village.
Actually, after they got back to what passed for civilization on Taeva, things improved. The Taevens fixed up Sheppard's face and oohed and awwed over Teyla's wrapping. As a result, the negotiations went well for once, ending in a healthy trade agreement instead of threats and/or kidnappings.
And then there was the feast. The food was every bit as good as Ronon suggested it would be. Rodney would almost be willing to battle another psychotic reindeer snowman for it.
At the very least, he'd volunteer Sheppard for the job.
Rodney wandered outside after the feast, feeling the kind of sated happiness that only came from eating too much good food or, alternatively, gorging on new technology. Sheppard was leaning on the wall of the house, something that Rodney failed to see until he almost bumped into the man. He stumbled back, hands tightening around his heavy clay mug full of what the Taevens called grog but what tasted rather like Irish coffee, and snapped, "Do you practice being stealthy? Because I really didn't need those extra ten years at all."
But Sheppard wasn't listening. He could see him not listening: the light from a window above revealed the way his head was tilted back, eyes gazing skyward. Normally, that would have just made Rodney more annoyed, but Sheppard's neck was pale under the light and he was too busy trying not to think about how lickable it was. Sheppard said, "It's snowing."
"Yes, thank you, Colonel," Rodney retorted, "I would have never figured what that white stuff falling from the sky was, being Canadian and all."
"It's snowing, Rodney," Sheppard repeated, and he just looked so damn happy, with the goofy smile and the snow in his hair that Rodney found himself grinning back without quite meaning to. At times, Sheppard could be as easy to please as he was hard to read. Rodney took a sip of the grog, covering the fact he had nothing to say at the moment. "Mmmm," he hummed.
Sheppard turned his head towards Rodney. "Good?" he asked, amused.
"Coffee-like alcohol, with some chocolate thrown in," Rodney replied, "yes, it's good." Sheppard smiled at him then, halfway between bemused and thoughtful. And maybe Rodney was just running out of vocabulary, but that smile beguiled and bewitched him and he looked, really looked at Sheppard for a long moment. Sheppard's eyes were dark and his lips were shiny, making him look like he was wearing lip gloss, and really, Rodney wouldn't have put it past him. But what drew his attention this time was the scratch on Sheppard's cheek.
It was still red, looking incongruous against Sheppard's clean face. Rodney reached upward and traced it with his finger: the lightest of pressures. "Blood," he stated quietly.
"And first snow," Sheppard, who had gone still under Rodney's touch, replied. His eyes flickered upward at the sky and then back to Rodney. And Rodney knew this was a bad idea, had sworn to himself that his habit of falling for unattainable military people, particularly ones who risk their lives on almost daily basis, was well and truly in the past. But Sheppard didn't seem so unattainable now, and he was so tired. Tired of pretending not to want to.
"Want to do what?" Sheppard asked, and Rodney realized that he had spoken the last bit out loud. He flushed, but Sheppard's voice was kind and he still hadn't slapped Rodney's hand away or punched him or anything.
"This," Rodney said and kissed him. He wasn't sure what he had been expecting, but it wasn't this; Sheppard's mouth meeting his own, Sheppard's hand on his back, pulling him in closer until their bodies were pressed together. And Sheppard kissed like Rodney had seen him fight, intensely focused on his target. Rodney dropped his mug. It fell to the ground with a thud, still half-full, but Rodney didn't care. He clutched at Sheppard's shoulder, moaning into his mouth.
Screw blood and screw first snow, anyway.
As far as Rodney was concerned, kissing John Sheppard was the only way to celebrate the beginning of winter.