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Prompt #4 - Orange: A Kiss Within My Cup

Title: A Kiss Within My Cup
Author: neevebrody
Category: Genslash? (see warnings)
Prompt: Orange
Pairing/Characters: OFCs, Rodney McKay, John Sheppard
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: A take on AMTDI, drugged, non-con could be argued, Alien sex, established relationship between John and Rodney implied
Words: 6,200
Summary: Why it was that he couldn't remember anything before Ylla, and how he'd come to be on Ocre. Because he hadn't always been there. He was sure of that. Well, as sure as he could be about anything.
AN: This story is a very loose adaptation of the story "Ylla" from Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles. Bradbury was the author responsible for my life-long interest in science fiction and the short story and I try to give back a little of that influence here. The title refers to a line from the song "Drink to me Only with Thine Eyes," which is featured in Bradbury's story: …leave a kiss within the cup, and I'll not ask for wine… Beta by my hero, em_kellesvig. I fiddle, so all mistakes = mine.

The shadows beneath the wine trees were just starting to lengthen. Not that the actual liquid flowed from the trees. Yllucent, the housemaid, took the fruit once it was ripe to the point of bursting and made it into wine.

He pressed his face to the cool glass that separated him from the dense atmosphere outside. It wouldn't be long before he'd have to retreat to the middle of the house, leave his lovely view of the Blue Mountains, and move back into the darkness where the water-cooled floors undulated under his feet. Where there was Ylla and the wine. There was always the wine.

At lunchtime, he arranged their food carefully on the stone table and took his seat once Ylla had begun to eat. Her long, graceful fingers caressed his cheek in a gesture of allowance. "You're very subdued today," she said. He watched as she deliberately separated meat from the bone and captured it between her full, scarlet lips. Seeing the smear of grease glistening there, he felt himself stir and looked away. Away from those golden eyes, from the high, pale cheekbones and the flowing violet-black hair that hung well past her ample curves. "Not your usual talkative self…" she prodded.

What need was there of talk? Ylla wasn't interested in hearing more about the dream. She had once called it the foolish musings of an underworked brain. As a counter, she'd given him more wine and put him to work on the floors in the morning room until he'd been covered in sweat and clinging to the tiniest sliver of shade the room allowed. Afterwards, she'd taken him and comforted him and they'd gone out for their first Exhibition. He swallowed, the back of this throat burning bitter.

He didn't care what she thought, but he needed to be careful about that. His thoughts never seemed to be his own when she was near. The dream was important, he knew that, even if he didn't know much of anything else. Why it was that he couldn't remember anything before Ylla, and how he'd come to be on Ocre. Because he hadn't always been there. He was sure of that. Well, as sure as he could be about anything.

His memories were like an itch he couldn't scratch. Only flashes. An array of numbers here, the outline of a face there, or the nebulous whisper of voices he couldn't place and words that had no meaning for him. He'd try to feed the flashes when they came, try so hard his head would ache, but to no avail. There were times in the mornings, when he sat by the window, where a crystal blue ocean replaced the red ochre sand and tall spires would appear beyond the wine trees. But then he'd blink and there would be nothing but the dry ochre dust and the trees, dripping with their bitter orange fruit. Still, the images had to come from somewhere – his dreams? Lately, his dreams had all been the same.

Ylla's nails at his throat startled him and made him look up. The smile on her face was laced with a rigidity he recalled only too well. He pulled from her grasp, pinched off a small piece of the unleavened bread, and placed it in his mouth.

"Your boldness puzzles me. I thought we had reached an accord, you and I." She started to rise.

He reached out to stop her, wide eyes softening as he tried to think calming thoughts. "I had the dream again," he said, determined to make her see the importance.

"You and that silly dream," she scoffed, rising anyway. He watched her walk over to a niche in the stone and glass wall where she kept the wine. Her tall body moved with a grace very easy on the eyes. He could almost tell the color of her mood by the sway of her hips. Or the way she stood, with her feet apart and that look in her eye. She poured from an angular flask, her arms a bit longer than he would think normal for her height. Placing a full glass in front of him, she then returned to her chair. "The same tired details, or was there something new?" she asked, going back to her lunch as if the conversation meant nothing.

"The same," he answered evenly. "A ship, a team in uniforms carrying weapons."

Her laughter chased itself through the hallways, where the water in the central fountain gave it a deep resonance before returning it to his ears. "Weapons, is it? The shiny metal ones that blaze like fire, no doubt. And this team that travels through the Ancient rings?" Ylla turned to him; she had a regal line to her nose that set it apart as a prominent but attractive feature, suggestive of a stature of higher bearing. He had felt his own face once to see if it was the same – there were no reflective surfaces anywhere in the house. If the light struck in just the right way, it was possible to see outlines in the fountain, but no details. Still, it didn't seem to matter to him that he was different. "The Ocre are the only ones to travel through the portias," she continued. "The Others, the ones who came before, have kept away for many generations."

She tore another sliver of seared flesh away using her teeth, the third joint of her fingers oddly erotic in the way she held the meat. He turned away to pick at his food, but could still feel her eyes.

"We haven't been to an Exhibition in a while," she said, and he felt a chill at the word. "Would you like that? We could take the Flamebirds and be there within the hour."

He didn't answer, just picked up a piece of the cooked meat from his plate and bit into it.

"No? Why not?"

He was afraid to say. Still, he could feel her inside his head, as if those slender, blood-tipped fingers were combing through his thoughts.

She went back to her lunch and he felt a strange sense of release. "This dream of yours," she said, her tone an attempt at indifference. "I suppose the same man was there, this leader?"

"Yes." He ignored her smirk and continued, trying to not think his indignation at her dismissal. "Only this time he spoke to me and his voice… the name he called me… like I knew it."

Ylla's clenched fists banged against the stone in dull, impotent thuds. "You are Yll, that is your name." Her eyes flashed then cooled instantly as she relaxed her hands; a small vein at her temple protruded and quivered like a blue moon moth caught by the daylight. After a moment, she pushed back from the table, her chair barely a whisper across the cool floor.

Her lunch forgotten, she reclined back and spread her legs, her hard length tenting the gauzy grey material of her dress. One of her hands fell to her side and the soft tinkling of the demi-chain made him start; he lifted his chin dutifully though the collar was not present. No, it was only a tease and it worked every time.

"You are mine," Ylla said. The words formed in the air like the rounded, bloody fruit of the wine trees.

It couldn't be helped, the way his mouth watered as she parted the folds of her garment and opened her shapely, pale legs wider. He didn't even wait to be asked, her instruction clear from the look in her eyes.

She was hard and her nipples stood stiff beneath the flimsy cloth. He wanted so to touch, but for that he'd have to wait. Ylla always made him wait.

The water soaked the knees of his pants as he knelt there, where she allowed him to touch and caress the smooth, veined skin of her thighs. They were as soft as the petals of the moonflowers, but strong. It was the strength he was thinking of now, the power he felt against his own when she would bend him like a rag doll and finish him, leave him spent and sweating in their bed, with only the crispness of the sheets for comfort.

She ran her fingers through his hair to take hold of him, to guide him, though he needed no assistance. At times, something would flicker in the back of his mind that this was wrong, that something was wrong, but then Ylla would moan at his touch or call his name and the nagging insect of thought would vanish like moisture on the ochre plains in the high afternoon. She tasted good; the pink-blushed liquid she spent whenever he licked her was sweet and he lapped it up, swirling around the swollen head to her cries that echoed off down the hallways.

When she removed her hand, he could do as he wanted, and his mouth ached for it. He plunged down over her – up and down, slowly, pulling, pulling, watching her hand move to her breast, the other to her mouth to suck her own fingers. It never took Ylla long – the frenzied breath, the way she thrust her hips up into him. For that time, there were no thoughts of chains or Exhibitions, or even control. From her first breathy, "No one… no one like you…" until she spilled her nectar for him, the servant was the master.

But that nut of pleasure never lasted long either. Sated, once she retook her position, Ylla would tease and have her way. She could decide to prolong his joy by entering him, still hard and eager, or by the slow, deliberate workings of her hands, bringing him so close only to push him away until he was more than ready to beg.

Like she was doing now – her hands slicked with Saw Palm oil to warm them and make the friction almost unbearable. She even allowed him to lean near and take her mouth as she stroked, her full lips as cool as the stone walls despite her passion for these moments of physicality between them. His hand traced the curve of her breast, pressing in so that the head of his cock would brush against the firm skin.

"Mine, Yll," she whispered into his mouth. "This is your home right here." She sped up her strokes and tightened her grip, sending him closer and closer to the brink. She flicked her tongue out and wrapped it around his until they were both panting each other's breath. Until he came in a rush over her chest, watching as the last bit dripped down onto Ylla's still-hard cock.

When she had retreated to her room, far back into the house, he went to stand by the pillar in the hallway. The arc of sunlight reached out for him, but could not invade his hiding place. Still he could see the peaks of the Blue Mountains. He watched and waited.


Afternoons on Ocre were a time of emptiness and void – the lion-yellow time of day when nothing moved outside the stone and dirt dwellings and the last wine fruit could be found nestled in the orange dust beneath the trees.

Later, beneath the deep indigo skies, music could often be heard along with animated voices or singing. Ylla had taken him to a musicale one evening down by the twin canals, where traveling bands and musicians poled their way up and down the water. Wine had been served there, too, but wine different from Ylla's, not as sweet. And food! Wares of all kinds had been sold by vendors along the banks and some had traveled the same waters. Sweets, salty creations, smoked meats, and breads the size of hatboxes.

This afternoon, however, found him in the morning room. Naked, on his hands and knees, cleaning a floor that never seemed to get dirty. He suspected his chore had something to do with keeping him from a nap and occupied while Ylla had hers. What he could never get her to see was that it didn't matter. Now, awake or asleep, the pictures from his dreams were just as real as Ylla herself. He could see each member of the team clearly, the color of their uniforms, vests, and one dressed in something not regimental, could see right down to the shading on the man's tattoo. And their leader, the one who'd spoken to him… so real, so…

He imagined a shadow across the floor and shivered, a tall order in the heat of the morning room. Still, he was overtaken by the ghostly feeling someone was watching him… that sense of the other shoe… not dread, but waiting. Anticipation, as if something big was going to happen, something important, something not to be missed. That feeling clutched his insides like the great talons of the Flamebirds, and gave him a little thrill not unlike the coolness of Ylla's fingers when she'd fasten the collar.

Another presence startled him; he looked up to see Ylla watching, her dark brows furrowed. She was holding a glass in her hand and he prayed it was water, though whether to drink it or pour it over his heated skin was a real dilemma. But it was not water. She'd brought him more wine and left him without a word once he'd taken it from her. As he brought it to his lips, the sunlight struck the glass in such a way it fractured the light around him, breaking it apart into tiny cubes, and reflecting the depth of the wine onto the floor and walls in varying degrees of blood-colored hues.

And there it was, another flash, a buzz between his ears. Glass squares, windows of a place he couldn't quite touch with his mind. He tried again, but the image was gone and the tattered corner of its meaning with it. When he looked down, the glass had shattered on the floor, the spilled wine like an offering to the scorched stone.

He turned, alarmed to see Yllucent, though not really surprised. She would sometimes venture out into the morning room to take deep breaths and stand at the windows; he had watched her. The color of her housedress and her hair the same as the rays from the sun. She had skin like his, not pale like Ylla's; he couldn't see the veins in Yllucent's skin at all. She handed him another cup that he initially brushed away.

"No," she whispered. "It's water – from the central fountain." She held out the cup again and this time he took it and drank. The taste of it was glorious, mostly because it had no taste at all, it only helped to cool him and to make his head feel less muddled. Yllucent's eyes were a swirl of green and brown as she watched him; he meant to say something about them – there was something about them – but they reflected fear, too. Both of them knew the cost if Ylla should find her there with him.

Instead, he pointed to the outline of the stain on the floor. Ylla would see it; she would know.

"I'll come through here with the fruit," Yllucent said in a tone that was meant to calm them. "We'll need only a small accident." He looked at her and wondered why she would do that. She would be in trouble enough if Ylla ever found out about the water. Yllucent's eyes brightened and the corner of her lip curled even as her hand shot to her mouth to cover it up. For a few moments, it didn't seem to matter about Ylla. He felt a glimmer of liberation at Yllucent's smile and the sense that whatever was going to happen, whatever was coming, would trump all.


Dinner was crisp greens and mushrooms with a piquant dressing, served just as the sun was setting. His duties in the morning room had left him with an aching head, so Ylla had the Rampion soup prepared especially. The meal at this time of day was always light; with the option of another once the sky had turned hard-dark, if he was still hungry.

Ylla pushed her plate away and announced, "I've ordered a Flamebird; you should prepare yourself."

He shifted in his seat, his jaw clenched tight, not even caring that she could see. If they left, he was sure they would miss what was coming. That afternoon he had watched, expecting to see some sign, but there'd been nothing, and by the time he'd finished the floor, his head had hurt so much all he had wanted to do was sleep. He told her that he'd rather not go if it was all the same.

Ylla regarded him with a look of steel. "You always appeared to enjoy the Exhibitions," she said evenly and placed a fresh glass before him. "Drink. It will make you feel better and you need to re-hydrate yourself from your afternoon's work."

He twirled the glass in tiny circles, already tasting its warm sweetness on his palate from the smell. There seemed to be no use in arguing the point – that he'd already said he didn't want to go. This uneasy feeling swelled and threatened to spill over. As he went to pick up the glass, it slipped and spilled over the tabletop.

Ylla called out for the housemaid. He was afraid to look at her, didn't want to see the hardness of her features. Yllucent appeared almost instantly. She put another glass on the table and filled it from a long slender flask, not like the ones Ylla used, her eyes darting to his, widening as if to remind him of their secret. He returned the look; he'd never tell.

In fact, if he felt the least bit proprietary regarding Ylla, he might be jealous of the way she touched Yllucent on occasion or the way the two of them kissed when they believed they were alone. But there was none of that now, only a fond glance from Ylla. As soon as she'd poured his wine and left the flask, Yllucent disappeared into the corridor.

"Why did you have me clean the floor in the morning room?" he asked before taking a drink. "It didn't need it."

She looked as if she might laugh in the face of his insolence. "Obviously you don't have enough to keep you busy. Napping during the day. And because you can't dream if you don't sleep, and I am so very bored by this dream and your sudden need to displease me." Her voice hardened with those last words.

"Why does the dream bother you so?"

Her eyes flashed and sent a tiny sliver of fear rushing through his veins; it was welcome and warming.

"Why does it give you such pleasure?" she purred, leaning in close to challenge him.

He stiffened and tried to think of anything but the answer to that question, then realized that she knew he couldn't answer it. He didn't know himself, only that it did.

"How long have I been here?" he asked, and then took a spoonful of his cold soup.

She smiled and sat back in her chair. "Why, Yll, you've always been here."


In the hard dark, Ocre belied its namesake. The sky could fill billions of inkwells and seemed to drip its relief down to terra firma in long, cool slakes – the air no longer dust-choked and heavy. The stars were scattered like so many bits of broken artglass. All of this was the perfect backdrop for the Flamebirds. Large flightless birds, often yoked together in pairs, that pulled a small canopied carriage bedecked with gaily colored ribbon and bunting. The feathers of the Flamebirds shone in firery incandescence under the moonlight; they'd gotten their name from the way their long tail feathers resembled dancing flames as they pulled their passengers along. The birds bore a kingly stance, heads always erect and alert to the whim of their driver.

He hesitated, the pain in his head grew worse and the fear tearing at his chest threatened to escape his heart and consume him. He couldn't leave. If he left now, he'd miss it. It would be too late for him and, somehow, he knew that Ylla knew as well.

He turned and saw her hand a bag to the driver. Much shorter than Ylla, he was rather plain and much more rounded in appearance. He stood stoop-shouldered and took the bag.

"Why do we need that?" he asked Ylla, holding onto the carriage to keep his balance.

Ylla sidled up close to him. She had taken special care with her appearance for the Exhibition, though he would probably always feel uneasy about the mask. The silver glowed in the light and did nothing to hide her eyes that had been made up to look smoky and seductive. The mask allowed that, and, as just a half-face cover, accentuated her full lips. Her hair was done up and piled atop her head, held there with combs made of stone and jewels. A few small pieces hung in loose tendrils much like the long tail feathers of the Flamebird.

She slinked her arm around his waist and pressed herself to him; the flowing black dress fit her body like a second skin and was slit high to show off her legs. "I thought we'd take that trip to the Blue Mountains," she said. "I've promised it long enough. You'll like that, won't you?"

From the first time he could recall seeing them, he'd wanted to go there. It was as if something called to him from there. Some nights, he could hear it on the air. His name, but not the name of Yll, the name the man in the dream had called him.

This was a cruel trick of Ylla's – take him out to show him off and then tempt him with the mountains. He wanted to go there, he did, but he…

"No," he cried, pushing her away, his head suddenly seized by pain and confusion. He was dizzy and staggered back out of her grasp.

She only smiled, parting those red lips, and dangled the chain in front of her. "It's your favorite," she seemed to hiss. "The one with the cuffs." Her eyes sparkled like hot embers in the night, nothing at all like the coldness of her voice. "And you have no choice. My mind is made up. We'll have a nice long vacation; it will be just us two." She reached out for him. "I promise to make it—"

Several loud pops sounded near him. At first, he thought the Flamebirds had snapped their harness, spooked by the raised voices, but then he saw the flash of red-orange light, felt her hand on his arm, and then they were running. She was surprisingly fast and agile and he struggled to keep up. At the door, another ball of light crashed into the stone above Ylla's shoulder.

Once inside, she pulled him through the corridors toward the central fountain. At this time of night, the floors had slowed to a steady trickle and it was soothing to his bare feet, helped counteract the adrenaline coursing through his body. Still, he was cold, shaky. His head felt so heavy, he just wanted to lie down but Ylla would not let go of him.

There were sounds of others in the house now. He could hear their shouts and the fire of their weapons. It faded in and out, but then he realized that it was him; he was swaying on his feet, sweating and shivering at the same time with each step closer to the fountain. He wanted to beg Ylla to stop, but he could barely hear himself think over her screaming. She hurled objects at the intruders, anything she could put her hands on, from the dishes on the table to the art pieces and wine flasks she kept in the niches. It took him a moment to finally see that she had released him and he stumbled to fall backwards onto the fountain floor.

As he looked at the scene around him, it all seemed to be happening to someone else. Weapons fire sang in the hallways; the sound of heavy footsteps pounded in his head, and a single bright halo of yellow light lit up the room.

Then everything slowed and became still and quiet.

It seemed to take minutes to turn his gaze in the direction the blast had come. Ylla lay there, but it wasn't Ylla anymore, not the Ylla he knew. He watched, oddly detached, as her shape shifted into a grotesque, bloody mass. In a dizzying rush, his stomach seized him and he bent forward, green bile and the remnants of the wine emptying onto the undulating stone floor, carried over to mix with the stream of Ylla's blood. He was transfixed by the color, not blue as he'd imagined, but the color of the ripened wine fruit. He watched as it swirled with the water to become lighter and lighter, the deep orange diluted to the palest coral before circling the drain in the middle of the room.

"McKay? Rodney?"

Someone was speaking. The words sounded familiar yet far away, a low, soothing, but slightly shaky voice; he turned toward it.

The speaker was kneeling in front of him. A man, but not just a man… the man from his dream. A handsome man whose lips were smiling but whose eyes were full of fear. He saw the hand first, then felt it against his cheek as the man spoke again – "Get Keller in here!" shouted into a small black square. There were others in the room; he could see their legs, hear the steps of their heavy boots and the slosh of the water. If he looked up, he might see the pretty face, the one he'd dared not tell Ylla of. He'd only thought of that face in the mornings when he was alone. Would he be allowed to look now? Was Ylla really gone?

"Rodney?" The voice was gentler, more insistent, and he tried. He tried to focus through the swirling clutter his brain had become. "It's me, Sheppard… John."

Like a key, the word slipped open a tiny door in his mind. This Rodney's mind. Just a little, edged it open so that the brilliant light behind it fractured the fuzzy darkness to find its way forward. "John?" He took the man's arm. He was real. He was… warm.

This was it, wasn't it? This was what he'd felt coming for days. The promise locked away behind that tiny door so long ago.

John. The name fell from his lips again, breathless and hesitant, as if now they were real, it might all disappear, something beyond cruel conjured by Ylla's envy.

The man smiled again, this time with his eyes, his cheeks, his entire face. The man shifted, letting him go only to gather him in again, crushing him against the hard vest and soft material of the man's shirt. John held him with an iron grip, so hard his muscles shook with the effort.

The scent of ozone and ordinance lay about this man of his dreams. The musky odor of sweat and the sweet scent of something that defied definition. And it was that scent that did it, opened the door wider and allowed more and more light to pour forth, suddenly flooding him with recognition.

Like a swell, everything he'd thought, dreamt, in the past few days opened to welcome him, to pull him back. These hands that held him, he knew those hands. Somehow, he knew them well and they knew him. He was certain of it. The same way he knew the body he clung to, could trace its planes and dips behind his eyes. Where to touch to make this man moan as he'd made Ylla moan. Sounds he could hear far back in his mind. Words that weren't really words yet, just intoned syllables, but the words would come… he knew that now.

Just as he'd known in the beginning that they'd come for him, that John would come for him. Tears welled and emptied out onto Rodney's cheeks. Not the chilled, crystalline tears of the Ocre, but wet, warm tears that were salty as they found the corners of his mouth. Salty and… real.

John's voice vibrated, rumbling deep in Rodney's chest. Rodney couldn't hear all the words because John's mouth was pressed in his hair. Something about home and then something that couldn't be mistaken, something that broke apart the last hold of Ylla and filled him with warmth. A quick, hard kiss to the top of his head, hidden in the effort to help him to stand, but he felt it. And by the time he'd gotten to his feet, the warmth had begun to spread, making its way out to his fingers and toes.

He swayed a bit and stumbled when taking his first step, but John was there. And while he still wasn't clear just where home was, they were going there, and for the first time in many, many… what? he didn't know; he let himself smile. It felt strange at first and he half expected someone to rush forward and slap it away, but there was only the strength of the arm around his waist and John smiling back at him.


The door to the lab opened quietly. Rodney looked up from a stack of data, memos and mission reports hoping to see John. It wasn't John and for a few dizzying seconds, he wasn't sure he was Rodney McKay.

"Dr. Lucienne?"

A petite woman with blonde hair, sporting the uniform of the medical staff, smiled in greeting and placed a mug of hot coffee in front of him. "Someone told me you were quite fond of this stuff." She pulled over a stool and took a seat, her own cup in hand. She grinned again. "I can see why – very good for production, isn't it?"

"It can be." He found himself smiling back despite his growing unease at having her there. "Everyone taking good care of you, I hope."

She nodded and took a sip. "Dr. Zelenka seems to think I'll fit right in – if this committee of yours approves. Of course, I understand if I am to be sent back."

"Don't you have family… friends… someone who'll miss you?"

She raised her eyebrows and shook the wispy golden bangs from her forehead; it sent an icy chill down his spine. "I lost what friends I had when I chose to go to work as a chemist for Commander Cowan. I'm much more at home with inert gases and radioisotopes than I am with people." Her voice began to drift. "The man I was to, my mate… he died. He was one of the chief engineers under Cowan's thermonuclear program."

Rodney nodded. "A chemist. That would explain it – your knowledge of Pegasus elements in order to develop an antidote."

"Not an antidote in the strict sense – we don't know yet what lingering effects we'll suffer from Ylla's wine, or the… what did you call it?"

"A time dilation field."

He started to explain, but they'd already been through that at the briefing. He had avoided talking to Dr. Lucienne for days after the debrief. In fact, he was giving everyone a wide berth, as they were him. Even John hadn't asked any questions – there was almost an unspoken been-there-done-that-got-way-more-than-the-damn-tee-shirt to it all. And now, he understood how John must have felt; only not really because Rodney had no way of knowing how long he had been there. According to John and Sam, it had only been about fourteen hours, with most of the time spent on locking in the location and getting across the mountains. Now, with nothing but question marks staring him in the face, he needed to know.

"How did you put it together? How long had you…?"

Dr. Lucienne shook her head. "I figure I was there for weeks before Ylla brought you home." She shot an uneasy glance at him and quickly looked away. "That is, I think. Everything's starting to fade a bit now."

He nodded and drummed his fingers on the sides of his cup.

"We were interested in the energy signals coming from Ocre, which is why I assume your team was there."

"We thought it might be a ZPM," he said wistfully. "As soon as we'd set up for testing, the readings began to get squirrelly. We'd never encountered an energy field that counteracted with the home planet's gravitational force before. Quite possibly that was the reason—"

She placed her hand over his, the one now drumming on the lab table. Their eyes met again; hers shone with a familiar compassion. Too familiar. She was looking at him intently as if she wanted to make sure he understood. "To me, Ylla was a man – a man with dark skin and eyes and broad shoulders… Ylla took a form that we would each feel comfortable with. I know you saw something else."

Rodney pulled his hand away, for no other reason than physical contact other than with John made him nervous and unsure. It would take time. But this thing about Ylla was disturbing mainly because he was losing his grip on it, flashes and clips like an old film were all that was left.

"I never thanked you," he said, feeling the press of the words against his chest. "I don't know why you did what you did, but thank you."

"The Ocre were a dying race. Quite possibly, without all the necessary information, they set up the field around the most populated area to buy some time, to see if they could reverse the course their planet had taken."

"Or time to repopulate," Rodney said wryly.

"Is that what it was… Perhaps some just didn't want the party to end?"

"So you don't think it was a coincidence that they trapped two scientists."

"Not at all. The field may have even been part of the ruse, creating a stronger energy disturbance to attract someone. I just wonder how many…"

Rodney held his hand up. "Let's not go there, okay?"

"My point, Dr. McKay, is that I knew you could change things. I could feel what you felt, some sort of strange telepathy, but I knew you needed to remember."

The specter of Ylla was much like the elephant in the room. They sat quietly sipping the last of their coffee until Lucienne asked, "What happens now?"

"We have no idea the age of Ocre, or for that matter, the life forms inhabiting it. What we do know from our tests is that the gaseous core has long since begun to cool and very recently to vent, which may have been destroying the atmosphere for some time. The time dilation field could have been created to put off that destruction for as little or as long as possible."

"And the people, the ones who haven't already left?"

"It's unclear whether or not these life forms are even human. Dr. Keller is still performing tests on the… some remains. Regardless, their planet is going to die, for want of a better word. Squeeze out its last burst of energy in the second quadrant of the Pegasus galaxy and fold in on itself. No sustainable atmosphere, no sustainable life forms."

And that was all he really knew for sure. He looked at the woman sitting across from him. What of her? Chances were better than good the IOA would want her returned to the Genii homeworld – a security risk not worth taking - and John would agree.

Dr. Lucienne would become one more proverbial ship to pass through his life, though to be completely candid, if the memories of Ocre never faded completely, it wouldn't be easy to see her around Atlantis on a regular basis. That wasn't fair and he knew it. Still, that was the reality of the matter.

He fumbled around and patted her hand lightly. He had no doubt she was aware of her fate. "You hungry? Late-ish, after dinner snack?"

"I could eat," she said, smiling and grabbing her cup.

He found it much easier to smile back.


( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 25th, 2011 07:17 pm (UTC)
Ooh, fascinating world and character you built. Ylla was so wonderfully manipulative. You built the tension marvelously to the rescue Rodney might've missed...and I loved the moment with Yllucent, and John's secret kiss while helping Rodney to his feet.

Well, done. Oh, poor Rodney.

(I had left you an author tag last night in hopes, but you missed it! :)
Jun. 26th, 2011 09:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the lovely comment. I enjoyed very much turning the original story on its head and creating a very different Ylla. I've had the idea for this in my mind for awhile, but when I saw "orange," I knew the time was right. I'd always seen Ylla's world this way and the memories of future Atlantis from Last Man fed the process.

(I really must have looked all over the tag, but I was really going down to the wire on this one.)
Jun. 25th, 2011 07:33 pm (UTC)
Yay! You posted! You're right, this is a very weird story, but wonderfully built and very imaginative! I love the way you tied in the blue mountains with the time dilation field, and I wonder if Ylla knew Rodney was sort of reading her mind as he felt the team approaching to rescue him. Great tension and mind games!
Jun. 26th, 2011 09:29 pm (UTC)
I think we could employ that adage, "weird is as weird does." It's very likely my brain runs slightly off kilter, but as you know I have a great fondness for this story and, these days, anything that only takes me 4 days to write has to be a plus!

Thank you for liking it, too, and for all your help in the face of my "hurry, hurry, beta, now" ;) I don't believe Ylla realized that both Rodney and Lucienne were picking up her vibes. Probably too focused on thwarting the rescue. I almost feel sorry for Ylla in a way - I think Rodney affected her... and what she must have been able to glean from his initial thoughts...
Jun. 25th, 2011 10:25 pm (UTC)
It's incredible how hard it is to imagine strange new life forms, I know I just don't have a clue how to write a completely alien life form. But this is a brilliant creation. And I love the way you reveal so slowly how truely alien Ylla is, until in the end a picture emerges that is far different from where I thought it would be. wonderful story telling. Thank you so much for sharing this.
Jun. 27th, 2011 02:10 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading and for your comment. My Ylla is much different from the original story, but I think that's what was so much fun about writing this - taking a favorite story with a familiar landscape and making it "alien." I'm so glad you enjoyed this.
Jun. 25th, 2011 11:10 pm (UTC)
Ooohhhh..... ::pets poor Rodney gently::

I like the world-bulding... Ylla lives in a truly alien place and how Rodney feels just so slightly-out-of-place there... how it only take John to bring him home.

Very nicely done!
Jun. 27th, 2011 02:13 am (UTC)
Thank you, dear! World-building and OCs are incredibly addictive and I enjoyed this so much, I think, because it was a Bradbury creation and I got to stand it on its ear. And, yes, it only took John.
Jun. 26th, 2011 12:03 am (UTC)
Amazing! :)
For weeks I've been yearning for an SGA fic with the boys trapped in a time dilation field, having to adapt to a new culture.

The addition of kidnapping and druggging and telepathic control and shapeshifting hermaphrodite alien?

Jun. 27th, 2011 02:17 am (UTC)
Thank you!!

The addition of kidnapping and druggging and telepathic control and shapeshifting hermaphrodite alien?

That does sound like I threw in the kitchen sink, doesn't it? Probably why I enjoyed writing it so much. ;) And your "yearning" sounds like an excellent choice!
Jun. 26th, 2011 12:40 pm (UTC)
I am so relieved when Rodney got rescued! Watching him constantly fear and obey Ylla is difficult. /o\

That said, all the complex details about Ylla and her society are very interesting. The world you created definitely defies conventional expectation and assumptions. *nods*
Jun. 27th, 2011 02:22 am (UTC)
I realize it wasn't a very easy story to read and I thank you for giving it a chance. I enjoyed very much creating a different Ylla from the original story and loved being able to keep things like the Blue Mountains and the water-cooled floors and adapt them to SGA.
Jun. 26th, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC)
Lovely dense piece - fantastic descriptions and rising tension!
Jun. 27th, 2011 02:27 am (UTC)
Thank you! This was quite a 'layered' piece, but it was so much fun to adapt some of my favorite things from the Bradbury story. That's one reason I've always wanted to the Twilight Zone challenge. I think many of those teleplays would adapt to well to SGA - unfortunately, I always seemed to be in the middle of something.
Jun. 26th, 2011 05:07 pm (UTC)
Very Bradburian m'dear. It has that alien slidey feel to it. And don't think I didn't notice all the many ways you worked in shades of orange :)
Jun. 27th, 2011 02:31 am (UTC)
Bradbury is definitely one of my sci-fi heroes. I'm glad you 'felt' the alien-ness, that's what I was shooting for. Like I told Mischief, I also used the complementary color of blue to show opposites - opposite orange on the color wheel, heat-cool, night-day... it was just a joy to sit down and work on this. Now, it's back to the MM story. ;)
Jun. 26th, 2011 06:05 pm (UTC)
Gorgeous, utterly gorgeous. I've missed seeing your way with words. ♥

I loved the different 'oranges' woven into the descriptions and the feeling of languid heat and thirst. 'To Celia' was one of my A level poems and it was a great choice for a title, especially the way that Rodney's unease - a 'thirst' for the truth and a drink that wasn't the wine - echoes the following line: 'The thirst that from the soul doth rise'. Wonderful \0/
Jun. 27th, 2011 02:35 am (UTC)
Thank you!! I've missed being able to finish something in a reasonable amount of time - hell, just finish period. This was a fast story and just kind of flowed and I'm thrilled that you liked it. I realize it may not be to everyone's taste.

And that line is wonderful. I waffled on whether to use the lyrics or the poem and chose the lyrics since the song is referred to in the original Bradbury story. I realize that it was a subtle handling of the prompt and I was a bit worried at first, so I'm glad you saw all the orange references. ;D
Jun. 26th, 2011 06:35 pm (UTC)
This was creepy, weird and alien in all the BEST ways. Loved it!
Jun. 27th, 2011 02:38 am (UTC)
Thank you, hon. I'm glad it was in the BEST ways, and I'm glad you took a chance and enjoyed it.
Jun. 26th, 2011 09:17 pm (UTC)
I love all the vivid imagery and the world you created. Only Rodney would conjure up a woman with a cock. The best of both worlds.
Jun. 27th, 2011 02:45 am (UTC)
Only Rodney would conjure up a woman with a cock. The best of both worlds.

That's not actually far from the truth. Ylla was intended to be a metaphor of sorts to reflect Rodney's sexuality, which is one reason why he has a "sense" that something's not quite right but enjoys himself all the same and sees nothing really unusual about a woman with a cock - of course, the drugged wine had a lot more to do with that.

I'm so glad you enjoyed the story. Thank you!
Jun. 28th, 2011 01:32 am (UTC)
LOL, I spent the entire fic thinking Yll was John, and got REALLY confused towards the end! I have to go back and reread, knowing it was McKay.
Jun. 28th, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC)
Oh my... your icon in light of this story!! ;D

You know, I was hoping that the identity of Yll would be fairly ambiguous up to the reveal, giving the reader a back and forth kind of thing, but I'm sorry you were confused and hope the re-read is more enjoyable.
Jul. 1st, 2011 09:56 am (UTC)
Very vivid and evocative writing. A fascinating world.
And here's another take on that icon!
Jul. 10th, 2011 11:34 am (UTC)
Thank you! I grew up on classic sci-fi and the B-movies of the "atomic age" and it's always stuck with me. It was fun mixing the two.

And, I swear to god, that has to be one of the best lines - ever. Love your icon, too.
Jul. 2nd, 2011 05:30 pm (UTC)
Wow, you pulled me in and it was a wonderful ride. Thank you for getting Rodney rescued....

Loved it

Jul. 10th, 2011 11:37 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed it.

The rescue was never in question; it was more or less the integral point of the story. I would never have left Rodney there for long... neither would John.
Jul. 8th, 2011 07:17 pm (UTC)
Oooooh, sci fi SGA fic: so cool!! <3 <3 <3

I don't remember this story from The Martian Chronicles but it does have that dragging, inevitable, melancholy feel of the era's SF. I love how Rodney's drugged state IS the narrative voice; the action's all swirls & intimations & half-familiar voices almost heard. Then the final scene with Dr. Lucienne, the other mysterious female, reveals that she brought as much light to Rodney's mental darkness as she could, & will probably be exiled back to her people for it. Very darkly ironic, & also typical of SF of the period. Woot, great job with this eerie fic! It leaves one wondering but sympathizing with the characters: just like the rescue party, we'll never really know exactly what happened, just the echoes of how it affected those who were there but can't express what happened. And I love the title too!

Good stuff. Thanks very much for writing & sharing this.
Jul. 10th, 2011 11:44 am (UTC)
"Darkly ironic" - I'm officially adopting that as a mantle, or a middle name. ;D Says so much about the way I feel these days. I'm so glad you enjoyed this. As a young reader, I couldn't get enough Bradbury and a few other sci-fi authors of the time, and I've probably seen every atomic-age B-movie ever made and it's interesting to see which elements have remained with me after all these years. This was such fun to write and I thank you very much for reading! <3

Edited at 2011-07-10 11:54 am (UTC)
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