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Week 46: Ascent, John/Rodney, PG, Part Two

Title: Ascension World: A Place For Children
Author: Panisdead
Pairing: Rodney McKay/John Sheppard
Rating: PG
Word Count: 12,350
Notes: Completed for prompt #46: ascent. Cross-posted to AO3. Many thanks to Runpunkrun, Umbo, and Girlpearl for their beta and encouragement.

Summary: "Are we sure we want to go in?" John said, nose wrinkling. "I think it's educational."

Part One



Ahead of them, the smooth industrial flooring of the entryway sloped away into dimness. There was a sound of water lapping gently somewhere close by, although after the daylight outside Rodney could only make out varying shades of darkness. The air hung heavy with moisture, and the smell of damp was overwhelming.

"Looks like somebody left the faucet on," John said, signaling a halt like there were Marines around to pay attention. He flipped on the light on his P-90 and scanned the room.

A dock stretched out in front of them. It was short and bare, with plain metal pylons disappearing into the water below. Off the far edge, secured to cleats, bobbed several canoes.

John moved forward slowly, testing his weight with each step onto the dock. Rodney watched him uneasily, aiming his penlight first at John's feet, and then at the black water beyond the far edge of the dock. Anything could be in there. Crocodiles. Amphibious Wraith. John was better able to defend himself from surprise attack.

John reached the far end of the dock and peered into the water, then pulled something out of his pocket--rock, coin, bullet, Rodney couldn't tell--and tossed it in. It hit the water with a light splash, followed only a second later by faint underwater clanking. "It's pretty shallow," John said. "Looks like the canoes are on tracks."

Rodney sighed. "What on earth is the point of a canoe you don't even have to paddle?" He stepped out onto the dock next to John and peered into the nearest boat.

"Maybe it's romantic," John suggested.

"It's for kids." Rodney poked at a mass of partially disintegrated synthetic fiber in the bottom of the boat. "And no ride you have to take swaddled in personal floatation gear could possibly be romantic. Especially that stuff. It smells like dead mouse."

He straightened and played his light over the walls. Squat, drooping trees with feathery leaves, clearly artificial, grew along both sides of the river, forming an archway that led into the darkness.

Rodney shone his light down into the water. The bottom was visible, not more than knee-deep. He eyed the decaying life jackets again and decided that given a choice, he might rather drown.

Rodney sighed. "I suppose we have to get in the boat," he said unenthusiastically.

John brightened, like the idea of actually taking the ride hadn't occurred to him. Maybe he still had a zen hangover from the previous exhibit and had been planning to stare contemplatively at the canoes until he lost all alpha-wave function. Rodney wouldn't have put it past him.

The canoes had two bench seats, which was convenient, but were scaled for Ancients under a meter, which was less so. Rodney sat in the stern with his knees splayed wide to accommodate John's hips on the bench in front of him.

John leaned backward over him to uncleat the canoe, setting the canoe to rocking and pressing a good deal more of his TAC vest into Rodney's inner thighs than Rodney was strictly prepared for. It was an odd, stolen feeling; the combination of rough, impersonal fabric and heavy, warm body between his thighs. It reminded Rodney of receiving a hug from a child, or an elderly relative: pleasurable, overlaid with the faint tension inherent in finding pleasure in the touch of someone sexually off-limits.

Although John wasn't, inherently. Whether he was available, Rodney wasn't entirely certain, but he was not inherently off-limits. That was the distillation of John's halting declaration last week on the pier. And Rodney's uncertainty was part of his discomfort with John this past week.

Mostly, Rodney thought, he wanted his friend. He wanted John back the way they had been, or rather, he wanted to fast-forward through the tension and the loaded pauses and the stumbling over changing boundaries, and to simply be in the future, in the new way they would be with each other. He wasn't sure he particularly cared what way that would be as long as it had him in it, and John.

What John felt about all this, Rodney lacked sufficient data to speculate.

"Ow," he said instead, shoving at John's back where it was pressing into his chest.

"Can't reach otherwise," John said, leaning in even further. Rodney felt his face begin to heat at their continued proximity. Spiky hair tickled his nose, and then John gave an oof and pressed something on the edge of the dock and the canoe jerked forward.

Rodney gave a startled yelp and tried to clutch John's shoulders, the side of the canoe, and the non-existent paddles at the same time. The canoe rocked on its underwater track and water slapped against the side, although thankfully not into the boat, because who knew what sort of toxic mold cultures were growing in there after all this time.

John snorted and pushed off of him, sitting up and out of Rodney's lap, or as far out as he could realistically get under the circumstances. "Suave, McKay."

"If you wanted suave, you should have come out to alternate universe me," Rodney fired off, and then winced at his own tactlessness.

John peered over his shoulder and stared at Rodney incredulously. "Wow," he said. "You are terrible at this."

"And I can apologize again, but we both know it's not likely to change anything," Rodney said. He crossed his arms over his chest belligerently, then quickly uncrossed them when the movement made the boat rock again.

John stared at him a moment longer, then turned back toward the darkness in front of them. He shrugged his shoulders, making his TAC vest move up and down and bump against Rodney's knees. "Guess I'm kinda used to it," he said to the bow of the canoe. "Since you're my best friend and all."

Rodney stared at the back of his head, stunned. "I--really?" he asked in an embarrassingly small voice.

"Mmm," John said noncommittally.

"You're sure?" He paused, but John didn't add anything. "Just--that's the most sentimental thing I've ever heard you say. I think you should be sure.”

John swiveled and glared at him. "I can take it back."

"No!" Rodney yelped. "No, you don't need to, I was just--I just--" he stopped and took a breath, gathering himself. "Thank you." He reached out one hand, flustered by the expanse of John's back and shoulders, and after a brief hesitation settled for patting him on the arm.

John reached over and covered his hand, a brief hard press, and once again that was far more than Rodney had been expecting.

The canoe slid through the black water, past the shadowy outlines of trees dripping synthetic moss and around bends in the river created by tree roots and narrow, grassy banks. The only light came from John's P-90, and from the occasional tiny, winking balls of yellowish light that Rodney assumed were supposed to be firefly analogues.

Unlike the previous exhibits, it was actually rather restful. The canoe traveled smoothly enough, but faint clunks and vibrations filtered up through the bench seats, reminding Rodney that they were safely atop a track, headed toward, if not actual enlightenment, at least a destination.

Rodney watched the trees slide by with vague, unfocused attention. The majority of his brain was rifling through the events of the day, generating patterns and hypotheses and proposals for exploratory research into the nature of John Sheppard.

"I wish I had some cotton candy," he said abruptly. The brain required glucose for this kind of complex synthesis.

"We'll get you another snow cone when the ride's over," John said, and patted his calf.

Rodney was suspicious of this new data point. "You're awfully affectionate all of a sudden."

John reached back and flicked him.

The bumping and clunking of the canoe sped up suddenly. With a little burst of speed they rounded a hummock and were faced with an island. Two more boat-lengths and the canoe beached itself on a tiny sandy shore with the chunk of a locking mechanism engaging.

They unfolded themselves and stepped out. The island, if it were really large enough to deserve the name, was no more than four meters across at the widest point. The tiny beach gave way almost immediately to scrub vegetation and a narrow paved path, which climbed up and over a low hill. The path was lined with the same bluish track lighting from Wraith Blaster, while the short wiry bushes formed a makeshift hedge on either side.

They climbed the hill, boots scraping as grit from the beach met the pavement. At the top of the hill the bushes opened out into what looked for all the world like a campfire ring, complete with log benches and a pile of ash in the center.

John tapped one of the logs with the P-90. The log made a hollow, echoing sound, and in the middle of the ring the ashes grudgingly began to glow.

John waggled his eyebrows at Rodney. "Wanna see what it does?"

"It's a campfire, I already know what it does," Rodney said.

John stepped over the nearest bench and plopped down. He patted the spot next to him in invitation. "Come on, Rodney, pull up a log."

"Now that sounds enticing," Rodney muttered, sitting down next to him gingerly. More molded ass-indentations on the logs, wonderful. The embers, possibly triggered by his weight on the bench, began to glow more strongly.

Rodney stared into the fire. What a day.

Next to him, John gave a deep sigh and leaned forward, propping his elbows on his knees. He tipped his head toward Rodney conspiratorially. "I like this one so far. You're right, though, it'd be better with cotton candy."

It figured John would grasp the appeal once something was on fire. "Of course I'm right." Rodney unzipped his vest and fumbled through the inside pockets until he found what he was looking for. He held his hand out toward John. "I can't help you with the candy, but I can offer you a choice of sugar-free spearmint or cinnamon gum."

"Big spender," John said, popping a piece of spearmint in his mouth. "Thanks."

Rodney took a piece of cinnamon for himself and turned back to the fire. It was hard to imagine the intended purpose of this exhibit, but in and of itself it wasn't so bad. The flames flickered steadily, making him feel warmer even though he was pretty sure they were holographic. The exhibit hall was dark, the quiet broken only by the faint sound of running water in the distance. The only insects were computer generated.

"Wish I had my guitar," John said.

"What for?" Rodney asked, nonplussed.

"We could pass it around, play a few tunes," John said. "Ronon's learning."

"Excellent, we could all sing Satedan power ballads," Rodney said without heat. "So what you really mean is that you wish you had a guitar, and Ronon and Teyla. And maybe some cotton candy."

"Mmm, yeah. Cultural exchange," John said, nodding. He strummed a few air chords and sang in a rough baritone, "Home, home on the range..."

"Where the deer and the antelope play," Rodney harmonized, and they finished the chorus together. John wasn't too bad, although his breath control could use some work. Rodney grinned and bumped shoulders with him anyway.

John grinned back, then stilled suddenly. "I haven't--talked--to Ronon or Teyla yet," he said, eyes on the fire, and Rodney bit his tongue against the reflexive desire to ask "about what?" It was like playing John Charades sometimes, seriously. Two syllables, rhymes with "emotionally unavailable."

"I will, I guess," John went on. "They're my--I guess I should tell them."

"I suppose," Rodney said, as nonjudgmentally as possible. After John’s hasty retreat that night on the pier, Rodney had returned to his quarters and spent several hours poring over what relevant literature was available on the Atlantean database, brushing up on his queer theory. There had been an online etiquette guide that covered this situation, but experiencing it was a lot more nerve-wracking.

John looked at him then. "I just started with you," he said.

"Wow," Rodney said stupidly. He stared back at John, stunned and pleased, while a small, fiercely competitive portion of his brain pumped its fist and shrieked, yes!

"Don't let it go to your head," John muttered, but the corner of his mouth was curled up.

Rodney wracked his brain for something suitably congratulatory and supportive. The online guide had been extremely clear on the necessity of being supportive. "I'm sure Teyla and Ronon will be delighted to talk with you, just as I have been," he said formally. He frowned for a moment, picturing the scenario. He could visualize John and Teyla having a serious conversation well enough, but Ronon was more difficult. He pictured himself approaching Ronon and suggesting the need for a tete-a-tete, then winced. That was unpleasant.

John made a face like he was picturing the same thing.

"Maybe you could just skip Ronon," Rodney suggested, and John snickered.

"Or you don't have to say anything to either of them," Rodney went on.

"Yeah," John said softly. "I don't have to." The lines of his shoulders drooped a little. He looked exhausted, suddenly. "I'm almost forty, though. It feels dumb not to."

"Well, sure," Rodney said. "But you do a lot of dumb things. We're sitting on fake logs in a fake swamp in front of a fake campfire, for one."

John shrugged.

"Wait a second," Rodney said. "When you say you 'started with me,' you meant 'started with me out of the handful of people on Atlantis with whom you might care to reveal something of this nature,' right?"

John eyed him with discomfort and seemed to fold in on himself a little.

"You didn't," Rodney said dumbly. "Oh, wow."

He stared unseeing into the fire, feeling like his insides had been scooped out. "Why not, before?" he asked finally.

"I told you," John said. "I don't like talking about it."

And that seemed to be that. Rodney sat, and stared at the fire, and chewed his gum mechanically. After a little while, John slid onto the ground and stretched his legs out in front of him toward the fire. Rodney slid down to sit next to him, and they sat like that for a while.

"So you didn't ever look for a, I don't know, a support group or something?" Rodney said quietly after a bit. He felt like if he moved too suddenly or raised his voice he'd pop the bubble of calm that surrounded them.

John made a motion with his shoulders that might have been a shrug. "What for?"

Rodney waited, but the moment drew out and John didn't elaborate. "I suppose the obvious answer would be 'support,'" he said finally. "Help figuring yourself out, or something."

"It's not really that hard a concept," John said.

Rodney felt slow and dreamy, like he was moving underwater or at half-speed. He thought that normally it would be killing him to sit here getting stonewalled. Except he was beginning to think perhaps this wasn't stonewalling, that this truly was the extent of John's engagement with the topic. 'It's not that hard a concept.' Like it was algebra, not identity politics.

"So, what, just--sometimes guys?" he asked. "That's it?"

Now John rolled his head to look at him. "Yeah," he said slowly. "Mostly nobody. But sometimes guys."

Leaving aside the patent unlikelihood of "mostly nobody" when a person looked and moved like John Sheppard, Rodney felt his agitation rising. "But you didn't have anybody there to, to show you the ropes."

John snorted. "Well, first you take your dick out. Then you take his dick out. Then--"

"No, shut up," Rodney said. "That's not what I mean. I mean you didn't have friends, a mentor, a, a community there for you, as embarrassing and saccharine as it is for me to put words to that concept, but like it or not I never would have gotten where I am today without the people around me."

He stopped. John was watching him with polite incomprehension. It was a look Rodney was used to seeing, but not on John, and it made his stomach hurt.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't know you back then, I'm sorry we didn't know you, me and Ronon and Teyla and everyone, and that you were by yourself. I'm sorry it was like that for you."

"Rodney," John said, sounding frustrated. He sat up straight and stared at Rodney, scowling. "What else is it supposed to be like?"

"You're supposed to have people," Rodney said heatedly, helplessly. His eyes stung. "I wish I had been there." He reached out blindly and grabbed John's hand.

John was silent next to him. His hand was gentle on Rodney's, pressing back but noncommittal.

Rodney squeezed his eyes shut and gripped him more tightly. He pulled his knees up to his chest, wishing he weren't sitting here with his literal and proverbial soft underbelly exposed. It just hurt to think about, John by himself all that time.

"I think--" John began, "I think you're missing the point."

"Oh, what now?" Rodney said, dropping his head to his knees in defeat. He knew it was horrible, but he didn't think he could take another elliptical conversation.

"You're here now," John said. "You and Ronon and Teyla."

Rodney looked up at him. "Ronon and Teyla aren't here, they're asleep in the courtyard," he told John irritably.

"Figuratively, Jesus," John said, and kissed him.

It was a strange kiss, prickly and damp and underwritten with both surprise and a sense of loss. It had been a long time since Rodney had kissed anyone who didn't go on to find him a disappointment, and he thought that maybe it had been even longer for John. He wanted to grab John and force comprehension into him on a molecular level: you're my best friend, dumbass, and I don't care if you make sense, and I don't even like amusement parks.

It was silly, he knew, but Rodney had never been the guy who didn't care.

He settled for touching John's bristly cheek, the corner of his mouth, the outer ridge of his ear. Up close John smelled like spearmint, and it clashed with the leftover cinnamon flavor still coating the inside of Rodney's mouth. He went on kissing John anyway.

In the center of the circle, the fire suddenly flared, rising to half a meter with a crackling whoosh. The flames leaped, twisted, and then went out. A flurry of sparks floated in the air, tiny pinpricks of light in the sudden dark.

They pulled apart, blinking away the after-images.

"Looks like the party's over," John said, rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously.

"The path's lit up over there," Rodney said. His voice caught at first and he had to cough and start over. He wasn't sure if he was turned on or not. He felt more like he'd taken a blow to the head than anything else.

They unfolded themselves from the ground, brushing away sand, and made their way down the blue-lit path in silence. The path dead-ended at another tiny beach with two canoes settled half in and half out of the water.

Rodney examined the closest one. It was barely large enough to hold him, let alone two grown men, no matter how cozily they sat. Apparently one might enter the River of Solitude with a companion, but one left alone.

"I knew there was symbolism in here somewhere," he said sourly.

John kicked the side of his canoe. "I don't like this."

"Now imagine you're here with a screaming toddler," Rodney said. "I know it's unlike me to take risks with my physical safety, but barring emotional minefields, there's been nothing even remotely dangerous involved in this mission so far. I vote we shove off and get out of here."

John hesitated, then shrugged. "I think we might be doing this one wrong anyway," he said, and folded himself into his canoe.

Rodney stared after him, back in the moment on the hill with John's tongue against his, then shook his head briskly and stepped into his own boat. John reached back and pushed the button, and a moment later the canoe lurched away into the dark.

The trip out was mercifully brief. Rodney's canoe trailed behind John's, John a dim silhouette of shoulders and ears and the dark horizontal line of his P-90 resting across his knees. They rounded two or three leisurely turns before the quality of the light began to change, becoming grainy and pale instead of the velvety dark of the exhibit.

An outline of a door appeared, a thin bright tracing, and then a second one further along. Ahead of him, John's canoe veered off to the right toward the first door, while Rodney's continued. He felt the boat dock with a clunk, and then squinted against the brightness as his door began to open.

Back on the path, the daylight was blinding. Rodney rubbed at his watering eyes, feeling like he’d emerged from a dream. John put on his sunglasses, and then to Rodney’s surprise pulled a second pair out of his vest and handed them over. Rodney accepted gratefully and slid them on.

The sudden shade brought relief, and a strange certainty that he should be back in the dark with John. He turned, already reaching out, feeling his palms cupping around the phantom solidity of John’s shoulders, to find John watching him with that same weary expression.

“Hey,” Rodney said softly. He reached up and brushed his knuckles across John’s cheek, thinking gently, gently.

It was the wrong approach. John grimaced and shook his hand off, even though he’d shivered and leaned into that touch, in the dark.

“Do you want me to go for confrontational, then?” Rodney asked. He had no problem with that, if it would keep them from stalling out again.

“You don’t like men,” John said quietly.

Surprised, Rodney held very still for a moment, thinking. Did he? Historical evidence suggested no, but he’d kissed John back easily enough. Perhaps his revealed preference suggested differently.

He focused on John. This was a risk, he realized. John could have said what the hell, McKay, or kissed him with enough fervor to derail conversation, or any number of other responses that precluded a genuine discussion of their relationship in the full light of day. This was John taking another, greater risk with him. With Rodney first.

“I could,” he said carefully.

“Just like that,” John said.

“I could!” Rodney said, losing some of his cool. “Aside from the obvious ethical objections, I don’t really see what the big deal is.”

John’s mouth moved, silently shaping “ethical objections,” and Rodney hurried to forestall him.

“Not that, of course,” he hurried on, “I was referring to the problem of my just being ‘gay for you,’” he made the air quotes. “I believe that’s considered a bit tacky.”

“But.” John stopped, visibly gathering himself, then spoke again in that same quiet voice. “Are you? Gay for me?”

Rodney looked at him. “That’s what I’m telling you,” he said, painstakingly phrasing his response in the simplest terms possible. “I don’t know. I think I could be. I never really thought about it.”

John twitched a little, like that stung.

Rodney rolled his eyes. “Of course you're terribly attractive,” he said placatingly, “I just wasn't really considering it on a, you know, a personal level.”

"And now you are," John said slowly, the way he said things like they believe the lava spirits guard the vessel of the Ancestors, or so you've become telepathic.

"Didn't we just have this conversation?" Rodney said, annoyed. "How difficult of a concept can it possibly be? You're a guy, I'm very fond of you, ergo I'm fond of guys."

“That doesn’t follow,” John said.

“Oh,” Rodney said with sudden understanding. “You’re nervous. You don’t think I can hack the gay lifestyle. You don’t think I’ve got the chops for this!”

“I think if you’ve never even thought about it, there’s no way you really—“ John broke off, voice low and rough.

“—want this,” Rodney finished, because even he couldn’t say want you out loud without a truth force field.

John winced anyway.

“Sorry, sorry,” Rodney said hurriedly, then stopped. It was a valid point. He’d been so distracted by the intellectual aspect he’d forgotten the visceral.

Conceptually he was on board. Physically—he thought about putting his hands on John with intent, about kissing him again. About the weight of John’s body against his chest, or between his thighs. Heat flooded him, startling in its intensity. Yes, he thought. Yes, yes, of course. An outlier was still a data point. This could work.

“Yes,” he said aloud. “I think I could. I think—no, I do.” He put a hand on John’s bicep and felt excitement rush through him.

John looked at him. “You don’t sound real sure.”

“Look, are you trying to talk me into or out of this relationship?” Rodney threw his hands out, miming frustration and, hopefully, his acceptance of the profound fluidity of human sexual behavior. “Because I was in! Totally in!”

John pursed his lips, the very picture of skepticism. “So you’re in. We’ll just go tell Ronon and Teyla you’re gay now. I’m sure they’ll be honored to discuss it with you.”

"Oh god, you're right! This is a terrible idea." Rodney blanched and grabbed John’s arm for support. John felt good under his hands. Solid. Another plus in the column for visceral attraction.

Perversely, this was what finally seemed to convince John of his good faith. John ducked his head, huffing out a laugh, then smiled up at Rodney with soft eyes. "We do dumb things all the time.”

"You're a stellar example of the genre," Rodney muttered. "It'll be like the blind leading the blind in the dark."

"By the dick?" John said hopefully.

"I think we can arrange that," Rodney muttered. His stomach gave a pleasant little twist at the idea. Unexplored knowledge always did that to him. “But later, for crying out loud. Priorities! Right this moment I have a self-concept to rearrange, and also we have—“ he stopped, scanning their surroundings with the sudden realization that he’d been completely unaware of them for the last several minutes. Nope, still unthreatening. “We have one exhibit left.” He eyed John, feeling uncomfortably diffident. “Unless you’d like to skip this one?”

“Are you gonna go all polite on me every time we make out?”

“Yes, and I’m going to hold doors and pull your chair out for you at dinner and help you into your jacket,” Rodney said, chagrined. “I was deferring to your tenuous hold on your self-definition, but I see you’d rather make smart remarks. Fine, then, last exhibit it is. Chop chop.”

He crossed the few meters to the doorway of the final building. It was mercifully small, hardly larger than a toolshed. The plaque over the doorway read “Garden of Emptiness,” subtitle unburden yourself of sensation, which was a little too close to sentience for Rodney’s taste.

“Don’t touch anything in this one,” he warned John, pushing the door open.

The interior of the room was black, silent, and curiously odorless. So much for the garden. John shone his light into the corners, but the room appeared to be exactly what Rodney had surmised at first glance: dark, empty, and boring.

He went in anyway, stopping in the center of the room and giving it a cursory scan. Nothing. “I can’t believe there’s not even a neural interface in here.”

John huffed with laughter. “What a disappointment.”

“Maybe it’s broken.”

John flipped his light off and they stood there in the pitch black, arms brushing. “Maybe it’s just stupid.”

Rodney burst into surprised laughter. Usually when John could be bothered to express outright disdain, it was directed at Rodney, but in this they were united. “Seriously, Garden of Emptiness? There should at least be a sensory deprivation tank in here.”

“This whole place sounds like an ad for a high colonic,” John said, and that was it.

They leaned against each other in the dark, whooping with laughter. Rodney felt the tension of the day, of the past week, falling away from him like dust, or maybe dead skin cells in an Ancient cleanse, and doubled over again. John’s braying laugh was so close it set the short hairs at the nape of his neck vibrating, and Rodney felt a sudden, aching rush of affection for him.

“You know it wouldn’t have been like that, if we had been with you back then,” he said, fumbling to put his hands on John. “I never would have let it be like that.”

John’s hands came to rest, strange and intimate, on his hips. “I know.” His voice was low and full of warmth.

Rodney wished he could see him, sense more of John than the feeling of his shoulders rising and falling under his palms, still out of breath from laughing. “We could go with you,” he said impulsively, “we could go to, what is it, Pride? Next time we’re back on Earth. San Francisco, maybe?”

“No, we really couldn’t,” John said.

“It’s a possibility!”

John shook him, rocking him on his feet. “Let’s just—see how it goes. Start slow. Let you—“ his voice became mocking—“‘rearrange your self-concept,’ if you’re really going to.”

“Please, I’m already two-thirds of the way there,” Rodney said airily. “I’ll be gayer than you by dinner.” He knew it wasn’t really so simple, that he would be in for second-guessing and self-examination and probably painful and protracted psychotherapy, but he knew, also, that John turning to him with his secrets, turning to Rodney first, was a prize worth doing battle for.

“Wow, by dinner? We should get on home,” John drawled. He stepped forward, pressing a button on the west wall that Rodney hadn’t even noticed.

The wall lit up with lines of blue text.

“You have ascended. Delight in the astral plane,” Rodney read in disgust.

John snorted.

With a squeal, the doors slid open, letting in daylight all in a rush. They stepped outside, blinking and fumbling for sunglasses. A metal box not unlike a parking meter stood in the center of the path. Rodney poked at the single button on the front, and the machine clicked twice and dropped something into the dispenser with a clinking sound.

Rodney picked up the object and examined it. It was a tiny metal pin with the grapheme that signified the abbreviation for “ascended” in Ancient. There was a magnet closure on the reverse.

Rodney held it up for John to see. “I think it’s a lapel pin,” he said dubiously.

“It’s a souvenir,” John said with great deliberation, like that somehow imbued it with either interest or style. He pushed the button, then clipped his pin to his shirt collar. “Let’s get some for Ronon and Teyla too.”

“Why? They didn’t complete the exhibits,” Rodney said.

John gave him his incredulous you’re being a dick face and pushed the button. Nothing happened. He tried again, but still nothing.

“See?” Rodney said meanly. “No truth helmet, no souvenir. You have to earn your glowy squidness here at Ascension World. At least they got that part right.”

John made a face. “Let’s get out of here.” He tapped his radio, and Rodney saw Ronon halfway across the courtyard, standing to stretch. Teyla stood next to him, pressing her hands to her lower back.

They made their way over to them. The sun had come back out and it was mid-afternoon by now. Rodney’s stomach, ignored in favor of more pressing emotional turmoil, began to growl.

Teyla smiled tiredly at them as they approached. “How was your adventure?”

John widened his eyes and thumbed his lapel pin. “We won big at the midway.” Then he abruptly dropped the smarm and reached out hesitantly. “We had—fun,” he said, patting Teyla’s shoulder. “Thanks for waiting. Both of you.”

“It was a much-needed rest,” Teyla said. She had dark circles under her eyes, and still managed to sound gracious.

“Yeah, about that, did you take my energy readings?” Rodney asked, turning to Ronon.

Ronon grinned toothily at him. “No.”

Rodney opened his mouth to protest, but John slung an arm over his shoulder and began to herd him toward the exit.

“Come on, Rodney,” he said. “You found everything there was to find. Let’s get home before dinner.” John turned back to Ronon and Teyla. “You’re eating with us, right? I thought maybe we could—“ John swallowed visibly “—chat.”

“Oh yeah, we have lots to discuss,” Rodney said, elbowing him in the ribs.

“As do I,” Teyla said, resting a hand on her abdomen.

“Great,” Rodney said with false enthusiasm. “It’ll be a bonanza of discussing!”

“We had amusement parks on Sateda,” Ronon said abruptly.

John came to a halt under the concrete entrance archway. “Well, you can tell us all about it, buddy.” He sounded happy, and his arm was still loosely around Rodney’s shoulders. “I bet they were nothing like this one.”

He grinned at Rodney sidelong, and Rodney thought, I can't wait to find out what happens with you, I love you so much, I absolutely can't wait.


END

Comments

( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
londonsabre
Apr. 12th, 2012 02:59 pm (UTC)
This was a lovely concept. With added TEAM and McShep! Loved it!!
panisdead
Apr. 12th, 2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it! Thank you. :)
(Deleted comment)
panisdead
Apr. 12th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
Anti-amusement park! You're not wrong. I'm very glad you liked this; thank you.
helenkacan
Apr. 12th, 2012 04:53 pm (UTC)
I'm always astounded (you'd think I'd know by now) at the level of quality and sophisticated nuances to be found in the stories that are submitted for this comm.

This wasn't a roller-coaster but rather a swaying gondola veering between varying points of discomfort, but always ending up highlighting the friendship and love between the team members.

Thank you!
panisdead
Apr. 13th, 2012 12:06 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm really glad it worked for you. I love them all and mostly just want them to be happy, whether they're doing it the right way or not. I'm very pleased you found this to be enjoyably nuanced as well. Nuance and dick jokes!
helenkacan
Apr. 13th, 2012 02:36 am (UTC)
Nuance and dick jokes!
Eeeeee! Just for that, you get the John-on-John icon.
panisdead
Apr. 13th, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC)
(I remember somebody describing that episode as "John/John non-con." It works)!
blackchaps
Apr. 12th, 2012 06:10 pm (UTC)
I fell in love with your Rodney voice! Thank you!
panisdead
Apr. 12th, 2012 11:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you for letting me know! I love that dude; he's the character who pulled me into the show (eons ago, at this point). I'm glad you liked this.
beadattitude
Apr. 12th, 2012 06:48 pm (UTC)
::flaily hands of happiness::
panisdead
Apr. 12th, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
Flaily hands of happiness are great! Thank you!
esteefee
Apr. 13th, 2012 08:31 am (UTC)
omg, you completely captured the utter creepy wrong of the Ancients. way better than any episode ever, I think. it was like, the totality of Ancient Wrongness condensed in one stale, sticky 10,000 year-old sno-cone. kudos to you, my friend.

and of course that would be the thing to bring John and Rodney together. :D
panisdead
Apr. 13th, 2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
the totality of Ancient Wrongness

I sort of feel like I should thank you and then apologize. ::g:: I'm glad that aspect worked for you! I think this would actually be a dreadful place to take your kids, definitely.

Thank you for reading! I'm glad you liked this.
juniperphoenix
Apr. 13th, 2012 02:58 pm (UTC)
This was fantastic.
panisdead
Apr. 13th, 2012 07:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!! I'm glad you liked it.
scarlettandblue
Apr. 14th, 2012 12:45 pm (UTC)
I love love LOVE this story so much. Thank you.
And I second what esteefee said as to how brilliantly you encapsulated the utter creepy wrongness of the Ancients.

This is so beautifully well written. It captivates the reader drawing them into the story, into the heart of what is happeing here. And that last line. Perfect!
panisdead
Apr. 14th, 2012 02:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, that's really great to hear! I'm very glad you enjoyed this, and that it pulled you in successfully. :)

Somebody else called this an "anti-amusement" park, which I love. It does not actually seem like a fun place to be, or to take small children.

Thanks again--I'm really pleased you liked this.
mikes_grrl
Apr. 14th, 2012 06:25 pm (UTC)
This was fantastic! Dull Acient amusement park, team dynamics, stilted, awkward Rodney and emotionally retarded John -- SO MUCH WIN. Thank you!
panisdead
Apr. 14th, 2012 08:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm really glad you liked it! Rodney doesn't know how to combat this entirely unexpected development in his understanding of John except by RESEARCH. Runpunkrun suggested this might be the case, and I agreed.

Thanks again!
hickman1937
Apr. 14th, 2012 07:14 pm (UTC)
I loved this story. It induced a kind of dreamy drifty mood in me as I read which should have been totally at odds with all of the times I laughed out loud, but wasn't. If that doesn't make sense, sorry. Thank you for writing this.
panisdead
Apr. 14th, 2012 08:30 pm (UTC)
I'm thrilled to hear that, actually! That is very much the effect I was going for, so I'm really glad it worked for you. Thank you so much!
fanficfan123
Apr. 15th, 2012 04:17 am (UTC)
Really enjoyed the dialogue here, and the catalogue of John's expressions by Rodney. The whooshing joy of Rodney's closing thought follows through so nicely on his just wanting to know what the future holds for him vis a vis John: now he sees the outline clearly and can anticipate the specifics joyfully.
panisdead
Apr. 15th, 2012 09:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I figured Rodney probably had to take what clues he could get when dealing with John, hence the catalog of facial expressions. :) And I agree, I like to think that now Rodney has at least an outline that he can work toward with John, and that they can make it up successfully from there.

I'm really glad you liked this!
fanficfan123
Apr. 16th, 2012 02:14 am (UTC)
You're most welcome.
xylohypha
Apr. 15th, 2012 05:40 am (UTC)
I wasn't quite sure about this fic when I read the header, but it turned out to be exactly what I wanted to read tonight. I really enjoyed seeing John and Rodney fumbling their way through sorting this out between them.

Also, It was like playing John Charades sometimes, seriously is one of the most compact and vividly descriptive phrases I've read in some time.
panisdead
Apr. 15th, 2012 09:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you, that's a great comment to receive! I'm really glad it turned out to be something you enjoyed--I love those dudes and mostly just want them to be happy, however it works out for them.

The "John Charades" line was one of those that I wrote down in isolation very early on, and then just hoped I could find a place for. There turned out to be one in the story, so I got lucky. ::g::
ozsaur
Apr. 15th, 2012 02:34 pm (UTC)
WORST AMUSEMENT PARK EVER!!!! OMG!!! How did the Ancients stand themselves? You captured how creepy and awful they truly are. Very clever to weave John and Rodney's revelations within the framework of the Ancient's crappy idea of the journey of Ascension. I'm pretty sure they're the only two people that ever got anything out of those exhibits. LOL Well done!
panisdead
Apr. 15th, 2012 09:42 pm (UTC)
I know, seriously, it's a terrible idea for a park! Small children do not want to ascend! But I'm glad you enjoyed this. ::g :: Thank you for reading!
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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