Able to Zoo

There's no reason you should read these in order. I didn't write them that way.

( Able )( Bracing )( Crank )( Details )( Eavesdrop )( Frolic )( Gamble )
( Hibiscus )( Implication )( Jacked )( Keel )( Lamp )( Monument )( Notice )( Open )( Pander )
( Quandary )( Rodent )( Swelter )( Tentative )( Unctuous )( Vellum )
( Water )( Xenophobia )( Yodel )( Zoo )


Atlantis always knows where John is. It is capable of individually distinguishing all two hundred and seventeen humans that live in the city, including the eleven with the artificial gene and the timid doctor that created it, but the humans have nothing to offer and the halflings open and close the doors and think that's all there is. Only John wants to fly.

John comes and goes and the humans open and close the doors and while they all fight and worry and eat, Atlantis searches its memory banks, looking for a way to wake the stardrive from its sleep.


Before Ronon leaves Atlantis, leaves John, the team (but not Teyla), before John leaves Atlantis, leaves Ronon, Teyla (but not Rodney), Ronon comes to his room and gives him a pair of heavy leather gauntlets that match his own.

John invites him in. For two years Atlantis was everything. The only thing. Now it belongs to someone else. John will go back to Earth, his other, lesser loved home. He can be the good soldier, and forget the ones he left behind.

They fuck on John's naked bed, for the first and last time, John already bracing himself for withdrawal.


"Is rainbow machine," Zelenka said, setting the plastic cube on Rodney's workbench.

Rodney gave him a venomous look. "Excuse me? A what machine? What possible use --"

"I do not know its purpose. Only that you hook it up at grounding station, turn crank, and it makes rainbow." He shrugged and pushed his glasses up his nose. "Maybe for party."

"Oh yes," spat Rodney, "those wacky Ancients and their rainbow parties. Does it shoot out unicorns and cotton candy too?"

"No," said Zelenka. "Just rainbows."

Rodney waved a hand. "Put it in the crate with all the other useless shit."


There wasn't a bed larger than a twin anywhere in Atlantis.

"Did these people not sleep together?" John asked.

"They were a highly advanced race!" Rodney sniffed, poking his head into the closet. "Ooh, a walk-in." He disappeared.

"You're telling me they evolved beyond sex?"

"No," came Rodney's voice, "I'm telling you they must have invented a better way to have it."

John pouted. "I like sex in a bed."

"Spare me the details of your torrid love life, Major," Rodney said, brushing past him to inspect the bathroom.

John looked over his shoulder. "Showers are nice and big though."


Madison gets up early on Saturdays, which means Jeannie does too. It's barely six and her daughter's on the floor watching television. Her brother's on the couch, wrapped in the quilt she'd thrown over him before going to bed. He's got it pulled over his head while he grumbles into his cell phone.

"Because if I have to be awake at this hour, you do too -- no, I'm not watching cartoons -- yes, I'm sure -- maybe I just missed your stupid voice!"

"Aw," says Jeannie. "That's so sweet, Meredith."

"I hate you both." He scowls. "Sheppard says hi."


A week from now, on a tiny planet, in a town John and Rodney will refer to as Bradburyville, there will be a festival (the rare conjunction of the planet's three moons), and the team will frolic together in the tall grass, naked. There will be wrestling and giggling, playful biting and slow kisses. They will feed each other and tell stories. Sheppard will braid blue daisies into Teyla's hair and Ronon and Rodney will fuck around on the sand until the moons move apart and everyone gets dressed and goes home, where they will never speak of it again.


"I won him in a poker game," Cadman says proudly. Rodney's on her arm, more than a little drunk.

"Really," says Sheppard, wiggling the toes of his broken foot.

Rodney flushes. "I would have rescued myself, but you know I have a terrible poker face."

"And then," Cadman says, "they made us drink from the same cup."


"It doesn't count!" Rodney says. "Alien marriages don't count!"

"Aw, baby, I promise I'll be gentle." She smacks him on the ass and leaves. "See you tonight!"

Rodney groans.

"Pull up a hospital bed," Sheppard says. "I'll teach you how to bluff."


Sheppard gives up orange juice. He gives up marmalade. He gives up lemon cheesecake and Key lime pie and fruit cups. He gives up the pink candies made from the hibiscus-like flower the Athosians grow on the mainland ("This smells suspiciously of bergamot, Colonel!"), the gum made from them, the soap. He gives up his morning grapefruit, the satsumas that come on the Daedalus during Earth's December, the jar of lemon drops on Zelenka's desk. Sheppard gives it all up to kiss Rodney, to palm his belly under his t-shirt, lick into his mouth, and feel Rodney shudder against him.


It would be an insult to McKay's tolerance to call him a two-beer queer. To be fair, he was really more of a five- or six-beer queer.

"Hey there, big guy," McKay said, plastered against Ronon. Ronon got a hilarious look, peeled him off, and handed him to John, which was less hilarious.

In the briefing, Teyla'd said someone would have to drink to earn the locals' trust; she hadn't said they knocked back moonshine like it was water.

McKay was getting handsy. "You really don't have much of an ass, do you?"

"Hit me," John said to the barkeep.


"I could have sworn I parked right here," Sheppard said, circling the clearing.

Ford's eyes widened. "We've been jumperjacked?"

"Lieutenant, what did I say about naming things?"

"'Don't,'" said Ford.

Sheppard tried the remote again. "Come on, sweetheart, be a good girl and make a noise."

"Major!" McKay appeared over the top of the ridge. "Quit screwing around. Do you want the Wraith to find us?"

"I thought I told you and Teyla to stay with the jumper, McKay."

"We were. Until some lunatic started turning the cloak off and on."

"Where--" John walked face-first into something invisible. "Nevermind."


Sheppard was up on deck, drinking a beer, shirtless.

"Did you even look at this boat before you bought it?" Rodney asked, wiping his greasy hands on a rag. The engine was a total loss.

Sheppard shrugged. "It floats."

"Yes, congratulations on not sinking."

"Relax, Rodney, it's fun. Have a beer."

Rodney stole Sheppard's and sat next to him on the padded bench at the stern. Sheppard was barefoot and lazy in the sun, and as the boat rocked in the water, bumping against the private dock, Rodney drifted and thought about taking Sheppard's ragged shorts off with his teeth.


"McKay wants to know how long," Ronon said, looming in the faint red of the emergency lights.

"McKay is like little child," Zelenka said from the floor. "He could not ask me himself?"

"Radio doesn't work where he is."

"Sometimes God is kind." Zelenka crawled over the auxiliary power coupling. "This will go faster without him yapping in my ear."

Ronon shrugged his big shoulders. "It's the way he thinks. Out loud."

"Yes," Zelenka sighed. "It's true. Bring lamp closer, hm? We will get lights on without him and he will sulk and call us funny names."

"Heh," said Ronon.


They knelt in a circle around the broad stone bowl set in the ground. Steam rose from the water.

Teyla went first: "I was wrong to raise my voice at Dr. Heightmeyer this morning."

Sheppard: "Lemons aren't funny."

Rodney: "Haskin's ridiculous free quark theory may not be completely without merit, but a magnetic storm wasn't the appropriate time to test it! Um, anyway, she says she asked first. I guess I wasn't listening."

Ronon: "I never should've stayed the night."

"We accept these wrongs as we hope you accept ours," the Kilai said in unison, heads bowed. "We welcome you."


Instead of toilets, Atlantis had wall chutes. They were weird and drafty and had nowhere to rest your head. For these reasons, Rodney had decided to throw up in the shower. It was going fine until the water turned on to rinse.

"McKay, we've been over this. It's okay to shower naked." Sheppard turned the water off and crouched next to him. "Do you have to puke again?"

Rodney shook his head. Sheppard helped him up, got his wet uniform off, and put him to bed with a sigh.

"Maybe next time the mess issues a recall notice, you'll listen."


Rodney breaks into John's room and collapses on his bed, wailing. "I'm going blind!"

There's some muttering under the sheets and then John's date throws the covers back, pulls her pants on, and leaves.

John sits up. "I was having sex," he says, just for the record.

"I can't see!" Rodney rubs his eyes. "There's nothing but spots!"

"Look at me."

"Oh my god," Rodney says. "Does your hair always do that when you have sex?"

"You're not going blind, you freak."

"I could be! Slowly!"

John gives up. "Fine, we'll watch a movie in the time you have left."


John's leaning over the counter, flirting with the receptionists again.

"Um, hello!" Rodney says. "Did I hire you to clean people's teeth or flirt with them? I get confused."

"I can't do both?"

"This is a dentist's office, not a brothel!"

Rodney stomps off, filled with inappropriate lust over the sight of John's butt in the maroon scrubs. John is a necessary, slutty evil. The patients love his smile, his gentle hands. He's good for business, and just because he drives Rodney absolutely nuts with his indiscriminate flirting doesn't mean Rodney gets to fire him or fuck him.


Rodney jingled angrily up the tower stairs. "Of all the ridiculous...Ronon!"

"McKay?" Ronon hiccuped from his cell.

"Listen," Rodney said, "just stop that, and we can go."

"Why are you wearing that hat?"

"The monks made me!" Rodney yelled, hat jingling. "It's so the demons can't get into my ears while I'm talking to you. Have you tried standing on your head? It's imperative we get out of here. I hate to think what other bodily functions these people don't agree with."

Ronon hiccuped.

"Hurry up!" Rodney clapped both hands over his nose. "I feel a sneeze coming on!"


Carson isn't a trauma surgeon or a soldier. He's a lab rat, meant for test tubes and white coats, the safety of microscopes and autoclaves and rubber gloves. He came because they said he'd never have to leave his lab, and labs look the same everywhere, white and windowless. His lab in Atlantis is bronze and blue and windowless. They brought tables, stools, dozens of white mice. He hates Pegasus but he loves his lab. There's no one to regulate research here, no one to restrict his work. Here, he is in charge, and nothing stands between theory and practice.


Rodney's never slept with anyone as lazy as Sheppard. He lounges on Rodney's narrow bed, touching himself while he waits for Rodney to undress him.

Sometimes he talks. "Fuck me," he'll say. Or, "Why don't you come down here and suck my cock?" But even that's lazy, like if Rodney decides not to, John won't hold it against him.

His kisses are lazy too, and when Rodney tries to hurry things up, John holds him down and makes him take it. Long and slow and hot as an Indian summer.

Rodney's never been good at lazy, but he can learn.


Elizabeth prides herself on being able to read people, but she had no idea that Ronon was flirting with her.

She figured it out last night (after he kissed her, but before she took his pants off), and it seems painfully obvious now. She can't believe she missed his teasing, his sly grins for what they were. It's embarrassing.

Worse. It's confusing. She doesn't know how to act now. If they're pretending it didn't happen or --

Ronon puts his breakfast tray down across from her.


He frowns. "This okay?"

"Yes? I mean, yes." She blushes, making him grin.


Ford ambled by the cookfire. "How's it going, Dr. McKay?"

"Oh fantastic, if your idea of a good time involves standing over a vat of caustic boiling lard -- hey, don't touch that!" Rodney shouted, brandishing his huge wooden spatula at Jinto, who was supposed to be helping. "Danger!"

"C'mon," Ford said, leading Jinto away. "We can toss around Major Sheppard's football."

Rodney scowled into his cauldron.

Last week Elizabeth had mentioned the Athosians needed soap. Rodney'd waved her off, saying, "It's basic chemistry." That had been his first mistake. His second was saying it where Teyla could hear him.


The book is made of vellum, or something like it. Its cover is warped and its pages yellowed, but the ink is still as dark as the day it was set down. The language is old. The linguists compare it to Rongorongo, but can't translate it or even guess its purpose. They move on, but Elizabeth stays awake, late into the night, peering into its pages where the zoomorphic figures creep in slow circles, the eyeless lizards and two-headed snakes. She sees patterns and portraits; she picks out its secrets, and as she reads the book, the book reads her.


"Rodney, I'm using your shower!" John called. Rodney didn't answer, so John grabbed a towel that looked clean and went into the bathroom. He flicked the lights on and jerked backwards in surprise. Rodney's cat was sitting in the tub beneath the leaking faucet. It glared at him, the top of its head all wet and spiky.

"Um," said John. "Shoo."

The cat scowled and refused to budge.


"Oh," said Rodney when he saw what the problem was. "He likes the fresh water."

"Well, I'd kinda like a shower."

Rodney shrugged. "You're going to have to wait your turn."


Teyla thinks Kate is like a thief. Her eyes are sympathetic, her hands soft, but she's greedy to know things that do not belong to her. Teyla is part Wraith and Kate wants Teyla to talk about how this makes her feel. Teyla doesn't want to talk; Kate will only take Teyla's words and use them to make her weak.

It's easy for Teyla to distract her, to let the slit in her skirt fall open over her thigh. Later they will fuck in Kate's bed. For now, Teyla deflects the awkward attempts at commiseration. She keeps her own counsel.


Zelenka swept past the control room, thermos in hand and woolly scarf wrapped around his neck. Lorne was bringing up the rear with a couple of Marines and he flashed Elizabeth a grin. "Wish us luck."

John and Rodney stood on the balcony, holding a hand-painted banner between them: You can probably do it!

"If you lose, I'll kill you myself!" Rodney shouted, encouragingly. "Woo!" said John.

Chuck dialed M4K-362. Radek steeled himself and stepped through the gate. If the only way to get a functioning ZPM was to win one in a yodeling contest, then that was what he'd do.


McKay rattled the bars of his cage. "Hello! Hungry astrophysicist here!"

Their keepers had hid powerbars throughout the habitat in order to encourage foraging, but Rodney was having none of it. He wanted room service.

One of the slimy, three-legged interns tapped on the glass; Rodney snarled.

"Easy," said Sheppard, lounging on the bed he'd made out of the puffy red seedpods. He'd already solved the alien logic puzzle made out of a rope, six horseshoes and a Moebius strip and was bored. "I think they want us to mate," he said.

"They're in for some disappointment," Rodney said.

"You don't want to mate with me?"

"What? Are you kidding me? I don't do public sex. Besides, I'm not gay."

"If you say so," Sheppard said, rustling around in his seedpods. "But I think I read somewhere that trading food for sexual favors is okay."

"You have food?"

Sheppard had something that crinkled. "I'll protect you from predators, too."

"We're in a zoo, Colonel," McKay said. "You can't possibly -- those things have clipboards! I can't be expected to -- oh my god, is that an MRE?"

"Mmm," said Sheppard, one hand down his pants. "Pork rib."

Rodney tackled him.