"Did I not warn you that the Turena look down upon public argument?" Teyla says. It's basically the Athosian version of I told you so. John sighs.

"We weren't arguing!" McKay says for the third time. "Colonel Sheppard was saying that Deep Space Nine was the best Star Trek series, and I was telling him that he was completely wrong."

Teyla gives them that look that suggests she's considering leaving them there and walking back to Atlantis.

"Look, McKay," John says. "Let's do this thing and go."

"We will not need to leave," Teyla says. "Once you have demonstrated your remorse, we will join Katis and her people for dinner, where I will discuss the terms of our trade agreement with Katis while you and Dr. McKay speak quietly and respectfully to each other."

Whoa, Teyla's pissed. Rodney makes big panicked eyes at John behind her back.

"Where do you want us?" John asks.

It's a public ceremony, so they're taken to the public square where they stand on a flat round stone that's barely the size of a large pizza. Man, he's hungry.

"We're going to miss pizza night," McKay says suddenly, and John grins at him and McKay says, "What? What!" and John thinks that maybe this won't be so bad.

Katis, her people, and probably some of her people's people gather to fill the square. A young girl with messy braids hands John the end of a rope. "Hold this."

A different girl with messy braids gives McKay the end of a different rope, and then the kids start skipping around them, binding them together like some kind of demented maypole.

"Erk," says John.

"These people take their public embarrassment seriously," Rodney mutters.

Katis' deputy, a woman named Flip, climbs up the tree stump that serves as a podium. "Dr. Rodney McKay, Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, you have been seen in public discord. Now, with Teyla Emmagan as your witness, you will forgive your anger and be once again in accord."

John glances over at Teyla, who's watching placidly from the sidelines. She gives him the eyebrow of don't make me look bad. He gives her the it wasn't my fault! face.

"You wanna go first?" John asks McKay.

"Excuse me, but this is a team effort."

"You got us into this," John hisses, careful not to be seen in public discord again. He's not sure what second-time offenders have to do, but it might involve nudity.

"If you'd just admitted nothing can beat the original --" McKay gripes, even as he closes the distance between them, presses his mouth against John's, and gives him his first court-ordered kiss, his first kiss from a man.

It's brief and friendly, close mouthed. Not at all objectionable. John checks in with Teyla and she's shaking her head. Apparently she's got a mean streak and one kiss isn't going to satisfy her.

John sighs and leans in, kisses McKay on the mouth, three separate, tiny kisses, all in a row, like sealing an envelope. He throws in an extra, just at the corner of Rodney's crooked mouth, and Rodney unexpectedly opens up to him and suddenly they're kissing, really kissing. McKay slides his tongue into John's mouth and it's like being struck by lightning, the idea that he likes this, likes being kissed by a man, by Rodney, who, for all his protesting, certainly seems to be enjoying it too.

Their arms are trapped down by their sides, but John lets go of his rope and wiggles his hand closer to McKay's until their fingers touch, just the tips, and then the square breaks out into the noise of a hundred people snapping their fingers, like beatniks applauding poetry, and it's so deeply surreal John forgets what he's doing and gives Rodney one last kiss.

Flip pronounces them in accord and one of the little girls with the messy braids brings out a flat red ribbon and binds John and Rodney's right hands together at the wrist.

"I thought we passed!" McKay says, looking betrayed.

Teyla smiles. "This is to remind you how much stronger you are together, for any person at odds with his countryman is at odds with himself."

"But I'm Canadian!"

"McKay," John growls, shaking their bound hands. "Do you have a learning disability? You do not want to be seen yelling at Teyla. She will kiss you and then kick your ass all the way back to Atlantis."

McKay shuts up and once they figure out how to walk again -- John's right arm around Rodney's shoulders, their bound hands resting on his chest -- they sit down to dinner.

"I think we're at the kids' table," McKay says.

Sure enough, the only people at their table are the two girls who tied them together with rope. Teyla, as promised, is sitting with Katis at the big table.

"I think we're meant to serve as a lesson to others," John says. He winks at the kids. "Don't fight in public, girls. They'll tie you together and make it damn near impossible for you to cut your...animal...steak...tart...thing." John stares at his plate in confusion.

"I wasn't fighting with you," McKay says again. "I was -- I thought we were having fun."

"We were," John says. "Just, you know, at the wrong volume. In the wrong place."

"I'm sorry, obviously I'm not very good at this whole flirting thing, and aliens tied us together and made us kiss and now you probably don't want to -- do it again? without an audience this time?"

"You've been flirting with me?"

"I thought I was." McKay wilts and eats a bite of his steak tart.

"Oh," says John. "Okay. We can try that."


"Yeah," John says. "The kissing part was good. Are you gonna eat your fruit kabob?"

"We can share," Rodney says, reaching for it with his right hand and not even looking surprised when John's moves right along with him.