As he considered botany a patently ridiculous branch of study, and hardly anything that could be called science, Rodney rarely had cause to visit the greenhouse. In fact, he tended to avoid the botany labs in general because of things like pollen and alien spores and also because Katie Brown was usually to be found there. He'd been busy ignoring the niggling sensation of guilt that had been eating at him since he'd forgotten to show up for that picnic on the mainland. Somehow he hadn't been able to find the time to drop by Katie's office and apologize for that, and since at least a month had now passed, he figured his opportunity to make a new date with her had passed as well.
He'd come by looking for Parrish, actually, lured by rumors of the junjun plant. When the roots were stewed, it was supposed to make a sweet tea that provided all the same perks of caffeine without increasing the production of stomach acid, and Rodney had decided he didn't need an ulcer on top of a constant threat of death.
But it wasn't Parrish he found under the lacy leaves of the flowering litianali tree, but Katie Brown. And Lt. Cadman.
He couldn't look away: there was Cadman with her hands buried in Katie's shiny red hair, and there was Katie, tipping her head back and reaching up to curl a hand around Cadman's shoulder. They were kissing, kissing, they were doing more than that, they were making out and-- wow, it was just as hot in real life as porn had told him it would be, hotter, really, because they were live and in color and three feet away. He found himself rooted to the spot, paralyzed by the hot girl on girl action-- and then he felt a pang, thinking, "Hey, that could be me, I could be kissing her like that." A brief squall of bitterness raged in his heart, only to be replaced with a spark of regret. It had been him, once, and he'd let it go, because he'd been distracted, because he'd been busy, because he really hadn't cared about her the way she deserved. Still. It was one thing to stop dating a woman and quite another to see that you'd apparently been the straw that broke the camel of heterosexuality's back. Rodney's face went slack with horror, just as Cadman caught sight of him. Oh god, Rodney thought, mortified, Katie's kissing other women because I've turned her off an entire sex! Just like Angela Horowitz! She'd joined the Marines two days after she let him get to second base. And Danica Ritter! He hadn't even touched her and she'd thrown away a promising career in materials science and run off with women's LPGA after just one date. Oh god. He was -- it was horrible.
Cadman stared at him a moment, and Katie turned her head, too, her hand flying to her mouth. Tucking Katie behind her, Cadman set her mouth into a grim line.
"McKay, what the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Rodney!" said Katie plaintively.
"I was-- I was looking for Parrish, I was--" He waved one hand toward the plants on the table beside him, and then locked eyes with Katie, who was peering around Cadman's shoulder, looking tense and unhappy.
"Katie, I-- I'm sorry that I forgot about the picnic. I mean, I'm really sorry, I had no idea that it meant so much to you, that you'd, you know, give up on men entirely, you've got to believe me--"
Katie looked baffled, and Cadman was laughing at him.
"Rodney, you jackass--"
"Laura!" Katie gave Cadman a reproachful look and then stepped forward to take Rodney's hand. "Why don't we talk about this outside," she said, towing him out of the greenhouse and the range of Cadman's sizzling glare.
"I mean it, you know. I mean, you get that right? That I'm sorry?"
"I get it. And thank you for your apology. And I'm sorry too, that you had to find about Laura and I this way. It must be... upsetting for you."
"I wouldn't say upsetting, really. I mean, it was kind of--" Her eyebrows drew together and Rodney managed to stop himself from saying the rest of the sentence in time. He coughed instead. "Anyway. I should have, you know, called or, or sent an email, and I didn't and that was wrong of me. So. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. We're both very different people," she said gently. "I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have worked out anyway. Not that it was your fault or anything," she added hurriedly.
"Oh god," Rodney said, feeling smacked in the face with an inevitable sense of dating déjà vu, "You're going to say it aren't you? 'It's not you, it's me!'"
She cocked her head and give him a sheepish, helpless smile, patting the hand she still held in hers.
"Yes. Okay. On that note, I've, you know-- got to--" He tugged his hand back, pasted on what he hoped was something like a bon vivant smile, waved inanely and bolted for the transporter.
He found Zelenka and Sheppard testing a drone when he got back to his lab, panting and red-faced. Ronon, who had been trying to hit the drone with a paint pellet gun, took one look at him and wordlessly held out his water bottle. Rodney accepted it with a grateful gasp and finished it off.
"You been drinking hot sauce again, buddy?" Sheppard's face was 31 flavors of amused, and he wasn't even smiling.
"Oh, very funny. And you should consider yourself lucky that the DNA samples couldn't be traced to you, because if I ever find out who--"
"Was me," Zelenka sighed. "Retaliation for M7G-677."
Rodney blinked and reminded himself that it would be wiser not to piss Zelenka off needlessly in the future.
"Ah," he said, mollified. "In that case... well done." Zelenka shook his offered hand and Rodney counted himself lucky to have gotten off so easily.
"No, really, where's the fire, Rodney?" Sheppard's voice was laced with concern.
"Fire?" Rodney was briefly confused, but then realized that he was still trying to catch his breath. Humiliation had carried him far from the botany labs and at a pretty good clip. "There's no fire. There is, however, mortification and shame. Also, a sense of crushing responsibility."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"I forgive you for M7G-677," Zelenka said, adjusting his glasses. "Do you not remember the handshake?"
"I'm the Typhoid Mary of Lesbianism, that's what," Rodney said acidly. "I just found Katie Brown enjoying Cadman's company, and there was a lot of enjoyment going on!"
Sheppard grimaced and then looked like he was thinking about belting Rodney in the mouth. "Do you even understand the concept of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'?"
"Typhoid Mary of what?" Zelenka said faintly.
"What's a typhoid?" Ronon asked.
Rodney realized what he'd just said. "Oh god, I didn't mean to-- I'm sorry, I just-- just pretend I didn't say it, okay? I mean, she's not gonna get in trouble for that, is she? Because I would hate to see her get kicked out of the service because of your country's narrow--"
"Jesus, Rodney, shut up about it already. And as long as you keep shutting up about it, everything will be fine."
"Fine. Fine. Shutting up about it. Except--" He appealed to John. "Ordinarily I'd be willing to admit that it's just a few outliers skewing the data. But Jill Cameron started dating Amy Frick right after we came back from math camp, and we'd been pretty serious since the second week of July, so this whole Katie thing could suggest a larger pattern--"
John frowned at him. "Math camp?"
"What's 'typhoid'?" Ronon said again.
"Is disease," Zelenka answered.
"You're sick?" Ronon gave him a measuring look.
"No, I'm not sick, and in fact the whole metaphor is flawed, I'm not spreading around Lesbianism because I myself am not a lesbian..." He paused, eyes going wide. "I'm a carrier!" he yelped.
"You're not a carrier, and you're definitely not a lesbian, so just calm down," John said, delivering an overly bracing pat to Rodney's shoulder.
Rodney flinched. "Oh shut up, you have to say those things, it's part of the Guy's Guy code!"
Rolling his eyes, John sighed, "Fine, yes, okay Rodney, you make women gay."
"Really?" Ronon lifted one eyebrow, looking faintly impressed.
"No, not really," John spat. "Christ."
"Wait," Rodney broke in excitedly, "it could be like my superpower!"
"Yes, exactly. Your super power is a laser beam of lesbianism. Right," John snapped, nasal and annoyed.
"But think about how handy it could be when we're inevitably trapped on a planet of militant amazons. We could all escape while they made out!"
Ronon crossed his arms and nodded at Sheppard, backing Rodney up.
John gave the two of them flaying looks of such disgust that Zelenka ducked his head to hide his smile.
"What? What did I say?"
"Jealous, Sheppard?" Ronon's beard didn't do much to conceal his own not-smile.
"Well. I'd be jealous," Rodney smirked. "If it wasn't me, that is. Which obviously, it is. Still, what if every woman I kiss from now on wakes up a lesbian?" He was sorely tempted to experiment and the sharp look Zelenka sent his way said he knew it. "Oh my god, Colonel Carter," he gasped. "I didn't even kiss her!" Rodney was dully horrified at his own power. He'd never have a chance with her at this rate. "She kissed ME! And it wasn't even a real kiss, I mean, it was only on the cheek!"
"I just reminded you about Don't Ask Don't Tell, like, five minutes ago," John said tightly.
"I hardly think that even SG-1 would require Sam to seduce hot alien priestesses," Rodney began snidely, but then his eyes started to glaze over as he imagined Sam developing new uses for naquadriah while wearing filmy tank tops as some hot alien priestess fed her fruit and anointed her with exotic oils.
He wondered if he could encrypt a message specifically for her in the next data burst, and how he could go about phrasing it. 'So, felt the call of the love that dare not speak its name lately?' probably wouldn't get him an answer that was anything other than a thinly veiled death threat.
"She'd do it, though," Rodney said dreamily. "She'd take one for the team. She's very dedicated."
"That never happens to us on missions," Ronon complained.
"That's it," John said, and caught Ronon's wrist. "Come on, we're going for a run. You're ruining his mind," he said to Rodney.
"Narim, Martouf, Orlin," Rodney said, listing Sam's dating credentials. "I'm just saying. She's very popular with the aliens."
"I've read the files, too, and they all sounded like guys to me."
Rodney dismissed the fact with a wave, "Yes, of course, pre-Rodney McKay. Who knows what she's up to now," he insisted. "She could have a harem of Playboy bunnies for all we know!"
"Isn't she engaged?" This from Zelenka, and spoken with great delicacy. Rodney glared at him before continuing.
"She was, yes, for a short time, but clearly, she was conflicted, and felt obligated to release him from the engagement because she could no longer deny her true sexual orientation!"
"Is that so," John said, rubbing at his eyes. He squinted hard at Rodney. "You don't actually believe this, do you? That you can make women gay?"
"Well. No. Of course not!" And partly because Ronon looked almost disappointed, Rodney added, "But it's not beyond the realm of possibility. Especially in this stupid galaxy. And anyway it's worth it just to think about Sam surrounded by nubile, frolicking young lab techs..."
As Zelenka and Sheppard had actually met Sam, their faces were still a moment as that image painted itself in their minds.
Ronon grunted softly, and rumbled, "Do you think Teyla will ever have to--"
John held up a warning finger.
"Don't say it. Don't even think it." John gave Rodney a quelling look. "Got me?"
Rodney and Ronon both nodded with half-hearted obedience, and John stalked out with Ronon on his heels. Zelenka refused to meet his eyes and Rodney slung himself into the nearest chair.
And yet he couldn't help picturing Teyla helping Sam try on one of her more revealing midriff shirts, maybe letting her hand linger just a little too long on Sam's creamy skin. He could almost hear Sam explaining the best way to quantify power fluctuations, and Teyla offering to continue the discussion in the hot tub. Of course, they'd find Katie and Cadman already there, sensually rubbing each other with soapy cloths...