John rolled his eyes, reaching for his infirmary pudding, "McKay, I've told you before, quit ogling my wife."
As he heard the deafening silence he looked up, meeting shocked expressions. "What?"
"Your what, now?" Rodney's lopsided smirk was bordering on incredulous.
"Oh, come on," John really didn't feel like getting into another petty spat with his teammate. He could feel the barely contained headache making a valiant effort to break back to the forefront. "Go get your own!"
"My own wife!" McKay practically spat out, now grinning like an idiot.
"Wha…?" it took John a moment to understand. "Oh, I did NOT!" He yanked impatiently at the corner of his sheet.
"Help me out here, buddy?" Rodney turned to Ronon, who was doing his best to shoot him a withering glare for the "buddy", but found it difficult to reconcile that motion with the chuckles he tried to conceal behind his hand.
"You did, man," he solemnly nodded, and John found himself once again wondering where a warrior from another galaxy obtained such a fine surfer drawl.
"The words don't even rhyme," Rodney continued the teasing, going on to demonstrate, "food – wife. I believe this is one of those things that they call…"
"Don't say it!" John growled.
"…a Freudian!" McKay didn't let himself be deterred, causing John to mutter under his breath, "Who died and made you the psychoanalyst…?"
"That blow to your head must have been more serious than we thought," Ronon mused, matter-of-factly snatching an apple from John's tray. And as if to concur, Sheppard winced, feeling a sharp pang somewhere right behind his left eye. Damned low alien doorways and drama queen scientists!
"And let's not forget whose responsible for all this," he snarled in Rodney's direction. "If you had not been screaming like a girl…"
"Oh, that again," McKay threw his arms up in the air. "Considering how many times I have now had the pleasure of saving all of your asses, I think I have earned the right to scream like a girl sometimes." He tilted his head, glancing from one man to the other so that they could clearly see how much his pride had been hurt.
"Not when what you are screaming at are actually," John shifted on the bed and made a dramatic pause for the effect, "little girls."
"Well, they came out of nowhere," McKay announced indignantly.
"Oh, ok, if you put it like that," John's voice was dripping with sarcasm. "That definitely justifies the changed shape of my head. I was getting bored of both of my profiles looking the same, anyway."
"Yeah, the profile thing," Ronon deadpanned, making a sweeping motion in John's general direction with what was left of the apple. "Might really hurt your chances of getting lucky with the missus." When John shot him a pained "Et tu, Brute?" look, he just shrugged. McKay was undoubtedly an ass, but Ronon wasn't about to turn down some good fun at someone else's expense.
"John, are you sure you are up to this?" Teyla asked, unpacking her carefully stored bantos sticks. There was a glaringly white bandage still wrapped around his head and he thought it made him look like he had just returned from the front lines of World War I, which really was a bit of an overkill, considering the gauze was there simply to keep the band-aid in place just above his temple.
"Yes, I am sure," he quipped, hopping from one foot to another and stretching his neck. "It's not a war wound. I hit my head against the doorframe on my way to rescue Rodney from a bunch of preschoolers playing tag, a game known to cause death and destruction in many a galaxy. Guess how seriously the people of that world take us now?" John scoffed. " The guy who had just been bragging to them about being the brains behind the operation doing a somewhat amateurish yet heartfelt impersonation of the village idiot on the centre square and the fearless military leader of the City of Ancestors out cold on the lawn after coming a sloppy second in a brief but glorious battle with household furniture. Ronon had to lug us both to the Stargate and, knowing how that guy feels about his dignity, I'm guessing he was tempted to just leave us there and pretend he had never met us before."
Teyla chuckled and took a starting position. "All right, then, but we shall take it light today. No need to start proving your military might now." John nodded, stood in position and for a while the only sound was the clicking of sticks against each other. This time the sparring was more about going through the technique, exactly and deliberately, than the usual aggressive attack-and-retreat. They stopped when Teyla noticed John's attention starting to wane.
Packing up her gear, she threw a sideways smirk at John and asked, "So, Rodney has been casting his eye on your wife, I heard?"
John shook his head incredulously. "This is never gonna go away, is it?" he groaned, narrowing his eyes in suspicion. "How long have you been practicing that question in your head?"
"Since the moment you walked in," she laughed.
"Yes, well, thank you for reminding me that knocking myself out in front of a grateful audience of slapstick fans was only narrowly the most embarrassing moment of my day," he pretended to be hurt. "Which one of them told you?"
"The sarcastic one," Teyla answered. Then, realizing that this wasn't enough to tell them apart, she elaborated, "The tall sarcastic one."
"Yes, well, despite what people think, all evidence seems to point at the brooding quiet ones being the biggest gossips. I was distracted – I had a headache and McKay was being particularly annoying and I accidentally said "wife" instead of "food". It happens. Might mean that the doorframe kicked a screw or two loose, but I definitely have no intentions of…, well, of…"
"Marrying someone?" Teyla offered.
"Yeah, or even, you know… doing anything in that category… with anyone," he finished, suddenly a whole lot less confident.
"Of course," she nodded solemnly, but the smile on her face was the one he had learned to recognize in situations where she thought she knew better, but kept her opinions to herself. "Why would anyone even think that?"
"Exactly!" he exclaimed. "Which of course didn't stop Rodney from immediately calling it a Freudian."
"A what?" Teyla asked, tilting her head.
"Oh, right, that's an Earth thing," he remembered. "Well, there was this old geezer, Freud, dead for a while now, who basically thought that when we want to say one thing and out comes something completely different it's just the subconscious overriding the conscious, usually to express some kind of a shameful lusty desire that the conscious part has tucked away somewhere. Anyway, these mistakes are called Freudian slips. And Rodney claimed that this wife/food mix-up was one of those."
"It seems to me that maybe this man Freud was not completely mistaken," Teyla mused, causing John's eyebrows to shoot under the bandage.
"So what are you saying? That McKay was right?" he walked away for a few steps, the turned abruptly around and came back. "Is there now a running pool in Atlantis on who it is I've got the hots for?"
"I believe there was such a wager taking place some time ago," she gave John an innocent smile, "but I remember Major Lorne saying that they ended it because it was too easy to guess the correct answer." If her intent was to render the Colonel speechless with that piece information, she had succeeded quite admirably.
Observing his doomed efforts to form a coherent sentence, Teyla just smiled ruefully and asked, "John, do you not think that maybe Rodney was just making a joke?"
"Ha-ha," he answered in monotone, clearly not amused. "Were you?"
"No," and she turned, walking out of the gym.
"How's your head?" Elizabeth softly asked, hesitantly reaching out her hand but stopping just short of touching the bandage.
"It's a lot better than it looks, actually," John slid his fingers across his forehead himself, as if to check that the headband was still there. He followed her gaze somewhere above his eyes and winced dramatically, "I look like Karate Kid, don't I? Hands on, hands off…"
"Umm, don't you mean "wax on" and so forth?"
"Yes, of course. That's what I…," he tried to make sense of the situation. "I said "hands", didn't I?"
Elizabeth nodded, but instead of continuing on the subject just noted, "I didn't really think that it was possible for your hair to stick out in any more different directions." Walking to her desk, she absentmindedly picked up a piece of paper, then set it down again. "So, you want to tell me what really happened?"
"I thought McKay already filled you in?" He really didn't want to go over the whole undignified sequence of events again.
"Yes," Elizabeth dragged the word out, "but judging purely by his description, it seemed…"
"Like a bad comedy?"
"Well, no, actually," she contemplated the idea. "It was such an over-the-top Greek tragedy that it would have made an excellent comedy. The sadly misunderstood hero and the gathering forces of evil and all. In his first version you were attacked by a gang of vicious midgets and barely managed to escape." She raised an amused eyebrow and tilted her head, looking at John. "In the revised edition he contended that they were not so much midgets, more like children and you were not so much attacked, rather he was caught off-guard by them. But he vehemently maintained that they were extremely vicious."
John smiled at the description. "The oldest of them couldn't have been more than seven. I think that if you scrape away the thick layer of Rodney you're left with pretty much what really took place. Just thinking about the whole thing makes my heart hurt again."
"Again? What is wrong with your heart?" Elizabeth shot him a worried glance.
"No, I meant my head," he quickly corrected himself, noting only that his tongue slippage seemed to have taken a sudden turn for the worse.
"John, are you sure you are okay? You seem to be a little…," she took a step closer to him to better examine his appearance.
"Yes, I am fine," John reassured her. "I guess it just takes a while for everything to fall back in its right place in here," he carefully tapped against his head with a finger.
"And what exactly happened to you? I couldn't get any plausible answer on that subject out of him."
"There is no plausible answer, really," Sheppard shrugged. "I went to give Rodney a hand with the vicious midgets, but was stopped short on the way."
"By what?" she carefully prodded.
"By the even more vicious building I was in. The thing clearly had it in for me. I think it was just jealous of my dashing good looks," he tried to playfully lift his eyebrow but chose the one dangerously close to the wound and ended up wincing instead, causing Elizabeth to let out a guilty chuckle. "What? It was a perfectly choreographed step-step-bang. You should see the other guy – I am pretty sure that there is an impressive dent in the shape of my forehead in that oak doorframe. Serves it right. Oh, it was a tough, hard surface, but my head isn't exactly made out of love either."
There was a thoughtful loaded pause in their conversation, ended by John's quiet resigned question, "I did it again, didn't I?"
"I'm just going to go ahead and presume that you meant to say straws or cotton candy or some other soft substance," she said. "I hope this short circuit in your brain is only temporary. It's kind of cute, really, but all your slips seem to aim at the same corner and it might lead to some really embarrassing situations when you are talking to somebody who doesn't know you quite as well as I do."
"Trust me, as cute as it seems to you, for me it's pretty embarrassing now," Sheppard could just hope that he wasn't blushing. "And it seems to be getting worse. Actually, I had only slipped once, back in the infirmary, before I came here."
"Something in the same vein?"
"I guess you could say that," he mused, looking down at his boots. "Told Rodney to stop ogling my wife when I of course wanted to say "wedding"… I mean, "you"…," shocked by what he was hearing coming out of his own mouth, he stopped and took a deep breath. "Food. I wanted to say "food". Obviously," he blurted out quickly as if to save the words from the wicked word-demon that had taken up position somewhere in between his brain and his mouth.
"John?" she asked tentatively, not quite knowing how to respond to this unprecedented barrage.
"Yes," was all he managed to squeeze out, seeming to listen even to those three letters very intently to make sure they formed the word he thought they would. Getting confirmation on that, he courageously attempted to put together two-word phrases, accompanied by a lot of illustrating gestures, "Open wound." Another careful playback in his head. "Alien bug?" Short contemplating pause. "Must be." Shrug. A few more deep breaths and then he made another valiant effort at full sentences.
"I'll be heading to the infirmary now, if you don't mind? I'm sure Carson has some sort of nasty experimental pills or shots or something he can give me, even to contain this if nothing else. Or he can at least wire my jaws shut. I kind of like solid food, but compared to this, giving it up is a sacrifice I can easily live with." Having managed to deliver the whole line of thought without tripping up, he smiled proudly, reminding Elizabeth very much of an eager puppy.
"John?" she attempted again, now having a clearer idea of what she wanted to get at. He nodded, indicating that she had his attention. "You just put the words "wife", "wedding" and "you", which, at the risk of sounding presumptuous, I take to mean me, in the same sentence." A statement of facts, not so much a surprised question.
"I really am sorry," he mumbled helplessly, stuffing his hands deep in his pant pockets. "It was not deliberate."
"Do you think we could hold off on the marriage bit for a little while, though?" she asked, jaw trembling with the effort of keeping a grin contained, afraid that if she released it too soon, John might mistakenly think that she was laughing at him and get his already bruised pride even more wounded. John seemed to be frozen in place, hanging on her next words, so she went on.
"Again, might be that I have it all wrong, but, the way this is going, I think Freud, a connoisseur of the repressed and the hidden as he was, would disown those slips as too blatantly obvious. Or maybe your subconscious has just completely lost patience with you…," she now allowed herself to smile a little, not knowing that her eyes had been grinning for a while already.
"You think you could, say, kiss me first?" she asked, eyes drifting to John's lips which, she now noticed, were also trembling. "At least before you go for that jaw wire thing? Cause I think that might put a bit of a damper on the whole lips-touching situation." He took a few steps closer to her, prompting Elizabeth to wiggle her eyebrows at him suggestively. "And then, assuming that the kiss works out, we might try dinner, at my place maybe? Unless you are dead set on the wire, because preparing a suitable pureed soup menu might take some time." Now he was grinning like an idiot, taking the last few steps to her and leaning down to hover above her face. Her hazel eyes were beaming at him from only a few inches away as she tried to maintain enough of a clear head to coherently finish her thought. "And then, I suppose, there are a few more things we might try out before taking the wedding topic up agaiOh," was all she got out as his smiling lips landed on hers.
"Remind me to thank Rodney," he mused a little while later, "for exercising his well-earned right to scream like a girl."