A/N: Written as a sort of an expansion/preface to wanderingsmith's "Drinking games". I strongly suggest that after finishing here you go find that story as it picks up right where this one finishes and is pretty great.
Ronon tilted his head, "I thought you people didn't approve of your kids drinking alcohol?"
"It's not…," Rodney let out a disapproving huff and pursed his lips. "It's for adults. And don't give me that 'you people' stuff – it's not like you people are happily letting your kids guzzle down gintonics."
A mocking glint in his eyes, Ronon frowned, "You just got bored, didn't you?" Rodney's expression reflected utter puzzlement, so he went on, "It was just too easy without the Wraith, wasn't it? I mean, Sheppard," Ronon shrugged, "quite reasonable guy most of the time, gets all hot and bothered about some dudes chasing each other up and down a field, and now this… drinking game? Which is…," another patronizing shrug, "what?"
The fact that for once it was John Ronon was ridiculing appeased McKay enough to be willing to explain. "You agree to take a shot of something strong every time something happens."
"Well, you'd want it to be something that actually does happen, wouldn't you?" Rodney scoffed. "Otherwise, what would be the point in taking up the whole exercise?"
"Right," Ronon smirked, "so you wouldn't choose 'every time Sheppard kicks my ass at sparring'?"
"I take it that…," Rodney prodded.
"…every time Hell freezes over, yeah," now Ronon's smirk turned into a quiet chuckle.
"So, no," McKay agreed. "And, also," he went on, "you'd pick something that is quite easy to spot and clear-cut. Like when somebody says a particular word or does a particular move or… You don't want to spend half your playing time arguing over definitions."
Ronon took a contemplative look around, noting all the bustle in the gateroom. Quite a sizable representation of Atlantis was preparing to embark for a solstice celebration on a friendly planet. Seeing the two leaders of the city poring over something on the screen of a data pad Elizabeth was holding, he raised an eyebrow and indicated with his head.
"So, something like every time those two touch each other?"
Rodney turned to look in the direction Ronon was pointing at and, upon catching his drift, frowned. "Yeah, perfect." With an exasperated sigh, he turned again. Ronon kept on looking at John and Elizabeth, amusement still dancing on his face.
"Should it also include that fake not-touching thing they do?"
"A what?" Rodney yanked around again to see what Ronon had meant. "Oh, that – when they don't technically touch, but you'd have trouble squeezing a sheet of paper between them so they might as well?" John was currently leaning over Elizabeth's shoulder, seeming to try to get a closer look at something on the screen, but doing it so that they were practically standing cheek-to-cheek. And then Elizabeth turned, as if explaining something, and it was a considerable feat that she managed to do so without kissing him on the chin.
"Yes, definitely," another deep sigh from Rodney. He felt Ronon tap him on the shoulder, and, facing him again, saw a flask being held out at him. Wordlessly, without even checking what kind of Pegasus moonshine Ronon was carrying, Rodney unscrewed the cap and took a gulp. Not bothering to close it again, he handed the flask back to Ronon, who, smirking, wiped it quickly with his palm and lifted it to his lips.
"Let the games begin…," Rodney muttered to himself, absentmindedly looking about himself.
Easing the flask down, Ronon frowned, "Huh?"
"Oh, never mind," McKay sighed in defeat, reaching for the flask again. "We're gonna get so sloshed tonight…"
John had turned to leave, but, apparently remembering one more thing that she needed to talk to him about, Elizabeth reached out and grabbed his elbow and, quite accidentally, no doubt, her hand remained there even after John had stopped and turned to hear her out.
"Do you guys have a reason to believe that our hosts are going to be stingy with the booze?" Elizabeth asked, and if the point of her sneaking up at them had been to startle Rodney into screaming like a girl, she had quite nearly succeeded.
"No," he stated nervously, avoiding her eyes, "why?"
"Well, I noticed that you've started…," she waved her hand in the direction of the flask in Ronon's hand, "the celebrations already."
Ronon smirked, taking a contemplative look at the container he was holding. "I just feel very strongly about the solstice," he deadpanned and looked Elizabeth straight in the eye, but clearly overdid it with the grave brooding, considering the ridiculousness of his statement. Between the two extremes that their behavior represented, Elizabeth couldn't help but feel that there was more going on here. Not really having the time or the attention span to get into the matter right there, she did however make a mental note to follow up on it in the course of the evening.
After one last quick attempt – an arch of an eyebrow directed at Ronon to let him know that she was on to him and a piercing stare at Rodney to try to make him crack – she relented. "Whatever. Just remember, Rodney, the moment you start singing Queen songs, I am cutting you off." And with that she returned to supervising the preparations, managing to catch a piece of the conversation starting in her wake.
"What on Earth did she…?" Rodney's indignant voice demanded. "I don't sing!"
Ronon's carried a perceivable amount of amusement and surprise, "Those are actual songs? By a queen?"
"Ooh, Goch'!" McKay spluttered, his drink running ineloquently down his chin. "Why would a pre-industrial s'ciety have 'nvented battery acid?"
"You lost me at the 'pre'," Ronon smirked, sitting down at the nearest table. Wiping his chin and peering suspiciously into his cup, Rodney joined him.
"Thizz'awful," the frown on Rodney's face spoke of untold hardships.
"Well," Ronon reached out a huge arm and let the palm attached to it drop on his friend's shoulder, "you better get used to it because it's all we've got. And judging by how those two are carrying on," his bearded chin pointed towards John and Elizabeth, side by side, talking to their hosts, "we're going to burn through quite a lot of this stuff…"
"You know," Rodney mused, turning to give the pair a quick glance and then supporting his elbows on the table to be able to point freely with several of his fingers, "A'knew that they were uncomf'tab'y toushy-feely with each other, but before this little ezzercise," he winced again, "I don't think I had any idea just how musch… I hope that I'll at least end up drunk enough from all thiz not to be perman'tly traumatized."
"That's a pretty safe bet," Ronon deadpanned, lifting his cup and pointing it towards John, who had just inadvertently laid his palm on the small of Elizabeth's back.
Taking another pained glimpse into his cup, Rodney groaned, "Just… stop me b'fore I get to "A'Wanna Break Free"…," and bravely took a big sip.
"Here you go, ladies," John was balancing three cups in his hands. He first held one hand out to Teyla, who carefully pried one of the cups out from between his third and fourth finger, thanking him. Then he turned to Elizabeth, courteously handing the cup in his other hand to her.
"Thank you, John," Elizabeth said, giving him an open smile and her fingers quite decisively brushed his in the course of the exchange.
Next to them, Ronon and Rodney gave a simultaneous small shrug and emptied their cups. Ronon simply winced at the bitter taste of the liquid he'd just drained; Rodney couldn't help closing his eyes and shuddering as he felt it burn down his throat. When he opened them again, he saw the rest of their party looking at them with obvious confusion.
"It'sh…," he already started to explain, but then decided to change tack. "Wha'?!" Offense had often and successfully proven itself to be the best defense.
Ronon was the one who finally ended the increasingly awkward standstill. "I'll go get us new drinks," he announced as if nothing odd had just happened, yanked Rodney's cup out of his hand and strolled away.
John, having decided that it was just one of those strange but not uncommon Rodney-Ronon power plays, thought it better to move on. He wouldn't have imagined that this constant "Brains vs Brawn" struggle could be good for the, for lack of a better word, team spirit, but the opposite had actually proven to be true. The way John saw it, at least everyone was on par about everyone else's strengths and weaknesses and, as there was obviously nothing in this universe that could in any way dent either man's belief that they were the best in the only area that mattered, there wasn't really much danger of anyone's feelings being hurt. Which left him free to concentrate on his own work.
All of which, he now realized, might not be so clear to Elizabeth, especially considering that the dynamic duo was obviously determined to put up an extra special show of oddball tonight. To diffuse her attention John resolved to jump in.
"That solstice ceremony was certainly…," he started, taking a quick sip of his drink as he realized that finding an accurate, yet diplomatic adjective would prove to be unexpectedly difficult, "…interesting?" he finished carefully, looking at Elizabeth for approval.
Surprised by this sudden display of tact, Elizabeth coughed. "John, it was creepy."
A loud and forceful sigh of relief escaped Sheppard's lips, "Yeah, really, really creepy!" Quickly, he turned around to give Teyla an apologetic smile. "I mean, all that blood and…"
"…tha' poor lil' goat…," Rodney sadly mused from the side.
"…and the thing with the hot coals…," John cringed.
"…and tha' ugly naked ol' man," Rodney's musings continued quite independently. "They seem susch nice people…" He was blatantly perplexed .
"Rodney, don't…," Elizabeth began, a warning explicit in her voice.
"Wha'? J'dge people by their s'lstizzeremonies?" Now McKay looked up with a wry sarcastic smile. "Who d'you think I am? Schtupid?" Something about what he had just said sounded a bit off to Rodney, but as he couldn't immediately determine quite what it was, he just winced, quipping, "Nn', don't answer dat."
The grin that spread on his boss' face was enough to light up a small incandescent bulb. Elizabeth certainly was beautiful when she just relaxed a little, Rodney thought. He wondered if this was a side of her that John got to see more often; if this was the reason why he was so obviously smitten with her.
"I must say," now Teyla piped in, "I have seen quite a few ceremonies on quite a few planets and that one was certainly one of the more…," even she, ever tactful and socially aware, was having trouble characterizing the event, "peculiar I have attended…"
"How d'they even come up wizzall that stuff?" Rodney wondered, accepting a full cup from Ronon who had returned.
John smirked, "It's just a matter of time until we stumble upon one that requires the sacrifice of a friendly foreign leader." Without even deigning to glance at him, Elizabeth swiftly elbowed John in the gut, making him spill some of his drink and let out a theatrical "oomph".
"'alf," Rodney mumbled to Ronon under his breath and both men raised their cups to their lips.
"Uh, n'w'ott?" Rodney looked almost terrified, watching John and Elizabeth making their way to the patch of village green that served as the dance floor. "Thaz'zust… one n'stop grope f'r God knowz'ow lnng! We donnave to keep drinking thizztuff all schrough it, d'we?"
"I dunna," Ronon harrumphed in response. "'s your game."
"Thenn a'zzy w'take o…," a hiccup, "one," he lifted up an unsteady index finger to clarify the amount and then flicked it against his throat to illustrate, "n'conzdr't covered." To get it over with, he decisively moved to grab his cup from the table, missing only slightly. The exertion of making and carrying out the decision left Rodney a bit distracted. Ronon used the time to get a better grasp of the situation.
"Idiots," he announced, dropping his fist on the table in resignation. "What are they doing?"
Rodney was slouching on the table, his elbow and forearm, rather than his neck, bearing the increasingly heavy load of his head. Raising an eyebrow, he took a sideways glance at John and Elizabeth swaying gingerly to the rhythm of the ballad being played by the four-member village band, eyes closed and foreheads touching.
Lowering the eyebrow again, he mused, "Well, conzdring who zhey are, it doezave the p'tensch'l of getting," he frowned, looking for a more masculine word and failing, "meffy…"
Ronon rolled his eyes, "You d'n't think 's already messy?" Pointing in the direction of the dance floor with his chin, he went on, "Have y' not seen that lunatic," now Ronon's vocabulary failed him, forcing him to resort to pointing his index and third fingers towards his own eyes, "he gets when he thinks she's'n danger?"
"Haven't I…?" Rodney sputtered, momentarily rising up from his slouch in indignation. "A'wazzere during zz'sch…,"Rodney blinked, "schtr'm, 'mmber? Or, well, nn'… r'member, cozz… y'weren't… yet," it seemed hard for Rodney to hold on to his own line of reasoning, "but anyway… I wazzon 'tlantis at d'time he killed zz'ntire Genii army wifis bare 'ands b'cozz'efff… ffought sche w'z dead." Ronon simply pursed his lips and, arms folded on his chest, leaned back in his chair.
Eyes widening in realization, Rodney turned his whole upper body towards the dancers. "Thazz more than two yearzzago and dat," his arm shot out to illustrate, index finger swirling in dramatic circles, "iz's far's'dey've got?!" Defeated, he fell back on the table. "Idiots!"
"Oomph, man, therezz'zat Look…" Rodney said, noting even himself that his voice was getting kind of piercingly whiny. In an attempt to steer it back to something that would be called at least contemptuous, he went on, "I schw'r t'God, sometimes a'ffink they do it on… on… whazzat word…?" Snapping his fingers produced, mysteriously, no sound, but he didn't have the time now to investigate this anomaly. "Ll'ke they mean t'd'it...?" Ronon's reactions weren't what they used to be, either, which gave Rodney a chance to squint and think for a moment. "Puposche! 'n puposche!" he perked a bit. "Thazz'ze wo'd!"
"Some oder purpose 'n markin' 'eir turf?" Ronon finally contributed, picking up a snack of some rather disgusting looking dried fish from a bowl on the table.
"A'mean, they muzzscht know'ow in… un…?" Rodney tried out, glancing aside for a moment, then shook his head, "ins'nifffficant 't'makes ozzer p'ple feel around'm when they start looking at eachozzer like'at." Rodney's musings were kind of answering Ronon's question, but, as with many things by then, weren't quite hitting the mark anymore. "'nd when'ey get 'nto't offforld…"
"Yeah, 's kind'o like bein' a kid'ose parents hold hands'n public…," Ronon half-heartedly offered. It took Rodney a moment to understand what he had meant and then another to consider Ronon having had parents who held hands in public. Or Ronon being a kid, for that matter.
"Ezzzattly!" he finally acknowledged, with more emphasis than he had meant to. "Tr'ditions-schm'dritions! The Look is'e sole r'son why 'alf of 'r alliez'zave 'nisch'ly thought 'at they were h'ch… hic…," he halted for a moment (how the hell was anybody supposed to be able to say that word?!), "married'n'bunked'm t'gezzzer. 'Lzzzabeth sayzzat 'e googly-eyes are juzzz "pffffssional nnn-'erbal com'nicash'n"." The last part sounded like it had come out from the wrong side of his tongue or something and the air quotes around the last words were also a bit too pronounced, Rodney noted half-way into making them, but decided to let it go.
"So," sucking quite loudly on the dried fish and taking in both ends of the green, where John and Elizabeth were now standing and staring at each other, matching stupid grins vibrating on their faces, Ronon asked, "y'think we'shd count d'Look as well?"
"That depends on the size of your death wish," Teyla quipped, seemingly springing out of nowhere and hauling herself swiftly on the table between them, legs dangling merrily in the air.
Ronon straightened, smirking up at her, "You wanna join our lil' game?"
""Lil' game"?" Teyla mocked and scrunched her face, giving Ronon a quick tap on the nose. "You're cute when you're drunk." Ronon threw his head back in heartfelt laughter. "But, no," she went on, laughing herself, "I actually know how these people make their spirits and what they put in them." Looking from one man to the other, she shook her head in fake sympathy. "Tomorrow morning you are going to pray for a Wraith to come and put you out of your misery." Scrutinizing both men again, she amended, "Or at least one of you will."
"Hey!" Rodney felt the need to protest, even though he wasn't quite sure why. Teyla just laughed and patted him on the head.
"Never mind," Ronon lifted his legs up and swirled around on the bench, supporting his elbows on the table behind him. Rodney trained his eyes to the direction Ronon was looking at and, after resolving some minor focusing issues, saw John coming up from behind Elizabeth and laying his palm on her hip. Closing her eyes for a second, Elizabeth moved back almost imperceptibly, ending up leaning on John. The whole scene played out so organically and naturally that, again, Rodney was left wondering, in so many words, whether they were even aware of what they were doing.
"Schpppard," he moaned, slowly bending down to support his forehead on his arms on the table, "y're killing me…" Producing what seemed like an evil, menacing laughter, Ronon was nudging his arm with his cup.