Author's Notes: The request was: "The pairing of my heart is John/Rodney, though I love the OT4 too. It can go from friendship to more racy stuff, no problem. The thing with me is that I am easy: I'll take schmoop to angst and it can make me happy. Favorite things are: humor and banter is adored, pining/obliviousness, first times (that is very large, from experiences to kisses to more), possessiveness/jealousy, tattoos/marking, sentient Atlantis, etc..."
"John?" Rodney shot out into the darkness.
"I am now," John said, deadpan.
Rodney shifted on his bed, wincing at John's response. "I mean, I know you were up. Um. Am up. Are... anyway. I knew you were awake." Rodney tugged nervously at his shirt, and rolled over so he could look at the other man, the moonlight through the curtains revealing little more than John's silhouette framed on the other bed. He waved a hand in John's general direction. "I was being polite."
At that, Rodney could sense John's raised brow, even in the dark. Rodney added quickly, "I'm trying." He hesitated. "To be polite. With people. All right?"
"And we appreciate that, Rodney."
Rodney gave a heavy sigh, which he tried to cover by faking a yawn. He couldn't tell if John was being sincere or sarcastic, and yet John was actually one of the few he actually did try with, because despite the fact that he had the most difficult time in the world actually reading the man, he liked him. And yes, as his little sister used to say, in that way. Damn it. But as someone who tended to deal with social interactions from more of a "don't be an idiot, you idiot" perspective, it was, admittedly, a bit hard, and he wasn't any good at it, and he knew it. But for John - for that man, he did try.
He also tried to come up with an excuse to continue the conversation. "I wanted to ask what you thought of the Atharians." He rolled his eyes again, this time at himself. That was so lame.
Rodney saw John sit up on his bed. "Nice people. Snappy dressers."
Rodney snickered, pushing himself to a seat as well. The Atharians had greeted them at the Gate stark raving naked, but for the tattoos each of them wore. In fact, they were so marked, it actually distracted from their nudity, for which he was grateful. He'd seen a lot of things since he joined Atlantis, but the view of the Atharian security or warriors or whatever, all there in a row behind their leader, standing at attention (in more ways than one) was something he'd have a hard time forgetting. Not that he necessarily had minded the view, but it had been a bit... distracting.
All in all, other than an excess of nudity, or perhaps because of it, this place wasn't bad, and not just because the Atharians hadn't seen a Wraith in decades, although woah, major benefit. But the food was good, the company pleasant enough. Still, all that socializing had left him pretty much tapped on the politeness front. But he was trying. For John, he was trying.
He looked up when soft light flowed through the curtain covering the door. Teyla came in, parting the fabric with her arm as she slid through. She raised the lantern high, casting its glow throughout the small room and setting the clay walls ablaze with light. "They believe you are a couple," she said without preamble.
"They... what?" John said, just as Rodney said, "Why would they...?" Rodney could feel himself blushing frantically. Did it show? Oh, God. What if he wore this... whatever it was... for John so blatantly on his face that even strangers could tell...?
Teyla smiled softly, setting the lantern down on the floor as she settled, cross legged, onto an empty bed. "I explained that in our culture, it is possible for two men to share a meal without being together in quite that way."
"The fruit?" John asked.
"Did they believe you?" Rodney added.
Teyla inclined her head in a way that Rodney had learned meant she wasn't quite sure.
John was suddenly all business. "Will that be a problem?"
"I don't believe so," Teyla said. "There don't seem to be the prohibitions against such things as exist on your planet."
Ford darted through the curtains, plopping himself down on the bed next to Teyla's. "It's not a big deal," he said. "In fact, several of the guys I ate with were dating."
"Several?" Rodney asked, having picked up Ford's emphasis.
"Several," Ford said forcefully. He bounced slightly on the mattress. "AND I found out how they all keep themselves at attention," he said, laughing, with a vague wave toward his groin.
Teyla gave him a sharp look, then quickly said, "It is the tattoo issues that have been hard to get past." She looked to John. "They don't see you as the leader without them, and since none of us have the appropriate markings, none of us can be seen as leader, either."
John leaned back against the wall, draping hands over bent knees. "The Air Force is no-go on visible tattoos."
"So, what? They're good with the hair, but not tattoos?" Rodney asked. John gave him what Rodney considered, "The Look", before returning his attention to Teyla.
Teyla shrugged slightly. "It makes the Atharians uncomfortable, to look at you and not see the symbols they expect of a leader. I am afraid we won't make much progress."
John's eyes roved the others in the room. "Is it worth staying and fighting this one out?"
Rodney could tell that despite the terminology, John wasn't talking weapons, but negotiation.
Ford said, "Their food is a heck of a lot better than what we've got on base right now."
Teyla nodded, "They have medicinal herbs that..."
John held up a hand, pausing the conversation. "So, what do we need to do?"
At that, Teyla leaned forward with a smile. "I may be able to offer a solution."