Rating: PG-13 (language and innuendo)
Word Count: ~3000
Beta: My beloved stagnation13 and a nod to natsuko1978 for helping in the brainstorming phase.
Summary: Rodney accidentally ends up with a dog. Unfortunately, Atlantis isn't exactly pet friendly. Established relationship.
Note: Written for The David Hewlett Birthday Auction to benefit Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières. I donated two stories. This one was won by rusty_armour who prompted with Teyla, John, and Ronon being outside a tavern when a barfight breaks out and then discovering Rodney started it while defending a dog. Thanks to Rusty Armor for the donation, the prompt, and your patience.
Ronon was running before John had time to identify the source of his unease.
He followed automatically, bringing his P-90 up to a ready position as he jogged, the need to aim as he moved keeping him several yards behind his teammate, automatically assessing. The noise – the yelling and crashing - that John now realized had set off his inner alarm was coming from The Hanged Wraith, the tavern where they had left Rodney behind to finish his stew while the others made their farewells. John lowered his gun and put on some extra speed.
Stupid, John thought viciously at himself, stupid to take friendliness for granted Months of peaceful trade between their peoples was no guarantee of safety; Teyla’s experience with the Genii had taught them that. John automatically checked on the position of his other teammates as he approached the bar. Ronon had already disappeared within while Teyla had remained behind with their host. Something in John’s chest eased; Teyla wouldn’t be trying to smooth things over with the agricultural minister if she thought Rodney was in any danger.
Poking his head through the tapestry that served as a door, John felt the knot of tension vanish altogether; it was just a fight. A loud and raucous bar brawl involving what appeared to be half of the village, but still just a bar fight. John chuckled briefly before stepping into the fray to retrieve his astrophysicist.
Unlike Ronon, who was howling joyfully and grinning with more teeth than one man should be allowed to have, John really had no interest in getting involved in a local bar fight; and luckily for him, it was relatively easy to avoid the drunks, most of whom were too involved in their own mini-dramas to notice him. He threw an elbow here and a kick there in self defense, but most of his attention was on finding his wayward teammate.
John finally fought his way back to the far corner and found Rodney. He was crouched down behind an overturned table with what looked remarkably like a black lab. As he watched, the dog whined and Rodney lifted his right hand to stroke down the dog’s back. “It’s alright girl,” he murmured absent-mindedly.
John had just enough time to think, I thought Rodney was a cat person before an incoming swing forced him to stoop and duck. “Rodney,” he called above the noise when the perpetrator had been shoved back into the tangle of flailing bodies. “We need to get out of here.”
Rodney scowled up at him. “Thank you very much, Colonel Obvious. It’s no wonder you made MENSA with brilliant insights like that.” Rodney pulled the dog closer to him. “It’s Abby; she’s afraid. I can’t leave her here; she could get hurt.”
John frowned. “Abby?”
Rodney rolled his eyes and sighed. “The dog, Colonel. Try to keep up. This whole thing came about because I was trying to protect her, and I’m not leaving her in this mess.”
John could feel himself gaping but seemed unable to help himself. “You started this?” Then before Rodney could say anything he answered himself. “What am I saying? Of course you started this.”
“Yes, yes, can we get out of here first and make fun of the genius with the righteous anger later? I’d prefer to revel in my moral superiority from the safety of Atlantis.”
Without further consideration, John scooped up the dog - “Whoa, girl, you need to go on a diet” - and ushered Rodney into the crowd.
Getting out of the bar fight with a whining dog in his arms was much tougher than getting in, but Rodney used his broad shoulders and loud voice to their advantage and eventually they found themselves back outside with Teyla and the Agriculture Minister. Ronon was having a little too much fun ‘restoring order’ to join them, but John figured he’d come out when he was finished.
There was much arm waving (from Rodney), running around (from Abby), and whining (from them both) while Rodney explained what had happened; which made the story take longer than was probably necessary, but Rodney got to the point quickly once Ronon arrived, dragging a surly blond man sporting a black eye behind him.
“That’s him,” Rodney yelled. “That’s the man who kicked his dog for no good reason. I had a moral obligation to defend her. Lock him up.”
The Minister looked taken aback at the suggestion, taking a tiny step back from a red faced Rodney.
The dog-kicker sneered. “She’s just a stupid animal.”
“You can’t just go around abusing animals just because they’re dumb! If you could, there would be a lot fewer scientists - actually fewer people in general - around to annoy me.”
The Minister cast a wary look at Rodney before turning to John anxiously. “I am so sorry. I assure you we do not condone hurting other creatures for pleasure.”
“Of course not, Minister, no one believes this one man to be representative of your people.” Teyla assured him warmly.
Her friendly smile seemed to relax the Minister somewhat, and he smiled back at her. Then his face lit up unexpectedly. “Thank you. As a token of goodwill, we would be pleased if Dr. McKay would accept the animal as our gift.” He turned back to Rodney, the hopeful expression on his face almost painful in its earnestness.
“What?” Rodney was screeching now, flapping his hands indignantly and reminding John of nothing so much as an oversized bird. The smile resulting from the image earned him a glare, but he just smiled wider and stepped on Rodney’s foot.
“What he means to say is that he’d be delighted to reaffirm our friendship by taking the dog – Abby – home with us,” John told the Minister
Rodney opened his mouth – presumably to continue his objections – but a look from Teyla silenced him. So Sheppard’s team made their way back to the ‘gate more slowly than usual, stopped every few yards while Abby inspected an interesting bush or barked warningly at the local wildlife.
Even with the holdups, Abby was an unusually good dog in John’s opinion. She always came when called, stayed between Rodney and any hint of trouble (even it was only from a glowering Ronon), and didn’t take any of Rodney’s complaints personally. In fact, the first time she balked was when Teyla dialed the last symbol and the wormhole engaged.
Rodney looked from the blue puddle to the dog and then to Teyla. “Have you ever taken an animal through? It’s not… It won’t hurt her will it?” he asked anxiously.
Teyla smiled gently at him. “I do not believe any harm will come to your dog, Rodney.”
“She’s not my dog,” Rodney grumbled, walking closer to the gate. Abby whined softly and backed away, looking at Rodney helplessly.
“Come on girl, it’s okay,” Rodney spoke soothingly and confidently, even though he looked as nervous as the dog. Abby eyed the event horizon warily again but came to her newly adopted master. Rodney patted her head and edged closer to the shimmering blue pool. Despite her earlier hesitation, the dog matched Rodney pace for pace, trusting him to keep her safe.
Rodney stepped through the gate. The dog barked once in alarm and then plunged in behind him. John’d seen seasoned military officers follow commanders with more hesitation.
The few hours and then days proved that the following Rodney anywhere thing turned out to be kind of a habit with Abby. She refused to be looked at by Carson or any of the xenobiologists unless Rodney stayed with her, and she spent the entire mission debrief under his chair. Rodney was the only one to complain about her devotion. He claimed it was a health code violation to have an animal in the mess hall, but John saw him sneaking pieces of bacon under the table. Even if he did wipe his hands vigorously afterwards; it was a measure of his true feelings.
However it stopped being cute and became problematic when it came to the labs.
“Rodney, Abby she is adorable, yes, but this is the third time this week that my test results have been contaminated by dog hair,” Zelenka was complaining as John came round to collect Rodney for their standing Friday dinner and a movie not-a-date night.
“She’s shedding,” Rodney said defensively.
“Yes, we are all aware,” Zelenka said dryly, trying in vain to wipe black dog hairs off of his white lab coat. “But that does not change the fact the labs are no place for a dog.”
Rodney agreed reluctantly and he and John spent the whole weekend teaching Abby how to sit and stay so that she wouldn’t enter the lab while Rodney was working. And while John’s original plan had called for less dog and more nakedness, Abby was eager to please and learned rather more quickly than the average Milky Way dog of John’s acquaintance.
On Monday Abby obediently stayed just outside the lab doors, keeping all experiments safe from black dog hair, but it wasn’t exactly an ideal solution. She made her presence known in other ways, whimpering pathetically anytime Rodney was out of her line of vision and gazing mournfully at anyone who looked her way. On Tuesday Rodney lasted exactly twenty minutes before he downloaded some projects onto his laptop and retreated to a balcony where Abby was free to run around or lay quietly at his feet.
After a week of Rodney working mostly from his quarters and pretending to ignore Abby’s pathetic pleas for attention whenever he was forced to go to the lab, Teyla stopped by the lab and offered to dogsit while Rodney worked.
“Yes!” Rodney agreed enthusiastically. “You’re a genius. Well, not a genius obviously, let’s not gets carried away.”
“Rodney,” John scolded, amused and mildly appalled.
“But it’s a great idea nonetheless,” Rodney continued hastily.
“And?” John prompted.
Rodney looked confused. “And?”
“Thank you, Teyla,” John said, turning to address her, “that’d be very helpful.”
Rodney rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes, all of Atlantis thanks you for allowing me to concentrate on keeping us all alive and afloat.”
“You are welcome,” Teyla said with her trademark ‘you’re idiots but I like you anyway’ smile, and she beckoned for Abby to follow her. Abby cast a reproachful look at Rodney before following quietly.
Rodney frowned after them, mouth slanted in an unhappy line. “Maybe I should go with them, just until she’s…” he muttered distractedly.
“They’ll be fine, Rodney,” John said quietly, glancing around quickly before wrapping a comforting hand around the back of Rodney’s neck.
Rodney shook his head as if dislodging an insect and huffed. “Of course they’ll be alright, Colonel. Don’t be ridiculous. Don’t you have bullets to count or pushups to assign or something?” Without waiting for a reply, Rodney spun on his heel and entered his lab.
The door had barely closed before it swooshed back open again. Rodney waited for the door to close behind him, glanced around in mimicry of John’s early inspection and kissed John, slow and sweet. “Thanks,” he said gruffly and went back to work.
John stood there bemused for a few minutes, and then walked off humming happily to himself.
After that, they developed a routine; after breakfast, Teyla would walk with Rodney and Abby to the lab and she and the dog would leave Rodney there to work. John joined them more often than not, lingering to reassure Rodney with a pat on the back or a squeeze of the arm if he seemed to be experiencing separation anxiety that day. They’d all meet up for lunch sometime around one, and Abby would wag her whole body in excitement the moment Rodney showed up; some days, John did too. In the evening, John picked Abby up from wherever her adventure had led her that day – Teyla’s quarters, a balcony, the botany labs, and on one memorable occasion the water at the end of the East pier – and take her back to Rodney’s quarters.
It was nice. It was kind of domestic. It was becoming a pain in the ass.
“Rodney,” John whined when Rodney rebuffed his attempt at seduction for the fifth night in a row.
“I told you, Colonel,” Rodney said archly, emphasizing his title in an arena where he never used it. “I’m not having…” he looked meaningfully around at the end of the bed where Abby was curled up asleep despite the big squashy pillow Rodney had put in the corner as a dog bed “…sex…” he whispered “…with the dog in the room.”
John just barely restrained himself from rolling his eyes. Rodney was serious and mockery, while fun, was definitely not going to get him laid. “Then let’s go to my room,” John not-begged.
“She’s been apart from me all day. That’s hardly fair to her.”
“Blueballs aren’t fair to me,” John said.
Rodney glared at him scathingly. “Yes well, I thought you were maybe the slightest bit more intelligent than the dog, and therefore better to understand the situation. Sorry I overestimated you. Tomorrow we have some downtime; we’ll spend the day doing something with Abby and then you can take me to your room and have your wicked way with me.”
“Cool,” John said, inching a hand up Rodney’s thigh as he leaned in for a kiss. Rodney rolled out of reach.
With Rodney’s promise in mind, John’s plan to give Abby a special treat by spending the day on the mainland was not entirely selfless. He’d agreed to give Teyla a ride to the village anyway, and he was not-so-secretly hoping to pawn the dog off on some Athosian kids and then ‘having his wicked way’ with Rodney in some secluded field or haystack or heck, the middle of the frickin’ square if Rodney would just give it up already. John hadn’t had to work this hard to get laid since he was seventeen years old.
However, his plan was only half successful – Abby did quickly make friends with some Athosian kids. But when he turned to suggest finding someplace private he caught a pained expression on Rodney’s face that stopped him cold. Teyla seemed to have noticed it too.
“She seems very happy here,” Teyla remarked mildly.
Rodney winced as if her words stung. “Of course she’s happy here,” he snapped, “She’s a dog; they’re happiest rolling in dirt and slobbering over sticks.”
Teyla took his outburst in stride, not answering right away. It was maybe another quarter of an hour before she spoke again. “There is not much dirt on Atlantis.”
Finally John understood both the conversation and the stubborn tilt Rodney’s chin had taken during it. “I’m sure we could get Botany to round us up some sticks though,” he said.
Rodney smiled at him, but it was laced with resignation. Teyla inclined her head in concession, and the three of them continued to watch the Athosian children playing with Abby in silence.
As the sun began to set, Rodney suddenly burst out yelling as if he were already in the middle of an argument with an invisible foe. “Fine, if Abby wants to stay here, let her stay here. It’s not like I ever wanted a dog anyway. Cat’s are far more intelligent and superior; a proper pet for a genius like me.” And he turned away and stalked off toward the jumper.
“Rodney,” John called after him, but Teyla put a restraining hand on John’s arm. At the sound of her master’s name, Abby immediately ran to catch up with him. But at the ramp to the jumper she hesitated, looking from Rodney to the children who were enthusiastically calling for her to come back.
Rodney reemerged from the jumper and kneeled on the ground next to his pet. From this distance John couldn’t hear what he was saying, but after a few minutes Rodney stood up and shooed Abby back toward the children. After one last long look at Rodney she ran back toward the villagers, and Rodney retreated again.
“I believe I will stay here tonight, John,” Teyla said softly behind him. “I want to be sure Abby is settled. I believe that will give Dr. McKay some peace of mind.”
John nodded and touched his forehead to hers. “Thanks.”
The ride back to Atlantis was quiet. Rodney was obviously in pain, but just as obviously was pretending not to care. John thought he was doing pretty well with this whole relationship thing, but he had no idea what to say now. Should he pretend everything was normal or – God help him – try to make Rodney talk about his feelings?
In the end he took Rodney’s lead and did nothing, and the silence stretched all the way to Atlantis, through the hallways and into Rodney’s room. John considered leaving when Rodney walked into the bathroom and started up the shower without ever saying a word but decided that part of being there for someone was actually, you know, being there and he stripped down to his boxers and crawled into bed. He fell asleep to the sound of running water, waking up only briefly when a damp Rodney crawled in behind him and draped an arm across his waist.
Sometime during the night they reversed positions so that John awoke to brilliant sunshine and his morning wood nestled firmly against Rodney’s ass. Rodney was already awake and when John lifted himself up onto one elbow he could see that Rodney was staring at Abby’s dog bed. “Treacherous mutt,” Rodney said by way of morning greeting when John moved. “I thought dogs were supposed to be loyal.”
There was fondness in the words with only a hint of the previous night’s pain, and John silently breathed a sigh of relief. “Aw, she wasn’t so bad.”
Rodney huffed skeptically, but John could see the corner of his mouth twitching as resisted smiling. “It was nice being followed and having someone to be properly grateful for my attention for a change.”
“Hey, I follow you around all the time,” John said. “And I like attention.”
Rodney flipped around so he was facing John, laughter in his eyes. “Are you saying you’re my bitch?”
“I’m pretty loyal,” John pointed out helpfully.
Rodney rolled further, forcing John onto his back so Rodney could stroke a path down his chest. “Want me to rub your belly?”
John’s breath caught as Rodney’s hand ghosted over his abs. “Rub lower and I’ll even wag my tail.”
The complete list of my Stargate Atlantis fiction can be found here.