Mar. 1st, 2008 10:10 am
Warnings: Slashy thoughts, some language.
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Summary: Welcome to John Sheppard's special hell.
Author's Note: So, laconicneeds requested, "a McShep where John takes notice and/or appreciates Rodney's shoulders/arms/biceps? Or something about McKay's physical abilities?" Which is, of course, one of my favorite things to write about. *happy sigh*
The universe hates John Sheppard. It's the only explanation he can come up with for the torture that he's presently being subjected to. It's bad enough that they're stuck helping that Planet of Unending Plains of Rooki Fruit with their harvest if they want a piece of it. It's bad enough that it's roughly a hundred and two degrees in the shade. It's bad enough that the humidity has to be somewhere around ninety-eight percent.
Torture—specifically aimed to drive John out of his mind—is the only reasonable explanation for Rodney McKay to be included in the package. Rodney, who even now is twisting his head over his shoulder, and biting out impatiently, "Look, Sheppard, this isn't exactly difficult. Pick the fruit. Put it in the basket. Rinse. Repeat. We've got a quota to meet before they'll let us sleep, remember?"
John hates Rooki fruit. Partially because the huge, misshapen purple gourds taste like over cooked cauliflower. Mostly because harvesting it is one of the most frustrating things he's ever had to do. And it's all McKay's fault.
John is aware that this is neither the time nor the place to go into his opinions on the matter of the effects of heat and humidity on skin. Instead he nods jerkily, which seems to satisfy McKay, and resumes extricating the Rooki fruit from its nest of thorns. It comes free finally, after the thorns manage to take a few more hunks out of the back of John's hands, and he weighs the fruit for a half second before dropping it into the basket on Rodney's back.
The fruit was one of the smaller ones. Maybe two pounds, tops, and it settles on top of its harvested brethren. Rodney doesn't appear to notice. He's hasn't appeared to notice anything since they started. John figures that might be why he's suffering from a surplus of noticing himself.
John swallows, watching a line of sweat slide down the back of Rodney's flushed neck, following the curve of his spine to the brim of the basket. John forces himself to reach for the next Rooki fruit, only dimly aware of the new scratches across his knuckles.
Rodney shifts his shoulders, his broad, naked, shoulders, and John jerks so hard that he manages to impale his palm. John curses, jerking his hand free, and Rodney huff out a sigh before turning to face him.
Rodney's fair skin is stained pink, either from the sun, the heat, the exertion, or a mix of them all. There's sweat everywhere, glistening on the tip of Rodney's nose, perfect little drops beading up all across his chest, running in excruciating intricate patterns down his arms. Rodney reaches for John, snags his most severely damaged hand and complains, "Seriously, how did you manage to do this? All you have to do is reach in and pull the fruit out."
John swallows, manages to force out of his dry throat, "Uh."
Rodney gives him a look, his short hair wet and curling up above his ears and John absolutely does not want to reach out and touch. Rodney shifts when John doesn't become miraculously more verbose. Rodney's shirt, removed when the natives had explained how things were going to work, is tucked into the waistband of Rodney's pants, and he tugs it out now.
Rodney is making faces, intent on what he's doing as he tears his shirt to pieces. John is still staring, struck dumb, when Rodney takes his hand again and starts wrapping it. Rodney's fingers are very warm against John's skin, and John swallows heavily and tries to look somewhere—anywhere—safer.
Unfortunately, his eyes get hung up on Rodney's shoulders again. The dark leather straps of the basket stand out against Rodney's pale skin. They're secured under his arms, and John can see the skin turning red and agitated all around them.
John does some quick math in his head, in the hope that it'll slow his heartbeat down. The basket has to weigh at least fifty pounds, with the straps and the heavy weave. Each fruit weighs at least two pounds, most closer to four or five. John's collected at least twenty of them. And Rodney doesn't look anymore miserable than he did when they started.
Rodney finally leans back, smiling smugly as he motions to John's hands, "There. Your delicate skin is now protected. Can we get back to work, now? How close are we to filling this basket up?" Rodney tries to crane his head far enough back to see the basket, but gives up after a moment, looking expectantly at John.
John turns back to the abandoned Rooki fruit, Rodney's shirt turning aside the worst of the thorns, "Almost done."
Rodney hums, noncommittal and absent, and John tears the Rooki fruit free, drops it in the basket. Law is that they have to fill four baskets before they earn food and rest. John knows that Rodney probably has enough powerbars to feed a small army back in his pack, but he'd really rather not prove to be completely useless to the locals. He tries to pick faster.
It's not an easy task when every damn time he looks up he's faced with Rodney's shoulders. This is hell. This is eternal torment. John's not sure what he did to deserve this kind of suffering, and he really, really, just wants it to be over.
Finally, John tosses one last fruit into the basket and decides, "This one is full."
Rodney makes a face, "About time," and starts off towards the crowd gathered in the center of the field. John hurries, walks in front of Rodney out of self defense. John's not sure he can make it through three more baskets without losing his mind.
The Roovians are thrilled to see them back. Rodney's bitching proves to be damnably on track, as they're the one of the last teams to return a basket, which seems to be causing a lot of giggling. Rodney waves off the babbling villagers, those too infirm or young to help in the harvest, and crouches.
The basket comes down to the back of Rodney's knees, he doesn't have to lower himself very far before it's resting on the ground. John watches, mouth going dry, as Rodney slides one shoulder then the other out of the harness, before straightening and cracking his neck from side to side.
The leather has left behind angry red marks on Rodney's skin, and John has to cross his arms to stop from touching. Rodney is already waving John impatiently forward, snapping his fingers at the basket he wants next and turning expectantly.
Rodney's back is red, drenched in sweat, all of it soaking into the back of his pants. John shakes himself, helps Rodney fit his arms into straps, and feels his entire body tighten when his fingers involuntarily brush Rodney's skin. Rodney gives him a sour look, "Try to pick faster this time, princess."
Before John can shoot back what would definitely be a cutting retort, the elderly woman that was apparently assigned to check all the returned baskets makes a surprised sound. Rodney sighs, casting John a betrayed look, "What did you do, pick the wrong things?"
The Roovian woman ignores them, waving over the other villagers. John watches the hand waving going on around the circle, followed by the wide grins, and wonders what the hell is going on. He doesn't have to wait long to find out. One of the woman steps away, her smile stretched so wide it looks painful.
Rodney takes a step back. John doesn't blame him, and he casts a worried look around for Teyla and Ronon. But for once the suspiciously happy natives don't appear to want to do them harm. The woman steps up to Rodney, throws her arms around his neck and pulls him down to press a kiss against his forehead.
John ignores the flare of jealousy in his gut, seeing as she's probably eighty years old. Rodney blusters, pulling back, skin staining even brighter red, ears almost glowing. The old woman pats at his shoulders, says, "We have not had anyone return a complete basket for many years. It is truly impressive for outsiders. Should you return your second half in one basket as well we will have great cause for celebration."
There's a pause. John takes the moment to look around at the baskets around them. They're all half full, but John had just been assuming that some of the fruit had already been removed. If the beaming natives are any indication, he'd been completely off base.
Rodney whirls on him, pokes John hard in the chest, opening his mouth and then shutting it with a contemplative look on his face. Rodney turns back to the woman, "One more basket?"
The woman bobs her head, reaching out to touch Rodney again, her eyes big and awed, "If it is a full basket, yes."
Rodney frowns in consideration around this for a moment, before turning expectantly back to John. "Let's go, then. One more and we can be out of this heat." Rodney goes stomping off across the fields before John can get a word in. John shakes himself and hurries after him.
Hell. This is hell. John just wishes he wasn't enjoying the burn so much.
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