A Three-for-Two Special, Thursdays, After SixPairing:
(Earthside AU set in 1985) Atlantis Mall: Your Destination for Family-Friendly Shopping Since 1976!Authors: hyperfocused
.A Three-for-Two Special, Thursdays, After Six
The Atlantis Mall was once the destination shopping spot for several states, with a variety of upscale designer shops and the most popular anchoring stores. Atlantis' parent company, The Stargate Corporation, had built shopping centers all over the country, their rotating circular entrances a well-known trademark. A Gate address was a thing of prestige. Most of the Stargate malls were holding their own, but for some reason Atlantis had not been able to live up to its promise.
Perhaps it was because unlike the other "'Gates", Atlantis had not been built new. Instead, a defunct 1920's era hotel had been re-purposed. Despite complaints that the place was ancient, and any plans and blueprints they managed to uncover were so unreadable they might as well have been written in another language, the period Art Deco design compelled the architects. Unfortunately, impeccable aesthetics weren't enough to bring in customers.
"Atlantis. The Mall. The Myth," the joke went. Judging by the constantly diminishing revenue, the mall might just as well have sunk into the ocean.
There were times Rodney McKay wished that would happen. He hadn't made a significant sale in days, which sucked if you were paid mostly on commission. That was what happened when you worked in a store full of expensive adult toys in the midst of an economic downturn. And they weren't the fun adult toys like those sold at Cadman's Cookie Jar two doors down, which was doing somewhat better than his Genius Gifts store. It was true that his store sold many of his own inventions (and things he'd adapted from items found in the building's voluminous store-rooms); it wasn't just an ersatz Sharper Image.
Once in a while he thought about picking up a little something - or even a big something -- at Cadman's store. But she was so nosy: he didn't want to buy a dildo and feel like she was in his head, knowing just who he was thinking about while he used it. Employee discount or not, he'd have to go with mail order. Even though he'd been legal a while now (months and months
), Laura still thought of him as a precocious 15 year old.
Laura was nice enough, but she was always trying to set people up. The wrong people. Case in point, his botched date with Kate Heightmeyer, who'd cornered him in the guise of getting him to do one of those stupid taste-testing surveys -- as if he was going to put anything in his mouth without knowing all the ingredients -- he didn't have a death
wish. She'd tried to give him psychological tests disguised as dinner conversation, and insisted that his citrus allergy was a sure sign of a personality disorder. She'd taken A.P. Psych, but so what? If it couldn't be definitively quantified, than it was almost certainly bullshit.
Rodney didn't need that. There was really only one Atlantis employee he wanted and he wasn't quite ready to come out in the first place. He was pretty sure that John Sheppard wouldn't be interested if he did. Pretty sure, but not completely. John obviously liked Rodney, and if Rodney squinted, he could almost believe he was flirting.
John worked in the mall's small amusement park. (It was really just a crappy wave pool and a few rickety rides). From what Rodney could tell, John spent more time playing on the ferris wheel and bothering Rodney at his store than actually keeping the rambunctious kids in line the way he was supposed to.
Despite himself, Rodney liked him -- a lot. John was fun, and quirky, and (Rodney was a little weirded out to admit) hot. He liked Rodney, too. If Rodney had to count, John probably spent more time with him than anyone else. And for some inexplicable reason, every time he came into Genius Gifts random gadgets would turn themselves on without anyone even touching them. They'd light up, or buzz, or in the case of a particular toy ray gun and personal shield combo, shoot bright green rays that bounced off the person wearing the shield, while hitting anyone else one it was aimed at.
Rodney really liked that one.
John teased Rodney like a junior high school boy: yanking a girl's braid because he liked her, but too much of an idiot to man up and say so. It was hard to figure out what John was up to. He didn't exactly talk about his feelings. Plus, he'd probably dated all the girls at the mall at least once. There was Chaya, who was so aloof it was like she was on an entirely different plane of existence from John, and T.R, who kept trying to get him to meditate. Maybe the "T" stood for "Transcendental". Rodney assumed that was just a front for tantric sex (she was really into Sting), but John swore not. Yeah, they'd done it, he'd admitted, but it was more from inertia than interest on his part. Rodney thought that made John a bit of a slut himself if he couldn't say no to a girl. Then again, it wasn't like Rodney had had many (okay, any) offers himself, so what did he know? Whatever the case, it never seemed to work out, John and girls, which secretly relieved Rodney.
Elizabeth Weir, who worked as a greeter at the information desk, was sure John liked Rodney, too. One of the few people Rodney confided in, she urged him to be honest with John. "He's an open-minded guy, Rodney. You'd be surprised. Besides, nobody who listens to that much Scritti Politti could be all that straight." Maybe it was true. John didn't fit into just one box. He was a football player and
a mathlete, after all.
Radek Zelenka ( the Czech exchange student who worked at Radio Shack but who was in no way smarter than Rodney, despite what he said) got Rodney to join Teyla's gym with him. "She will whip you into shape and you will thank her for it, and then she will thank me." She had this really cool stick-fighting thing -- and besides, she was hot, too. Atlantis's own version of Leela, from Doctor Who, or maybe Sheena. Even Jennifer Beals had nothing on her.
And if bulking up a little didn't help him get John, at least it might help him the next time they had to face the Wraith gang. If Rodney could just stand up to them, maybe they'd find some place else to haunt. They were seriously bad news, with their bleached hair and pale makeup. Whenever he caught them trashing the store, spraying that sticky cobwebby stuff and hissing, he felt like he'd aged a lifetime. He bet John wasn't nearly as freaked out by them as he was. He doubted John got freaked out at all, except perhaps if Rodney told him how he felt about him.
He wasn't sure he was ready to find out.
The more he thought about it, the more he became convinced he should keep things to himself. He didn’t have enough friends to lose one over something as stupid as blurting out that he was maybe -- most likely, in a way, hopelessly and completely -- in love with John. And Rodney did have these urges to blurt out things he’d rather keep inside. It wasn’t like he’d meant
to tell Elizabeth that her new haircut made her look like a plucked bird. The words just tumbled out sometimes.
“Hi, Rodney,” John suddenly said next to him.
With an undignified squeak Rodney jumped, hitting his head on the shelf above the one he had just been restocking. “Ow,” he moaned, both hands covering his head in a vain attempt to make the pain go away. One of them came away slick with blood. “Oh my God, you made me concuss
myself,” Rodney sniped at John, still reeling from the intensity of the burning sensation that had blinded him for a few seconds.
“It’s just a small cut,” John said even as he took Rodney by the elbow and led him to the chair behind the counter. “Come on, sit down, I’ll take a closer look.”
The distraction from his injury faded as Rodney suddenly had a face full of John’s shirt. “We should call an ambulance,” he said rather weakly, his hand going back up to feel for the wound just to be slapped away by John. “I could be bleeding to death.” He breathed in deeply and was hit by the overwhelming smell of citrus. “What did you do? Bathe in orange juice? Are you trying
to kill me, or is it just luck that you’re making a second attempt on my life?” Rodney demanded, as he pushed John away, already feeling his sinuses clogging up and his eyes swell.
“One of the children spilt some on me earlier,” John drawled, sounding amused, as if he hadn’t just tried to suffocate
Rodney with a shirt drenched in the source of all evil. “It’s not that bad,” John said, trying to step closer again.
Rodney put the counter between them, “Oh no, you won’t. I’m highly allergic.” John wasn’t merely a nuisance sometimes, he was a dangerous
nuisance. A ticking orange bomb! And Rodney so
blamed the children John was supposed to keep under control for the missed chance of getting a good whiff.
Giving a long suffering sigh, John stripped off his shirt and dropped it on the floor, then motioned Rodney closer again. “See? No more deadly cotton shirt. Now sit back down while I get your first aid kit. It’s really just a small cut. I’ve seen some of the kids get hurt worse.”
Suppressing a manly groan of pain Rodney sat back down, his eyes intent on John’s bare back, watching the muscles ripple underneath smooth skin.
,” John reproached him as he got back up, “it’s just a bit of blood.”
The ‘just a bit of blood’ was currently running down Rodney’s neck. And he hadn’t whimpered. Not really anyway. “I’m going to bleed
to death in my own shop,” he whined purposefully, having decided that the only thing that would cheer him up now was to fluster and/or bait John and etch the perfection of his naked chest into his memory forever.
“Sure you are,” John answered, amusement and exasperation evident in his voice. “Don’t worry; I’ll let everyone know how heroically you went to your death.” Whatever John dribbled into the wound burnt abominably, but Rodney stoically kept his mouth shut until John stepped back, his face smug, like he had accomplished something great. “Doesn’t even need a band aid, it's already stopped bleeding.” Not like a band aid in his hair
wouldn’t be hell to get rid of again. Rodney was eternally grateful that John had not simply put one on anyway.
“Thanks,” he muttered, wishing that there had been more to do as John stepped away from him and reached for his shirt. “Was there anything you wanted? Apart from giving me a heart attack?”
John grinned at him, already decent again. “Actually, there was. They're trying to get an event going to lure more customers to the mall. I figured if anyone could come up with something great it’d be the two of us.”
An event? Huh. “I’ll -- ” he started to answer, then reached up to his neck, his hand coming away bloody, “I’ll go wash up. Could you stay here and have an eye on the shop for me?” He didn’t wait for John to say anything but rushed to the small bathroom in the back, looking into the mirror. He looked awful. At least his clothes weren’t bloody. With a few wet paper towels Rodney managed to get clean enough not to scare any stray customer who might wander in unexpectedly. Few as they were, Rodney needed every one of them to keep in business. Maybe John had a point. They all needed more customers, and an event to lure customers to Atlantis Mall might be just the ticket. That he’d spend a lot of time with John in the process -- more time than he already was
spending with John -- would definitely be a plus. His genius and John’s people skills . . . it’d be perfect.
Still deep in thought Rodney walked back to the front of the shop, happening on John amiably chatting up a woman Rodney had never seen before. Apparently the one time Rodney wasn’t behind the counter he had a customer
. Watching John type something into the register Rodney, realised that not only had he had a customer, she’d also bought something. That was a rarity. Usually they only came in and looked around.
“Looks like you just made a sale, buddy,” John said as Rodney moved to his side, both of them watching the customer leave. “So, about the event?”
Rodney swallowed, wishing John wouldn’t look at him like that
, all warm and friendly. “Okay,” he answered, his mouth moving before his brain had time to actually think about it again.* * * * * * *
"I told you this was a bad idea," Rodney said. His suit was hot and constricting, it made him have to bend his arms at a funny angle, the eye holes were so small that he couldn't see, and he was pretty sure from the smell that the last person to have worn it had died inside
"Actually," John said, his voice sounding no less nasal and irritating for all that it was muffled, "I'm pretty sure you said 'This is a stupid, appalling, nonsensical idea that management will never go for, and oh my god you are a prime example of why not even Goldwater-esque Republicans should be allowed to reproduce.'"
Rodney paused and blinked. "Yes. Well. Whether or not you edit my words down to the Cole's Notes version--"
"The Cliff's Notes, whatever
, that does not negate the fact that you're dressed as a giant purple yukking imbecile
and I'm, I'm. . . ."
"Dressed like a baby girl dinosaur in a frilly tutu?" John said.
," Rodney hissed.
Attract more families to the mall, Rodney had suggested. Don't pitch things so aggressively at the high earners, at the twentysomething singletons with high disposable incomes and even higher credit card limits: try to get the families who're on economy drives, market 3-for-2 offers and free child-care facilities and, and organic cotton
to attract the crunchy granola parents, like Teyla's cousin Halling who reused tea bags to make that disgusting stout tea. It was a solid plan, but transmuted through the great mind that was John Sheppard, and the inspirational thinking that was the mall's management (Mr Landry was such
a dick), 'family attractive' had become 'family friendly
', and now here Rodney was, standing beneath a multi-coloured banner that proclaimed 'Friends Have Fun at Atlantis Mall!!!', while across the concourse, poor Laura was having to rearrange her shop front from the suggestive to the merely pink.
"Buck up, Rodney," John said. "Only another four hours."
"Shoot me. Shoot me now," Rodney said through gritted teeth, and tried to ignore the snot-nosed toddler of indeterminate sex looking up at him with awe in its eyes. If he encouraged it, it might touch him, and it looked sticky
. "Because I am half-way towards earning a Master's degree at the age of sixteen, and yet here I am, forced to degrade myself by--"
," John said, elbowing him viciously in the side. "Shut up -- Landry."
Sure enough, there the general manager was, with an obviously forced smile on his face, arms folded, and a flinty expression in his eyes -- as if Rodney wasn't already well aware that the renewal of his lease depended on a successful outcome today. Rodney rolled his eyes, glad that the now-boiling suit would at least allow him that outlet for his true emotions while, arms waving about in an approximation of happiness, he and John led three dozen squalling children in a rendition of 'I Love You.'
There were encores, there were calls for renditions of 'Old McDonald's Farm', there were requests for photos of Baby Bop and Barney giving hugs to several germ-infested brats ("C'mon, Baby Bop," Barney said, in a voice which was perhaps slightly more ironic than normal, "I think we need a group snuggle!"), photos to be taken with a sniggering Teyla and Elizabeth, and by the time the newly-inaugurated Kiddy's Fun Factory closed at seven, Rodney was more disgruntled than he could ever remember being. His feet hurt, his throat was raw from repeating bubbly catch-phrases in a high-pitched voice, and the temperature inside the yellow torture device had reached such heights that Rodney was uncomfortably close to thinking that his internal organs were starting to broil.
In the employee changing room, he ripped off the Baby Bop head and, in the absence of a pike to stick it on, threw it across the room to rebound off the wall. "Hate
," he managed after several seconds of near-apoplectic searching for syllables that could express his rage, "Hate, loathe, abhor, detest, I just -- this is all your fault, you and your stupid hair and your trust me, Rodney, I know what I'm doing
, when clearly you have less strategic insight that any respectable deity would allot to a syphilitic goat, and I cannot believe I ever thought you were hot!"
He heard what he said approximately 3.7 seconds after he said it, and Rodney watched with growing horror as the impact of it registered on John's face -- how those ridiculous eyebrows twitched upwards and his head tilted to one side and his lips pursed as if he were considering something he wasn't sure he'd heard. John was standing there in the body of a Barney the Dinosaur outfit, the head of it still clutched in his outsize paws, and Rodney closed his eyes when he heard John say, high-pitched, "You think I'm hot?"
"No, no, absolutely not," Rodney said quickly. "In fact I think you're. . . ."
The door to the changing room flew open, bouncing back against the wall and leaving a dent in the plaster. "The Wraith gang!" Radek said, looking panicked, glasses askew. "They are in Laura's store! We must hurry -- the spray cobwebs will surely interfere with the vibration mechanisms of her toys if we do not stop them!"
"Goddamit," John swore, throwing his purple dinosaur head aside and barreling out into the employees-only access corridor.
"Wait!" Rodney yelled. "You can't . . . ." He looked down at his own costume, the edge of his tutu crusted with dribbled ice cream and toddler drool. "You can't chase Wraith in a dino-suit," he finished weakly, realizing that was exactly what he was about to do. "Why," he moaned, shuffling into a jog, trailing after Radek and John. "Why do these things always happen to me
There were seven Wraith in all, dueling with dildos and cherry-flavored lube. Thanks to a burst of speed after Rodney had rounded the corner near Sam Goody's, motivated by the urge not to face Landry alone should the general manager be lurking, he arrived right on John's heels, just in time to see Laura smash one of the 6 foot tall, pasty-faced freaks in the nose with the heel of her hand.
"Awesome," John said reverentially, and then waded in.
It was a short fight, the Wraith somewhat taken aback to be fending off punches from two human-dinosaur hybrids, and that gave Radek the opportunity to take out several of the bastards from behind. Rodney worked on tripping and otherwise thwarting the attempts of the Wraith to leave -- he knew where his tactical skills lay -- and happily spun one guy around so that Laura could kick him in the balls. John took one guy out by running at him full tilt, head down, knocking the wind clean out of him, and there was something deeply satisfying about seeing a gangly, albino-Goth wannabe split his leather pants as he fell. By the time mall security arrived, the fight was over, Rodney sitting heavily on top of the head Wraith, waving a silver bullet in his face every time he tried to move. "I will shove this up your left nostril," Rodney said, pushing his tutu out of the way so that he could see the guy's face. "So help me, Spock, I will do it
He couldn't remember why the Wraith had ever scared him before.* * * * * * *
The police came, and everyone had to give statements - Rodney lost track of John somewhere between the celebratory brownies, the medical check-up, and the trip to Landry's office to be given $50 in mall gift certificates as a thank you. He popped his head in Genius Gifts, just to make sure that Aiden, the evening help, could close up on his own, then dragged his weary dino-feet back to the employee changing rooms, thinking wistful thoughts of cheeseburgers and watching a re-run of Battlestar Galactica before bed. Apollo was really hot.
"Hot," Rodney said aloud, coming to a clumsy halt just inside the changing room door, made suddenly stupid by the sight of John standing barefoot across the room, jeans half-buttoned, t-shirt in his hand. Rodney gestured quickly. "I mean. Apollo. Apollo is hot. That's who's hot, Battlestar Galactica? He's -- with the Vipers, the space fights, I mean, he flies them. Hot."
John was smiling at him indulgently - at least it looked indulgent, not mocking or exasperated or any of the emotions Rodney more usually saw on other people's faces. "I think you mentioned something about hot before." He tilted his head, and Rodney was almost sure he was being sized up, measured against some internal scale.
"Before?" Rodney said, voice twisting into an embarrassing parody of the manly tone he'd been reaching for.
"Before. You know, the Wraith and stuff." John passed his t-shirt hand to hand then set it down. "Something about thinking . . . ."
"Yeah, the Wraith, that was something, huh? I don't think they'll be back, there's a -- they'd be . . . how 'bout them, um, them . . . Flyers?" Rodney said desperately. He'd hoped, deep down, that the brief burst of violence they'd all shared would have wiped John's memory clean of any declarations of hotness, but here John was, awfully close, reaching out a hand to slide down the zippers on Rodney's costume, one beneath each arm.
"Hot," John said again, and he pulled gently, tugging until Rodney got the message and disentangled his arms from his dino-jail.
"That's -- " Rodney coughed to clear his throat. "Helpful, thank you, I can probably . . . ." The suit hung at his hips now, and his eyes grew wide as he watched John reach out and inch fingertips beneath his shirt. "Oh," he managed. "Oh, I don't have any bruises there, it's okay, the suit . . . ."
"I think you are, too," John murmured, and Rodney jerked, looked up, found John's mouth so close he could feel each puff of air as John exhaled. "Hot," John said, and Rodney felt his own eyes go wide, blinked rapidly to try and improve the sluggish pace of his thinking, and -- impulsively -- leaned forward to mash his lips to John's. It was a terrible kiss, and he flushed to the roots of his hair, squirming nervously as John took it all in stride and said, "yeah, let's try that again."
The second kiss was better -- the second kiss was orders of magnitude better; slower, focused, and John even used his tongue, a technique Rodney had heard of but never quite understood the attraction of until now. Now he got it -- now he wanted to do the tongue thing for hours
, and rub himself all over John, and let John rub himself all over him, and maybe they could touch each other in places currently battling the folds of a dino-suit, touch and rub and, "Jesus," Rodney gasped against John's mouth, coming inside his shorts, inside his Baby Bop outfit, breaking out in a clean sweat and shuddering as John held him up.
"Oh," he said, when his synapses deigned to fire again. "Oh, that is just embarrassing."
"That," John said, voice rough, "is hot
." And he grabbed one of Rodney's hands, pressed it to the front of his jeans, rocked against Rodney's palm so that Rodney could feel that John was turned on, erect, panting slightly because Rodney had made him hard
, and Rodney's hips bucked helplessly at the thought. He tightened his grip involuntarily and watched, fascinated, as John bit his bottom lip and groaned, shaking through what Rodney believed was quite possibly the first orgasm he'd instigated in another. "Oh my god, you came," Rodney whispered, as if John might not have noticed.
John laughed softly, dropping his forehead to rest on Rodney's shoulder, shivering lightly beneath Rodney's hands. "Yeah," he said, sounding smug and tired and pleased with himself. "Wanna go somewhere and do that again?"
Rodney spluttered for a moment, trying to figure out how his day had culminated in this. "I might need ibuprofen. Because of the fight? I don't want to wake up to muscle strain. Not from -- ligaments are very delicate things, I hear, I saw a documentary, but you can have my Mike'n'Ikes?" he said in a rush. "There's a whole box in the car."
Which was, Rodney figured, as good a way of saying 'I love you' as any he could manage without bursting into mortified and deeply happy flames.
Click on thumb
- Round 1 - hyperfocused : "The Atlantis Mall was [...] ready to find out."
- Round 2 - ca_pierson : "The more Rodney thought about it [...] actually think about it again."
- Round 3 - siriaeve : "'I told you this was a bad idea,' [...] 'You think I'm hot?'"
- Round 4 - sheafrotherdon : "'No, no, absolutely not,' [...] deeply happy flames."
: Thank you to busaikko