Summary: Rodney gets a series of coded messages.
Notes: Many thanks to minlliw for the beta and to saphiralupin for pairing up with me for the challenge.
Art: Full-sized version by saphiralupin.
Fic: Tribute by perfica.
The ruling party of M6P-552 wore multicolored robes of different materials stitched together, every color they wore displaying their own particular strengths and aspirations. They warmly greeted Teyla and Ronon because the preponderance of brown leather in their clothing spoke of their love of the earth and a deep maturity. They were pleased but wary of John's all-black garb. To them, it signaled his stability as a leader and his stealth as a warrior but the paleness of his skin reminded them of the Wraith. Of death.
Rodney, paler still, confused them. His skin made them uneasy and they wouldn't address him directly but the bright blue of his shirt, a color so rare in their flora, sang to them of spirituality, understanding, truth, purity; they refused to meet his eyes but couldn't help, one by one, stroking their fingers gently over his hunched shoulders.
Three days after Sheppard's team had submitted their reports, Elizabeth spoke enthusiastically of color and signs, language and flowers, and sent another team back to the planet. Lorne and his Marines walked through the wormhole in their standard gear, guiding an anthropologist whose orange robe signified her exploratory side. Cradled in her hands was the gift of a large silver bowl decorated with precious dots of prosperous gold speckling red tongues of enthusiasm.
Four days after that, Rodney received his first gift.
The items that mysteriously appeared were as follows:
* hanging from his favorite whiteboard, a thorny branch twisted into the shape of a maple leaf
* on his lab bench, lemons and oranges that had been thinly sliced and laminated
* a cup of blue jello left on the floor outside his quarters for six nights in a row
* two gallons of fresh apple juice kept aside especially for him in the Mess
* in his shower, a tube of mint body wash
* slipped into the pocket of his jacket, a scrap of purple material protecting a burnt DVD of the latest Batman movie
* at the foot of his bed, a pair of men's briefs that looked like they'd been dyed by being washed with a red shirt
* on his pillow, a love heart made of the golden slips of foil found wrapped around quality chocolate bars
* on his bedside table when he woke up one morning, a single red rose, indisputably from Earth, so fresh that tiny drops of condensation beaded the inside of its plastic cylinder
Rodney finds John in the third place he looked; one of the balconies on the lower levels that jutted out of Atlantis, ignoring the spray and splatter of waves that hit the metal under his feet.
"I just want to know one thing," Rodney says. "What happened to all the chocolate that went with the shiny paper? Because that would have made an excellent gift."
John's face is stark, immobile. When he finally grins it looks like someone who had been taught how to smile out of a book.
"Good trick, right?" John says and his laugh is just as awful as his fake smile. "Had you going there for a while."
"Please, I knew it was you from the body wash. Who else could get into my room so easily? And mint? All the other men on this expedition smell like pine needles, gun oil or tripe and the women smell like berries or cigarettes."
John snorts and his face relaxes slightly.
"Anyway, I wanted to give you this," Rodney says, digging into his pocket. He pulls out a bronze disc attached to a faded green ribbon and holds it out with damp palms.
"You don't need to give me anything," John says, shifting his weight onto his back leg, leaning more heavily against the railing. "Listen, it was just a joke and - "
"Shut up and take it," Rodney says. "It's my third place ParticipACTION medal. I have fond memories of winning that even though I still maintain that rope-climbing shouldn't have been included in the tally."
"I said take it."
"Okay," John says finally. "Okay." Rodney lets it go and John catches it before it hits the ground, wraps the ribbon around the medal and puts it in the front left pocket of his shirt. He carefully does up the button.
"Well, that's all I wanted to do so I guess I'll see you later," Rodney says, turning his back on John who still has his hand resting above his heart.
"Wait," John says. "There was one more." He digs into a tiny pocket that Rodney's never noticed before, high up on the outside of his left thigh. He pulls out a gold coin, brushes its face with his thumb, kisses it reverently and holds it out. Rodney takes it and it's still warm from the heat of John's body.
"It's an 1896 Quarter Eagle," John says, looking at Rodney from the side of his eyes. "My grandfather gave it to me when I was eight. It was worth about five grand then; I don't know why he trusted me with it. Guess he loved me a lot."
Rodney figures that exchanging gifts is infinitely more practical than exchanging rings, figures that each of them have made their intentions quite clear and feels confident enough to crowd up behind John, to lean into his back and embrace him tightly. "Well, what do you know?" Rodney says softly against John's neck. "A man of my own heart."