"'In Breton, 'Bisclavret''s the name; 'Garwolf' in Norman means the same'," Teyla rehearsed softly, her voice carrying lightly in the still air of the forest. Rodney couldn't stop staring at her naked chest. He lost the next few lines as he stared at the firelight dancing across her skin, hardly caring that no one else seemed to mind her lack of modesty – the children she was telling the bedtime story certainly shared the sentiment. Looking at them, however, made Rodney feel like a dirty old man. Even if he currently was a wolf.
"'A garwolf is a savage beast, while the fury's on it, at least: eats men, wreaks evil, does no good, living and roaming in the deep wood. Now I'll leave this topic set. I want to tell you about Bisclavret.'"
Her breasts weren't huge, but they moved with every breath she took – and she was taking a lot to keep the story going and the sing-song like rhyme continuing. It was fascinating.
"Rodney," came John's warning voice. "I can smell you."
Rodney was very glad that a blush couldn't show from under his fur; he knew John's sense of smell was unusually good even as a human, but it was hard to keep his hormones down. He hadn't always been a wolf, after all, and he hadn't grown up on some nudist colony either. He was used to clothes, and modesty. Especially on girls. Most especially on very pretty, good-looking girls.
He turned around so that he couldn't see Teyla, but he still knew she was behind him as naked as the day she was born telling a story to children. A story Ford had thought he should hear, "because, man, it's like awesome. No explosions or anything, it's totally ancient, but it's like someone knew about us back then, and spoke up for the gifted. It's so us."
"Every week he was lost to her, for three whole days, she didn't know where," Teyla was saying.
Rodney got up and left. He no longer cared how good the story was – he couldn't listen to it anyways with Teyla sitting there naked.
He wasn't that far from their camp for the night when John's voice stopped him again. "You know," he drawled, "you're not that different from the knight yourself."
Rodney looked at him quizzically, hoping his confusion showed.
"I don't know the story like Teyla does," he admitted. "But I know it's about someone who was gifted and had married someone non-gifted. He wouldn't change back into his skin without his clothes, so when he told his wife, she stole them, and he was stuck as a wolf for a long time. She was scared of what he would do when he was a beast, and he was too afraid to be naked to change back."
Rodney moved and butted his head against John's bare leg. He'd almost gotten used to John being naked. John naked never left him alone.
Kneeling down, John ruffled Rodney's fur. He almost pulled the wolf into a wrestling match, but Rodney felt him hesitate. "Bisclavret was loyal to his lord, and when his lord found out about the situation, he had Bisclavret restored – but not before he had bitten off his wife's nose."
"Yeah," John smirked. "I know. Serves her right for being nosy. Anyways, he had to be alone in order to change back, even with his clothes, because of his modesty. Remind you of someone?"
Rodney sat down and looked away.
"It's not a bad thing, Rodney," John said, "but it's not what we're used to. To the pack, it's just a story. All of us were born as we are, whether we came in to our gifts late or at birth. You've seen Laura's stomach, and you know why she won't change back." It had been weeks since Rodney had last seen her as a human – but then again, it had been weeks since they set out from the small town they'd lived in, traveling as a pack. There was a rotation on who drove the van and met them at the various parks along the way – sometimes they wouldn't see the van or the driver for a few days, sometimes it was only a night. "She's pregnant, and her child will be born with the gift. If it's born a pup, then it will grow with the gift; if it's born a child, the gift will come later."
Rodney barked softly, wanting to know more – wanting to know about John. This man was supposedly his mate, and it was just now getting to the point where they were feeling comfortable with each other and Rodney stopped avoiding looking at the naked bits.
"Yes," John smiled indulgently, "mine came later. You know that. Fortunately, my mother had taught me enough before she died that I could survive with my gift, even when my father tried to make certain it never manifested. Luckily enough, it never did while I was with him. Took loosing some good friends and a black mark to draw that side of me out."
Rodney whined. This was all stuff that he knew already – the stuff that John told anyone who cared, or the people who cared told about him. What Rodney wanted to know was why and how and when – he was a scientist, he reasoned, those things were important to him.
John shook his head. "If you want a girl, that's fine, but not Teyla – she's mated."
Rodney started. He hadn't known that.
"Her mate's with Lady Elizabeth – the woman I've been talking to after you and Zelenka stop berating the Air Force, government, and secret scientific developments?"
He had realized that, after a certain point, John was impatient to take the cell from him. He hadn't realized it was because the man wanted to talk to another woman, and he hadn't realized that Teyla had a mate that was in the other woman's pack – it had literally been months, then, since they had seen each other, and that was just from when Rodney had been introduced to the pack. The last time he had seen Zelenka was almost a year ago now – and he had been sure to berate the squirrelly man for that during the first call, along with not telling him of the transformation abilities he had. Both of those had taken hours. The second call had gone on into the Czech's questionable parentage, life-span, and the size of his intelligence.
By the third call he'd been back into the familiar banter of discussing power regulations and – Zelenka's favorite – flight improvements. Why the man loved airplanes and hated to fly was anyone's guess.
"Rodney, you with me?"
Rodney nodded, shaking himself slightly.
"You seemed out of it for a bit there. You okay?"
Again, Rodney gave a deliberate nod, and even wagged his tail a bit.
"All right. Don't stray too far then, and be back by moonrise. Otherwise I'll worry."
John left, and Rodney moved to a bush that had sprouted up where the sunlight between two trees fell. He all but collapsed under it, and wondered briefly where his life was going.
"You're not being fair." Rodney jumped at the rough voice from not far away. He recognized it as Ronon a few moments later, after spotting the man a few feet away. Rodney slunk down lower; even naked, Ronon was intimidating – maybe even more so because he was naked. "If you don't want the Alpha, say so. Don't string him along. Whether you want him or not, you're going to hurt him this way."
Rodney whined a bit in confusion, tilting his head.
Ronon shrugged. "Just does," he said. "Say yes or no, even if you can't do anything about it either way."
"I believe what Ronon is trying to say is that the Alpha has been preparing himself for you to say no," Teyla's voice entered the conversation. Rodney looked away from her – she was still naked, after all. "If it is taking you this long to choose, then if you say 'yes' he is only second to what you truly want, assuming he even makes the list."
Rodney growled at her – of course John made the list! It was a very short list! He even made the top five!
"He does not know, and so it hurts. If you want him, but are having trouble adjusting with either the gifted lifestyle or with the fact that he is male, tell him. He will accept that easier than believing you are trying to force yourself to love him."
Love? Okay, love was a bit much. Rodney didn't love a lot of people, and that list was even shorter than the one of people he wanted as mates. He admired a lot of people, some well enough to see himself married to them, at least for a time, but love?
He'd loved his sister, for a bit, and guessed he still did in a way, but he hadn't seen her in years and hardly even knew her when he left. All he'd cared about then was how smart she was – smart enough to rival him, if she applied herself – and how she was wasting her talent.
"Make a decision, McKay. Hurt him and we hurt you," Ronon said, showing his teeth in a grin.
Rodney flinched and backed away, even as Teyla was reprimanding the gruff man. "Several of us would be very displeased if you were to emotionally or physically harm our Alpha," she said, turning back to Rodney. "However, we would also be displeased if you forced yourself into a relationship you did not want. The Alpha was taken with you from the very beginning, and was open to a relationship with you, but the situation has allowed that openness to grow into something deeper that still appears one-sided. Tell him, one way or another, if there is any hope, because he will not push for that knowledge," she said finally. "That is all we ask."
Then she smiled sweetly. "I don't think you were able to hear the end of Bisclavret," she said. "I shall tell you this in summary, then: the King took Bisclavret to his bedroom and locked him in. After some time, he returned with two others to see if the change had taken place. 'On the King's royal bed, they see lying fast asleep, the knight. The King ran to hug him tight; he kissed him a hundred times that day. When he catches his breath, he hands him back all his fiefs and lands, and more presents than I will say.'"
Rodney sighed, laying his head down on his paws. Something similar had happened to him in reverse when he had first managed the change; he had gone from man to wolf, and John had hugged him tight and while he maybe didn't kiss him a hundred times, it had seemed like he had wanted to several times – and Rodney had, if licks counted. And they had even, for a time, shared a bed and then shared space when sleeping in wolf form.
And, in his own twisted way, John thought he had given Rodney a wonderful gift.
When Rodney looked up, Teyla was gone and Ronon was a wolf again, scouting out around Rodney before laying down a respectable distance away and apparently going straight to sleep.
So, he needed to tell John something as Kavanagh had predicted, but, at the same time, it wasn't quite what he had expected. It was something like the grant committees wanting to know if it was worth it to spend the money - "are you going to give me something in a reasonable time frame, or is this just a wasted project?" But what was a reasonable time frame? What was reasonable to expect to happen? Would John feel it was worth it?
There were too many variables. And how did one go about saying something like that, anyways? "Yes, John, you are on my list of potential marriage partners, just not at the very top. It's not like I loved any of them anyways, just admire them to various degrees (and lust after them), so you have more chance then they do because I might be able to fall in love with you"?
That, Rodney decided, was a little too blunt. It's what he would have said if any of the others had asked, and what he probably would have told John without Teyla and Ronon butting in, however now he felt the need to make it sound diplomatic.
Which was bad, because he wasn't very good at diplomatic.
Rodney frowned as he tried to think of the last time he had attended a conference. Kavanagh had gone almost monthly – although, now that he thought about it, that could have been just a handy excuse for full moon excursions – and Zelenka had, at the very least, kept up with the latest developments in the field.
All in all, he hadn't read a paper in months, gone to a conference in at least a year, and hadn't had actual sex since college – because he totally wasn't counting making out, or that one time that he'd been maybe slightly drunk and yeah.
And he wasn't sure what to do about John, either. He liked John, yes, but they didn't really have much of a relationship now that he looked on it – and he was looking on it more since that Talk with Ronon and Teyla a few weeks ago. Mostly, as far as he could tell, it was John looking after Rodney and Rodney trying to keep up.
They were human at the moment, taking their brief overnight stop at a motel before they would rent a car to drive up to the mountain. The idea was to give them a chance to shower and sleep in a bed and, most importantly, remember how to be 'human' and walk on two feet before facing the SGC and whatever was held inside the mountain. Some of the others would be staying with various members of the mountain crew, military and civilian, the next night after John gave them the go-ahead; some would be canine, some would human, and still others would wait until the mountain was ready for them.
"I'm not good at this," Rodney finally blurted when John stepped out of the bathroom.
"Not good at what?" John asked, draping his towel over the chair and moving closer to the scientist, who was sitting on the bed and fiddling with the bedspread.
"Rodney," John almost whined.
"No, listen – I've been thinking about this, well, since Teyla told that story, wondering why we're just not going anywhere, and I think it's because you're a guy, but not because you're male."
John blinked. "Okay buddy," he said, pulling the chair up so that he was actually sitting across from the other man. "You're gonna have to run that by me one more time, with a little more detail."
"I've never been with a guy before," Rodney admitted a bit shakily, although he wondered about the occasional kiss with John and that maybe-one-time, "but the girls I've been with have always, you know, told me about stuff. Complained, dropped hints, told me what they wanted me to do. They wouldn't stand for me working so much that I forgot about them, or fighting with them – which you don't really do either, but that's more about health stuff, so I don't mind that so much – and they really didn't like me looking around at others, really caring if I thought someone else looked hot. But you just brush it off, never complain that I don't spend enough time with you and don't demand kisses or affection or romantic dinners or whatever so I don't really know what you want or how to give it to you and it's not really that you're a male, because, yeah, I got that, and while it's a bit strange and maybe a bit odd, it's more the fact that you're a guy." Although, honestly, some guys were pushy and demanding as well – so maybe it was more that John was really laid back, and more accepting of, well, everything.
John waited for a few moments, just to make certain Rodney was finished. "So if I asked for something..."
"I would probably have tried, you know, maybe kissing or dating or whatever, but I just didn't know if you wanted it or I wanted it even -"
John cut him off with a kiss. A gentle kiss much more intimate than the pecks they had shared before, and much more awkward due to the need to hunch to reach each other, the fact that Rodney was still maybe trying to talk, and John's tense body just waiting for him to respond – still waiting.
But then Rodney closed his eyes and lifted a hand up to touch John's arm and John practically melted against Rodney's mouth, all soft lips and wet breath and gentle touch. "You have my permission," John said breathlessly as he pulled away, lips dragging and clinging to Rodney's, pressing their foreheads together, "to kiss me, hug me, or otherwise show affection whenever you feel necessary or appropriate. I promise you that unless something is seriously wrong – and I mean, like, having some of that whacked-out drug in my system or something messing with my head – then I will always want it and welcome it."
"Right," Rodney breathed. "Right. Always?"
"You need to stop waiting for me to make the moves though, because, seriously? I have no idea how to make this work. I'm horrible at it – didn't have very good role models – and, just to be frank, the idea of doing anything while not human freaks me out and borders too close to bestiality for my comfort, but I promise to be complaining loudly and frequently if you do something I don't like."
John let out a huffing laugh of breath as he smiled. "We'll go slow; only what you're comfortable with," John said. "When you're ready. Tonight, though, I wonder if we might share this bed with both of us in our skin?"
They would be sharing the bed anyways, but John had always been a wolf, even if Rodney wasn't. "Uh... I could probably do that. I think I've gotten used to seeing you naked, now, even if you aren't." John was wearing a worn pair of boxers he'd dug out of their shared bag before showering. "Me? Not so much. And the others really not so much. But you? Yeah."
John pulled back. Rodney had a sudden feeling of loss – but John was still there, hand on Rodney's knee holding tight, Rodney's hand still gripping his arm lightly, but firmly. "I thought you were losing interest," he admitted.
Rodney snorted at the thought. "With your body? Not likely. I just learned to ignore it."
"I may have to remedy that at some point – but not now," John smiled. "Now we need to get some rest. Tomorrow is going to be a long day of meetings, introductions, and paperwork. And initial negotiations."
"I leave the hard stuff to Teyla; she's better at getting the good deals than I am."
"I can believe that."
John stood and moved the chair back, giving Rodney some space. "Go ahead and get your shower; I'll strip the bed and put clean sheets on." His nose wrinkled. "I can still smell the sweat under all the cleaners, and they never do a good job anyways.
Rodney nodded, and started digging through their bag for his boxers, a shirt, and other toiletries. He really wanted to brush his teeth; kissing would be more fun if he didn't need to worry about bad breath and funny tastes.