Rodney walked into the flowers while distracted by an energy reading on his Ancient handheld scanner. Peripheral vision informed him that a large yellowish mass was in front of him, and this brought him to a slowing stop. He looked up and was sprayed with pollen. The sheer affront of it seemed to halt time for a moment and he stared open-mouthed at the golden air that surrounded him, a haze of briefly excited motes now drifting to rest in a lazy post-coital way. Then he sneezed. Then he panicked.
"Oh my god!" he yelled, sprinting away from the source of the attack in a series of explosive sneezes. "Alien pollen," sneeze, "certain death," sneeze, "probably preceded by naked escapades and stoned confessions--" His breath gave out and he sneezed again.
"Calm down, McKay." But John was keeping his distance, Rodney noticed.
"I do not think the flowers are dangerous," Teyla said. "I have never heard any warnings about this planet."
Rodney glared at her, sneezed, and kept glaring. "Yes. Well perhaps that's because there were no *survivors* to spread the tales."
Teyla raised one eyebrow in her Spock-like way, not at all displaying the proper expression of concern for his fate. And Ronon wore a little smile that Rodney wanted to flatten with a sledgehammer of invective; unfortunately, the sneezes had started up again in aggravating succession. At the next lull, he pulled out a handkerchief and blew his aching nose while the others eyed him warily but with amusement.
"Why don't we ever bring a medic along on these trips?" he asked with an angry sniff. "We get shot and hit by falling rocks and poisoned by villagers--has it occurred to anyone that on-the-spot emergency care might come in handy?"
John went a little blank before saying, "I'll propose that to Elizabeth at our debrief."
"Yes, that's all very well, but the cows have left the barn, Colonel."
Ronon and Teyla exchanged a mystified glance that Rodney ignored. If they wanted lessons in cultural idioms they could ask.
"We probably should get the yellow off," John admitted with a loose-handed gesture at Rodney.
"Yell--" He looked down. "Oh god!" He dumped his pack and began tearing out of his uniform immediately.
John's solidly planted body somehow conveyed alarm. "I didn't mean a strip show, McKay. Maybe you want to hold off until--"
"Until I succumb fully to the toxic spores? Thank you, Colonel, but we're all adults here. Deal with it."
Teyla decorously looked off to the side, while Ronon just raised his eyebrows in mild interest.
So that was the condition in which Rodney returned to the gate, trudging unhappily through the verdant fields in his boxers and boots, uniform bundled up in his pack, an occasional sneeze escaping from otherwise tightly pinched lips and nostrils.
For the most part, the others were diplomatically quiet, though John announced their return to Weir by saying, "Have a medical team in the gate-room. You might want to scare up a botanist too." It wasn't the comment itself--it was a good idea, actually--but the light, mild way he said it that made Rodney scowl and fume. But if that had been the end of it--
"Rodney was strafed by begonias," John said seriously. "He took a bad hit."
That was the limit. "You mock my pain!" he said, and then smacked John in the arm with his fist.
"Ow!" John said, eyes more wounded than muscle, not that Rodney was falling for that puppy-eyed gaze.
Raging, he stomped ahead of them through the gate and into Beckett's waiting arms. So to speak. The infirmary visit was as tedious as always and Beckett claimed to find nothing, of course, but what did he know. These were alien organisms. These things didn't always show up on first view in your average medical scanner. Okay, granted, nothing was setting off the city's quarantine sensors, but Rodney trusted those about as much as he trusted Beckett's bedside manner. Ten thousand year old machinery; you put your life in its hands only when you absolutely had to.
Released from care, he went to the debriefing and listened with a resentful cross-armed pose as John reported to Elizabeth what they'd found before the mission was cut short.
She inclined her head. "Well, if Rodney is fully recovered," she tipped a smile his way, "you can return tomorrow."
"Swell," Rodney muttered before John could reply.
That night he made a mosquito-netted hat, which he wore the next day, loftily ignoring the comments of his team mates. They had a medic with them this time. Which came in handy when Rodney walked into another patch of flowers.
"Okay, those were *not* there a minute ago!" he yelled as he ripped off his clothes. He looked around wildly for John, but the other man was about thirty yards away standing on a dune with Ronon and Teyla, overlooking a beach full of pounding surf. They showed no sign of hearing his yell.
"I don't recall seeing them myself," the medic said, scanning Rodney. He was a Brit; a colorless, toneless Brit with prematurely grey hair and an annoyingly calm manner. He and Teyla would be civilly perfect for each other.
"They're stalking me!"
The medic looked up at this, expression bland.
"Ignore that pun," Rodney warned him grimly.
"I'm afraid that netting can't be screening out the pollen grains--they measure very fine."
Rodney took off his hat and threw it at the flowers, which puffed out another small golden mist as a result. The gesture calmed him. His mouth relaxed and he blinked, realizing with surprise that he was standing in bright sunlight in his boxers and bare feet. Flitting creatures swept in a ribbon of color through the air over the flowers and headed into a copse of trees. He smiled after them.
"Your readings are normal. Heart rate elevated, but that could be attributed to stress--"
"What's your name?" Rodney asked.
Diverted from his readings again, the man gave Rodney an impassive look. "Burke."
"No, your first name."
The man's gaze narrowed and gave an alert flicker. "Shakespeare." His tone dared Rodney to say something.
"Wow." He mulled this over. "Your parents win at cruelty."
The thunk of boots on grass distracted Rodney, and he turned to see John and the others come running up, equally startled expressions on their faces.
"What the--" John halted a safe distance away. "Not *again*!"
"You should watch where you're going," Ronon suggested to Rodney.
*Thank you imparting that invaluable folk wisdom*, he might have sniped back at another time. Now he just smiled. "The flowers came to me."
"Came to you?" Teyla echoed, spacing her syllables carefully.
"O...kay," John said, hoisting his gun an inch or so as if thinking about shooting the flowers or maybe Rodney. Rodney thought how cool and meaningful it would be if he stuck a flower in the gun barrel, but he didn't want to pick the blooms. It didn't seem right. Instead, he walked toward John, who backed up. "Maintain position, McKay."
"Oh, I'm fine." He felt very happy about this fact.
"We should return to the gate," Teyla said.
Ronon looked at her. "Before the flowers mass for attack?" he said dryly.
She squinted a glare at him. "At this point, we should not rule anything out."
"Doctor McKay seems to be experiencing a form of intoxication," Burke said.
"You think?" John said, looking down at Rodney, who'd tucked himself between John's gun and his body and wrapped both arms around him. He was humming into the crook of John's neck. "Maybe one of you could peel him off me before *I* start communing with the flowers."
Teyla quirked a smile at him. "I do not think you need to worry, Colonel. It took two exposures before Doctor McKay began experiencing this--" She hesitated.
"Delirium?" John suggested.
"More like ardor," Burke put in, without inflection.
John gave him a black look. "Let's not share that observation around, if you don't mind."
Rodney had no interest in the conversation going on, but he did have a new interest in John's neck, which smelled warm and beachy and male. John tried to keep him at arm's reach as they returned to the gate, but gave up halfway there and let Rodney sling an arm around his waist. Their hips bumped occasionally as they walked. John's arm rested on Rodney's shoulders more or less out of necessity. Rodney fell in love. He was pretty sure he'd never been in love before. Not with a man anyway. How did a person overlook the potential of one half the human race? And John had been right there under his nose.
"You're literally under my nose," Rodney told him admiringly. He gave another sniff to be sure.
"Believe me," John said, "I'm very aware of that."
A giggle might have floated back from ahead of them.
"Why does this always happen to me?" John wondered aloud.
Ronon looked over his shoulder. "This happened to you before?"
"No." John sighed. "I just thought I'd get used to saying that."
Everything might have turned out differently if the gate had been working. It wasn't. It was unworking. John tried to deny this fact for thirty minutes, but then had to give up. Rodney was out of it, and without him they weren't going anywhere.
"You think it was the flowers?" Ronon asked at one point.
John just gave him a pained look that ordered him to shut the hell up.
They had to camp out under the stars. After MREs and an awkward hour or so around a fire with Rodney nuzzling him unrelentingly in front of the others, John spread their bedrolls as far away as he could while remaining inside the protective perimeter, and behind a shrub, which was all they had of discretion. Ronon took first watch.
Alone at last behind the chaperoning shrub, John looked at Rodney, with his dilated pupils and flushed cheeks and lips swollen from chewing themselves, and groaned to himself.
"If you molest me in my sleep, I'm going to be very, very pissed off," John said in what he hoped was a threatening parental voice.
"Oh. I was hoping we could have sex now," Rodney said, plucking at John's shirt.
John slapped his hand away. "No!" he whispered forcefully.
"No, really. Let's have sex now." Despite the earnestness he was trying for, Rodney found himself smiling in blissful anticipation.
"Oh god." John swatted stray fingers again. "McKay, listen to me." He went for a reasonable tone this time. "You aren't compos mentis. You're going to hate yourself for this tomorrow. Or whenever you get your brain back."
"I have a brain," Rodney said indignantly. "I always have a brain. I couldn't function without one. I'd be like...a pod person."
"You *are* a pod person."
"God, you smell good."
John let his head drop back against the bedroll. "I should give in to the inevitable, shouldn't I."
"Totally." Rodney sounded even happier now, as if he had the munchies and John had just handed him a plate of brownies. He undid John's belt with strangely nimble fingers considering his condition, and went down on him without any more talk, just a lot of muffled reverb that made John's eyes go wide and his hips arch.
After that, the pollen must have gotten to him at last, because he stripped off his clothes and grappled with Rodney, not even put off by the murmur of voices beyond the shrub. Pollen, he thought firmly. It was the perfect excuse.
And they lived happily ever after.