I'm serious about the cabin fever. I tried to organize recipes just a little while ago.
The truth is, when people say "harem", John's always visualized fountains, half-dressed girls (and/or men) and well. Not this.
"Are you supposed to be an improvement?" Rodney asks huffily, arms crossed over his--okay, rather nice chest, if John was being honest, but he was just called stupid, so he's not feeling honest at all.
John leans into the door, trying to work out how he lost control of this conversation. "One, yes, I am, because obviously you're not dead."
Rodney sniffs, staring back. Sighing, John gives up. "Look, I'm trying to figure out what to do with all of you--"
"Did you miss sex ed class?" Rodney asks with sincere worry.
But John plows on. Because he's got to. "And I'm offering everyone be returned to their families or--" And now that he's saying it, it sounds even stupider, "Or money to you know, go---be free."
Rodney frowns, obviously thinking it over. "Yeah, no, I'm good."
John blinks. "What?"
"Well. Odalisques have a lot of privileges, and direct line to the sultan's income," Rodney says in the voice of a man who has spent too much time thinking. "I have servants, room to work, and anything I want. So no, I'll stay here." When John doesn't move, Rodney sighs. "That means you can go now. I know you're sultan and all, but that doesn't mean you have to be an asshole."
John blinks. Twice. "So. You don't want to be free?"
"You are stupid, aren't you?"
"No! It's just--" John hadn't prepared for this. Something that resembles a headache starts to form directly behind his eyes. "I'm not keeping a harem."
Rodney gives him a pitying look. "Really, you are. Here I am. Can you go now?"
It turns out that one quarter of the harem agrees, which John tries to work out then gives up and goes to Elizabeth, who gives him a pitying look so much like Rodney's that John's head almost immediately starts to ache. "You're sultan," she says, gently, but the look on her face reminds him of Rodney in disturbing ways. "you are expected--"
"But that's--" John sits down, feeling the pillow flatten out under him and his ass hit the floor. It's just been that kind of a day. "*Why*?"
Elizabeth frowns. "Because it's expected. Now go get dressed and pick some favorites like a good sultan."
John stares at the floor mutinously. "Fine, but I won't like it."
"Yes," Elizabeth says, patting his shoulder. "I can see how choosing between dozens of beautiful men and women who would do anything to sleep with you would stress you unduly."
"You're being sarcastic, aren't you?" he says.
The sultans wives wave goodbye the next day, buying up real estate in the city and generally making him feel a glow of triumph for bringing an end to sexual slavery, but then he remembers the fifty people waiting in the seraglio and wonders if there's any chance he can find another war in a country far, far away.
This is what he gets for deposing Sumner. Damn the bastard.
The next day, he stares at the requisition lists from the seraglio and doing the math, totally gets why they don't want to leave.
"Sulfuric acid? Nitrous? Naqada?" he says, bursting into Rodney's expanded quarters; since the four wives left, Rodney and his little group of minions cleverly took over the largest suite. John realizes in horror that somehow, he just acquired his first wife. "Naqada?"
Rodney frowns at him and waves him to silence. "Trying to build a generator here," he says, and John finds himself staring at the thin collar Rodney wears a lot more than he thinks is at all appropriate, what with his stance on not having a harem.
"Generator," Rodney says, and then he frowns, pushing aside the laptop and turning. John tries not to think the way Rodney frowns at him is cute and fails miserably.
"I--" John stops, head tilted. "For what?"
"This is for the joy of discovery," Rodney says viciously. "Rapture of science. Thrill of knowledge. Possibly revolutionizing the way the city is powered. Maybe go down in history. I'd like a statue. Not for funding your--" he waves a hand, encompassing Atlantis and subsidiaries, "your warmongering or making your toothbrush work or whatever. What are you doing here?"
Actually, John doesn't' remember. "You're in the first wife's quarters," he says, then feels incredibly stupid, because it's not like he's going to be filling them anytime soon, or like, ever."
"Wow. . And here I thought I got lost and wandered into a new part of the city," Rodney says. "They're bigger than mine with better light."
Huh. John looks around the converted solarium. He's got a point. "I'm not keeping a harem."
"Yes you are. One, there is no way I'm losing my funding because you have issues. Two--see one, I'm on the edge of a miraculous breakthrough. Three--wow, can you read? Sultan has harem. It's the law." Rodney's eyes narrow, and John fights a deeply inappropriate reaction to the fact that his--Jesus Christ, seriously, *wife*?--is actually kind of hot. He's always had a weakness for smart people. "Besides, in taking residence in these quarters and you acknowledging it, I've had a change in the hierarchy." Rodney looks maliciously thoughtful. "According to the laws of this backwater country--"
And Rodney probably knows the subsections, John thinks spitefully.
"--and your promises to uphold them, my status is now first wife, access to half your income, and control of the seraglio." Rodney looks smugly self-satisfied, and huh, so that explains why so many underdressed people are now laboring around room instead of posing provocatively around the pool to entice him. "Now, did you need something important or can I finish my work?"
Stomping out, John thinks that conquest just sucks sometimes.
Rodney actually feels the second his temper snaps.
Nothing like being able to search and destroy in the lab, complete with tantrums and yelling and glorious, glorious *release*. No, this is completely different, and it settles, slow and thick at the pit of his stomach, eating up everything but *intent*.
Across from him, Zelenka is bolt-straight and utterly still, fork suspended midair. Three tables away, the group of new military have no idea they'd just fucked themselves over so epically that poems would be written about this day, no idea at *all* that there are some things you shouldn't say in the middle of a mess hall no matter how alone you think you are.
And no matter how little you think of the two exhausted scientists sitting only a few feet away.
Zelenka slowly lowers his fork back to his plate. "You hear, yes?"
Rodney licks his lips and pushes his tray away. That may be the first time in his life he's left a meal half-eaten. "Ten minutes. In the lab."
Zelenka stands up, picking up his tray, while Rodney watches the group, laughing at whatever that moron just said, then stands up, thoughtfully considering all the myriad weapons at his disposal.
They won't know what hit them.
A few weeks ago, Rodney got drunk with John Sheppard.
It had been enlightening. John was the most self-contained person Rodney had ever met, but alcohol is alcohol, and the loose sprawl of long limbs on the rug of Rodney's quarters had been enlightening in more ways than the amusement value of John reciting the periodic table fo the elements backwards, just for the fun of it.
Rodney can say with all honesty that if a hundredth of the people he'd met in his life had been like John, he'd be a lot more amenable to social events. John was as bright as a starry night and talked so fast that Rodney found himself silenced, for once, fascinated by the way John could flip from topic to topic without a breath or a thought, a stream of consciousness that just took seven shots of Athosian moonshine and a promotion.
It was like a completely different person. It was like someone he'd waited to meet all his life.
Rodney sat with the bed against his back and the bottle between his legs, wondering how on earth he could have missed this before now.
Sheppard looks wary and amused both, which argues that he really doesn't know yet, and Rodney has no intention of enlightening him. "Don't you have enough people in your own department to torture, McKay?"
"I need the practice on those of lesser intelligence." Leaning back, Rodney subtly flicks his screensaver on. "Don't tell me you're objecting. Because that would be stupid."
"I like my shower the way it is, thanks." But he doesn't leave, leaning into Rodney's desk and taking up far too much space, arms crossed, hazel eyes narrowed in thought. "Let's keep it clean, though?"
Rodney tilts his head, watching Sheppard searching his face. He's getting better at hiding. "I'll be good. Now if you'll excuse me--"
They didn't make the connection immediately, which annoys Rodney beyond his limited patience, but on the other hand, it gives him the opportunity to delegate the more mundane malfunctions to the new recruits, who flinch in submission enough to appease his surface temper. Sheppard keeps out of it, and the veteran Atlantis personnel settle down when they get that they aren't the focus. A few even get why, which makes it a lot easier to get things moving.
"They're stupid," Zelenka says quietly, and Rodney jerks his gaze up. "They talk. Stupid things. Loudly. Enough for others to hear."
Rodney tilts his head up. Politics aren't anything new, but the added complication of semi-isolation is. "Do people believe it?"
Zelenka shrugs helplessly, but Rodney sees the reflection of his own anger. "I do not know. I do not think so, but it is--gossip, yes? Too easy to tell, even if it is not believed. Laughed over. Spread."
"That's enough." And it is. Rumors are rarely true, but that doesn't make them any less deadly. On top of Caldwell's hostility--though he's looking a little less smug since the incident with his chair-- "Are they saying it directly to him? Or to her?"
Zelenka breathes out thoughtfully. "I do not think so." Though Elizabeth has to know, has to have known the second she laid down her ultimatum. Sheppard--Rodney can think of few, other than Bates, who might try to back down Sheppard. Other than himself, of course. Cowards, every one of them. "The Major Lorne--"
Rodney bites down. "He's going to be a problem."
Zelenka pauses, looking unhappy. "Colonel Sheppard came by. To borrow drinks."
That's Sheppard, everyone's best friend, thinking that a little chat and charm could solve any and all problems. It's amazing, how he can be the quintissential soldier in every way, but honest to God believe that the people he worked with, the people under his command, had that same honor. Sheppard wouldn't believe a rumor, never listen to one, not care if he heard, never use it as a weapon.
Rodney's been in academia for most of his life, and worked for the military almost half. He's not that naïve.
"How long ago?"
There's a second where Rodney thinks about shorting out the entire hall. Leave the asshole locked in his quarters for a few days. It's a new wing, and the power conduits could easily overload. No one would know. No one would even *guess*.
Sheppard's perfectly still outside the Major's quarters, eyes fixed expressionlessly on the wall.
And Rodney takes out the energy scanner. A few quick adjustments, a minute, two tops, and Major Asshole could enjoy some quality sensory deprivation time.
"Need something, McKay?"
But that wouldn't take care of the problem, just delay it. Rodney makes himself snap his scanner closed, thinking quickly. He's always at his best under pressure. "While you're lounging around drinking yourself into unconsciousness, I was getting some work done. I need an ATA gene to bring up some of the new wings we're opening. You're it."
Sheppard gives him an irritated look. "You have one of your own."
"You say that like I should care." Get Sheppard out of this hall, one, because is Lorne in for a miserable night and it starts the second Rodney gets Zelenka on the radio. Distract him, two, or he just might start thinking, and Rodney can't afford for him to do that quite yet. "Chop chop, Major. I don't have all night."
Sheppard fights a smile. "Colonel." Sheppard pushes away from the wall, all loose-limbed relaxation. He's known Sheppard too long to be fooled. The set of his shoulders say everything. "Are you ever going to remember?"
"I only bother with important things. Now be useful and help me get the system up, would you?"
Rodney drops into his chair and opens his laptop, giving Zelenka a quick glance. "Okay, new plan."
Zelenka stares at him for a second.
"Don't even try. I want him broken."
The thing about a successful campaign is making sure you not only crush the opposition, but also run them into the ground enough to never, ever consider rebellion again. The old personnel get it, but the new ones are just waking up to it.
"This is getting ridiculous."
And it would have to be Bates, who so far, is the least likely to just let it slide. Rodney takes a look around, noting that his department already made a run for cover. He really, really doesn't have time for this.
"I'd need an actual *subject* to understand that sentence, Sergeant. Can you form a complete sentence, maybe one that makes *sense*?"
Bates stiffens, giving Rodney one of his more impressive glares, but Sheppard does that pretty much daily and you get a certain level of immunity from that. Rodney tries not to roll his eyes.
"Sheppard may be soft enough to let you fuck around with the personnel, McKay, but I'm not. This has got to stop."
Pretending he has no idea what Bates is talking about won't work--after all, there are Marines involved, and hell, it's not like Rodney's going for plausible deniability here. There's a very real thrill in them *knowing* who is enjoying how very much their lives are screwed. "Tell them to keep their mouths shut, I won't have to handle it."
Bates' eyes narrow. "What? They hurt your feelings, McKay?"
"No, they say things they really shouldn't."
Bates isn't impressed. "Mouthing off about the civilian contingent--"
"About the Colonel and Dr. Weir."
Bates stops short, eyes widening. Yes, he's got to know. "Who?"
Rodney leans back. "We've got it covered, so if you don't mind--"
"We're *handling* it. You can't, Sheppard won't, because he's stupid enough to think that it'll go away on it's own." Sheppard believes his actions speak more than words ever could. They do, and in time, if it takes cold showers, bad food, and an accidental electrocution or two, the new personnel will believe it, too. "We can't afford that kind of talk here, and you know as well as I do that the second Weir comes down on any of them--"
Bates' eyes flicker. "Yeah."
Rodney waits a second. "Anything else? Because I'm kind of busy here, saving the world."
Bates' eyes glitter for a second, almost amused. "Carry on."
Okay, I took the third one out. I don't like it, it still makes me uncomfortable, and yeah. So two! Yay!