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Fic: Grist for the Mill (SGA)

Title: Grist for the Mill
Rating: G
Characters: Sheppard, McKay (could be pre-slash) Weir, Teyla
Disclaimer: Oh dear GOD, why can't they be MINE?
Spoilers: Mid to late Season 1
Word Count: 2704
Note: Another fic based on my Fanon Poll! This one is based on the responses to the question about how John eats.
Summary: John discovers that people will gossip about anything and everything.


Major Sheppard had known when he took on the role of military CO for Atlantis that he still had a lot to learn about being a leader. It was a bit of a shock when he discovered that the salacious tidbits he overheard in the locker room and the snatches of gossip that wafted his direction when in the commissary were now ranked as need to know intel regarding his people's status.


***

"A good leader," Elizabeth had explained, "needs to know what his people are thinking."

Sheppard pulled a face and slouched against the door frame. The defensive air and crossed arms were at odds with the ostensibly relaxed image he was trying to project. "Fine. You're the leader. I nominate you to know what they're thinking. I really don't want to know that Simpson thinks Danvers and Cadman were playing tonsil hockey out on the West Pier after the mission to PX whatever." He rolled his eyes. Just the thought of talking about this made him feel like a 14 year old girl. It was not, Sheppard reflected, a feeling he enjoyed.

Elizabeth settled back in her chair, hands folded in her lap, and gave a small chuckle at his discomfiture. "It's actually a sign of good morale that our people are not so over stressed that the rumour mill has dried up and stopped all together." Her face grew pensive and the look she shared with him was that of one concerned leader speaking with another. "I know it makes you uncomfortable John, but you need to be just as aware of the civilian's emotional state on this expedition as you are of the status of your troops. The fact that nobody has pulled a practical joke in weeks is actually alarming. Meal times are frighteningly quiet, and Carson is worried at the number of people coming in for stimulants to stay awake and sleeping pills to get some rest. You know as well as I do that brittle over-stressed people crack. They need recreation - even it's only a little friendly gossip about who's dating who."

"I know," he whined. "I just don't want to have to know, you know?"

"I know." She gave him the smile that told him she was very carefully not smirking at him.

"Maybe I should start a rumour about you," he grumbled before sauntering suavely out her office. The coolness of the exit was diminished by the warm laughter that followed him.

***

The expedition really had been living on the edge of existence the first few months, and Sheppard knew Elizabeth was correct in her assessment. Daily coping with such stressors as possible starvation and permanent exile from Earth, death at the hands of the Wraith or the Genii and a plethora of yet undiscovered dangers had people running full tilt. With little down time and no real relief in sight, they were at high risk of burning out completely.

Heightmeyer and Weir put their heads together and came up with a plan. The two of them were quite busy over the next several weeks making sure that all the little things that made life feel more 'normal' became part of everyday routine in Atlantis. Things like celebrating birthdays, and remembering Earth holidays. They instituted a mandatory rest days at least once every two weeks, barring emergencies and invasions, of course. To put the topper on their efforts, they spent a long lunch hour in the mess hall one slow afternoon, publically engaged in a little innocent speculation about whether a certain linguist and a particular engineer might have been enjoying each other's company at recent Athosian celebration the previous week.

After that, rumours started flying, suppositions ran rampant and there were at least three betting pools (that he knew of) laying odds on which civilian was sleeping with which member of the military contingent. There was an even larger pool over who was more likely to murder Dr. McKay - friend or foe. Morale seemed to improve dramatically after that.

Like it or not, Sheppard eventually heard it all. Only in the Pegasus galaxy would knowing his people found time to for idle chit chat be a good thing. Personally, he believed it bespoke of something very wrong with the universe. He tried very hard to forget everything he heard as soon as he heard it, but he had a feeling that some of more speculative comments were going to be permanently etched in his brain.

He let his eyes glaze over when he got 'community status' (read - gossip) reports from Elizabeth, Bates and Teyla, only paying serious attention if he heard something that indicated a possible problem brewing (did Kavanaugh no realize that he was going to earn himself a one way trip to the bottom of the ocean if he kept being more obnoxious than Rodney?) or a potential risk to the community(and how in the hell had a couple of bigoted marines made it through the initial psych screen anyway? He'd have to make sure they were assigned to different squads and that their off duty time never coincided or those two could really cause some trouble.

Over all, it was in good fun, pretty innocent and mostly harmless. There was gossip about the leadership, naturally. Some of the rumours were about him and Elizabeth. He ignored those completely. Some were about him and Teyla. He just grinned and allowed Teyla and her Bantos sticks to deal with those. There were also rumours about him and McKay. Those ones made his head spin, but he wasn't about to let them stop him from hanging out with the guy. McKay had found the coolest RPG ever in the universe, and John wasn't about to give that up because of a few wagging eyebrows.

Then one day he heard some gossip that he found hard to ignore.

***

"One of the women commented that you are..." Teyla paused, considering the words before she continued, "built for speed not comfort." She looked a bit perplexed. "I do not understand this reference." She gave him that curious look that invited him to explain it to her.

Sheppard scowled at Elizabeth as she lifted her coffee cup to hide her smirk.

"It means that some women like... their men... with more padding," he finally offered up, with an expression that made it clear that was all he was giving. The sudden look of comprehension on her face both relived and alarmed him.

"The other comments make more sense now."

"Other comments?" Weir piped in before he had a chance to reply. He gave her another look and thought, not for the first time, that she got a little bit too much enjoyment out of these 'taking the pulse of Atlantis' sessions they had from time to time. There was definite anticipation on her face. 'Simply for the better emotional and social well being of the Expedition' his ass.

Teyla went on, oblivious to the ire percolating through him. Or, perhaps, in spite of it. "They were fairly typical comments of women discussing the attributes of an attractive and powerful male leader in their midst-"

John preened a bit at that.

"- and it was intriguing to watch it devolve from a sexually explicit dialogue about Major Sheppard's assets to concern that he 'ate like a bird' and was 'too scrawny'. One of the marines mentioned his bony hips in relation to not being built for comfort."

That had to have been Cadman, Sheppard thought darkly as he squirmed in the hot seat. She was *so* going to pay, she just didn't know it yet.

"One of the nurses speculated that he might be borderline anorexic, which led several of the scientists to agree that the Major seems to eat the most when he's stealing food from Dr. McKay's tray."

Elizabeth had given up on trying to hide the laughter and was quietly chuckling into her cup. Bitch. He slouched even further into his chair and decided that he would not be adverse to a Wraith attack right about now.

Teyla cocked an eyebrow at him, an enigmatic playing on her lips. "I have witnessed you taking food from Rodney's tray many times, John, as well as listened to him express his displeasure over it. I realize from sharing many meals with you that you do eat in a very healthy fashion, but others could certainly be left with the impression that all you ever eat is what you pilfer from Dr. McKay."

"Oh for..." he let out a huff of annoyance."Did anyone say anything that could indicate they were disturbed or overly stressed and might need to have a friendly visit with Dr. Heightmeyer?" He inquired, desperately trying to get to the point of these little gossip fest meetings. "Did it seem like anyone had recently lost their mind and become a Genii spy or was working for the Wraith?"

"As always, there are a number of stress indicators, and there are some minor areas of concern, but nothing that I would judge to be worrisome or urgent at this time."

"Fine." He stood up, nodded to Teyla and Elizabeth in turn. "I'm going to go now. And do something. Do something else. Away from here."

He turned abruptly and walked out of Weir office, their laughter trailing out after him. Sheppard was really getting tired of being laughed out of the room. He was totally losing his cool street cred.

***


John walked down the hall, lost in thought. He generally didn't concern himself with what people said about him, and he really didn't think he was vain about his appearance, no matter how much Rodney mocked his unruly hair. He tried not to dwell on it, but he couldn't seem to get it out of his head.

Boney hips? He could feel the petulance rolling in. Was it his fault he was built this way? He was not borderline anorexic! Hadn't anyone ever seen him eat dinner after a tiring mission? Sheppard was unexpectedly hurt by the rumour. Did the other expedition members really think that about him?

He stepped into the transporter with a sigh and shook his head as he punched in coordinates without really paying attention. It wasn't that he didn't like to eat. He like food, and he enjoyed eating it. The thing was, he only ate when he was hungry.

He didn't eat when he was bored. When that happened, he went running, or let Teyla beat on him with her sticks. When he was really bored, he went to the lab to annoy McKay. Not that he'd ever let on that he was bored.

He also didn't eat when he was angry. When that happened, he got a lot of things done very efficiently, like four weeks of back logged paperwork. Surprise drills for the Marines. Surprise drills for the civilians. Of course, when he pulled that, the scientists squawked, and McKay just about had an aneurysm. However, there was generally a high correlation between his being annoyed enough to pull an emergency drill on the scientists and Rodney being the one responsible for whatever it was that had royally pissed him off in the first place, so it really did balance out in the end.

Besides, an annoyed and squawking McKay usually led to a much improved state of mind for him, because hey, flailing McKay = amusing, and then he wasn't pissed off anymore.

Sheppard sometimes ate a social functions where eating was part of socializing. At times like those, he'd take a plate, drop two or three hor'dourves on it, then walk around with it all night so no one would offer him anything else. He'd even eat them if they were really good, but usually not. Talky mixers generally left him feeling on edge which killed any hunger he might have had.

As he exited the transporter, he considered Teyla's comment about him filching food from McKay.

He had to admit, McKay always managed to locate the tastiest possibly goodies at gatherings and parties, whether they were here or off planet. And winding him up was a sure fire way to pass the time. He had to admit that he was kind of bad for scarfing things off Rodney's plate at such times. It pretty much guaranteed him a good snack and a floor show rolled into one, so really, how could he pass that up?

Sheppard found himself walking into the mess hall and he smiled. It must have been all the thought about food and eating. There were people scattered at a few tables having a late lunch, and when he thought about it, he realized he did feel a tad on the peckish side.

He briefly entertained the notion of grabbing a tray and pilling it up the way Rodney did some days, but common sense won out. He poured himself a cup of the current coffee imitation, then wandered over to the serving table to check out what was on offer.

He was still trying to decide what he wanted when McKay breezed in, tablet in hand, and grabbed a tray. Sheppard ignored him, still fully focused on the task of deciding what he wanted. Naw, not in the mood for cake, too sweet. Maybe a sandwich... or some sliced veggies. The yellow not-carrot sticks and the blue kinda-like-cucumber slices might do nicely.

"Are you going to make up your mind sometime today, Major?" came an impatient query from beside him. He felt his mouth quirk up on one side and firmly straightened it back out. He turned to look at McKay.

"Why, Rodney," he asked mildly. "Am I in your way?"

McKay rolled his eyes. "I have important things to do, like figuring out how to recharge ZPMs so I can brilliantly save us all. Instead, I am wasting time waiting for you to decide on the basic food groups so I can get some lunch. Can we pick up the pace a little, hmm?"

"By all means," Sheppard murmured, deferring to Rodney by simply moving out of the way. Sipping his not-coffee, he watched the other man load up his tray with two sandwiches, assorted veggies, cake, an apple and some sliced cheese. McKay snagged a cup of the caffeinated brew as well before heading over to the nearest table. He'd barely sat down before he was wolfing down one of the sandwiches, his attention fixed on the tablet before him.

John looked over at the serving table one last time before casually strolling over to sit across from McKay. He let a few moments pass before snagging one of the vegetables of Rodney's plate. Even that blatant action took a few more seconds to register with the preoccupied scientist.

"Hey!"

Sheppard's face was a study in casual nonchalance as he crunched the not-carrot. "Hmm?"

McKay glared at him. "Get your own!"

He just smirked. "The ones on your plate always taste better."

John almost laughed out loud at the perplexed look of does-not-compute that flashed over McKay's face.

"That makes absolutely no sense at all."

John snagged a kinda-like-cucumber slice next.

"Cut it out!" snapped McKay as he flailing a hand over his plate, coming nowhere near actually batting the offending intruder away. "What is wrong with you? It's not like you're malnourished!"

Rodney muttered about asinine military personal and brain injuries while he cut his other sandwich in half and held part of it out of John. "If you're too lazy to go get your own, eat this and stop filching my food! I'm hypoglycaemic and I need to eat, and if I pass out later because you deprived me of a proper lunch..."

John just grinned and allowed Rodney's rant to wash over him. He noticed a few of the folks around them smiling, and realized that he really didn't care what people thought of his hips or his ass or how much he ate. If harassing McKay meant he was adding a little grist to the mill, well then it was his own little contribution to the general health and well being of the expedition.

"Sheppard! Keep your eyes off my cake! SHEPPARD!"




~fin

Comments

( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
ltcoljsheppard
Feb. 13th, 2008 07:16 am (UTC)
This was great for a chuckle. And this line is a great image...

Elizabeth had given on trying to hide the laughter and was quietly chuckling into her cup. Bitch.

Thanks for the chuckle. Good job. - JS
shaddyr
Feb. 14th, 2008 01:41 am (UTC)
Yay! Thanks so much for your comments! I am happy that it made you laugh!
roxy_palace
Feb. 13th, 2008 07:32 am (UTC)
Really cute! And very funny!
shaddyr
Feb. 14th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)
Hee! Cute and funny. John and Rodney. They go together, n'est pas? Thanks!
adafrog
Feb. 13th, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
heee! Very cute, thanks.
shaddyr
Feb. 14th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)
Yay! So glad you enjoyed!
the_cephalopod
Feb. 13th, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC)
Hee! Love it! cep xxx
shaddyr
Feb. 14th, 2008 01:44 am (UTC)
Whee! You thought the ending was okay? I was worried that it was dumb. I changed about a dozen times. I hate endings. They suck.

Sometimes I think I should just stick to the cute and sweet. You do pr0n so much better than I do. Cutsey little McSheplets seem to suit me better.
the_cephalopod
Feb. 14th, 2008 09:44 am (UTC)
The ending was perfect! The whole thing actually - you had me smiling from start to finish! cep xxx
grey853
Feb. 13th, 2008 03:49 pm (UTC)
LOL, snort!! I so loved this. I can so see John thinking like this, and you really captured how he likes to rile up Rodney. It's a cute insight into human psychology when it comes to stress and gossip. Very funny.
shaddyr
Feb. 14th, 2008 01:46 am (UTC)
*gigglesnort*

You *so* know he would do this. He would look at the food table for, like, three seconds, tops. Then the McKay Harrasment System would come online and lock onto the tray full of food. Target acquired.

And also, it would totally taste better coming from Rodney's plate. it just *does*.

I am glad to make you laugh!
wornoutbirks
Feb. 13th, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC)
*flail* THAT WAS MADE OF WIN!!!!!!!!

Besides, a pissed off a squawking McKay usually led to a much improved state of mind for him, because hey - flailing McKay = amusing - and then he wasn't pissed off anymore.

That is one of the best fic lines ever. Seriously. It suits Shep to a 't'.

Amazing fic! I Loves it!
shaddyr
Feb. 14th, 2008 01:48 am (UTC)
*blush*

Made of win? Cool. I have never had a story described as such before. I shall now preen and be immensely pleased with msyelf.

::preen::

Glad you like!
sunnyd_lite
Feb. 13th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
Ahh John - having to keep track of the mission's EMOTIONAL STATUS (the pain!)

Just the thought of talking about this made him feel like a 14 year old girl. It was not, Sheppard reflected, a feeling he enjoyed. --- "I know," he whined. "I just don't want to have to know, you know?" but he does it so well!
"I'm going to go now. And do something. Do something else. Away from here." Not 14 at ALL!
John almost laughed out loud at the perplexed look of does-not-compute that flashed over McKay's face. *grin*
loved this
shaddyr
Feb. 14th, 2008 01:49 am (UTC)
Ahh John - having to keep track of the mission's EMOTIONAL STATUS (the pain!)

OMG, isn't it though? I can just *see* him wilting at the concept. Hee!

I am so happy to know that it made you smile! Thanks for the FB Sunny D!
hestia_lacey
Feb. 13th, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC)
Hehe, very in character and very funny :) I can see this in an episode.
shaddyr
Feb. 15th, 2008 04:27 am (UTC)
Why thank you muchly! It's always wonderful to be told someone could actually see it happening on screen! Appreciate the feedback!
made_of_toast
Feb. 13th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
That was brilliant! I loved the end bit about the cake!
shaddyr
Feb. 15th, 2008 04:28 am (UTC)
Hee! John would *totally* be making eyes on Rodney's cake even if he didn't want it, just because it would get him all riled. *snicker*

Thanks for the comments!
thrace_adams
Feb. 13th, 2008 10:00 pm (UTC)
Oh I loved this!!! So much fun! What a riot..can totally see Shep purposefully antagonizing Rodney lOL.
shaddyr
Feb. 15th, 2008 04:29 am (UTC)
I am glad it was entertaining! Thanks for commenting!
starrylizard
Feb. 14th, 2008 06:36 am (UTC)
hehe! Could use a quick beta, but otherwise adorable. I love John's inner thoughts and the idea of them all keeping up on gossip as a judge of morale is pretty funny and clever. :)
shaddyr
Feb. 15th, 2008 04:32 am (UTC)
I agree, Beta first is always best - I'd been sitting on this and fiddling with the ending for over a week and I just wanted to get it POSTED and consequently, all the stuff that cep usually calls me on made it through. Sorry about that.

Always feel free to point out typos, grammar or anything that jars you from the flow of the story.

I am glad that you enjoyed the fic and the way that gossip was a sort of barometer of the expedition's overall morale.

I appreciate the comments, thanks!
(Anonymous)
Feb. 16th, 2008 05:20 am (UTC)
Psst! In that case:

It's 'hors d'oeuvre' from the French, 'hors d'oeuvre'. Or 'appetizer'.

:)
tigerrrl
Apr. 9th, 2008 08:13 am (UTC)
LMAO That was brilliant! XD I love your fics LOL omg the part with Teyla, just...TOO MUCH! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA :D Hey at least Elizabeth could control herself enough to relegate the laughter to her mug! No way in hell I would be able to do that in her position XD
outsideth3box
Nov. 21st, 2009 11:06 pm (UTC)
This is great! Poor John and his little hurt feelings for being called boney. And stealing food from McKay's tray really does make it taste better, I sincerely believe that. *G*
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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