Popcorn Theater

by Domenika Marzione

Rodney was debating between salted caramel or white cheddar -- the marines could routinely massacre roast beef, but had a rare and precious gift when it came to popcorn -- when Teyla approached.

"Have you not made up your mind?" she asked with an innocent expression that Rodney knew was really just her covering up her frustration. She had known what she'd wanted when Sheppard had told him that it was his turn to stand on line.

"They have toffee walnut," Rodney said rather than confess. "I should probably wait on that, though. It's undoubtedly a beta release, so it'll either be noxious or it'll need tweaking. Even if they've gotten it right the first time, there's little advantage to being an early adopter."

"I shall stand on line while you decide," Teyla said and Rodney just knew from the quirk of her lips that he was going to be on popcorn detail for the next two months. Maybe longer.

Graceful as she was, Teyla narrowly avoided colliding with someone backing up in the cramped space that was the popcorn concession stand -- like everything else in Atlantis, the movie theater wasn't originally a movie theater and while it it had ample seating and nearby bathrooms, the food court left something to be desired.

"Sorry 'bout that," Major Lorne said, turning around. He had two of the extra-large buckets in his hands -- they didn't look like any of the familiar flavors and Rodney wondered what they were -- and grinned wryly at Teyla. "I think we might need to post traffic cones."

"There was no harm, Major," Teyla assured him, all of the annoyance gone from her voice. She gestured at his full hands. "Are you very hungry?"

Lorne laughed. "Yeah, but I have to share these. You should try the cinnamon-and-cayenne flavor, by the way."

"I did not know that that was one of the choices," she replied and Rodney perked up because he hadn't known, either.

"Ask the marines for it and they'll give it to you," Lorne assured, then grimaced as he got jostled from behind. "I'm holding up traffic. Enjoy the movie."

With that he went off and Teyla turned back to Rodney.

"Would I like cinnamon and cayenne on my popcorn?" Teyla asked him, not-so-gently maneuvering him on to the back of the closest line. Implied was the accusation that Rodney had neglected to pass on that option; Teyla's reading skills were still very basic and she preferred not to work on them in crowded or hurried situations like the popcorn line at the movies. Rodney knew that, just as Sheppard knew that, and she must've assumed he was being thoughtless and had forgotten.

"Probably. You'd put cayenne on everything if you could," Rodney replied. She'd put in on pancakes once. "It's not on the menu board, though, so I didn't know to tell you that it was an option."

Teyla nodded and Rodney knew that that was as much about acknowledging his unvoiced apology as for his popcorn advice. "Major Lorne looks different not in his uniform," she said instead.

Lorne had been wearing jeans and a henley unbuttoned at the top, but had otherwise looked exactly like Lorne.

"Everybody looks different," Rodney replied. He, personally, thought he looked much better when not in the unflatteringly-cut Atlantis uniform. He picked at his comfy green hoodie. "The uniforms were chosen based on how they flattered willowy and athletic types, which the civilian population tends not to favor. I don't get that -- the marines' uniforms aren't as form-fitting and they work out."

"I did not mean his clothing," Teyla said, mouth crinkling to hide the fact that she was trying not to laugh at him instead of with him. "He looks... free. Relaxed."

Rodney did not roll his eyes, mostly to avoid getting hit. "His job is to clean up after Sheppard and the marines. You'd look ten years younger off-duty, too."

Teyla asked for cayenne popcorn when they got to the front and the marine serving as popcorn barista grinned in either approval or in the shared secret of off-menu ordering. Rodney ended up with the sea salt and extra butter, since he didn't have the kind of cache to ask for anything not on the whiteboard. He suspected they hadn't forgiven him for making a scene the week they had had three citrus-based offerings.

"Why do you not attend the movies with Major Lorne?" Teyla asked Sheppard once they got back to their seats. Ronon, on drink duty, was already returned and slouching, moving languidly so that Rodney and Teyla could pass.

Sheppard gave Rodney a questioning look, since it really was a pretty random question even with context. Rodney gave a tiny shrug back. "We ran into him on the popcorn line."

"Major Lorne spends enough time with me during business hours," Sheppard said to Teyla.

"So do we," Ronon pointed out, already halfway finished with his salted caramel corn.

"I'm not your boss," Sheppard said, peering into his popcorn suspiciously, as if Rodney might somehow forget that Sheppard got white cheddar with black pepper every single week. "I occasionally tell you to do something and you occasionally humor me and do it. That's not the same thing."

"You socialized with Aiden," Teyla said and Rodney watched Sheppard's face flash several emotions before settling back to bland bemusement.

"Ford was different," Sheppard said with a deceptive ease that Rodney knew wasn't actually deceiving anyone. Even Ronon was looking at him askance. "Ford was a young officer who needed mentoring and had nobody else to hang out with. Lorne has been in the Air Force for a dozen years and has his own social circle without needing my help."

"I think I should have gotten the toffee walnut," Rodney announced, since he really didn't want to watch Sheppard squirm any more. Teyla wasn't being obtuse -- she knew as well as anyone what sort of unhealed wound Ford was in Sheppard's hide. But sometimes Rodney wondered why she pushed when they both knew that Sheppard didn't push back; he just withdrew.

"This is very good," Teyla said, holding up her bucket. She knew a strategic withdrawal when she saw one. "There is a trace of the Amanian sugar, too. Major Lorne's suggestion was well-taken."

"You're free to go to the movies with Lorne, you know," Sheppard told her, sipping at his soda. "I think he'd like to take a pretty girl to the pictures instead of a couple of EEs and a fish doctor."

He punctuated the comment with a lazy gesture toward where Lorne was standing in a small circle of Rodney's minions. Rodney didn't even know Branson and Saurat knew each other, let alone that they both socialized with military types.

"Branson is a world-renown ichthyologist," Rodney felt obligated to point out, Life Sciences or not. "He cost the Stargate Program a bloody fortune to buy him away from some university in Japan. He is not a fish doctor."

"He studies fish?" Ronon asked and Rodney felt the conversation starting to slip.

"He has a doctorate in fish," Sheppard replied smugly. "Ergo, he is a fish doctor."

"Would you like to try?" Teyla asked Rodney, holding out her popcorn.

"I don't need to be patronized," he said, taking a small handful. He didn't need to be patronized, but there was another fifteen minutes before the movie began and he might need to drown his sorrows in superbly crafted gourmet popcorn.

"We do it because we love you, McKay," Sheppard assured.

feed me on LJ?

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29 December, 2007