Rating/Pairing: PG, Sheppard/Parrish
Summary: Following Remnants, Sheppard and Parrish apologise.
A/N: I had to look up the flower meaning of begonias: turns out it's either 'a warning' or 'dark thoughts'. If only Sheppard had paid more attention! Also! Parrish's first name as 'David' is total fanon, and I may have stolen a line from one of my other stories. Forgive me....
David looked up automatically at the knock on the lab door. In Atlantis, no one needed to knock: people knocked out of courtesy, or as a warning. David stared at Colonel Sheppard in the doorway and tried to figure out which it was.
"Dr Parrish," Sheppard said, and shifted awkwardly on his feet even as he pulled his shoulders into stiff good posture. "Do you have a minute? I'd like to talk to you."
"Sure," David said, and it warmed him that Ami and Robert moved closer, protectively. Sheppard noticed, and winced.
"In private?" He looked at Ami and quirked the corner of his mouth up. Ami glared back. On the mainland, she'd told David that she thought Sheppard was interested in her; and then, of course, Sheppard had come back and been a total dick, telling Ami to shut the fuck up and get in the jumper and sit the fuck down. And when David had protested, Sheppard had been quick to tell him what he thought of his flowers and his cowardice and how his sexuality was to blame for both. After seven years of working for the SGC as an openly gay civilian, David was used to a certain level of wariness, but he had never been verbally abused.
Hence the complaint filed with Lorne, and hence the appearance of Atlantis' military commander in Astrobotany Lab Two. David figured Sheppard would have to be an idiot to attempt coercion; he was probably here as some kind of damage control.
"I want to apologise," Sheppard went on, and bit his lip. David thought that if he didn't say anything, Sheppard would probably accept the humiliation of having David's colleagues as witnesses. Sheppard nodded at Ami. "To you as well, Dr Kohara. What I said yesterday. I was out of line, and I'm sorry."
He looked sorry; he looked very sincerely ashamed. David took a breath and walked around the table.
"My office is down this way," he said, brushing past Sheppard and not slowing to see if he was being followed.
He'd always been somewhat in awe of Sheppard, who was one of Atlantis' legendary figures, heroic and mysterious and larger-than-life. Major Lorne looked up to Sheppard, and so did many of the scientific community. He was better at listening to scientists than a lot of the Air Force officers at the SGC. Too bad it turned out that he had his prejudices.
David slapped his office door opener harder than necessary and did a bit of slow breathing to get his anger under control. He was in the right; Sheppard was wrong; and Sheppard was here to apologise. He had a small grouping of chairs around a bean-shaped table, with a view of his wide balcony and the ocean beyond. He waved Sheppard at the chairs and grabbed a couple of water bottles and a box of Lorna Doones from his bottom desk drawer.
"So," he said, setting the snacks down and sitting opposite Sheppard, leaning forward.
"I let my own problems get in the way of behaving professionally," Sheppard said, picking at the knees of his trousers, "but more importantly, I said things I should never have said, and that I don't believe."
David smiled in a baring-the-teeth kind of way. "I've been called a faggot before, Colonel. It's not so much the word as the implication that somehow my competence, my ability to do my job, is affected by the fact that I'm gay. I have worked offworld with Major Lorne for several years now -- "
Sheppard held up a hand to cut him off, at the same time lowering his chin and pinching the bridge of his nose hard as if warding off a headache. David heard him draw in a breath, hold it, and then let it out in a slow controlled expression of frustration.
"Look," Sheppard said, finally, and David sighed himself, thinking, here comes the exculpation. He took a biscuit from the box and bit it neatly in half. "On the mainland -- I had this thing fucking with my head."
"I got the e-mail," David said sharply.
"I wrote the e-mail," Sheppard snapped back. "It said hallucinations, it didn't say -- I was told that you and Dr Kohara had been killed. I'd failed to protect you, you were dead, and he -- it -- was going to kill everyone in Atlantis. And there wasn't a damn thing I could do. I swear to you, it was as real -- as real as this," and Sheppard rapped his knuckles on the table, hard. "But it was all a trick, and I felt. . . angry, stupid, sick? I don't know. When I got to the jumper, and saw you two just sitting there, um." Sheppard's hand slid up, covering his eyes, and David tried desperately to remember whether he still had any tissues left, three months after the last Daedalus run, because he really didn't want to think about Sheppard (Sheppard!) crying in his office. But then Sheppard took a breath, forced his shoulders down, and looked up with a faint, self-mocking smile and dry eyes. "I really would have liked to be rescued, seeing as I was doing a shitty job of saving myself."
David felt as if the room were slowing rotating around him, things coming into alignment, and his stomach dropped. He set the last bite of the biscuit down on the table. Sheppard's team would have rescued him, he thought. They wouldn't have done nothing but sit and bitch. They would have --
"We didn't even radio Atlantis," he said, realising it now. "When we couldn't find you -- we just thought -- "
Sheppard pointed, nodding. "And you should have got in the jumper and locked the door. We don't know that this world is safe for people, even if it's good for begonias."
"Lorne's going to yell and put us on remedial field training, isn't he?"
Sheppard shrugged. "Probably. He gave me two weeks of sensitivity training."
"I'll talk to him," David offered, but Sheppard shook his head.
"When I'm scared, I can be a real asshole," Sheppard said, oddly dispassionate, as if he were quoting -- perhaps he was. "I turn into my father. Those things I said to you in the jumper -- that's now how I feel, okay? It's what my father said to me. And, um. No one ever deserves to hear shit like that. It's all lies, anyway. So many people here are brave, and smart, and gay." He tipped his head to the side, letting his gaze slide away to settle somewhere out over the ocean.
"Like you?" David asked, his mouth moving faster than his brain, which was suddenly wondering why he hadn't wondered before. Sheppard, who had a weird intense symbiotic relationship with McKay, of all people, and who had a big brother/little brother thing with Ronon Dex, and who had a harem of women, but only in rumour.
"God, no," Sheppard said, in a short laugh, his eyes snapping back to David's and crinkling with amusement. "The longer I'm here, the dumber I learn I am. And bravery's just. . . putting one foot in front of another." He slapped his palms against his knees lightly and stood. "I've got to go. I just -- I wanted to say I was sorry, in person, because you didn't deserve getting hit with the sharp end of my issues."
David got up as well, taking two paces to Sheppard's one so that he blocked the exit. "I'll accept your apology, Colonel, if you'll accept mine."
Sheppard grinned, and suddenly he looked like a different person: someone with a sense of humour and weirdly pretty eyes.
David gave in to devilish impulse and pulled Sheppard into a hug. Sheppard stiffened up like a tube of cheap superglue, hard and brittle. David hated that reminder that he was free in a way that Sheppard couldn't be: he could date who he liked and yell when he made important discoveries and argue with Katie over which Doctor was the sexiest and he could hug his friends whenever and wherever he liked without having to worry about how it might be construed. His own closet had been walk-in and walk-out, just a very brief phase of agonised self-consciousness in high school. It made him cringe to think of anyone spending a lifetime locked away.
"I'm not jumping you," he said, dryly. Sheppard's hands, which had been at a loss, finally settled on David's upper arms. "But if you wanted to talk -- " Sheppard snorted -- "or practice being sensitive, or help me out with the remedial training. . . " He patted Sheppard on the back and pulled back just enough to let him brush his mouth over Sheppard's -- not really much of a kiss, more like a promise or a salutation -- before he let him go. Sheppard re-established his personal space quickly and avoided David's eyes.
"I'll keep it in mind," Sheppard said, making for the door.
"And -- I won't tell anyone."
Sheppard flashed him a strained smile. "I know you won't," he said, and half-raised his hand as the door opened, to give David a terribly awkward goodbye wave as he disappeared.
David sank down onto his desk chair, dropped his head on his arms, and indulged in a short bout of silent hysterical laughter to release all his emotional stress and nervous tension. He allowed himself a few minutes of panic (David, David, tell me you didn't -- not John Sheppard -- oh, God, David), and then sat back up and made himself be rational (you don't even know if he's seeing anyone, closeted doesn't have to mean celibate, gah). He seriously doubted that Sheppard would ever refer to this conversation (or kiss, David, what were you thinking?) again; apologies had been made and accepted; they would have a good professional relationship. He could work with that, live with that, accept that. He took a deep breath, released it, and went back to the lab. He told everyone that Sheppard was an okay guy; they didn't quite believe him.
He didn't see Sheppard around; he usually didn't. Back to the status quo, he thought, but then he came back from work one evening to find a potted plant with large orange and blue flowers outside his door. It was neatly marked P4G-NR7, with terse notes on soil type and climate and exposure to sunlight.
He put the pot on his desk and checked the offworld schedule to see which team had been to P4G-NR7. He blinked at the screen and then blinked at the plant. It was a scrawny little thing, and looked very surprised at the huge blossoms it had produced.
"Well," he said to the plant, moving it out onto the balcony into strong direct sun, "it seems John Sheppard's sending me flowers," and he couldn't stop himself from grinning ear to ear.