~ PG. For wild_isis as a thank you for her donation to fire_fic Her prompt: "I'd like a fic of approximately 1,000 words, John/Rodney, established relationship, someone watching them (3rd person POV sort of thing)." Happy to oblige! With thanks, as ever, to dogeared for the indispensable beta. ♥
There are ways a man acts if he is a generous, loyal Athosian – Jinto's been learning his part since he was small. There have been off-hand comments thrown his way by neighbors and elders, formal instruction at his father's knee, hunting parties and seasonal ceremonies, long, tedious hours of memorizing folklore in the mothers' tent. He has learned the value of bravery, caution, and surrender, has a vague idea that he's supposed to grow wise, knows the thrill of breaking some rules and the rewards of following others.
But there are new men in their company now, and his father indulges his wish to study their ways. "There is much we can learn from others," Halling tells him. "Be thoughtful as you observe."
Jinto finds it an easy edict to follow.
When he first meets Major Sheppard, Jinto marvels at his clothing – it seems so stiff and cumbersome an outfit for moving through a forest – and covets the headgear that allows him to see in the dark. With such tools, Jinto muses, his people would always know if Wraith wait in darkness – not that the Major seems to know who the Wraith are. This is fascinating – as fascinating as the gun the Major carries instead of a hunting knife, and the loose, easy pace of his step, as though he feels no worry. Jinto hangs back and watches him, tries to emulate his easy stance, wants badly to know the secret of striding over Athos without a single furtive look toward the skies.
He thinks, at first, that all the strange, new men are like Sheppard – he learns quickly that such a conclusion is not true. The ones who travel with him are terse to Teyla, despite her stature and the gifts of which she's possessed. They seem to consider her unworthy, distasteful – whether for her clothing, her body, her thoughts, or her home, Jinto cannot tell, but he warms to the Major who shares nonsense thoughts about Fay-riss Whee-s rather than the officer who breathes quick and harsh through his nose in dismissal and sees no quality of leadership in Teyla's evaluative stare.
He knows then that he will follow his father's example, be like Sheppard, value everyone, use caution but not judgment until a hand has been played. Teyla, too, can teach him how to act – how to tolerate those who act with haste or in ill-temper. He will not be a man who cannot see beyond the power invested in a gun.
When he meets the man Sheppard calls McKay, he is curious – then swiftly baffled. The man seems important, respected by the Lanteans, yet his waist is soft from inertia and his hands smooth from doing no work that Jinto understands. He does not carry a gun as he walks the halls of Atlantis, frequently speaks of his discomfort and dismay, scorns those around him and rarely seems to sleep. There is little in his character that Jinto can reconcile with the qualities desirable to develop as a man – yet Sheppard tolerates him, teases him out of his tempers, turns to him for advice when no one can understand the City.
Then comes the shadow, the creature Jinto lets loose in his curiosity about the Ancients and their home. Sheppard finds him, steadies him with a hand to his shoulder, stays with him while McKay stomps and yells – but then it's McKay, confusingly, who faces the shadow down, sends it away, saving them all, Athosian and Lantean alike.
Jinto finds new reasons to study McKay after that, to notice a sadness that seems to lurk beneath his sharp words and to respect his intellect and knowledge of a city that shuts out the comforting sound of the wind.
They establish New Athos on Lantean shores, and for many weeks Jinto finds himself busy with plowing and planting, securing the elders' tents, and scouting terrain. He studies compassion by watching Dr. Beckett's hands, learns everything he knows he wishes not to become by spending half a day with Kavanagh, grows curious along with Parrish as the botanist harvests seeds and saplings, handling each specimen with such care. It's a heady education, to sort and discard each quality before him as desirable or not, to see conflicts resolved with sharp words and silences, punches to the mouth. He watches Sheppard disappear into himself, weighed down by the duties that Teyla carries with greater grace, and he learns for the first time how guilt looks in a man's frown.
He sees that McKay refuses to leave Sheppard in isolation, and he loves him a little for that.
When the first harvest comes there is celebration – grain safely stored means feasting and song. The Lanteans come, mix and mingle with the people of New Athos, laugh loudly and openly, dance as best they can to music they barely know.
And out beyond the warm circle of the village fire's welcome, McKay takes Sheppard's hand, spied on by a boy-becoming-man who had never considered that this might be a man's choice too. Sheppard looks, Jinto thinks, profoundly torn, as though this is something he wants but can't trust himself to have. But McKay – just a little drunk, pint pot discarded in the middle of the field – curls one hand around Sheppard's shoulder, leans in and kisses him, full on the mouth.
This is nothing Jinto has thought of before, or understood he was seeing in others – the Athosian men who lived as family, the men who never took wives. But it is not incomprehensible, this kiss, this sway of two bodies leaning into each other, nor does he need explanation for Sheppard's sigh, or the way the kiss becomes a tangled holding on, McKay's fingers splayed through the dark of Sheppard's hair.
Jinto turns back to camp again, pilfers a garnu fruit from the platter on his father's table.
"Are you well?" his father asks.
"I am well," Jinto smiles, world grown half a possibility more.