Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Pairing/Characters: Rodney McKay/John Sheppard, Teyla Emmagan, Ronon Dex, Dr. Parrish, Dr. Simpson, Dr. Biro, OCs and mentions of other canon characters
Rating: PG-13 (barely)
Word Count: 4470 words
Challenge/Prompt: Written for queer_fest 2011 for the prompt: "Stargate Atlantis: any characters, Gay bars (and other queer institutions) of the Pegasus galaxy."
Summary: On Atlantis's servers there exists a wiki full of annecdotes on all the best queer bars and taverns and festivals in the Pegasus Galaxy. Each entry carries a story and with it, a peice of culture and history.
A/N: It's still Wednesday, if just barely so I'm taking advantage of what I think is the last amnesty Wednesday. This was originally supposed to go up on the 25th, but I discovered trying to post 2 fics over Pride weekend with guests visiting was not exactly possible. Anyway, here it is, and I hope you enjoy!
No one is entirely sure who started the list or exactly when it originated. There’s a creation date on the old word document that still exists password-protected, encrypted, and layered behind three different firewalls on one of Atlantis’ servers. But according to Dr. Biro and at least two botanists who would prefer to remain anonymous, it existed in paper form long before anyone had the balls to risk storing it electronically where someone unfriendly could find it and ask questions or mine the metadata for some inkling of who was involved. Putting it online came later, far enough into that first year that Atlantis’ residents were comfortable with the relaxed protocol and confident the American military’s brass wasn’t going to show up out of the blue.
Rumor has it whoever created the list in its paper form was one of the ‘Lanteans who lost their lives during the Wraith Siege. But the list and its later incarnations live on, a testament to the human spirit and a catalyst for bridging the gaps between cultures.
The first entry on the old word document was still the same as it was on the original paper list, at least according to Dr. Biro and the anonymous botanists. It reads “space C2, level 35, Control Tower; clip your mission patch to the door handle for privacy.”
C2 was an oddly shaped room by Tau’ri standards, perhaps not so unusual by ancient norms, tucked alongside the tower’s central stairway partway up the tower. It had an irregular ceiling that was sloped in places and scalloped in others and it shared a certain resemblance to a famous fictional wizard’s childhood bedroom that no one—not even McKay—could ignore. But, its walls were clean and a soothing shade of blue, and despite its awkwardness and its similarity to a cupboard, it was sizeable enough to comfortably hold a dozen people at any time plus some games and snacks and pillows (which were later replaced with beanbag chairs when contact with Earth was restored). It was out of the way enough that those who found solace within its walls were unlikely to be disturbed or discovered, but close enough to the flow of life on Atlantis that it wouldn’t draw any attention. It was the perfect place for those unable to express their true identities in public to find community and companionship.
It started out with mostly American servicemen and women and those foreign soldiers and scientists from more intolerant cultures. Soon they were joined by the civilian and non-American military friends and significant others of the first group, and then by everyone else. Within a few weeks C2 became a gathering place, a safe harbor. Scientists and military alike went there after hours and between shifts, slipping out of their uniform jackets and pinning their patches to the door. There were a lot of queer people on Atlantis representing every letter of the alphabet soup that made up the community. They were all different with varying perspectives and experiences, but they all came to C2 in search of family and kinship.
They laughed and danced and played games, drank Athosian wine and bootlegged moonshine from one of Atlantis’s many clandestine stills. Some opened up and came out, others just listened, or sat, content in the knowledge they had a safe space to unwind. During the year of isolation it was a connection to everything and everyone they’d left behind. After that, C2 provided a refuge from the constant chafing contact with Earth had on the sanity and sentiments of Atlantis’s queer personnel. It might never become a galactic hot spot, but it served the ‘Lanteans well. Some people joked it was the first gay bar in the Pegasus galaxy, while others hoped there were many others long established just waiting for the ‘Lanteans to stumble across them. Over time, the list grew and word spread, and pretty soon the answer was clear.
The journey that added Maury’s Kindly Tavern in the capital city of Mirambell to the list started out awkwardly to say the least.
AR-1 had finished its latest mission almost without incident. There were no Wraith Worshipers; bugs; angry, backstabbing locals; greedy despots; suicidal castaways; or actual Wraith on M3X-937. It was a first-contact mission with a potential trading partner Ronon had recommended. They’d managed to hammer out a treaty for medical supplies and care in exchange for highly nutritious fruit that reminded John a little bit of goji berries and a vaguely hemp-like plant that the botanists had read about in the Ancient database and had been drooling over ever since—apparently it had near-endless applications in medicine, textiles, and even explosives. Everything went great until a rainstorm hit on the way back to the gate. M3X-937 was hilly bordering on mountainous in the area around the gate and the roadway was really more of a narrow dirt path down a steep hillside overlooking a ravine. Long story short, the road gave way, Rodney slipped, John caught him (heart in his mouth), then John slipped, Ronon caught him, and somehow John wound up with two broken ribs, a strained rotator cuff, and two-to-four weeks’ down time for the team (depending on how long it took John to heal).
It was a very generic Tuesday about a week and a half into his convalescence (which Carson adamantly insisted was going to be at least three weeks). John felt well enough to do a light workout. Ronon was instructing him on improving his Bantos technique working through forms and kata John could do without straining his ribs or shoulder. It was slow going and somewhat painful, but no worse than the physical therapy exercises Carson had assigned him, and much more enjoyable. John was lost deep in thought, focusing on tensing the correct muscle group to get the best effect out of his block, when Ronon said it. John was so lost in thought, the words didn’t even register at first.
“… it’s a place that accepts queers, so I thought you might like it.” Ronon’s voice filtered through the haze in John’s mind, not even hesitating on the word “queers.”
“E—excuse me?” John panted, dropping the Bantos rods so suddenly they clattered to the floor and his shoulder spasmed. He thought perhaps he’d heard Ronon wrong, or maybe Ronon didn’t know what the word meant (or worse, it meant something entirely different in one of the Pegasus languages or dialects, and this was going to be the start of a very awkward conversation).
“I said, since the team’s got time off, we should get off base. Show you and McKay around. Maury’s Kindly Tavern on Mirambell—’s open to everyone, queer-friendly? ”
When John continued to stand there with his mouth agape, Ronon picked up his towel from the nearby bench and shrugged. “That’s what Dr. Parrish called it. Said something about reclaiming the word that I didn’t understand ... Thought you might like it.”
“Um… I’m not sure you know what queer—”
“Means men who like guys, women who like women, or both,” Ronon grunted with a shrug. “Know you’ve got some kind of … stigma or somethin’ with your military, but we’ll be off duty and it’s open to everyone. Figure it’s safe. You’re probably feelin’ lonely.”
“Wait, what? Me…” John stammered. He was usually much smoother, had the denials and defenses on the tip of his tongue ready to roll off smoother than the truth. Only, he was completely unprepared for six-foot seven of Satedan bluntness to lay it all out like that.
“Sheppard, I know you like guys,” Ronon stated with a tone that brooked no protest. “So do I, so do a lot of people. I don’t get your Military’s rule. Seems kinda stupid to me, but…” he shrugged again. “The Tavern’s relaxing.”
There was more spluttering and possibly some hyperventilating on John’s part, followed by a trip to the infirmary in which Carson proved far too insightful, and John started to panic that his disguise was paper thin. But then he got distracted—he was still on restricted duty, the team wasn’t cleared, for missions, and John was starting to think he needed a chance to unwind.
And somehow, a week later, John found himself accompanied by the rest of AR-1, out of uniform and without visible armament, in the entry of a large, sprawling, friendly looking building with whitewashed walls and at timber frame.
John wasn’t sure what he was expecting. After all, the Pegasus Galaxy in general (and Mirambell in particular) didn’t strike him as a likely home for go-go dancers and disco or chains and leather... Well leather maybe. But the calm, dimly lit, almost sedate pub with dark wood furnishings, overstuffed chairs and booths lining the walls and a well-stocked bar wasn’t quite it. At first it almost felt like a letdown, it was so similar to so many other pubs and taverns John had been in sprinkled across the worlds of Pegasus that at first, he didn’t notice anything special or unusual about it. Then Ronon led them deeper inside and he began to see the subtle cues.
There were a lot more off-worlders than in your average Pegasus bar. A quick glance around the room revealed a riot of colors and styles—airy, brightly colored linens, next to utilitarian leathers, next to simple homespuns, next to military-cut suits. John could easily recognize Daganians, Athosians, Genii, Hoffans, as well as people from a dozen or so other planets he couldn’t place. True, Mirambell was a trade center, but the tavern was off the beaten path in the more residential part of the planet’s main city. There was just more diversity and more planets represented and haphazardly intermingled than one would usually find at trading hot spots, and there were none of the hallmarks of business transactions. There was no hustle or bustle and no murmur of debate and negotiations. Everyone seemed to be there to relax.
There were, John saw as he looked closer, a lot of couples gathered, many of them same-sex. The clientele also appeared more varied and fluid on the gender spectrum, at least as reflected in the patrons’ chosen dress and grooming. There was also a symbol—he thought it was a stylized depiction of outstretched open palms, a little like the Allstate insurance logo back on earth, but more... inviting somehow. It seemed to be carved everywhere—on the bar, behind the bar, on the tables, over the door, on the window frames, and beside the staircase that rose invitingly from the back of the room towards a warmly lit upper story.
“Means everyone’s welcome,” Ronon said quietly into John’s ear.
“Ah,” John said nodding. “So if we see that symbol somewhere...”
“It means you are in an establishment that does not discriminate in its patrons, which will serve as a refuge from those fleeing social persecution, and which will not restrict... gay... couples from engaging in displays of affection,” Teyla supplied, stumbling a little as she searched for a word John and Rodney would understand.
John nodded again. He had half a mind to ask if trans people or poly families were welcome, but as he glanced around the room, he could see the answer was “yes.” It felt good, freeing to know there was a place—or places—so accepting even in the harshness of the Pegasus Galaxy.
“So what’s upstairs? Is that some kind of back room brothel?” Rodney asked, stepping next to John and hovering at his shoulder.
“Rodney,” John groaned, inwardly cringing at his crude word choice.
“Well it’s a legitimate question. It’s not like I’m saying it’s a bad thing. You don’t have to get all disapproving with your uptight, Puritanical, backwards American sensibilities!” Rodney retorted.
“I wasn’t—” John started to protest, breaking off when he realized every eye in the room was turned on them, the gathered patrons regarding them with a cautious mix of fear and interest.
“Perhaps it would be best if we made ourselves comfortable before you ask questions,” Teyla suggested. You’re scaring the locals, obvious in her tone if unspoken.
John watched as Teyla caught the eye of the bar tender and then herded them to an empty table in a quiet corner.
When they were seated, and after a contented sigh from Rodney who found the overstuffed chairs very comfortable and surprisingly supportive of his back, Teyla began to speak.
“While many cultures are accepting and supportive of all forms of love and much more... open-minded than many people from Earth, there are some who find fault. Some place a premium on procreation and discourage any union unlikely to increase their numbers. Others value conformity and... virtue as defined by strict adherence with a set of parameters, and they find... gay people lacking.
“Please tell me no one feeds queers to the Wraith,” Rodney said shuddering. His haunted tone reminding John Rodney, for all his no-nonsense, unapologetic openness about his bisexuality hadn’t always had it easy.
Ronon and Teyla shared a look that told John everything he needed to know.
“Jesus,” John muttered as Rodney shuddered beside him.
“There are rumors of a few planets.” Ronon shrugged. “I’ve never met anyone who could confirm it.”
“It wouldn’t exactly be a surprise,” Rodney said glowering. “How ‘bout the Genii? Are they as repugnant in their attitudes toward sexuality as they are about everything else?” He crossed his arms in a display of just how pissed he was.
“Well, they don’t feed us to the wraith, but no, they’re not very accepting.”
“The Genii place a strong emphasis on procreation and service to the cause,” Teyla added, the lingering bitterness of the Genii’s betrayal coloring her voice.
“Figures,” Rodney muttered. “You’d think with the wraith around people would be less inclined to behave like imbeciles towards each other. Instead they use it to come up with more justifications for despicable behavior. Idiots!”
“Calm down, McKay,” John said laconically, succeeding in keeping his own feelings of betrayal from clouding his voice. He glanced around the room, noting several tables whose occupants were regarding the ‘Lantians with suspicion or caution. “We don’t want the nice people to kick us out for disturbing the peace. Besides, I’m sure there are some planets that are really nice to gay people,” he added, shooting a pleading glance at Ronon and Teyla.
“Yes,” Teyla replied smoothly. “Mirambell encourages its citizens to form whatever bonds they can, regardless of gender or number of individuals. They believe loving, stable relationships provide the best defense against the Wraith.”
“See?” John bumped shoulders with Rodney. “Not all bad.” His seat afforded him a view of the stairs up which a young lesbian couple was disappearing. “So what’s upstairs, anyway?” he asked following up on Rodney’s earlier question.
“There are rooms available upstairs,” Teyla answered. “While it’s true some people do rent them for more prurient purposes,” she shot Rodney a silencing glare, “they are available to all for a variety of purposes. Travelers rent them for the night, others stay for a longer time, especially those seeking asylum from their homeworlds.”
“If they’re so accepting and welcoming, why is everyone staring at us?” Rodney asked in a stage whisper.
“‘Cause you’re unknown. ‘Swhy we said no uniforms. Sometimes people come in lookin’ for trouble,” Ronon said, glaring.
Rodney’s open mouth snapped shut with an audible click. “Oh.”
The door opened again and a group of familiar faces entered.
“Sir...” said a somewhat stunned lieutenant flanked by two marine corporals and a skittish looking geologist.
Awkward, John thought. The lieutenant and one of the corporals were both Americans. Everyone was out of uniform and off-duty as were John and the rest of his team. He could see the panic in their eyes. “No ranks in here, Stevens. Everyone’s welcome, after all.” He smiled at Teyla.
“Right, uh, everyone,” the lieutenant stammered, looking more skittish than relieved.
People around the tavern continued to stare, and John was getting the feeling his team was going to be out on its collective ass with no hope of return if he didn’t fix things quickly.
“Let’s just say what happens in Pegasus stays in Pegasus?” he suggested to the lieutenant and his friends.
There was a moment’s silence before the geologist broke out in nervous giggles, drawing the rest of the group with her.
“Why do you not come and join us?” Teyla said, beckoning them over with her hand.
Everyone in the tavern relaxed after that, and it marked the first of many excursions for John. Americans were soon known to the Tavern as one of the peoples who might need protection and refuge. John felt flattered on behalf of all the Tau’ri in Pegasus that here they were accepted and treated as equals with a common story, a shared experience, despite the differences of their homeworld or how little the average Pegasus native understood about Earth’s culture or multitude of disparate governments. John liked it, and without the constant fear of being outed or spotted by someone who could start a DADT investigation, he enjoyed himself and relaxed for maybe the first time since he’d joined ROTC.
The tavern showed up on the list about a week after John’s first trip accompanied by a note saying “What happens in Pegasus stays in Pegasus.” At some later date more notes were added: good date night, low-key couples’ retreat, and finally with the repeal of DADT “...stays in Pegasus, but only if you want it to.”
It was a mandatory rest day and Teyla was sitting with several other Atlantis personnel in the Lounge, the official name they’d given to C2. Somehow the topic of “good things to do soon” came up.
“The festival is a celebration of the diversity of loving relationships. Tenaga hosts it once per cycle and people come from many worlds to celebrate. It officially lasts for two days and nights, but many revelers come to Tenaga many days before. There is dancing and drinking and many vendors peddle their wares, especially those whose products are frowned upon on more intolerant worlds—”
That comment earned a choked laugh from Rodney, who narrowly avoided doing a spit take with his mouthful of Ruus wine.
Teyla shot a Rodney a worried glare and continued, “Sometimes musicians and artists perform, and travelers form bonds over shared experiences while learning about the other cultures and traditions of the galaxy. There are feasts and usually a number of weddings to celebrate the bonding of couples or family units.”
“It sounds a lot like Pride,” David Parish observed, his tone somewhere between glee and amusement.
Teyla thought about it for a moment, her brow furrowing. “Yes, I do believe the festival is somewhat similar, except perhaps with less intoxication and more nuptials.”
“Pegasus Pride?” Rodney scoffed almost sarcastically. “With sex toys made by fine craftsmen? And weddings?”
“Rodney, I fail to see what is so difficult to believe. Yes, it is a similar, although not identical celebration. Given the different cultural considerations, the focus of the Tenaga Festival has always been on unity, joy, and enlightenment, instead of pride, but based on the stories I have heard, the sentiment is quite similar.
“How is it that you, an ostensibly straight person, seem to know so much about queer culture in Pegasus, hmm?” Rodney demanded suspiciously.
Teyla was unsure why Rodney was so skeptical or hostile, but filed her curiosity away and answered his question. A particularly taciturn Rodney was usually a sign of Rodney processing some issue or fact that made him uncomfortable or otherwise failed to fit within his logical paradigm. Given time and patience (rather than rising to his bait), he would share what troubled him. “As leader of my people it is imperative I have information and resources to support our community and individuals, especially when it comes to providing advice and guidance to our youth. While you are correct in stating my predominant affinity is to men, and I have never felt any discordance between my self-perception and my physical body, that does not mean I have no interest in celebrating love and the diversity and challenges the peoples of this galaxy face every day.”
Rodney didn’t respond, just frowned and appeared to focus more intently on the tablet he was holding. He was pretending, Teyla could tell.
“You said the Festival is soon?” Dr. Simpsons asked, bouncing onto one of the strange puffy pillows the Tau’ri perplexingly called “bean bag chairs” in her enthusiasm.
“Yeah, and can we go?” Dr. Parrish chimed in. “I mean, we don’t have to sign up in advance or go through some ritual to attend, do we?” He shuddered absent mindedly, before adding, “And if we do, please tell me it’s not too late?” Parrish was beaming with glee.
“The festival begins in 8 days, and no,” Teyla shook her head and smiled, “one need not register in advance, and the only rituals involved are those at the festival in which some attendees voluntarily participate.”
Teyla’s reassurance launched a lively group discussion that involved, Parrish, Simpson, Dr. Biro, and everyone else who ventured into C2 that evening. Rodney remained quiet though—sullen, withdrawn, almost… depressed. Even when answering the others’ questions, she kept an eye on him. And when Rodney finally left, she silently slipped out and followed. Teyla wasn’t under the impression her stealth was actually deceiving Rodney, but she was content to keep up the ruse until it became clear Rodney was leading them back to her quarters.
At her door, Rodney paused, turned, and swept his hand to the side, signaling her to enter.
Once inside, Rodney followed her, looking tense and almost remorseful.
“Rodney, what is wrong?” she asked, placing her hand gently on his forearm and steering him towards her bed.
When they were both seated, Rodney spoke. “John’s never been to Pride—never, not once, not San Francisco or New York or any other big American city, not in any other country, and not even in a small Podunk town.” He glanced up at Teyla, his eyes full of hurt. “I—in what I admit was not a moment representative of my genius—told John I thought Pride was stupid. I was making a valid point about mainstreaming a subversive counter culture, assimilationists, and commercialization, but… But the point is I said that, and it hurt John.” Rodney met Teyla’s eyes for a moment before glancing away, focusing intently on his hands, which were fidgeting in his lap. “I didn’t think. The American military is stupid, but I never thought it could do that. I mean—plenty of straight people go to Pride on Earth. But apparently it’s too big a risk—raises too many eyebrows or something, so John never went. And then I said it was stupid.”
Teyla listened, letting Rodney take his time and talk. When he was ready, she would speak, but not a moment before.
“I tried taking him to Vancouver Pride last time we were on Earth visiting Jeannie. I figured, maybe… maybe because it was in Canada, he’d feel protected enough, but he wouldn’t. I think it made him terrified he’d lose Atlantis. I can’t—I can’t make him risk that, but I want to give him this, and there’s no way he’ll even consider going now,” Rodney said in resigned frustration.
Teyla regarded him for a long moment. “Cultural exchange is important, I do not believe Colonel Carter would have a problem with you and John attending the Tenaga Festival.”
Rodney sighed and frowned, crossing his arms across his chest. “No, you’re right about that. But she’ll probably insist we go as representatives of Atlantis—that means on duty, uniforms… That’s not what John wants. I couldn’t do that to him. It would be torture, and it wouldn’t be fair to any of the other ‘Lanteans going or anyone at the festival.”
Teyla considered it for a moment, confident she could solve Rodney’s dilemma. “I would be happy to tell Colonel Carter the Festival is an important cultural exchange and I would like the opportunity to share it with you and John, but it would be an affront to the attendees and organizers for us to appear in uniform or attend on official business.”
“You’d do that?” Rodney asked, skeptically.
Teyla’s conversation went as smoothly as she’d anticipated, and Carter didn’t bat and eye.
Rodney broke the news to John who was first unbelieving, but excited.
Teyla enjoyed watching them at the festival. She wasn’t stalking them, just keeping an eye out, making sure they were all right. She loved seeing John look around wide-eyed, caught between gawking and glee at the sight of lacquered, hand-carved wooden dildoes. He asked Rodney questions and demanded Rodney compare the booths and stalls and events at the festival to what was common at pride back on Earth. Rodney was happy to oblige and indulge, and in turn, Teyla felt relieved on their behalf. They danced and ate and drank and attended some of the public weddings. And at the end of the day, they stayed together as the couple they were in a nearby inn
The Festival was added to the list (now a Wiki) the day after the festival concluded. Every year, John, Rodney, and a good portion of the Atlantis staff, somehow managed to get off-base leave that “weekend.” The year the DADT repeal was finally implemented, no one was surprised to learn following the Festival that Woolsey had to confront the question of the validity of off-world marriages entered into by mutual consent and intent of the parties. Even he seemed to expect it and genuinely enjoyed the question since it let him act as a lawyer for once. No one was surprised who got married either.
The list is much more than a list now. It exists as a wiki and takes up prime server space. It has more redundancies and protections built in than many of the research databases. It’s full of reviews and comments, anecdotes, and jokes added by Atlantis personnel and visitors over the years. There’s history in there too—days of remembrance observed by certain Pegasus cultures to commemorate those lost to persecution and intolerance, restaurants good for romantic evenings, even the night club on M1C-211 that was the Pegasus version of a disco! It’s come a long way from words hastily scratched on paper, but the sentiment it encompasses is still the same. Queer people among the Tau’ri are not alone on Atlantis. They’ve got each other’s backs and their siblings in Pegasus are always there to welcome them with open arms. The culture and nightlife—and yes, even the bigotry—may not be identical to those on Earth, but the common threads unite them all.
Or read here on AO3.