Title:  That Inevitable Awkward Question - posted June 28, 2007
Author: Lacey McBain
Pairing: Joe/David. PG-13.
Word Count: ~4500
Summary: Joe's getting really tired of the kissing thing.
Disclaimer: I know nothing about the actors' real lives. This is just the product of my fevered brain that can't seem to get enough of them together.
Author Notes: My first foray into the world of RPS. Constructive criticism and feedback definitely appreciated. It's just coincidence this starts at a con Q&A just like lilysaid's awesome fic Safety check.

That Inevitable Awkward Question

It happens every time they do one of these things. Conventions. Q & A. Every single time they put the bunch of them on a stage together and turn the fans loose to ask them anything, anything at all, and Joe’s been wishing for a long time that someone would either vet the questions or show a little common sense because if he has to answer one more question about his ears he thinks he’s going to quit coming.

Except there’s a clause in his contract that says he has to.

Stupid, clever studio execs who took one look at him and knew he’d run screaming when he got a real taste of what it’s like to be part of something like this. A show where fans follow the minutiae, fans who know his lines better than he does and who catalogue every time he’s ever touched David or Torri or Rachel. On or off camera, and that’s a little freaky considering how many interviews they have to give. There’s a whole sub-culture built up around the people they play, and Joe’s never before felt that one of his characters had taken on a life of its own until John Sheppard. He’s not sure what to do about it, or even how to feel. Truth be told, it creeps him out a little, which he thinks is probably pretty normal.

Unless, of course, you’re David Hewlett.

Give the man a microphone and he’ll run with it. Hell, he’ll practically make love to it, and he’ll definitely talk until someone takes it away from him. By force. Joe thinks this is clear evidence of what happens when you grow up with four sisters.

So, Joe isn’t at all surprised when a pretty young woman in jeans and a Stargate t-shirt sidles up to the audience mic and says, “My question is for David…”

There’s a rising intonation on the end, as if she’s not really sure he’ll answer whatever it is she’s asking, and Joe stops himself from rolling his eyes because he knows what this is. He can tell by the deep blush colouring her face and the nervous giggling of the friends she keeps looking at for support.

Every. Single. Time.

“What—what was it like—kissing—” A chorus of nervous titters, and Joe can already hear the approval rippling through the large crowd. “—another man for ‘Duet’?” He never realized fans were essentially voyeurs, although he thinks he really should’ve known that given the nature of television.

“Well, that’s assuming Paul McGillion is, in fact, a man,” David says, winking at Paul, and the two of them are off. They’ve got a whole spiel worked out for this question or its twenty-seven variants. Paul complains about bad breath and worse technique. David bitches about Paul sending chocolates and flowers until Paul rolls his eyes, slipping purposefully into Carson’s brogue with an “I don’t think so.” They’re the television equivalent of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall, and Joe’s heard the jokes about Brokeback Atlantis so many times he can probably get a nice little stand-up routine going. It’s getting tiresome for them all, not just Paul and David, although they’re always polite and good-natured about the whole thing because they’re still not used to having fans, and Joe figures if it isn’t bothering them, it shouldn’t be bothering him.

But it is.

He can’t quite figure out why, though—why every time someone mentions that damn kiss he feels himself tense, deep along the spine and up into his shoulders as if it’s him being asked the question, him being grabbed by the lapels and solidly kissed. He’s seen the episode exactly one time. Once was enough for him to read his own face, too much of himself written there. He was supposed to be showing “amused surprise” according to the script, but it looks more like hurt and kind of pissed off, and Joe knows it must’ve been like that in every single take and no one bothered to try to get him to do it differently. Maybe they knew it would just look fake—which should be exactly as worrying as it is—and he’s always wondered what David thought of that brief shot of Sheppard, what he would read into it, if anything.

The crowd is roaring with laughter and approval at something David’s said—of course—and then he sees David standing up, wrestling the microphone from its stand on the table so he can move about with it, and Joe wonders what happened while he was thinking about other things. It doesn’t pay to get distracted at these things—last time he wound up on the wrong end of a take-down from the stunt coordinator, who seemed to know exactly how little Joe had been working out during hiatus. David’s got a wicked smile on his face, and the crowd seems wired for something, people leaning forward on their seats, cameras at the ready.

There is no way this can possibly be good.

“What’s he doing?” Joe whispers to Rachel, and she smiles pleasantly and says, “Oh, you know David,” which simply confirms Joe’s feeling that this is going to end badly for one of them on this stage.

David’s swirling the microphone cord around like a pro as he prowls the area behind the long table where they’re seated, and Joe gets that the crowd is definitely on board with whatever David’s proposed. It’s much like what Joe imagines being at the Roman Coliseum must have been like just before someone was thrown to the lions. David’s grinning like he’s the Emperor of All Things, and Joe fully expects to see him give a thumbs up or thumbs down any moment. He’s leaning forward in his seat with anticipation, too.

“But you’ve seen that already,” David’s saying. “You don’t want to see it again.”

The applause is thundering, but the yells of encouragement are louder, and David looks smug as he stands behind Paul’s chair and places a hand on his shoulder, kneading casually. “Really? You guys really want to see McKay kissing Carson?”

More catcalls and it sounds like half the fans came equipped with noisemakers and army boots. Joe thinks that if David’s just ramping them up and not planning to deliver some kind of lip action, none of them is going to get out of here alive. He glances back-stage at the two security guys who are sitting playing cards, only occasionally checking to make sure no one’s stormed the stage. They’ve just decided to ignore the occasional teddy bear or thong that gets tossed up there, and Joe really doesn’t want to think about the number of people not wearing underwear to this convention. Joe wonders if Rachel brought her fighting sticks. He doesn’t think about her underwear, or lack thereof.

He almost misses the moment David says, “If that’s what you want,” and drops the mic back on the tabletop as he hauls Paul to his feet. Joe tries not to notice the small insistent tension building up in his neck, the one that says there’s something he’s blatantly ignoring even if it’s ten feet away, live and in-colour.

It’s the exact same scene from the episode, complete with lapel-grabbing and Paul’s tense screwed-up face. The kiss is quick and close-mouthed with that same twisting “so there” motion David put into the episode. Joe thinks it’s a good thing he knows they’re great friends because otherwise he might think Paul’s really that uptight about the whole thing.

Except that this time when David steps back and beams at the crowd, Paul winks and slides a quick arm around David’s waist, other hand pressing to his chest and bending David backwards in an extravagant dip. Paul bends with him, grinning away, planting a kiss right on David’s mouth. Joe can hear the startled squeak all the way at his end of the table, even with the crowd yelling approval. It’s not quick and Joe’s pretty sure it’s not close-mouthed from the hoots of the crowd and the way Torri’s practically falling out of her chair trying to get a better view. When Paul sets David back on his feet, he’s flushed bright red.

“Well, okay,” David says. “That was a kiss.”

It’s later, when the cast is kicking back at an out-of-the-way bar, that Joe finds himself squashed into a corner with David and the only thing anyone can talk about is the damn kiss.

“Did you hear them?” Rachel asks. “You two brought down the house!”

“Oh, yeah.” Torri’s grinning and sipping something with a stupid umbrella. “Flash ‘em a bit of tongue, and they’re like putty in your hands.”

David snorts, shaking his head, but Torri just pokes Rachel knowingly. “See? Totally didn’t deny the tongue thing.”

“He startled me!” David says, but it’s all feigned protest, and Joe drinks half his beer in one long swallow and ignores Paul’s arrival at the table, which just means the quarters are more cramped and nobody’s going to be talking about anything except the goddamn kiss. It’s been a long day and Joe’s tired of this, tired of all of them. He sees them day in and day out when they’re on set, lots of times when they’re not on set too, and they seem to bring out the best and the worst of each other; he thinks maybe that means they’re friends, but sometimes he’s not sure because he’s never been part of something like this and it feels like he’s losing his bearing. He isn’t supposed to be tense about something that’s obviously a joke.

“You shouldn’t encourage them, you know.” Joe hears himself say it, even though he’s pretty sure he didn’t actually give his brain permission to speak, and the conversation around the table stops as dead as if someone put a bullet in it. Torri stops twirling the little yellow umbrella between her fingers and looks at him curiously. She’s always treated cast interaction like a spectator sport, and beside her, Rachel has on her Teyla face, the one that says John Sheppard’s stupid and profoundly weird, but she’ll be around when he regrets whatever he’s about to do. Joe would be grateful for the sentiment if David wasn’t staring at him like he’s grown a second head.


Joe knows he should leave—the bar, the conversation, all of it—before he says something he’s really going to hate himself for when he’s a little more sober and a lot less tense. Instead he repeats, “You shouldn’t be encouraging them. The fans. With the kissing and stuff.” He makes a vague gesture that seems too rude for what he actually meant. David’s eyes narrow. “It just gives them … ideas.”


“Are you incapable of speaking in sentences all of a sudden?” Joe says, flash of anger fuelling his tone, and everyone at the table looks like they want to back up, move away. Usually this conversation happens the other way around, with David coaxing and cajoling Joe about his laconic style, but that’s generally okay because David’s a lot more easy-going and it always ends with another round and someone clapping an arm around someone else’s shoulder. Friendly. Comfortable.

This feels more like there’s a package of C4 strapped to the table and Joe just lit the fuse.

“Oh, that’s funny coming from you, Mr. ‘I Don’t Want to Use Up All My Words at Once’.”

“Look, David—”

“No, you look, Joe—”

No one misses that the tones are Sheppard and McKay, and Joe wonders if everyone has this problem with the characters bleeding over into their regular lives, or if it’s just him or maybe Stargate in general.

“Why don’t we just take a—” Paul tries to interject, but nobody’s listening.

“What the hell’s your problem today, anyway?” David says, gesturing with his beer. “Even the fans were noticing you were Mr. Uptight.”

“I’m not uptight.” It doesn’t sound convincing coming as it does through gritted teeth and a clenched jaw. Joe’s so tightly wound right now he thinks he’s going to need a professional masseuse if he ever wants to live with pain-free shoulders again. “And all you’re doing is setting up expectations for the rest of us.”

“Excuse me?” David’s mouth pulls quickly off the lip of his Labatt’s. “Since when is this all about you?”

“It’s not just the two of you up on that stage, you know. You’re not the only ones who get asked to re-create scenes, and—” Joe can feel the heat rising in his face, turning the tips of his ears pink, and he’s trapped at this table between Paul and David, with no easy way out. David leans his chin on his fist and looks at him like he’s dense.

“So, you’re afraid someone’s going to ask you to kiss Rachel? Or Torri?” David laughs, and yeah, Joe gets that no guy in his right mind would be complaining about that. His co-stars are beautiful, and they’ve never been particularly unwilling. It’s always him that takes a step back, keeps it strictly professional. Joe can see the rest of the cast just watching, and he should’ve known better than to bring this up here. Now. They’re all actors, and he’s doing a piss-poor job of hiding his feelings. He tries to back-track, make it sound like less than it is.

“I’m just saying—”

But David’s been working up a head of steam with his last beer, and Joe’s got no chance of stopping this train now. It’s going to slam into the gorge at the end of the tracks come hell or high water. They’ve been here before. He knows how it ends.

“I seem to recall you’ve been asked about, oh, five thousand times already, to kiss someone at cons, and you always find a way around it, although quite frankly, if I got to kiss Rachel or Torri, I might be doing even more kissing at these things. I get to kiss Paul.”


“Nobody has to do any kissing they don’t want to do,” David continues, putting the bottle back to his mouth. Joe watches the long slow deliberate swallow. Bastard. “You want to be jealous of that, think about what exactly that says about you.”

Paul’s already sliding off the leather bench to give Joe room to get out, and nobody’s going to try to stop him. It wouldn’t be a real cast party without someone getting pissed off at somebody else. They always work it out.

“You know what your problem is, Flanigan?” David’s voice hits him in the back of the head and makes him turn around.

“I suppose you’re going to tell me.”

“Maybe you need a good kiss.”

“Fuck you,” Joe says.

“That too.” David grins at him and tips his beer in a haphazard salute. Joe flips him the bird and strides out to the parking lot, feeling a lot like someone just stuck a knife in his ribs and twisted. He’s hunched over the railing outside the bar, trying to get his heart to stop pounding when Rachel lays a hand on his arm and guides him to her car.

“He’s right, you know,” she says, as she pulls onto the street.

“Which part?”

The only answer he gets is a sad grin and a shake of the head.

Yeah, Joe thinks. That’s exactly what he was afraid of.


They make it through two more Q & A sessions without any kissing of any kind, and although nobody’s talked about it, Joe thinks it’s a concession of sorts that Paul and David have toned down their act a little. A lot, actually.

Nobody says he was right—nobody says anything at all about it—but things go more or less back to normal except occasionally David looks at him oddly, like he’s trying to figure something out. Joe hopes if David does figure out what’s going on, he’ll let him in on it too. He’s never felt so on edge about little things before, but then again, he hasn’t done a series in a long time and never like this. They’re practically living on top of one another, particularly on press tours, rooms all lining the same unremarkable hotel corridors, and he thinks maybe that’s all it is. Overexposure. He and David have been circling each other like wolves since the night at the bar, not quite sure whether they’re playing or fighting, and the cast is clearly laying odds to see how long it takes before they tear each other’s throats out. Or something.

It’s the or something that scares him.

The third convention it comes up again—the kiss, always the kiss—and Joe wants to bang his head against the table in protest when he hears David say, “You know, McKay’s already kissed Carson on the show. Maybe McKay should be kissing somebody else.”

There’s a moment of stunned silence as that seems to sink in and then it sounds like the roof’s going to lift right off the convention centre. David’s doing his trick with the microphone again, and everyone on the panel’s sitting up a little straighter, as if they’re vying for who gets kissed. Joe slings an arm over the back of his chair in a disgusted slouch. He’s never seen such vainglorious grand-standing in his entire career. Nobody but David could get away with it.

“Already kissed Carson, so he’s out.” David grins at the pun and gets an appreciative laugh from the crowd. He stands behind Torri’s chair and says, “What about Dr. McKay and Dr. Weir?”

The applause is thunderous, and Torri’s looking pretty pleased with herself. Joe knows she’ll do it—she’s got no problem kissing anyone, and neither does David, apparently. At least, that’s the way it seems. Joe really doesn’t know one way or the other, and he isn’t sure when he started caring.

“Teyla?” Somehow the response is even louder, and Rachel just gives them a “I am pleased” grin and gives David a look that seems to suggest he should remember she can beat him with sticks whenever she chooses. Joe’s seen that look before, and he knows she’s serious.

David doesn’t even hesitate for a moment before moving on to Jason, and the audience is already starting to cheer. “Oh, yeah!” and “Do it!” seem to be the two most common shouts rising up from the crowd, and Joe thinks it’s probably best the rest are blurred by the noise.

“Ronon really is hot, isn’t he?” David says, getting a rousing “yes” in answer. Even Joe can appreciate that Jason is hot, especially in those leather pants the costume people keep putting him in, but Joe’s tastes have always run a bit more on the comfortable side. Curves and solid muscles, brains and a sense of humour. He hasn’t always been picky about gender.

“But he could crush McKay like a toothpick,” Jason growls, not at all seriously, although it has the desired effect of making David slip into his “oh my god, we’re all going to die” face and hustle towards the end of the table. And Joe.

“So,” David says almost casually, although Joe can read the tension in David’s shoulders just as much as in his own. He wonders if David’s been that tense all along and he just hadn’t noticed, too worried about his own reaction. “What about Dr. McKay and Colonel Sheppard?”

David barely gets the sentence out before he’s overwhelmed with shouting. Joe didn’t actually think the crowd could get any louder, but apparently he was wrong, and who knew that a room full of mostly women really want to see two men kissing?

“Colonel?” David says, holding out his hand in a gesture that says, “it’s up to you.” It looks casual, but Joe can see it’s anything but, and it’s stupid, but he really wants this if only to get past the ridiculous notion that there’s something between them, not just Sheppard and McKay, but them, too. It’s only been two years and there are times he feels like he’s losing himself in the character and days when he has to remind himself he doesn’t actually work in another galaxy, although sometimes Vancouver comes close.

Joe’s on his feet before he realizes what he’s doing, before it sinks in that standing up is offering consent to this idiotic idea, and if he were a better actor maybe he could pull off a laconic Sheppard put-down and leave the stage before anyone kisses anyone else, but he knows he’s not going to do that, and David does too. It’s written in the smile on his face, and it’s half “McKay’s found a ZPM” and half-Hewlett, a vein of worry underneath the anticipation, but Joe reaches out and puts a hand on his arm and says, “Rodney,” and it’s as familiar as coming home.

“We probably shouldn’t do this,” David says, and clearly the audience is against that idea. Joe is too, now that they’ve gone this far, and he can still chalk it up to a lark for the fans, something crazy that David talked him into, and everyone on stage with them knows differently, but Joe’s beyond caring about that. They’re like family, anyway. Paul will punch him out if he hurts David, and Rachel will kick his ass with Teyla’s fighting sticks. Torri will console both of them over a bottle of anything imported.

“I’m m—” Married. The word’s on the tip of his tongue, but it’s not really true either. Not for a while now.

“Military,” David supplies quickly. “I know, Colonel.”

Somehow it’s easier to do this now, playing the roles, and Joe thinks David’s giving him an out. Later, he’ll be able to say it was Sheppard acting out against those oppressive military regulations, that permissive environment that living in Canada promotes, and Joe appreciates the gesture, but he isn’t sure he wants an out. He licks his lips, the way he always does when he’s nervous, and takes a step closer.

“This could be … trouble,” Joe says, his hands resting lightly on David’s hips, and if he concentrates he can almost block out the fevered shouts from the audience. This isn’t exactly how he imagined this happening.

David grins at him and tilts his head towards the crowd. “I’m sure they won’t tell.”

Joe shakes his head and reaches for David—or Sheppard reaches for McKay—and it’s as easy as if they’d rehearsed it. David’s head is already tilted and Joe brushes his lips softly, leaning into the kiss until it’s a firm point of contact, light press of mouths against one another, and Joe feels David’s hands tighten on his back in a gesture that echoes his own. They’re on a public stage with a thousand people watching, and they really shouldn’t let this get more interesting than it already is.

Behind closed eyes, Joe can feel the silver flash of way too many cameras, and somewhere in his brain he knows there’s going to be grainy out-of-focus video footage of the two of them kissing making the rounds on the Internet before the night is up. It should bother him more than it does, and he figures Torri will be the first to find and download a copy to show him. She’s good that way.

When they pull apart, David lets out a tiny sigh that Joe hopes no one else heard, and they both grin stupidly at the audience before David says, “So, maybe there’s something to all that stuff the writers keep telling us about subtext?”

Joe’s laugh is lost in the thunderous response.


He doesn’t go to the bar after everything winds down, and nobody pushes him on it, although he can see Rachel giving him an appraising look. He can see them wondering if he’s running hot and cold again, but that’s not it—he just needs a little time to process what they did this afternoon. Kissing David. On stage.

Joe wonders when he completely lost his mind. He wonders when he stopped caring about making his life more complicated that it needs to be.

He hears them when they come back to the hotel. Paul’s singing some horrendous Scottish ditty and Torri’s giggling like a mad thing. Joe’s tempted to peek out and seek what exactly the damage is, but knows he’ll be tied up with them for another hour if he lets on that he’s still up. Luckily David’s in the room next to his, and all he has to do is wait until he hears him come back.

Then … well, he still isn’t sure what, but he doesn’t feel like pretending it doesn’t matter who David kisses anymore. He can still feel the soft, sweet press of lips against his when he closes his eyes. He thinks he wants to feel it again.

He turns on the TV while he waits, and falls asleep somewhere in the middle of the second episode of McGyver. When he catches himself dozing, he isn’t sure if he’s missed David or not. He peeks into the empty hallway, and steps stealthily towards David’s door. There’s no light underneath it, and an ear pressed against it doesn’t reveal any sounds either.

“You looking for me?”

Joe turns to see David ambling down the hallway, hands in his pocket, face bearing the tell-tale flush of a night at the bar. As he gets closer, Joe can tell his hair is damp, blue shirt spotted with rain.

“Where’d you go?”

“Went for a walk.” David stops beside him and pulls out his key card. “Were you waiting for me?”

“Not exactly,” Joe says, which even to him sounds very much like yes. He’s standing entirely too close to David as he opens the door, so close he can smell the fresh scent of rain. There’s a droplet of water clinging to David’s neck and without thinking Joe reaches out a finger and rubs it away. David freezes for a moment, but when Joe doesn’t move his hand, David leans back into the touch, shoulders losing a fraction of their tension.

David glances back at him as the door swings open. His eyes are tired, as if he’s spent too much time thinking and has already predicted the probable outcome. Joe doesn’t want to be the reason for that look.

“Do you want to come in?” David asks, and it’s clear he thinks he knows what the answer’s going to be. Joe turns him gently and leans in to bring their mouths together. One solid press that says this is more than their characters, more than a tease for the fans—even if Joe’s not entirely sure what it is.

“Yes,” Joe says, following him inside where he locks the door behind them.


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