Characters: John/Rodney, spotlights on other expedition members.
Word Count: ~2,200
Timeline: Season Three
Notes: A li'l something just under the sga_santa madness wire. Err, it passes the Gender Genie test?
Summary: "No matter how clearly this casts me as the Scrooge in your little Christmas play, I simply have to remind you we have sensitive electronics equipment here that may be damaged by even the tiniest splash of hot oil!"
"Oh my God!"
The exclamation travels well into the hallway, and John picks up his pace a little. Hey, Rodney sounding as if someone had just installed a Christmas screensaver into his laptop, killed one of those not-quite-cats with blue fur on PX-139, or given the Nobel to someone else - okay, fine; it's completely normal. John's just curious (a lot more than those kittens).
Stepping into the lab, it's not so much the sight of Rodney and his flailing hands - or of Zelenka's entirely unperturbed expression - that makes John take note. No, it's the smell: cinnamon and burnt sugar, hot and wafting and making John's mouth water despite the fact he doesn't really go for sweets.
"I can't believe you did this!"
Radek doesn't smirk in response; he's more subtle than that. But John can see it's a close thing.
"No matter how clearly this casts me as the Scrooge in your little Christmas play, I simply have to remind you we have sensitive electronics equipment here that may be damaged by even the tiniest splash of hot oil!"
Hot oil? John shuffles forward and tries to see what the fuss is all about:
On one of the lab tables, someone has mounted one of the Ancient hotplates. The patterned rectangular thingies that everybody has been using as hotplates, anyway. The pan on it is from Earth, though, black and battered, and there's totally some symbolism there that John doesn't want to get into.
Simpson may be different because she steps up, cheerfully ignoring Rodney, and drops - a piece of beige into the pan. There's a noisy sizzle, and the smell of caramel is joined by that of something sweet frying.
"Second batch is almost ready," she says, throwing a smile at Radek that's, as ever, more triumphant than joyful, but that's Simpson for you, and for everybody else in the lab too. "Good thing we've cleared the area to let them all cool on the makeshift sheets." The last bit - the area cleared beforehand - is aimed at Rodney (and that's not speculation on John's part but based on the long look she gives Rodney as she says it).
"Yes, please, by all means: let's endanger a laboratory that has so far lasted only thousands of years for a few cookies!" Rodney has put his hands on his hips, staring alternately at Simpson and Zelenka, but he's losing steam. Much unlike the pan.
"Boží milosti, Rodney."
"Bless you." But Rodney sounds only mildly grumpy now, and there's a spark of curiosity in his blue eyes. "Divine - divine what?"
"Graces, Rodney. Divine Graces." Radek lifts his eyebrows meaningfully at Rodney. "I will spare you nostalgic-like talk of secret Christmas baking in Czechoslovakia, but they are what my aunt made with us every year in December on Máma's stove."
From the other side of the lab table, Miko steps up - literally; there's a stool - and peers into the pan. She looks intrigued enough that John sidles up to her ("Hey, Doctor." - "Colonel, hello!") and also stares into the pan where, in-between the bubbles, star-shaped crusts are floating, golden and crispy. Crisping, at any rate.
Miko snags one of the first-batch stars lying next to the hotplate with a grin so impish that John feels totally compelled to do the same.
Rodney throws her - and him - a baleful look. Or possibly a hungry one.
John licks his lips. The crust is pretty divine, actually, exactly what all the sugar and eggs and grease promise. "Cool," he says.
"If only," Rodney says. But when he, too, reaches out, Radek slaps his hand away, which startles not just Rodney but John and Miko. Even Simpson looks vaguely impressed with Radek being this fierce when his Christmas bakery is concerned.
"Sugar and cinnamon first," Rakek says, and okay, now there's a smirk.
Rodney lifts his chin and holds Radek's gaze, but one of those Christmas miracles is at work here because Rodney only crosses his arms - whoa, biceps - and watches Simpson dust the stars with sugar and cinnamon (and barely a grumble).
They nibble the boží milosti in almost-silence. Pretty joyful, although John thinks that the warmth he feels is probably more due to the heat of the pan and the scientists crowding him.
"Rodney, hey, wait up."
Rodney does, thankfully, and turns to look at John expectantly. "Sheppard?" There's still a dusting of sugar on his upper lip, and John is reminded of a hundred, a million terrible romantic comedies. Not that this kills the urge.
"I was just wondering, where did you learn Czech?"
"More like, when." The left side of Rodney's mouth twists up, and they start walking towards his quarters, in-step. "The answer is: all the time because even with Radek's vocabulary leaning regrettably towards expletives, you can't help picking some things up. Basic phrases only, mind you - good morning; have a nice day; you stupid bovine."
Huh. John looks at him sideways. "So, how old is Miko's niece by now?"
"Miko has a family?" Rodney blinks and frowns simultaneously. "How would I possibly know?"
"What? Why are you looking at me like this, John? Do I have something on my face?"
"No - yes, actually; um, here?" John makes a wiping motion in front of his mouth that could also signify the brushing of teeth, but Rodney gets it - gets him and then with the program while John continues, "Wanted to check if you'd been replaced by pod-Rodney, who is all about peace on Atlantis and goodwill to all scientists."
"Hardly." Now it's Rodney who's smirking, sans powdered sugar. "Work knows no holidays, and fear is a powerful motivator."
"So are cookies."
"Whatever." Rodney manages to sound pretty blasé for someone who ate roughly a dozen of them not ten minutes earlier.
They reach his door, it whooshes open, but Rodney hesitates. The hallway is dim this time of year, Atlantis having adjusted the lamps after so many personnel are home for the holidays, able to go back to Earth for the first time. The only light's coming from the inside of Rodney's room, from the desk lamp always dialed up to 'bright, possibly even brighter than Rodney.' From John's perspective, with Rodney backlit like this, it looks as if he wore a halo, which - yeah. John smiles.
"Um, did you want something?"
More like, someone. John pushes down the thought, checks out the ceiling briefly. "Nah. Good night, Rodney."
"Right. Yes. An even better night to you, although that probably means sweet dreams of blowing up a hiveship."
Way to kill the mood that Rodney isn't feeling, anyway. But he keeps his tone light. "At least three hiveships, Rodney."
Rodney smiles. There's still something - puzzled in his eyes, but he takes a careful step back into his room. "Yes, of course. As I said, good night, John!"
John is imagining the door closing a lot slower than usually. He's totally imagining it.
The next day, there are no partridges in pear trees but two emergencies ranging from minor to even more minor.
The first one involves a little bit of climbing (on John's part) and (on Rodney's part) a lot of reminding that feeding the string of lights in the gateroom directly into the Atlantis power grid was far from the best idea ever, and did Elizabeth really have to indulge the overly festive expedition members? Teyla had been interested - or at least very polite about - all aspects of Christmas, and had hung from one of the balconies by her legs to properly fasten some of the strings and was now called 'such an enabler' by Rodney (very, very quietly).
Marie also calls them into the infirmary right in the middle of lunch - John hasn't finished his turkey teryaki, and Rodney gives his almost-plum pudding cup a woeful parting gaze - because Carson pricked himself with a needle that he'd just used on the last desiccated Wraith remains in storage, consequently fainting (what? Proper medical term). John is grateful for the lack of any security breach, because Marie finds out in sixteen-and-a-half minutes that Carson is fine, his DNA untouched, and Rodney is grateful for Carson coming around to witness Rodney being the one shoving the list of Official Med Lab Safety Rules at him, for once.
It's evening again in no time, and when John drops by the lab after pep-talking the Marines, running 10K with Ronon, and taking a shower, the hotplate is cleared away, much like the cookies, only in different ways. Rodney is present, though: hunched over his keyboard, peering at the largest screen on the table with glassy eyes.
No one else is around, but it's not like John has anything to hide.
"John." Rodney is aware of his surroundings, after all, twists on his seat in a way that must be hell on his his spine. "Come to be the bearer of bad tidings?"
"Bearer of divine graces, actually." John checks the screen behind Rodney for a moment, but his Masters is simply not in Quantum Physics. "I snagged a few more cookies yesterday but am all sugared-out."
"Oh, wow. Thanks!" Rodney opens the little handkerchief John had carefully stored six boží milosti away in and happily munches on one. "Just what I needed."
"Speaking of." Rodney is still holding the cookies, but he's no longer eating them, instead picking them up, dropping them back into the hanky. "I'm obviously not an expert at reading people well - or at all - but even I can tell there's something going on under that fuzzy hair of yours."
John shrugs. "Not thinking about much."
"Par for the course, then." But the sarcasm doesn't obscure what's beneath. "So, it's, uh. An emotional - thing?"
John keeps staring at him, because, honestly -
"Right, right, even if, you couldn't possibly talk about it; what was I thinking, ashes on my head, yadda yadda yadda." Rodney's grin is awkward, and not familiar. "But hmm, how about this: What would be the 'coolest' Christmas gift you can think of right now?"
That one comes out of left field, so John's reaction comes out in a drawl, "Why, Rodney; I never knew you'd really get me that fighter jet. Can I have a neat red bow too?"
A snort. Rodney is unimpressed. "Flyboy dodge. Try something smaller."
"Smaller than a bread-box?"
"If that's what you want."
"A mistletoe." Okay, that's - not the best response. John doesn't often talk before he thinks (although his mind is generally sufficiently fast that he can to both at the same time).
But Rodney doesn't look shocked. Not even all that surprised. John's feels a lot more taken aback than Rodney looks, his heart hammering in his chest and his - not fuzzy, thanks - head a little floaty. "Now we're getting somewhere. I think." Rodney leans back a little, concentrating, and then jumps up so fast he almost bumps into John - his warmth palpable, not helping John with the weirdness.
"John, come with me."
"If I want to live?"
Rodney's grin is almost cocky now: McKay on the verge of a new and ground-breaking discovery. "Maybe? Don't talk, just walk."
John can do that - can follow a Rodney who's suddenly in a hurry through the corridors of Atlantis until they reach the living quarters again. The hallway, when they get there, is deserted, as expected, but the door they're stopping at is not Rodney's and not John's. Before John's able to ask, Rodney is pointing upwards, a little breathless (likely from the run only).
"See? I remembered correctly that Chuck had put it up."
Right. Mistletoe, a pretty wilted branch. The weird feeling is back at full force. "McKay -" but John doesn't know what to say, not really. He wants to do, as always.
"Right. Here goes nothing." And Rodney does it, tugs John closer by the lapels of his jacket with a gesture that's impatient, familiar like John's own hands. John leans down willingly, and not very far either: He and Rodney have always seen eye to eye in more than all those metaphorical ways.
And yeah, wow, they're kissing. Rodney's hand is on his shoulders, is curling around his hip - twin points of heat - and the kiss goes from kinda-tentative to fucking-hot in a nanosecond. John runs his fingers up and down Rodney's arms, pushes against his solid, solid strength. Turns out this part is not hard, except where it is.
Damn good thing that Rodney's room is not far away, in the end.
When they're almost asleep under Rodney's slightly stifling blanket, Rodney speaks up again, voice contemplative. "You know, John, why I asked Radek for clarification of the cookie name?"
"...I'm sure you'll tell me in a second?"
"Well, naturally: milosti is 'graces,' fair enough. But milostný means 'erotic, amorous.' And when you brought me the cookies earlier, I just - my mind connected the dots, all of them. There are a lot, you know?"
Yeah, John kinda does. "As long as you're the only one doing the connecting, that's cool."
"I'd prefer to say that's fine -"
And John twists around and shuts Rodney up with a kiss.