Feedback: Love it.
Warnings: Angst, humor, snark
Summary: The flutter of warmth in the pit of his stomach had nothing to do with Sheppard and everything to do with Radek's horrible rock gut.
A/N: This is for buddhawitch who requested McKay/Sheppard, humor and snark. There's angst thrown in for good measure.
Word count: 3020
Beta'ed by: Tandelle
Secret Santa Surprise
"I was thinking about doing a Secret Santa this year." Sheppard drawled in his laid-back manner, boyish grin at full brilliance as he suggested the idea in the briefing. It was a rare occurrence to have downtime between one crisis and the next, and Sheppard wanted to do some morale building coinciding with the holidays back on Earth.
"Oh, for crying out loud!" McKay's impatient rebuff made the grin falter momentarily, but it lit back up quickly, even if it was slightly forced. Blue eyes glared at Sheppard from over the laptop. "Do you have any idea of the amount of work there is to do? No, of course not, so let me explain in terms you understand. Taking time off for such mundane exercises is - "
"Rodney." Weir's stern tone cut him off. "I think it would be a wonderful idea and a well needed break from all the hard work everyone's been doing. "
"What is this Secret Santa you speak of?" Teyla asked.
"It's part of an Earth holiday tradition," Weir warmed up to the topic, happy to divert attention from McKay's fuming. "Santa was a figure in stories, who brought toys to children who were good. With the Secret Santa, everyone draws the name of someone and gets them a gift."
"And it's anonymous. The person getting the gift doesn't know who the giver is." Sheppard added in quickly with a smirk. "To add to the mystery..."
"So there's no evidence to trace back to the perpetrator." McKay snorted, typing into his laptop as he worked, not bothering to look up.
"I'll leave it to you then, Col. Sheppard, to make the arrangements? And if anyone gives you a hard time about it, inform them that it's mandatory." She threw a glance at the brooding scientist and bit back a sigh when he completely ignored her in favor of whatever he was working on.
The lazy smile was back. "Be happy to."
"It's a stupid idea!" McKay's tirade could be heard echoing down the halls as he stormed off towards his lab after the meeting in Dr. Weir's office.
"What do you have against Christmas?" Sheppard was curious as to why his best friend was so vehemently opposed to the holiday festivities. "If you'd rather celebrate Hanukah - "
The scowl indicated that wasn't the case. "Please! Do you think I care what anyone wants to celebrate? But when it starts to interfere with work - "
"Ah humbug and all that?" That comment earned Sheppard a glare. "Come on Rodney, it's for fun and you've been working too hard. All work and no play makes Rodney very grumpy. Besides, I could really use your help with this project. I was thinking, aside from the Secret Santa gift giving, that everyone should receive a special present from home. There isn't much time and the Daedalus only has two more trips here before - "
"You do know you're out of your mind, right?"
McKay could feel his irritation easing under the weight of that look. "Puppy dog eyes aren't going to get you out of this mess, Colonel. You're on your own for this one." The smirk was more for show and McKay fled before further pouting could completely erode his will power.
Three days later, McKay was looking down at the still figure on the infirmary bed. Their latest mission had ended badly. Moments after crossing through the orbiting Stargate of a planet that showed promising readings, they'd been attacked by another ship. Sheppard had been critically injured in the initial attack and McKay found himself in the unwelcome position of trying to outrun and out dodge an enemy with technology that almost rivaled that of the Ancients. With a damaged jumper and a dying team member, it had taken all his tremendous genius to pull off a save and get them back home.
When Dr. Beckett had walked out of the surgical bay after six hours of surgery, it was to announce that Sheppard would live but had to remain in a medically induced coma while the injuries healed. The Scot had warned that it might be a few weeks before Sheppard woke up and that, along with some physical therapy, short-term amnesia was a likely possibility.
It was late and McKay still felt wired from all that had happened, his hands were still shaking. "If you ever put me in the position of having to fly the jumper in a combat situation again, Colonel, I will personally make your life a living hell." A quick glance around revealed that the night staff in the infirmary were busy with other duties and the scientist quickly brushed the thick and surprisingly soft hair from Sheppard's forehead. "And I will never forgive you for passing the task of Secret Santa on to me." Another nervous glance around and McKay leaned down, brushing his lips across Sheppard's warm cheek. "I fully expect you to wake up in time for the stupid gift giving event, or Santa will personally put coal in your shoe this year."
"You are doing this, why?" Zelenka asked as they worked in the lab the next day. It was late and everyone else had gone to bed.
McKay scowled, hoping to avoid having explain to Zelenka - or himself - why he'd taken over Sheppard's Secret Santa project. "I was volunteered." There was enough sarcasm injected into the comment for Zelenka to draw the incorrect conclusion that McKay had been unwillingly assigned the task.
"And you will appoint who is everyone's Secret Santa?"
"Do you have a problem with that?"
Zelenka merely shrugged. "I do not, others may."
"Your faith in me, as usual, is astounding." McKay mocked his companion. "Names have been randomly selected by a computer program and emailed to the appropriate persons. Everyone should have received their assignments by now. Even I don't know who I've got until I read said email."
"With instructions?" The Czech was fond of baiting his friend, especially if it kept his mind off of the wounded Colonel in the infirmary. It was hard not to smile at the condescending look McKay gave him. "Of course. It is probably sixty-three pages of instructions. Best I start reading now." Zelenka began closing up his work. "To bed, Rodney. Even you must rest."
McKay rubbed his hands over his face for a moment, mentally running through an inventory of work still awaiting his attention. "Soon."
"No. Work can wait, you go to bed now."
"I don't need looking after!" There wasn't the usual edge of snark to the tone and despite his protest, McKay started shutting down his laptop.
Shaking his head, Zelenka muttered in his native language about accident prone Air Force Colonels and lovesick Canadians as he steered the latter out of the lab.
"We are breaking thirty-four regulations. May I inquire as to why?" Hermiod asked as they made adjustments to the transport beam.
"Thirty-seven." McKay corrected the Asgard Engineer. "You are doing this so the smut-starved crew of the Daedalus doesn't discover who removed every solitary piece of pornography onboard." A smug smile crossed the human's face when the naked alien blushed.
"And your reason?"
"So there's no evidence to trace back to the perpetrator." McKay muttered under his breath, checking the time. It had taken all his resources, as well as a plea to Dr. Daniel Jackson for help (McKay swore to the archeologist that he'd lost a bet but he wasn't sure Jackson bought it), to gather all the gifts from Earth and have them secretly stashed onboard the Daedalus. All in all, eighty-nine violations could be pegged on this little venture over the course of the two trips. Anyone who had expressed concern that McKay had been more erratic than usual had promptly found themselves on the receiving end of his best imitation of Sheppard's little, lost puppy look, while simultaneously being reminded of his concern for the Colonel. Shockingly, it had worked.
Not that he hadn't been concerned. Sheppard had taken his damned time to wake up from the coma - three weeks t be precise - and another two weeks on from that Sheppard was still enduring painful physical therapy that left him exhausted and short tempered.
But McKay had made a promise. He'd never imagined just how time consuming the project would be and now, thankfully, it was almost completed.
"Transport…now!" It had taken careful timing and more than a few acts of sabotage to keep the transport from showing up on any of the sensors aboard the Daedelus or on Atlantis, and McKay held his breath for several seconds.
"Transport is complete." The small, gray alien looked at him. "I am prepared to return you to Atlantis. I hope your endeavors prove worthwhile." Before McKay could comment, there was a bright flash of light and he too, was whisked away from the scene of the crime.
"What are you griping about? It's finally time for your idiotic Secret Santa Project and you, Colonel Sheppard, are the guest of honor." McKay scolded a despondent Sheppard as they made their way down the hall. He would have gotten more cooperation from a group of hyperactive, sugar dosed three-year-olds than this one gloomy Colonel.
"And I was the one to bring this idea up in the briefing?" Sheppard asked again, a look of skepticism on his face.
"Yes, you were. You seemed pretty excited about the idea too..in a shifty and repressed kind of way."
Beckett's warning of short term memory loss had been right on target, but fortunately this memory loss seemed to encompass a period of only about a day, at most. Weir had reminded Sheppard of his Secret Santa idea, but Sheppard's response then had been much the same as right now, as if he couldn't believe he would have brought up such a ludicrous idea.
"Oh, God's nightgown!" The sharp growl was startling to hear after Sheppard's listless manner of the last few weeks.
"What?" McKay was snatched from his thoughts abruptly. "And what, in the name of God, is God's Nightgown?"
Sheppard pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes tightly shut. "It was something my mother used to say when someone did or said something incredibly stupid." He looked at McKay. "Did you really agree to all of this?"
McKay huffed at the very thought, hoping he wasn't blushing, a part of his brain wondering at all the odd sayings Americans generated on a seemingly hourly basis. "Hardly, but you know how Elizabeth is about morale building and all of that ridiculous nonsense."
Soft music and occasional laughter could be heard outside the doors to the large room that was now used as the cafeteria. Something twisted in McKay's gut and he held his breath, wondering if Sheppard would approve; wondering when the hell he'd started needing anyone's approval so damn much.
"Time to greet the adoring masses." He spoke quickly. With that he opened the door, not giving Sheppard a chance to back out.
McKay had seen the room earlier, heavily laden with various items traditional to an Earth Christmas. It had been decorated in a fashion that only Dr. Jackson could have put together so flawlessly. Standing to one side was a huge evergreen, decked out in all it's glory. There were lights and candles, glass balls and smiling, rosy cheeked Santas. Fake snow, stockings and holly were just a few more of the decorations filling the room, giving it an atmosphere reminiscent of Christmas at home.
It felt strange to have worked so hard and so long, just to gain a smile. But seeing the first genuine smile on Sheppard's face since he'd regained consciousness, McKay decided it had been well worth the effort. It had been worth the violations and the loss of sleep, worth having to eavesdrop, bug rooms, and sneak peeks through nearly every personnel file just to find out what each person might enjoy getting from home. And all that effort hadn't even included a list of gifts for the Athosians on the mainland. McKay was forever grateful for Dr. Jackson's help in selecting presents for them and their children. When the Daedalus returned to Earth, three carefully selected, brightly wrapped packages would end up in the hands of the archeologist.
But right this instant, all that mattered were those suspiciously wet, hazel eyes and the look of awe and wonderment on Sheppard's face as he stood there, staring at the incredibly moving sight before him. The crowded room had grown quiet when they entered, all but a skeleton crew left to run the city. Sheppard's smile grew as he took in the faces of his friends and he clapped McKay on the back.
"Did someone say something about a party?" the little boy look had finally reclaimed it's place on his face.
The room broke out into a roar of cheers.
McKay lay in bed, warm and comfortable, an alcohol-induced contentment ruling both mind and body. Gazing at the ceiling, he found himself thinking over the night's events. Despite his reservations about such social gatherings, the night had gone off surprisingly well, with everyone having a good time. Even Kavanaugh hadn't complained, enjoying the party as much as everyone else for a change.
The night, however, had belonged to Sheppard, who had taken it upon himself to hand out the Secret Santa presents. He'd reclaimed his former humor and charisma, something that had been sorely lacking in the past few weeks and the despondent mood had vanished in the face of the celebrations. McKay had nearly hyperventilated when Sheppard got to his own present, and wasn't it just McKay's luck to have drawn Sheppard's name for the Secret Santa? It was a night of priceless smiles, especially when Sheppard had opened his present and found a fully working, miniature Ferris Wheel. That moment had been the best gift McKay had ever received.
The warm buzz in the pit of his stomach had absolutely nothing to do with Sheppard and everything to do with Radek's horrible rock gut. Inebriation was what had made his body tingle upon inspecting his own present while those hazel eyes watched. There had been no mistaking who his own Secret Santa was, not with the Air Force pilot wings that had been nestled in the brightly wrapped box.
Those wings were currently pinned to his shirt, right over his heart. McKay lay there, reliving the moment when Sheppard had taken the box from his trembling hands and pinned them on in front of everyone.
"Though most pilots are required to fly a straight line," laughter erupted from the audience, "you've more than earned these."
"No more teasing?"
A twinkle lit up those hazel eyes. "There will always be teasing, Rodney."
Shortly after, the presents from Earth had been produced and there had been all out chaos at the unexpected surprise.
Rodney's reminiscing was interrupted by a soft knocking at the door. He glanced at the clock, wondering who it could be at this late hour. "Come in," he called out, not bothering to get up. Hopefully the city wasn't about to sink or blow up or anything else on the ever-lengthening list of possible disasters that would require his expert attention.
Sheppard entered, a gentle smile on his lips. "Too much of Radek's brew?"
"I'm fine." Rodney responded, lacking his usual sharpness. He could feel that unsettled flutter returning to his stomach. "All tucked in bed, safe and sound." John dropped down to sit on the side of the bed, that thick, black hair impossibly rakish as those dark, dark eyes looked down at him. John's expression was thoughtful and probing.
"For what?" Rodney blinked, certain his eyes were playing tricks on him and convinced himself that Sheppard was not leaning closer.
"Do you know why I wanted you to help with the Secret Santa project?"
It was suddenly difficult to draw in enough air. Perhaps Radek had used citrus in his still. "You remember?"
The Air Force Colonel nodded slowly, his gaze intense. "It took awhile. The clue bus had to literally run me over, but the morning I brought up the crazy idea, I finally got it."
"Got what?" It was barely above a whisper, every nerve in tune with the man sitting next to him, warm and alive and so damned close.
"This." And then warm lips pressed against his own, sending the room spinning around him. When John pulled back, his eyes were burning with a combination of desire and affection. Then John was suddenly discarding his clothes until, clad only in boxes, he slid beneath covers and pulled Rodney into his arms for another searing kiss.
Much later, as the first rays of morning light brightened the skies, and their bodies remained tangled around each other, John nipped gently at Rodney's ear. "Christmas sex, now there's a tradition worth starting."
Rodney snorted. "Are you saying we can only have sex once a year?"
"No, I was thinking we celebrate Christmas several times a day, year round." The leer was followed by teeth as they gently scraped down Rodney's neck..
"Oh. Oh!" Brain cells were definitely being killed off. "I can work with that."
"Then you better get some rest while you can, the day is just starting."
Rodney knew there was a stupid grin on his face, but he didn't really care. He snuggled in closer to the lean, warm body beside him, not sure what he'd done to deserve this, but he certainly wasn't stupid enough to ask any questions.
"Merry Christmas, John."