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Fic: O Christmas Tree! (Gen, PG)

Title: O Christmas Tree!
Author: x_varda_x
Recipient: linziday
Pairing: Gen
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I don't own anything apparently
Summary: Unfortunately for Rodney, putting up Christmas decorations is a perilous activity. Set in Season 3. About 4k.
Author's Notes: linziday requested a good old fashioned Rodney h/c story. Maybe something that takes place around Christmastime. I hope this suits. Happy Christmas!

It was the third Christmas on Atlantis when an agreement was reached. Rather than use the small and sad plastic tree the Daedalus had brought for the Mess Hall, the occupants of Atlantis would find their own real tree. In a galaxy where many planets were covered in pine forests, it shouldn't be too difficult a task to find one the right size to fit through the gate.

Elizabeth quickly authorised the use of personnel and equipment to find a suitable tree. With the Wraith an ever circling threat, morale was often in short supply, so why not spruce up the place with some festive decorations and have a party?

The marines took their roles enthusiastically, felling the tree Rodney and his team had measured and picked out as close to the gate as they could. The scientists moved aside for the marines as they lashed ropes around the trunk at strategic intervals.

"Careful!" Rodney shouted as they secured the ropes to the waiting Jumper and it lifted off.

"I got it, McKay," John replied over the comm.

"Well, this isn't exactly a good use of my time, but try not to wreck too many branches as I don't want to do this again."

"I'm being careful," John drawled. "It's only once a year, McKay."

"Still too often in my book," he mumbled back.

He watched with the others as the Jumper flew towards the gate a couple of miles away. It was out of his hands now and he sighed heavily as he gathered up his gear and his team and they made their way back to the gate.

*
***
*****


Installing the tree in the mess hall went smoothly as planned too. John flew the Jumper through the gate at low speed, dragging the tree along behind. Once through, the tree was stopped by the steps in the gate room and was lifted up into the Jumper Bay where it hung under the ship.

John nudged the Jumper to keep going up and up and out the top of the bay into the sky above Atlantis. He flew it round to the window Maintenance had taken out and tipped the Jumper so that the tree swung inside. It was grabbed by many pairs of waiting hands that then cut the ropes binding it.

Rodney and his overeager squad of scientists soon returned, including one Radek Zelenka bouncing on his feet and positively beaming like a Cheshire Cat.

"What are you so happy about?" Rodney asked as they made their way to the mess hall, each carrying large boxes full of lights and tinsel and baubles to adorn the tree.

"Did you see the size of it?" Radek's grin broadened.

"Yes, it's a big tree. And the prize for observation goes to..."

"Doctor Weir said that it only just fit through the gate. Nearly hit Chuck as it came through."

"And now there are thousands of pine needles and branches all over the gate room floor. It's downright dangerous, anyone could slip over on those."

"The marines are clearing them up already," Radek said, his smile faltering slightly.

"Well, I'd rather be doing something useful."

"This is useful. You are just a big... pooper."

Rodney's mouth downturned. "I am not a 'pooper,' I just don't like Christmas or anything associated with it."

Radek shrugged as best he could with his heavy crate. "Lighten up, Rodney. It is only once a year."

"That's what Sheppard said."

"We cannot both be wrong. Here we are."

There was shouting coming from up ahead, along with an ominous creaking sound. Rodney and Radek slowed down as they approached the door to the mess hall and tentatively stepped inside. They were greeted by the sight of at least twenty marines wrestling with the tree to get it into the large pot full of soil the botanists had prepared for them.

Sheppard came jogging in and spoke into Rodney's ear, making him jump. "It fitted."

"Clearly."

The maintenance staff were working on replacing the window panes, checking diagrams and photos they had taken before they removed them.

John added, "Not too many branches lost."

Rodney dumped his box on the ground and Radek did the same. He studied the tree and quirked an eyebrow. "I don't know, Sheppard. It looks a bit lopsided."

John tilted his head. "Must've been that last drag towards the gate. We'll have to get a big net next year and tie it up."

Rodney frowned. "I don't think I'll be doing this again next year."

Just then several marines called out as the tree tilted and nearly went over. A quick tug on the ropes opposite and the trunk slammed into the pot. The tree wobbled for a moment and then stayed still. Gradually the marines let go of their ropes and cheered.

Rodney muttered, "Doesn't look very safe to me."

John said, "Looks good. Come on, it'll be better once there are some decorations on it. Let's go."

Rodney sighed and backed away. "Good luck with that. I've got some real work to do."

"Come on, McKay. Weir said you could help and it'll be fun."

"Fun?" Rodney folded his arms over his chest and scowled. "No. Fun is when the Wraith next come and we were too busy putting up a Christmas tree to streamline the city cloaking procedure. Fun is when we run out of drones in the next dart attack as we were partying instead of out there looking for replacements."

John frowned at him. "One hour. That's all I ask. One hour to put them up with us then you can do whatever you like."

Radek was co-ordinating with the marines for them to go and get the rest of the decorations and a few ladders to turn the mess hall into a sparkly maze. He came back and said, "We'll need your help with these Ancient lights as well."

Rodney snorted. "I don't think that's too difficult. Even you could do that, Radek."

The Czech glared at him and muttered something less than complimentary in Czech under his breath as he stalked away.

John threw Rodney a heavy bag stuffed with tinsel. It hit him in the chest and he caught it with an oomph.

"Thank you," he said without meaning it as he shoved his hand inside and pulled out the end of a gold piece. He sighed and went over to the tree with Sheppard who was holding a box of baubles.

"Can't you just throw them on or something?" Rodney said. "No need to hook them on properly."

"Where's the fun in that?" John asked with a smirk as he slowly and deliberately put the first bauble on one of the bottommost branches. Several others who happened to still be in the mess hall joined in. Rodney kept his face in a grimace to hide what he was really feeling as he looped the tinsel around the branches with an annoyed sigh every few seconds. He would need a ladder soon, but contented himself to kill the bottom of the tree with glitz.

The tinsel caught on one of a particularly spiky area of needles clinging to the branch and he tugged it with a huff.

So it turned out, that was a bad idea, for the tree creaked and decided the pot it had been placed in was unsubstantial for its weight.

Rodney turned to look at the tree just in time to see it falling towards him. He held up his hands, one still holding and end of tinsel, in a vain attempt to ward it off and prevent injury. Unfortunately for him, in a battle between tree and McKay, tree won this time. He felt it hit him, an inexorably heavy weight filling his nose with the smell of damp pine, that forced him to the floor and as it came down on him he felt a sudden sharp pain and then there was nothing.

*
***
*****


John was idly tossing baubles on the tree to try and cheer up Rodney, when he saw it tilt slightly. He backed away in time to hear it groan ominously. He called out to clear the area, but there was still one man in its path as it tipped over. He watched in helpless horror as the tree swallowed Rodney into its branches and it came down on top of him.

John quickly shook himself out of his shock and tapped his radio. "Medical team to the mess hall." He flipped channels, "Colonel Sheppard to Control Room... Chuck, put me on citywide."

Speed was essential if the tree had crushed Rodney so badly he couldn't breathe.

"This is Colonel Sheppard. There's been an accident, all personnel in the vicinity report to the mess hall at once. The tree we brought back has fallen on Doctor McKay and he's trapped."

He struggled to keep his voice steady. People had already started tugging at the tree, trying to lift it off the man trapped underneath, but John hollered above their frantic and disorganised mutterings. "Don't touch it! You could unsettle it and make things worse!"

Radek was on his hands and knees trying to find Rodney. "Or we could make it worse by doing nothing." Radek suddenly recoiled and rubbed his fingers together.

John didn't need to ask as he had already seen the red smear Radek had found.

"Rodney?" Zelenka asked the branches. "Can you hear me?"

Sheppard went over as many people started to come into the mess hall, but there was no sign of the medical team yet.

"McKay!" John shouted, making the Czech scientist flinch.

There was a slight rustle but no other sounds.

"Orders, sir?" Lorne asked from behind Sheppard.

The Colonel spun around, grateful that most who were there were level headed marines unlike the civilians who sometimes panicked in despair.

John co-ordinated them to fasten the ropes under the trunk and lift it up. They carried it away from the area and placed it flat on the floor at a safe distance.

John was the first one to reach Rodney's side where he lay sprawled out on his back. His right forearm was pressed flat against his chest and his sleeve was damp. The tinsel was still clutched in his right hand, but John didn't dare move the arm as it looked to be badly crushed. Rodney's chest was moving shallowly through breath, so he let it be. John took in more of his injured friend and winced in sympathy at how Rodney was covered in painful looking cuts that steadily bled so that it was hard to see where the worst injuries were. John quickly shrugged off his jacket, bundled it up and carefully placed it under Rodney's head.

"Stay with us, McKay." John said.

Radek knelt down on Rodney's other side and shared a troubled glance with John. But at least they knew that Rodney was alive from the blood that was still leaking from him.

"Rodney," Radek said. "Carson will be here soon to help."

John picked shards of smashed baubles, broken branches and pine needles off Rodney's clothes, but then he found a large star that he remembered putting on the tree, fully intending to move it higher once the ladders arrived. The star didn't move when he made a grab for it, and blood flowed out all around it from where it was on Rodney's thigh. Or more accurately, sticking out of Rodney's thigh.

"Where's that medical team!" John shouted.

Rodney's face scrunched up and he moaned quietly. His eyes fluttered briefly and then opened. John was greeted by a curious expression at first, but then Rodney's brow furrowed and he closed his eyes again tightly as he started to shift.

"Don't move, Rodney," John said as he held both sides of Rodney's head to keep his neck still. There was already a dark bruise on Rodney's cheek and a gash on his forehead. Radek took Rodney's free hand in a loose grip and Rodney squeezed back.

"Nice tree," Rodney said sleepily and then winced, his eyes still closed. "Reminds me of home."

John asked, "Not Christmas?"

Rodney narrowly opened his eyes and looked up at John. He closed them again and gritted his teeth. "Do you want to know why I hate Christmas so much?"

"Alright."

"It's because I'm always alone. At least I was until I came here. No party invites, no presents. Nothing. Just a day alone with a turkey dinner for one. I used to put up decorations, but found there was no point after a few years. The worst thing being that everywhere was shut, so I couldn't even go into work to take my mind off it."

"Things are better now, Rodney. You need to learn that there are parties here and there are decorations. You can join in and you are invited to everything."

"But coming here has made me realise all the things I've missed. Anyway, I think I'll get out of it this year. Maybe every year as I won't be around much longer."

"Don't talk like that! It's not too bad. If you can speak, you'll be fine."

There was activity on the other side of the mess hall and John looked up to see Carson and his team wheeling a gurney and carrying bags of gear. The Scottish Doctor could be as loud as any drill sergeant when he wanted to and he was currently shouting at the gathered crowds to move out the way.

Once he caught sight of Rodney's twisted body where he lay deathly still, his face fell in worry and then hardened as he barked out orders to his staff. John caught a few words here and there, and Carson's muttered complaint about Transporters being full of people rushing to help Rodney.

John and Radek were moved out of the way as gloved hands replaced theirs. A brace was wrapped around Rodney's neck and an oxygen mask placed over his face. IV lines jabbed into his hands and the last thing John saw before the painkillers rendered Rodney unconscious was a small smile aimed in his direction.

Carson said, "Ignore the smaller cuts. Get some pressure bandages around that... is that a star in his leg?"

John looked away guiltily as Carson shook his head with a sigh and then continued, "Don't touch his arm or chest for now, he's still breathing and I'd like to keep it that way. We'll sort it out in surgery."

The tinsel was cut where Rodney held it with a death grip that uncurling the fingers attached to his bad arm may damage it further. A backboard was then slid underneath him and he was soon on the gurney and being pushed out of the mess hall between the crowd of onlookers.

John looked down at the floor where Rodney had been only moments before. There were many pine needles and small branches there, and mixed with them was blood making a sticky paste that smelt of tree and metal.

Teyla and Ronon were there in the crowd and they came over to John and Radek.

Ronon looked down at the mess Rodney had made and said, "We heard what happened."

"But we did not get here in time," Teyla added, looking sad.

"It's okay," John said, although not really feeling very okay himself. "I think he'll be alright. Come on, let's clear this up while Carson sorts Rodney out."

*
***
*****


Rodney was in surgery for several hours before a tired, but upbeat Carson emerged and went to his anxiously waiting team.

He smiled at them and John breathed a sigh of relief as he silently thanked the Ancients or whoever it was who was watching over them, if anyone.

Carson said, "Barring complications, Rodney will be fine. His arm took the weight of the tree. From the way it was fractured, we suspect that the trunk was pressing him down the whole time it took you to lift the tree off him. Although we had to pin the bones back in place, his arm protected his chest and internal organs from any major damage other than bruising."

Ronon asked, "So he wasn't breathing?"

"Aye, we don't think so. But the scanners couldn't detect any damage from that. We'll have to wait until he comes round from the anaesthetic to run some more tests."

"He'll enjoy that," John said.

Carson sighed before he said, "He was lucky none of those branches impaled him."

John winced, while Ronon's face was set in steel and Teyla's mouth thinned in worry.

Carson's expression lifted. "We'll keep him in for observation and testing, he should be out in a few days in time for Christmas."

"Can we see him?" Teyla asked.

"Aye, but only for a couple of minutes. He should still be sleeping."

John, Teyla and Ronon went into the isolation room where Rodney was lying on the bed. His colour was better than it had been in the mess hall and all the blood had been cleaned off his skin, revealing lots of small cuts and dark bruises that spread across his face and down his neck. John saw that even his collar bone was visibly bruised from where it was barely visible above the scrub top he wore. John dreaded to think what the rest of Rodney's body looked like.

The arm was the worst thing having taken the brunt of the impact so that the bones had been broken right through the skin. Carson's team had wrapped it up in thick bandages after the surgery and it lay above the sheet by his side.

There were not very many machines around him though and for that John was glad. A heart monitor beeped softly as an IV line dripped fluids into the back on his uninjured hand and the cannula looped under his nose fed him oxygen.

While being careful of the needle, Teyla took Rodney's free hand and held on. Ronon folded his arms and said, "Tree wrestling was practised on Sateda. I'll have to give you some lessons, McKay."

John's eyebrows rose, "Tree wrestling, really?"

"Sure. You have to be strong to lift them."

"Strange."

Carson had come in while they were watching Rodney and said, "There's nothing strange about that, Colonel. The Highland Games have tree tossing, but it doesn't compare to what Rodney went through."

He proceeded to shoo them out, citing the need for his patient to rest without them speaking over him.

*
***
*****


Rodney hobbled into the Mess Hall at lunch time a few days later. His right arm was held in a sling where his forearm was still heavily bandaged. In his left hand he held a crutch so that he could limp over to his team's table. He shot the giant tree in the corner a nervous glance, but was less fearful when he saw the 'exclusion zone' drawn on the floor around the killer conifer. There were also thick thick ropes lashed around the trunk which were in turn attached to the wall. It looked like someone had pulled off some panels, effectively turning that section of wall into a pillar to support the tree.

The whole tree was a rainbow of colour where tinsel and baubles and angels and all manner of decorations had been hung on its branches. Rodney narrowed his eyes when he thought he saw Wraith stunners and drained power crystals hanging instead of baubles on some branches along with other components he hoped weren't too vital elsewhere.

Rodney gingerly sat down when Teyla stood and pulled a chair out for him. He sighed and closed his eyes for a moment to get his breath back.

Teyla sat down again and looked at him in concern. "How are you today, Rodney? Are you sure you should be out of the infirmary?"

"I'm fine." Which just went to show that he wasn't. He reached inside his sling and pulled out a large pot of painkillers. "I've got a star stabbed leg, a concussion and cuts that kept Carson and his team of busy butchers stitching for quite a while."

Teyla frowned in concern, but Rodney waved her off with a shallow laugh and grimace. "Some of these bruises are interesting shapes. Sheppard needs to learn that the star goes on top of the tree."

John and Ronon joined them, each carrying two trays. Ronon gave his spare to Teyla and John slid his extra over to McKay.

Ronon was just about to tuck in when he frowned at Rodney intently and then reached across.

Rodney shut his eyes and drew back as far as he could. When he opened them, Ronon had picked something out of his hair and grunted in surprise as he examined it.

Rodney already knew what it was though. "I swear, I'm still finding pine needles in my hair! And all I can smell is wet tree."

"Well, that's better than the other thing," Ronon said.

Rodney didn't really want to ask so he pushed a spoon around in the soup John had fetched. He looked longingly at the steak Ronon was devouring, but at a glance from the eater, he quickly desisted and shovelled some of the liquid into his mouth. There was blue jello too, but that would have to wait.

John reached into his pocket and pulled out a short piece of sad looking gold tinsel and laid it down in the middle of the table. He said to Rodney, "You wouldn't let go of it, even after the tree fell."

"Hmm, well, I like tinsel. But after that, I'm not sure how much it likes me."

Teyla furrowed her brow. "It is Christmas Eve and there is a party tonight if you are feeling well enough, Rodney."

He grumbled something about always working and getting out of it the past two years.

"Maybe it is time for a change this year," Teyla said. "As you are not yet allowed back on duty."

Rodney opened his mouth to protest, but Teyla was too quick for him. "Not even light duties yet unless I am mistaken. Therefore you have no excuse to miss the event this year."

She smiled at him and Rodney shook his head. "I don't know..."

John said, "We'll drop you off at your quarters after lunch and you can get all rested up."

Rodney's mouth opened again.

"We'll be round at 7 to wake you up and help you get ready," Ronon said.

"You do have party clothes, right?" John asked with a small smile.

"No, I only wear uniforms all the time," came Rodney's sarcastic response.

"Well, I'm sure Ronon's got something you could wear," John said.

Ronon nodded and stopped eating for a moment to ask, "Skin or fur?"

Rodney shuddered and winced. He had just finished the broth and was quick to spoon down the jello before his team escorted him back to his quarters.

John took Rodney's free arm, while Teyla carried the crutch and Ronon hovered and glared at anyone in the corridor who tried to push past them, forcing them to flatten themselves against the wall.

"Can I borrow you until my leg doesn't feel like it's being pulled open?" Rodney breathed heavily to John. "Much better than that useless stick Carson gave me."

"Only if you give me back. Besides, I don't know, McKay. It's bad enough being called a baby sitter, I don't really want to be a walking aid too."

Rodney gave him a lopsided smile. "Well, it doesn't hurt to ask, and the hurt would be even less if you had said yes."

They reached Rodney's quarters and John carefully deposited him on the bed. The injured scientist downed a couple of painkillers and was soon snoring softly. Before they went, John laid the piece of tinsel down on Rodney's table and Teyla shared a look of understanding with him.

Ronon patted Rodney's leg and said, "We'll be back for you later, don't forget, McKay."

Rodney murmured in his sleep and his nose wrinkled a little, making everyone in his team smile before they left him in peace.
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