sgasesa_admin (sgasesa_admin) wrote in sga_santa,

Fic: The Company Holiday Party

Title: The Company Holiday Party
Author: millefiori
Pairing: Sheppard/McKay
Rating: PG
Recipient: hyperfocused
Spoilers: None
Summary: Atlantis is having a winter holiday party. What could possibly go wrong?
Author's Note: Happy holidays, HYPERFocused! Of all the things you said you'd like, I went for a 'slice of life' -- I hope you enjoy it!

John decided this had to be the most tedious, boring senior staff meeting ever. He sighed, trying to remember that peace and quiet and long, crisis-free days were good things. If it was also a little boring, well, that was just too bad for him. He took a sip of coffee and tried to look attentive as Carson nattered on and on and on about some new bit of Ancient technology and its implications for…something vitally important to geneticists everywhere.

Rodney, he noticed, did not even bother to feign interest, but tapped away at his laptop. John again regretted not bringing his own laptop. Playing solitaire would be better than this. Watching paint dry would be better than this.

“…do you think, John?”

“Hmm?” He looked over at Elizabeth, racking his brain for something intelligent, yet noncommittal to say.

“I don’t see why anyone in the military contingent would object if inclusion were voluntary,” Rodney said, taking pity on him. “That is what they’re here for, isn’t it?”

That could mean anything coming from Rodney, but Elizabeth’s nod reassured him that—this time at least—Rodney’s comment wasn’t anything to worry about and John nodded too, as if he’d agreed all along.

Rodney, who wasn’t fooled, rolled his eyes. “I’ll copy you on the email, Colonel, and you can decide who you want to send it on to.”

“Thanks, Rodney,” he said, still confused. At least there would be an email to help him figure it out, assuming Rodney didn’t enlighten him personally, and at great length, when the meeting was over.

Elizabeth, who might’ve been fooled, or might’ve just been amused, smiled. “I have some good news with regard to the door panels,” she announced. “Doctor Bell has made significant headway on the translation...”

Oh. That again. A whole vast, mysterious warren of rooms Rodney was just itching to explore. And, okay, John was itching, too, because it would be fun, and something to do. But Elizabeth and her linguists had been dithering endlessly over whether it was too dangerous, as the entrance was hidden behind two massive doors covered top to bottom with cryptic Ancient warnings, and John could already tell from her tone of voice that this was going to be yet another long-winded explanation of why they couldn’t do anything yet.

Teyla and Carson listened attentively, but John could see that Rodney knew it, too, and they shared a sympathetic glance before Rodney got back to whatever was so fascinating on his laptop. John watched Rodney’s fingers flying over the keys, wondering how many words per minute Rodney could type. John had taken a typing class once, back in the day, when it was the only elective available for a mid-year transfer. Old Mrs. Taylor, who always wore sweaters that smelled like mothballs, walking up and down the aisles chanting, “a s d f j k l semi,” as they methodically punched away at the keys. Back then they used typewriters instead of computers and you could use a little ‘l’ in place of the ‘1’. The room was always sunny and warm and the drone of voices was like the sound of bees at old Murray’s farm…John’s eyes drifted shut. He jerked upright, blinking, and glanced surreptitiously around to see if anyone had noticed him dozing off.

Rodney’s fingers had stilled; he was looking up again, and his expression of impatient boredom was changing to impatient disgust; John shook off his fugue and leaned forward.

"…yes, my people call it the Long Night," Teyla was saying.

Elizabeth smiled. "It's customary among our people to have a winter holiday party at this time of year."

"You mean a Christmas party," Rodney said flatly.

"Not everyone celebrates Christmas per se—“

"Hence calling it the politically correct winter holiday," Rodney interrupted, his tone clearly putting quotation marks around the words 'winter holiday'. “It’s still a Christmas party, and I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

"You got something against a party, McKay?" John drawled.

"No, Colonel, I don't have anything against a party, aside from the fact that everyone in the city will be consumed with the topics of what they should wear, and what they wore last year, and what they were going to wear last year, not to mention the speculation on who will be going with whom, and who will be leaving with whom, and what food will be served, and whether it's insulting or inclusive to have Hannukah decorations, and—“

"Rodney," Elizabeth interrupted a little desperately.

Rodney leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m telling you, the minute you announce this all productive work in this city will come to a halt. Let them go to the SGC party.”

“I think you’re underestimating your team,” Elizabeth said with a determined smile. “And people will be more productive if they have an opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves; take advantage of the downtime.”

Rodney, who thought downtime was for sissies, rolled his eyes. John privately agreed, but unlike Rodney, he was bored to tears and welcomed a little shake up from the same old same old. And something to look forward to would do his men good. “I think a party would be good for morale,” he said, smiling smugly at Rodney’s sour look.

“Of course, your people will be invited, Teyla,” Elizabeth continued, “and some of them might enjoy helping with the preparations and learning about our traditions.”

“Thank you,” Teyla said with a gracious nod. “I will ask to see who would like to participate.”

“Rodney, I’d like to ask Doctor Schwarz to coordinate the party planning. Can she be pulled away from her current projects?”

“Liesl Schwarz?” Rodney looked confused. “Why?”

“She was an event planner at the German embassy when she was in graduate school.” Elizabeth paused, pinning Rodney with a significant look. “It’s in her personnel file.”

“Oh, that. A blip in an otherwise stellar career.” Rodney waved it away as unimportant. Elizabeth raised an eyebrow, and Rodney, maybe remembering that Elizabeth’s own stellar career involved that sort of thing, hurriedly added, “But yes, yes, I’m sure she’ll be happy to take it on.”

Elizabeth nodded with satisfaction, and the meeting wrapped up after that. Rodney was first out the door, his laptop tucked under his arm, hand raised to his radio button. John sighed and resigned himself to another long, boring day.

And to waiting for Rodney’s email to learn whatever the hell it was he’d agreed to do.


Rodney’s prediction had proven true – surprise surprise – and the city was buzzing with talk of the upcoming party.

John loaded up his tray and headed for the table where Rodney and Radek sat. “Hello, Colonel,” said Radek.

Rodney nodded a greeting at John as he swallowed his mouthful of food. “But I need those specs,” he said to Radek in an aggrieved voice.

“You said it yourself,” Radek replied. “Nothing of substance will be done until after the hangovers of New Year's day.”

“Schwarz is useless,” Rodney mourned. “I haven’t even seen her in days. She wasn’t this distracted when she was planning her wedding!”

Radek nodded sympathetically.

“Oh, come on,” John said, looking back and forth between them. “It can’t be that bad.”

“No, Colonel, Rodney is right,” said Radek. “As soon as the news made it to the lab, it is all anyone talks of. Work has slowed to a crawl.”

“Well, I think it’s been good for morale.”

“It’ll end up a disaster, mark my words,” Rodney said. “It just remains to be seen what kind of disaster."

John raised an eyebrow.

"I'm serious! I remember one year the fire alarms went off fifteen minutes before the party was supposed to start; everyone was standing out in the snow because they couldn't get in the building."

“At my first party in Helsinki the punchbowls had been mislabeled,” Radek said. “Donnelly dumped one of them onto the floor and threw the punchbowl at the caterer. Of course that was before he joined AA.”

“Carl Donnelly?” Rodney asked. “He was an alcoholic?”

Radek nodded. “Didn’t you know? He missed his presentation in Bern because he was at Betty Ford.”

“Wow,” Rodney said. “That explains so much.”

“Still,” Radek said. “That wasn’t as bad as the party where the buffet tablecloth caught on fire. One of the secretaries used a fire extinguisher on it and ruined the entire buffet.” Rodney looked horrified by the wanton destruction of so much food.

“Man, you scientists have some sad parties,” John said, shaking his head.

“Oh please. I’ve been working for the military for years, Colonel. Your parties aren’t anything to write home about either.”

John thought maybe he ought to say something to uphold the honor of the military, but since every Air Force Christmas party he’d ever been to had sucked like a Hoover, he didn’t really have a leg to stand on. Fortunately, he was saved from having to reply by the appearance of Teyla and that knockout anthropologist who was staying with the Athosians. John had somehow missed her arrival, since she’d almost immediately decamped to the Athosian settlement, but he’d heard plenty of locker room chat about her.

“Teyla!” He waved, pointedly indicating they should join him at his table. Rodney and Radek turned.

“Doctor Bonnen, I didn’t know you were back in the city,” Radek said, smiling happily.

“Hello, Radek, Doctor McKay,” she said with a distinct British accent. She was every bit as hot as gossip said she was, despite her geeky black-framed glasses. Up close John could see that she was older than she first appeared. John liked older women. They knew things.

“Colonel, have you met Doctor Bonnen?” Teyla asked.

“I haven’t.” John stood and held out his hand, smiling his most charming smile. “Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard.”

“Davina Bonnen,” she said, shaking his hand.

“What brings you back to Atlantis, Doctor Bonnen?” He held out her chair for her, smirking over her shoulder at Rodney.

“Teyla told me about the party you’re planning and I wanted to meet with her about possibly incorporating some of the Athosian Long Night traditions. It’s just too bad we can’t roast a yurt here in the city.” She and Teyla grinned at each other.

“Roast a yurt?” Rodney asked, confused. “What, like the building?”

Teyla smiled. “It’s an animal—a very large animal—traditionally roasted on a spit over an open fire.”

Rodney sat back, looking a little queasy.

“Sounds yummy,” John said.

“And, of course, I’ve been telling Teyla about some of our Christmas traditions,” Bonnen said.

“Christmas traditions?” Rodney snorted. “Which ones? The wild parties that went on for days, people drinking and carousing and having orgies? Or Santa Claus, the patron saint of capitalism who dispenses blessings at the local mall?”

“Aww, come on, Rodney,” John said. “Don’t be a Grinch.”

“What?” Rodney said. “It’s true! You know, the Puritans tried to outlaw Christmas entirely, because it was nothing but a big, wild, un-Christian blowout. This nonsense of ‘putting Christ back in Christmas’ is a load of revisionist crap.”

"So Christmas is not a celebration of the birth of the leader of Christianity?" Teyla said slowly.

"Well, yes and no,” Bonnen said. “Most human societies on Earth had some way of marking the return of the light after the darkest days of winter—much like your own Long Night festival—long before the Christian religion was founded. What is now called Christmas was originally the old Norse Yule celebration. Rome had Saturnalia. The Greek festival of Lenaea was held during the winter as well, and many of the myths associated with Dionysus have elements in common with the story of Jesus of Nazareth."

It was turning into a damned sociology class, John thought. How did Teyla always manage to maintain that attentive expression without it ever looking forced? Even Radek was looking a little glassy-eyed.

"Don’t forget Mithras,” Rodney said. “Most of the folklore surrounding the birth of the Christ child can be traced back to the mythology of Mithras.”

He was encouraging her, John thought, outraged. Pretending to be enthralled, the faker, when John knew damned well he couldn’t care less. He eyed Bonnen’s smooth blonde hair and the low neckline of her Athosian shirt. About Christmas, anyway.

“Very true. If one picks through the history, there are layers upon layers of beliefs and ideas incorporated in the modern idea of Christmas.” Bonnen leaned forward with a delighted smile, resting her chin on her hand. “I confess I’m surprised at your familiarity with the history of the holiday, Doctor McKay. I thought you had nothing but scorn for the…soft sciences.”

"Oh, well," Rodney said awkwardly, his cheeks flushing. "You know, I always loved Christmas as a kid, all the family in and out, parties and great food, and the presents, of course—my first chemistry set was a Christmas present from crazy Uncle Henry—so I, uh, took an interest."

“It’s just fascinating, isn’t it?”

“Oh, yes, yes it is.” Rodney nodded enthusiastically.

John tried not to roll his eyes.

“I could, uh, show you around the city,” Rodney offered. “If you like. And you could tell me more about—“

“But what about that thing you were talking about earlier, Rodney?” John jumped in, turning to Bonnen with a smile. “You know, Rodney’s so busy—critically important work—city couldn’t function without him. But I’d be happy to take you around in his place.”

“I’m not that busy,” Rodney said, glaring at John.

“He spreads himself so thin,” John whispered.

“Sitting right here!”

“That’s very kind of you both, but Teyla and I still have many things to discuss. Perhaps another time.” Bonnen stood, Teyla following her lead.

“Oh, absolutely.” John snuck a glance at Rodney’s outraged scowl. “Anytime.”

Rodney watched them walk away, then turned back to John. “What is wrong with you?”

“Me?” John replied airily. “What are you talking about?”

“You know perfectly well what I’m talking about. She was interested in me and you just can’t stand it—“

“Only because you pretended to be interested in her job!”

“I was not pretending—“

Radek coughed loudly, peering at them over the top of his glasses as they both turned to look at him. “I think you are both wasting your time.”

“And how would you know?” Rodney snapped.

“Doctor Bonnen is the sort of woman who prefers the company of other women for…being shown around the city,” Radek said softly.

Rodney’s jaw dropped. “You mean she’s a lesbian? That’s…that’s kind of hot, actually. Do you think she and Teyla—“

“Rodney!” John reached over and thwapped him on the head.



Just when John thought things couldn’t get any crazier, the Daedalus arrived and all hell broke loose.

“…the bags of elderflower seeds?” asked one of a small knot of Athosian women, who were intently working on something that looked like an old-fashioned Maypole.

“I think they are in one of the baskets Ellana brought,” replied another.

“…Marcus has the donkey somewhere…”

“…I need ribbon! Where’s the ribbon?”

John was late for lunch, and had thought the mess would be deserted. Rodney and Radek were still there though, amid the chaos, and he made his way through the crowded room toward their table, picking up snatches of conversation as he went. As he approached, he could see Rodney holding a dreidel and wearing an expression of utter bafflement.

"… I don’t know what she was thinking," said Kusanagi, who had two red piñatas with painted faces and empty eyes. She smiled timidly at John. “Hello, Colonel.”

“Hey guys.” He looked around as he sat down. “What’s going on? It looks like a circus in here.”

“We are decorating for the party.”

He leaned forward. “Uh, is it just me or does some of this stuff not look all that…Christmasy,” he said in a low voice.

“That’s just what I was saying!” Rodney pointed at Kusanagi’s piñatas with the dreidel, then held the dreidel itself up, just in case John had missed it.

“Karen volunteered to help Liesl with the decorations,” Radek said.

“Karen Simpson? And Schwarz said yes? Oh God,” Rodney groaned. “Doesn’t she know she’s creating a monster?”

Kusanagi smiled mischievously. “Doctor Simpson has very strong feelings about, ah, cultural imperialism," she explained to John.

“She has very strong feelings about everything,” Rodney muttered.

Kusanagi lowered her voice conspiratorially. "And I think I was not as quick out of the lab as Doctor Zelenka when she prepared her list of necessary items."

"I told her to get a carp the first time she asked," Radek said. "She thought I was joking."

Simpson herself appeared in the doorway, pushing a cart loaded with assorted items. Kusanagi’s eyes widened. “I must go find a place for the daruma,” she said and quickly scuttled away in the other direction.

“Coward!” Rodney called after her. Then he spotted Schwarz, who was talking to someone at the next table. “Schwarz, there you are! I wanted to talk to you about the menu,” Rodney said, as she turned to him with a pained smile.


“You know, I’m allergic—“

“You have nothing to worry about, I assure you; the menu will be prepared by the same cooks who prepare the food every day.”

“Oh, well, that’s good then.” Schwarz started to turn away. “But what was the point of sending out fancy invitations to everyone? Why waste paper when you can send a global email?” Rodney continued.

Schwarz slowly turned back, her smile slipping. “It is how things are done,” she said.

“Maybe back on earth, but here? Where the hell else would we be going? It’s not like there’re six million parties to go to out here. And what’s with letting Simpson handle the decoration? It would be much simpler if you had—“

“Would you like to take over?” She snapped, and the smile was gone, replaced by an icy glare. “I’ll be happy to tell Doctor Weir that you’re dissatisfied with my performance and feel you could do a better job.”

“What? No!”

“Are you certain?”

“Yes, yes, fine.” Rodney drew back with a frown. “You don’t have to get snippy about it. I’m just trying to help.”

“You would help if you’d remember that I have done this before. How many parties have you planned?” Rodney opened his mouth. “Post-defense keg parties with corn chips and sour cream dip do not count,” she added.

John smirked as Rodney closed his mouth again. “I’m sure the trees appreciate the thought, Rodney,” John whispered, patting him on the arm.

Lorne and Martin walked in, looked around until they spotted Schwarz, and headed towards their table.

“You need to leave her alone,” Radek said to Rodney. “She is doing a fine job.”

“I was only—“

“Just relax; it will be fine.” Radek soothed.

“Fine,” Rodney muttered, burying his nose in his coffee cup.

“What’s up?” John asked Lorne.

“The Christmas tree, sir,” Lorne said, indicating approaching noise with a tilt of his head. “Sergeant Martin’s squad took Doctor Parrish to the mainland. Apparently Doctor Schwarz sent him out with a list of specs as long as my arm." Lorne winked at her when she turned around again.

"The right tree is very important, Major,” Schwarz said with a little smile. “It's the centerpiece of Christmas."

"The centerpiece of Christmas?" John repeated dubiously.

“I believe the custom of a decorated evergreen comes from Germany,” Lorne said. “Isn’t that right, Doc?”

Before she could reply Parrish bounded into the room with a bulging burlap bag, followed by four marines carrying a massive tree. “Liesl!” he called excitedly. “I found a lovely Pseudotsuga menziesii for you. Shame to cut down such a magnificent specimen, of course, but it was actually one of the smallest we found. Beautiful trees out there, simply beautiful!”

"Well, let's see it," Schwarz said, rubbing her hands together impatiently. .

Schwarz and Parrish stood with their heads together, talking intently while the marines got the tree unwrapped and up on its trunk, and John heard bits about branch spacing and garland and the pros and cons of using real candles. And he noticed Lorne was watching with a fond smile and idly wondered what that was about.

“Isn’t it a beauty?” Parrish beamed at the room at large, then turned back to Schwarz. “I think we should put it up against the north windows. It’s not too wide, and the lights will show through the windows onto the terrace.”

“Yes,” Schwarz agreed, nodding. “We’re setting up tables out there.”

“Oh, I also found…” Parrish paused, opening up the large bag he’d carried in. “It’s rather more like Viscum album than the Phoradendron species…” He pulled out a weedy looking branch and held it over Schwarz’s head.

Radek sat up, looking interested as Parrish kissed Schwarz on the cheek. She laughed and gave him an affectionate swat on the arm, then looked embarrassed by the good-natured hoots and catcalls from the watching crowd.

“Mistletoe, now that’s what I need,” said one of the marines holding the tree.

Simpson pushed her cart up to their table, and John grimaced at the piercing, almost inaudible squeak of its wheels.

"What's this?" Rodney said as she plunked a small log down onto their table.

"It's a Yule log," she said, fitting an assortment of mismatched candles into the top. "The candles represent the Sun God and the Great Goddess."

"Sun God? Great Goddess?"

"It's traditional." She reached into a bag and got a handful of flour, sprinkling it over the top.

"Traditional for who? Hey, watch it, we’re trying to eat here! You're getting that stuff everywhere!" Rodney cried. John pulled his tray protectively away, giving her a narrow-eyed glare.

“You should have been here on time,” she said unsympathetically.

“We were working,” Rodney said. “And who’re those supposed to be for, anyway?”

"Wiccans.” She tweaked the greenery and bows that surrounded the candles. “And Pagans."

“Uh…do we even have any Wiccans or Pagans on this expedition?” John asked.

"That’s irrelevant. It's the principle.” She gave the decoration one final adjustment and pushed her cart off to the next table.

John winced again at the squeak. “You should get someone to oil that,” he complained to Rodney.

"She's insane," Rodney said wonderingly.

"It is political correctness run amok." Radek shook his head.

A laughing marine ran past the end of the table, followed by two giggling scientists bearing sprigs of Parrish’s mistletoe.

“How is she planning to represent the Atheists?” Rodney asked. “A Weatherford solstice sign?

“A what?” John asked, confused.

“Never mind.”


By dinnertime mistletoe was everywhere, and supposedly mature professionals were running around acting like teenagers playing spin the bottle. And John got the joy of explaining to Teyla and Ronon why all these people were acting like they’d lost their minds. It was just John’s luck; when Rodney’s encyclopedic knowledge of all things Christmas might actually come in handy, he was nowhere to be found.

“Hey,” Rodney said, setting his tray on the table and plopping down beside John.

“Where’ve you been?” John said, scowling.

Working! Jesus Christ, just because everyone else around here is off playing reindeer games doesn’t mean I can; this city doesn’t run itself, you know.”

“Well, actually—“

“Shut up.”

“Colonel Sheppard was hoping you could tell us about the custom of mistletoe,” Teyla said diplomatically.

“Oh! Well, uh, mistletoe was—“

“Never mind,” John interrupted. “I already told them. Since you weren’t here.”

“Did I miss an email?” Rodney asked, aggravated. “Did we have a date or something? Because I don’t remember promising to be at your beck and call today.”

“He’s just pouting because he didn’t want to talk about the kissing,” Ronon said, laughing. At John. The jerk.

“Kissing is something you’re supposed to do, not talk about doing,” John muttered. “Or do out in public,” he added, scowling into the dim corner where two shadowy figures were getting hot and heavy. He squinted, trying to make out the details of their uniforms.

“Yes, well, at least somebody’s getting some action. Ugh! Why did they have to do all this today?” Rodney said irritably, pushing the large centerpiece out of his way. “The party’s not until tomorrow. And what is this ugly thing supposed to be, anyway?” He looked up, wide-eyed. “It’s not some Athosian thing is it? Or Satedan?”

“It is not of my people,” Teyla said, biting back a smile.

Ronon narrowed his eyes. “My grandmother used to make these,” he growled.

Rodney looked stricken with dismay, until Ronon started laughing. “McKay, you’re too easy.”

“Very funny.” Rodney threw his roll at Ronon, who caught it neatly and took a bite.

“I want that back, you know. Oh, I almost forgot!” Rodney dug into a pocket. “I got this for you,” he said, pulling out a Payday candy bar. “It’s the one I was telling you about with the peanuts, that’s sweet and a little salty. You’ll love it.”


“Wait!” He snatched it away from Ronon’s hand. “You aren’t allergic to peanuts, are you?”

Ronon shrugged. “I’ve eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

“Oh, okay then. There was a girl who was allergic to peanuts and she died just from kissing her boyfriend after he’d had a peanut butter sandwich. You can’t be too careful, you know.”

John frowned. “I thought they said that girl died of something else. It wasn’t the boyfriend’s fault.”

“Did they really?” Rodney mumbled around a mouthful of stew. “What was it then?”

John shrugged. “I don’t know. Not the boyfriend, though.”

Ronon looked at the candy bar then tucked it into his pocket with a predatory smile. “I think I’ll hold off on trying this until after all the mistletoe is gone.” He stood up, stretched and sauntered away.

“Hey! I want my roll back!” Rodney yelled. “Thief. Now what am I supposed to do?”

“Suffer, I guess,” said John.

“You can have mine, if you like,” Teyla offered.

“You’re not going to eat it?” Rodney asked, even as he grabbed it off her plate.

Teyla shook her head. “I don’t have much of an appetite. In fact, I think I will retire early.”

“You’re not getting sick, are you?” Rodney asked, looking at the roll as if it might bite him.

“I don’t think so. Doctor Bonnen gave me some…truffles, I believe they are called? I ate a few too many, I’m afraid.” She gave them a wan smile. “Goodnight.”

“’Night, Teyla,” John said. Rodney waved, his mouth too full of roll to speak.

John watched Rodney plow through his stew, trying to decide how to fill the hours before he could go to bed.

Rodney swallowed. “What are you doing?”

“Watching you stuff your face?”

“I mean later. Now. After dinner.”

“I don’t know. Why, you got something in mind?”

“I found this weird little box on one of the lab shelves. At least I think it’s a box. I can’t get it open. I can feel it wanting to open, you know? But…I want to see what happens if someone with the natural gene tries.”

“Sure,” John said casually. “I’ll do it.”

“I was going to get Kusanagi to try it, but she was too busy decorating,” Rodney bitched as they walked down the hall. The lab was deserted, closed up for the night, and Rodney was halfway to his desk before the lights came up.

John stopped, staring: someone had hung a branch of mistletoe directly over Rodney’s chair. He could feel the door whoosh closed behind him and he hurriedly took a step forward.

“What are you…” Rodney looked up, then followed John’s line of sight. “Oh for…This is probably Cadman’s doing, you know. You’d think she’d have more important things to do than try to embarrass me, what with being a military officer with some responsibility on an international scientific mission, but apparently not.”

“Embarrass you?” John took a step forward.

“It’s not like any of these people are going to kiss me,” Rodney said gesturing around the empty lab.

"Oh, I don't know, McKay. I'd kiss you." He took another step, and another.

"You would?" Rodney said nervously

"Sure." John tipped his head and smirked. "Anything to shut you up."

"Oh, ha ha, very funny." He looked down at the disappearing space between them. “Uh, what are you doing?”

John pursed his lips and made kissy noises.

“Okay, God, okay. Elizabeth said you were bored to death, but I didn’t think it was this bad!”

John was just teasing Rodney; he wasn’t really going to kiss him. But somehow he found himself leaning closer and closer, and Rodney smelled good, and his shoulders were broad and strong under John’s hands, and his lips were warm and soft, and John really needed to pull back now, pat Rodney on the shoulder and give him a smirk. No harm, no foul, no problem. But he couldn’t bring himself to move and his plausible deniability drained away with every second he stood there breathing Rodney’s breath.

Then Rodney’s broad hands were on his sides, moving over his ribs and around, pulling John closer and kissing him with some serious intent. And damn, but Rodney was a good kisser. John had always enjoyed kissing and he was getting into it, could feel the blood pooling in his groin, feel himself getting hard. He pushed closer, rubbing his hips against Rodney’s, and startled when he found an answering hardness there.

He abruptly let go, stepping back, seized with the brittle calm that came when he’d done something incredibly stupid and was going to have to brazen his way through it.

“Okay, what was that?” Rodney asked, his voice unnaturally high.

“Mistletoe.” John pointed upward. “It’s bad luck to stand under the mistletoe and not get a kiss.”

“What?” Rodney looked up, then back at John, his eyes wide with disbelief. “No, seriously, what?”

“’Night, McKay.” John clapped him on the shoulder and walked out without looking back.


The party seemed to be in full swing by the time John arrived, and in the dim light he could see that the mess was packed with people. The music wafting over the buzz of voices was coming from real instruments; Schwarz had somehow arranged a live string quartet, currently playing a classy-sounding version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” John squinted; was that Corporal Peterson playing the violin?

John shook his head and looked around for the bar, which was—of course—over in the farthest corner of the room. He began to make his way between the tables, noting that the room was a little stuffy. It was probably all the candles; they were everywhere, giving off a soft golden glow to the room.

He finally got a cold beer and turned to scope out the party, starting to relax and mellow out a little. Simpson had gone a little crazy with the gold dust, he noticed—the stuff was everywhere, and it was getting all over his dark blue jacket.

He tried to brush it off his sleeve, then the crowd parted in front of him and he froze, dumbstruck at the sight of Ronon in a Santa suit, sitting in a huge chair by the Christmas tree, drinking champagne. Unbelievably, he actually made it look sort of cool—probably because he’d left off the white beard and fake pillow belly. As John watched, Dr. Biro perched on his lap, presumably telling him what she wanted for Christmas, and there was a flash as someone took a picture.

People moved again, blocking his view and John looked to see who else was here. It was just like every party he’d ever been to, he mused. Like gravitated to like; botany over here, biology over there, marines by the window, everyone grouped together talking to the same people they spent their days working with. He wondered where Teyla and Rodney were. He soon spotted Teyla standing near the musicians and went over to join her.

“Hey, Teyla.”

“John.” She smiled up at him.

A guitar and a keyboard had joined the string quartet somewhere along the way, and the group’s rendition of “We Three Kings” sounded more like something from a jazz bar than a concert hall.

“Have you seen Rodney?” he asked.

She looked around with a frown. “He’s not here?”

John shook his head. “I don’t see him anywhere.” In fact, John hadn’t seen Rodney all day, and was beginning to wonder if Rodney was avoiding him. John sighed. He’d really been hoping Rodney wasn’t going to be weird about it. He walked away to a quieter spot and tapped his radio. “McKay, where are you?”

In the lab, Colonel.

“Yeah, well, you’re supposed to be at the party.”

I just need to finish up this one thing…all right, not that one…maybe it’s…


The radio clicked off. John rolled his eyes and decided to just go get him. He could use the fresh air, anyway.

Rodney was alone in the lab, hunched over his computer, though he had at least gotten dressed for the party, wearing his nice civilian clothes.

“Hey,” John said, cool and casual.

“Hey,” Rodney replied, not looking up from his laptop. So Rodney was playing it cool, too. That was good. John could deal with that. Suddenly Rodney did look up, frowning. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah?” John tried not to fidget. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Last night?”

“Oh. Yeah, uhm, about that,” he glanced around, confirming they were alone. “You’re not going to be weird about it, are you?”

Rodney rolled his eyes. “No, Colonel, I’m not going to be weird about it. I’m assuming you’ve been overcome by whatever dementia that Athosian mistletoe is causing around here. I think it must be my anti-allergy nasal spray protecting me. I’ll loan you some if you like, until Carson gets a handle on whatever’s going on. If he ever does get a handle on it, which I doubt will happen as long as he’s off playing tonsil hockey with Cadman. And what’s with that, anyway? I thought they were off again. Anyway, next time you get a whiff it might be Caldwell you decide you have to kiss, and nothing good can come of that.”

“It wasn’t dementia, McKay,” John said irritably. “Or allergies. And I’m not going to suddenly decide I have to kiss Caldwell.”

Rodney sat back and tilted his head the way he did when he was gearing up for a rant. “Oh, right,” he snapped. “Because it’s perfectly normal behavior for you to kiss me? Please. I know I’m a handsome man, and a catch in any galaxy, but don’t you think that’s just a little bit out of character?”

“Maybe,” John said, mainly to be contrary, “or maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do.”

Rodney shook his head, snapping his laptop closed as he stood up. “Just stay away from the mistletoe, Colonel.”

“How the hell am I supposed to stay away from it, Rodney? It’s all over the damned mess!”

Rodney frowned. “Good point. Maybe I should go—“

“Maybe you should come on,” John growled, “so we can get there before the party’s over!”

“All right, all right, don’t grab me!”

“John! Rodney! There you are!” Elizabeth caroled as they walked in the door. She turned to Colonel Caldwell, who was standing right behind her with a tray of champagne flutes, looking like a constipated butler. She plucked two of them off the tray and handed them to John and Rodney with a giggle.

Rodney pointed with his thumb. “I’m gonna go check out the buffet.”

“You do that,” Elizabeth said. “And be sure to try the crab puffs—they’re delish!”

“Elizabeth,” John said slowly. “How many of those have you had?”

“Just one.” She tapped at her temple with a forefinger. “I have to be clear-headed in case of emergency. Oh, Doctor Boswell! There you are! Excuse me, John.”

“Colonel Sheppard.” Caldwell nodded solemnly and followed in Elizabeth’s wake.

John took a sip of champagne. It was lukewarm and bitter and he grimaced, heading straight back to the bar to trade it in for another beer. A woman in a plaid dress was talking loudly about nucleotide chains and as soon as he got his beer John drifted away from her shrill voice to the end of the bar where it was slightly cooler and the air didn’t seem quite as hazy.

Schwarz was standing nearby with a glass of white wine, wearing a snazzy black pantsuit, and surveying the room with an eagle eye. Lorne and Parrish both hovered around her, and John shamelessly eavesdropped on Lorne teasing Parrish about the trip to get the tree.

Rodney finally appeared, carrying a plate piled high with hors d’oeuvres. “Want a crab puff?”

John took two. “It took you long enough. Hey, these are good.”

Rodney nodded enthusiastically, his mouth full.

“I thought you said she was married,” John said, suddenly remembering.

“What are you talking about?”

John gestured with the top of his beer bottle. “Schwarz. You said she was married.”

“I never said that.”

“You did, too, you said she was planning her wedding.”

“Which was almost immediately followed by her divorce. It didn’t even last six months.” Rodney peered at him suspiciously. “Why? Are you interested in her? Because let me tell you, Sheppard, she’s nothing like those Ancient women you keep hooking up with. I’ve known her for years now and she’s—“

“No!” John said, barely able to get the word in edgewise. “Jesus, McKay!”

“I’m just saying.”

“I’m not interested in her!”


Rodney continued to give him the hairy eyeball, but John ignored it; he didn’t want to argue with Rodney. He was too relaxed and peaceful. And hungry. He reached out for Rodney’s plate.

“Did you know Teyla could sing like that?”

“Hmm?” John said, chewing on something crisp and cheesy.

“Teyla. She’s got a beautiful singing voice,” Rodney said. Teyla stood amidst the musicians, who had acquired a couple more guitars and a flute, holding a songbook and singing “What Child Is This?”

John lost track of time, between listening to Teyla sing and Rodney babble on about this, that and the other, a few more trips to the buffet table and at least one more beer, the party began to wind down without him realizing it.

A few die-hards were still dancing out on the terrace; John could hear the faint throbbing of the bass through the windows, but inside the lights had been turned up and the clean-up crew drifted among the mostly empty tables, laughing and chatting as they picked up plates and glasses.

With the lights on John could see how thick and hazy the air really was, and he’d finally figured out why. “Hey.” He nudged Rodney with his shoulder. “How did Simpson do that?”

“Do what?”

“That. Watch.” He pointed to a nearby bunch of mistletoe.

“Watch what? Watch them hang there?”

“Just wait for it!” And after only a few more seconds of waiting a bunch of berries began to pop open, setting off an explosion of fine, gold dust into the air.

“Oh my God!” Rodney looked around in a panic.

“How’d she get ‘em to do that?”

“She didn’t,” Rodney snapped. He was on his feet, heading across the room to where Ronon, Radek and Katie Brown were huddled together. “Parrish, get over here! Brown, what is going on with these plants?” he demanded.

Brown looked up. “Rodney? What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about this exploding mistletoe you all have hung everywhere!” He pointed to the branch hanging over Ronon’s head, where little puffs of gold were gently drifting in the air.

“They must have begun to dry out as soon as we picked them. That, combined with the warmth inside accelerated the pollination process.” Parrish said. Lorne nodded agreement.

Rodney looked around. “We need to get it all out of here.”

“No, don’t touch it!” cried Brown. “Any movement will—“

As Rodney jostled the branch, all the little bundles of berries exploded, sending a mist of gold spraying in all directions.

“…set them off,” Brown finished.

Rodney sneezed, again and again.

John groaned, finally realizing he wasn’t relaxed and mellow; he was high as a kite. “Do we need to evacuate the city?” he asked.

“We should at least get everyone out of the room,” Rodney said thickly, then sneezed again.

“Okay, let’s get everybody out and we’ll get some guys in here with hazmat suits tomorrow to clean it up.”

Schwarz was already moving around the room, quietly ushering the remaining partygoers toward the door.

“How about I take care of those guys?” Lorne said, tipping his head toward the window overlooking the terrace.

John winced at the sight of the bonfire, and the cluster of people holding branches of mistletoe to the heat, then waving them wildly around when the flowers popped open. “I’d really appreciate that.”

“I told you it would be a disaster,” Rodney said plaintively.

Radek snickered.

The last holdouts were dispersing peacefully under Schwarz’s and Lorne’s guidance, and John was perfectly willing to let Parrish and Brown handle the mistletoe issue. “Let’s get out of here,” he muttered to Rodney, wanting to make good an escape before it occurred to anyone that they all really ought to have medical checkups.

When they got to Rodney’s door John lingered awkwardly, wishing he’d said something while his head was still warm and fuzzy from the mistletoe dust.

“What?” Rodney said.

“Do you want to, uhm, finish what we started last night?”

“Are you serious?”

“No, I’m kidding.”

Rodney’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Are you going to run away again?”


“Hey! It’s a legitimate worry!”

“Oh, shut up and let me in.”

“This is such a bad idea.”

“I know,” John agreed, but he recognized the tone of voice that meant Rodney was right there with him anyway, and he couldn’t stop himself from smiling.

“Oh God. All right then, come on in.”

Tags: genre: slash, pairing: mckay/sheppard

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