a/n: This little fic was sent out right before Christmas directly to all our regular reviewers that we could track down. I stress the "that we could track down" part. Many people had the emails bumped back or regularly review anonymously, so we couldn't find an email to which to send it. We wanted it to be a little thank you and holiday greeting for everyone who has supported these stories over the past several months that we've been writing them. But since we couldn't find everyone and there are a few things we might want to refer to in future stories, we decided to post it now. It's a little past Christmas, it's short (for us), and it's pure fluffy holiday humor, but we hope you enjoy it. Thanks again to everyone that has reviewed and recced us! River and Koschka
The Geek's and Goon's Guide to Holidays
A joint project as everyone should get into the spirit
dec·o·rate (dékə ràyt), verb, 1. To make something more attractive by adding nonfunctional features to it. 2. To give a medal or other honor or award to somebody to acknowledge bravery, dedication, or achievement.
Geek's Addendum: For many Geeks, the thought of decorating seems a colossal waste of time and effort that could be better spent improving the cosmos for those who don't find decorating a colossal waste of time and effort. This paradox often leads to feelings of confusion, apathy, and annoyance which is typically misdiagnosed as holiday depression when in reality the Geek isn't thinking 'why the hell am I alive?' so much as 'why the hell am I wasting my life making grand scientific discoveries to advance a race of people who think the only uses for Mylar are filling it with helium or shredding it into tinsel for a tree?' However, we should try to find the positives of holiday decorating by recognizing the functionality of these seemingly nonfunctional features. For example, everyone should realize that many holiday decorations are multipurpose, a trait any Geek can appreciate. Candy canes and gingerbread houses are both festive and a handy snack while you toll over a computer simulation in the lab. And there is nothing like chasing Christmas lights to occupy your assigned Goon for several hours while he sits and stares glassy-eyed at the blinking colors and you get some real work done… just be careful and don't slip on the inevitable drool.
Goon's Addendum: Goon's know how to party. You can set a Goon down in the middle of the jungle with nothing more than a canteen, a bowie knife and an emergency blanket and within half an hour he'll be distilling berries into booze, making appetizers from his MRE and wrapping the blanket into a disco ball to hang from the nearest tree. Geeks think they know how to party when in reality they know how to overanalyze every aspect of the celebration until they have turned a truly festive occasion into a clinical experiment with the addition of crepe paper, alcohol, and dry ice. For them, nothing says fun like taking a shot of vodka with a Mt. Dew chaser every time they hear 'My God, Jim,' during an all night Star Trek marathon and there is nothing more festive than a dancing hamster dressed as Santa Claus for a screen saver. But we shouldn't taunt them for these perceived weaknesses in character. If they are willing to leave the lab, do an extra hit from their asthma inhalers and let their comb-overs down, then we should recognize the momentous leap they are taking, commemorate the occasion with a new pocket protector with a holly motif or even decorate them with a medal of bravery in the form of a t-shirt that says, 'All I want for Christmas is a particle accelerator'. Just remember to keep an eye on your Geek and make sure he doesn't get too carried away with the eggnog because the last thing he needs to do is puke on the Christmas tree in the middle of his climatic toy light saber duel with his arch nemesis from the chemistry department.
I pinched the bridge of my nose and wished heartily for some Advil, Tylenol, generic painkiller…anything.
Setting my shoulders grimly, I finished wrapping Rodney's present in the finest and most festive toilet paper Atlantis had to offer and promptly hid it in the laundry hamper. There wasn't a chance in hell the lazy son of a bitch would look in there.
"Shut up," I gritted the sing-song between my teeth. "Shut up before I shoot you and throw your metal corpse over the balcony."
Who knew that Rodney was fluent in so many languages? But when your staff is so internationally flavored, you have to be flexible and educated in your browbeating. And there was no way Dr. Rodney McKay was going to let someone slide by without a good ass-ripping just because he didn't know their native tongue. And that was fine. Kudos to him. But screaming at your colleagues was one thing; inflicting this godawful monstrosity on an innocent Airforce Colonel was another altogether.
I turned and glared at the corner where it rested. Metal and cone-shaped, it blinked placidly with red lights and spun slowly as it pronounced in that metallic grating voice, "Vrolijke Kerstmis." It was a Christmas tree…supposedly…and although it looked like it came from Sharper Image, if Sharper Image were conveniently located in Hell, it came from Rodney's lab. It was Darth Vader's own Christmas tree and as far as I could tell it had no goddamn off button.
"Oh, you're home. What do you think of the tree?"
I turned to see Rodney beaming in the doorway. Rodney had a thing about Christmas. Rodney had a thing about Christmas because he thought I had a thing about Christmas. The first year at Atlantis I distinctly remember having to drag him bodily from the lab to the Christmas party. And it took about half a punch bowl of Athosian eggnog whipped up by Dr. Z to convince him that celebrating wasn't a total and complete waste of his time and brilliance.
But the next year…we'd been together and Rodney had seen how invested I was in holidays. And yeah, I was invested. I'd learned at an early age that if you want a party you'd better mix up some koolaid, tell your buddies from Little League and throw it yourself. And if you want a tree, you'd better ride your bike down the square, buy one and drag that bad boy back behind you. So I tended to throw myself into celebratory occasions and if I threw myself a little too hard and a little too desperately, I don't think anyone noticed.
Anyone but Rodney, I amended as I glanced warily at the metal tree. "It's…uh…festive. Very festive." He noticed all right and he tried to take a little of the burden by helping carry the decorating/merriment-spreading load. And it meant all the more to me because he was so incredibly fucking bad at it.
"I knew you'd like it. We haven't had a chance to go to the Mainland yet and get the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Ramadan…."
"The Holiday Tree," I supplied patiently.
"Right, right." He waved a hand and a thick sheaf of papers rustled. "And we can all twist popcorn strings into dred locks for the tree so Ronan doesn't feel left out."
"I sort of had him pegged to play Santa." I twitched as the tree wished me a Merry Christmas in Japanese.
"What do you want for Christmas besides my fiery blade of vengeance rammed into your heart, little boy?" Rodney mimicked. "Yes, I can see that. It'll keep the drunks in line if nothing else."
The tree made the sound of an annoyed cat with furball issues. I raised my eyebrows and Rodney said pleased, "Asgard. I had to call Hermiod for that one." He bounced on his heels, as proud as the time he'd made his first nuclear bomb. "So you really like it?"
I looked at him…demanding blue eyes bright, crooked grin, the candy cane stuck in his pocket. Curving my lips, I leaned in and kissed him. "I do. I fucking love it." And at that moment, I did. I loved that obnoxious, loud piece of metal shit to death.
After a long, warm moment, Rodney said hoarsely, "We need mistletoe. We need lots and lots of mistletoe for every doorway in Atlantis."
I grinned. "Maybe you do. I don't need an excuse myself. Hey, what the hell are you waving around there."
"Oh…shit." Good mood ruined, he sat on the bed and scowled at the papers in his hand. "It seems I've been awarded a special Athosian holiday honor. Whoopee-fucking-do."
"Way to be culturally sensitive there, McKay." I sat beside him and peered at the top page. "Number one: Caused Dr. Jameson to jump off balcony."
"And that's a big fat lie. He only threatened to jump. Heightmeyer talked him down after a few hours. Everything was fine," he huffed and folded his arms.
I took the papers and scanned through them. "Number forty-five: sucked the will to live out of Kavanagh."
"And that took forever to do. It was real work. I'm not wasting all that effort. Absolutely not. Teyla can forget about Redemption or Rebirth or Renewal or whatever it's called. Wait," he considered. "It can't be Renewal, that's awfully Logan's Run, isn't it? Although Carousel was an interesting way to get rid of the geezers." He jabbed an elbow in my ribs.
"One year, Rodney. I'm one year older than you. Christ. Let it go." I rubbed the ribs. "And the Athosian holiday is Redemption. And you got picked as the Redeemer this year." I shook my head. "Goddamn, Rodney, those poor damn people are never going to get a new year now."
"And how is that my fault?" he glared, then looked over at the list gloomily. "Elizabeth says I have to. That it's vital for relations with our allies and don't I have a sense of responsibility and blah blah blah. And I repeat…how is this my fault? The Athosisans set some little fuzzy gopher thing loose in that big room down the hall from the lab. The one with all the stained glass and windchimes and give-yourself-over-to-a-greater-being atmosphere, the one Radek wants to turn into a disco? Yeah, well, too late for me." He snatched the papers back from me. "Lorne had ferried them over for some ceremony involving said rabid fuzzball. It's supposed to go up to one of the congregation and choose one of them as Redeemer. But noooooooo. It runs out the door, down the hall, into the lab and bites me on the ankle. And before I can stomp it to a fine red paste, the whole of Athosian redemption lies on me."
Every year one Athosian was chosen as the Redeemer. That person had to make amends for every ill they had done in the previous year. Every time they'd wronged someone, every time they'd behaved badly…and when they completed that task, the Athosian New Year could begin.
"Teyla and her people are so screwed," I said matter-of-fact. "Hell, this might even push them back to the Dark Ages." Curiously, I added, "Who made the list?"
"Radek." He fell flat on the bed to stare at the ceiling. "I'm just lucky the load was too much and the laser printer blew up half way through the print job."
"Merry Christmas," the tree chirped.
I lay down beside him. "Anything on that list about me?" I grinned. "Number ten: Didn't give John the blowjob he so obviously deserved?"
Eyes narrowed in my direction then quickly slid away and Rodney abruptly sat up. "Um…actually…how about we go get that tree now? I'll make amends when we get back." He waved a dismissive hand. "If my helpful and solicitous actions could even be considered necessary of redemption. It's ridiculous really if you think about it. I'm Canadian. Everyone knows we're the most inoffensive humans on the face of the planet. We live to spread goodwill wherever we go."
"And bomb things," I pointed out. "Like solar systems."
"One solar system, John. One. Let it go," he paraphrased dryly and then sniffed. "Are you coming or not?"
I sat up and wrapped an arm around his neck. "You know I am."
I was also going to get my hands on that list and find out what it was he didn't want me to see…even if it wasn't blowjob related.
Merry Christmas, goddamnit.
Christmas. Probably the most overrated holiday in a whole calendar chocked full of excuses to hang tacky crap from the rafters, binge eat and drink, and slack off work. And Christmas was by far the worst. All twinkling and blinking and everyone telling you Merry Christmas, Felice Navidad, Buon Natale. It was like someone took It's a Small World, dumped it in the middle of Vegas and wrapped it all up in the month of December.
But John loved Christmas; therefore, I loved Christmas, because I loved John….with a whole 'Gift of the Magi' type intensity. Although that was one Christmas fable that really missed the boat. As far as I'm concerned, if you can't at least plan ahead a little bit then you deserve to be bald with no idea what the hell time it is. I mean seriously, people, open a Christmas Club account for Christ's sake.
But that was neither here nor now. Here was in the jumper and now was while John flew us to the Mainland to find a tree to stick in the Control Room. My idea. Yep, my fucking idea. Of course when I had suggested it, I had thought Elizabeth would have just requisitioned one from Earth and have it delivered on the Daedalus, already prelit and wired so that we could just marry it into the Atlantean power system and, viola, instant tree. And she had. Thing was that the Daedalus had had a few diagnostics to run and wasn't scheduled to arrive until Christmas Eve at the earliest, and since several of the holidays that the tree was commemorating were starting days and weeks before that, we needed the symbol of good will and good cheer up now. So it had fallen to me and, therefore John, to fly to the Mainland and retrieve said symbol.
"At least there's no snow," I grumped from the co-pilot seat.
"Really?" John asked in disbelief as he manned the controls. "I mean, I know you hate the snow in general despite your Canadian upbringing."
"Because of my Canadian upbringing," I corrected.
"But even for a good old fashioned Christmas tree hunt?" He shook his head and added wistfully, "I would have killed to do something like that as a kid."
"Killed or be killed is more like it, at least with my Grandfather and his hell hound. I swear to God, you pack one ham sandwich to take along on his death hike through the Yukon in search of the perfect tree and suddenly it's like 'Call of the Wild' and I was the baby caribou that the wolf dog had his newly aroused instincts on."
"So what did you do?"
"Chucked the sandwich at Jeannie and ran as fast as a pair of nylon snow pants and knee deep snow drifts let me."
"You're all heart, McKay," he snorted. "Speaking of Jeannie, did you remember to order her and her husband their Christmas present?"
"Rodney, I reminded you three times."
I had planned on it, I really had. Had it picked out and the order ready to send through the weekly data burst to Earth. And then the shield generators had gone of the fritz, overloaded and taken out most of the HVAC system in the residential part of the city. And then three biologists and a chemist came down with some strange flu-like illness and Carson insisted on quarantining the lab they had been working in until he could rule out any sort of contagion in there. That just meant we had to rig up some way for the healthy scientist to continue to monitor some ongoing experiments without actually entering the lab, as well as shuffle some people around to accommodate the newly labless. Can you actually hold it against me that I forgot to send my sister a Christmas present? Evidently if you're a directionally challenged woodchuck with the status of a religious icon you could.
"Do you have a pen? I'll add it to my list. Number four hundred and twenty-three: forgot to send Jeannie her Godiva gift basket. How will we ever keep the Earth rotating after that?"
"This whole Redeemer thing has really gotten to you, hasn't it?"
"It's not that I can't be all warm and fluffy with people, it's just that I don't want to be all warm and fluffy with people. If I had wanted to do that, I would have chosen barista as my profession… or tour guide."
"You in a coffee shop?" Hazel eyes rolled skyward. "That would be like putting a crack addict in charge of the vice squad. You'd be hanging from the ceiling by your toenails after you climbed the wall from the unregulated caffeine intake."
"Isn't it enough that I save their sorry asses day in and day out? What is a little snapping and demeaning compared to that? They should be bowing at my feet and thanking me instead of expecting me to grovel for forgiveness at theirs."
"It's a tradition, Rodney," he rationalized. "Like making New Years resolutions on Earth."
"Well, for the past five years I've resolved to win the Nobel, and as they say resolve in one hand and shit in the other…"
He shook his head. "You have to resolve to do something you can actually accomplish." My glower had him amending his statement quickly. "Not that you can't win the Nobel."
"It's because those idiots over in Sweden wouldn't recognize a groundbreaking physics theory if the event horizon of said theory were to open up in their meatball-eating, prefabricated-furniture-loving faces and spit them across the galaxy," I seethed.
With an appeasing nod of his head John agreed, "Exactly. You can't control them, but you can control, say… picking up your dirty underwear and putting it in the hamper, maybe."
At my furrowed brow he shrugged. "It's just a suggestion."
"Well, it's a pretty lame one considering you already take care of that. Besides, what does my underwear have to do with redeeming for past sins?"
"It's an analogy."
"My underwear is an analogy for the wrongs against mankind of which I have been so unjustly accused?"
"There are certain aspects of your dirty underwear that can be considered crimes against humanity."
I shook my head and threw up exasperated arms. "I have no idea what my dirty underwear has to do with the fact that I have half a ream of paper documenting everything that I did wrong this past year and yet there is not one single sheet that can show anything that I did right."
"Give me a pad and pencil and I'll start right now."
I returned the smile he shot in my direction and for the millionth time at least I wondered what the hell I had done to deserve him. He wanted to know what I had on my list that involved him and there were plenty. There was the time I told the space bimbo on M4C-992 that he had a raging case of space herpes. I had done it more to keep her hands off his ass than anything but it resulted in him having to sit outside in the rain while the rest of us closed the trade treaty with a really nice dinner. The whole time he sat soaked to the bone he thought he had said something to offend her father. Then there was the blackmail of Caldwell when I overheard him discussing sending John back to Earth for six weeks to work on his administrative skills after John misfiled some requisition paperwork. Its amazing what a little smurf piss, a couple of sleeping pills and a partially functioning fembot with photo capabilities will get you. Instead of shipping him off of Atlantis Caldwell had decided that John should be put in charge of all his requisition paperwork, as well. But those two and several others like them had been typed in neat black letters by a giggling and overzealous Czech, and they were nothing compared to one I had hand written at the bottom of the list myself. The only item that I gave a damn about redeeming. With a sigh I pulled the candy cane out of my pocket and resumed sucking on it, honing the already fine tip on the end into a stiletto-like point. Another habit from a childhood that involved fighting off a little sister that tried to steal the chocolate from my stocking.
"What do you think about fruit baskets?" I contemplated around the hard minty decoration. "Have a big shipment of fresh fruit brought in on the Daedalus with maybe a few individual boxes of cookies and those little jars of jam? Think that would usher in the Athosian New Year sufficiently? Nothing says I'm sorry like a pineapple wrapped in cellophane."
"I think it's supposed to be a little more personal, Rodney." Out the front of the Jumper I could see the shoreline of the Mainland come into view. "Having Harry and David's gift boxes delivered to Pegasus doesn't exactly scream sorry I made you pee your pants in the dark."
"Now, honestly, is it really my fault that the power went out after Stellman got locked in the storeroom?"
"It is when you were the one that did the locking."
I waved a dismissive candy cane. "Details, always with the details. And it was for his own protection; I was about three seconds from throttling him with my bare hands if I hadn't." I sighed heavily. "Besides, we're here to get a tree, not redeem the Athosians… unless you can figure out a way to do both at the same time."
John sat the jumper down in a clearing surrounded by an evergreen forest. "Sorry, Rodney, but you got yourself bit by the holy ground hog; you have to figure out how to get the Athosian's their New Year."
The hatch opened on the back of the jumper and we headed out. I stepped to the edge of the clearing and pointed a distracted hand at the nearest tree. "Okay, that one. That should do. Let's break out the C-4, bring this puppy down, and be home in time for dinner. It's flank steak night…although I have no idea what flank the steak comes from, which I find both disturbing and comforting all at the same time."
"Whoa, hold on there, Mr. Greenpeace. C-4? To bring down a Christmas tree? And this is just the first one we looked at. There could be tons better further into the forest."
"Well, I don't see an ax in your hands, Paul Bunyan."
He patted his P90 with a smile. "Got all the ax I need right here, Babe."
Did he just call me what I thought he called me? "Babe? Did you just call me…Babe?"
His mouth twitched along with his shoulders. "Well, you are dressed in blue."
"Okay, that is the only time you will ever get away with calling me Babe, Starsky. Although the fact that you compared me to an ox isn't boding well for your sex life."
A second shrug, and this time the grin was wolfish as opposed to amused. "You, me, alone in the woods. Never know what might happen." And suddenly being a baby caribou wasn't such a bad thing to be, especially considering the big bad wolf I was having to contend with.
Unfortunately, he was right. You never did know what might happen with me and Sheppard alone in the woods. It did involve our bodies pressed together with his back against a tree, but not in the way either of us had imagined.
We had finally found THE tree. Full but not too bushy, tall but not too slender, and big but not too… Okay, yeah, it was way too big.
"Sheppard, there is no way that a P90 is going to cut through that trunk." Crossed arms and rolled eyes did nothing to deter him as he knelt down on one knee and hefted the gun into position.
"Relax, Rodney. It doesn't have to cut through it entirely, just enough to weaken it so that we can push it over."
"And then what? Magically teleport it to the jumper? The thing is over six meters high. There is no way we can drag it back."
"We'll rig something up with the jumper to lift it out," he supplied calmly.
"What, bungee cord it to the top like it's the family station wagon?"
He lowered the P90 and smiled. "That's a really nice domestic image there, McKay."
"Yeah, Ozzie and Harriet have nothing on us," I drolled. "Although I seriously doubt they used automatic weapons in the holiday decorating."
He lifted the gun and took aim. "Their loss, then."
The spray of bullets into the trunk was tight and controlled. The spray of sap that shot from the tree was anything but. I held up my arms to block the goo that was raining down on me. "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!"
John stopped firing, shook off the resin that dripped from his hand and used the same to wipe at the glop on his forehead. "That is one juicy tree."
"What the fuck!" I demanded as I sloughed at the ooze on my arm. The arm that was starting to burn…a lot. "Jesus, the stuff is like battery acid."
"What?" John closed the distance between us in a few long strides and examined my arm. "Holy shit, it's blistering."
"Really? I hadn't noticed as I was waiting for my arm to burst into flames."
He pulled out his canteen and unscrewed the cap. "Calm down, its just a little skin irritation, that's all." But the tense set of his jaw and the deep crease in his forehead said he was worried it was anything but. "Christ, Rodney, I can't believe you're allergic to the damn Christmas tree."
"And you're not? Well, what the hell is up with that?" Of course my whole resentment at the injustice of the universe was cut short when John poured the water over the sap and things really got painful as it hardened instantly into a sharp, glass like substance. "And I repeat, what the fuck!"
The crease on his forehead deepened in proportion to my agony. "Oh, hell, that's not good."
"You think? You really fucking think?" I attempted to pull my arm away but he held tight and started to pull me down the path we had taken from the jumper.
"Screw the tree; we're going back to Atlantis."
But evidently the tree had no desire to be screwed as it took that moment to crack ominously. "What was that?" I asked even as both sets of our eyes turned nervously to the foliage in question.
With a loud snap the tree tilted and started its inevitable fall to the ground. Unfortunately, we were right in the line of its decent. John tackled me to the ground just before the first boughs brushed against my face. With a crash of branches we were submerged in a sea of green. I struggled to regain the breath that had been forced from my lungs with the impact, lungs that were having one hell of a time expanding with the combined weight of John and a goddamn conifer pressing against them.
"John?" I managed to wheeze. He lay heavy and unmoving on top of me, and not in the happy basking in the afterglow sort of way, not in that way at all. "John?"
He shifted against me with a groan. "Yeah?"
Oh, thank God. I leaned in against his cheek, spitting out a few needles before I asked him, "You okay?"
"I have a goddamn tree on top of me, Rodney. What do you think?"
"I think this day really couldn't get much worse."
Of course, that's when the squirrels decided to show up.
I like animals. Always have. Dogs, cats, horses—if it was fuzzy it was cool by me. I wasn't Dr. Doolittle or anything, but the four-legged and I…we bonded. Rodney on the other hand…he was as popular with our furry friends as he was the two-legged natives of the Pegasus galaxy. In other words, not at all. Purple goats humped him, lizard-monkeys threw nuts at him, frogs tried to kill him, high holy groundhogs bit him, rats and bats actually conspired together to keep a vaccine from his plague ridden body. Yeah, Rodney wasn't a fan of the animals, excepting his psychotic cat, and the animals weren't a fan of him. And this time being in such close proximity to that lack of love was about to spill over on me. Joy.
They were squirrels…sort of. They had the fluffy tails, but they were hairless everywhere else. Nude pink with bushy white tails, kind of like a rat in reverse but with flair. And there were hundreds of the freaky half bald critters boiling from the branches. Hundreds. I was glad Rodney was under me and blissfully ignorant so far.
"Serves us right really." I tried to shift under the tree without much success. We were lucky we'd been pinned by the top of the tree…the branches and more slender trunk…rather than the massive one at the base. "The tree was just minding its own business and we come along and kill it just to use for a decoration. We're bad people, Rodney. Bad people."
"What's this we, kemosabe?" came the arctic snipe from under me. "I told you to pick a smaller tree…perhaps one that couldn't squash us like grapes in its death throes, but noooo. You had to have the Godzilla of trees. The King Kong of conifers. The Goliath of…."
As he bitched on, I could twist my head and see the mangy squirrels coming. Pink head after pink head was popping up, shiny black button eyes focusing in on us and they didn't look like shiny happy buttons either. "What's that sound?" Rodney demanded abruptly, eyes widening. "That…chittering. What is that?"
"Like you said, it's chittering," I said casually and tried to move again. Nothing. I looked at him, nose to nose. "Rodney, I think you're going to have to try to dig out from under me."
"Dig?" he repeated incredulously, distracted from the chittering subject. "I'm on my back. What am I supposed to dig with…my amazing, rock hard ass?"
"Not that it's not great, but rock hard?" I couldn't help the quick grin, but I started just as quickly digging for him. Beside his shoulders I began to scoop at the dirt with my hands. "What kind of rock we talking about here? Pumice? Isn't that kind of soft? What about Play-dough? I know it's not a rock, but let's not automatically knock it out of consideration."
"You're an ass. We're pinned under the biggest tree on the entire planet and you take out time from that busy escapade to be an ass. Kudos. Way to put in that extra effort. If only my lab staff had your motivation, we'd be keeping the Wraith as pets now. Walking them on leashes, dressing them in cute little pink sweaters and rhinestone collars. If only…."
"Rodney." I twisted my head again. Oh fuck. Hundreds? No. There were thousands. "Dig."
"Really, John, what's going on?" The annoyance and worry in his eyes changed to just the latter. Hands tried to feel my back under the branches. "Are you all right? Are you….holy shit."
Holy shit was right. If only Bullwinkle were around to talk some sense into a thousand Rockys, a thousand naked alien Rockys with anger management issues.
"Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit." Now Rodney was simultaneously wriggling under me and trying to dig. "How do they know? How do they know every time that it's me? And why me? I oppose animal experimentation in theory. On Earth I would brake for animals if I wasn't in too much of a hurry. I never wore fur. Not even a fur hat, which is actually rather popular in Canada I'll have you know. But did I wear one? No, I did not. And it was not because someone said I looked like a Russian dictator in one, but because I care for every living thing. And I do. I really really care. Most of the time. Well, you know…if it's convenient."
With his frantic digging combined with mine, I was able to start shoving him out while he was still babbling about being the reincarnation of St. Francis Assisi. "Rodney, I don't know how they know, but they know, so go!" I kept pushing as he slithered on his back, up and out from under the fallen tree. He climbed upright, staggered as he got his balance, and reached for his gun. I wasn't sure St. Francis had ever said, make my day, skunk, but Rodney seemed seconds away from snarling it. And while Rodney had once nailed a superwraith with every bullet in his gun, a superwraith is much larger than a pissed off squirrel.
"Rodney, wait…oh Christ." I covered my head as the first shot was fired.
A hand tugged at my shoulder. "It was just a warning shot," came the impatient explanation. "To scare them. If I actually hit one, blood will spatter on me and no doubt I'll be allergic to that too. Now come on!"
I did a little slithering myself. It felt like I left a good square foot of skin behind, but I made it out. Unfortunately I didn't make it out alone. A weight landed hard on my shoulder then scampered up and then…. "Shut the hell up, McKay," I growled.
"It's seeking restitution," he gave me that smugly crooked grin. "You destroyed its nest, so it's just staking out a new one. Where's the harm in that?"
Tiny paws started pulling at my hair trying to rearrange it. "Ow!" I put a hand up to snatch the thing and got a finger promptly bitten for my trouble. "Goddamnit." I glared at Rodney who was still grinning. "You wouldn't think this was so funny if it happened to you. Oh, wait, I guess you'd have to have some nesting material on your head first for that to happen."
He scowled instantly. "That was so uncalled for. You…." His eyes widened as his mouth flapped open and shut silently. He fired again over my head, waved his other hand in obvious urgency at me and then took off running. Fluent in McKay speak, I followed with alacrity. When I glanced over my shoulder, it was to see a wave of pink and white flowing after us. And the enraged chittering…let's just say it gave the Jaws theme a run for its money in sheer chilling of the spine.
We ran for a good fifteen minutes and Rodney kept up…mostly. I made him jog with me twice a week to keep those pudding cups out of his aorta, not to mention keeping him out of Wraith hands if the situation called for a quick escape. He moaned and bitched about it the entire time for the first few months, but when I finally snapped in frustration that I'd run his ass into the ground every fucking day if it would keep him alive and with me, he let up on the complaining. Now he did it under his breath. Hey, it was progress.
He stumbled once and I grabbed his arm to keep him going. Then there was the leg cramp a hundred feet out from the jumper. I took a handful of his shirt to drag him bodily to the ship and toss him in. I closed the door behind us just in time. I could hear a wave of tiny bodies bouncing off the metal. It wasn't precisely a pleasant sound and I dropped into the floor beside Rodney as we both panted. Groaning, he keeled over onto his back and wheezed, "Fucking Holiday tree."
I fell back beside him and snorted, "Grinch. One little thing goes wrong…." I put a hand on his leg and massaged the cramp out of the muscle with careful fingers.
He turned his head to look at me. He was bright red and sweaty, covered in pine needles, had an arm encased in frozen sap and a smear of candy cane on his chin. He also looked like every Christmas present under the tree. I rolled on my side, leaned closer…and a pink squirrel head with curious eyes and sharp teeth popped down between us.
"Gah!" Rodney's hand smacked me directly in the mouth, the squirrel retreated to its new condo on top of my head, and I thought the hell with it. They could take the Darth Vader tree from our quarters and stick it in Control.
Buono fucking Natale.
Well, here we were once again. Me with an arm doing a fine impersonation of a mosquito caught in amber and John with a hamster experiencing empty nest syndrome taking up residence in his hair. And as humorous as that situation was, I was deluding myself if I believed my forearm was getting out of this without being as bald as the rodent that was now a tenant on my spouse when they ripped the glassy resin from my body. Fortunately the burning had stopped when it had hardened. Unfortunately the rat was still hanging out on John and refusing to let me anywhere near him.
Deprived of my kiss, I sat up and unwrapped a powerbar as John touched lightly at the cut on his lip. "Snacking? Now?" Evidently my wedding ring wasn't just a symbol of our undying devotion to one another; it served as its own miniature version of brass knuckles as well.
My attempt to reach out a finger to wipe the trickle of blood and was rewarded by a small head poking up prairie dog style and chattering angrily at me. With a scowl, I pulled my hand back defensively. "Okay, at first I thought it was cute, now it's just pissing me off. And the powerbar isn't for me; it's for Fievel up there."
I broke off a piece and held it out toward John's head. "Here, squirrelly, squirrelly, squirrelly," I practically sang. "I have a super yummy snack for your hairless little ass."
"Rodney, I don't think that's such a good…"
But he never got around to finishing the warning because the vermin stuck his nose out of his new digs, its tail twitching in synch with his sniffing, leaped from John's head to my arm without warning and snatched the snack as I flailed wildly. "Get it off. Get it off. Get it off!"
"I can't with you spazing out like that." He grabbed for the rat as it scurried up my arm and around my neck. "Hold still!" But that was absofuckalutely impossible with the critter climbing up on top of my own head. I swatted blindly and only managed to nail John in the face with my hand once again. "Fucking A, McKay!" He grabbed for his nose and leaned forward slightly, which was all the little four-legged thief needed to launch itself off of my head and back onto John's.
I scrambled backward with a shudder at the feel of phantom paws on my skin even as John's eyes rolled upward trying to see the tiny squirrel that was sitting happily munching on its treat. "Thanks, Rodney," he drawled and sniffled a small drip of blood from his nose. "The only thing worse than powerbar crumbs in our bed is having them in my GODDAMN HAIR!"
I pulled a handkerchief and started to dab at his nose only to have his new friend complain loudly. "Here, you have a little blood…" I pointed feebly. He yanked the cloth from my hand with a growl. "I don't see why you're getting so upset," I defended. "I mean we'll go see Pyonng down in xenobiology when we get back and pull him away from his squark testacies long enough to take care of Alvin up there. Personally, I'm a little more worried about Theodore and Simon and all their buddies that are currently climbing all over the jumper."
And they were. We could hear the pitter patter of hundreds upon hundreds of tiny little feet on the roof and through the windshield I could see little bald heads bobbing and sniffing like nosey neighbors trying to see what was going on inside.
"I guarantee that when the jumper moves, they'll move," John assured and stood to move himself to the pilot seat.
But he stopped when we heard a high pitched whistle, raising his head and looking around in a manner almost identical to the rodents that were covering the jumper. The whistle sounded again and the ones outside began scurrying away, whereas the one that had taken up residence in Casa del Sheppard did its best to burrow into John's skull. "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!" His groping hand was bitten as soon as it touched hairless flesh. "Son of a fucking bitch! That's it! Shoot it, Rodney!"
"What?" I exclaimed. "Do you hear the 'William Tell Overture' playing? I can't shoot it while it's sitting on your head."
"I don't care. Either kill it or kill me. One way or another, one of us isn't going to be around for much longer."
Before I could protest further a voice called out, "Col. Sheppard, Dr. McKay, are you there?"
"Holling?" John answered as he opened the back hatch. "What're you doing here?"
The Athosian along with four others smiled at us from outside the craft. "Teyla informed us that you would be coming to obtain a tree for your Earth holidays. We came to see if we could be of some assistance. The sooner Dr. McKay finishes his task of retrieving the tree, the sooner he can complete his task as Redeemer." He pointedly ignored my frown and continued. "Obviously you were in need of our help for it appears that you have discovered the tree creatures that live in the forest on this planet."
"You could say that," John drawled.
"So you've had problems with them, too, I take it." I indicated the wooden whistle one of the other Athosians carried.
"Oh, yes," Holling chuckled. "We discovered that they do not like high pitched sounds so we devised the whistle. No one goes out into the forest without one."
I rocked back on my heels. "Well, that would have been a nice bit of information to share with, say… your closest allies."
"Yes, that is why we came to find you. That and to warn you that the sap from the trees can be very painful if it touches your skin, at least for those sensitive to it."
"Really?" John crossed his arms and looked to me.
"Definitely," Holling continued, "and you should never put water on it."
"You don't say?" I crossed my own arms revealing the glassy casing.
"Oh." A self deprecating smile spread across Hollings face. "Perhaps we were a little late with our warnings."
"Just a little," John informed him and the squirrel peeked out just to prove the point.
To a man the Athosian's eyes widened in horror when they saw the creature and in unison they took a step back. "The Ancestors protect us!"
I hitched a thumb toward Sheppard's head. "So was this the problem you had with the animals?"
"Y..yes," Holling stuttered. "One did the same to Jinto when he and his friends were playing in the forest."
"How did you get it to leave?" John anxiously stepped forward with his question and the men stepped back an equal distance. The rodent simply blinked and twitched its nose at the others before resuming munching on its meal.
"It left on its own when it found more… rewarding accommodations."
Holling's eyes flicked to the man standing the furthest from John. The man that was pulling his knit cap further down over his head. I pointed an accusing finger. "Him, it moved to him?" I shook my head as understanding dawned. "Of course, he had more hair. So, how did he get rid of it?"
"After two days of trying to coax the creature into another nonhuman nest, Yarmo finally shaved his head."
"Shaved his head?" John's eyebrows nearly knocked the animal from his roost when they shot up in shock. "It wouldn't go to a fuzzy sweater or nice throw rug or something like that?"
"No. We believe the animal prefers humans because of the body warmth. I assume they are easily chilled with no fur."
"Great," I threw up arms in frustration, "all we need to do is find someone with worse hair than yours and we'll be set. If that is even possible. I mean the only person that even comes close…" My eyes widened as I looked to John. "Are you thinking who I'm thinking?"
"Rodney, you can't think that he would even consider letting this thing live in his hair. Besides, I think that might be considered animal cruelty."
I shrugged. "He could train it to throw knives, like a little ninja squirrel. Mikimoto Mouse, Mickey's assassin cousin. It would be just one more weapon in his arsenal."
"Well," he conceded, "we haven't picked him out a Christmas present yet."
And less than two hours later, with the help of the Athosians, the expedition had a tree in the Control Room, I had a red, hairless arm, Ronon had a pink, hairless new pet, and John, who had avoided the whole hairless issue all together, and I had a name marked off our Christmas gift list.
Now, if only this whole Redemption list were as easy to take care of as that.
It was while Rodney was in Supply trying to round up some lice shampoo that I finally got a look at the list. And, no, I didn't have lice, but I wasn't sure I could say the same for my newly lost friend. It might have only had hair on its tail, but knowing my luck today that was probably hair enough to be host to some sort of wraith-lice that sucked your life force out through the follicles of your hair. Better safe than sorry.
Why was Rodney running an errand for me? Wasting his genius sparring with the notoriously stingy Supply clerk? I think my fat lower lip and swollen nose might've had something to do with that. The man could pack a punch…even accidentally. And when I mentioned the shampoo in the same breath as 'you might want to clean the blood off your wedding ring,' well…I guess he didn't want to add anything else to the list.
The same list that I was reading now.
Number twenty-seven: Told Kate Heightmeyer that Kavanagh wets his bed at night and sucks his thumb during staff meetings.
I never thought I'd have sympathy for that sour-faced asshole, but, damn, that was pretty harsh. I settled on the bed, pillows stuffed behind me and read on.
Number thirty-two: Fed Ex-Lax cookies to Doctor Novak to get on the Daedalus with John.
I'd wondered how he'd taken her down during that particular incident. Wondered, but never asked. Plausible deniability, sometimes it was the only way to operate around McKay. What I didn't know wouldn't get me court-martialed. What I didn't know wouldn't implicate McKay in a felony. What I didn't know wouldn't make me go off the goddamn deep end.
Number forty-eight: blah blah Elizabeth…stole her Lady Gillette for my sensitive face…blah blah.
Number fifty-one: blah blah Carson…blow-up sheep doll with shiny red lips blah blah.
Number fifty-nine: blah blah space bimbo blah blah John blah blah raging case of space herpes….
What the fuck?
I sat up and read it again. And again. And when Rodney finally came back into the room I was on my fifth time.
"That malevolent tin-god in Supply is going down," he steamed as he came through the door. "The very second the Athosian New Year starts and my redemptions stop…his Napoleon-complex ass is grass." The door closed behind him. I triggered the lock mentally, unnoticed. "You would think," he went on, "that lice shampoo was the currency of the free galaxy. Forget about the Spice on Dune, it's lice shampoo that really makes the world go round. Kingdoms rise and fall, all on the flow of the shampoo. All hail the mighty shampoo. Bow before its hexachlorocyclohexane imbued stench." He tossed a tiny bottle on the mattress beside my leg. "There you go. Enjoy. I only traded my soul for it."
Ignoring the bottle, I folded the list in half and shoved the wad of pages against his chest. "Herpes," I said calmly. "You told the Dominar and his daughter that I had space herpes. Catastrophically contagious space herpes."
"Oh." He made a frantic grab for the papers before they could tumble to the floor. "You read…oh."
"Yes, oh. I came down with pneumonia from sitting in the freezing rain," I growled.
"Barely pneumonia," he countered feebly. "Walking pneumonia really. A bad cold more or less if you think about it. Carson barely got up from his barca-lounger for that one."
"The villagers spit on me as we walked back to the jumper. Spit…on…me."
"Wouldn't that be spat?" he pointed out helpfully. "I mean, technically, the past tense of…."
"Rodney, shut the hell up," I said grimly.
"Shut up? Shut up?" he sputtered. "No, I will not shut up. Space bimbos are bad for you, okay? They mess with your mind, brainwash you on occasion, plant chips in your back, try to fucking bodysnatch you, and if it takes a fictional case of scorching space herpes to save you from that, then I'll print up a sign and carry it behind you wherever we go. Diseased Air Force Colonel. Run. Run for your lives."
"A sign?" I echoed incredulously.
He folded his arms and thrust out his jaw. "With neon and a blinking LED display. Maybe sound effects while I'm at it."
I considered that for a moment and finally exhaled to say with amusement, "You know, you really suck at redemption."
Rocking on his heels, he dropped his gaze and admitted ruefully, "You think I don't know that?"
I shook my head and stepped forward to wrap an arm around his neck and rest my forehead against his. "They're not all Chaya. And they won't all brainwash me then microchip me like a runaway dog. They won't, Rodney."
"But how do we know which ones will?" he demanded with dark desperation. "We don't know. We can't know. So just…let me do my thing, all right? I'll redeem afterwards, I promise. Every time. Redemptions-Are-Us, you'll see. "
I stroked a reassuring hand up and down his back. "A bad cold," I echoed him from earlier. "Hell, what's a cold?" I steered him until we sat on the bed side by side. I picked up the aloe from the bedside table I'd retrieved from the bathroom earlier. Dumping a dollop in the palm of my hand, I warmed it for a few seconds then applied it with careful fingers to the pink, blistered area of Rodney's arm. He winced automatically, but relaxed as the aloe soothed.
"Joyeux Noel," the tree in the corner offered helpfully.
Rodney tilted his head and studied the blinking red lights. "You know, Christmas really is more for kids. You never enjoy it as much as an adult. Once Santa goes, so does the magic. Poof. Gone. Never to be seen again…much like Kavanagh's sense of charisma"
I swatted the back of his head instantly. "Once again with the Grinchness," I reproved. "But, sorry, you're out of luck. If you're waiting for one of us to somehow reproduce a little Ron or Jodney to bask in the magic of Christmas, you can keep dreaming." I shuddered as the base of my spine twitched. "So not going to happen, I don't care what kind of Ancient cloning rug rat splicing machine you discover in the bowels of this place. Not happening."
"Ron and Jodney," he snorted. "I can see it now. Brilliant Ron with the shock, literally, of black hair, blue eyes, and builds a nuclear bomb before he's five. And Jodney, fine brown hair, hazel eyes, a love of airplanes, and a propensity for showing his penis to all his female classmates in kindergarten. Thanks so much, John. Now I'm scarred for life. Scarred, mutilated, spindled, folded, and put through a shredder. I'll just go into a catatonic coma now. Amuse yourself while I'm 'out'."
"Good to know we're on the same page," I grinned. "Maybe we'll get a cat or the closest thing we can find out here. I know you miss yours." I ran a thumb along the bottom of his arm to soak up a tiny rivulet of aloe then finished smoothing a gentle hand over his arm. "There. Better?"
He looked up at me and quirked his mouth. "Better." And then he kissed me with warm and clever lips and it was better…all of it. It was goddamn perfect.
After I ended up showering…John 1 Squirrel-lice 0…we ended up on the couch, tangled in blankets and each other, watching one of Rodney's early Christmas presents.
"It's a Wonderful Life?" he groaned. "You have got to be kidding. How about It's a Sucky Life When You're Attacked by Pine Trees and Bald Squirrels? Where's that gem? That I'll watch."
"You'll watch this," I said patiently. "And if there's enough time before you dash off to redeem yourself to every member of the Pegasus galaxy, we'll watch Rudolph too. Although I've got a bit of a problem with Santa being a bigot. No rednose on his team? Damn, that's harsh."
"God help me. I might be a geek, but you are such a dork." He leaned against me and snatched a snickerdoodle from the package sent to us by the mother of a fallen friend.
"You'll be Hermie, I'll be Blitzen." I rested a chin on top of his head. He still smelled of pine. I took a deep breath and smiled. It was a good smell, a mixture of Rodney and Christmas. What more could you want?
"Not Yukon Cornelius chasing down the Bumble?"
"Gotta fly," I said casually.
"So why are you watching this insipid, wholly unrealistic movie?" he demanded with exasperation. "You could be flying the jumper. Living the Blitzen lifestyle right here and now."
I kissed the brown hair with a sense of awe and magic that Santa had never come close to giving me and then I answered him simply.
"I am flying."
Somewhere in the darkness there was banging. Banging that was interrupted by the occasional little doorbell chirp then back to the banging. I could ignore that if I really wanted to. Ignoring annoying noise was an ability I had developed living with a roommate in college that slept with anything that breathed… and moaned…and screamed his name at the top of her lungs and I had honed it to a fine skill when I began supervising people whose only intelligent comment most days was 'I'm going for coffee. Anybody want some?' I could even ignore the sleepy shove on my shoulder that attempted to wake me. What I couldn't ignore was the elbow to my ribs when the shove didn't work.
"Rodney, door." The words were barely discernable as they were mumbled into John's pillow.
"Mmnn," came my brilliant response back as I slung an arm across his shoulders and burrowed my face into the nape of my bedmate's neck.
Bang, bang, bang. Chirp.
My own pillow of warm flesh squirmed beneath me. "Rodney, get the door."
"You're closer." If he insisted on me sleeping pressed safely up against the wall then he could answer the goddamn door.
"It's for you," he told me with a yawn and an enticing ripple of muscles under my fingertips as he wrapped his arms around his pillow.
Bang, bang, bang. Chirp.
"How do you know?" I demanded even as my hand moved lazily down the length of his shoulder and back to come to rest on a hip.
He rolled back into me causing my fingers to slide over pelvis and abdomen and brush against… other more interesting body parts. With a twist of his head he kissed me. Warm kisses, warm body, warm bed, who the hell would want to answer a door with those as an alternative? "Because it's not even dawn yet, so you know who it is."
With a sigh I dropped my head to his shoulder. "Can't you get rid of her?"
Bang, bang, bang. Chirp.
"Sorry, this is your diplomatic nightmare, not mine." He nuzzled sleepily against me. "Besides, she has sticks that she likes to hit me with… a lot."
I nibbled on his collar bone and whined, "But I have a stick I want to hit you with, too."
He trapped my hand that was moving to do more than brush against those other more interesting parts. "Then you get rid of her and I'll be waiting here with a stick of my own."
Bang, bang, bang. Chirp. And this time a door-muffled, "Dr. McKay, I know you are in there."
With a small growl and final nip, I climbed out of bed, stretched stiffly and padded toward the door. John was already snuggling back under the covers when he called out, "Rodney, pants."
I stopped at his comment and looked down at my naked self. "Right." Staggering back toward the hamper, I scrubbed a hand over my face and hair before retrieving a random pair of sweatpants… one of the many perks of being married to another man I had learned was the somewhat interchangeable wardrobe.
In the dim predawn light I noticed a clump of toilet paper that had been hidden underneath the sweats. Why the hell was there toilet paper with a bow in the laundry hamper? Curiously I leaned over the basket and peeled back a piece to see a wood frame and matting and the seal of the State of Colorado. Colorado? What state document would be so important that John would have it framed and wrapped and hidden… our marriage license.
I'd forgotten all about the document, figuring we'd never see it again until we returned to Earth and went to personally retrieve it from the Colorado Springs court house. You'd have thought we were trying to mount a political coup when we got married. It wasn't that the laws regarding same sex marriages were so new, or even the fact that we were two different nationalities, although those were nothing to sneeze at; it was our current location on a classified mission that complicated matters so much. The U.S. military, in its infinite wisdom, couldn't figure out where to station John. Finally the decision was made to list Cheyenne Mountain as his duty post and seeing as I had been assigned there in the past, Colorado Springs seemed like the most logical location for a marriage certificate to be issued. Of course, neither of us was even there to obtain the damn thing. The SGC set out to get the certificate in absentia, first sending a set of papers to be signed to obtain the license then the license itself. Seeing as the only way to send and receive the paperwork with official embossments and original signatures was by the Daedalus, the process took months. Add to that the fact that the bureaucracy of the SGC was trying to wade through the bureaucracy of the State of Colorado and you can see why I had abandoned all hope of ever seeing anything that officially declared John Sheppard and Rodney McKay legally married. But evidently John had kept track of the sheet of parchment, enough so that he had managed to have it professionally framed and sent back from Earth in time for Christmas.
Here I had spent the last month racking my brain for a gift idea for him. Something to help recapture a little bit of a childhood that had never really been. A moving box full of 'Star Wars' collectables later, I thought I was ahead of the game. Let him spend Christmas morning having tie-fighter and x-wing battles with Han Solo and the Millenium Falcon swooping in to save the day. And while I had been stuck firmly in redefining his past with molded plastic action figures and blinking light lasers, he had managed to capture our future behind glass and archival matting. He was given me something I already had…us, but that was something I could never have too much of. It was like Emc2; the simplicity of it was staggering and elegant and had me blinking furiously in the grey light.
Bang, bang, bang. Chirp.
At the sound of John's annoyed voice, I straightened guiltily. "Yes?"
"Answer the door."
"Right. The door. Got it." I hastily pulled on the sweats and maneuvered back toward the door without turning on the lights.
I thought the door open to find Teyla, her hand raised in midbang and a small frown on her face. Leaning against the frame I yawned widely. "Ah, Teyla, you're up early this morning."
"Yes, well, I did not want to miss you like I did yesterday morning." The frown warped into a smile at her perceived victory.
We had been playing this game for about a week now. Teyla was my Redeemer buddy; whether self proclaimed or elected by Athosian committee I didn't know, but she had taken it upon herself to make sure that I didn't slack off on crossing names off my list. Every morning she had been showing up at our door with the intent of making sure I made amends to at least a few people that I had managed to offend in my caring and deeply devoted way. The first morning I had been caught off guard when she knocked and ended up spending most of the day being led from one lab to the next begging for forgiveness and being persecuted for my benevolence. The next day I had left for the labs early and was deeply engrossed in a discussion with Miko when she arrived. Never mind that it had to do with John's I-Pod not working properly and me farming it off to her to repair, it was enough to keep my Athosian guide dog from dragging me off for more penance. The morning after that Teyla had arrived even earlier and escorted me through another set of rounds.
The next morning I had intended to get up and out the door earlier still, but John had distracted me, so to speak. Now that I thought about it, I wasn't completely convinced it wasn't some conspiracy between the two of them to keep me there. But honestly, I really didn't care because as a result I now had a newfound appreciation for the 'Star Spangled Banner' seeing as John was humming it while his mouth was otherwise occupied. Of course I had to reciprocate with my rendition of 'Oh, Canada' which had John wondering dazedly if there was any chance he could still keep his job as ranking military officer of Atlantis if he were to immigrate north of the 49th parallel.
And so it had gone back and forth, only this morning I had other things to do than wander the halls and atone for my sins against humanity, more important things to do, and believe it or not, they were list related. "Look, Teyla, I understand that this whole Redeemer thing is important to your people..."
"The Athosian calendar has been maintained for thousands of years. It is one of the few societal constants that has survived even during the cullings."
"So, what? The Wraith couldn't destroy your culture but evidently I'm on the verge of doing just that?"
Teyla sighed heavily. "Dr. McKay, I know you did not choose this honor…"
"Honor? I had no idea the scars on my ankle from the sacred rat bites are some sort of decoration of my selflessness. Should I wear sandals so I can display them at banquets and on the High Athosian Holidays?"
"I understand that this undertaking has not been easy for you…for any of us, really…" My frown and crossed arms at the muttered addendum to her statement had her moving on with a false smile. "But you must not become discouraged by the reactions some people have had to your attempts to make amends."
My only response was to look at her with raised eyebrows. Who the hell did she think she was kidding? Reactions? How about open and flagrant hostilities? How about the fact that I was already keeping a second list, a list of all the things I was going to do to those inconsiderate ingrates as soon as this list was complete and I could return to exacting horrific revenge on all those that dared to cross the path of Dr. Rodney McKay?
Teyla just continued to smile weakly. "Dr. Beckett said the coffee burns from Dr. Martinez were not serious at all. And as for Lt. Fitzmaurice, it is my understanding that in Earth culture wedgies are a sign of camaraderie among friends."
"Uh huh. And Dr. Stellman's demand?" I tapped one bare foot irritably.
"Oh... that…" My teammate suddenly became very interested in her own feet. "Well, I'm sure that the soap solution that I gave you will remove the odor of urine from your shoes." I continued to stare so she tried a different ploy. "The sooner we return to the list, the sooner you will be done."
"Not today," I told her simply and started to shut the door.
"Dr. McKay, wait!" A hand shot in and the automatic safety guards slid the door back open. "Please, this is very important to me and my people."
I sighed. "If I promise that I'm going to go and work on crossing off someone from my list right now, will you be satisfied?"
"Yes," she began shuffling through her own duplicate print out. "Who will it be? Perhaps number eighty-two: caused Dr. McGregor to superglue himself to Dr. Mankewic resulting in sexual harassment charges against the former."
"Okay, now I cannot be responsible for how much he moved his hands when they were attached…there, but no, that is not the one I have any intention of working on today."
"Then who?" She continued to flip through the pages.
"None of your business," I snapped and promptly shut the door before she could stop me.
This damn list was going to be the death of me, I just knew it. No one would ever accuse me of being Good King Wenceslas, because there was just so much kindness and goodwill I could spread. And it was just a matter of time before I developed a tick from having to apologize to so many people in such a short period. Even Teyla had agreed that we should stop before lunch on the first day, noting the dangerous shade of red I had turned and the small flecks of foam that were forming in the corner of mouth when I asked yet another person what I could do to make amends. That had been Teyla's idea… forget trying to come up with ways to beg forgiveness on my own and just ask them what it would take. But when Henley told me the only form of restitution she would accept was dancing on my cold grave, Teyla had simply lined through her name, stated that death was an inevitability and that I should accept credit for future actions. Honestly, I think she was afraid that John would never forgive her if I were to be reduced to a twitching lump on the floor from frustration; either that or the only way to usher in the New Year was to murder me in my sleep. But if it resulted in a name marked off my list, I wasn't going to complain.
The first rays of the Atlantean sun were angling through the window to land on the solar panels of the mechanical Christmas tree when I started back to bed. It blinked to life and began to spin with a chipper "Merry Christmas." Christ, I hated that damn thing. It was a torture device to make even the Marquis de Sade beg for mercy. But John loved it; therefore I loved it, because I loved John. And maybe there was something to this whole 'Gift of the Magi' thing, even though I had managed to freeze time for the Athosians and John had managed, just barely, to avoid cutting off all his hair. Still, I would gladly sacrifice my sanity if that would make his Christmas a little more cheery… teeth gratingly, migraine inducingly, cheery.
When I reached the bed it was empty but I followed the sound of running water into the bathroom and grinned at the site of a nude John standing there brushing his teeth. I ask you, who needs Christmas morning when you got to wake to that every single day? I walked up behind him, rested my chin on his shoulder and wrapped an arm around his waist. Kissing his neck I dropped my hand on his and rubbed our rings together, creating a sound to rival even the sweetest carol. "Mmmmmm, that's a nice sound," I mimicked his typical morning greeting.
He spat toothpaste and smiled at me in the mirror. "One of my all time favorites." After a quick rinse he dropped his toothbrush in the cup and it leaned into mine, just like he was leaning back into me. "Mission accomplished?"
"Sir, yes, sir," I teased even as my lips teased up to his ear.
"Good work, Cadet." He looped an arm back behind me to pull me in tighter against him.
I nipped an earlobe. "Cadet? I only rank a Cadet?"
"How about Space Cadet, then?" He closed his eyes as I sucked lightly on the lobe.
"You consider that a promotion?"
"We'll see if you deserve a promotion after you come back to bed." Standing straighter, he took the hand that was still resting on his and tangled our fingers, tugging me back toward the bedroom.
"Give me a minute and I'll be right there," I promised.
He leaned in for a minty kiss that blew away every candy cane ever made. "Okay, but I should warn you, it's not a good idea to keep a superior officer waiting."
After a quick brush of my own, I walked back to the bed. "Buon Natale" the tree told me from the corner. I clenched my jaw and moved on to what I knew would be more enticing sounds to come. John pulled the covers back from my side of the bed and patted the space with a smirk.
As I crawled in, he shook his head disapprovingly. "Rodney, pants."
I looked down at my clothed body. "Right."
I wiggled out of the sweats, wiggled under the covers and kept on wiggling until I had John wiggling too. Or maybe it was writhing. I don't know which was the more appropriate word. All I do know was there was panting and heavy breathing and several, "oh, Gods," and even a couple of, "Holy shits," and more than a few gasped calls of my name.
And all I could think…once I could think clearly again, was that I only wished all the redemptions could be this much fun. Because there was one item that Teyla didn't have on her list. It was the hand written addition at the bottom of my personal copy. The one note that I had put on the list myself. The one item that only I knew about and only I could fix. I had scrawled it quickly and sloppily when no one was looking. 'Never sufficiently thanked John for loving me,' it said and no amount of penitence could ever rectify that situation. But I planned to try, every day for the rest of my life. And if it meant Athosian time stopped in its tracks until I did then so be it, just more time for me to show my gratitude.
And there was no time like the present to start.
The End and Happy Holidays!