Strange things go through a man's mind when he's facing a horde of children expecting him to entertain them. They were not so menacing that his entire life was flashing before his eyes, but the past month certainly was. Rodney found him reflecting morosely on what had led him to such unlikely circumstances.
The diplomatic skills of one Elizabeth Weir had certainly contributed. The bribes offered up by Major Sheppard had certainly helped as well. But, ultimately he was just overcompensating.
For some reason, everyone on the expedition had been convinced that Dr. Rodney McKay hated Christmas. More specifically he had attained the title of The Atlantis Grinch. His entire science team had even gone so far as to turn off their Christmas music whenever he entered the room. He had been going to ask them to turn it back on the first time, but then he'd caught sight of a hastily hidden picture of himself on several lap tops, coloured in Grinch green and wearing a Santa hat.
Well, that was fair enough. He was their boss, after all. What else should he expect? He didn't have Sheppard's charm, Elizabeth's diplomacy, or Carson's…Scottishness. He was used to professional jealousy. So he'd let it be so long as it didn't interfere with productivity.
Rodney didn't hate Christmas at all. Sure, he had no patience for religious mumbo jumbo. And he never pretended to be good with children, yes even now. And yes, he was never any good at the whole family thing and was generally bad with people.
He had never believed in Santa Claus, though he had once sorely tried. He personally thought it was cruel for adults to conspire together to deceive innocent children to believe in something so incredulous. For a time he'd honestly thought his parents and teachers must be completely insane, or else that there was something very wrong with him. Reindeer couldn't fly. And while he'd managed to prove by the age of seven, through pain-staking calculations, that visiting every home in the world in one evening was possible, he found it exceedingly unlikely that Santa and his elves had the necessary technology or knowledge of physics to pull it off. Besides, reindeer couldn't fly.
Sure, he detested parties and any form of large gathering where he wasn't directing a science team, explaining a complex problem and solution, or permitted to be lost in his work. He could handle the odd appearance where it was necessary to gain project support from important people, but beyond that he'd much rather be somewhere else. Christmas was no exception to that rule. He didn't do social well. He would much rather stick to what he was good at. Attempting to do otherwise was… irritating.
But that still didn't mean that he hated Christmas. Who didn't like an excuse to eat copious amounts of food? Or appreciate the season's contribution to music history? Ok, so maybe he was one of the few who appreciated the latter. But the point was that he did not hate Christmas. It was in fact his second favourite holiday of the year, alongside Thanksgiving. Again, who didn't like an excuse to eat copious amounts of food?
It had all begun on November 28th….
- Week One -
Rodney had pulled an all-nighter trying to trace a power drain. It was a small drain. Some would say negligible. But Rodney was of the opinion that every little bit mattered. Any use of power that he was not fully aware of the purpose of could be unnecessary. And any unnecessary drain of their precious power was unacceptable.
Unfortunately, the smaller the drain of power, the more difficult it was to trace. And this particular ghost in the machine was intermittent, suggesting a system malfunction such as a door opening and closing, or perhaps flickering lights. His eyes were stinging as he stared at the screen. And he had the beginnings of a headache. But he felt close to the answer. And Rodney McKay could never give up on a problem when he felt close to the answer.
Jingle jingle jingle jingle jingle
Rodney cringed as his concentration was broken, and looked up from his work station in the control room to find Ford and Sheppard bouncing up and down and grinning. They each proudly wore a decorative jingling bell on their uniforms, with a little red and green bow.
Ford grinned all the more broadly at the bewildered look of the scientist. "It's about time! Do you have any idea how long we've been bouncing here?"
"My calves were starting to ache." Sheppard shared.
Rodney stared both of them down in annoyance, "And yet you road through the pain in the cause of annoying me."
"Yep," Sheppard grinned lopsidedly and bounced one more time for good measure.
"How noble." Rodney snarked.
"C'mon McKay! Where's your Christmas spirit?" Ford slapped McKay on the shoulder and leaned smotheringly close.
"Ow!" Rodney scowled and rubbed his arm. Couldn't they see he was working? "It's still November! Isn't it a little early to start celebrating Christmas? And can't you see I'm working?"
Ford backed off and frowned at the snappish tone in McKay's reply.
Sheppard narrowed his eyes in scrutiny and realized that McKay looked quite tired, "Have you slept?"
Rodney huffed, "What does that have to do with anything? And no, I haven't. I've been trying to trace this power drain."
"And it's taken you all night?" Ford looked incredulous.
Rodney squared his shoulders defensively, "It's a very small drain! Like a flickering light. You have no idea what kind of challenges are involved in tracing a flickering light in a city this size."
"You spent all night chasing down a flickering light?" Sheppard drawled disbelievingly.
Rodney frowned and shrugged awkwardly, "Or possibly a door… stop looking at me like that! I am not obsessive. Saving power is important!"
Sheppard quickly raised his hands in a gesture of peace, "I didn't say you were obsessive." Then he slowly made to back away from the crazy man.
"I'll say he's obsessive," Ford muttered and then grinned as he got a rise out of McKay.
Rodney released a frustrated huff before once again defending his dedication, "I would think that you two, especially you Ford, would see the importance of being certain of what causes any power fluctuation in an alien city in an alien galaxy that houses black energy sucking monsters!"
That wiped the grin off of Ford's face, "You think it's one of those?"
"No. I don't think it's one of those. The power drain is far too small for it to be one of those. I think it's a flickering light. But there's no harm in being certain." Rodney explained more calmly now that he thought he had at least Ford's serious attention.
But the moment Rodney had said that it wasn't an energy creature the cavalier grin was back on Ford's face.
"What's all this about?" Dr. Weir walked into the control room, each step punctuated by a distinct jingle. Oh, not her too.
Rodney rolled his eyes and turned back to his screen. Aha! Finally! The power drain was coming from the commissary!
"McKay was just being a Grinch," Sheppard answered in a tattle tale voice.
"Oh I was not!" McKay defended a little too vehemently before realizing he was letting himself be bated again. "And it's November! It's impossible to be a Grinch, or anything else Christmas related, before December."
Was that amusement glinting in Elizabeth's eyes? "Well, everyone has been a little homesick. I couldn't resist getting off to an early start. Besides, this isn't just about celebrating Christmas. There's also, Hannukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, St. Nicholas Day, Chinese New Year… I thought it would be a good opportunity for cultural exchange."
Jingle jingle jingle jingle jingle
Ford and Sheppard began bouncing up and down again, directly on Rodney's last nerve. "Oh, for crying out loud!"
Elizabeth looked surprised at the outburst.
"Not you Elizabeth." He shot a glare at Sheppard, and when he turned back he was pleased to see that Elizabeth had cast a scolding look at Sheppard and Ford.
When she looked back at Rodney it was with a hint of concern, "You look a bit tired, Rodney. I hope you're not working too hard again."
"He pulled an all-nighter." Sheppard tattled.
"Just one!" Rodney defended and glowered at Sheppard. "I found a possible malfunction in the system."
At this, Elizabeth looked concerned, "Is it serious?"
Ford snickered, "No. It's a power drain so small that it's taken him all night to find it."
"As in 'flickering light' small," Sheppard explained helpfully.
"And I've traced it to the commissary. So if you don't mind I'll go finish up and, pending disastrous emergency, I'll take a short nap." Rodney snapped his laptop shut and made a quick exit, mostly to avoid being told off for staying up all night.
The last thing he heard before the transporter swept him away was Elizabeth's hesitant question, "Did he say the commissary?"
He stepped into the hallway leading to the commissary and was nearly barrelled over by Dr. Zelenka .
"Zelumpka! What is your hurry?" Rodney snapped, inwardly cackling as he mispronounced Zelenka's name again.
The other man scowled, "It is Zelenka! We have been working together for months! You are supposed to be genius, yet you cannot remember the name of a man you work with daily?"
Rodney stepped dismissively around the other scientist and strolled onward, "Uhuh, That's 'AM' a genius, thank you very much. Negligible as it was, I finally managed to trace that power drain. I believe you owe me three chocolate chip power bars. You never should have doubted me." He smiled smugly at his small victory.
The indignant look on Dr. Zelenka's face evaporated as he hurried to keep up with Rodney, "Yes of course, three chocolate chip bars as agreed for our little bet. But, I was just on my way to control room to tell you… is funny story. Perhaps not so funny at moment, but will be funny later, perhaps. I think you should slow down."
"What are you, nuts? Your rambling would suggest it's a distinct possibility." Rodney snarked as his strides increased. "I want to get this over with. I've been at this all night! The curiosity alone is killing me."
He looked over his shoulder at Zelenka as he strolled through the doors to the commissary. The man was cowering strangely outside the door, his spectacled eyes staring nervously at the room that Rodney had just strolled headlong into. Rodney quickly turned his head to look for the source of Zelenka's trepidation.
His laptop drooped, he let out a soft moan, and all traces of the smug smile he had been sporting was wiped away by the blinking Christmas lights that had been put up around all the walls.
He can't have been staring at the lights longer than a few seconds when Dr. Weir came in, followed closely by a grimacing Major Sheppard, and a grinning Lieutenant Ford. Ford stopped grinning when Sheppard whacked him in the back of the head.
"Dr. McKay," Weir winced apologetically, "In hindsight I think perhaps I should have informed the science department of our intention to begin decorating the commissary. At the time, we had some sockets that your team had already prepared, as spares, so I didn't think it necessary to disturb you. I apologize."
"Yes, well," Dr. McKay spared a glare for Ford, and managed an emotionless look for Dr. Weir, "You know what they say about hindsight." It wasn't quite an acceptance, but it would do.
"You should probably get some rest. Things will look better then." Sheppard suggested a little too gently.
Why the Major thought he needed to be coddled was beyond Rodney at the moment. He spared a tired eyed glare for him as well, then strolled back out the commissary with as much dignity as he could muster.
"Take the rest of the day off!" Dr. Weir called after him.
Dr. Zelenka was still hovering just outside the doors. He held up three chocolate chip power bars and looked like he was going to try to say something comforting or encouraging. Rodney snatched the power bars before Zelenka could say anything and continued his stolid march back to the transporter.