"This is all your fault, you realise," Rodney says, breaking his own suggestion that they sit there and quietly wait to be rescued. Silently fuming had sounded like a good idea, but after fifteen minutes Rodney's already bored beyond belief.
"This is my fault," John repeats sceptically. "How?"
"Oh, no, don't bring the whole team, he says. Just because you're grinching on Christmas - and grinching still isn't a verb, by the way - doesn't mean everyone has to miss the party. And now here we are," Rodney says, pointing at the piles of rocks around them, dusty edges emphasized by the blue light from two glow sticks. It feels like the world's most depressing rave. "Stuck in a cave in, waiting for someone to rescue us."
"Assuming anyone comes," John adds, like the lack of response on their comms is some kind of joke.
"We left detailed mission parameters. They're going to come," Rodney says firmly. A few years ago, when he'd first come to Atlantis, being trapped inside a cave-in and unable to contact help would have left him panicking. These days, he knows help will come. He knows the safety protocols, and how long they'll wait before sending out a search team. He also knows that walking - or flying - through a gate with John Sheppard means there's a really good chance he'll be trapped, shot at or otherwise threatened. (To be specific, it's a sixty-eight per cent chance. Rodney was once bored enough to look through their mission reports to check. There's also a twenty-three per cent chance that John will get propositioned. Given that he's in an alien galaxy, Rodney's life is far too predictable.)
John shrugs. "This is probably more your fault than mine."
"What? No. No, it's clearly yours. If we'd brought Teyla and Ronon, they would have called for help and we'd be out by now."
"I wasn't about to order Ronon to miss the party with free-flowing booze and plants that impel you to kiss."
Rodney snorts. Ronon takes an enthusiastic approach to mistletoe. Christmas is the season of wandering down hallways to find Ronon making out with strangers. Given the way Ronon looks, no one seems to complain too much. "Explaining mistletoe shouldn't be that hard."
"Oh, he gets it," John replies earnestly. "He just enjoys pretending that he doesn't understand the custom."
"The point stands that if we'd come as a team, I wouldn't be trapped right now."
"Or all four of us would be stuck here with you and your complete lack of Christmas cheer." John has a certain world-weary expression that says people are weird and this should be obvious and he wishes he didn't have to talk about this. He's wearing that expression now. "Your mood and confined spaces don't mix well."
"There's no mood."
"Really? Because if this is you spreading joy and goodwill to all men, I don't think you're doing it right. You've been grinching."
"I have not been..." Rodney pauses, thinking of the right word. He's tempted to lean over and poke John in his bony shoulder, but he only just found a comfortable way to sit against a pile of rubble and he might lose it if he moves.
"That isn't a word. Stop saying it like it's a word. I haven't been acting like a character from a rhyming children's book."
"Would you prefer scrooging?"
"No." The thing is that Rodney could take John's needling if it was just John being a bit of a jerk and amusing himself. Rodney understands squabbling as entertainment; he's done it since he was a kid. But John's wearing that uncomfortable, slightly constipated expression that means he's trying to force himself to talk about feelings. Rodney has had enough of talking about feelings this month. He's full up on that quota. "Before you say anything, I'm fine."
The uncomfortable expression gets worse. "Since Katie left-"
"We are not talking about that," Rodney interrupts. He's spent the last three weeks successfully not talking about that, and he intends to continue, thank you very much. "I'm fine. Even if I wasn't fine, everyone says they're fine after a breakup and it's the sort of social white lie you're supposed to respect and not attempt to force a conversation about it. And this is not my fault."
"You were the one who wanted to check out the energy signatures."
"They could have been important." Crossing his arms, Rodney adds, "There's no way I could know it was a sensor malfunction."
"You were the one who insisted it couldn't wait a few days."
"If it was a ZPM, it would have been worth the rush."
"You were the one who said it was a better use of time than attending 'some stupid Christmas party'."
"You were the one who said it wasn't fair to drag Teyla and Ronon away from the stupid party, and that's why we're in this mess!"
"We're in this mess because you've been anti-Christmas ever since the Daedalus left," John says softly. "I've seen you at Christmas. I've seen you counting down the days until yams and cranberry sauce. This year, you've been grinching."
The downside to having friends that know you, Rodney thinks, is that they know you too well. Usually, he's all about the Christmas feasting. He enjoys holidays that celebrate with carbohydrate-rich food. Last year, he spent the day with Katie, eating far more than a human being should be capable of eating. Going to a big 'not mandatory but you'd better have a really good reason for not attending' party and knowing Katie wasn't there... He hadn't been looking forward to it. "Maybe I've been a little... Scrooge-like."
"Bah humbug, Rodney. You've been the personification of bah humbug." In the unflattering blue light, John rolls his eyes. "It's not like you've been subtle. I get it. You wanted an excuse to get out of the party."
"Maybe," Rodney says grudgingly, "it's both our faults." He's going to leave it at that. He's not going to continue this conversation. He's sick of talking with John but he still hears himself grumble, "You didn't have to come, you know."
"You wouldn't have been allowed to go alone." John shrugs. "I'm sorry things ended with Katie."
"Really?" Rodney asks sarcastically, because it's one of the stupidest clichés around. Being sorry for something that's not your fault has always struck him as a particularly stupid form of politeness.
"No, but it's the social white lie you're not supposed to question."
For a moment, Rodney thinks John's joking but John looks serious. Too serious. "What did you have against Katie?"
"Nothing. Just..." The word hangs in mid-air and John gives another half-hearted shrug. Then he sighs, a deep procrastination of a sound. "Ever have that feeling like you could turn left or you could turn right, and you have no idea which is the right call?"
"Knowing you, you probably solve those with coin tosses."
John smirks. "Good point." Then he shuffles across and leans into Rodney's personal space, without mistletoe or any other excuse. He just kisses Rodney. He kisses the way he flies, an odd amalgamation of laid-back and controlled, daring and careful.
Rodney's had more than a few bad kisses in his life, and this definitely isn't one of them.
"You have dubious timing," Rodney says when John pulls back a few inches. There's still a hand on Rodney's forearm and John's still close enough for Rodney to smell the Aqua Velva. "We are literally worlds away from a comfortable bed."
"And they say romance is dead," John deadpans.
"On the other hand," Rodney says, pulling John in close, "we have several hours until our inevitable rescue."