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The Stress and Spirit of Giving

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John McClane was screaming, running over shards of glass, and firing a machine gun at terrorists, and John Sheppard couldn't be happier. Sure, he was stuck on a planet in another galaxy, fighting life-sucking aliens with no supply line back to Earth, a hostile situation that would surely make even John McClane balk. But it was what passed for their Friday night, he had Die Hard on the laptop, his second mug of Athosian ale on the nightstand, and his guy sitting on the bed next to him.

Well, not truly his guy, for Rodney McKay would never be any man's guy, but his best friend, his most loyal and frighteningly intelligent comrade, and a fellow was free to dream his own pleasant fantasies in his most private thoughts.

Rodney didn't seem to share John's contentment, his hands making the occasional twitching gestures, his gaze straying over to the top of John's dresser. John tapped pause on the laptop that sat on the bed between them, leaving McClane motionless, ready to pluck glass out of his feet. "Rodney?"

"Should you be leaving that out? Anyone could see it. The idea of a Secret Santa exchange is that it remains secret."

"You're the only one who barrels into my room, Rodney."

"Oh." Rodney glanced over at the package, cunningly wrapped by Teyla in some sort of supple plant husks and decorated with sprigs of dried berries. "So you didn't, erm, have my name?"

"I had Elizabeth."

"Elizabeth?"

The obvious horror in Rodney's voice made John laugh. "Yeah, Elizabeth. I traded Alvera some chores around her house in exchange for one of those kaftans she weaves."

"Yes, it must be easy to find presents in the Pegasus Galaxy if you're Captain Kirk, and a kaftan? For Elizabeth?"

John repressed his sigh, wishing that Rodney's continuing jealousy of his supposed sexual exploits was because he desired John, not the beautiful women he thought fell into John's bed. "The Wraith took her husband and we could only bring a duffel bag with us. What woman wouldn't want more clothes?" Knowing Elizabeth, she'd only wear the kaftan in her quarters, but she should enjoy a new lounging outfit, especially one in such beautiful shades of blue and purple. Even John occasionally tired of his uniform and the few civilian clothes he'd managed to stuff in.

"Yes," Rodney agreed reluctantly. "I hadn't thought of clothes."

"You do have your gift, don't you?"

"Maybe?"

"Rodney! It's Christmas Eve Eve!"

"You did not just say Christmas Eve Eve." Rodney leaped off the bed, taking the warmth of his body away from John. He began to pace around the room, hands waving in agitation. "What are you, five years old? And I told you, I told everyone, that my genius does not extend to present giving. I was against this idea from the very beginning."

Damn, he should have checked earlier. Rodney had objected to the exchange when Elizabeth had raised the idea in a senior staff meeting, and then gone suspiciously quiet after the name selection. "Okay, who do you have?"

"I can't tell you! I do understand the rules. It's a secret."

John rubbed his chin, watching his friend unleash some of his suppressed energy on pacing. "It's a Marine," he deduced, because Rodney couldn't have this much trouble with a scientist.

Visibly deflating, Rodney threw himself back on the bed, his arm once again pressed against John's. "Maybe?"

"Marines are just guys, Rodney. They like..." Sex, he wanted to say. Hot, steamy sex with you, if they had perceptive good taste. "Food, booze, sports, music."

"Our last few missions haven't allowed opportunities to trade for food or alcohol, and the cooks have pinched everything the Athosians have for the Christmas feast," Rodney noted. "Sports? Like football?"

"Most of them like football. Some prefer basketball or baseball. I like golf. I wish I could have brought some clubs," he added wistfully, missing a sunny day and nothing to do but practice his swing. "Hey." He squeezed Rodney's arm. "You want to tell me the name? I can figure something out tomorrow."

"No." Rodney's face set in those obstinate lines John saw only when facing the absolute worst danger. "I appreciate the offer, but I have to figure this out myself."

"It's the thought that counts, Rodney." He didn't normally reassure Rodney, opting instead for poking and teasing, but the other man looked so tense, John wanted to comfort him.

"No, it's not. When you're on an alien planet in another galaxy and getting one gift, it has to be a fabulous gift, the most amazing gift ever."

It didn't surprise John that Rodney would be this determined to do right by a Marine he probably couldn't even recognize. The scientist was a big marshmallow under his self-centered exterior. The warmth he felt for Rodney swamped him, and for a moment, he started to lean toward him, intending to kiss the stiff line from his lips. Then he remembered his position and Rodney's straightness, and jerked back. The damage had been done, as Rodney's eyes widened in comprehension. "John?"

"It's - " he started to lie, but found himself staring helplessly into Rodney's shocked face, completely at a loss for words, wondering if he'd just managed to destroy their relationship. Then Rodney was leaning toward him, and they were kissing, gentle kisses that were barely more than their lips touching, before deepening, mouths opening, tongues meeting in warm exploration.

Neither of them paid any attention when the laptop clattered to the floor.

~~~

John rushed to the large room that had been designated as their cafeteria, stopping for a second to shift into a saunter as he strolled in, obviously one of the last to arrive at the Christmas/every winter holiday possible brunch. His whole body felt alive, but exhausted, two nights of passion with Rodney leaving him exhilarated but conscious that he should try for a catnap this afternoon.

"John," Elizabeth said, giving him a funny look, which he returned with a good-natured grin. He didn't think he and Rodney would be able to hide their relationship for long, at least not from her observant eyes, but he'd give it a try. "We were looking at the presents and thought you might want to start first. Yours is perhaps... obvious."

The gifts were arranged around a large evergreen brought from the mainland and decorated with every bright bauble on Atlantis. He scanned the packages, trying to figure out which one Elizabeth meant, and then whooped. "Golf clubs!" They were in a duffle bag, zipped along its top and a hole cut in one side, the clubs poking out of the modified top. He pulled one out, feeling its weight and balance. "Perfect."

"I know we're not required to reveal who the Santa is," Rodney said, suddenly appearing at his side, "but I was able to modify one of the Ancient manufacturing machines to make different shapes. I might be able to make other things?" he said to the crowd in general, the kind of awkward offer Rodney could make when his insecurity overrode his ego. He seemed pleased at the applause and whoops he received.

They drifted out of the center of attention as Elizabeth and Teyla began handing out gifts, leaving plenty of time between deliveries for each present to be opened and admired.

"You do like them?" Rodney asked. "I had to guess at the measurements and weight, but it should be easy to modify them to your specifications."

"I love them," John said sincerely, hoping that Rodney could see the 'I love *you*' in his eyes. Considering that Rodney's answering smile was as bright as all the baubles on the Christmas tree, John thought maybe he did.

~ the end ~