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Deck the Halls

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By their fourth year in Atlantis, John thinks the Christmas decorations have gotten a little out of hand. The first year was pretty improvisational, with a tree brought over from the mainland and decorations made out of whatever people could spare. They had one string of Christmas lights, somebody's personal item, which wound up at the very top of the tree wrapped around a plastic star cut out of a shipping container. Everybody laughs now about the pictures from that Christmas, because that's easier than remembering how they were all pretty sure it was going to be their last one, or thinking about how many of them were right.

The second year, they were back in contact with Earth, and the people who were into decorating for Christmas managed to get enough actual Christmas lights to cover an impressively large tree. The third year, there were more lights, some of them specially designed to be brighter and more screamingly colorful than anything commercially available, and the Marines encouraged the scientists by volunteering to string them in places that involved scaling sheer towers or dangling from balconies. Elizabeth had to ban the flocking of anything after an unfortunate incident involving vacuuming fake snow out of Ancient machinery, but the city still looked aggressively festive.

The fourth year, plans for the light display start going around in October. They involve motion sensors, attempts to match the precise color palette used by the Ancients in designing the city's original lighting, and elaborate synchronized flashing. John is not looking forward to Colonel Carter noticing how much time has been put into this, especially given that they're not having the world's greatest year. That's probably why people are putting so much time into this, but he's not the best person at explaining things like that.

There's really no way to avoid the inevitable, though, and he walks into Sam's office one morning to find her frowning over a long email thread of enthusiastic bickering over Christmas lights. "Why is this the first I'm hearing about this?" she asks.

"It's just a thing a few people do," John says. "I think we could probably use some holiday spirit."

Sam gave him a look that might be a little hurt. "I'm not trying to cancel Christmas," she said. "I just can't believe how inefficient the power supply they're talking about using is. It would be easy to interface the lights into the city's main power system, especially if they're going to keep doing this every year. And I distinctly remember that we have some colored spotlights--"

"We have some hazard lights," John says. "I don't think they're in the precise shade of whatever color they decided the lights needed to be to match the walls--"

"That's easy to fix. You know, we could do other holidays too," Sam says, a dangerous gleam in her eyes. "See how many we can come up with an appropriate light show for. What do you suppose we could drop for New Year's Eve?"

"The Big ZPM?"

"Okay, maybe not." She shakes her head, sobering. "I'm not going to tell people not to have fun, John. I'd actually like to play, too."

"Have fun," John says. "Let me know if you need somebody to break their neck hanging things."

"You think I can't hang lights, Sheppard?" She's grinning, and he returns the smile.

"We could take a bet. Who can get Christmas lights in whatever place requires doing the stupidest thing to reach it--"

"And then when we both break our necks, who's going to run Atlantis?"

"Lorne and McKay?"

Sam shakes her head. "How about we exercise reasonably good judgment instead?"

"You're no fun," John says.

"Yes, just call me Ebenezer Scrooge," Sam says dryly. "But don't send any ghosts to haunt me until after lunch, okay? I want to take a look at the specs on the strings of lights they ran up last year."

"We've got plenty of those," John says abruptly. "Ghosts, that is."

"I bet you do," Sam says, and the sympathy in her eyes is clearly real.

"Yeah. Well." He strikes out at a tangent, never entirely sure what to do with understanding, despite appreciating it. "We're probably just lucky we haven't found any reindeer in the Pegasus Galaxy, or somebody would have tied them to a sled by now and figured out how to make it fly."

"We probably shouldn't encourage anyone to try," Sam says, and John has to admit she's probably right.