The Daedalus arrived three weeks before Christmas and the mood on Atlantis lightened considerably when the mail delivery included all manner of holiday care packages, including a crate of frozen turkeys courtesy of the SGC. John was there to oversee the unloading of the shipment, which also included new stores of ammo and things like toilet paper and bed sheets and kitchen supplies.
John wasn’t expecting to get anything. He and his brother had mended a few fences after his father’s funeral, but they hadn’t yet reached the gift-giving stage in their relationship. So he was surprised, when he went to Rodney’s quarters for their weekly chess game, to find a festively wrapped gift box with his name on it waiting on his chair.
“Stop eyeing it like it’s going to blow up,” Rodney said, setting up the chessboard. “It’s from Jeannie. I’m supposed to tell you not to open it until Christmas, but she won’t know the difference either way.”
John couldn’t keep the grin off his face, pleased that Rodney’s sister had been so thoughtful. “I’ll save it.”
He gave the box a little shake as he moved it to the bed, and the way the contents shifted he was almost sure it was clothes. And then, since the box Rodney received was open on the desk, crumpled newspaper scattered everywhere, he helped himself to a look inside. It was empty.
“I assume you already hid the chocolate.”
Rodney flushed. “Yes, well. Can’t be too careful, can I? Especially around sticky-fingered Colonels. No, don’t touch –”
But it was too late. John already had the little porcelain figure in his hands, rescued from its hiding place behind a piece of newspaper. It looked old, the paint faded and in some places rubbed off entirely: a little angel in a red dress, with a pom pom hat on her head and glitter-dusted wings on her back. She was playing a ukulele or something.
“You starting a collection?” John asked Rodney, fighting back a smirk.
“No. Shut up.” Rodney snatched it back and set it carefully on the desk. “It was my grandmother’s.”
There was something in his voice, or maybe the gentle way he handled the kitschy little decoration, that wiped the smile off John’s face. He and Rodney hadn’t shared much of their life histories – the present was all that really mattered to either of them – but John knew that Rodney’s childhood hadn’t been ideal. He debated asking now, but Rodney started talking as if he could read John’s intent on his face. Maybe he could.
“My parents were self-absorbed assholes. Christmas was about appearance. We had to look nice, act nice, and be thankful for the nice, normal presents they gave us that weren’t even close to the things we actually wanted.” Rodney’s finger traced the angel wings. “My grandmother, though. When I was there I could be myself. She let me eat raw cookie dough and make Star Trek ornaments to hang on the tree. She bought me my first telescope.”
John could imagine it all too well. Hell, he’d lived it himself just with a million intolerable fancy parties thrown into the mix. Feeling an unexpected surge of kinship he slung his arm across Rodney’s shoulders.
“It was nice of Jeannie to send it.”
“She was only able to save a few of Grandma’s things after she died. This was one of them. It’s uglier than I remember.” Rodney shrugged like it didn’t matter and without even thinking John leaned over and pressed a kiss to his temple.
John froze in place, absolutely horrified. What had he done? Yes, it had been getting harder and harder keeping his feelings to himself, but his friendship with Rodney was worth the effort. At least, it had been until five seconds ago.
Deny everything. John pulled back and slapped Rodney on the back. “So, we playing chess?”
“Oh, no you don’t.” Rodney caught him by surprise, moving fast to box him in between the wall and the desk.
John’s heart pounded in his ears. “What’re you doing?” he asked, doing his best not to sound like a panicked, cornered animal.
“What are you doing? Was that some sort of pity kiss, because I don’t need your pity.”
Rodney face was turning red and his blue eyes were snapping like broken electrical conduits and he just looked so good and John figured he was screwed anyway. He twisted his hand in the front of Rodney’s shirt and yanked him closer. Rodney’s eyes went impossibly wide and then John was kissing him right on the mouth, the way he’d been wanting for such a long time.
John expected a negative reaction – a shove, or maybe even a knee to the balls – so when Rodney opened his mouth and slid his tongue against John’s something short-circuited in his brain. There was nothing in that moment but Rodney’s solid, warm weight pressing him into the desk, and the taste of bitter coffee in his mouth, and the pleasantly painful grip that Rodney had on John’s hips.
“Huh,” Rodney said when they came up for hair. His skin was flushed, his lips red.
John ran his tongue along his bottom lip, tasting Rodney there. “Not pity,” he said. He made no attempt to get some space between them. If he had his way, they’d never need that space again.
“Yes, well, I can see that.” Rodney’s grip loosened but he didn’t let go either. “Is this a new development?”
John shook his head. He couldn’t really remember now when he’d stopped seeing Rodney as just the obnoxious science nerd, but it had been a gradual thing. Continued exposure to the man’s competence and snarky personality and endearingly awkward social skills had worn John down.
Rodney studied him, and John had no doubt that he was seeing and cataloguing every tiny facial expression. “I always found you attractive, right from the first day when you sat in the chair in Antarctica. But then…you pushed me off the balcony.”
“Yeah.” John huffed out a laugh at the memory. Maybe that was when he’d started to notice Rodney wasn’t just some stick-in-the-mud brainiac.
“You know you could have anyone in this city, right?” And there were Rodney’s insecurities, making him sound a little less sure than he had a moment ago.
“Don’t want anyone in the city. Just you.” John saw Rodney’s crooked mouth start to curve up in a smile and he couldn’t help it, he had to kiss him again.
Sometime later they were sprawled on Rodney’s bed, where they’d been making out like a couple of love-struck teenagers. John certainly wasn’t complaining; knowing that his feelings were reciprocated was a heady feeling, like his first trip through the Stargate but without the threat of imminent death.
“Remind me to send Jeannie a thank you,” Rodney said. He looked deliciously mussed, his lips a little puffy from all the kissing.
“Yeah.” John also sent a silent thank you to Rodney’s grandmother, who had taken the time to give Rodney some happy childhood memories.
“Are you going to open the present she sent you?”
“Not till Christmas.”
“But aren’t you the least bit curious –”
John shut Rodney up with a kiss, which he found to be incredibly effective. They hadn’t talked about what they were going to do in regards to the change in their respective relationship status and John for one was in no big hurry to make any decisions. DADT had been repealed for special circumstance deployments, which was where the Atlantis expedition fell, so he wasn’t worried about any blowback from the Air Force. And he was pretty sure most of their friends would be cool with it.
“You can’t always win arguments that way,” Rodney said. He had one hand wrapped around the back of John’s neck, thumb stroking the fine hairs there.
“I don’t know. Seems to be working okay.”
“I’d like to see you try that in the middle of a staff meeting.”
John decided he really liked seeing that cat-ate-the-canary expression on Rodney’s face. It made him feel pretty smug. “Is that a challenge?”
Rodney rolled his eyes. “No, alpha male. It’s not.” He shoved at John’s shoulder and rolled over on top of him.
“Asserting your manliness?” John asked, quirking his eyebrow. “I like it.”
“There’s something wrong with you,” Rodney said with a shake of his head.
John didn’t take it personally, especially when Rodney started licking his neck and running his hands up under John’s shirt. Barring Wraith attack or catastrophic system failure, there was a good chance that things between them would be moving far past groping in the near future.
“Can I open it?” Rodney asked when he was done sucking a mark on John’s collarbone.
“If you’re not going to open it, can I?”
John looked at Rodney incredulously, and then dropped his head back on the bed with a sigh. “If I say yes can we get back to the fun stuff?”
That seemed to be good enough for Rodney, who slid off of John and grabbed Jeannie’s package. John propped himself up on his elbows, amused despite himself. “If she asks, I waited till Christmas.”
“She won’t.” Rodney tore the paper off with abandon, revealing the shirt box underneath. “She bought you clothes? How does she even know your…”
John waited but Rodney trailed off and went silent, which seemed fairly ominous. What the hell had Jeannie gotten him? He sat up and straightened his shirt. “Well? Don’t leave me hanging.”
“She’s a witch. I should’ve known, she always knows stuff before I do.” Rodney muttered to himself as he pulled a shirt out of the box and held it up with both hands.
John was starting to get a little concerned, and then Rodney turned the shirt around. It was an I’m With Genius shirt, the same as the one Rodney had except it was black and the arrow was pointing to the side instead of straight up. His first thought was how cool it was, and how funny that Jeannie had sent it to him.
“Ha! I like it.”
Rodney scowled at him. “You like it? Clearly you don’t get the implication.”
“What implication? That I like black t-shirts and I might be standing next to you when I wear it?”
“Are you being intentionally dense, Sheppard?” Rodney shook the shirt at him. “She knew we’d…we’d…”
“We’d what?” John got off the bed and pulled the shirt out of Rodney’s hand. “End up doing this?”
He cupped Rodney’s face in his hands and kissed him, gratified at how quickly Rodney melted against him. Maybe Jeannie suspected something, or maybe she was just being an annoying sister. Either way he was grateful to her for sending Rodney the little Christmas angel, without which he wouldn’t be kissing her brother right now.
It was shaping up to the best Christmas he’d had since he was a kid. Merry Christmas, Jeannie, John thought before he lost himself in the feel and taste and warm glow of Rodney. And here’s to many more.