Christmas Countdown: December 20
Elizabeth Weir was not a stupid woman. She’d known going on the Atlantis mission might be a one way ticket. They all had. Even so, it had been crushing to find out that they were stranded, without enough power to get back. Add in the crushing discovery that they were also considered a food source for a particularly nasty breed of alien and, as the leader of the Atlantis expedition, Elizabeth found she had quite a morale issue on her hands.
The coming Christmas season only increased the problem.
As the Earth calendars they brought with them counted down the days to the season, tempers got shorter and shorter. Thankfully, since being stranded had always been a possibility, the leaders of the Stargate program had sent preparations along with them. A care package for the holiday had been among their supplies and included, among other things, a set of holiday DVDs. Elizabeth had scheduled a screening every night in the mess hall and it was helping.
John had left directly after the showing of the classic Rudolph holiday special, not bothering to stay and mingle afterwards. As one of Atlantis’ leaders, it was part of his duty to help keep morale up, but he just couldn’t. Not when Carson had been so conspicuously absent.
When John got to the quarters that he shared with the other man, he was prepared for just about anything. What he found was Carson pensively staring out the window. The apartment-like space was dark except for a single lit candle on the windowsill.
“You okay?” John asked as he joined his lover.
“Oh, aye,” Carson answered readily enough. “You’ll have to forgive me; I just wasn’t up to bad stop-motion animation tonight.”
He turned to face John and John was relieved to see that the other man’s face was calm
“I dunno, it’s got a certain amount of charm,” John answered. “You loved ‘Frosty the Snowman’ last night.”
That got Carson to smile, if weakly. “You caught me. The truth is, if I had to hear one more time how Rodney clinically disproved the myth of Santa Claus at the tender age of six, I was going to slap him.”
John chuckled. “Too late.”
“Someone did?” Carson’s eyes were wide with disbelief. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’,” John held his hands up to show he wasn’t hiding anything. “Sweetest punch I’ve seen in a long time.”
“It wasn’t Zelenka, was it?” Carson asked, naming a scientist who worked with Rodney and sometimes bore the brunt of McKay’s impatience.
“Nope.” John rocked back on his heels. “It was Heitmeyer.”
“Heitmeyer?” Carson’s voice cracked with surprise. “Kate Heitmeyer?”
”Yup,” John grinned, enjoying Carson’s surprise almost as much as he had the event itself. “And Elizabeth can’t really punish her because everyone broke out into applause. Heitmeyer claimed she did it to improve morale.”
”Poor Rodney,” Carson sighed.
“Poor Rodney?” John repeated. “Just a minute ago, you said you were ready to slap him yourself.”
“The man tries,” Carson explained. “In his own way, he truly tries to fit in. It just. . . eludes him somehow. I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”
“I like Heitmeyer’s solution better,” John muttered.
John hunched his shoulders. “Well, you don’t work with him as much as I do.”
Carson reached over and rubbed John’s arm. “And he’s come a long way since being on your team; I’m sure you’ve been a good influence.” When John just shrugged, Carson tried to change the subject. “Did you enjoy Rudolph?”
“Oh, yeah,” John brightened. “It was very educational.”
“You don’t say,” Carson encouraged him.
“I finally have a battle cry,” John stated seriously.
“A battle cry?” Carson asked. “What are you talking about?”
“Didn’t you ever watch any of those ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies?” John questioned him. “Every warrior leader needs something to yell at the start of a fight, to motivate the troops. Up until now, I’ve pretty much been using ‘Back to the gate’ or ‘Cover Rodney while he saves our asses.’ Those aren’t very inspirational.”
“I can see that,” Carson murmured, leaning closer to John. Sheppard obliged by wrapping an arm around Carson’s shoulder and drawing him close. “And what was the battle cry you gleaned from an outdated children’s Christmas special?”
“I’ll practice it on you.” John cleared his throat and set his facial expression into something brave and noble. “Come on, boys, let’s make those bumbles bounce.”
Carson stared at him blankly for a moment in disbelief. Then, once he saw John’s lips twitch ever so slightly, Carson started to grin. That grin grew into a chuckle. Soon both men were laughing uncontrollably.
“I can just see the wraith’s reaction to that,” Carson was the first to bring himself under control. “You’re a daft man, John.”
“I am at that,” John admitted. He pulled Carson close and nestled him so that the doctor’s head was snug under his chin. “Are you okay?”
Carson sighed, but didn’t say anything.
“You’re missing your mother, aren’t you?” John guessed.
“Aye,” Carson admitted. “She used to leave a candle lit all night on Christmas Eve, to guide the spirit of the season to the house. I suspect she has one lit every night of the month this year, hoping it’ll bring me back.”
John felt a fierce sense of duty well up in his heart. He squeezed Carson tight. “I promise we’ll find a way to get you home, Carson.”
Carson pulled out of John’s arms far enough to gaze up in his lover’s eyes. “It’s not your personal responsibility, John. We all knew the chances when we came on this mission.”
“I know,” John admitted, but didn’t back down on his vow. “But I still won’t rest until I find a way to get you out of here.”
And safe, although he didn’t say that.
“Missing my mum isn’t what has me sad,” Carson told him. “It’s guilt.”
John frowned. “What do you have to feel guilty for?”
Carson’s smile was bittersweet. “For realizing that, as much as I miss my mum this time of year and for as much as I’m frightened by the wraith, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than Atlantis. With you.”
It was John’s turn to look at Carson in disbelief. As hard as he looked, though, he could find nothing but sincerity in the doctor’s blue eyes. “What was that word you used? Daft?”
“But you love me anyway, right?” Carson asked.
“Damn right,” John assured him.
He bent his head and kissed Carson, who tasted faintly of hot chocolate.
“You know,” Carson said when they parted. “I’ve heard that bumbles aren’t the only things that bounce.”
“Really?” John touched foreheads with the shorter man.
“Really,” Carson answered firmly. “Let’s go to the bed and test that theory, shall we?”
And when John kissed Carson again, he couldn’t taste anything but a sweet promise.
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