No, there aren't pictures. Oh God, I hope there aren't pictures.
Christmas on Atlantis, it turns out, is not the unmitigated, cheesy disaster that Rodney had pretty much been dreading. For one, they have better decorations and less in the way of mortal terror than last year.
Two, they have John and two dozen Athosian children for the holiday, and John, apparently, connects with Christmas in deep, meaningful ways. Running through the halls, singing Christmas carols, and the entire group learning to say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Greetings on Solstice, and Good Midwinter Night in seventy two separate languages while everyone slips them candy and pretends they didn't.
Not to mention that John is constitutionally incapable of being anything other than enthusiastic about the concept of *presents* and absolutely thrilled when Rodney grudgingly allows him to build Christmas lights out of leftover Ancient circuits, control crystals, and about ten thousand tiny replacement puddlejumper emergency lights around the lab. Which basically means at this point, they have a mind controlled Christmas tree and no one wants to think too hard on that one.
There's a tree, for one, hunted down by Ronon with John's excited participation, and there are streamers, God alone knows where those came from, and there are ornaments made out of every conceivably portable non-functioning device they could find. It's--merry.
Picking up a glass of non-alcoholic, and therefore revolting, eggnog, Rodney tries not to listen as John awes his friends with how when he grows up, he's flying spaceships and wants to build his very own wormhole-capable puddlejumper that doesn't *need* a gate to travel instantaneously between galaxies.
It's just so adorable that Rodney just wants to smile dopily and not correct John that they'll have to get around to developing a brand new branch of physics for that to work.
"Well," Elizabeth says beside him, pretending she isn't staring liquidly at twenty five children eating pseudo-candy canes and John, sticky-faced and sticky-fingered with sugared almost-figs and some kind of pudding, hair stuck up in every direction and probably slick with syrup, ripping into yet another ridiculous present from another infatuated Atlantean. He comes up with his very own starter kit for Atlantean tulips, which tells Rodney that he's really got to limit John's time in the greenhouse. "He seems happy."
Rodney takes another drink of eggnog and tries to think of something suitably scathing. "He's getting spoiled. Which isn't a surprise, we spoiled him *before*." Pointedly, he gives the stack of action figures from a distant Target a long look before glancing at Elizabeth. She flushes.
Rodney tries not to be smug.
Off to the side are a new set of child-sized sticks and a set of Athosian ceremonial children's dishes (Teyla), an Ancient holograph cube that contains a three-dimension representation of the Pegasus Galaxy (Zelenka), and a selection of disturbingly small knives (Ronon). Some games, unattributed, though Rodney has his suspicions about who gave him Axis and Allies, a football, a skateboard, and what appears to be a closet's worth of clothing. The Daedalus' black market this last trip seemed entirely devoted to assuring John Sheppard could make the cover of every child fashion magazine in the known galaxy.
It's very annoying.
"Oh, cool, a *particle accelerator*!"
Elizabeth turns smug eyes on him and takes another sip of eggnog.
"It's educational," he answers stiffly, because how is he going to get John to understand the nature of particle physics if he can't work on it in his spare time?
Elizabeth hides a smile. "Who has him tonight?"
That there actually had been a point of contention on Custody of John had been possibly the most surreal moment in Atlantean history. But they'd worked it out the old fashioned way. Which is to say, the team won. "Teyla. He's going to the mainland for winter solstice with the other kids tomorrow." An entire John-free day of absolutely no endless, annoying questions, strange spills on his lab table, smudged fingers on his laptop screen, or John's terrifying fascination with trying to work out how to fly sans machinery, which ended last time with Rodney coaxing John off the balcony with two packages of Twix and his last Kit-Kat.
And all this *after* they covered gravity. "Don't you have somewhere to be?" Rodney says a little desperately, because Elizabeth had made noises about going to the anthropologist's party and well--
Elizabeth frowns, taking another sip. "Why--"
An expectant hush falls over the children, drawing the eye of every adult in the room as John wrestles something from behind the tree, half hidden beneath the wide back window curtain. Rodney tries not to twitch as several other children get up to help, and the room seems to drift closer as John begins ripping the paper off of an object just about his height.
Rodney closes his eyes just as Elizabeth draws in a sharp breath and John starts making sounds like he might have just lost the ability to breathe.
"You built him a *puddlejumper*?"
"Oh my *God*," John yells breathlessly, all but climbing on top of it, touching the smooth white skin with awed fingers.
Rodney sighs. "To be fair--"
"It was a department effort." And John's huge, liquid eyes whenever he watched Lorne take one out, manipulatively and bravely heartbroken.
Teyla and Ronon appear at the door, double-taking the sight of John and his puddlejumper before a short glance at Rodney that will end with another chat a few days from now about appropriate gifts, which Rodney could so not give a shit about, and possibly a lecture on moderation, from the woman who sneaks John cake when he has bad dreams. "Children, it is time for bed. Come along now. You may play with your gifts tomorrow."
With a group sigh, they trudge toward the door, John with a lingering touch on his jumper before the wide green eyes scan the room. Rodney realizes what he's looking for just as the small body barrels into his, ruining his uniform with almost-fig syrup and pudding stains. Rodney barely has time to touch his hair before John's skidding across the room with a single backward glance of utterly incandescent joy lighting up his dirty face.
Elizabeth watches Rodney touch the stains with careful fingers.
"Not. One. Word," he manages between gritted teeth. An entire John-free day tomorrow. No bright smile or small fingers mapping Mandelbrot sets on his computer, no eager questions and thoughtful sighs or falling asleep on a lab bench on Rodney's uniform jacket, leaving drool and chocolate stains behind. It'll be quiet.
Elizabeth smiles softly. "Duly noted."
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and to all, a very good night.