John learned early on to pick his domestic battles with Rodney.
When they'd bought the house, John had gotten the kitchen and bedroom, because Rodney and kitchen appliances had a weird relationship that included random malfunctions and once, a food processor battle to the death that ended with their apartment smelling of paprika and cilantro for two months. The bedroom was more self-defense, because while watching Rodney fight it out with a blender was always fun, Rodney could and did sleep anywhere and on everything that didn't move, training from too many hours spent in a lab (and John already knows that someday in the far future, he will hear in great and detailed length about the state of Rodney's back). John had a certain preference for sheets that weren't made of flannel and furniture that matched.
But coming out into the living room to see Rodney staring thoughtfully at the eleven foot Douglas fir he'd had delivered, lights strung between the branches, boxes of new decorations surrounding him in readiness for the season of joy and rapture--John has a suspicion that this bout of Christmas enthusiasm will not go well at all.
So John's staying in the kitchen and amusing himself with cookies and maybe rubbing Rodney's face in the fact that the last time he made dinner, the oven blew up.
There's something weirdly soothing about cooking, though John's tried not to figure out what it is. It could be the chemistry of it, the simplicity of mathematical combinations of matter in a particular order to produce edible results. Some of it is, he knows, the fact that he got heartily sick of take-out and Ramen early on, when he and Rodney's limited budget had gone to external hard drives and internet access. Most of it, though, he has to admit, is the fact that it's soothing, almost mindless except it's everything but.
There's also the fact that Rodney reacts to John cooking like someone's been mainlining him oysters and porn for six hours straight.
Taking the first batch of gingerbread out of the oven, John begins a silent countdown as he picks up the second tray and slides it in, breathing in ginger and vanilla scented air, remembering Christmases of his childhood with an ache that's grown almost sweet with time.
Right at twenty, Rodney appears in front of the kitchen island, eyes fixed on the cookies with the kind of lust that means John will get very, very lucky tonight. Pulling the spatula from John's hand, Rodney gets the first cookie off the sheet, still hot, and shoves half of it into his mouth with a look of utter ecstasy. "I love Christmas," Rodney mutters around a mouthful of gingerbread man, reaching for another one as he shoves the legs in his mouth. Leaning one elbow onto the counter, John watches indulgently as his first dozen cookies vanish from the baking sheet, noticing that Rodney took the time to grab a stool to sit down, obviously anticipating a long evening of cookie sampling in front of him.
When Rodney finishes the last one, he looks up with liquid blue eyes and says, in all seriousness, "Quit your job."
John smiles back. "I'd kill you for your insurance first."
Rodney makes a snuffling sound, but the buzzer on the oven goes off, stealing Rodney's attention, and John sets out the first set of sugar cookies before putting in the second of gingerbread men, watching in amusement as Rodney stares at the many bowls of cookie dough with the possessive eyes of a man who knows that before midnight, he'll have sampled his weight in sugary goodness.
"How's the tree coming along?" John asks, though he doesn't need to--the bright reflection of multicolored lights can probably be seen from space, spilling onto the white kitchen tile like a confused rainbow, and John feels a morbid curiosity to go see what Rodney's managed to put together in the living room, perfectly positioned in front of the huge front windows for easy blinding of any passers-by. A quick glance, and John steps back seeing colors. "Nice."
"I thought so," Rodney says, smug satisfaction muffled from chewing, and John sighs a little and comes back to see a decimated sugar cookie pan. Setting the peanut butter blossom cookie dough between them, John picks out a bit of dough and rolls it comfortably between his palms, feeling Rodney's attention like as spotlight.
On the dough, of course, and John doesn't even need to look up before slapping Rodney's hand away. "No. Roll or don't touch."
Rodney sulks with another sugar cookie, because his rolls are always asymmetrical and maybe, okay, John's a little anal about that and corrects them every time. Finishing off the first thirty, John wipes his hands absently with a paper towel as Rodney wanders to the kitchen door to stare in cornea-searing satisfaction at his creation.
Opening the trash, John notes an envelope half-buried beneath wrappers and banana peels, and he reaches in, finding half a Christmas card that he remembers sending a week ago, marked in black ink from a ballpoint pen Return to Sender in a familiar hand.
Thanks, Dad, John thinks, dropping it quickly and shutting the trash can before Rodney can come back and see him, remembering Rodney hovering weirdly half the afternoon when he should have been in his office, doing something brilliant and frighteningly complex to prove the laws of physics only applied to lesser intellects.
The oven dings, drawing Rodney back like a lodestone, and John forces a smirk as he goes back, unloading the next batch while Rodney, with unusual helpfulness, puts the peanut butter blossoms on the cooled baking sheet of the first batch and starts unwrapping Hershey's kisses.
"Rodney," John says, watching the blunt fingers work with delicate precision, and it's weird how time fluxes, when he can remember Rodney's dorm and how he somehow moved in and never left, how life turned sideways and he knew, he knew, and he still went with it. He would have made captain by now, flew helicopters and planes of more types than he can name, stationed in Bosnia or Korea or Turkey, and he still wakes at night aching for it, for the uniform and what came with it, the sky that's stretched beyond his reach. It was a choice, and he's never regretted it.
But sometimes, he still wants it.
He teaches undergraduates calculus and cooks dinner every night and sometimes, like now, he looks at his life and wonders how it got here.
"Rodney," he says again, and Rodney looks up, blue eyes clear as a summer day, and it's *Rodney*, grounding and grounded and earthbound, and John finds himself leaning across the island, kissing the taste of gingerbread and sugar, peanut butter and chocolate from Rodney's mouth.
Warm, slightly sweaty hands cup his face, drawing it out from something sweet and safe into the kind of kiss that made John trade in his heterosexuality once upon a time. Bracing his hand on the island, John leans further, remembering the first time Rodney touched him, the first time Rodney kissed him, the first time and last time John fell in love, reminding him of the reason he's here in this bright, open kitchen, surrounded with shiny new appliances in this shiny new life, a Christmas tree like a terrible roadside accident blinking in the next room.
Rodney pulls away, leaving John breathing more heavily than a late afternoon kiss in a kitchen should ever warrant, but sugar being what it is, and Rodney being the kind that got hyper with the addition of too much, it shouldn't be that much a surprise. He's still standing there when Rodney circles the island, hands close over his hips, turning him into another kiss, even slower, even *better*, fingers sliding up the back of his shirt and pressing fingerprints into his skin with every slow touch. John thinks of Rodney picking up the mail and finding the card, throwing it away and waiting patiently for John to come home to take him shopping for Christmas lights and groceries, hand on his elbow, his thigh, slipping through the loops on the back of his jeans like John will vanish if he doesn't touch.
I don't regret this, John says with his hands, his tongue, speaking in slow touches and long kisses and longer breaths. I don't regret anything at all.
"Cookies," John says huskily when Rodney's teeth brush the side of his neck. Tilting his head back, he shuts his eyes as Rodney's hand slides around to the small of his back. "Baking."
To his credit, Rodney only thinks about it for a second, before leaning over and picking up an unwrapped chocolate, pushing it gently between John's lips before leaning close, breath warm against John's skin. "Later."