Spoilers: Only for first half of Season 2
Pairings: McKay/?, with hints of possible McKay/Sam, McKay/Cadman, plus Cadman/Beckett and Zelenka/Heightmeyer.
Summary: Celebrating Christmas on their way home things get rather interesting at the party.
A/N: Includes slight crossover with Harry Potter, as it was requested and I felt like I ought to try to include it. Hoping that went well... Betaread by victoriaely, littleknux and Laheara. And now also fififolle, Fanwoman and Iona. Happy
Kate Heightmeyer peered up to the ceiling, eyes trailing across the unremarkable gray of the inside of the Daedalus. Every now and then, her senses would be assaulted by a splash of color - the hastily made decorations strung about, higgledy-piggledy - but her gaze traveled farther, to the doorway and the neatly positioned piece of mistletoe, under which Rodney McKay stood. He seemed almost as mesmerised by the mistletoe as she was inclined to be, having been watching it intermittently like everyone else, waiting for the next unsuspecting victims to stroll beneath.
At short intervals, Rodney would peer out into the corridor. He'd been standing there more than five minutes already, and he'd only arrived at the party ten minutes ago. He was waiting for that certain someone to arrive, for his rare chance, covered by the excuse of tradition. He looked at his watch anxiously and took a swig of his drink, an action that reminded Kate just why she was watching him so intently.
It was the fake eggnog, a lot more alcoholic than it was meant to be, but then, the Athosians had made it. No one had had the foresight to order real eggnog from Earth. They had generous quantities of wine, even some champagne and an assortment of personal stashes brought out to share, but no eggnog – a problem that a group of Athosians had sought to solve upon hearing of the situation. Julea and her troupe were always wanting to learn more about Earth, especially all about what was considered “traditional.” The Athosians had many traditions, but it seemed a lot of them were collected ones. Given that their growth was based on outsiders marrying in, this was understandable - Earth was yet another they sought to include, hence the Daedalus Christmas party had what could be loosely called “eggnog,” not entirely satisfying but very easy to get drunk on. It seemed to bring a smile to McKay's face as he waited, not that that was for very long.
Samantha Carter strode through the door, brushing past Rodney with only a slight glance to him. But a few seconds later, she was stopped by the jeering, as others in the room had noticed the little occurrence of two people in the doorway, however brief it may have been. Reluctantly, she moved back to Rodney, no doubt a small quip on her lips before she pulled him close to administer the obligatory kiss. It was in this fuss that Kate made her way over to Carson, taking one of the many free seats at his table, since quite a large number of the party goers were off dancing. The music was festive but quiet, easy to talk over, yet plenty of people were willing to take a spin on the makeshift dance floor situated not too far from the door. The Scot watched the scene, bemused, cradling his small glass of liquor as he chuckled slightly.
The party was an odd mix of personnel, all people on their way home for the holidays, including the basic ship crew to make the journey go smoothly. The ZPM's power was limited, and in this case, the SGC had preferred the use of the Earth ship over gating a fair number of personnel back, since it wasn't all that urgent. The long journey had at least meant she'd had time to catch up on her paperwork, though she wasn't certain what everyone else had been getting up to. The ship had a pool table and other recreational facilities, so hopefully no one would get cabin fever from the three week cruise. If they did, she might find herself having to work during the trip.
Technically, Christmas wasn't for another week and a half, but with only a few days left until they reached their destination, everyone had become restless, which was perhaps why the party was taking place so early. With permission from Caldwell, plans had started two weeks ago. He ran a tight ship, so to speak, but he treated everyone well. He liked to know everything was right and good with those on his vessel. With everybody so eager to see their relatives, he'd taken advantage of the feelings and fostered the sense of community for morale. She had to admit, it was working well; happy smiling faces could be seen all around the room, especially looking across to the doorway.
Sheppard swung past the couple of scientists, taking a detour around the edge of the dance area, close enough to the door to be noticed by them. He obviously couldn't resist saying something but was rather busy, so he settled for a quick witty proclamation of "It really is Christmas," and a wink , with a "Way to go Rodney!" before he moved on, back to entertaining his dance partner with a few fancy moves.
Sam was smiling while Rodney blushed a bit at all the attention they were getting, almost like he didn't really care so much for what had happened. His “crush” on Sam was pretty obvious to all, given the amount of time he spent talking about her and complimenting her, but somehow, his behavior now conveyed something different from what he'd always expressed verbally.
The point everyone seemed to miss was he stayed where he was - still waiting - which meant he was there as Cadman came in, unavoidably detained for yet another kiss, this time looking particularly nervous at the prospect. It seemed as if he still wasn't very comfortable around the woman, though having someone in your head would, arguably, put you off anyone. What was amusing was Cadman knew she unnerved the scientist and wasn't above using it to get to him for comedic effect. This was no exception, as he tried to avoid her melodramatic advances, never mind that no one would let either of them get away without at least some sort of small kiss.
Beside her, Kate saw Carson fidget a bit, getting tired of the show, not that she would blame him - she hadn't quite figured out what was going on with Carson and the girl. When it finally came down to it, despite all the moves towards planting one on McKay's lips, Laura settled for a chaste peck on his cheek. After that, Kate noted, once again, that McKay didn't move out of the danger zone, presumably because he wasn't done.
While it seemed obvious whomever he was waiting for had yet to arrive, the real question was who would cause the astrophysicist to be so patient and inspire him to wait diligently at the door? Kate was jilted out of her pondering by Carson's voice.
"Rodney catch your eye, did he?" he said, with a small smile playing on his lips as he waited for her response.
"Oh, no..." she answered, trying to wave it off, "- no, I was just..."
"Watching him like a hawk, aye?"
She suspected Carson was a lot soberer than she was, because usually she was perfectly able to iterate what she meant. Here, she had the feeling she was going to end up sticking her foot in her mouth in an attempt to explain, not that it would stop her. It'd be worse to let him think she was ogling Rodney because, undoubtedly, Radek would hear of it, causing both relentless teasing and giving the wrong impression of where, or upon whom, her interests lay.
"Well, perhaps... but doesn't everyone expect me to be studying them anyway? It's not like I do, but sometimes it's just..."
"Interesting?" he prompted, "Didn't know you were so nosy, thought you'da had everyone's secrets out of them already and wouldn't need anything to gossip about."
"I might know a lot of things, Carson Beckett, but I don't know everything, and I'm not a gossip!" she ended rather pointedly.
"I must be imagining that you spread that rumor about John then, something about him dressed up as a Wraith singing Johnny Cash songs. Oh, aye, lass, not a gossip at all." At which point, Carson started to whistle innocently.
She really hadn't had any idea Carson could be as smug as this, altogether too high and mighty about catching her off guard. Just what could she say in her defense that wouldn't sound weak, as if she was merely getting back at him? Logically, she had no excuse to be watching Rodney, and the fact she was clearly tipsy didn't help her case.
"Firstly, that wasn't a rumor. Radek had photographic evidence, and you'll find John does own a guitar, if you care to check. Secondly, if I was a gossip, I might have told all those ATA recipients exactly what you made them into. They wouldn't believe me but..."
There was a certain sharpness to it that told her she had been exactly right.
"Hogwarts." she whispered to him, "I have a cousin who went there. I knew she'd mentioned a Beckett. Besides which, I took Muggle Studies and Medical Magic at my school, and I know you're messing with more than just genes for Ancient technology. My bet is that 50% success rate you haven't been able to improve is linked to just how magical they are anyway - turning on what's usually turned off - and you certainly can't turn on what's not there."
"You wouldn't dare tell them!" he said indignantly, lucky that his raised voice didn't attract attention.
"No" she grinned at him, "I wouldn't, but you thought I would - and I've always wanted to know if I had it figured out. I like mysteries, you see, which is why I was watching Rodney."
Carson sighed and downed his drink, "How much have you had to drink to talk about that in public? Even if you were a gossip, you wouldn't dare expose us."
"Probably not, but I have had a fair amount, and I just wanted to see you flustered. You're almost as cute as Radek like that."
Carson rolled his eyes and got up, presumably to get another drink. He was intersected by Cadman, who wrapped her arm around his and drew him away. Kate returned her attention to McKay, now leaning against the doorframe, almost resigned but not enough to move away. He nearly missed her, too, the one he was there for, his eyes catching as she nearly got out of range, though Kate couldn't see who it was from there. His hand jutted out to prevent her from moving further, and she faced him. Kate caught a glimpse of red hair let loose, a woman dressed conservatively in a dark green dress, with a little black cardigan covering her top, negating most of the fancy dress' effect.
Rodney was talking, chin stuck out proudly as he seemed to be convincing her that they qualified for a kiss under the sprig. He pointed up towards it and then bounced on his heels looking to his mystery woman for acceptance. What was most odd was that no one else was paying any attention to this exchange - Carson had moved across to chat to some of the crew members who were with Cadman, and almost everyone else was occupied. Out of the corner of her eye, she spied Cadman subtly edging herself and Carson towards the second sprig by the punchbowl.
Even those glancing round didn't stop at McKay and his companion, not even as she placed a short but solid kiss on his mouth without bothering to go stand underneath the mistletoe. McKay smiled in a way that was particularly rare for him; it lacked sarcastic delight, instead showing genuine happiness.
A little way across the room, there were murmurs rising, as Laura and Carson were finally both under the other sprig - Cadman looking up at it sweetly, as if she hadn't noticed it there before now, and Carson swallowing down his embarrassment. It was Cadman who took the plunge and pulled him up close, planting what had to have been rather reminiscent of the kiss via McKay, just as full on and certainly getting the crowd worked up. As cheers erupted and the clapping and wolf whistles rang out, she spotted McKay and his “friend” skirt over to the door.
Kate realised then she didn't want to know everything. Sometimes, knowing why was enough - she didn't need to know who it was, just as she hadn't really needed to know what Carson was up to. Considering her indiscretion over mentioning the “M-word,” she decided it was better to leave things be and ignore the couple as they secreted away. At the back of her mind, she had a feeling she knew who the red haired woman was, but through the blurriness of drink, Kate let the knowledge slip away. As the pair left together, she instead chose to look above them at the unremarkable bit of plant that had so much power over people.
Thinking back, she couldn't recall any better days than Christmas with her family, the excitement of not knowing what was waiting to be unwrapped, even after examining the presents, rattling them to see what sounds they made. This was why she was here, on her way home, returning to the place where that love of the unknown had been forged. Really, it was the wait that meant the most, not the solution, not knowing you were right, but what came before - like the precious moments before a kiss, anticipation. Mistletoe stole that away most of the time, unless, like Rodney, you appropriated the tradition, used it, made it your own to make it better.
Next Christmas, she hoped it would work for her as well as it seemed to for Rodney, not that he had really needed it. Though his secret would be safe, those who might be prone to talk would surely be gossiping about his other two kisses under the mistletoe. At the very least, it was a nice distraction to the truth, and sometimes you needed that. Secrets can be good - not just about lies or mistruths but about stowing away something that needn't or shouldn't be shared, that's only for you.
Sitting at the table, alone, it seemed she was a target for others to come and bother, as someone took the seat next to her, slumping down and sighing. She was, however, surprised when the new arrival handed her a glass of fruit punch. Upon facing him, she realized it was Radek.
"I thought you might have had enough eggnog, no?"
She didn't answer, instead stared at him wondering what had possessed him to stop chatting up the blonde woman in the corner and come to her, instead. He simply continued addressing her, ignoring her confused look and silence.
"The punch is very good anyway, Athosian, too, but this one has a kick to it; I think it is the spice. You should try some. I believe it's their approximation of mulled wine. Very... festive."
He pushed the drink over to her. She wanted to say no, if only because she'd had too much already, judging by what she'd said to Carson. But it would be impolite to refuse, and she preferred not to chance snubbing him.
"Of course, one more drink." she said as she picked it up, "And a toast perhaps?"
He smiled warmly at her and she knew it was worth the risk to have a bit more. After all, it was usually the truth that came out when you didn’t mean it to. As long as it was only her own secrets she gave away.
"Ah, yes. Perhaps to friends, old and new." he said raising his glass up.
'Hooray for tradition', she thought as they chinked their glasses together; it got things right some of the time and let people do what they wanted under its banner the rest of the time. Either way, things worked out right in the end. Taking a sip, she was pleasantly surprised to discover the punch had no alcohol in it, and the spices invigorated her senses, sobering her up a little. In that case, perhaps she'd only be giving away the secrets she wanted to tonight. She smiled and hoped Radek would stick around. After all, she took care of everyone else and solved their mysteries – it was about time she let someone take care of her for a change.