Knitted Goods

By Chandri MacLeod

Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis/Murder, She Wrote
Rating: G for utter, utter fluff
Pairing: John/Rodney
Categories: slash, friendship, humour
Warnings: none, unless you're allergic to wool
Summary: John walks into Rodney's quarters without knocking one day and finds Rodney sitting on his bed wearing a cardigan sweater with whales on it.
Disclaimer: They're not mine, alas. I'm just using them for fun.
Author's Note: An SGA/Murder, She Wrote crossover.
I KNOW. But I suppose it was inevitable. Betaed by artemisiabrisol, who is at least partly to blame for this.

When it happens, it's just one of those weird things that happens when you're friends with Rodney McKay - random, bizarre, and the kind of thing you note, mock, and then carry on as though it's never happened. John walks into Rodney's quarters without knocking one day and finds Rodney sitting on his bed wearing a cardigan sweater with whales on it.

He stops, blinks, stares for long enough that Rodney looks up at him with puzzlement, as though he's just realised John was there. No wonder - he's got two laptops on the bed in front of him, and seems to have been using them both simultaneously.

"What?" Rodney asks, blinking his way back up into non-physics reality with everybody else. Sometimes this takes a minute.

"Um." John swallows back what he thinks is a laugh. He's not really sure how to react. "Nice sweater?"

Again, it takes Rodney a second to catch up, and then he flushes pink almost hilariously fast. His hand comes up to pluck uncertainly at the collar even as his chin lifts defiantly. "It's cold, okay?"

And yeah, fair enough. Apparently New Lantea's climate isn't quite as temperate as Lantea was - every three years or so, the planet drops into a winter so deep that the city's environmental controls are having difficulty keeping up. It's not below-zero cold, but it's chilly and John's been sleeping with two blankets, his sleeping bag, and an emergency blanket filched from the jumpers. He can see a similar arrangement folded at the foot of Rodney's bed. And although it's a little chilly in Rodney's room right now, usually he defaults to the orange fleece John remembers him wearing in Antarctica. John has a weird, mildly embarrassing affection for that fleece that Rodney is never going to find out about.

"Uh huh," John answers. Rodney is still nervously picking at the sweater. It looks well-worn, with threadbare patches at the elbows and a coffee stain on the hem, zippered up the front. There are two whales mirror-imaged in dark blue on the front, on either side of the zipper, and there are fish patterned on the shoulders. It's thick and warm-looking and comfortable and nothing like anything John would have imagined, in a million years, that Rodney McKay would be caught dead wearing. Well, thinks John, to be fair, most people don't come in here without knocking, and the whole team but Rodney was supposed to be on the mainland until tomorrow. He's caught Rodney out. But instead of apologizing, he quirks a grin and observes: "Homey."

Rodney scowls at him. "I'm cold," he repeats, and when John just keeps smirking, he adds, crossing his arms over his chest, "my great aunt made it for me when I went away to school, okay? It's warm and soft and I was cold. Like you don't have any ridiculous comfort habits, Colonel Mickey Mouse Sweatshirt."

John doesn't really have any response to that. He likes Disneyland, damn it.

He sinks down onto Rodney's bed, peering over Rodney's shoulder at the laptop screens to hide the fact that he's tucking his stocking feet under the pile of blankets at the foot of the bed, because all this talking about the cold has made him cold. He leans closer to Rodney, who despite his protestations of chilliness is still radiating heat like a furnace as usual, and Rodney never minds when he invades his personal space. Rodney still seems to be working on the environmental systems, trying to figure out a way to crank up the heat without draining undue power from the ZPM. "Didn't know you had a great aunt," John murmurs, and Rodney stiffens next to him. Rodney always gets so weird when you ask about anything personal, even weirder than John. But after second that seems to be him deciding whether John is still making fun of him or not, he relaxes.

"One of only two relatives aside from Jeannie I could ever stand," he admits, tugging the left cuff of the sweater down. Close up, John can see that the sleeves are a little too long, but that the fabric is stretched snug across Rodney's shoulders and chest as though it's a little too small. Blinking, John realises that Rodney's had this sweater for years, that it was probably made for him when he was still the skinny, curly-haired kid John's seen in old personnel files, and that he's grown into it. The thought makes John's mouth unexpectedly dry, and he leans away, just a little, for the sake of plausible deniability. Rodney's not the most personally observant guy in the world, but he's not an idiot. Instead, John reaches out and touches the cuff of the right sleeve, which is folded up but still covers Rodney's arm and part of his hand, like a little kid wearing Dad's clothes.

"She made it to fit my Uncle Frank, since she hadn't seen me since I was twelve," Rodney explained, a little huffily, or was it breathlessly? John could never tell. "And then she showed up in Boston and made me try it on right there in my dorm room. She took it upon herself to check up on me, since my parents were all the way on the opposite side of the continent, and apparently she'd gotten tired of hearing me complain about how cold New England was."

John smiles at the image, some middle-aged woman with Rodney's obstinate chin and busy hands zipping him up in a wool sweater with whales on it. Rodney's pink, outraged face springs really easily to mind, and John gives Rodney's arm one last pat before standing up - that's enough for today, Sheppard, he tells himself. He offers Rodney a hand up. "Well, I was coming to get you for lunch. They finally got the big brick ovens working on the mainland - the ones the Athosians helped us build last month? We brought back about a tonne of bread from the mainland, and they're making some kind of weird soup to go with it. The bread's good, though." The botanists were enormously proud of their greenhouse complex, as there are certain things that just won't grow in hydroponics and apparently ordinary brown wheat is one of them. In the city they have to hybridize with things that make it turn weird colours.

"Really?" Rodney now looks intrigued, shutting down his laptops and snapping them shut before letting John pull him to his feet. "Actual bread? Actual bread that isn't orange or purple?"

"Actual bread, with actual butter, from something closely resembling cows," John confirms, as Rodney hustles to his closet and pulls out his orange fleece, unzipping the sweater before John can stop him.

"Why don't you just wear the--" he starts, but Rodney rolls his eyes.

"Oh, please, Sheppard," he says, carefully hanging up the whale sweater in his closet and then zipping it up on the hanger before shutting the closet door. "While I'm sure it would bring the whole city joy and amusement, I'm not really in the mood to be their source of entertainment today." He pulls the fleece over his head, coming up pink-cheeked and rumpled with his hair going every which way, a sight that has John awash with weird, Rodney-esque affection for three whole seconds before he turns the smile to the floor. When he looks up again, Rodney has patted his hair back into a vaguely civilised shape and is marching towards the door. John follows after a last, amused glance at Rodney's closed closet door, trying not to think about how while it's still just as cold as it was ten minutes ago, somehow just being around Rodney makes him feel a little warmer.

Rodney never wears the sweater outside his quarters, but sometimes, after that, it makes an appearance on team nights, and when he and John watch movies alone. John's kind of touched to be included, because it's obviously a gesture of some kind, even if he makes Mr. Rogers jokes every chance he gets.

the sweater
The Sweater.
the sweater
From the back, in its full glory.