“Huh,” said Mitchell, sitting across the table in the SGC’s mess. “You must really like chocolate pudding.”
“What?” said John.
He still felt unsettled in Cheyenne Mountain – no hum of Ancient technology, no natural light, no view of the ocean. But every so often, John was required to report back in person, so there he was back on Earth, twenty-eight floors under solid rock, with a tray full of food that hadn’t been transported thousands of light-years before he ate it.
“Pudding,” Mitchell repeated, and pointed at John’s tray. “You have two. You had two yesterday, and the day before, and always chocolate. So, what gives?”
Frowning, John looked down – and sure enough, there were two plastic pudding cups on his tray. “It’s just habit, I guess.”
“A chocolate habit?” said Vala, sitting beside him. “I would find a better delivery system than pudding. But then, that’s just me.”
“What?” John said again. “No, I just – I don’t even really like pudding. It’s just… Don’t give me that look.”
Sam, sitting next to Mitchell, made no attempt to hide her grin. “What look?” she said, with completely false innocence.
“That look,” he said. “Like you think I’m adorable or something.”
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘adorable’,” she hedged. “But I do think it’s sweet.”
“To what are you referring, Colonel-Carter?” said Teal’c.
Sam leaned forward. “Well, even if I hadn’t seen this particular ‘habit’ during my time on Atlantis, I do happen to know someone who is a big fan of chocolate pudding, especially the industrially-produced kind.”
“Sam…” John protested, but now Vala was grinning, too.
“You bring your pudding to Rodney, don’t you?” she asked. “And so often that you do it even when he’s not here! Oh, you’re right, Sam, that is absolutely sweet.”
“It’s self-preservation,” corrected John. “You know how cranky McKay gets, this is purely preemptive, trust me.”
“Uh-huh,” said Mitchell. “Or you could just avoid him when he’s like that.”
Sam knocked his elbow. “Play nice, boys.”
“I just don’t see it,” Mitchell said. “I mean, my grandma always said there was a lid for every pot, and I always believed Grandma, but…”
John ducked his head, but he was smiling. “I don’t know why everyone says that. Rodney, he’s… I mean, yeah, he’s kind of arrogant and tactless at first, but I’ve always liked him, even before I, you know, liked him.”
“Really?” said Sam, surprised. “Sorry, I just… He grows on you, sure, but as a first impression, he’s kind of a jerk.”
“Yeah, he is,” laughed John. “In the first three sentences he ever said to me, he managed to insult my hair, my intelligence and my job. Twice.”
“And you liked him?” said Mitchell.
“Yeah,” said John, like anything else had never occurred to him. “He’s smart and funny and… There’s that look again.”
“Sorry,” said Sam, but she made absolutely no effort to school her expression this time.
Mitchell shook his head. “I guess Grandma was right after all.”
John snorted and pulled open one of the pudding cups. “Huh,” he said, mouth full.
“What?” asked Vala.
“Tastes different right out of the container.”
“How else would you…?” began Mitchell, then said, quickly, “Don’t answer that! Dammit, Sheppard, I did not need that mental image.”
John grinned. “Serves you right.”