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Culinaria

Feedback: Please.

Acknowledgements: Kat, as always.


"Cranachan." Strong Scottish accent. Said with a sigh.

"Bless you." Ford says, looking at the doctor in concern.

"It's a dessert, you silly bugger."

Rodney McKay's ears perk up at the mention of sweets. "Really?"

"Yes," Carson Beckett replies, with a hint of longing in his voice, "really."

"It sounds odd, though," Sheppard chimes in.

"More like a sickness than a dessert, really," Ford adds. "Are you sure you're not mixing things up, Doc?"

Carson huffs and gives them a look that clearly questions their level of education. "Do you know anything about Scotland?"

"Men in skirts, fantastic whisky, lots of rain?" Sheppard shrugs. "Red hair?"

"That's the Irish." Carson rolls his eyes.

"High mountains, funny accents, damn lot of fog, constantly broody people?" McKay offers between bites of Athosian bread.

"Fog's typical for London. And if you want funny accents, you go to Yorkshire." The doctor's patience appears to be wearing thin.

"Porridge, people drinking lots and having bad teeth, everyone's real stingy?"

Carson's eyes narrow to slits. "Just you make sure that your next visit to the infirmary will be very far in the future. Very far. Especially yours, Aidan. Because I'll not be stingy with needles, then."

He takes another forkful of his meal and chews unhappily. "I'm serious. You have no idea about Scottish cooking, have you?"

"Mint sauce?" Ford offers, his voice oddly helpful.

"That's the English, you imbecile." Carson looks ready to hit the ceiling.

Ford shrugs, appearing lost. "And? The differen-"

"Ah, Ford?" McKay stops him in mid-sentence, casting a wary glance in Carson's direction. "Whatever you were going to say - which I think I know what it would have been - don't finish it. Please don't."

"What? What did I say?"

"It's more what you didn't yet say, and believe me, what it was you were going to say? Unless you want the good doctor to burst a blood vessel or two and us rooted here for hours on end being lectured about the differences between the various British nationalities, you forget about ever wishing to voice it."

Carson's eyes narrow even more. "Scots are not British, Rodney." Who would have thought that the usually so charming Scottish accent could sound so intimidating?

Seeing McKay's face lose all its colour is almost worth the ensuing argument. Sheppard watches him squirm for a while, then decides to have pity on him: "What about Scottish cooking, then, doc?"

"You're all thinking of Haggis now, aren't you?"

"Well ..."

"Actually ..."

"Now that you mention it ..."

"Crap." Carson slaps the table for emphasis. "All crap. As if that's all Scots ever eat. Once a week is more than enough."

Ford turns an interesting shade of green. "You eat ... that? Honestly?"

"Have you ever tried it, son?"

"Ah, no. And I think I'd rather not."

Judging by the fact that McKay's stopped eating, he appears to agree.

"Heretics," Carson sighs. "But you're missing out the finer points. The baking. The soups. The desserts."

"Dessert!" Ford is audibly glad that the subject's changed.

"Cranachan," is Carson's answering sigh.

Raised eyebrows meet him. He nods and sighs again, eyes closing briefly, but doesn't continue.

It's Rodney - patience personified - who finally blurts out: "Will you stop having a culinary orgasm by yourself and share with us?"

There is silence for a few seconds. Carson goggles. Ford's mouth twitches. Sheppard raises an eyebrow. At that point, McKay realises what he just said.

Seeing the look of mortification on the other man's face, Ford holds it together for another ten seconds, then bursts into roaring laughter. "McKay, I really don't want to know what's going on in that brain of yours sometimes."

Rodney turns an interesting shade of crimson and looks ready to launch into tirade of how Ford would never manage to even get close to understanding what's in Rodney's brain because Rodney is Marvin the Paranoid Android without the faulty personality ... so it's Sheppard to the rescue again. "Rodney, take a bite. And, Carson. Enlighten us. What's a Cranachan?"

McKay munches moodily on a piece of fruit - not before sniffing it carefully and wondering out loud about similarities to lemons.

Carson cringes at Sheppard's americanised violation of the word and slaps Rodney's wrists when the other man starts to tear the fruit apart messily, juice squirting. "Did your mother never tell you not to play with food?"

If Rodney McKay had stuck out his tongue at Beckett that very moment, no one would have been surprised. Instead - after a warning glance from Sheppard - he just glowers some more, then mumbles an almost unintelligible: "Who cares about that hurt-your-throat word for dessert, anyway?"

Carson decides to ignore him. "Just imagine heaven in a tall dessert glass. It's fresh, succulent raspberries layered with whipped cream, sweet honey, smoky, perfect whisky and topped with golden-brown roasted oatmeal ..." He sighs again.

Ford swallows hard.

Rodney looks crestfallen and craving at the same time. He's forgotten to chew.

Sheppard's forehead is furrowed. "You're an evil, cruel and unfeeling man, Carson."

Carson gives them a radiant smile, flashing dimples. "But that's why you all love me, right?"

They look too pathetic to let it go. McKay continues chewing his fruit but looks as if it just turned horrendously sour.

Carson Beckett, never a man to hold a grudge for long, eggs on: "What are your favourite desserts, then?"

A wistful smile appears on Ford's face. "Grandma's apple pie. Fresh and warm out of the oven. Brown, crusty, perfect. Smells like heaven and tastes even better. She made it big, too, because grandpa and me would always be battling about the biggest piece. And she added real butter. Aidan, she always said," Ford's imitation of his grandmother's voice raises a few smiles around the table, "this new fancy margarine hocus-pocus is no use in a pie. You need real butter to make a good pie. And what a pie that was, I'm telling you. Complete with home-made vanilla ice-cream that'd melt next to it." He rolls his eyes in delight, no doubt smelling the scent of warm apple pie on the breeze.

McKay stifles a small whimper into a big slice of the fruit which appears to be getting sourer by the minute.

"Chocolate mud-cake." John Sheppard stretches his legs and crosses his arms over his chest, slanting a look at a most irritated McKay, grinning. "With warm chocolate sauce. Down at a small caf‚ near the Mississippi. I only went there once, driving through the town on a road trip before I started training with the Air Force, hell, I even forgot the name of the town, but it was the best damn chocolate cake I've ever had." He rolls his eyes in delight at the memory. "Melted in your mouth and almost gave you an overdose of chocolate, but, god, just the sight of it - all that dark, rich chocolate - the smell, the way the whipped cream slowly slid off it and into the warm chocolate ..."

McKay finally snaps. "Could you stop? Look, I pay you to stop."

"There's no money in Pegasus, Rodney. And what's so bad about chocolate?"

"The fact that we're out, perhaps? Just ... Have mercy. Please. I don't think I can take any more dessert discussions."

The three men share a grin.

"What about you, though, McKay?" Ford implores.

The smug "oh, please" look is back. "Is that a general question, and do you really want an answer?"

Ford rolls his eyes and doesn't even try to hide a grin. "What's your favourite dessert?"

McKay spears a piece of fruit with his fork hard enough to make the table vibrate. "Hadn't we decided to drop this?"

"You telling us to drop it doesn't mean we agreed to drop it. This is democracy." Sheppard chimes in, smiling a too cheery smile.

"Then let's bring back dictatorship for crying out loud." The fruit disintegrates into a sad puddle of juice under the pressure of the fork.

"Rodney." It's the tone you use with the mentally unstable.

"What?"

"You want to tell us." Sheppard says, patiently. "You're itching to tell us. It's written all over your face. So, spill."

McKay grumbles some more, then closes his eyes for a moment. "Key Lime Pie," he finally admits, quietly.

"Lime pie?"

Rodney bristles. "Is there an echo here I wasn't aware of?"

"But ... aren't you allergic to anything lemon-related?"

"Bravo, Ford. It's good to know at least one of you actually listens to what I say every once in a while." He gives Ford a mock-approving slap on the shoulder. "As a matter of fact, I am. Horribly so."

"Then how can your favourite dessert be the probably most lemony pie on earth?" Carson enquires, confused.

"What does it matter to you? Not everyone here lusts after whipped cream or apple pie or chocolate."

Raised eyebrows, again.

"Okay, so I do. But, so what? I lust in private." He realises that his mouth worked faster than his brain again and glares at Ford whose mouth twitches again. "Not a word, Ford."

The perplexed expression hasn't left Carson's face yet. "But, why?"

"Carson, you're beginning to sound like those terrible children on MG 677."

"He's right, though. Come on, mighty McKay. Let us know your dirty little secret." Sheppard's eyes twinkle.

Ford inches forward in his chair, rests his arms on the table. "It was a girl, right?"

"McKay and a woman?" Sheppard snorts. "Oh, seriously, Ford. He's got all the charm of a barbed wire fence."

"Really, Aidan. You don't honestly think-"

"Hey! I'm still sitting here, you know?"

"Was it a girl?" Again with the collectively raised eyebrows.

"As a matter of fact ..." McKay pauses - for effect or composure is unclear. "It was."

Carson's jaw drops. "No way."

Ford's grin widens. "Pay up, Sir."

"Damn it." Sheppard levels a glare at Rodney. "Can't you be predictable for once, McKay?"

"Sorry. Have I just lost you some privileges you'd rather have kept? Oh, I'm really dreadfully sorry."

"So, what about her?"

"Huh? Oh, nothing."

"Nothing?"

"I'm sorry, should I have turned it into goon-language? None of your business. Butt out."

"Rodney?" Sheppard gives that insolent grin again. "You're not getting out of this with your dignity intact anyway, so you might as well tell us."

"What dignity?" McKay throws his hands up. "Working with you, I doubt there is any dignity left."

"Well, I could record you on video the next time you go sleepwalking ..."

McKay crosses his arms defiantly. "I don't sleepwalk."

"Shall I tape it to prove it? And show it at the next briefing? I'm sure Elizabeth could do with a few insights into your more private ..."

McKay blanches - apparently Sheppard is leagues better than he is at poker. "All right. Fine. Stupid-"

"Ah, ah." Sheppard waggles a lazy index finger. "Video."

McKay's glare could strip the paint off the perfect Atlantean walls, but he concedes. "It was a dare. My parents had always forbidden me to touch anything that had lemon in it and even I was a teenager once and had my rebellious phase, and ah ... then there was this girl - cute, brunette, curly hair, green eyes, freckles, fifteen years old, beginning to fill out nicely-" His hands stop in mid-air and he glares across the table. "What?"

Carson's and Ford's grins disappear as if switched off. "Nothing. Go on."

"It was a her birthday party. First time I'd been invited to a girl's birthday party. And yes, before you ask, I had a little crush on her. Yes, yes, I know, hard to imagine, but true. And there was this lime pie. It looked fantastic: Crusty and yet soft and the meringue in tufts and it smelled like heaven. And she was sitting right next to it, looking all pretty and talking about ... Astronomy. I kid you not. She was the most beautiful brain I had ever met. And she offered me a slice. I mean, what would you have done?"

"You didn't?" Carson asks, horrified.

McKay nods. "The whole slice. It was the best damn thing I've ever eaten."

"It could have been the last damn thing you had ever eaten."

"Yeah, I kind of noticed that afterward, but thank you for reminding me again, Carson."

Ford's eyes are round with curiosity. "What happened?"

McKay shrugs. "What do you think? Anaphylactic shock. Not pretty. If I hadn't been so busy trying to breathe, I probably would have died of humiliation, though."

"So, Key Lime Pie is your favourite dessert because it nearly killed you?" Ford's voice is incredulous.

"Do you ever, just once, turn on your brain before you speak, Lieutenant?" McKay rolls his eyes. "No, of course not. But the girl came to visit me in the hospital every day, for as long as I was there. She felt so guilty for giving me that pie." He grins at the memory.

"And?"

"With the brain, again, Ford. What do you think happened? We were fifteen. Well, almost sixteen." McKay crosses his arms and looks at Ford as if speaking to a very slow child.

"Oh." Ford finally says and grins.

"Oh." Carson looks impressed.

"Really?" Sheppard asks, sceptical. "In the hospital?"

"Hm. On the way home, actually." McKay's grin is the mother of smugness.

Ford moves his baseball cap to scratch his head. "Huh."

"What? Were you expecting a big tale of woe? That it was terrible and I subsquently hated all brunettes afterward?"

"Actually --"

"Don't answer that, Ford."

"He's got a --"

"You, too, Major. Don't."

McKay rubs his hands together and stands up, the chair scraping loudly over the metal floor. "Not that it hasn't been lovely divulging my secrets to my group of Dessert-a-holic anonymous, and humiliating myself completely in the process, but I really must go and do some work now. Maybe you'll remember yours, too? As soon as your mind's out of the gutter?"

He's no more than few steps away from the table when Sheppard calls after him: "Well, oh great McKay, it's been lovely of you to condescend to dine with us. Please return to your important work while we lowly minions stay behind and have our most likely very undeserved chocolate."

McKay's steps slow, then stop. He turns around. "You have ... chocolate?"

Sheppard grins. "No. But feel free to dream about it."

The last thing Rodney hears before he storms from the dining hall, muttering the most inventive plans of payback, is Carson's mischievously cheery: "Say, have I ever told you about my mother's chocolate sponge cake?"

 

Finis


 
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