Author's Note:

Happy Birthday, Hifield!

A Christmas one-shot of my favorite Stargate couple.

The story has not been beta'd, but hopefully there aren't any glaring mistakes that I missed after all of the edits I did do.

Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Stargate Atlantis or its wonderful characters.

Spoilers: None that I can think of…


Ronon strolled down the corridor at a leisurely pace. Not because he had nowhere to be, but because he didn't want to alert the woman a few paces ahead of him, that he was following her.

He hadn't intended on trailing behind her when he'd left the mess hall. It was coincidence that he'd finished eating dinner and left at the same moment she had. And he hadn't meant to follow her, but when she didn't take the transporter to crew quarters, as he thought she would, he'd become curious as to her destination. Since he was headed in the same direction, slowing down a little to see where she was heading didn't seem to feel intrusive. His curiosity had grown exponentially once she'd also passed the infirmary.

So now, instead of turning down the hall that would lead to Sheppard's office, Ronon found himself continuing down the main corridor, shadowing Dr. Keller into the Gate Room. She veered off to the left, past Woolsey's office before pausing at the railing and gazing at the floor beneath.

The Satedan knew he should turn and head back to Sheppard's office, it was none of his concern. However, he found his feet rooted to the spot. He leaned instead against the wall and studied her for a few moments. Her face, or at least the profile of it within his view, looked peaceful; a small smile was upon her lips. It made her look so very young and innocent… too innocent to be here in the Pegasus galaxy in his opinion.

He looked down at the Gate Room floor to see what had drawn the doctor to her current location. He saw several soldiers on duty below and for a moment wondered if one of them was the reason for her trek. After a bit more scrutiny though he determined she was actually looking at the Christmas tree.

The botany department had brought a large tree back from their last mission. The Daedalus had then delivered several boxes to Dr. Weir's office a few days ago and she'd tasked the gate technicians with decorating the tree near the Stargate for everyone's enjoyment. The tree was a symbol for this holiday celebrated by most of the expedition members and it seemed to be one that brought joy to most of them. Ronon wasn't exactly sure why, but he had to admit it looked a bit festive, if also a little silly, decorated with so many trinkets.

He was pulled from his observations when a throat was quietly cleared behind him.

"Whatcha looking at, Chewy?"

Ronon chose to ignore the tone of Sheppard's voice and the raised eyebrow that seemed to offer the question as a challenge. "How long does your world use a tree as a symbol?" he asked instead.

"It can differ a bit, depending on the person. For the most part it is erected for a couple of weeks before Christmas and taken down about a week after Christmas." John's look betrayed his puzzlement over Ronon's question, but he didn't pursue an explanation. "There was a woman at the end of my block though, when I was a kid, left her tree up till the end of January."

"But it's a dying tree," Ronon clarified as he turned, compelling Sheppard to follow him toward the shooting range.

"Yes it is." The Colonel chuckled, "Her tree was always quite brown when it hit the curb, a trail of dead needles leading all the way back to her front door. It was a wonder the damn thing never caught fire in all the years she lived there."

Four days later, Ronon followed his team mates out of the mess hall, trying to ignore Rodney's complaints. The Warrior was actually glad to hear his team called to the briefing room. It usually meant they'd be heading off world soon and he'd been getting a bit bored over the last few days they'd been without a mission.

As they rounded the corner moving away from the mess hall, they quickly overtook a dawdling Dr. Keller. She seemed to be caught up in her own thoughts, walking at a very slow pace.

"Hiya, Doc," Sheppard called out as they caught up with her.

"Evening," she replied with a pleasant smile and a look back at them all before wincing. "Sorry to hear ya'll get called into a briefing."

"Couldn't they just wait until after we've eaten," McKay chimed in, as if the Doc had been talking to him specifically. "It's not like they can't look at a clock and make the calculation that we'd be eating dinner."

"Actually, we were finished eating," Sheppard corrected, cutting off any further ranting from the physicist. "You and Ronon just hadn't finished your seconds, or was it thirds?" Sheppard laughed, looking toward the hulking warrior.

"Thirds," Ronon agreed.

McKay gave him a glare, but Ronon wasn't fazed.

"Are you reporting to the infirmary for a shift?" Teyla asked with a calm smile.

"Yes, Carson has me on nights until Dr. Cole returns on the Daedalus."

Something in Jennifer's hand caught the Colonel's attention. "Hey, is that part of the Christmas tree, Keller?" His voice sounding a bit accusatory, pulling Ronon's attention back to the Doc.

She was blushing profusely, "Yes, but just a tiny part from the back side." She held up the little nub in proof.

Ronon looked at the piece of tree she held and wondered why she'd taken it.

Sheppard looked at her sternly, but Ronon could tell it was all for show, "Do I need to worry that the back side of the tree is going to be a bit bare by Christmas?"

Dr. Keller must be able to read Sheppard's bluff as well, because she gave him a smirk before rolling her eyes. "This is barely an inch long."

"Yeah, but if everyone took an inch," John started.

Ronon watched the Doc roll her eyes again, as they all paused outside the infirmary. "Someone will take a mile?" she laughed. "I promise not to let anyone see it and get any ideas, Colonel," she reassured, still grinning broadly.

"That's all I'm asking," Ronon's team mate accepted, rocking back on his heels with a grin.

"Stay safe if Dr. Weir sends you off world." Dr. Keller waved at the group before turning into the infirmary. Ronon noted that she lifted the small twig she was twirling between her fingers to smell as she walked away.

Colonel Sheppard walked with his team back to the gate. The mission had been a success, mainly because it was unnecessary. Roberts' team wasn't in need of rescue; they'd just been delayed by the leaders of the village who'd wanted them to stay for the evening meal. John just wished that was the case with most of their overdue teams.

I'd taken some fast talking on his part to keep his team from having to stay for the evening meal as well. After reminding Major Roberts to have his team home in two hours, Sheppard had quickly led his team out of the village and back toward the gate.

"We had our dinner cut short for that?" McKay complained.

Sheppard shook his head, not that Rodney could see him. He was walking ahead of him, next to Teyla.

"The least they could've done was check in with Atlantis before they left all of their gear outside the meeting hall," McKay griped, "saved us a trip."

"Get over it, Rodney," Sheppard commanded, not that it would do any good. "Think of it as walk. It's kind of relaxing, actually." John was just glad the gate was in sight, he wouldn't have to listen to McKay whine for much longer.

Ronon slapped Sheppard on the back as he turned off the path. "I'll catch up at the gate."

The Colonel stared after the big guy while he jogged away. "Wonder what he's up to?"

"What, he can't hold it till we get home?" Rodney sarcastically sputtered before continuing toward the gate. "He better not take long."

Sheppard turned off the path as well. "Think I'll go see what he's up to," he called out. "Meet you two at the gate." Without waiting for a reply, John began jogging off in the direction Ronon had gone.

"What is that?" Rodney asked, pointing at the burden Ronon was dragging behind him.

"It's a tree, McKay," Sheppard replied, stating the obvious, "dial the gate."

Rodney turned toward the DHD a bit confused and began dialing the symbols. "But why?" the physicist began, "actually better yet is how? What did he do, bring along an axe?"

"Actually, it was a hand saw." Sheppard grinned as he rocked forward on his feet, clearly still impressed with what he'd witnessed. "He had it strapped to his boot."

Rodney's gaze swung first to Ronon's pant leg, then up to his face. He opened his mouth to ask the next question plaguing his mind, but the worm-hole stabilizing caught everyone else's attention. Sheppard pointed at the gate and Rodney shut his mouth and turned to follow his team home.

Jennifer left the transporter and headed for her quarters. It'd been a fairly quiet day in the infirmary. Which meant that she'd worked on a lot of paperwork and was glad to see Dr. Biro come on shift so she could be done for the evening. She didn't want to wish bad luck on the teams, but busy days did keep time from dragging.

Dr. Keller slowed her steps, a scene ahead of her capturing her attention. Ronon was attempting to prop a tree up against the wall about two thirds of the way down the hall. As uncooperative as it was being, it obviously didn't know Ronon very well. Jenn, on the other hand, did know Ronon well enough to keep the sudden desire to laugh to herself as she watched the tree topple to the floor. It was obvious from his growl, that it wasn't the first time.

Confusion took over when Jenn got closer and realized that he was trying to prop the tree against the wall by her door. "Ronon?"

The frustrated man was actually glad to see the doc. He was having a hard time leaving the tree at her door without it taking up a lot of floor space since it wouldn't stand upright. "I was trying to leave this for you."

"I see that," Jennifer said with a small smile, trying not to laugh when her memory did a quick flash back to his stance when the tree had hit the ground for the second time after she'd spotted him.

Dr. Keller opened her door and waved him in with the tree. "Why?"

"Wanted you to have it," Ronon responded leaning the tree against the wall and her desk with much more success than he'd had in the hall.

"But why me?" Jenn asked. "There are probably a lot of crew members that would like a tree."

Ronon studied Jennifer for a moment, thinking about the look on her face whenever she'd gazed at the tree in the Gate Room, or the fact that she'd even stolen a part of the Expedition's tree. "I only noticed you," he answered with a shrug.

His words made Jenn blush a little, even though she was pretty sure he didn't mean anything profound by them. "This is a very beautiful tree."

Ronon ducked his head slightly at her praise. "Thought you'd like your own Christmas tree. Sheppard said this one was tall enough." Ronon looked back a little skeptically at the tree. His team mate had insisted he cut down a much smaller tree than the one he'd initially picked out, once he'd caught up with him off the path.

"Colonel Sheppard was right, this one is tall enough." Jennifer fingered some of the needles on the tree, it was perfect. "Thank you." Once she gained the courage to look up she noticed he was studying his hands.

He looked so serious that she took a step closer to get a better look. "I see you've gotten some pitch on your hands. Probably from carrying that tree." Jennifer reached for one of his hands and examined it, lightly running her finger across his palm and and feeling the sticky surface herself. "I'm sorry, Ronon," she said with a wince as she looked him in the eye.

"No big deal."

"Yeah, but if you hadn't been getting me a tree," Jenn let her voice trail off as she studied his other hand, "you wouldn't have sap on both of your hands now." Jennifer pulled him over to a table. "I think I have something that will take that off."

Ronon heard Jenn rummaging around in her bathroom before she came back out with a yellow substance in a bottle. He should probably have insisted on leaving, he'd dealt with pitch on his hands before. It eventually went away.

"Although I'm in a different galaxy, I think nail polish remover might still work well at freeing your hands of the stickiness." She gave him a small nod of her head before indicating that he should sit down at her small table.

Jennifer suddenly realized how intimate it was going to be sitting inches away from Ronon and holding his hands, scrubbing them. She'd be able to hear him breathe and feel the heat his body emanated. She'd been this close many times in the infirmary, but this was a bit unsettling in comparison.

With a deep breath she held out her hand, silently asking for his. Jenn examined it for a moment to determine just how much sap was spread across his hands. Trying to keep her doctor façade firmly in place she began to meticulously work to remove the offending pitch.

She could feel him watching her as she worked the cloth over his hands and she was beginning to regret not just giving him the bottle of remover and the cloth and sending him on his way. It wasn't like he couldn't have done this part himself and she hoped he didn't realize how much his presence was affecting her.

There wasn't any conversation during the time it took to remove all of the stickiness form his hands and she felt quite unnerved by the time she finished. "What do you think?"

Ronon made a fist and then opened his hands, testing the skin on skin contact. "Better."

Jennifer busied herself putting away the remover and tossing the cloth. When she returned to the main room she found him still sitting at the table, staring at her tree. "Thank you again for going through all that trouble, Ronon."

"No problem," he said as he rose and tucked the chair under the table. He made his way over to the door, near where she was standing, finally asking a question that had floated through his mind several times during the day. "Why did you take that small piece of tree with you today, from the Gate Room?"

"I just wanted to be able to smell it throughout the day. It reminds me of home and my family." She looked down at the floor, thinking about how foolish that sounded.

Ronon took the few steps over to where he'd left her tree and leaned in, inhaling deeply. Once he'd straightened, he looked over his shoulder at her for a moment before giving her a slight smile and facing the tree again. He tugged a small portion of a low branch off and rolled it between his fingers thoughtfully before turning back to Jennifer.

"Reminds me of the woods near my childhood home," Ronon supplied before triggering her door and stepping out.

Jennifer bid him goodbye, but remained in the hall. "Ronon," she called out before he'd taken more than four or five steps.

Ronon turned slightly, waiting.

"I noticed you too," she declared quietly, but loud enough she was sure he'd heard. It felt like an eternity, but a moment later Ronon gave her a smile and nod of his head before continuing his trek to the transporter.

The warrior couldn't understand the lightness he felt as he walked away from Dr. Keller's quarters. Nothing profound had occurred, and yet he felt like something important had transpired. Once he got to the transporter he looked back one more time and his chest tightened to see her still standing in her door, watching him. He gave a short nod before stepping into the transporter. With a quiet evening ahead of him, he figured it might be time to mull over the affect the Doc seemed to have on him lately.