Note: So, there's this icon floating around... (ETA: made by the talented siriaeve!)
When he saw the hotel, Zelenka said weakly, “I suspect that we just spent our prize money.”
Rodney put his back to it dismissively, squinting across the water. His nose and ears bright red from the weather, and John half-considered teasing him about it, but he was afraid Rodney would take his scarf back if he did. Rodney snorted. “Oh, please, I’ll expense it.”
Since John was leaning against the railing next to Rodney’s other sort of boss, he decided not to comment. Hotels that looked a bajillion years old were budget blackholes in the states; in Europe, everything looked like a goddamn castle. It was probably a bargain. He burrowed a little deeper into Rodney's scarf and aimed a "can't live with 'im, can't live without 'im" eyebrow wiggle at Elizabeth.
She rolled her eyes, the expression ruined a little by the white, faux fur earmuffs.
Later, after the bellhop had addressed their party by name and he'd seen the dining room straight out of Beauty and the Beast and the three bedroom suite -- compact floorplan, but have you felt the towels? -- he was inclined to agree with Zelenka.
Rodney, meanwhile -- John was never letting him make an unsupervised reservation again -- bustled between the rooms, turning down the covers and introducing everyone to the comfort of high thread count linens.
“Surprised they didn’t monogram them just for us,” John deadpanned.
Rodney paused, thoughtful. “Well, normally, that's a bit over the top, but in this case--”
John turned desperately to Elizabeth in the doorway, still in her mittens and ear muffs and plum ski coat, more wide-eyed than she had been since the announcement in October, and John knew she’d already gotten the bedroom tour.
Elizabeth took a settling breath, reaching up to pull the ear muffs from her hair. She smiled slyly, eyes darting past his shoulder to the bed. “King size, John?”
John thought, Oh hell, I am not blushing.
“No, no, this is history in the making,” Rodney was saying with a pained frown. “They could market this as the Dr. Rodney McKay room. Too late for our stay, of course, but they could always -- Oh hello, Elizabeth. Did I show you how to work the shower? It’s very therapeutic. The way this particular model works--”
On Friday morning, Zelenka stayed up all night rewriting and rehearsing and mostly yelling at Rodney, until John woke up and slipped him an Ambien to grind into McKay’s coffee.
On Friday evening, John had to drag Rodney out of their shared bathroom because staring at the mirror wasn’t going to grow his hair back and every time John combed it for him, Rodney had worried it back into crazy spikes by the time John turned back around. He was also babbling, a breathless, words-run-together monologue that had started when they got back from the lecture and grew higher and faster the closer they got to departure. He hit ‘reedy’ at the main lobby entrance when the kid at the valet wished him luck and was quickly approaching ‘squeaky’ as the limo moved through downtown, city noise muffled behind its shiny black shell.
“Maybe this isn’t happening,” Rodney said, suddenly whisper quiet. He leaned forward into the city lights coming in through the window, clenching his fists nervously at the edge of the black leather seats. “Major, you don’t -- there aren’t any dead people around?”
“Colonel,” John corrected lazily, ignoring the knot slowly tightening in his stomach, his legs kicked across the floor in an easy slouch. Back at the hotel, Elizabeth had pointedly lifted her heels in a wide arc over his crossed ankles as she climbed in, but John had just smiled. “Do I see any what around?”
Rodney waved a hand vaguely in John’s direction, his forehead pressed to the glass as the city flashed by. “Previously deceased individuals of an unexpectedly ambulatory and talkative nature; have you seen any?” He swung his head around drunkenly (though John had hidden all the liquor from the suite’s mini bar as soon as he’d gotten up that morning, well before seven a.m. CET). “It was a simple question.”
John leaned over Rodney’s shoulder, making a show of shading his eyes and squinting into the pedestrian traffic. “I don’t see -- oh wait!” Rodney smushed his face against the glass with a horrified sound. “Oops, false alarm,” John said brightly, dropping the hand shading his eyes onto Rodney’s knee.
“We could be headed for an alien death trap, Major!” Rodney snapped, ignoring John’s attempt to comfort him. He’d been messing with his hair again because it was standing up in a hundred different directions like a stray cat in the rain. “I’m glad you’re concerned.”
John leaned over to the right, away from Rodney, murmuring, “It’s been five years, right? Maybe he has a brain tumor? Spontaneous dementia?” but Zelenka obviously felt it was John’s turn to deal with Rodney’s nerves, snuffling loudly into the side of the limo without waking up.
“I’m sure,” Elizabeth broke in reasonably, slanting a meaningful glance in John’s direction as she smoothed her long gown over her legs, “that John would let us know if he was controlling the world with his mind.”
John blinked at her, not sure if she wanted him to stop needling Rodney or if she thought it was a real possibility.
“Ohhh,” John said instead, drawing out the word like he’d only just realized, “you mean the mist beings.”
“Of course, I mean the mist beings!” Rodney threw up his hands angrily. “This is just the sort of cruel, misplaced delusion they would come up with!”
John nodded. “I guess the scenario is pretty unlikely.”
Rodney’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “I’m sorry?”
“You didn’t lend ol’ Carl Gustaf your cat or anything did you?” John tacked on a truly horrible leer, nudging an elbow into Rodney’s side. “And now he’s going to give it back with a little something extra...”
“A little something extra,” Rodney repeated incredulously. He bristled. “For your information, the situation is eminently believable. I just don’t trust anyone else to properly comprehend that.”
Outside, the Stockholm Concert Hall came into view around the corner, its entrance crowded with guests and media. John slung a companionable arm around Rodney’s shoulders. It meant I comprehend. “Just try to remember not to mention aliens in your acceptance speech.”
“Or do,” Elizabeth said recklessly, throwing up a slender arm wrapped in the dark velvet of her opera coat. “They have to declassify sometime!”
John started to suspect that he’d hidden the alcohol where Elizabeth could find it.
Then the limo was stopping, and John was pushing Rodney out into the flashing cameras and the chill air of December, dragging a groggy Zelenka out behind him. Elizabeth stepped out last, tipsy and regal and glowing with maternal pride.
John fell back in an easy stroll, hands in the pockets of his rumpled dress uniform, watching Zelenka trip over his shoelaces and Rodney throw himself at the unsuspecting reporters. The knot in his gut suddenly felt a lot more like joy than worry. In a week they’d be back in Pegasus, where Rodney would be twice as insufferable for the official recognition of his genius and Zelenka would be twice as irreverent to get back at him. Today though, the whole world was watching these guys -- his guys -- with awe, and John thought, What took you so long?
Afterwards, when the speeches were done and the champagne was drunk and Rodney had satisifed his fascination with speaking into a microphone, he took John back to their room and let John touch his Nobel.