Author's notes: I thought this up in the shower. It's a little bit meta, and very, very silly.
thegrrrl wrote a lovely sequel to this, called Tea Time. Do go check it out. :-)
"Colonel," McKay said, dropping into the chair across from him. "You're a tea drinker, right?"
"Not particularly," Sheppard said, pointedly taking a sip from his mug—-which was full of coffee. Inwardly, he rolled his eyes. Honestly, tell one little flirtatious white lie to one beautiful alien in front of a loud-mouth lieutenant, and suddenly everyone was thinking you'd trade DVDs for orange pekoe.
McKay blinked. "Oh," he said, seemingly derailed. "That's weird. Anyway," he plunged on, gesturing at Sheppard's mug as if it were somehow relevant, "you drink tea, so you'd know about this."
"Right." Sheppard sighed. "I'm a tea drinker." He still missed Ford, but not for that. He took another sip (of his coffee), with his eyebrows raised as he looked at McKay over his mug's rim, to invite him to continue. "What is it I know about?"
"Well," McKay said. "A large number of new personnel have arrived recently on the Daedalus."
"That's true." Sheppard nodded. "What about them?" He asked, hoping it would help McKay circle around to the actual conversation. "Do they like tea?" And god, really, he hoped not. At least not if they brought extra they wanted to trade to him. His eyes narrowed suspiciously. "I'm not giving up any of my DVDs."
McKay blinked again. "Why would you do that?" Then he dismissed Sheppard's statement totally with a wave of his hand. "Well, a lot of the new scientists-—a lot of the female scientists, actually, which makes sense I guess, because aren't women meant to like tea? Anyway-—a lot of the new, female, scientists keep talking about some kind of tea, in relation to us."
"In relation to us," Sheppard said. That was definitely strange. He was sure he'd never seen a cup of the stuff in McKay's vicinity, ever. "What kind of tea?" He took another sip.
"They keep calling it 'U.S. Tea,'" McKay said. "Ever heard of it?"
Sheppard choked on his coffee.
"Colonel?" McKay asked, looking gratifyingly alarmed. "Are you okay?"
"Fine! I'm fine." Sheppard wheezed. He coughed a few times, clearing his lungs, then gestured at his chest. "Wrong pipe."
"Good," McKay said. "So, do you know what U.S. Tea is?"
"U.S. Tea," Sheppard said. He pursed his lips as if he were thinking about it. "You mean, UST?"
McKay looked at him as if he was a little slow. "That's what I said."
Sheppard gave him a deliberate nod. "You want to know what this...UST...in relation to us, is."
Now McKay looked confused in that particular way of his, as if he'd previously been certain he wasn't talking to an idiot, and now wasn't so sure. "Have you suddenly gone deaf in the last two minutes? Isn't that what I've been talking about?"
"Right." Another, very slow, nod. "UST."
"Yes." McKay sighed, obviously exasperated. "U.S. Tea. As in, U-S-Tea. So, do you know what it is, or not? Because at first I was thinking it might be a joke, like 'the Koala Tea of Merzy.' And then I was wondering if it might be one of your things, like 'American Cheese'-—which is really just another kind of cheddar, by the way, and really, what is it with you people and your constant need to rename everything and why are you smiling like that?"
Sheppard immediately ratcheted his grin down a few notches, so as not to alarm McKay. "It's for real, Rodney," he said. Because, yeah. "In fact..." and he leaned back in his chair, throwing his arm casually over the back, and tilted his head to expose the line of his throat. And he kept his smile totally un-predatory when he saw McKay's eyes flick along his body. "I've got some in my room."
McKay seemed to be blinking himself back from a great mental distance. "What? I mean, you do?" He perked up instantly. "What does it taste like?"
And wow, there were just so many answers to that question, weren't there? "It's an acquired taste," Sheppard said smoothly. "Not everyone likes it." Which was really too bad for them. "It's kind of..." Snarky. "Harsh, initially. But it doesn't take too long to realize how terrific it is."
McKay was frowning a little. "Is it like earl grey? It sounds like earl grey."
Sheppard let his grin widen just a little. "Tell you what," he said, so casually that probably anyone who wasn't McKay would get suspicious, "why don't you come over to my quarters later—-say, around eight," he said, as if picking the time out of the air. "And I'll... make you some."
"Really?" McKay was delighted far out of proportion to the offer, which was just, oh, yeah. "You wouldn't mind sharing?"
Sheppard waved his hand expansively. "Not at all. What's a little UST between friends?" And his grin was probably way too wide there, but he didn't care.
McKay wasn't noticing, anyway. He was looking just a tiny bit unsure. "You said it was an acquired taste—-do you think I'll like it?"
"Oh, absolutely." Sheppard nodded with utmost seriousness. "You'll love it."
He'd make sure he would.