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Life in Miniature Motion
By Kyizi

Disclaimers etc in Part One


* * *

Part Two

* * *


In the early days, Rodney had thought it wise to make sure that John had regressed completely; he hadn’t wanted to wake up one morning to find out that their resident three-year-old had set the base on self-destruct (and, yes, he knows it takes two command codes, but he also knows that Sheppard is a lot smarter than most people give him credit for and there’s no doubt in Rodney’s mind that, somehow or other, Sheppard has acquired at least one other person’s command code along the way. It isn’t like he hasn’t done the same himself). Simple tests and a few random observations from everyone from Kate Heightmeyer to Miko Kusanagi had allayed those fears and Rodney hasn’t given it much thought for a while.

But there are times when Rodney thinks that John might be more like Sheppard than they all originally deducted. It isn’t just that he never mentions his parents, never asks why he’s on Atlantis rather than Earth, why he never questions the utterly terrifying faith he has in Rodney, it’s more in the little things.

So, one morning after Rodney’s spent the whole night deciphering part of the database that might help him figure out the device and then fallen asleep perched at the top of his bed, his face gaining an imprint of his laptop keyboard, when John wakes up screaming, he feels it shouldn’t really surprise him as much as it does.

He takes a moment to react, not for lack of the ingrained jump of adrenaline mixed with self preservation that he’s been honing for the last few years, but because he’s trying to figure out what the hell it is that John’s screaming at the top of his lungs. Rodney crouches by the small bed that Lorne and Hinkleman (one of the not-quite-so-brain-dead-after-all Marines) fashioned out of a few trees from the mainland, pulling John’s clawing hands away from his little neck when he makes out the word “Bug! Bug! Bug!” on repeat and he suddenly gets it. He breaks instantly into a cold sweat and clutches John to him, pulling the boy onto his lap and trying to get the image of Sheppard, iratus bug attached to him, out of his mind.

It takes him about an hour to calm John down enough to get the boy to let go and longer to get him dressed, before Rodney drops him off exhausted at Teyla’s. He’s half way to the lab when the idea strikes and he smiles, really smiles, for the first time in three weeks, four days and sixteen hours.


* * *


“I don’t get it.”

“Of course you don’t, but don’t mistake your lack of intelligence for a bad idea,” Rodney snarls, almost startled when Lorne just rolls his eyes and lets the comment roll of his back like…like Sheppard would. Somehow that makes him resent the Major a little more.

“What are you saying, Rodney?” Elizabeth asks and he has to force himself not to notice the pinched and hollow expression he’s seen on her face a lot more often recently. He’s still a little angry at her and her deadlines and doesn’t want to admit to himself that there might be a reason for it and maybe he should figure it out.

“What I’m saying,” he continues, making sure to disguise his hope that, oh God, this might work with a put-upon expression. “Is that maybe if we keep trying to jog his memory, it’ll make things easier to reverse.”

Lorne frowns. “Like, show him places he’s been as an adult, re-train him to do certain things and it might all come back to him?”

Rodney nods. “Exactly.”

“I do not believe that we should teach a child how to use a gun, Major,” Teyla says, alarm barely masked by her calm voice.

Lorne looks horrified. “I didn’t mean weapons training!” he cries and Teyla relaxes.

“I apologise for the misunderstanding,” she says seriously and Rodney thinks that maybe he’s not the only one who’s finding it hard to see Lorne sitting in Sheppard’s place. Even the Major looks uncomfortable.

The man nods, hesitates for a moment and then scans the room before looking directly at Rodney. “Can I say somethin’, Doc?”

“Can I stop you?” Rodney accuses.

“If you want, but-”

“Oh, what is it?”

“Look, it’s not my place to pretend I’m an expert at this, but I got a big family and…look I want the Colonel back almost as much as you do,” he says and Rodney’s actually kind of grateful that he said ‘almost’ and isn’t trying to pretend that he’s lost his best friend, too. “But it just seems to me that we’re all forgetting something.”

“What are we forgetting, Major?” Teyla asks when he stops.

“We’re forgetting that, even though we know McKay’s gonna fix this, right now he’s just a little boy. Doesn’t matter that the Colonel might or might not be in there, the reality is that we’re dealing with a child and we gotta treat him like that. If we have to pretend the he’s the Colonel’s kid, or relation, or whatever so that we can deal, then so be it, but we can’t have the marines calling him ‘Sir’ and doing what he tells them, we can’t leave him on his own to run around Atlantis because he could activate anything and we wouldn’t know it, or worse, he could fall and kill himself because something isn’t safe.” Lorne sighs and glances around the room at all the personnel deemed necessary to attend. “Look, I’m just saying…we've got to remember that he's a little boy. He needs us to remember that.”

There’s a moment of silence and Elizabeth nods. “Agreed, Major. The Daedalus arrives in three days and I’d like everyone to ensure that there are no incidents until then. I’m sure we’d all like at least one visit to go smoothly.” She smiles at the knowing looks passed around the table at the knowledge that Caldwell is always arriving in the midst of some crisis or another. For Rodney it’s merely another reminder that Sheppard isn’t there to cause one.

“Whilst Colonel Caldwell is in the city, he will be in charge of the military contingent,” she continues, glancing at Lorne. “Until then and after he leaves, I’ve discussed the matter with General Landry and we agree that things are running smoothly under your command for the time being, Major, so things will remain as they are.” At his nod, she turns to the rest of the room. “I’d like Major Lorne, Doctor McKay, Doctor Beckett, Teyla and Ronon to remain, the rest of you are dismissed. Thank you for coming. Jennifer, I’m sure Drs Kusanagi and Simpson would appreciate some help with John,” she says to the young doctor, who shares a smile with her and chuckles as she leaves the room.

By the time everyone else has left, there’s a strange sense of foreboding in the air and Rodney shuffles in his seat. He exchanges a glance with Ronon and Teyla before turning back to Elizabeth.

“This isn’t easy to say, so I’m going to get straight to the point. Rodney, do you have any indication of how long it’s going to take you to sort this out?”

“Oh, yes, turn on the scientist. It’s not like I have a handbook or-”

“Rodney.”

“I…” he swallows. “No. I discovered what I think might be the control unit. It was in the lab. Sheppard turned it on about a month before we went to the planet and…I think that’s what caused the machine to work on just him and didn’t turn anyone else into children.”

Teyla sighs. “So their machine has never done this before, which would explain why the Village Elders were alarmed and did not wish our presence on their planet any longer. It would also explain why they released us, rather then keep us prisoner.”

“And it explains our even warmer welcome,” Lorne says with a frown.

“So John actually turned on the machine himself a month before he even went to the planet?” Elizabeth inquires.

“No, I think he would have turned it on anyway, I just think that he controlled the settings before he went, but I have no way of being sure.”

“And you can’t use this control unit to turn him back?”

“It’s broken,” Rodney says darkly. “It looks like someone’s been using it and I don’t know what happened, yet, but it’s in about fifty pieces and I have no idea how to put it back together. I’ll need to work out how to control it from the actual device.”

“Right,” Elizabeth lets out a long breath. “And you don’t know how long this will take.”

“No.”

She nods. “Okay. I’m not going to be able to hold off any longer, Rodney. I’m going to have to tell Stargate Command the full extent of what’s happened and there is every chance they will order that John be returned to Earth.”

“No,” Rodney says firmly. “That is not an option. He’s fine where he is.”

“Rodney-”

“No! How can you expect me to fix him if he’s not even here?”

“Rodney, you need to face facts; you might not be able to f-”

“Do not say that.”

“I believe that Rodney will succeed, Elizabeth,” Teyla interrupts and, as usual, her presence calms them all. “It is too soon to expect results. Rodney needs time.”

There’s a long moment of silence. “I’ll see what I can do,” Elizabeth says finally. “But I can’t promise you anything. In the meantime, we need to come to more arrangements regarding his care. If he’s to remain here, we’ll need to show that we can properly care for him.”

“He’s fine,” Rodney protests again.

“Rodney, I can’t have you indisposed all the time. What happens if something goes wrong in the middle of the night? I need you to be as available as you always have been. I agree that John seems to be happiest in your care, but it’s simply not possible to continue this way. Major Lorne is right, he’s a little boy and children need routines, Rodney.”

“So, what, you’re taking him away from me?”

Elizabeth shakes her head. “No, but I think it would be a good idea to share the responsibility. I think that, if she agrees, Teyla should take care of John in the evenings. Not every night, but I think it would be best for everyone involved if he’s looked after by more than one person. Especially given the nature of our work.”

Rodney gets what she’s saying, understands that it’ll be worse on John if he goes and dies on the kid, but it still feels like he’s being punished.

“Fine,” he snaps. “I’ll take him every second weekend and two weeks every holiday.”

“Rodney, that’s not what I mean. Have space set up for John in both your quarters and on the nights where you need to work late, he can stay with Teyla. If something happens in the middle of the night and we need you, Teyla can look after him and he’s going to need to be comfortable enough to stay in another room. Rodney, you know I’m right.”

And, yes, he does know she’s right. But at that moment, it doesn’t make him hate her any less.


* * *


“You are distracted.”

Rodney blinks and refocuses his attentions on Teyla, giving her an apologetic look. “I’m sorry, I…I’m sorry.”

“It is all right, Rodney,” she says, settling down on her bed.

Rodney looks around the room, takes in the changes they’ve made to accommodate for John’s presence, and tries very hard not to resent them. Teyla’s quarters always seem to calm him just as she does herself, as if he’s surrounded by her and it’s comforting in a way that he’d never really expected to find.

“You look lost,” she says, indicating that she’d like him to sit by her and he does, not sure he could ever deny her anything.

“I feel lost,” he admits, frowning. “I can fix this; I know I can fix this.”

“As do I. We all have faith that you will return John to us as he was before, but that does not mean that we should be unwilling to accept him as he is for the time we have him.” She smiles. “A child is a gift, Rodney, no matter the reason for its existence. John has been given something that many would accept with pleasure.”

“I don’t understand.”

Teyla sighs, frowning in a way that he knows well and he lets her collect her thoughts. “I have lived among your people for many years and still I cannot understand many of the restrictions you place upon yourselves and those around you. I have seen you all struggle through times of great adversity and I am proud to call you my friends and my family, but even you must see that this is a chance for John to break free of the responsibility and the pressure he has lived with for so long. We should care for him and let him enjoy this time. Perhaps, in turn, his presence will allow us to do the same.”

“But what if I break him?”

Teyla’s gentle laughter soothes him more than her words. “Rodney, you will not break him. I will be here to help you, as will many others.”

Rodney nods gratefully and swallows. He sometimes wonders if Teyla understands what she means to him, wonders if she can possibly realise that he’ll never understand how she can even like him when he so often doesn’t like himself very much.

“You are a good man, Rodney,” she says, almost reading his thoughts. “John is lucky to have you. Please, enjoy this time and believe you make things right in the end. We have faith in you.”

It’s that faith, more than anything that that makes him believe it.


* * *


“Where’s John?” Ronon asks, dropping into the chair next to him and Rodney jumps.

“How should I know?” When Ronon raises his eyebrows, Rodney huffs. “I think he’s with Lorne.”

“Just saw Lorne and the pretty doctor headed somewhere, John wasn’t with them.”

“Try Cadman,” Rodney says darkly and returns his focus to his computer.

For some reason that Rodney is unable to ascertain, John actually likes spending time with Lieutenant Cadman and it’s not because she likes to blow things up, because Elizabeth put her foot down where John and explosives were concerned and Cadman’s not stupid enough to defy her boss. Even without thing that go ‘boom’, however, John likes to talk to her, to chatter about his day and she makes him laugh with abandon and delights him with some magic that Rodney doesn’t think he’ll ever understand. She calls him ‘Johnny’, keeps him entertained and is happy to spend hours chasing him through the hallways. The fact that no one calls her on it is likely due more to the fact that they’re jealous of her freedom with him than the fact that she could probably beat them up.

“Thought I’d take John swimming off the North Peer,” Ronon continues, breaking into his (totally not jealous) thoughts and Rodney nods.

“Whatever, sure, have fun.”

Ronon rolls his eyes and stands up. He’s half way to the door when Rodney yells, “Just try not to drown him!”

McKay?”

Rodney taps his earpiece at the tentative sound of Cadman’s voice. “What?”

Eh…we might have a problem.”

“What did you do?”

I didn’t do anything! Johnny and I were playing hide and seek and…he’s hiding.”

“Hiding where?”

Well, if I knew that I wouldn’t be calling you, would I?”

“You lost him?”

No! I just…can’t find him. I thought maybe you could try to track him down? I think he’s been teleporting from place to place whenever I get warm.”

“You are the worst babysitter ever!” Rodney says, already moving to the door. “Ronon!”

Like it’s never happened to you!”

“Whatever,” he says and then proceeds to fill Ronon in on John’s status as MIA. With the search underway, Rodney heads to the labs, muttering to himself the whole way there. John might have over 200 babysitters ready to play with him, but he’s beginning to wonder if any of them are actually capable of getting through a single day without incident. Himself included.


* * *


When they finally isolate and lock off the ‘transporter beams’ John takes a full blown temper tantrum the next time Rodney places him in the bathtub and he can’t get out. He then goes into a snit that lasts a whole day and burns out what little patience Rodney actually has. Luckily (or unluckily in his estimation), the moment Rodney’s about to blow, John bursts into tears (prompting alarm more than anger), apologises and latches onto Rodney’s legs until the he says, ‘it’s okay, we’re good’ about a hundred times and the boy almost falls asleep, exhausted, on his feet.

The next morning, things are fine and Rodney chalks that one up in the win column (he keeps tally on a small hand held in his top drawer and is constantly alarmed by how few scratches there are in that particular column). He doesn’t think about it again and figures that’s the end of that and doesn’t bargain on anymore major issues.

The truth is that, transporter beams aside, Lorne’s actually given Rodney a heads up on quite a few things. It’s times like this that Rodney really wishes he’d actually been listening.

“John Sheppard, you get your naked little butt back here right now!”

“Ha! You has to catch me!”

“You’re gonna regret this when you’re big again! And I’m only going to say, ‘I told you so’! I’m telling you to get back here, right now, before the entire city sees y-” He cuts off with a growl when John’s little white bum disappears around the corner and straight into the mess hall. Its lunchtime, so by the time he’s reached the door, John’s doing tricks and dancing for a rather large and amused female crowd, whilst the horrified military contingent studiously does not watch the spectacle.

By the time Rodney’s crossed the room, Lorne’s already got the boy upside down, giggling and ready to hand over to Rodney.

“I warned ya, Doc,” he says with a smirk and Rodney ponders how easy it would be to just cut off all of the Major’s hot water.

“Yes, well, next time, be more insistent!”


* * *


To say that the personnel on Atlantis had been excessively excitable and amused by John’s current predicament wouldn’t be far from the truth, in fact in Rodney’s estimation it would be a gross understatement. So that it still hasn’t worn off to what he considers acceptable levels in the time following the event isn’t entirely a surprise to him, but it’s something he’s finally managed to ignore (if you fail to include the copious ranting and glaring he dishes out on a daily basis). So it’s safe to say that the impending arrival of the Daedalus is an event that he certainly isn’t looking forward to, because the chances are that the insurgent of new people will bring yet another bolster of energy to the already insufferable cooing and pandering that follows the three-year-old around.

So when Caldwell arrives, looking painfully horrified at the prospect of interacting with the kid-ified Colonel, it actually kind of makes Rodney’s day.

“It’s not like I’m asking you to take it with you,” Rodney says with a huff. He adds a glare for good measure and carefully masks his glee at the look on the man’s face. “Just show him around the ship, let him look at the alien in the engine room and have him back by supper time.”

“I…really don’t think that’s a good idea,” Caldwell says, eyeing the boy carefully. That John’s clasping his hands in front of him and swaying gently from side to side with a somewhat angelic look on his face doesn’t seem to be putting the man at ease, and Rodney wonders if the time they spent rehearsing said look was all in vain.

“Look, we need him out of the city for long enough to run tests on the transporters and I, for one, do not relish a week long game of find the tiny Colonel.”

“It would be a great help, Colonel Caldwell,” Elizabeth says with a smile, her hand hovering over John’s shoulder in an almost motherly fashion. Whatever she’s doing seems to batter through Caldwell’s defences and the man gives a resigned sigh and nods.

“Come on then, Sheppard.”

“John!” the boy cries, stamping his foot for effect, all faux innocence discarded.

Caldwell grimaces, says, “Okay, John,” and reaches for the boy’s hand, before he has them beamed aboard the Daedalus.

Rodney grins and then happily spends the rest of the day playing with fricking transporter beams (sometimes he really loves his life). He’s trying to visualise how much trouble John can get into on a spaceship and feels a little smug, because he doesn’t feel the slightest bit sorry for Caldwell.


* * *


“And then Lindsay thew a wench at his head!”

Rodney sprays his coffee right about the time he realises that John’s talking about a wrench and not a woman of questionable profession. And really, he knows that’s a hell of a less likely thing for the tiny scientist to have thrown at her pet Asgard (let alone where she’d have got one, but then this is Pegasus and Sheppard always was good at finding that kind of thing), but he’s been awake for going on thirty-five hours and he’s not quite up to speed.

“So you had fun, Johnny?” Lorne asks, holding up his hands in defence when the kid glares at him. So far Cadman’s the only one who’s got away with that nickname.

John eventually nods. “Linsday’s funny. She hitted he’ head and twipped ove’ and fell on some yucky stuff when she showed me the planes and she sang me to seep and den Steven showed me ‘Lantis fom ‘pace and-”

“Okay, you had fun, we get it!” Rodney yells, his head still throbbing from too much caffeine and not enough sleep. He’d bargained on having fun for a few hours, instead he ended up with three missing marines in supposedly flooded parts of the city and he’s pretty sure he actually broke physics at least once in the last twelve hours. What’s worse is that he’s not entirely convinced his day’s over yet.

When John bursts into tears he kind of wants to join in. Instead he curses and hates that he wants to kill himself for upsetting the kid, because these aren’t the messy crocodile tears that he’s got used to over the past few weeks, but the silent ‘you really upset me, you miserable excuse for a man’ kind of tears that he’s only ever felt sorry for inflicting once before. After Jeannie, he figures he should fix this now and not wait about five years.

“Come here,” he grumbles, picking John up and setting him on his lap. The boy curls into him and burrows his head into Rodney’s neck, his hands grabbing fistfuls of Rodney’s t-shirt. “I’m just tired,” he explains, not quite saying ‘sorry’.

He’s already feeling particularly wretched and doesn’t think things can get much worse. And then John mumbles, “Don’t send me ‘way ‘gain, Wodney.”

To hell with handing the boy over to Teyla; John’s not leaving his sight for at least the next three days. Possibly ever again. He figures that’ll give him enough time to get himself back together.


* * *


The room is small, out of the way and lined with what looks like pretty impenetrable materials. Rodney figures it for some kind of testing room, or at the very least a radiation room, or possibly just somewhere the Ancients worked with less than stable substances. There’s no real way to be sure as the records in the city database don’t mention it and the room was completely empty when they found it. Either way it’s perfect for working with the machine.

Rodney has the device set on a work table in the centre, hooked up to multiple laptops and surrounded by a force field he’d discovered in the settings on the control panel by the door. He knows now that it was Patel who broke the device’s control unit into a million pieces for ‘study’ and, whilst Elizabeth told him he can’t fire the man for it, he has a feeling there’s likely to be an extra scientist on the Daedalus when it leaves (Rodney’s not known for his niceties, but even he was impressed with the impact of the verbal lashing he bestowed on Patel). The control is unusable, so he’s not taking any chances with the device; he has the force field on pass lock that only he and Radek can access.

“I am sure that John could convince Atlantis to break the field if he chose to. Perhaps it would be best-”

“John’s not allowed in this room.”

“Yes,” Radek says, adjusting his glasses. “Well, John is also not allowed to start food fights in the mess, change passwords on lab’s computers, turn on Ancient machines, run naked through hallway, or take tantrum in the ‘gate room, but this does not make a difference.”

Rodney glares at him. “He won’t come into this room.”

“How did you convince him?” Radek asks, frowning.

“I informed him that we would fix the transporter beam when he got older and I’d take him on a Ferris Wheel next time we got back to Earth.”

“Ah, you bribe.”

“It was not a bribe,” Rodney protests. “It was a…deal. We made a bargain.” Radek nods, but it’s clear that he’s not buying it. “Just because I had to specify that we’d turn the beam back on his fifth birthday doesn’t mean he’s likely to remember!”

Radek just nods again.

“Okay, so the kid has memory like an elephant, but that’s two years away and I’ll have him fixed by then.” He studiously does not mention that he’s very likely to find himself on a Ferris Wheel when they end up back on Earth.

Radek smiles reassuringly. “Of course you will.” Rodney nods, feeling somewhat rejuvenated by the confidence and turns back to his laptop.

They work in relative silence for what seems like minutes, but is actually hours. The hallway outside is filled with the strange sounds of Atlantis’ lower levels, almost like the noises an old house makes in the dead of night. Rodney finds it strangely cathartic and is in his element, finally feeling as if the coding he’s working with might just be starting to mean something to him after all.

It’s at that point, of course, that everything goes to hell.


* * *


The alarm siren is still going strong when he reaches the right access door in the stairwell. All the transporters have mysteriously shut down and no one seems to be able to find the off switch for the noise that’s battering into his skull.

Rodney’s pretty sure he’s about to keel over by the time he reaches the end of the corridor and he notices three very important things all at once (he is a genius after all); one – the sound of the alarm stops just outside the room; two – there are four people standing inside said room doing absolutely nothing; and three – Colonel John Sheppard, USAF, will in fact be the death of him.

“John Sheppard you make that stop right now!” Rodney yells, entering the room at high speed.

His heart’s beating out of his chest and he’s frantically trying to figure out if the brain damage will make any difference if he just hauls John out of the control chair. The boy’s giggling and bouncing in the revolving seat as if he’s on a carnival ride and, if Atlantis weren’t currently headed for outer space, even Rodney might admit that it’s nice to see Sheppard so relaxed, even if he is three years old.

“I mean it, young man, stop it now!

“Wodney,” his voice is both gleeful and awed at the same time. “I can see evwything.”

In answer to John’s unspoken command the room fills with stars. There’s a gasp and Rodney’s not entirely sure it wasn’t him. He’s standing in outer space. He can reach out and touch the stars if he wants to. And he really wants to.

There’s something that most people don’t understand about Rodney McKay. They know he’s a genius, some even understand that maths and physics play in his mind in a symphony of numbers and equations, but if it was just about the numbers, was just about the pure physics, Rodney would have gone into pure research, or focussed solely on the theoretical. He would have chosen to immerse himself in the numbers and theories and left the physical exploring to others. He chose Astrophysics because he wanted to touch the stars.

He shakes his head and tunes back in to the yelling in his ear. Lorne has the military ready to act at a minutes notice, Radek is trying to disable the chair from the ‘gate room and Elizabeth is, well, freaking out to put it mildly (and, God, he knows he’s going to have to fight to keep John after this).

“John!” he yells, trying to fight his way through a solar system and the supernova to his left. He tries to focus, tries to think what way is up, down, left, right and just generally figure out where the hell the chair is before he gives in to the ache in his chest and just watches, just breathes it all in.

“John!” he tries again, swallowing when he puts his hand through the visible shockwave heading towards him.

“Wodney, dis is cool,” a small voice whispers and he spins slightly to his left and takes a deep breath before just walking through the supernova and right into the command chair.

“John, stop this.” His voice is rough and slightly hollow, because part of him doesn’t want the wonder around him to go away.

As if sensing this, John replies, “Okay,” and, rather than just making it all disappear, lets Rodney watch it fade slowly away.

It takes him a moment to realise that it’s all gone and the three scientists and the marine still standing in the room look slightly shell shocked. He feels that way himself.

Rodney!”

He jumps at Elizabeth’s voice, decides to ignore her a little longer, and turns back to John. The boy’s still rotating in the chair, his arms stretched to the max in order to reach both arm rests. He’s just barely reaching them, though, and Rodney’s pretty sure that Atlantis would give him control even if he wasn’t touching them at all.

“I need you to land the city, John,” he says, struggling against the contrasting urges to either let John play and see what he can get the city to do and just plain strangle John for scaring the hell out of him. There's also the fading ache in his chest that says he's not sure he wouldn’t rather let the boy bring back the stars.

“I’m sowy, Wodney…” John says meekly, looking up at him. His lower lip trembles and his eyes start to fill with tears, but Rodney can tell from the sounds around him, the change in the city’s motion, and the fact that Elizabeth is no longer shouting in his ear that the city is returning to the surface.

After what seems like forever, the chair blinks off and returns to a seated position. Rodney opens his mouth to yell, or scream, or…something, but John curls into a ball and bursts into tears and he finds he just doesn’t have the heart to make it worse.


* * *


“Did you get anything out of him?”

Rodney blinks and looks up at the doorway to see Lorne watching him. He shakes his head and gently disentangles himself from the sleeping child in his lap, settling John into the bed before crossing the room.

“Did Elizabeth send you?” he asks, ignoring the man’s question, and Lorne nods.

“Yeah, yeah, she did.” Lorne’s voice is tight enough that Rodney frowns, but the man won’t look him in the eyes. “I’ll watch him, Doc.”

“Yes. Yes, of course.”

It seems to take a long time to reach the ‘gate room and he feels the eyes of everyone he passes following him. He feels like he’s walking to his execution, because he can’t think of a single thing to say to Elizabeth.

“Rodney, come in.”

He shakes his head, realising he’s been standing in her doorway for a while now. Sticking his chin out, prepared for a fight, he walks up to her desk and doesn’t say a word. He can see from her face that she’s expecting a fight, is expecting him to bluster his way through this argument so that she can fire down every reason he can come up with. So he doesn’t.

“Please sit down.”

“I’d rather stand.”

She lets out a defeated breath and sits back in her chair. “Rodney, I’m sorry.”

“Are you?”

“Of course I am.”

“It’s Sheppard, Elizabeth. I won’t give up on him.”

“I’m not asking you to, Rodney, but we can’t go on like this. We simply do not have the capability to care for a child, let alone one who can take us into orbit.”

“He needs to be here, Elizabeth. We need to-”

“I’m sending him home tomorrow.”

“He is home!” Rodney yells, wondering why she can’t see that, wondering why he even has to explain it and suddenly he’s fuelled with more anger than he knew he possessed. “Atlantis is his home!”

“Atlantis is no place for a child, Rodney!”

“It’s Sheppard!” he yells, knowing that the entire ‘gate room is hanging on their every word and not actually giving a crap. Screw the IOA, screw the SGC and screw the entire damn galaxy, because Rodney will be damned before he hands over the only person in the whole universe who’s ever cared about him that wasn’t obliged to. He’s not giving up on Sheppard yet and he’s not letting the boy out of his sight until he’s whole again. Possibly not ever.

“Rodney-”

“No. If you send him away… If you send him away, you lose me, too. Because I won’t be coming back either.”

Rodney’s not sure who’s more shocked by his statement, but he knows he means it. They stand staring at each other in silence for a while, before he turns, hearing someone in the doorway. Lorne’s presence somehow makes things even tenser and Rodney can’t help but feel that he’s missed something, because the look Elizabeth and Lorne are sharing speaks of more than just his ultimatum.

“I guess I’ll go pack,” he says softly, clearing his throat. He’s at the door brushing past Lorne before he hears Elizabeth speaking.

“Wait. Just… wait. Okay.”

He turns and tries not to react to the look on Elizabeth’s face, because he has the feeling he’s missed a lot, but he’s too angry with her to ask. “Okay?”

Elizabeth nods. “Okay. But there have to be rules, Rodney. Things can’t continue like this.”

“Okay.” Rodney clears his throat. “I’ll just…” he looks at Lorne and frowns. “Where’s John?”

“He’s with Jennifer in the infirmary.”

“Right,” Rodney said, clearing his throat again. “I’ll just…go get him.”

He’s out the door before he remembers to ask who the hell Jennifer is.


* * *


This are left unbalanced for what fees like a disproportionate amount of time to Rodney. He can’t think of when he’s been so at odds with Elizabeth before and they’re both feeling the lack of Sheppard to take a side. He almost expects things to feel out of synch and tense for months, years even, long after they finally get the Colonel back. But things shift subtly and gently into a state of equilibrium and, if it wasn’t for the strange tension between Elizabeth and Major Lorne, Rodney’s sure things would feel pretty normal. Well, comparatively speaking.


* * *


“McKay?”

Rodney looks up and blinks at Ronon. He’s not sure how long he’s been sitting there, staring at his cooling coffee, but the light outside is dimming and he’s pretty sure there were actually other people in the room last time he checked.

“You okay?” Ronon slips into the seat opposite him, slouching down into it with a natural grace that Rodney’s always envied in the younger man. His brow is furrowed and Rodney tries to think back and remember if Ronon’s ever asked him that before. He knows that Ronon does, for some reason, consider him a friend, but they don’t really talk. That’s always more Teyla’s thing and, really, how the woman ever manages to get anything out of the three of them is still a mystery.

“I’m…no.”

Ronon smirks a little and shakes his head. “Weird, huh?”

“Weird doesn’t even come close.”

“Yeah, but this is Atlantis, things are always weird.” Ronon shrugs. “You’ll work it out.” Rodney nods, somehow needing to hear it often, just so he can believe it himself. He’s beginning to wonder if Ronon and Teyla are the only people who do believe he can fix it. “You speak to Elizabeth today?”

Rodney shakes his head. “No. Things are still…”

“Yeah, I think she and Lorne had another blow out.”

“Another?”

“Yeah. No one seems to know what happened.”

Rodney shifts, almost feeling guilty for not knowing anything. “Elizabeth wouldn’t talk to me about it.”

“Yeah,” Ronon says and they leave it at that.

Rodney’s never really been one for silence, but somehow he feels content to just sit for a while.


* * *


The truth is, sometimes Rodney thinks Atlantis might be laughing at him. It’s not that he can hear her, exactly, only that sometimes he thinks he can.

“What do you mean you lost him?”

“He was not there when I turn around?” Miko says, somehow making it sound like a question. “There was blue light. I think he teleported again.”

“I’m going to strangle that kid,” Rodney mutters, not even bothering to question that John’s somehow hacked through the security on the transporter. He heads to the nearest wall panel, pulling up the tracking program he installed and growling when he realises that John is near botany. No doubt stalking Doctor Parish, whom he had taken in instant liking to; he still thinks it’s funny to tell Rodney he wants to be a botanist when he grows up.

By the time Rodney reaches the lower level labs, he’s growing anxious, because things have been quiet since they had ‘the chat’, where Rodney explained that John had to behave and John said ‘no’ (repeatedly) and Rodney said ‘yes’ (repeatedly), until it degenerated into him telling John that gremlins would eat him if the boy didn’t do everything he said. He’s fairly sure that his talk was followed by Lorne and John having a fairly more effective discussion, but he doesn’t care that much, because it seems to have done the trick.

However, Rodney’s really not fooled. He’s also fairly sure that the strange chuckling sound in the background is coming from the walls.

“What did you do with it?” Rodney demands when Parish happens to walk out of the door in front of him.

They’re standing in a wide, open area that stretches up a few levels and looks out into the open sea and all the labs on this level are wide and spacious. Botany had claimed them the second they got there and, if it hadn’t been for the distance from everything even remotely useful, Rodney totally would have pulled rank. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t still a little bitter.

“I…what?”

Rodney huffs and rolls his eyes. “Where is-”

“Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

It takes Rodney about three seconds to locate the noise, about four seconds to realise that the object falling to the ground at rather an alarming rate is, in fact, the child he’s looking for and another two seconds for him to start panicking. By this point, however, the whole thing is moot, because the kid has already bounced onto his feet from the solid metal floor and is gleefully clapping his hands.

“Shoot me, Wodney!”

Rodney just stares at him for a moment, trying to dislodge his heart from his throat and remind himself how to breathe. It’s not until Parish thumps him on the back that he takes a deep, gasping breath.

John frowns. “Wodney? You okay?”

“Am I okay?” he says slowly.

“What’s wong?”

“Wh-what’s wrong? What’s wrong?”

John’s eyes widen. “Uh oh.” He shifts in his feet and tries to smile innocently. “Sowwy?”

“Sorry does not even come close to covering this one, John Sheppard.”

“I gots a shield.” He tries, almost placating, and points to the glowing green brooch on his t-shirt.

“You’re going to need it.”


* * *


“Rodney, do I want to know why John is currently cowering in my office?” Elizabeth’s voice filters through his comm.

Rodney taps his earpiece. “He listens to you.”

“I…okay. Do I want to know why he looks like he’s about to cry?”

“Until he can learn to not be stupid, I don’t care.”

“That…really doesn’t answer my question.” She sighs and he swears he can almost hear her thinking, but he’s too busy trying to convince himself that he really doesn’t care that John’s upset. He’s the one that almost had a heart attack.

“If he’s in your way, send him to Lorne.”

“He’s not in my way, I just…have work to do.”

There’s something in her voice that has him wondering, yet again, what it is that he’s missing, but she signs off before he can even think about whether or not he wants to ask her about it. They’re not really friends, as such, and since they argued over sending John home, all he’s seen is her closing herself off even more. He wonders if she even speaks to Teyla anymore.

Rodney works through the rest of the day, trying in vain to get rid of the image of John launching himself off a three story balcony. It’s not that, theoretically, he knows that John wasn’t going to get hurt with the shield on, it’s not even that he didn’t do a very similar thing himself a few years earlier, it’s that John is three years old, totally in Rodney’s care and making it really hard for Rodney to make sure he doesn’t get broken. That and the fact that the kid had not only refrained from telling Rodney he had found the device, but had decided to play ‘experiment with the ancient shield’ before Rodney had even managed to check that it worked properly.

“McKay, you got a few minutes?”

Rodney blinks, realising he hasn’t been interrupted in hours (a benefit of working in his quarters), and looks up to see Lorne standing in his doorway holding a sleeping John. He nods and watches as Lorne puts John down for the night, almost envying the ease with which the Major interacts with the boy.

There are a few moments of awkward silence as Lorne makes his way to the doorway and Rodney stands up, somehow needing to glance over to the other side of the room and make sure John hasn’t vanished in the three seconds since he was put to bed.

“So, hey, listen, Doc,” Lorne says, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand and clearing his throat. They’ve only ever had one conversation that started this way before and Rodney didn’t listen that time. Having now chased a naked three-year-old around the city one time to many, he’s willing to make the effort.

“What,” he barks (he might make the effort to listen, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be polite).

“You know how we were all relieved that John wasn’t asking about his parents?”

“Ye…” Rodney trails off, swallows and sits on the stool behind him. “He asked you?” He hopes that Lorne can’t read that what he’s really asking is ‘Why didn’t he ask me?’

“He did.” Lorne sighs and leans against Rodney’s desk. “He took it well, thinks his dad just went away again and took his mom with him this time. I figure his dad might be military, either way I guess he's not home much. I just thought you should know. Look, he didn’t say anything to you because he was worried you’d send him back to them.”

“What? Why would I do that?”

“He’s a kid, McKay,” Lorne says, as if that answers everything. Rodney wonders if it actually does and he’s just unable to translate.

“Okay, so…what did you tell him?”

Lorne smiles and heads to the door. “Told him he was stuck with you. You’ll have to tough it out now, McKay, I’ve never lied to my CO and I’m not about to start now.”

Rodney glares, but he can’t deny that he’s not exactly upset with the way the other man handled things. He’d likely have made a mess of it himself, so maybe it is better that John asked Lorne.

“Rodney.”

He taps his earpiece and holds back a sigh. “Yes?”

“I’d like to see you in my office.”

“Right now? I’m a little busy, Elizabeth.”

“Now, please, Rodney.”

The connection’s gone before he can argue any further and he tries to dislodge the feeling of dread that’s settling in his chest at her tone of voice. He looks up at Lorne who nods.

“I got ‘im,” the man says, coming further into the room and Rodney makes his way through the quieting hallways.

He wasn’t sure what he was expecting when he reached Elizabeth’s office, but somehow it’s much worse than he thought.

“SG1? Why? What do they want?” Rodney demands.

“They’re coming to use the Ancient database, Rodney. Be nice,” she warns.

He suddenly has a sinking, gaping hole where his heart was, because he has a bad feeling that this is going to end up with John being taken away from him, passed on to some foster family who know nothing of who the boy is or why the hell he’s the most important kid in the galaxy. He feels terror gripping him at the thought that they might actually try to sneak him out in the middle of the night, take him away where Rodney can’t find him and try to rear him up like the good little boy they want Sheppard to be; following orders and dotting and crossing all the right letters.

“I…no!”

“Rodney, this really isn’t up for discussion.”


* * *

On to Part Three

* * *
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