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Life in Miniature Motion
By Kyizi

Disclaimers etc in Part One

Previous Parts
| Part One | Part Two |




* * *

Part Three

* * *


SG1 arrive with less fanfare than Rodney might have thought. It doesn’t take Jackson long to get lost in the database and he’s happily followed by their newest alien team member. Teal’c takes to the gym with Ronon and, much to Rodney’s dismay, Mitchell barely manages to smile at John before they’re best buddies. He tries really hard not to notice, but it doesn’t work much. He thinks there has to be something wrong with the universe that he can be replaced with something as simple as a toy aeroplane and the words, ‘hey there, little buddy’.

He takes to the lab and holes himself up with the machine, working relentlessly, almost hoping that he can get the thing to work right now so that he can dislodge his best friend from Colonel Mitchell’s sticky paws. It doesn’t take Carter long to find him, ensconced in the lab with the machine. He’s grateful that she doesn’t speak, merely slips into the room and starts to make herself useful, poring over his notes, starting to make adjustments and logging her own thoughts.

He wonders how it is that he’s somehow getting on with her better than he ever has and all he can think of is that he doesn’t have Sheppard. If that’s the trade he has to make, he’d rather Carter hated his guts.


* * *


“You should take him to Earth,” Carter says, smiling as she watches Mitchell and John playing catch with the ball and mitt the man had brought from Earth.

“No. He belongs here.”

“Of course he does,” Sam says, looking at him curiously, as if wondering where the statement had come from. When he frowns at her, she sighs and places a hand briefly on his arm. “If you’re worried about the IOA or General Landry, don’t be. General O’Neill is dealing with them and if it makes you feel any better we’re all on your side. John belongs here. But Rodney, even kids need a vacation and, don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you could do with a break yourself.”

“I’ll think about it,” he says, pleased when she simply nods, because how can he explain that he’s not as confident as she is. He thinks that she sometimes forgets that no one at the SGC (including her) really likes him very much (Landry might never have sent him to an icy hell on the opposite side of the planet, but Rodney likes him a hell of a lot less than he ever did Hammond), because she seems so sure that John not coming back with him isn’t even an option. He only wishes he was so sure himself.

SG1 outstay their welcome by precisely 12 days (he started counting the moment they got there), but at least he’s managed to make a bit of headway on the device and even he’ll admit that Carter’s insights were useful. He’s feeling so cheerful about his progress, in fact, that he agrees on a visit to Earth in front of Elizabeth and not even his protests that he can’t be held to things he doesn’t remember agreeing to will get him out of this one.


* * *


Taking John 'home' (and Rodney really doesn't actually believe that Earth is truly home for any of the long term expedition members any more) seems, in essence, like it should be a fairly easy task. When he ignores the flutters of panic that are screaming 'Oh God, what if they try to keep him?' on repeat inside his head he can actually view it as more of a well needed break. He’s never previously believed in the phrase, not given what he deals with on a daily basis and how easily he's heard the term thrown about, but then he hadn’t previously had a hyperactive three-year-old to contend with on top of it all. So when Jeannie invites him home for Madison's birthday, he surprises them both by accepting.

John's been running around like mad since he heard about the visit, all excitement and chattering enthusiasm for a holiday, that it makes Rodney wonder if Sheppard had ever had one as a boy. He'd certainly never enjoyed his own childhood holidays (being dragged along to dull theatre performances and art galleries and, oh god, ballet), but he'd always believed he was in the minority, being one of the only two kids in the world who had to deal with Juliet McKay's love of all things dull and her unwavering belief that children should always defer to their parent's likes and dislikes. Sure, he'd initially been given free reign with his genius, but a visit from the government about letting a child build destructive weaponry, no matter whether the thing's active or not, tends to change a parent's perspective.

So Rodney lets the boy run around bugging everyone, with so much bounce in his movements that he's pretty sure most of the city end up sea sick just watching him, and silently thanks John for wearing himself out so much that he promptly falls asleep the second his head hits the pillow every night. He gladly uses the threat of cancelling said visit as a means of bribing the kid into doing things his way for about three weeks and, though Teyla glares at him for it, doesn't think John even minds that much. In fact, he's beginning to look forward to it himself.

Which is precisely why, he's sure, that the city waits until the day before they're scheduled to leave before it decides to break.

"No, no, no, no, no!"

"I do not know what you expect me to do!" Radek cries, throwing his hands up in exasperation. "This is very precise procedure and I cannot speed up just because you wish!"

"Stop being incompetent! I don't expect you to speed up, I expect you to delegate," Rodney growls, turning on Kusanagi who's just entered the room and looks a lot like she wishes she could run back out the door again. "You! You're supposedly the expert at this. You have small hands, you fix it. And you," he continues, swinging back to Radek. "The power fluctuations in the botany labs are not going to fix themselves."

Radek glares and grinds his teeth in a way that Rodney knows means 'I hate you for being such an asshole, but I hate you even more because you're right and I have nothing I can say to shut you up'. He actually really likes that he can do that to Zalenka, because, although he'll give himself a voluntary aneurism before he admits it, Radek's actually kind of a genius himself, so Rodney appreciates it all the more knowing that he's smarter than the man.

"Do you not have holiday to go away on," Radek says instead, stressing the word 'away'.

"Yes, and I'll enjoy it all the more knowing there'll be a city to come back to. Go. Fix."

Radek curses at him in Czech under his breath (really, like Rodney hadn't made sure to learn all those words about a week after they started working together) and storms out of the room. It baffles him that he finds he likes the man, but he rarely stops to think about it, because really all that's important is that Radek can do his own job and enough of Rodney's to make sure that the city won't sink whilst Rodney's on Earth for a few weeks.

They work through the night and into the next morning, fixing each small problem as it arises and trying to track them all back to the common source. Rodney's sure they have to have a common source, because even though the city is ancient as well as Ancient, it never falls apart in small fractures without a common starting place.

He's almost there, can almost see the scatter pattern of the problems tracing back to their cause-

"Wodney!"

He jumps and growls when the answer slips by him. He turns around but can't see the little bugger anywhere.

"What?" he asks aloud, hoping he can tempt the kid into the open so that he can strangle him for once more interrupting Rodney’s genius.

"Time to go, Wodney."

He frowns when the child doesn't materialise and taps his earpiece. "Did you steal someone's radio?" he asks, appalled when he realises that his hands are on his hips. He removes them immediately and considers a straight jacket to forestall any and all thoughts of a repeat performance.

"Nope. 'Lantis let me talk to you."

Rodney blinks as he realises that John's voice isn't coming through his earpiece, but is echoing through the room on loudspeaker. "You hacked into Atlantis' mainframe?" He's not sure if he's appalled or impressed. He's actually leaning towards the latter and if the kid did it all with his brain? The thought almost makes him drool, even as he starts running through the multitudes of tests and-

"Wodney! Time to go! You said we get to fwy on a plane!"

"Yes, because that is the sole purpose of this visit."

"Wodney! Now!"

He's about to answer when Elizabeth's voice cuts into his earpiece. "Rodney, I thought you turned off the transporter beam."

"What?" he asks, still distracted by thoughts of experimenting on John's link with the city. "I did."

"Really? Because I'd like you to explain that to the child that just appeared in the 'gate room with his luggage."

Elizabeth's almost-pleasant tone isn't fooling him. She's a bit pissed. Rodney, however, is wondering if Sheppard had always had a slutty relationship with Atlantis that he forgot to mention, because John's got the run of the place, it seems, and Rodney's not sure if he's more jealous that Atlantis never looked twice at him (the story of his life) or more filled with glee at the prospect of testing the boundaries of said relationship. He wonders if John can make Atlantis do anything. Without using the chair.

"Rodney?"

"I just need to-"

"Rodney, are you-"

"Wait!" Suddenly the answer is there and he turns back to his laptop, all thoughts of holidays and transporter beams flying out of his mind. "I've got it! Give me ten minutes."


* * *


An hour and a half later, Rodney's running back to his quarters to collect his suitcase, when he's cornered by...well, someone he feels he should probably know by name at this stage, but actually doesn't.

"John's in your rooms with Teyla. I don't think he's too happy with you," she says, a melodic tone to her voice and her eyebrows raised.

"I was busy!" he retorts indignantly.

"And we're all grateful, but the Colonel isn't feeling too gracious about it right now. I just thought you should know there might be a temper tantrum. Teyla brought him by the infirmary and Carson checked him out, so you're both good to go. Have a nice trip, Doctor McKay," she says with a smile and walks away. Naturally, that's when he places her as one of Carson's doctors, usually working night shifts in the infirmary. According to John, she’s dating Lorne. He still has no idea what her name is, though, and doesn't give it another thought.

By the time he's reached his room, he can already hear John's full blown histrionics and by the time the door opens to give him a visual, he's actually amazed by the volume the kid's capable of. The screaming is accompanied by stomping feet, clenched hands, frustrated and angry tears and Rodney's mesmerised by it all. He spies Teyla in the corner of the room looking horrified and like she'd prefer to stick her hands in her ears and curl up in a corner rather than deal with this. To his knowledge Athosian kids don't do tantrums with quite the same gusto as Earth kids.

The noise is starting to get on his nerves and John looks like he's far from ready to run out of steam. Rodney lets out a breath and enters the room, letting the door shut silently behind him. He parks himself in John's path, waits until the boy walks into his legs and falls over.

"John Sheppard, you stop that right now!"

The noise stops instantly and John peers up at him through wet lashes, his lower lip quivering. Rodney's horrified to discover that, once again, he's reminding himself of his mother.

"Thank you," Teyla says, throwing her arms around him and hugging him so tightly he's likely to bruise. She takes a step back and looks at him a little wildly. "Thank you," she reiterates. She eyes John warily. "I will say my goodbyes in the control tower," she finishes and hurries out of the room.

He thinks it's quite funny that Teyla, who can kick his ass in three seconds flat, is terrified of a screaming child. But he's not brave enough to say so or she might do just that.

He turns to look down at John again. "Stop crying," he continues, voice slightly softer than before, but still firm. "We'll leave when I'm ready."

"But I'm weady," John accuses with a hiccough. "I waited and you was late."

"Yes, because I was busy," Rodney huffs, turning to open his half-packed bag.

"You fixed 'Lantis?" John sniffs and, yuck, wipes his nose on his sleeve.

"Of course I did."

John nods. "She gots a cold."

"Yes, yes, she had a virus." Rodney continues to pack for another second before swinging around to look at the boy. "You knew that?" he asks, half amazed / half annoyed. "You knew what was wrong with her?"

John nods again. "I twied to tell you yes'day mo'ning, Wodney," he continues, his voice rolling over the words in a way that is just painfully Sheppard. "You wouldn't listen."

"I...well...you should have made me!"

"How was I 'posed to do dat?"

"I...try harder next time!"

John just rolls his eyes and Rodney turns back to his case. As much as he's happy to see snatches of Sheppard in the boy he tries to think of as (God help them all) Sheppard's son, it's still creepy as all hell.

“Wodney.”

“What?” he asks, absentmindedly, making sure that he has everything packed.

“Will Jeannie like me?”

Rodney rolls his eyes. “Don’t be stupid, of course she will.”

“Okay.”

Rodney moves into the bathroom, glancing around to make sure that he hasn’t left anything there either. When he turns to leave, he almost trips over John.

“Wodney.”

“What?” he barks.

“Can Atlantis come wif us?”

“What? No!”

“Why not? She can fly.”

“Yes, I’m well aware of that,” he says, narrowing his eyes to make it clear that John had better not try that again. He’s turned his attentions to the jumpers recently, but Rodney had pretty much had an apoplectic fit when they’d finally recovered him and his wayward jumper from the mainland and he hasn’t tried it again. Yet.

“So why can’t she come?”

“Because it’s too far away and we don’t have enough power.”

John opens his mouth to say something, but frowns and remains silent. Rodney almost wants to make him say whatever it was, but he doesn’t get the opportunity because John grabs his hand and says, “Come on, Wodney. Time to go!” and lets John drag him along.


* * *


SG1 meet them at the bottom of the ramp and Rodney’s not sure he cares for the gleeful reception John gives them. It lasts about five seconds, however, and finishes with John screaming and wriggling out of Mitchell’s arms when the Stargate shuts down.

“Wodney!” he screams, eyes filling with tears. Rodney’s just as baffled as the rest of the ‘gate room. He’s about to make a grab for the boy when John cries, "'s not wo'king!" his eyes wide with horror and then promptly runs into the door.

"Oh, wonderful,” he says with a sigh. “The three-year-old is trying to run the earth with his brain."

John whimpers and clutches at his head until Sam picks him up, shushing him in a way that Rodney knows he isn’t capable of. He’s kind of glad she’s there, really, because he’s too busy trying to deal with the realisation that John feels cut off from Atlantis. He wonders if this is just something he’s had to contend with now that he’s young and seems to have the run of Atlantis more than he ever did before, or if it’s always like this and he just never said.

When the doors slide open and General O’Neill enters, Rodney’s pretty sure he gets his answer. The man looks at John as if he knows exactly what the boy’s going through and plucks the child out of Carter’s arms. He says something that has John nodding and sniffing as he wipes his eyes and a moment later John’s giggling and saluting the General with a cheerful grin and if there’s a certain look in the man’s eyes, even Rodney pretends not to notice.

“Jack,” John says, his voice carrying through the room. “Has you flewd a jumper?”

Rodney charges forward before the man can answer, because he maybe, sort of, kind of left that one out of the report and the last thing he needs is John signing his own orders to stay on the planet. God forbid he ever mentions flying the city.

“We don’t have time for chit chat,” he says, not quite daring to pull John out of the General’s arms. There’s a smirk on the man’s face that tells him O’Neill’s not quite as stupid as he pretends to be and that John’s question has informed him of more than Rodney would like.

Somehow, despite all the stares and the cooing and the fact that John can’t quite get over the fact that he can’t control the world with his tiny little brain, they make it out of the mountain. He isn’t quite fast enough to make up an excuse when Mitchell offers them a ride to the airport, so it’s with some great reluctance that Rodney finds himself in the passenger seat of the man’s shiny new car.

“So, little man, you got plans for your holiday?” Mitchell drawls and John’s enthusiastic response makes Rodney hate the man even more. By the time John’s finished his list, Rodney’s pretty sure he’s going to be sorely disappointed, because they’d need to spend a few months on Earth to get through that list.

“So, you happy to be here?”

John shakes his head. "I don't like it"

"Don't like what, what's not to like?"

"I can't hear 'Lantis singing."

Cam winces. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll bet that’s not so good. But, hey, you got Rodney and you’re gonna meet his sister and her family, you’ll have a ball and before you know it you’ll be back home listening to that music.”

“Is it a football?” John asks and it takes both Cam and Rodney a minute to figure out what the hell the boy’s talking about. They both laugh, but there’s an unspoken agreement that they’ll forget they were ever on the same page.


* * *


When Jeannie Miller first met Sheppard, Rodney had felt an irrepressible surge of jealousy that she might steal his only friend. When he introduces her to the miniature version, Rodney’s no less jealous and even more suspicious, because his sister looks like she’s trying to figure out if she’d get away with stuffing John in her purse and keeping him in Canada with her. He wonders if maybe he can get a t-shirt with the words ‘property of Rodney McKay’ on them and whether or not he could get the kid to wear it. Although, knowing Jeannie, who never had much respect for his things anyway, it likely wouldn’t make any difference.

Rodney’s tired by the time they reach Jeannie’s home, tired and worn out and stretched to unbearable limits, because if it isn’t bad enough that he spent thirty minutes frantically searching the airport only to find John about to sign over his soul to a Scottish harpy, it’s worse that he knows John’s more upset than he’s letting on because he can’t hear his home.

It had taken Rodney longer than it really should have to realise that John’s channelling Atlantis in the way that grown-up Sheppard never could, or maybe just never did. He’s not sure why the sudden change, although he heard Kate and Elizabeth discussing the willingness of a child’s mind, and he’s not sure he really cares in the general sense. The thing Rodney cares about is that it’s suddenly so much harder to find John. Not to mention all the weird and wonderful devices that continue to appear from nowhere almost begging the child to play with them. It took a ten minute lecture that almost reduced the boy to tears before Rodney was able to get it through to him that he was worried for John’s safety. That, yeah, he could blow them all up if he hits the wrong thing! Earth, he supposes should be safer, should have less temptation and less danger lurking around every corner.

The one thing John Sheppard has taught him, however, is that he can in fact be wrong.

“Your house is a death trap!” he screeches, clutching at John and tilting his body slightly to keep the boy out of his sister’s grabby hands.

“For God’s sake, Mer, you’re over-reacting!”

“Over-reacting? He fell through a table!” He turns and sets John on the nearest surface, inspecting the crying child and trying to figure out where the blood is coming from. “We need to call 911, now!”

“Meredith, calm down!” Jeannie pushes past him and, with the years of experience caring for Madison has brought her, quickly finds the small gash on the edge of his hair line. She shushes the boy, cleaning his small wound carefully and Rodney watches, still frozen with fear, as the child calms by degrees until he’s sniffling and wrinkling up his nose at the Barbie plaster that his sister is attaching to his head.

“It’s only ‘cause I’m little. I wouldn’t cwy if I was big, I wouldn’t.”

Jeannie looks at him and nods, knowing just how true his words are. “I know you wouldn’t, little guy.” She brushes his hair back and smiles at him. “There, all done,” she says and turns to look at Rodney with more patience and understanding than he’s expecting, given that he’d been yelling at her only moments ago.

“I…thank you,” he mumbles, picking up John and only feeling his heartbeat settle when the boy snuffles and nuzzles his head into the corner of Rodney’s neck.

“Don’t worry about it. You should have see Kaleb when Madison fell of the jungle gym a few years ago. He almost fainted.”

“Well,” Rodney sniffs. “He’s an English teacher.”

Jeannie rolls her eyes. “Yes, Mer, that’s the reason.”

John spends the rest of the day feeling inordinately sorry for himself and Rodney’s still edgy enough to indulge him, making sure the boy’s comfy and happy and not letting himself think about the fact that it’s John Sheppard who’s making himself at home on Rodney’s lap. Because Sheppard is his best friend and that just brings a whole new level of weird that he’s so not touching.

Surprisingly, though, despite John’s need to stay close, it doesn’t take much for Kaleb to entice John and Madison out of the house with the promise of popcorn and a dark cinema and Rodney soon finds himself alone with his sister. Things between them have improved drastically and not just in the fact that they’re once again in the same country (same galaxy in fact), but it still takes them at least twenty minutes of edging around each other and not really saying much at all before they manage to fall into an almost companionable silence.

Jeannie breaks first, rolling her eyes and smirking. “Hey, hi, how are you?” she says softly and Rodney actually laughs.

“I…” He flounders, actually speechless for once and sighs, letting out more of an explanation with the sound than he could ever have thought.

“I’m so sorry, Mer,” she says, slipping her hand across the table and curling her fingers in between his and the mug he’s holding onto with a tight grip.

“I…I can’t fix it. I don’t know how.”

“Oh, Mer, of course you can.”

Rodney shakes his head. He doesn’t know how long the thought has plagued him, didn’t even suspect until he said the words that this is the reason for the clutching pain in his chest. More so than the thought of losing John, he’s been drowning in the thought that he’s already lost Sheppard. He can’t fix this, he can’t make it all okay and he’s left instead with the mere shadow of the man who finally allowed him to believe that he was worth anything. Rodney’s had people telling him how wonderful he is from an early age, people who didn’t particularly like him and even people who didn’t particularly want to admit that he was, but it wasn’t until Atlantis that he finally felt wanted because of who he was and he knows that John Sheppard is one person who makes him believe it.

“It’s broken. The machine is broken and I don’t even know where to start.”

Jeannie nods, doesn’t try to tell him he’s wrong, because she knows he won’t listen and that he very rarely is. This is one time he wants to be.

“Talk me through it,” she says instead.

So he does.


* * *


By the time John and Rodney are packed and ready to leave, Rodney’s managed to promise to return for Christmas, get John addicted to Sudoku puzzles and talk Madison into a double major in Mathematics and Physics when she grows up (he doubts she understands what she’s agreed to, but he doesn’t care much; he’s planted the seeds). But more importantly, he has a working plan of attack for the machine. He doesn’t think much of a lot of Jeannie’s ideas, but the truth is that he’s more grateful to his sister for simply refusing to let him give up.

They return to the SGC with no less fanfare than they had arrived and the seven hour stay there is barely manageable to Rodney. He manages to find himself a laptop (stolen from Samantha Carter’s lab) and tuck himself away in the corner of the gym, diverting his attention between his equations and watching John throw himself – literally – at Teal’c. He’s not sure what it is that the man is hoping to teach the boy, but he’s seen the kid with a slingshot and if John’s going to learn new ways of attacking those around him, Rodney wants a heads up.


* * *


Returning to Atlantis brings Rodney a new perspective on how people like Jack O’Neill manage after leaving the city to return to Earth. John greets Atlantis less like a long lost friend and more like a missing limb that’s finally been returned to him after weeks of phantom aches. He glories in the re-acquaintance and gives Rodney and the rest of the science staff multiple coronaries in his attempts to make sure the city is exactly as he left it. He tests out systems and tries out new and wonderful toys that have the science team salivating into their morning coffees until he’s finally satisfied that his city is in one piece.

When Rodney is likewise satisfied he attacks the labs with renewed fervour, tackling the list of suggestions and ideas scribbled on the back of scented pink, princess paper that alternate between Jeannie’s gentle curls and his hasty scrawl. The list diminishes quickly, ideas slipping through his fingers like grains of sand so insubstantial that Rodney finds himself trying out theories he’d kick his scientists back to Earth for. He tries idea after idea in no discernible order, because he’s desperate; desperate to take Sheppard home to Jeannie at Christmas and say, ‘look, you were right, I did it’, but the months slip by him and his good mood with it. Christmas comes and goes and comes again, until John’s had more trips to Earth under his little belt than Rodney had ever wanted and a horrible thing stuffed under his arm that Rodney’s had no more luck in destroying than he had in trying to get the kid to let go of it in the store.

There’s a choked silence in the ‘gate room when they return to Atlantis after an almost-perfect Christmas with his sister (almost, because he can’t quite forget the short-lived presence of his mother) and Rodney’s glad that John was able to bear this separation from the city better than any of the others. He didn’t say a word about it whilst they were gone and, if Rodney hadn’t been watching for it, he’s fairly sure he would have missed the little flickers in the wall panels as John re-introduced himself to his home.

With both his sister and Sam Carter’s unfailing faith once again buoying his mood, he feels a pressing need to return to his lab, return to the machine with a fresh eye and less desperation clouding his judgement. He’s returned from Earth with a renewed vigour and a focussed determination that he knows will have the science team running for cover whenever he approaches. Which, to be fair, isn’t exactly a new thing, but he’s so much more single-minded now and he knows that time is ticking down to the point where Elizabeth won’t accept it anymore and he has to find something new and tangible before then. He’s desperate to start right away, but he can’t ignore the curious stares and the choked laughter around him.

He glares at Chuck as he approaches, watching as Elizabeth sets John down after his exuberant greeting. John’s hugging Telya and Ronon in turn and Elizabeth’s biting her lip.

“What?” he demands, almost daring her to ask. She’s staring at the purple abomination John’s still clutching under his arm and he hates the kid all over again.

“Is that a…teletubby?” she finally asks, torn between amusement and horror and Rodney just breaks.

“I’ve tried everything, including incineration and he still manages to find it!” he cries, wild eyed.

“I do not understand,” Teyla says, frowning. “What is a teletubby?”

“A nasty creature hell bent on destroying the brain cells of young children,” Rodney states emphatically, disdain dripping from every word.

“And your world allows them to be revered as Gods?”

“What?”

“John carries that idol most reverently.”

Rodney moves to answer her, but finds himself too distracted by the twitch on Elizabeth’s mouth. “Oh, what?”

“I just…he picked the one with the handbag…”

Her statement causes the female ‘gate technician to snort, which makes Chuck start to titter quietly, until eventually the entire room is flooded with laugher. Rodney, feeling suddenly very protective of his friend who, in his four-year-old innocence, has no idea what he’s going to have to put up with when Rodney fixes him (and he does believe once more that he will fix this). He grabs John by the arm with the intention of leaving immediately and suddenly finds himself encompassed in a bright blue light. When he blinks, he sees they’re back in their quarters and he turns to look at John, who’s grinning with abandon.

“Transporter beam?” he asks and John nods. “Cool.”


* * *


“Wodney?”

“What?”

“Why does Ca’son sound funny? Cuz he doesn’t speak anothe’ langidge.”

Rodney frowns. “You mean another language?”

“No anothe’ langidge,” John demands, almost daring Rodney to correct him again. “Like Miko, o’ Wadek, o’ Wajesh. Cuz dey speaks diffent ones and dat’s why dey sound funny. But Ca’son doesn’t.”

“You mean another language,” Rodney corrects with a smirk, knowing he’s annoying the boy. “Because Carson’s from a strange little place where they eat blood and live in castles.”

“Weally?” John asks, wide eyed and Rodney nods, trying not to laugh.

John peppers him with questions for another hour and he delights in answering every question with so many stereotypes and streams of incorrect information that he knows will have his friend turning red with anger when it all gets back to him.

Rodney almost expects a visit from Carson the very minute John steps out of his sight, but it doesn’t happen for days and he’s almost forgotten about it by the time he’s tracking down John at bedtime later that week. It’s by default that he heads to the infirmary to find him, knowing that John often tracks down half the city to say goodnight and given that Cadman was injured off world, it’s a safe bet that he’s dragged Teyla there to see her.

Rodney enters the room to find the two women talking quietly and, although he’ll never admit it, he’s glad to see that Cadman isn’t injured too badly. He’s already subconsciously looking for John when he reaches the bed.

“Where’s John?” he demands.

“Hi McKay, I’m fine, thanks for asking. No, really, I’m fine,” Cadman says, ignoring his question. “I mean, I got shot, but everything’s good. How are you?”

Rodney rolls his eyes. “Yes, yes, we’re all glad you’re not dead,” he says, patting her on the leg. Which was actually a bad idea, as it turns out, because Cadman hisses in pain and he steps back, wide eyed.

“Laura was shot in the leg, Rodney,” Teyla says sternly, as she stands to check the woman’s injury. “John is in Carson’s office saying goodnight.”

“Right,” he says and leaves them alone before he can do any more damage.

He enters Carson’s office just in time to hear John asking something he’s been waiting on for days and grins widely when the Scot spots him.

“Ca’son, can I has a haggis fo’ a pet? Wodney says dey has fwee legs and they’s fuzzy.”

Carson splutters for a second and looks at Rodney, incredulous. “What’ve you been teaching the boy?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Rodney says, all faux innocence.

Carson glares and turns back to John. “Listen, wee man, a haggis isn’t a pet, its food.”

“You eats dem?” John asks, his wide eyes filling with tears.

“Aw, that’s no what I meant.” He sits down at his desk and pulls John (and the damn purple toy) onto his lap as Rodney watches, amused. “A haggis isn’t a creature, John, it’s just the name of something some people eat.”

“And whey’s that come from?”

“From sheep.”

“You eats sheeps?”

“I…” Carson clears his throat. “It’s complicated. Maybe when you’re older, okay.”

“Okay. Does you live in a castle?”

“No, John, we had a farm,” he says, glaring at Rodney again.

“Wodney says you has a monste’ in a big lake and you dwess in a ski’t like a big gi’l.”

“Well, Rodney’s a big fat liar, John,” Carson grinds out as Rodney tries really hard not to laugh.

John doesn’t look convinced, but nods anyway and slips off his lap. “Okay. Is Jennife’ hee?”

“Aye, she’s in her office with Doctor Biro. Go say goodnight.”

John runs out the door, screeching like a banshee and Carson turns to glare at Rodney.

“What?” Rodney smirks.

“What did I ever do to you?”

“I have no idea what you mean.”

“Expect a very large needle the next time you end up in here,” the Scot says darkly and Rodney backs out of the office slowly, but it does little to dampen his amusement. Especially since he knows that Carson will have a harder time trying to convince John he’s wrong than Rodney ever did of convincing the boy that he was right.


* * *


Movie night had become a ritual early on in Atlantis, when they were still fighting with minimal power and the belief that they’d never make contact with Earth again. Their need for a night of relaxation hasn’t ebbed since then, even if their situation has altered.

The thing is, that Rodney knows that John remembers movie night. He knows because the boy has found his way there on more than one occasion without anyone having told him about it, much in the same way that they quickly discovered that he likes to spend time in his old quarters, even though no one has ever told him they’re his.

Rodney’s initial plan to somehow save Sheppard with his memories hasn’t exactly worked, but it hasn’t exactly failed either, because although John’s still a child and he doesn’t remember how that happened, it seems to help them all to continue to try and jog his memory. Rodney’s fairly sure he’s not the only one that finds a little comfort in the discovery that Sheppard might still be in there somewhere.

“What we watching?” John demands, snuggling up to Ronon and making himself comfortable in the man’s lap. “Pete’ Pan?” he continues, hopefully.

“No,” Rodney answers firmly.

“Why not?”

“Because the last time we watched that, you took a nose dive off the third floor,” he answers. “Excuse me if I don’t want a repeat performance.”

“I won’t fly, I pwomise!”

“John, may I request something?” Teyla asks, before they start to argue.

(It had been her idea that they start their own alternative movie night when it became apparent that John missed it and the marines would have no real desire to watch Disney movies on a weekly basis. That Elizabeth, Cadman, Carson, Lorne and his pretty doctor, as well as half the science team and Dr Parish start to turn up at Sheppard’s quarters as well is something that Rodney doesn’t even bother to question. John wants them there and Rodney isn’t about to argue. About that anyway.)

“Okay,” John replies and Teyla smiles.

“May I request Wall-E? We have yet to see it and I am assured that you will like it very much.”

“The one wif the wobot?” John asks and she nods. “Okay. I likes wobots. Wodney will you build me a wobot?”

“No,” Rodney says, turning to put the DVD in. “I’ll show you how to build your own.”

“Cool.”

“Yes, yes,” Rodney says and tries very hard not to quantify the strange feeling he has at the realisation that John wants to learn. From him.

He settles into the space reserved between Teyla and Lorne and glances briefly at John. Ten minutes and the kid will be asleep, but no one will point it out, because he knows the adults in the room enjoy the children’s movies just as much (if not more) than John himself.

“Hey Doc,” Lorne says, a moment into the opening credits.

“What?”

“Will you teach me how to build a robot?”

Rodney turns to retort with something scathing, but when he actually looks at Lorne he sees something that makes him stop. There’s an almost embarrassed look on the man’s face, something that tells Rodney he isn’t actually joking. So, instead of speaking, he simply nods.

Lorne grins, wide and pleased. “Cool.”

“Now be quiet.”

“Sure thing, Doc.”


* * *


“Wodney, I’s finished my maths, play wif me?”

Rodney sighs and tries really hard not to bite the boy’s head off. All his usual babysitters are on missions, or busy with their own work and Elizabeth is nowhere to be found. Usually, Rodney wouldn’t mind so much, but he’s been up for over thirty hours, has a half dozen reports to go through and at least three of his scientists work to go back over and he really doesn’t have time for a hyperactive four year old.

“I can’t. I have to finish this. Go…make yourself useful,” he says, waving his hand inanely and hoping the boy will take the hint and go find himself a quiet corner to hide in.

John frowns for a moment, then nods. “I go feed, Feddy,” he says decisively and Rodney glowers at the closing door as he leaves.

It’s not that Rodney dislikes John’s pet lizard, it’s that he hates it with a passion; he’d liked his eyebrows and it wasn’t as if he had hair to spare. Freddy is one of the main reasons why he never leaves John alone with Ronon when he can help it; the man seems to think that fire breathing pets and slingshots are perfectly good uses for a child’s time and Rodney wouldn’t mind, really, except he hates being the target of said pastimes.

It’s certainly nothing to do with the fact that John spends hours watching the thing when he could be spending time with Rodney.


* * *


The weeks pass quickly, turn into months, with such gentle speed that Rodney doesn’t even notice. He finds himself anticipating John’s moods, dealing with the young child’s growing needs with such little fanfare that when he realises it’s even happening he’s surprised himself. He gets used to John, gets used to his tempers and his brilliance, gets used to finding him in the infirmary, curled up under Carson’s desk, or tucked up with Keller in the spare bed whenever he’s working late, gets used to finding him curled up under his own arms on nights when John’s meant to stay with Teyla, and even begrudgingly accepts that the damn purple thing is now part of his life, but he really can’t find it in himself to be anything other than pleased that he’s really, truly cared for without expectation or abandon.

Things fall into a pattern that Rodney wonders at. His days are broken into sections of caring for John, spending time with his team when he can, caring for Atlantis and her people and finding the time to work on the machine. He sometimes thinks he does the latter more because it’s routine than due to any of the urgency that plagued him in the early days.

He misses Sheppard. Misses him more than he thought he could ever miss anyone. John’s warm where Sheppard was awkward, he’s carefree where the Colonel couldn’t afford to be. But John has intelligence and understanding without context and, as much as Rodney loves to teach him, loves to see the sparkle of discovery in the boy’s eyes, it’s not the same as the knowledge that Sheppard often knew the answer, but let him explain anyway.

Somehow the ache of losing Sheppard lessens through time, lessens almost as if Rodney’s finally come to accept that all he has left of his friend are the snatches of the man he can still see inside the child he’s come to care for and look after with more paternal feelings than he could have imagined himself capable of. It happens slowly, this sense of acceptance, so slowly that Rodney doesn’t have time to realise that it’s even happening. It comes in the second year, four months after John’s fifth birthday, and, in true Pegasus fashion, the realisation is followed by an even greater loss.

Somehow, it’s no real surprise that Rodney just breaks.


* * *

On to Part Four

* * *
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