Rodney nodded his head and tried to look enthusiastic as Dr. Reynard described the fauna of MT4 JCY.
"It's amazing that we are seeing an exact match in the predatory evasive patterns between the herd of Igfils and the Ankril as you would see on the Serengeti between a herd of Impala and lions. As you can see, the Ankril live together in--well, I call them a pride--"
Dr. Genno interrupted. "The collective should be considered a pack as I see greater similarity to a wolf pack than to a pride of lions--"
"Admittedly, the dominant male does lead the attack but there is a coordination between other--"
"Which can be more easily explained with the alpha male and female of a wolf--"
"But there is no clear alpha of either sex in--"
Dr. Genno stabbed at the screen. "This one and this one are clearly the alpha--"
"No. You misunderstand the exact nature--"
"STOP!" Rodney bellowed, and both zoologists fell silent. "Am I understanding this correctly? You dragged me from extremely vital research into distributing the power to support the shield during a sustained attack by the Wraith just to referee an argument over collective naming?"
"I assure you, Dr. McKay, that this is vital to our research and if--"
Rodney broke off Genno's explanation by tapping his radio. "Teyla. Laboratory 5 now." He swallowed hard as Teyla responded. "Yes, I meant come to laboratory 5...eh....please."
Reynard frowned. "I fail to understand why you should summon Ms. Emmagan--"
Rodney glared hard and Reynard fell silent, leaving only the sound of Rodney drumming his fingers impatiently against the bench top. They all looked around as the door opened.
"Rodney." Her voice held warning and he felt a little small from the unspoken rebuke.
"Doctors Fox and Jello are locked in bitter combat over a...name."
Teyla rose both eyebrows. "Then I will mediate." Rodney sighed in relief. "On one condition...that you agree to look after Torren for one hour this evening."
"But... I..." Rodney deflated. "One hour."
"I will expect you at 7pm."
John arrived at his and Rodney's quarters at 7:30 with the latest high-octane action movie in hand, courtesy of Lorne, and frowned when he heard what was obviously a kid's program coming from the laptop set on a table at the end of the bed. He stepped in and smiled as Rodney bounced Torren up and down in time to the catchy tune on Sesame Street. At two years old, Torren was a handful but he adored Rodney in the way kids tended to flock to Rodney no matter what galaxy they lived in. Rodney was singing along while Torren giggled and clapped his hands. Torren squealed in delight when John sank down next to them on the bed, scrabbling across to give John a hug and a big, wet kiss on his cheek.
"Hey, little fella."
"Oh, thank god," Rodney exclaimed softly, "The monster was jumping on my bladder." He eased off the bed, stretching out his muscles but John knew it was all just for show, that he would have endured far more discomfort to keep Torren happy. He returned to the bed a few minutes later, settling in next to John, shoulder to shoulder, while Torren found a comfortable seat back on Rodney's lap.
When Teyla arrived to collect Torren, Rodney released him with a little reluctance, pressing a kiss to Torren's forehead before handing him over. Torren wrapped his arms and legs around his mother for a hug, perched atop her swollen belly for a moment before she settled Torren back onto his feet. Torren's baby sister was due in less than two months.
"Thank you, Rodney."
"Um. You're welcome."
She turned to go but looked back. "By the way. It will be called a pride."
After the door closed, John wrapped his arms around Rodney and kissed him slow and deep. "Pride?"
"Soft sciences," Rodney stated by means of an explanation, and John smiled wickedly as he pushed an hand between them to rub over Rodney's groin.
"I prefer it hard," he whispered in Rodney's ear, enjoying the heat of the flush that spread over Rodney's cheeks and throat before drawing Rodney back to the bed.
Later, as they snuggled up together, still exchanging occasional soft kisses and caresses, John reflected on the flush of pride and pleasure on Rodney's face as he held Torren. He wondered if Rodney had any regrets at ending his relationship with Keller.
"Hmm?" John answered.
"I can feel you thinking...and that's never a good sign."
"I have good thoughts," John protested.
Rodney tried to push away but John tightened his hold, reluctant to let go.
"If this is the Jennifer, white picket fence and 2.5 kids thing again then I'm going to hit you."
"What makes you think--?"
"Oh! That look you get whenever we babysit Torren."
John grimaced. "You'd have made a great dad, Rodney."
Rodney snorted disdainfully. "I'd have traumatized it for life."
"No. You wouldn't have."
They fell into an uncomfortable silence until Rodney sighed. "Do you want kids?"
John pulled Rodney closer. "Yeah. One day. But only with you."
"Maybe that can be arranged...one day."
The tiny cry filled the room and Rodney watched with a mixture of pride and love as John took the newborn into his arms and stared at the scrunched up face before settling down beside Rodney. The shock of dark hair was definitely a Sheppard trait but Rodney was certain he could see the McKay genes in there too, and said so.
"Probably lung capacity," John joked but his awed grin took away any sting from his words as he looked up from their child Rodney had carried, and into Rodney's eyes. Even through his exhaustion, Rodney smiled back. John didn't need to utter those precious three words, or even a simple thank you, because everything--pride and love--was in his eyes.