In John’s not very vast experience with children (which mostly means infrequent and awkward visits with Dave’s kids and long weekends with Madison whenever he and Rodney have the time to go visit Jeannie) the whole “removable thumb” trick was always a pretty solid crowd pleaser. Heck, it’d won over the kids on PX-453 so completely than they’d given Atlantis an iron clad trading agreement there on the spot.
So John was shocked when Torren greeted the trick with nothing short of eardrum splintering wails. This outburst had come after a look of skepticism that was pure Teyla, though Torren didn’t quite have the muscle strength to raise an eyebrow. Then concern, confusion, anxiety… earsplitting howls. Perfect.
“What did you do?” Rodney cried as he ran back into the room, clutching a dish towel in his still wet hands—doing dishes from the food massacre that was breakfast, John diagnosed, though he could still see a smudge of strawberry jam high up on Rodney’s cheek—looking a little wild-eyed and probably expecting John to be killing kittens or something equally horrific, based on the noise.
“I… it was... the thumb thing! Kids love it!” John sputtered, raising his (still be-thumbed) hands up in confusion.
Torren, tears now streaming down his cheeks, seemed to be proof that all kids, apparently, did not love it. Not at all.
“Hey, little guy,” Rodney said in something that he would probably violently deny was a croon, and John felt something warm in his chest to see how easily Torren left himself be gathered up and cuddled until his cries turned to sniffles, to one lone hiccup, to silence.
For a moment, there was silence, and it was amazing.
“Why did we let Teyla convince us we were babysitting for a week?” John whispered, and at the sound Torren lifted his head from Rodney’s slightly soggy shoulder to look at him. No, it was a full out glare. Kid had been hanging out with Ronon too much.
“Because it was a chance for her and Kanaan to go to the dendu festival as a couple without having to worry about Torren, and Ronon is laid up with a knee sprain from that mudslide on PX-I don’t even remember, and we are awesome and supportive uncles and Teyla could hurt us with hard sticks if we said no.” Rodney somehow said all of this in one breath.
“I always forget about the sticks,” John said, and Rodney’s snort meant he knew he was lying. “Sorry.”
This apology did double duty, because Rodney huffed a breath as the last of the unexpected adrenaline left, and Torren gave John a little grin that meant that the horrifying thumb removal was forgiven, if not already forgotten.
“Here, I’ll take him,” John said, the quickly continued, “no more magic tricks, I promise,” at the look on Rodney’s face.
“Okay, kiddo, Uncle John promises to keep all of his limbs where they’re supposed to be… and then we can read another story when I’ve undone the damage you did to the kitchen table.” Torren made some babble-filled noises at this, waving his hands around enthusiastically. Torren might only be two years old, but somehow that gesture made him look exactly like Rodney. John stifled a laugh.
“Sounds like TJ has some issues with your newest paper,” John said, grinning when Rodney glared even as he carefully handed over Torren.
“Seeing as he’s responding to the sound of my voice and not my stunning and perfectly accurate scientific evidence, I doubt it,” Rodney said dryly, then made shooing motions with his hands. “Go play him a song or something; and if I hear you doing card tricks, I swear I’ll throw the frying pan at your head.”
“Yes, dear,” John said, then reached out to wipe the jam from Rodney’s cheek with his thumb. “Missed something.” Grinning, he licked his thumb slowly.
Rodney flushed, eyes darkening a bit.
“Tease,” he managed finally.
“Yup,” John replied cheerfully. Torren flailed an arm and smacked into John’s ear, “Ow.”
“Deserved it,” Rodney said smugly, and then John was left to dig through the pile of CDs, and when he finally picked Raffi (a highly popular present from Sam), he hoped that Rodney could hear it in the kitchen (baby beluga in the deep blue sea, you swim so wild and you swim so free…) while he hummed along in Torren’s ear.
After the whales, there were wheels on a bus going round and round, a bear combing his hair down by the bay and even a guy selling bananas—though John always thought that Harry Belafonte sang that one better—and then John found he was on the couch pinned by the bonelessly sleeping weight of Torren on his chest as Rodney slowly pulled a blanket over the pair of them.
“Must’ve fallen asleep,” John slurred. “Guess we’re having the post-lunch nap before lunch today.”
“Insufferably lazy, the pair of you,” Rodney said with a smile that was fond and warm and John reached out to wrap his hands around Rodney’s wrist and tug until he slid onto the couch and they could reconfigure themselves until they’re a tangle of limbs and blanket and Torren’s not quite snores.
“Mmm,” Rodney mumbled as his lips brushed the back of John’s neck. “I love naps.”
“Naps are the best invention ever,” John agreed and twisted in a way he hadn’t thought physically possible so he could kiss Rodney. Rodney hummed a little into the kiss and John kept going, mapping out his contentment in tracing the shape of Rodney’s mouth and the shifts in their breathing. “How does Teyla do this all day without being exhausted?”
“Well,” Rodney said thoughtfully, or at least as thoughtfully as he could sound when most of his attention seemed to be on kissing along the line of John’s jaw. “She meditates a lot. That’s kind of like sleeping.”
“Something tells me that if Teyla heard you say that, she’d hit you with a stick,” John answered, having triumphantly burrowed his hand through the blankets until he could reach the patch of skin where Rodney’s shirt had ridden up and trace the muscles with gentle fingers.
“Well, yes,” Rodney admitted, as he relaxed even more, molding his body to John’s. Torren snuffled a little from his carefully constructed spot between them. Rodney smoothed a hand over his head as Torren slept, one chubby fist tucked up next to his chin. “We should wake him up soon, otherwise getting him to sleep later will be a nightmare.”
“Not yet,” John said, latching on to Rodney just in case he made an effort to get up. “We’ll get him back to sleep. I’m sure I have some tricks up my sleeve…”
“Oh yes, more misdirection and illusion is clearly the way to go…”
“I think he’s a little young for Penn and Teller, Rodney. I just thought we’d play some music until he went out again.”
“We are not playing Johnny Cash for him again. That song is about death! If your supposed thumb amputation wasn’t traumatizing enough, now we’ll play him a song about dying! How about… that whale song? It’s not so bad.” Rodney sounded a little sheepish even as settled against John.
John laughed quietly.
“Okay, whales it is. But nap first.”
“Naaaaaap,” Rodney softly sang; unclear whether it was to John, Torren or himself.
John pulled the blanket more securely over them and drifted off again to the sound of Rodney’s calm breathing punctuated by Torren’s not quite snores.