They're almost to the gate when Rodney cries out. Teyla's dialing, pressing crystals frantically; John and Ronon turn around, Ronon automatically laying down cover fire while John runs back toward Rodney. John knows Rodney's cry isn't one of pain -- surprise and panic, yes, but not pain. He doesn't spare the second it takes to analyze exactly how he knows whether or not there's pain in Rodney's voice, just reaches out a hand and grabs the front of Rodney's tac vest.
"Sheppard," Rodney starts out, strangled.
John feels the breeze of bullets too close, hears Ronon's fire. His heart beats faster as he hears the whoosh of the gate, Teyla's urgent, "John." They're taking a huge risk just dialing into Atlantis, and they can't afford to waste time.
"Go, go," John shouts. He's still pulling Rodney, a job that part of his brain realizes is harder than it should be, heavier. It's too dark for John to see Teyla go through the gate but the blue whirlpool shifts for a second, so he knows she's done it.
"There's something on my leg!" Rodney yells; he acts like he's about to stop, but John keeps pulling. It's probably only been a few seconds but it feels to John like he's been pulling Rodney toward the gate forever.
"Whatever it is, we'll take care of it when we get back to Atlantis," John grits out, not even sure that Rodney can hear him over the gunfire, the whir of Wraith darts.
"But what if it's -- " John doesn't hear Rodney finish, just pushes Rodney through the gate. He runs through, too, and Ronon stomps after him. Alarms are blaring on Atlantis, bellowing out their arrival.
Rodney has an expression on his face that John can't name, and suddenly fear is whispering along the lines of John's hands, his arms. He finally realizes that everyone -- Teyla, Ronon, Elizabeth -- is staring at Rodney's leg, but Rodney is staring at John's face.
John looks down to where everyone else's gaze is stuck.
Rodney was right. There is something clinging to his leg: a small girl, staring up at Rodney's face with huge brown eyes.
Rodney's still looking at John, but John can't find anything to say.
Rodney's eight when Jeannie is born. He's fully ready to be jealous, and has worked himself into a full-on only-child-who-anticipated-being-an-only-child-for-life tantrum by the time his parents get home from the hospital, his father ushering his mother into the living room with a gentleness Rodney had yet to witness from the man in his lifetime.
He doesn't think there's anything special about Jeannie, of course. She's wrinkled and red and she had spit up on the ride home and there's still a little milk on her chin. Rodney deduces she won't be much of a threat to him for a while and so he calms down enough so that he can run a finger across her cheek when his mother says it's okay to touch her.
There's not much to her, he figures, and goes back upstairs to finish his pre-calculus homework.
It takes a few hours before they are ready for the debriefing meeting. The girl's been checked over thoroughly by both Carson and Kate Heightmeyer, with some difficulty, since she won't let go of Rodney, clinging to his hand or his arm or his jacket for dear life. For the first hour, Rodney looks ready to mutiny but he bites back whatever comments are dancing behind his lips, instead hurling insults at Carson, Kate, John, Elizabeth, the nurses in the infirmary, and anyone or everyone within spitting distance except for the child.
Even now, as they sit around the conference table, she's curled up asleep in Rodney's lap, her hair a bird's nest against his chest. Rodney's gripping his chair so hard his knuckles are white, and John is unconsciously bracing himself for poisonous invective at any moment.
Elizabeth turns to Ronon first. She doesn't even have to speak before Ronon shakes his head.
"There's no one left," he says simply, eyes darting to Rodney before settling back onto Elizabeth.
"The entire population's been culled?" Even after almost three years in Atlantis, there's still surprise in her voice at the sheer ruthlessness of the Wraith.
Teyla nods. "The Wraith were . . . merciless," she finishes. "We found no one."
"So as far as we know, she's the only survivor?"
"It seems certain," Teyla acknowledges.
"And they weren't able to trace you through the gate?"
Radek shakes his head. "No Wraith anywhere in the near vicinity. And the hive ship that was over MJ3-789 seems to have accelerated into another quadrant."
There's an awkward silence in the room. Wraith, Replicators, Genii, they can handle. One small child and they're reduced to uncertainty. John might think it was funny if it wasn't so damn frightening.
"Periwyn," Rodney says shortly to no one in particular.
"Rodney?" Elizabeth shifts in her chair as she leans toward him.
"It's her name. Periwyn. Peri." If John notices that one of Rodney's arms has left the chair to circle protectively across the slightly snuffling child in his lap, John doesn't mention it.
"Rodney's correct," Kate confirms. Rodney rolls his eyes at what he thinks is probably a very obvious statement. "She wouldn't talk to me much, just told me her name, that she got lost from her family." Kate looks pale, cheeks nearly translucent. "I think she's too traumatized to say much else."
"Aye," Carson agrees. "And quite possibly too young. I would put her age at no more than two years and six months. She won't be able to help us much."
"But she's healthy?" Elizabeth asks.
Carson nods. "Aside from some minor cutes and scrapes, she's quite healthy, within all normal developmental perimeters, as far as I can tell. Pediatrics isn't my specialty," Carson finishes apologetically.
John hates to be the one to cut to the chase, but on the other hand, it looks like they'll dance around the subject all night if given the chance. "So what do we do with her?" he asks.
All eyes turn to look at him. He raises his hands in front of him in a gesture of defense. "I don't mean to be . . ."
"Cruel? Blunt? Tragically inappropriate?" Rodney finishes.
John merely shoots him a look, having long ago accepted what it's like to be on the receiving end of one of Rodney's blustering comments. Rodney's unusually quelled by John's gaze.
"He does have a point," Elizabeth acknowledges. "So, if returning her to her home is not an option . . ."
"There's Earth," John points out. "The Daedalus is scheduled for a run here day after tomorrow. I'm sure the SGC could arrange an adoption."
Elizabeth nods, turns to Teyla again. "What about the Athosians?"
"I'm sure my people would be happy to take her in," Teyla says. "But it is the middle of our gathering season. Many have left the settlement to search."
"When will they return?"
Teyla shakes her head. "Not for at least another month."
"Right." Elizabeth sighs. "So whether or not we decide to place her with a family here or on Earth -- "
"It'll take awhile," John finishes. He glances back to Rodney, who is still being uncharacteristically quiet. "We're not set up for a child here," he continues. "We don't have any clothing, toys, supplies -- "
"I'm sure my people," Teyla starts.
"Oh for God's sake, it isn't rocket science," Rodney snaps. "If the Daedalus is scheduled to do a supply run anyway, we contact them before they leave; they'll bring us whatever we ask for. In the meantime, the Athosians who are around can supply us with the basics. It's not much. She's not an infant, no formula or anything, she can eat anything we do." He snaps his fingers rapidly. When no one offers him anything, his hand smacks the table. "Give me a tablet and I'll write you a list."
In what John thinks is sheer self-defense, Elizabeth slides her tablet across the table.
Rodney starts stabbing almost viciously with the stylus.
Later, when he takes the list for distribution to the quartermaster of the Daedalus, John can't help but smile softly. There's at least fifty items on it, the first being those footie pajamas, the fuzzy kind and the last, a night light.
Jeannie's three the first time his parents leave him alone with her to take care of her. Well, on purpose, anyway. His dad has always worked all hours, all the time, and his mom, well, Rodney's been able to read for ages now, and it's not like rum is exactly a long word, anyway.
Of course, disaster befalls them in the form of Jeannie falling off her tricycle in the driveway. The scrape on her knee isn't so bad, not really, Rodney thinks, but that doesn't stop Jeannie from crying, big, fat tears sliding down her cheeks and into the small folds of her neck. The sting of the hydrogen peroxide only makes her sob harder, and even though Rodney goes through a long monologue about germs it's not like Jeannie seems to care. But Rodney's not above bribery, so after he firmly affixes a band-aid to the scrape, Rodney takes her to the kitchen and offers her two Oreos in an approximation of a peace offering.
Jeannie slides her head onto his shoulder at the kitchen table, sighs and calls him, "Mer." The rest of her tears dry on his t-shirt.
For the first few days, it's like Rodney has suddenly sprouted a very small, very pig-tailed shadow. Peri sleeps on a cot in his room, eats every meal with him in the mess, spends the day in the labs with him, napping face down on the counter when necessary.
What's even more surprising to John -- to all of Atlantis, John thinks -- is that Rodney doesn't complain. Not even once. He doesn't look happy, exactly, but there are no closed-door meetings going on in Elizabeth's office, no shouting, no cursing, and generally no arm waving of any kind. Calling Rodney patient might be pushing things -- he has no problem yelling at Radek for half an hour over a failed simulation -- but with Peri he's at least moderate, dealing with her needs in a no-nonsense kind of way that John privately thinks shouldn't be nearly as hot as it is.
It's five days until the Daedalus arrives, and she's pushing those engines, but they've decided regardless that the Athosians are the best placement anyway. Still, John added Baby Einstein DVDs to the list for Peri, and he's really looking forward to what he thinks Rodney's reaction is going to be.
Elizabeth sits down next to him at his table in the mess, a cup of tea and some soup on her tray. She's watching the same thing he is, namely Rodney and Peri making their way through the line, negotiating sandwich and fruit choices ("No, no. No oranges.").
"Am I the only one who finds this -- "
"Incredibly bizarre?" John finishes. He shakes his head. "You have no idea."
"I mean. It's Rodney."
"With a kid." John pauses. "And he's not complaining -- "
"Or going on about how his genius is being compromised."
They sit in silence for a moment, listening as Rodney's slightly raised voice carries over to their table. "No, you can't have that piece of cake -- it's the size of your head. You can have a jello or a cup of pudding; you can choose."
John turns to Elizabeth. "Is the world ending? Did I miss it?"
Peri picks the pudding, settling for being able to make a choice over her initial wish of cake.
"Virtual reality?" John offers.
Elizabeth slowly shakes her head. "I don't think so. We'd all have to be in the same simulation. Or mass hallucination," she adds. She shrugs slightly. "Maybe Rodney's just finally met his match."
"In a two-year-old?" John asks.
Elizabeth looks at him and quirks a smile. "Can you think of anyone else better equipped to match wills with Rodney?"
John looks like he's considering this. "He does have the single mindedness of a toddler."
"Huh," John says as Rodney and Peri sit across from them. "I have an idea."
"What? What's the idea?" Rodney helps Peri open a pint of milk before tucking into the mess' spaghetti lunch special.
"You know, Rodney, the team has some chores that are pretty mundane, but we've let them pile up and they need to be taken care of," John begins.
Rodney's mouth screws up in a way that John just knows is going to lead into an I'm-much-too-important-for-that-kind-of-crap rant.
"So I've been thinking. You can either read and initial some old mission reports or you can catalog our use of non-military supplies. It's your choice."
"Mission reports," Rodney answers almost before John is done.
"Cool," John replies. "If you want something done, it's always best to offer choices."
Elizabeth tries to hide a smile behind her spoon.
"What?" Rodney asks, his gaze darting between John and Elizabeth. "What?"
John only shakes his head and does his best to look innocent.
Rodney goes away to college at fifteen. His parents agree to let him live on campus, away from home. If he's honest with himself, and about his family, Rodney nearly always is, it wasn't really much of a fight. His dad thinks the environment might help Rodney socialize a little more, either forgetting or ignoring the fact that he'll be younger than the rest of his class and dorm mates; he's also broad, but still short for his age, and the acne that sprouted six months ago isn't helping matters much. His mother barely even bothers to enter the conversation at all.
Jeannie, however, is inconsolable. She cries for days; even her new teacher is concerned, calling their dad up and using three-dollar psychological jargon. Their dad insists she'll be fine. She'll adjust. She's a smart girl. The last is true, at least. Jeannie probably even comes close to being as smart as Rodney, but she doesn't push herself the way he does; she's happy to stick with second grade for now, playing four-square during recess with her friends. Rodney isn't sure whether he feels sorry for her or if he's jealous.
So Jeannie rides in the car with Rodney and their dad to drop Rodney off, move him into his dorm. All the girls in the dorm, and half the boys, think she's adorable, carrying the really light boxes or even just a book in at a time. Rodney they are much less sure about, but he's used to the sidelong glances and the feet shuffling by now.
When it's time to go, Rodney gets a brief squeeze on the shoulder from his dad, but a big, tearful hug from Jeannie. Rodney reassures her that he'll visit, it's not like she'll never see him again, but that only makes Jeannie cry harder. Their dad merely scoops her up, ready to be on their way, but Rodney makes them wait. He sifts through a couple of boxes and finally pulls out a small geode he'd gotten one year for Christmas when he was a kid. He hurriedly stuffs the geode into one of Jeannie's hands. It's the one that's white, blue and purple inside, and it's his favorite. He doesn't say anything, nothing like, See, now, if you need me, you can find the rock and you'll know I'm there with you, but Jeannie hiccups and finds a small smile for him anyway.
John's been woken up by a lot of things. Bullets, bombs, snoring, an upset stomach, wet dreams, alarms. More. But he's never been woken up by a screaming child before.
Tonight is a first.
He's not even sure what's happening when Rodney barges in, carrying an hysterical Peri in his arms. How Rodney got into his room he doesn't know, but as soon as Rodney steps over the threshold his lights come on at the same time the door shuts behind him, and John has an inkling that Atlantis is more responsible than she might seem. Still, there's a crying child, and John sits up, swinging his feet over the side of the bed.
"What did you do?" John asks.
"I didn't do anything!" Rodney yells at a high volume, defensive. "She just woke up like this, screaming, crying! Nothing I did helped." Rodney's already pacing a line on John's floor, jiggling Peri a little in his grip.
"Well, what did you do?" John asks again, padding across the floor in his bare feet.
"Nothing!" John gives Rodney a look. "God, I can't even think! I . . . I." Rodney lifts his chin. "I tried singing."
"You?" John remembers what Rodney sounded like during the time they got stuck on at a choral festival on H15-P90 and has to stifle a laugh.
"Oh, yes, laugh it up, fuzzball," Rodney says. Peri screams a little louder at his tone of voice.
John winces. "Geez, Rodney. Why did you come here? What about --"
"Who? Teyla? Elizabeth?" Rodney switches Peri to his other arm. "Yes, I'm sure they'd appreciate me lobbing a screaming child at them just because they have breasts." Rodney pauses. "Also. You're the guy who always fixes things," he says more quietly.
Funny, John would have said the same thing about Rodney. "Okay, okay. Let me try." Rodney looks surprised, and maybe he should be, John thinks. But Rodney still juggles Peri into John's outstretched arms. She doesn't stop crying, but she takes a deep shuddering breath; John can feel her small chest rise and fall against his.
"Yes, yes . . ." Rodney pauses. "Right. So now what?" He's all but wringing his hands.
"I don't know, Rodney," John says. He really, truly has no idea, and tries not to panic at that thought.
Rodney snaps his fingers like he has an idea. "You could sing."
John wonders exactly how his life got to this point, holding a crying child in a completely different galaxy that has life sucking aliens in it. "I can't sing."
"You're better than I am!"
"That's not that hard!" John yells back. Peri sobs harder. "Okay, this isn't helping."
"No." Rodney actually looks upset -- scared, tired, a little bit helpless. It startles John, that look on Rodney's face.
That look more than anything else is why John starts singing "A Boy Named Sue."
Rodney does what can only be described as a full-body eyeroll. "Cash, seriously?"
John just keeps singing, rocking Peri back and forth. After a minute, Rodney moves to come up behind him, reaching out a hand to stroke Peri's hair where her head is resting on John's shoulder.
"Hey," Rodney says softly. "Hey. It's going to be okay. It's okay. It's safe. You're safe. It's okay."
Peri finally starts to calm down, though whether it's by their efforts or because she's exhausted herself, John doesn't know. But he and Rodney continue to sing and soothe far into the Atlantis night.
Jeannie tends to call him when she's upset, and today is no different.
"They're fighting again, Mer," she says, the line crackling a little.
Rodney sighs. It's not like this is breaking news. He's working on his dissertation, and he doesn't really have time for this. Jeannie's thirteen, and she can handle this herself. "Jeannie, look . . ."
"I know you're busy, Mer, but come on. They're throwing stuff."
Rodney pauses, trying his best to listen to the background noise behind Jeannie. Sure enough, in a few moments, Rodney hears a crash. Then there's the sound of the phone being moved around. If Jeannie's on the kitchen phone, that means she's moved into the pantry in an effort to avoid the roving fight.
"Okay, fine. 54,592."
"Not-prime. Meredith, that one's not even hard."
They continue on until Rodney can hear Jeannie come out of the pantry.
Two days before they're going to take Peri to the Athosian village to be settled there, John wanders into Rodney's lab. Rodney is, predictably, typing furiously on a laptop and frowning. John deliberately stands a little too close, brushing his shoulder against Rodney's.
"What?" Rodney asks, not even looking up.
"Miko took her to the mess for some juice." Rodney keeps tapping away until he either sees or feels John scratch the back of his neck. Then he looks up, eyes vaguely suspicious. "Why?"
"Because I thought I could take her to the shooting range and teach her how to fire a gun," John says.
"You're not very good at the sarcasm, Colonel," Rodney says.
John does his best to look hurt. "There's no reason to hit below the belt like that, Meredith," he says.
Rodney scowls. "Seriously, what?"
John sighs. "Well, it's my day off, and I thought maybe Peri might like to take a trip to the beach on the mainland."
"No, Rodney, with the nice Wraith couple we have in the brig. I've named them Bob and Martha."
Rodney puts on an expression that clearly reads You think you're so funny, but you're not. John smirks.
"Come on, Rodney. She'll have fun." John hits Rodney lightly in the arm. "Hey, you could come, too, you know."
"Some of us happen to be working today."
"Elizabeth would give you the day off."
"Important work," Rodney adds.
"McKay, the city won't fall apart without you." John thinks about this for a second, and then amends, "Okay, but it won't today. Besides, we have these nifty little things that work on radio waves, and --"
Rodney waves a hand. "Yes, yes, Sheppard, I get it." He pauses. "I burn easily, you know."
John raises a finger to point at Rodney, his voice pitched a little higher than usual. "Hey, have you heard they have this cream now, wait, damn, I can't think of the name," he frowns, pretending to think. "It works by blocking out the sun in some way . . . ."
"Oh, ha ha ha. You slay me," Rodney says.
"So can we go, Mom?" John asks.
Rodney lifts his chin. "Fine. But we'll have to pack a lunch."
They take a puddlejumper down to a piece of shoreline that their sensors tell them has small, shallow waves. Peri loves the 'jumper, awed to be in the air. She spends out her joy bounding between Rodney's legs, both benches in the back, and the chair behind John in a circuit of enthusiasm. She probably would have tried to climb up on the control panel, but Rodney gives her a look that plainly states that there will be trouble if she tries it (not unlike the look he gives John when John tries to sneak fries off Rodney's plate). So she tries to climb into John's lap instead and John lets her, telling her very carefully about everything he's doing, even letting her guide some of the controls just a fraction. Surprisingly, the jumper seems pleased, either on its own or because it's carefully reading John, and displays come up on the front that have colorful, cartoonish pictures neither John or Rodney has ever seen before, but that seem tailor made for Peri, who leans forward and keeps trying to touch them.
They don't land too far from where they intended to set up camp, though the landing is rougher than usual, since John actually let Peri do more of the landing than he had intended. He figures that this time, inertial dampeners are a good thing. Rodney's mouth tightens but he doesn't say anything, which John counts as a small miracle; he'd also put down good money that Rodney will have worked up a monologue for later, and he has to hide a grin at the thought.
Once they're out of the jumper they find a spot to set up camp; not too close to the water, but not too far either. Rodney fusses over blankets, towels, the Atlantis version of a cooler the mess gave them, even a large umbrella that he found in some closet -- one neither he nor John can wrestle into submission, since it refuses to stand up in the sand. Once he finally gives up on the Umbrella of Doom, Rodney starts in on Peri, slathering the girl in sunscreen until she squirms hard enough to earn a reprieve, though Rodney gets in one last good swipe at her nose. He then starts eying John speculatively, and John honestly can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. He doesn't necessarily want to object, the thought of Rodney's large hands and capable fingers on his back and shoulders nearly sending a shiver down his spine in spite of the warm sunshine. John has full faith in his abilities of self-control, but there's still a child present -- and Rodney's own potential reaction, positive or negative, and John has no idea which it might be.
Rodney must see something in John's face, and he ducks his head, a gesture John can't quite put a description on. He's opening his mouth, willing his brain to catch up before he can say something completely idiotic, but Peri saves him, grabbing his hand and leading him toward the water with a shout and a "C'mon, John."
John watches Rodney settle in on the blanket, waving back at Peri with the latest issue of Physics.
After a morning full of the dead man's float, swimming lessons, dragging Rodney into the water despite his (almost assuredly fake) protests, and all the sandwiches they can eat, Peri falls asleep into her fruit cup. Naturally, Rodney takes the opportunity to put more sunscreen on her after he settles her next to him on the blanket. John settles on his back on Rodney's other side, pleasantly sleepy from the water, the sun and the food. He has his aviators on, and the world is a gentle amber above his eyelids. He feels Rodney settle beside him, a warm, heavy weight against his arm.
"Hey," Rodney says softly. "Thanks."
The thank you is so startling John turns his head, but Rodney is staring resolutely at the sky. John bites his lip, trying to figure out what -- if anything -- to say at this unexpected turn of events.
"Uh. You're welcome?"
He could swear that Rodney lets out a chuckle, but it's so soft he can't quite confirm it. On wild impulse, John leans up and kisses Rodney's shoulder through his t-shirt.
At that, Rodney turns his head to stare wide-eyed at John. John can feel his face heating, and it isn't from the sun.
After a long moment, Rodney says, "Seriously?" He sounds incredulous.
If possible, John flushes further. "It wasn't. Yeah. Just."
"You're blushing," Rodney observes.
"No, no, I don't. It's." A pause. "Endearing."
"Oh, geez, Rodney . . . ." Endearing? Endearing? There is no way to construe endearing in any way that will save John's ego.
Now Rodney is definitely laughing, his shoulder shaking against John's. "You are . . . this. I would never."
"Okay," John says.
"No. You don't." Rodney stops laughing abruptly, sitting part-way up and leaning over John. "You absolutely don't get it."
"You." Rodney waves a hand over John's body. "In a bathing suit, looking like," Rodney trails off. "Jesus," he says, suddenly looming over John. Just as John starts to get an inkling of an idea, Rodney leans down and kisses him firmly. John arches up, raising his neck a little to lean into the kiss, while Rodney sets a hand on John's shoulder for balance.
They separate eventually, panting just a bit, Rodney settling down again on the towel.
"So," John says.
"Well, alright then," John says.
"You bet," Rodney replies, leaning up to kiss John on the shoulder while Peri snuffles in her sleep.
Rodney's the only one at Jeannie's master's degree graduation.
Well, that's not strictly true. He's sitting next to some guy named Caleb that Jeannie insists he's met before, twice, though Rodney certainly doesn't remember. Their parents are gone, Dad to a heart attack and Mom to a car crash. Rodney doesn't miss them. Well, Dad sometimes, but Jeannie mostly makes up for it.
After the ceremony Caleb and Rodney meet Jeannie on the lawn. Her hair is yellow and shining even underneath her blue cap, curls spilling down onto her hood. She and Caleb kiss happily until Rodney clears his throat.
"Oh, Mer," Jeannie says, throwing her arms around him in an enthusiastic hug. "Thank you for coming."
Rodney clears his throat again. "You're -- of course I'd come." Jeannie lets him go and steps back. "I thought I could take you two out for brunch?"
"We'd love to -- that's really nice of you," Jeannie says, hooking her arm into Caleb's. She's beaming as she and Caleb exchange a look that Rodney can't identify. "Besides," Jeannie says. "We've got big news."
"Oh, did Cal Tech finally give you more money? Because I know they can be stingy in the beginning, but they usually loosen up once they see who's really coming. Not that I pulled any strings, of course, in fact, it's a good thing you're going to be in the math department and not mine, actually, but -- "
Jeannie cuts him off with a wave of her hand. "It's not Cal Tech. I'm not going to Cal Tech."
"Oh. Right. Stanford?"
Jeannie sighs a little, but she's smiling. "Actually, Mer, I'm not going on to get my doctorate right now."
In spite of his best efforts, Rodney's jaw actually drops. "What?"
Jeannie and Caleb glance at each other again, both grinning like loons. Rodney has a distinctly bad feeling about this. "We were going to wait to tell you until later, but," Caleb starts.
"We're getting married!" Jeannie exclaims.
"Married?" Rodney asks. He guesses that's Jeannie's business, really, but he's not sure why that would keep her from her Ph.D. Unless that Caleb is some kind of caveman throwback who insists that his wife stay at home or something.
"Married!" Jeannie confirms. "And, and -- we're having a baby!" Jeannie's practically bouncing on her toes.
"Why would you do that?" Rodney blurts.
"What? Mer?" Jeannie's smile wavers.
"What? I mean. Why would you waste all of your potential like that?"
Jeannie's smile disappears altogether. "Meredith!"
"I just. What? You're so brilliant, maybe not quite as much of a genius as I am, but smart nonetheless, you could do so much more than . . . change diapers and wipe noses . . ." Rodney sputters to a stop, notices that Caleb -- and who does he think he is anyway -- has taken Jeannie's hand.
"How can you say that?" Jeannie asks, voice almost as loud as Rodney's. "That's, this. What if this is what I want? What if I don't want an academic career? What if I want a family?"
"A family? Are you kidding me?" Rodney waves his arm. "What good is a family? Where did that ever get us?"
"Exactly," Jeannie says, and turns and walks away, marching across the lawn. Caleb throws a look at Rodney and follows her while Rodney stands blinking in the blinding sunlight.
They get Peri settled into the Athosian village just fine. It seems like all of Atlantis has chipped in, and Peri goes away with toys, clothes and a nightlight. She's staying with a young Athosian couple who are friends of Teyla's, and she takes to them right away, even sitting in the woman's lap for most of lunch. She gives John a huge hug and is a little teary when saying goodbye to Rodney, who consoles her with promises of visits and cookies. Which doesn't surprise John, who knows Rodney is not above bribery in tough situations. Still, Rodney walks back to the jumper a lot faster than usual, and is so quiet on the way home that Teyla inquires after his health.
John and Rodney are the last ones to leave the jumper bay, having secured the jumper, Rodney lingering over the security crystals a little more than he probably needed to. But John waits for him and they start walking back toward the labs together. Rodney's still quiet, which is actually freaking John out just a little bit.
"Hey, you'll visit," John says.
Rodney looks up quickly, his gaze flicking to John. "Oh, right. Absolutely. Sure. Of course."
"You'll get to be the favorite uncle."
"You know," John continues. "Take her out, ply her with sugar, ride some ferris wheels, and still give her to someone else at the end of the day who has to deal with her sugar crash. She'll love you."
"Hmmm," Rodney's reply is non-committal.
"Don't you do that with Madison?" John asks.
"What about Madison?" Rodney asks quickly.
"I heard about that county fair incident."
"First of all, there was no way I could know ahead of time how much cotton candy was too much. And besides, I think that big purple bear happens to coordinate well with her bedspread, no matter what Caleb says, and." Rodney stops. "How do you know about that?"
John shrugs, smile tipping just the corner of his mouth.
Rodney's eyes narrow. "Do you talk to Jeannie?"
John shrugs again.
"We're friendly," John says.
"Oh my God," Rodney starts. "What has she told you?"
"The possibilities are endless, aren't they Meredith?"
Rodney actually starts to go purple as they approach the door to the lab.
John briefly tangles their fingers together before they part and the door opens to feature Zelenka standing across from a whiteboard. "I'll see you after dinner," he says softly, and the smallest blush starts up Rodney's neck.
"Right. Movie night. Fine," Rodney says, entering the lab as John continues down the corridor.
Before the door shuts, John hears Rodney ask how well the webcam messages in the databursts are working. John grins. Maybe he'll let Rodney get to Jeannie first this time. Just to be generous, of course, he thinks, whistling as he makes his way down to Lorne's small office.
Jeannie's just gotten back from dropping Madison off at preschool when her computer pings, alerting her to a message. She pours a cup of coffee, opens the file to Rodney's face and voice, and smiles.