Rodney turned when he heard the word "DOC!" not-quite-squealed across the busy restaurant. In fact, he turned in just enough time to catch his former admin as she launched herself into his arms. Laughing, he hugged her back as much as she hugged him. "You know this could be construed as sexual harassment, right?"
She took a half-step back and laughed at him. "You look great! How long are you going to be in town?"
"Well, that depends--" The hostess suddenly called his name and he finished, "hold that thought."
They settled at their small table with menus and water. "I haven't seen you since that old bitch died," Colette said, looking at her menu. "Have you been around since then?"
"Yeah, a couple of times, but not for any length of time." He looked up from his menu. "All three of us were here last summer, but you were on vacation."
She winced. "Yeah. I had use-or-lose. And. Um. Other stuff." Rodney frowned at her over the table but suddenly their waitress was there and they had to order.
Once that chore was done, she leaned conspiratorially across the table and said, "Okay, tell me. You're working for Stargate, right? And you've been off-planet? That's what you meant when you told me it was a 'little far,' right?"
Rodney rolled his eyes. He had known the declassification of the Stargate Program was going to cause problems for him. At least they hadn't been on Earth for the actual fiasco, he thought with a grateful sigh. "Yes."
Her grin was incandescent. "I knew it! I knew it! I am SO going to win the pot!"
He did a credible double-take as her words sank in. "The Uni, right? What were the odds? And give me the dirt on everybody, right now."
Colette started talking and continued to talk even as their food came to the table and they ate. Rodney gleaned that a) Chancellor Carol 'The Bitch' Edwards had finally gotten canned by the Board and Docents over her less-than-friendly attitude (he figured the board president had retired, and Colette confirmed that in her next sentence); b) there had been two people (starting with the vice-chancellor) in the chancellor's seat since then and betting was very heavy that the second would be leaving shortly; and c) Colette didn't like her current boss, the chair of the physics department, and neither did anyone else.
By the time the run-down finished, they had eaten and the restaurant was beginning to empty out. "Okay, I'm done, now you. What planet are you on? How long can you stay? Do you have Maddie and John with you?"
Grinning, he took the last question first. "Nope, John and Maddie are still on -- at the base. Which, no, I can't tell you about because that part is still classified, but I will tell you as soon as I can. But I do have pictures, John made me bring a bunch." He pulled out his phone, called up the gallery and passed it over.
Colette gasped. "Look how tall she is!" she murmured, scrolling through the pictures. "She's what, nine?"
"Eleven," Rodney corrected, wincing. "Going on twelve. And yeah, she's gone through a couple of growth spurts, which is why we were here last summer. Not that many clothing stores where our base is."
"On an island, right?" Colette asked, turning the screen around to show him the picture taken at the beach, when Madison (and Jinto) had been learning how to surf. "It looks gorgeous."
"Yes, you could say so, and it is. Gorgeous and dangerous, but not as much any more. Maddie is just the oldest Earth kid on the base; there are dozens of babies, toddlers and pregnant moms now. We may end up being the first colony from Earth, but you didn't hear me say that." He rolled his eyes. "And with all the kids, she's been babysitting, and if we didn't pay attention, she'd be over-charging too."
Colette laughed. "Yeah, that sounds like her. Did you guys get a dog? I bet Beelzebub likes that." She pointed to a picture of Sage with Madison as she handed the phone back.
"Oh, no, that's Sage. The leader of the -- uh -- our base, it's her dog. Beelz died late last year so Maddie is spending more time with Sage, though the lobbying for another cat is heavy."
Colette laughed, then smiled sadly. "I just bet. She's eleven. How's that possible?"
Rodney sighed. "Yeah. I don't know how it happened either. It's like she grows two inches every time we look away from her." He shook his head. "As for how long I'm here, that depends. We've decided to sell the house, so I need Sherry's mom to..." he trailed off as he saw her look away and frown. "What?"
"Um." She bit her bottom lip. "Sherry and I... we, well, we split up. Last..."
Sudden dawn came. "Last summer. Colette..."
"It's okay, Doc, really." She wouldn't look at his face. "It's... it had been coming for a while. She worked too much, I work too much, it was all just, too much, you know?" She glanced up at him through her lashes then went back to staring a hole in the table. "I can give you Lorraine's number, though, it makes sense you'd use her again and she's still one of the best realtors in the city."
He sighed, reached across the table and took her hand. "I'm sorry. I really am."
That made her look up and blink. "Who are you and what have you done with Rodney McKay?"
"Oh please..." she gave him a watery smile and he returned it. "I guess family life agrees with me. It certainly hasn't been easy, juggling work and a kid and all."
"What are your jobs?" she asked, plainly grateful for a change in subject. "I know John isn't a soldier any more...?"
"No." Rodney had to smile when he thought about John and how he had flourished as a civilian contractor. "John's the head of base security, and I'm still Chief Science Officer. Both of us are well-paid civilian contractors. With the base opening up so much and SGC declassifying, it really doesn't make sense for us to keep the house. It's virtually empty as it is. Most of our stuff has already been transported to our base."
The waitress came with their check and he grabbed it. "My treat. Well-paid, remember?"
She laughed. "All right, all right. Here, let me have that." She took the customer copy of the bill and wrote a number on the back of it. "Here's Lorraine's office number. And... um.. do you think..."
Busy pulling his credit card out of his wallet, Rodney froze. "Yes...?" he drawled.
Colette took a deep breath. "Can I give you my resume?" she said, all in a rush. "I mean, I know I probably can't go off-planet or anything, but..." She sighed. "I need to get out of Toronto but I don't want to give up my Canadian citizenship, you know? I figure even the SGC might need people like me."
He put the credit card with the bill and the waitress came to get it. "Yes," he finally said. "Absolutely. I'm not HR, but I can give recommendations, and you'd get the highest."
She looked relieved. "Thanks, Doc. It's been crazed trying to find another job, even at the Uni. I'm tired of shopping myself around."
In Rodney's head was Elizabeth's voice, at their last staff meeting, lamenting (again) about her lack of administrative support. Rodney didn't know how many strings he'd have to pull, but one way or another, he'd get Colette Ronsard out to Atlantis.
Lorraine Brassos was just as efficient as she had been the last time Rodney had needed her. She also asked about Colette, and told him she was less than happy with her daughter and their break-up. Rodney was amused and satisfied (though he didn't say so) by that.
She had also guessed he worked for the SGC and was obviously tickled to have him confirm it. She went through the house with him, pointed out areas that would need work and referred him to construction firms. She offered to handle the work for him, since she figured he'd want to get back to Colorado, and got his email and snail mail addresses.
"It's a nice place, in a lovely neighborhood, with what is essentially three bedrooms," she finally summed up. "If you want, I can have a second bath priced out, which would really lift the price. But I won't do anything without your approval."
He smiled at her, pleased he wouldn't have to worry too much about it. "Thank you. That would be a load off my mind. I can come back pretty much any time, with a little notice."
They parted at the house, and Rodney took care of a few other things, like listing the truck and the Prius for sale, putting Colette's number on the ad (something they'd talked about before she went back to work -- late -- and she'd agreed to). It wasn't like they had to pretend to be using cars to get everywhere anyway. Between the beaming centers SGC was setting up all over North America and the advent of self-driving taxis, personal cars could soon be a thing of the past. But while he still had the Prius, he drove to Phelps and had a meeting with the dean and guidance counsellors over Madison's transcripts. He also talked to them about her taking the college boards in a couple of years, something they had no objections to and thought she was ready for.
Then he packed up a few last things from the house and contacted the General Hammond in orbit and requested to be beamed to the mountain.
Declassification had hit Carter harder than anyone; she had been and he bet still was deluged by scientists (and pseudo-scientists) demanding jobs. She was also up for promotion, something she was fighting and he thought he had a fair idea why. But he stayed out of it, preferring to find out later if there was a possible marriage in her future. He did, however, give her a flash drive with Colette's resume on it.
"I'd give it to Landry myself, but I think maybe it would come better from you?" He rubbed the back of his neck. "Elizabeth needs help, Sam, and Colette is a fantastic asset. She put up with me for almost two years and actually missed me. I think that says a lot about her patience and efficiency levels."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "Uh, wow. Yes. I think it does. I know we're hiring but it's more of what you're used to, scientists and such. But if I get one more conspiracy nut in my email, I'm going to go postal." She turned and stuck the drive in a USB port on her laptop. "Did you write a recommendation letter?"
"Yeah. It's on there." He huffed a breath and stood. "I'm heading back to Atlantis. I'm sure I'll be back and forth over the next couple of months while the house gets ready to sell and while the sale finalizes, you can let me know later on both. Oh, and let me know if I should be calling anyone on Colette."
"I can do that." She waved at him as he walked out the door, headed for the gateroom. "Bring Maddie with you next time!" she called out and he waved a hand over his head in acknowledgement. Maddie was put out already that she hadn't been able to come.
What Rodney hadn't told Carter was that he had a copy of Colette's resume on his laptop as well, and planned on telling Elizabeth about it.
It was lunchtime on Atlantis, and after making a stop at their apartment, he headed to John's office. His husband was hip deep in reports but looked up with a huge grin as Rodney came in. "You're back!" He stood, came around his desk and engulfed Rodney in a bear hug -- Rodney giving as good as he was getting. "How'd it go?"
"It went okay," he said, as John finally let go. They both dropped into chairs. "Colette and Sherry split up," he added and John blinked.
"Oh. That's too bad. Poor Colette. Were you still able to..."
"Yeah, Lorraine wasn't too happy about Sherry's breakup with Colette, which gives me some grim satisfaction. I always thought Colette was too good for her. Oh, and Colette is looking for a job -- I'll give you all the Uni gossip later -- and I've recommended her as an admin for Elizabeth. What do you think?"
John opened his mouth but nothing came out for a good five seconds. "Colette? Here? Uh... I... think that's a fantastic idea." He leaned back in his chair. "Are you sure you want to subject her to Atlantis? I mean, the city is becoming the Peyton Place of the Pegasus galaxy."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "She won the pool at the Uni on whether I was working for the SGC," he said, and John snorted in laughter. "Yeah, I think she'd have this place running like a top inside of six months, whether people want it or not."
"You're probably right," John conceded. "C'mon, let's grab the Juvenile Delinquent and get some lunch -- I'm assuming you didn't eat yet?"
"Nope, was waiting for you." John took his hand as they left his office.
Madison was overjoyed to have Rodney back so soon. She, too, was upset about Colette and Sherry, and thought the idea of Colette on Atlantis was beyond splendid. Rodney filled them in on the gossip as they ate -- well, John and Rodney ate, Madison picked at her salad.
Finally, Rodney stopped and got her attention. "You're not eating -- you haven't had candy again, have you?"
She rolled her eyes. "No..." she dragged out the word. "My stomach hurts. I dunno why. It just hurts."
John reached across and felt her forehead. "Fever? Throwing up or feel like it?"
"Nuh-uh," Madison replied. "Just a stomach ache. What's good for that, bread?"
John and Rodney shared a look. "Yeah," Rodney said. "Bland food. What does Jennifer call it?" The--"
"The BRATT diet," Madison crowed. "I'll go get a banana. I think Arne would get me some toast or at least applesauce." She hopped up and walked over to the food line.
Rodney frowned at John who frowned back. "Stomach ache. And no candy."
"I think vomiting up half a pound of M&Ms and Tootsie Rolls taught her a better lesson than we ever could," John agreed. "If it's still there before dinner, she's going to see Carson or Jennifer."
"Yeah." Rodney turned back to his own food as Madison came back to the table, eating a banana.
John still had some work to do, but it was Rodney's day off, so he went home with Madison and quizzed her on her classes. She was also almost done with a piano sonata and wanted his opinion on it, so he let her work on it while he emailed Colette's resume to Elizabeth, along with a letter of recommendation. John returned while Madison was playing the sonata all the way through and stood transfixed as the melody soared through the apartment.
When she finished, they both applauded. "It's beautiful, Maddie," Rodney said from the couch, a huge grin on his face. John just walked over and gave her a hug and kiss.
"How's your tummy?" he asked, heading for the kitchen.
"Um." Madison made a face. "I think I have to pee. Be right back."
Rodney frowned down at his email program, not happy by her non-answer. A couple of moments later, there was a shriek from the bathroom and both he and John nearly broke their necks running for the door to it. "Madison?!?" Rodney yelled, reaching for the handle. It was locked.
"Don't come in!" she screeched. "It's... I'm... you gotta get Aunt Teyla here, right now, now! Please! Right now!"
John tapped his earpiece and called for Teyla as Rodney yelled at Madison through the door. "What's wrong? Madison, talk to me!" he demanded, about two seconds from breaking the door down.
"It's... you gotta just get..." Madison sounded like she was crying and it freaked Rodney out even more.
Suddenly, Teyla was in the apartment and Rodney was so happy all over again that she (and her new partner Kanaan) had moved to the same floor and tower as they had. "Teyla! She won't...!"
"Aunt Teyla!" Madison's voice was definitely wobbly. "Th-the other door, it's open, Aunt Teyla!"
Teyla disappeared into Madison's room and Rodney smacked himself mentally for not thinking about the other door to the bathroom. He and John stood there, nervously pacing and giving each other panicked looks, until Teyla finally came out.
"Teyla...!" Rodney started, but she smiled.
"It is all right," she said. Taking their hands she tugged them to the sofa and gently pushed them to a seat while she perched on the coffee table. "It is fine. Madison has just reached menarche."
John and Rodney traded horrified looks. "You mean," John choked out.
She nodded. "Madison has her menses, her 'period.' It is a significant day in the life of any young woman. She has supplies already, and obviously does not want either of you with her at the moment. I shall help her clean up and then we can share words on it."
The last time Rodney had felt so close to tears his sister had died. Madison had her period? What were they going to do now?
John folded over himself and groaned. "Yeah," Rodney forced out, his voice strangled.
For the next several days, John and Rodney virtually tip-toed around Madison. There was some weird vegetable drink that took up residence in their fridge -- Madison always made a face while drinking it but she drank a glass of it faithfully every day. Uneasy, Rodney finally screwed up his courage and asked Jennifer Keller if it was safe.
She laughed. "Safe as houses," she replied. "It's been a staple of nearly every woman in this galaxy for generations, and we've been drinking it on Atlantis practically since we got here. Basically it acts like an NSAID, reducing the frequency and severity of menstrual cramps and the bloating associated--"
"Okay, okay," Rodney interrupted, wincing. "I was just, you know, checking..."
"Rodney," Jennifer said, her eyes dancing, "I'd never allow something on the city that hadn't been tested, and neither would Carson. Part of our biology courses feature herbalism and the various medicinal plants found out here. Carson has rather extensive files on the subject -- he's told me the first year there was some uncertainty about our resupply and he wanted to be ready to use local curatives."
Rodney nodded and made his escape. In fact, he remembered Carson talking about it way back when -- things were so different now.
And things continued to change. Elizabeth was so excited about Colette that she began some heavy-duty lobbying of both generals who oversaw SGC, to the extent that O'Neill apparently called Carter and asked her to intervene. According to Jackson, Carter just laughed at him and told him to give in.
That, apparently, was the last straw and Colette Ronsard was put through the investigation and certification necessary for an employee of SGC. She passed with flying colors, though of course it took more than two months, and it would be another month before she would be allowed to go to Atlantis. Bureaucratic wheels still turned slowly, it seemed, even if they were 'paperless.'
Two weeks after Rodney returned, he walked (he didn't 'barge', he wasn't a complete boor) into Trish Liu's discrete mathematics class, needing to talk to her about some numbers she had given him the night before. He stopped dead, though, staring at the class, which consisted of a couple of older Athosian kids, two marines, Madison and -- to his vast surprise -- Ronon Dex. He was so nonplussed he totally forgot what he needed to ask Liu and instead just turned around and left.
John was having a meeting with Caldwell when Rodney caught up to him. "Why is Ronon in Liu's discrete mathematics class?!" he demanded. Why didn't anyone ever tell him this stuff?
"Good morning to you too, Dr. McKay," Caldwell said mildly, sharing a smirk with John.
"Yes, yes, sorry for the interruption, whatever, what is Ronon doing in a discrete maths class?"
"I think he's going to be taking combat engineering for his career discipline, isn't he?" Caldwell asked John.
"Yep, minor in mathematics if he can get through Trish's class. Which he will, Madison has been tutoring him." John draped his arm over the back of the chair and looked at Rodney, his lips twitching.
"His career discipline?" Rodney gave first Caldwell then John a narrow-eyed glare.
"Happens when you get promoted to a certain level, Rodney," John drawled. "He's going to be commissioned first looie, I think?" John looked at Caldwell who nodded, and whose lips were also suspiciously twitching.
"Ronon? Is joining the Marines??" Goddamnit, why did no one ever tell him these things?
"He's been in the Corps, Rodney, he's had his own gate team for more than a year now. Don't you remember when he disappeared two years ago? He was at Parris Island." The grin that had been threatening finally broke through. "I know I told you."
"The protocols regarding alien combatants changed six years ago, in preparation for the declassification." Caldwell smiled as he sat back in his chair. "And I know you got the memo, Dr. McKay."
Like he had time to read that crap. He pointed his finger at Caldwell. "You only call me 'Dr. McKay' when you're being sarcastic, don't think I didn't notice, and, and, fine. Whatever. Just... just... whatever. Fine." Knowing when he had been beaten, Rodney made a strategic retreat. It would be nice if people kept him in the loop!
Four months passed. Colette reported that both the truck and Prius had sold, and she'd sent Rodney a certified check. Lorraine reported that work on the house was almost finished and she felt it would be ready for sale within another month. She had been emailing him pictures of the new construction and it looked good.
And shortly before the house went on sale, the Miller-McKay-Sheppard family was called to the 'gateroom, to greet a very special new resident. Colette came through the stargate with two small trunks, a bag over one arm and an animal crate. Animal crate?
She stopped just inside the 'gateroom and looked around, her jaw on the floor somewhere. "Oh my God," she breathed.
A smiling Elizabeth stepped forward and held her hand out. "Welcome to Atlantis, Ms. Ronsard."
"Colette, please, and I'm on another planet..."
"Yep! And in a different galaxy!" Madison shot forward and hugged Colette hard around the middle.
Colette laughed and hugged Madison back with one arm. "Now I know where I am! It's so good to see you!"
Rodney hugged and got a hug in return, and Colette waved at John over Rodney's shoulder. "I didn't know you had a pet?" Rodney said, looking down at the animal crate.
"Oh, I don't, but you do." She handed the crate to Madison who held it up.
"Kittens!" Madison crowed, and John and Rodney sighed.