The CIA took Rodney when he was twelve years old.
Rodney didn't really give a shit. He didn't need to go to high school- they'd already pretty much banned him from hanging around, anyway. He didn't need his stupid baby sister getting on his case, always begging him to have tea parties and read her bedtime stories and all that girly crap. He couldn't care less about leaving his friends, who pretty much consisted of a dorky asthmatic named Carl who always forgot to return Rodney's comic books and a girl named Mickey who Rodney secretly thought didn't like him very much at all, or his parents, who were always either Cycling or fighting like animals- sometimes Rodney couldn't tell the difference. And Langley, Virginia, certainly sounded a whole lot cooler than BFE, Canada.
Rodney was wrong about a lot of things when he was twelve.
Funnily enough, it turned out Rodney was a late bloomer. By the time he started Cycling, he was eighteen and a PhD candidate at MIT- it was a good thing, too, because once he started? Damn. He fell a full four weeks behind schedule. He started having to hit the panic button an awful lot, too- that just happened sometimes when you were first starting, though, from what Rodney understood. He didn't think much of it.
Jeannie turned fourteen the summer after Rodney finished his dissertation. She begged and she pleaded Rodney to let her come and stay with him, just for a little while, so she could get away from Mom and Dad and Canada and all her boring friends. Rodney protested- he was back on base again, and his summer plans mostly consisted of writing, working in the lab, and sleeping with somewhere between five and all of his coworkers- but she got her way, finally, just like always.
Rodney picked her up from Dulles in a borrowed Jeep and let her put her feet out the window as they drove around Washington.
She woke him up in the middle of the night, her hand clutching at the sleeve of his t-shirt.
"Buzzuh?" he asked muzzily, blinking at her.
"I don't feel good, Mer," she said quietly. "Can I-"
"Yes, yes, hurry up," he snapped, holding up the blanket so she could slide in beside him, like she'd done so many times when they were kids, when their parents were too busy fighting or fucking to notice their daughter's nightmares.
She crawled in next to him, her back snug against his front, her sock feet against his. She reached for his arm- their hands met-
And when Rodney needed it the most, there was no button to press.
Rodney ran into the corridor instead and screamed for help at the top of his lungs. When the police came, they handcuffed him, despite the fact that Jeannie was the one crying and yelling and trying to claw her way back to him.
In the holding cell, Rodney threw up. It didn't help.
He wasn't in there long; a woman in a lab coat came, two MPs in tow, to fetch him. They frogmarched him through housing and drove him to the hospital- something Rodney really could have lived without, but which he'd already decided he deserved.
They didn't take the cuffs off until they'd already weighed him, taken his temperature, and asked a bunch of way too specific questions about his Cycle; both Rodney and the MPs seemed to think that was pretty unnecessary. They let him go and shoved him into an exam room, guarding the door instead.
All that, and he still had to wait twenty minutes for the doctor. Unbelievable.
"It's going to hurt her," Rodney said when the door finally opened again, holding his head between his hands and staring resolutely at the floor. "You have to- oh gods, I can't believe I'm saying this, I never should have read that VC Andrews book when I was thirteen- I need to go back to her. She might die."
"It's not quite like that, son," the doctor told him gently.
In the softest Southern drawl that Rodney had ever heard, he started to explain what had happened, and Rodney realized that he had been wrong, yet again.
His night actually could get worse.
Rodney didn't pick his parents up from the airport; they came in already bitching at one another.
Jeannie was behind them; Rodney tried not to look at her.
"Sit down," the counselor said, and they sat, his mother pointing Jeannie to the far chair and cutting her eyes briefly at Rodney. It occurred to him that he couldn't actually remember the last time his mother touched him; he supposed it wasn't so much of a loss that she probably never would again.
When they were settled, the counselor explained about Universal Receptors and how rare they were and how special he was and all the precautions that had to be taken, even with blood relatives.
His parents listened in impassive silence. Rodney counted the carpet squares.
"But I really think," the counselor finished, finally, "that with time, things will work out for the best." He smiled. "Now, is there anything you want to say to each other?"
"Don't you ever touch him again," his father barked at Jeannie, who flinched. Then he got up and walked out.
He didn't say anything to Rodney. He didn't even look at Rodney.
The counselor just blinked at them, obviously thrown.
And then Rodney's mother started screaming, so Rodney got up and walked out.
He wished that Foghorn Leghorn had stuck around. He had the feeling the good doctor wouldn't have put up with that shit.
Within the week, Rodney got job offers from six private corporations, five hospitals, and fifteen governmental agencies from four different governments, all of them with the same discreet proviso at the bottom.
Once his dissertation was done, Rodney stopped hitting the panic button entirely.