Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue. Yadda.
Summary: As they walked through the halls, John noticed the way the scientists and Marines of Atlantis would look at their two small charges. The scientists would look completely charmed and the marines terrified.
John marvelled again at the difference between the military and civilian mindset.
The Scientists saw two adorable kids.
The Marines saw something horrible that could happen when you stepped through the stargate.
John didn't know what it was about Rodney McKay that attracted children.
Rodney was generally surly, rude and hated the little buggers and yet any children within a ten mile radius would invariably find him and beg him for chocolate or pepper him with inane questions.
It amused the hell out of John.
Sure enough, on MP9-383, with no civilisation anywhere in sight, Rodney was bearing down on John with an annoyed look, tugging two little urchins behind him. There was a boy and girl, both with similar coffee coloured skin and dark eyes. The girl was looking about herself, smiling brightly and with fascination etched on her face. She was happily skipping alongside Rodney, both hands grasped firmly around the one he'd given her.
The boy was a touch taller, with spiky hair and wearing the most impressive scowl John had ever seen. He wasn't so much following Rodney as being bodily hauled along by his shirt collar and as John watched, the boy planted his feet and came to a complete stop. Rodney let out a disgruntled snort and said, "Oh will you come on!"
John blinked, wondering just what the hell Rodney was doing and why he was dragging these kids toward him and-
Realisation hit him hard.
"Oh hell no!" John breathed.
"Genetically, they are Ronon and Teyla,” Carson confirmed. “Biologically, mentally and developmentally, both Teyla and Ronon appear to be about five years old."
Elizabeth and John took a moment to just stare at Carson.
"We can see that. How do we reverse it?" John asked, annoyed that he'd waited around for sixteen hours while Carson ran a barrage of tests, only to have the Doctor confirm what he already knew.
Carson rolled his eyes. "I'm not a bloody miracle worker, Colonel. I needed to ascertain that they were normal, healthy, if bizarrely, children in every respect so I had a place to start. You asked me where I was. That's where I am."
Elizabeth smiled, laying a hand on Carson's shoulder. "I'm hesitant to send a team back to the planet until we can be sure how this happened. I don't want to turn any more of my personnel into kids," Elizabeth leaned around Carson to look at the two smaller version of their once most vicious warriors and defenders and smirked. "No matter how adorable."
"Aye, and I'm trying to do just that but in case you've never noticed, people hovering don't make me work faster. Now, you should probably feed the poor little buggers because I don't think they've had anything since they arrived. I've gotten all the samples I need to start running more thorough tests but really, I think we all know that the answers we're going to need would be on that planet."
"Right. Well, John, they're your team, I'm nominating you and Rodney to be responsible for them."
"What? I don't know the first thing about kids," John protested when Carson snorted in amusement.
Carson patted him on the shoulder. "They're sweet as anything, you'll be fine." Carson grimaced. "Be careful with Ronon though."
John had been leaning over to shake the tiny version of Ronon awake but froze, snatching his arms back. "What? Why?"
Carson held up his forearm and there was a perfect oval of indents pressed into the flesh. "He's a biter."
"You can't be serious," Rodney threw up his hands when John appeared in the lab doorway, a sullen Ronon on one side and an excited Teyla on the other. Teyla clapped in glee and ran forward, throwing herself at an unsuspecting Rodney.
"Ro-ney!" she squealed as he awkwardly caught her at waist level and tried his hardest to put her down as far away from him as possible. When set down she wrapped both tiny hands around his forearm and Rodney rolled his eyes.
"I guess that's decided then. You get mini-Teyla and I get mini-Ronon."
"What? No! You're not leaving me alone," Rodney protested as John made to herd Ronon out of the room. There was an ear-piercing squeal of outrage and John spun, seeing Teyla holding one arm out in their direction, big eyes full of tears and abject misery.
"Alright," John sighed and then grinned. "You get both of 'em." With one hand he propelled Ronon into the lab and stepped backwards. There was a second wail of protest, drowning out Rodney's spluttered indignation and making John wish desperately for a really big jet engine to drown that out.
"John no go!" Teyla screamed and the other scientists in the lab all looked in his direction, at the tiny wailing girl clinging to Rodney desperately and then the target of her distress. Eight pairs of eyes narrowed at him as if to say, you monster, what have you done?.
Rodney was beaming when John held up his hands and stepped back into the lab. "Alright kiddo, John no go. Got it."
There was the sound of smashing glass behind them and Rodney and John turned to see Ronon standing over something that might have once been Ancient and very important but was now in a thousand tiny little pieces. Finally, the stoic scowl was gone and Ronon looked like he was about to join in the wailing. There was a tell-tale wobble of bottom lip.
"Maybe we should-"
"I think we'd better-"
"Absolutely." They both agreed and Rodney grabbed Teyla under one arm while John scooped Ronon up and they beat a hasty retreat out of the labs.
“Well, he eats exactly the same way,” Rodney observed.
They both watched in fascination as Ronon brought another heaped spoonful of porridge up to his mouth, hand carefully fisted around his spoon. Teyla was far more interested in telling Ronon how exciting and beautiful everything was, waving her own spoon in lazy circles.
“Something’s been bothering me,” John said, watching them eat.
“Something? There’s a whole lot that’s bothering me at the moment.”
John smirked and then scooched lower in his chair. “No, I mean, for one, you were with them. Why aren’t you mini-Rodney, not that I’m complaining.”
“Not sure. We were in the temple, Teyla said something about an inscription that looked familiar, there was bright light and then… that.” Rodney waved his hand in the kid’s general direction.
“Was Ronon next to Teyla?”
Rodney blinked and then his face pulled down in a frown. “No, actually now that you mention it, I was between them. If it was a device of some kind then it doesn’t make sense that I wasn’t affected and Ronon was.”
“Okay, the second thing is that Ronon still has his tattoo. He told me once that he got it when he was fifteen when he got his first military posting. The tattoo is kinda like our dog-tags, a way to identify someone.”
“Which means they really are mini versions of themselves and not just children?” Rodney hazarded and John nodded.
“It kinda worries me because if they’re mentally five but still have the instincts and reactions of their adult selves, then at the very least they could hurt themselves, maybe someone else.”
“We don’t know anything, Rodney. I’d like to run them through some training exercises, see if I’m right.”
“John, they’re just kids,” Rodney argued but John’s eyebrows drew down in concern.
“We don’t know that. They might have memories, everything intact but don’t know how to process it properly.”
“Well, then maybe we should get Kate to have a look at them first,” Rodney suggested and John’s face cleared, a smile replacing the concern.
“You’re a genius!”
“That’s what they tell me.”
As they walked through the halls, John noticed the way the scientists and marines of Atlantis would look at their two small charges. The scientists would look completely charmed and the marines terrified.
John marvelled again at the difference between the military and civilian mindset.
The scientists saw two adorable kids.
The marines saw something horrible that could happen when you stepped through the stargate.
John and Rodney sat before Kate’s desk. She’d managed to coax the children into the adjoining room with some Athosian sweet rolls and promises that they could come back into the office as soon as they were done. Kate slid into the chair opposite the two concerned men and smiled, but there was concern on her face as well.
“You were right to be concerned, Colonel,” Kate said, pulling a pad of notes towards her and flipping through the pages. She’d spent the last two hours chatting and playing games with Ronon and Teyla while Rodney and John sat outside nervously. Every now and again Teyla would poke her head out into the hall, just to reassure herself that they were still there.
Ronon, despite his stoic demeanour, had still not resisted the urge and had checked once as well.
“From what I can tell, they do have a lot of their adult memories intact, but as Doctor Beckett confirmed, developmentally and emotionally they are both around five years old and so don’t know how to process their experiences.”
Rodney and John looked at each other, both stricken. “That can’t be good,” Rodney said slowly.
Kate smiled gently. “That’s putting it mildly. Just remember what just Ronon has gone through over the last couple of years and then imagine that happening to a child.”
“Jesus,” John breathed, scrubbing a hand over his face.
“Until you can figure out a way for this to be reversed, looking after these two may not be like watching over normal five year-olds. You’ve pretty much got fairly heavily traumatised children on your hands.”
“Teyla seems fine,” Rodney said as he heard her squeal and giggle from the other room.
Kate sat back in her chair, crossing her arms. “Children are complicated. They don’t react rationally. When an adult deals with this kind of trauma you can tell. Children deal with this uniquely. They either suppress or act out but either way, the trauma does get to them. There’ll most likely be nightmares, inappropriate aggression, mood swings, just to name a few.”
“Anything else we should know?”
Kate arched an eyebrow, sitting forward and looking at both men seriously. “For some reason they’ve identified strongly with you both as parental figures.” John and Rodney blinked in surprise as Kate continued. “Whether they merely imprinted on you because you were the first adults they saw after the change or because you were authority figures to them as adults and this is just the way they identify now I can’t tell. What I do know is one of the ways of dealing with their trauma is to be constantly terrified that they’ll be abandoned. Leaving them alone will cause unnecessary stress.”
“What are you suggesting?” John asked slowly.
“This is only a temporary state, at least we hope and we have no idea what kind of damage this could do to them both when they are returned to their adult selves. I’m asking you both for a little patience here.”
“What do you mean?” Rodney asked, looking confused.
“Keep them with you as much as possible. We’ll try separating you for short periods to get their confidence up. I’ve already talked to Elizabeth and she’s located a large set of rooms on the Southern side of the city.”
“For what?” Rodney demanded, his voice a little high.
“So you can sleep with the children close by. They’ll probably need you at night and I’m not comfortable with the thought of them being in a room by themselves, and they don’t seem to want anyone else.”
John sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “I guess we’re pretty much on stand down for the time being anyway. I’m not sure about this whole ‘setting up house with them’ thing. We’re not their family.”
Elizabeth smiled gently as Ronon entered the room, Teyla hanging on to the back of his shirt.
“To them, you are.”
“So they have… imprinted on you some way, as parents or family.”
“And Father, aye.”
“That’s not what I was going to say.”
“Really Colonel, what with you and Rodney having wee tots and all, you should learn not to use that kind of language.”
John’s eyes narrowed. “You’re enjoying this way too much, Carson.”
“I’m sorry, Colonel. Now, I’ve run them through some pretty extensive tests and there’s nothing I can find that is our culprit. I’d say Rodney was right in his assumption that it was something on that planet that did this. Of course, you’re going to have to convince Elizabeth to send a team back and she’s right that without knowing anything more specific, this in all likelihood could happen again.”
“Are we done?” Rodney asked from the other side of the room. John looked over and then couldn’t help the grin that had split his face. Rodney was kneeling in front of Teyla and tying her shoe while she had her tiny hands braced on his shoulders, watching intently. John felt something turn over in his heart and he scowled, not knowing where the sensation had come from.
He looked down and Ronon was at his elbow, his own scowl firmly in place. John was learning that although Ronon was constantly wearing his scowl like a shield of sorts, there were varying degrees of scowl. There was the worried scowl, upset scowl and on their way over to the infirmary, Lorne had been stopped in the hallway by a curious Teyla who had asked about the P-90 he was carrying. Lorne had gone down on one knee to show her carefully and Ronon watched on, the hint of a smiling scowl on his face.
John found he was watching for that one, waiting for himself to be the cause of it and the chance to turn it into a genuine smile.
John turned back to Rodney who was still hunched down. Rodney spun around and Teyla clambered onto his back. Rodney stood, small hands clasped around his neck and he shifted her weight until she was settled, dark eyes just peeking over Rodney’s shoulder.
John felt that thing turn over in his heart again.
“Let’s go check out our new digs,” he said, automatically reaching out a hand for Ronon, who took it without protest.
He looked back at Carson who was grinning.
“Oh, shut up,” John growled.
“We should have gotten kids sooner,” Rodney quipped as they had a look around their temporary accommodation. There were three rooms, all large and adjoined. There was also a spacious living area, with what looked like a kitchenette and a balcony overlooking the South side of the city and part of the ocean.
Teyla and Ronon automatically made a dash for the two single beds in the smaller room, both having decided that they desperately needed to have the same exact bed and commenced an earnest wrestling match to decide it.
“Does Elizabeth think this is funny?” Rodney demanded from the other bedroom and John walked in to see what had gotten Rodney so indignant.
There was a large king-size bed in the middle of the room.
“This was probably family quarters of some kind. This was probably all she could find that had more than one bedroom for us.”
“Fine. You can have the couch,” Rodney said sniffily.
“The hell,” John protested. He dropped onto the bed and then stretched out his arms. “Look, we could both sleep on this, roll around a bunch of still not even come close to each other. It’ll be fine. We’re both adults.”
“I thought you might be worried about the … impropriety of the situation,” Rodney said, raising his hands.
“Impropriety? What are you, a sixty year old woman?”
“It’s your military, not mine.”
John rolled his eyes. “It’ll be fine, Rodney. Everyone knows why we’re here and... Would you kids knock that off?” John snapped loudly as Ronon and Teyla’s wrestling match grew in intensity and volume.
Rodney blinked at him and John frowned. “What?”
“That just… that sounded very Dad-like of you.”
John, who had stood up to argue with Rodney, collapsed back on the bed, face first.
“Kill me now,” he groaned.
Rodney, much to John’s taunting, had built a pillow wall in the bed between them.
“What? Do you think I’m going to molest you in your sleep?” John finally demanded, looking indignant. Rodney flushed.
“No. I just… tend to be a cuddler. I don’t want you getting the wrong idea, it’s completely involuntary.”
The sound of John’s laughter echoed down the halls.
John awoke with a start.
There was something on his face.
Reaching a hand up slowly and carefully, regretting having watched ‘Aliens’ only a few nights before and therefore his panicked brain automatically going to the facehugger very special realm of panic, he was relieved to feel small fingers attached to a very human hand and a tiny arm. John removed Teyla’s hand from his face, one small finger dangerously close to being wedged up his nose and carefully rose onto his elbows.
Despite being tiny, the mini-Teyla had managed to take up almost the entire middle section of the bed, having first shoved the pillow retaining wall out of her way. She was on her stomach, legs akimbo and one of her arms was across Rodney’s back, who was also sleeping on his stomach with his arms tight into his sides in the most uncomfortable-looking sleeping position John had ever seen.
John scrubbed a hand over his face and then, out of the corner of his eye, he caught movement. He swivelled his head and saw Ronon standing in the doorway, silhouetted from the dim light of the room beyond, looking pensive.
“Are the monsters real?” he asked solemnly and John realised it was the first time he’d actually heard Ronon speak, and that the signature scowl was nowhere to be seen.
John sighed and then sat up, holding his arms out to Ronon. The small boy hesitated for only a beat before crossing the room quickly and allowing himself to be drawn against John. Ronon snuffed and there was a wet sound to the noise, as if he wanted to cry but wasn’t sure how.
John tucked Ronon’s head under his chin.
“Is everything okay?” A quiet voice asked behind him and he felt a light touch on his shoulder.
“Sure, Rodney.” John whispered as well, not wanting to wake Teyla. “Just a bad dream.”
Laura Cadman was in the infirmary when they arrived for the morning check-up and she was immediately smitten by both Teyla and Ronon.
“They’re making biscuits down in the commissary today. I can take them to the kitchens for a while and give you guys a break?”
John chewed his lower lip. “Uh, I’m not sure…” at the same time Rodney was saying “I don’t think that’s-“
“Sounds like a great idea,” Carson interjected, ushering Cadman out of the infirmary with Ronon and Teyla in tow. Both children took a second to glance back at Rodney and John, looking torn. They disappeared round the corner and John turned on Carson.
“Heightmeyer said we shouldn’t leave them alone,” John protested.
“They’re not alone son, Laura will take good care of them. I’m more worried about you two. You look positively ragged, the both of you. Did either of you get any sleep?”
“Not so much,” John admitted. “There were nightmares.”
Carson’s expression softened. “The poor wee buggers. Who would willingly do this to a person is what I’m wondering about. Other than a strange fountain of youth aspect, I don’t see why there would be a device that would reverse the aging process so drastically.”
“Maybe it’s not supposed to be so drastic,” Rodney said, one finger across his lip. “It might be geared for a specific number of years and Teyla and Ronon were a little young already.”
“Possibly. I guess we won’t know unless Elizabeth gives the go-ahead to return to MP9-383. Why don’t you use this time to go to her and plead your case?”
“I’m really hesitant putting another team at risk, but I see your point.” Elizabeth steepled her fingers under her chin, looking from John to Rodney with troubled eyes. “If what Kate’s saying is true then it’s not just a case of Ronon and Teyla being younger… they’d be positively terrorised by their memories and probably not understand why.”
Elizabeth held up a hand. “I know you’d rather volunteer for this, but from what Kate says you’re needed here.” Elizabeth looked at John seriously. “If the same thing happens to both you and Rodney, not only would we have more kids on our hands, but probably two very distressed ones already in the city who seem to have been through enough.”
“I didn’t get affected. Maybe there’s something in that.” Rodney said.
“You mean like the gene?” Elizabeth prompted.
“It’s possible. We’ve come up against a pathogen before that was only resisted by the presence of the ATA gene in the body. I can’t think of anything we did on planet other than what Teyla touched that could have done this and as I said before, I was between her and Ronon. There’s no logical reason why he was affected and I wasn’t, other than the presence of something physically that made me resistant.”
“Alright. I’ll get a small team together, only people with the gene.”
“Teyla said something about recognising some script. Send Elouise Nathing. She’s a linguist that’s been working with the Athosians and she has the ATA gene.”
“I’ll get Lorne to assemble a team. I know this is frustrating for you both and you want to get back to your normal lives, but we’ve got to face the possibility that this may not be reversible.”
As John and Rodney left her office, Elizabeth heard Rodney remark, “I don’t remember ever having a normal life, do you?”
Rodney was called to the lab in the middle of the night and for the first time in his life; he really didn't want to go. He made sure Zelenka actually needed him before he slid out of the large bed he was sharing with John.
He hadn’t bothered with the pillow wall that night. Despite Teyla being comfortably situated in her own bed when they crashed, he woke up with her again lying half across him and half across John as he suspected, knowing the pillow wall would’ve been moot.
He also… just didn’t feel like they needed it and John hadn’t said a word.
He’d spent two hours in the lab, unravelling a mess one of the new scientists had caused and then had wished Zelenka a tired goodnight.
When he got back to their room, and he was mildly interested in the fact that thinking of it as their room didn’t phase him at all, Rodney halted in the doorway as it whispered open. In the middle of the living area was John, rocking back and forth with Ronon in his arms. Ronon’s arms and legs dangled bonelessly and he was obviously asleep but there were dried tracks on his cheeks that meant he’d only been crying very recently.
John looked up and met Rodney’s eyes and he looked wounded. “He’s only five and he’s got seven years of being a Runner and monsters and a war and god knows what else packed into his tiny brain. He’s suffering. They’re both suffering.”
Rodney watched John, marvelling at how the man before him looked almost as vulnerable as the little boy in his arms with his sleep mussed hair and wearing nothing but track bottoms and a machine-softened t-shirt.
Rodney crossed the room and reached for John, not giving himself time to think about it. He cradled the back of John’s neck and carefully leaned over Ronon’s head, pressing his lips to John’s.
John blinked at him owlishly. “What was that for?” He didn’t look freaked out or horrified, just a little more addled, like what had just happened was okay, just he needed to understand the why.
“Ro-ney?” A sleepy voice issued from their doorway and both men turned to see Teyla leaning against the frame, her hair sticking up on one side and clutching a worn-looking teddy by the ear that Laura Cadman had found somewhere.
“Hey, come here tiny-T,” Rodney hunkered down so that Teyla merely had to walk into the circle of his arms. He closed them around her and then stood. She was about as boneless as Ronon but her eyes were wide and bright.
“Monsters,” she sighed as Rodney cradled her head against his chest.
John and Rodney moved together in the darkness.
“Anything?” John had skirted to a halt in Elizabeth’s doorway, knowing Lorne and his team had left three hours earlier. He’d left Rodney in bed, book ended by the two finally sleeping kids and he wanted to get back before any of them woke up.
“They’ve called in. They found the temple and Elouise may have found the writing Teyla was referring to. They’re working on it. I’ll radio if they find something more definitive.”
“Okay,” John nodded and jogged back out of the office. He lengthened his stride as he thumped over the catwalk arching delicately over the city and felt the burn of the early morning run, releasing tension and knotted muscles. He dropped by the commissary, picking up raw materials to make a fairly decent breakfast, thrilled to have a kitchen of his own.
“I’m back. Get up sleepy heads,” John called as the door fell back under his touch. The living room was empty and John shook his head, chuckling. He couldn’t believe all three of them were still in bed. He leaned into the bedroom doorway and noted that the large bed was rumpled but only held Rodney and Ronon. He frowned, checking the smaller bedroom but there was no Teyla.
He went back into the larger bedroom and shook Rodney awake roughly. “Wake up! Where’s Teyla?” he barked. Rodney was bolt-upright, the panicky edge of John’s voice tearing him out of sleep.
“What?” he exclaimed, launching himself out of bed. Ronon sat up, rubbing his eye with a fist.
“Hey, do you know where Teyla is, buddy?” John asked him gently, not wanting to startle the small boy.
He shook his head solemnly.
John tore back out of the bedroom, checking the smaller bedroom and the living space again because Teyla was little and he could have just missed her, but then felt a cool breeze on his back. The balcony door was open.
John dove outside and saw Teyla at the railing. When they’d first looked at the balcony, Rodney had pointed out that the railing was above her head so there was no way she’d be able to fall off, despite John’s concern. He could see now they’d been naïve.
Teyla had one tiny foot hooked over the very top of the railing and as he watched, horrified and temporarily frozen, she managed to hook her ankle and then knee over the top. With just the one leg and her hands, she hoisted herself upwards.
“Teyla!” John shouted, darting forward and grabbing the small girl’s arm just as her centre of gravity shifted, toppling her over the other side. She swung out, nothing but ocean and space below her feet. John hauled backwards, tumbling to the balcony floor with Teyla landing solidly against his chest, knocking the wind out of him.
Rodney stumbled out at that second, looking frazzled and terrified, Ronon behind him with a fistful of Rodney’s shirt clutched in his hand. “What- Oh thank god!” Rodney exclaimed, plucking Teyla off the top of John and hugging her fiercely. She squirmed in his embrace, giggling.
“Again!” she cried in delight.
“You’re going to have to wait until John finishes having his heart attack,” Rodney said, looking down at John who was still breathing raggedly, one arm dropped over his eyes.
John turned worried eyes on Rodney when he appeared in the doorway to the conference room, sans children. The other people in the room, Elizabeth, the linguist Elouise and Radek, looked with curiosity from one man to the other.
“They’re with Doctor Heightmeyer,” Rodney reassured as he sank down into a chair and pulled himself toward the desk. “So, what have we got?”
There was a small, oddly shaped device on the table in front of Elouise and she touched it tentatively. “This was recessed in the wall of the temple and had inscriptions around it,” she began.
“You mean you just removed it?” Rodney spluttered.
“It was checked thoroughly before removal,” Radek said. “No power emission of any kind. This is probably what you were reading upon finding the temple but whatever power it had was drained when Teyla activated it.”
“So, is this fixable?” John asked the burning question.
Radek smiled. “Yes, we believe yes. Power is drained but the power source was another piece embedded in wall and is rechargeable. We are working on that now. We should be able to reverse what has happened. Twenty four hours should do it.”
“What did the writing say?” Elizabeth prompted, open curiosity on her face.
Elouise looked at Rodney and John before speaking. “It was strange, I’m not sure if it was supposed to be a warning or a proverb or even if I have the meaning exactly.”
“What?” Rodney prodded, impatient.
“It said, ‘Through family, you will find your answer’.”
John raised his eyebrows. “Well, that was nice and vague of whoever left it behind,” he sighed. He then looked at Rodney who had paled and his eyebrows climbed further. “McKay?” he prodded.
“Uh, can I see you for a second, out in the hall?” Rodney squeaked, before pushing himself back from the table and walking stiffly out of the conference room.
John shrugged to the remaining occupants of the room and then followed Rodney out, finding the scientist outside, pacing back and forth in the short hallway and chewing his thumb.
“It just had to be waffle day!” Rodney exploded and John took a step backwards and put his hands up, mystified.
“What are you talking about?” John asked. Rodney looked around John, seeing that they were still pretty close to the conference room and so grabbed his elbow, guiding the Colonel into another smaller, adjacent room and glaring at the door until it swung closed at his behest. John tugged out of Rodney’s grasp and glared at him, hands on hips. Rodney had that panicky look on his face John recognised from when he knew he’d done something wrong.
John had only seen it three times in the whole time they were in Atlantis, but still.
“What did you do McKay?” he demanded.
“The morning before we all went to MP9-383, they had waffles, remember?” John shrugged non-committally. He didn’t catalogue every meal he’d ever had like Rodney tended to do. Food filled a function and was not a driving need for him.
“Rodney,” John said in a low, threatening tone.
“Right, sorry. I had a huge plate full and I ate them too fast so you and Ronon and Teyla weren’t even a third of the way through when I was done and you knew I loved waffles and even though you loved them too, you still cut the rest of yours in half and dumped it onto my plate.” Rodney explained in a rush.
John blinked, looking mystified. “What has that got to do with what happened?”
“You infuriate me more than anyone else I’ve ever met in my life, but you keep doing these little things, these adorable little things that make me… that make me just-“ Rodney looked lost for words and John thought it was probably the first time in his life he’d seen that. Rodney flapped his hands in a helpless gesture. “Teyla was looking at that device and she said there was some writing on it and I wasn’t really paying attention because I was thinking about waffles and crazy hair and thigh holsters and wondering if you’d ever… you know.”
“Rodney, I have no idea.”
“Don’t be dense!” Rodney snapped. “I have this completely ridiculous crush on you and was wondering it you’d ever entertained the idea of us… together.”
John took a moment to just stare at Rodney, poleaxed. Yes, they’d fallen into an easy routine together and Rodney had kissed him, but John had a way of denying what happened to him that was out of the ordinary, compartmentalising it for later scrutiny, to be turned over in his brain and prodded like a puzzle when he had a chance. The way his relationship had shifted gears with Rodney so easily was one of those things he’d shoved on the later pile, hoping to deal with it when he didn’t have to deal with two of his team mates having been miniaturised.
“I…” John said helpfully.
“Don’t you see, I must have activated the damn thing the way we activate doors. Through family you’ll find your answer. Seems a little convenient that this thing happened right at the very moment I was wondering about us.”
“But we’re not a family.” John said, trying to make sense of the very surreal ideas Rodney was tossing at him.
Rodney sighed in exasperation, crossing his arms over his chest. “Didn’t you listen to Kate? To them we are. We’re forced to spend lots of time together and care for people other than ourselves and I got to see how cute you were with them and caring and almost painfully sweet and it just made me more… with you…with my… feelings.”
John’s brows had drawn down and his expression grew cold. “You mean to tell me that all this might have happened because you wanted to know if I would jump your bones?” he asked, his tone making Rodney flinch.
“If you’re going to be crass about it, yes.” Rodney snapped, his metaphorical hackles rising. Of all the ways he’d ever pictured this particular conversation going, John actually attacking had not been an outcome he’d bargained for.
“You heard Doctor Heighmeyer, Those kids are completely traumatised and we have no idea if Ronon and Teyla are going to be okay after this either. Ronon and Teyla had been through enough without having to cater to a sick little family fantasy you had stashed in your head.”
“My God! Would you listen to yourself? I had no idea this would happen or even that I’d caused it. I was just thinking and accidentally activated a god-knows how many thousands of years old device-“
“I’ve got to go get the kids,” John said, his voice low. He turned on his heel and stalked away and Rodney was left wondering just what the hell had just happened.
“Radek said it should only be another two hours,” Rodney said quietly from the doorway of their room, looking warily from where John was sitting on the long couch in their living space to the two children curled up on either side of him, each with a head on his legs.
John looked up and grimaced. “I’m a jerk,” he said, rubbing a hand over his head.
“That is the popular theory,” Rodney agreed, allowing a tiny smile to surface. He wasn’t sure where John’s anger had come from or if it would still be present when he sought him out. He was desperately relieved to find absolutely no evidence left of it. He entered the room and scooped Teyla up into his arms easily, taking her space on the couch and tucking her onto his lap. She snuffled sleepily and turned her head, burying her face in his chest and fisting her hands in his shirt.
“I don’t know… I don’t know where that came from. If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m sometimes guilty of the inappropriate anger Heightmeyer was talking about.”
“Why were you so mad?” Rodney asked.
John sighed, rubbing the heel of his hand into one eye. “I don’t know. You just threw me a little.”
Rodney blinked, surprise on his face. “I already kissed you. You had to have some kind of inkling.”
John leaned forward, pressing their foreheads together. “I hadn’t thought it out properly yet. I wasn’t really… ready. Sometimes when you make me confront something before I’m prepared to then I go for the bad reaction. I go for the anger, or the hit. Pretty much exactly the opposite way I should react is where I go.”
Rodney huffed gently, his breathe warm on John’s face. “You’re lucky I’m so tolerant of bad behaviour.”
John snorted. He tilted his head up enough to align their lips and then pressed forward, a chaste kiss, a simple act of affection. “Tolerant, you? Now I’ve heard everything.”
Radek had the device lined up and was looking at John and Rodney expectantly. John had Ronon in his arms and Rodney had Teyla, and they both hesitated putting the children down on the table. As if sensing their hesitation, tiny arms firmed around their necks as both Ronon and Teyla pressed themselves tighter.
“I feel like I’m saying goodbye to them,” Rodney sighed, burying his nose in Teyla’s hair and drawing in the smell of apples and summer, a sweet scent that he would forever more associate with the graceful Athosian.
“In small way, you are. Children will be gone. Teyla and Ronon will be back to normal. You could try but I don’t think either of them will let you carry them around city.” Radek grinned, but there was understanding in his eyes. “Do you want a moment?”
“Do you mind?” John asked, looking relieved. Radek smiled gently and nodded, skirting around the table and disappearing out the lab door.
John leaned forward and set Ronon down on the waist-high table and then disentangled Ronon’s arms from around his neck. Rodney did the same, although Teyla was a little harder to pry free. Both children looked at them with wide eyes and Ronon’s concerned scowl was back.
“Are we going somewhere?” Ronon asked, in the same tone he’d used to ask if the monsters were real.
“You’re just going to go to sleep for a few minutes. When you wake up, we’ll still be here,” Rodney was trying to be reassuring but even John could hear the wobble in his voice and knew the kids wouldn’t buy it.
“We swear,” John said, trying to add credence to Rodney’s assurance.
“Did we do something wrong?” Teyla asked, her own voice wobbly.
“Oh, no honey. You’re perfect. John and I love you very much. Both of you.” Rodney leaned forward, pulling both children into a tight hug. Instead of being reassuring, both children looked panicked.
“You’re going somewhere!” Teyla wailed, fat tears tracking down both cheeks.
“Smooth, McKay.” John rolled his eyes. “We’re not going anywhere either. Radek is going to make it bright in here for a few seconds and when you open your eyes, we’ll all still be here.”
“You promise?” Teyla sniffed mightily while Ronon still looked suspicious.
“We promise,” John and Rodney answered together.
“Radek!” John called and the smaller Czech bustled into the room. He picked up the device that had been sitting between Teyla and Ronon and held it out to Rodney. He looked at it and then switched grips, holding it out to John instead.
“Maybe you should do it, you have more control, yes?” he offered, smiling when Rodney threw a scowl at the back of his head.
“What do I do?” John asked.
“Just hold it and think them back they way they were.”
John closed his fist around the small device, closing his eyes and concentrating. There was a bright flash that burned an after image on his closed lids and he blinked blearily for a few seconds, before the other shapes in the room resolved themselves.
A normal sized Teyla and Ronon collapsed against each other on the table and John heard Radek call for Carson.
“They’re fine. Just a little dazed and no memory of the last couple of days, which is what we suspected would happen.”
“Well, that’s good,” Rodney huffed. Despite knowing that he’d never intentionally caused the situation, guilt still gnawed at Rodney.
He and John left the infirmary after looking in on a sleeping Ronon and Teyla and automatically headed for the Southern side of the city and their rooms. About halfway, John slowed to a halt and Rodney looked back at him, eyebrows raised.
“We… we don’t need the big room anymore,” John pointed out. Rodney looked down the corridor towards their room and then back at John and a frown turned down his mouth.
“Oh, right. Of course. We can… get back to our old rooms.”
“Unless,” John held up a finger and tapped the side of his nose. “Elizabeth reassigned them. Then we wouldn’t have a choice, until we could find alternate rooms that is.”
“What? Would she do that?” Rodney exclaimed, indignant and not really getting it. John grasped both of Rodney’s shoulders in his hands and looked into his eyes.
“I’m going to assume she did, how about you?”
Rodney was brilliant, but sometimes he was painfully slow. It took him a few moments and the tip of John’s tongue darting out and wetting his top lip before realisation dawned on his features.
“Oh… oh right. Yes, I would assume so too. I mean, nothing we can do about it now, right? It’s pretty late and I don’t want to disturb her.”
“Me neither.” John slung one arm around Rodney’s shoulder. “That would just be… rude.”
They took another moment to smile at each other before as one, they turned towards the south side of the city.