"So." John took a seat at the table with the rest of his team. "I hear your sister's moving in."
Rodney looked up miserably. There was a smear of ketchup on one side of his mouth. "She's following me. It's just like when she was six."
"I understand that Jeannie is coming to take a place in the science department," Teyla said calmly, reaching across the table with her napkin to wipe the ketchup off Rodney's face. John watched Rodney's tongue swipe across his lips after. "I do not believe she is relocating to another galaxy just to torment you."
"You don't know her very well," Rodney said darkly.
John poked carefully at some eggs that had probably never met a chicken. He glanced over at Ronon's waffles, then looked away quickly at the big man's growl.
"What about Kaleb?" John asked, because no one ever told him anything.
"She says--" John watched Rodney's hands make air quotes. "She says he's 'entrenched in the patriarchal power structure to an extent she didn't realize when she married him.' She says she's a 'woman who is a scientist, not a woman separate from a scientist, and she won't sacrifice one for the other.' She says--"
"Kaleb wished her to give up working with the SGC after she returned home from the kidnapping incident. I believe he was insistent in a manner Jeannie was not comfortable with," Teyla explained. Rodney stared. She shrugged. "We have been exchanging emails."
"She says she's been 'sublimating her female power for too long.'" Rodney looked a little sick, and took a long hard look at a chocolate-chip muffin before biting into it.
"Huh." John considered."So she's going to spread her wings in the Pegasus Galaxy."
"Shut up," said Rodney.
"It's cool." John smiled sweetly. "She's gonna make it after all."
"Shut up. And Mary Richards was single, not divorced."
Ronon didn't bother swallowing the waffles in his mouth. "Only because the networks didn't have the balls in the seventies to let her be a divorcée."
"Excuse me, what?" Rodney looked dangerously close to a meltdown. "How do you know that?"
Ronon shrugged. "Watched a lot of TV-Land in the Earth motel." He buried himself in his waffles again.
"It'll work out, Rodney." John had a hard time being mean when Rodney looked that unhappy. "You'll like having her here."
"Whatever." Rodney stood, gathering his tray. "If she spins around in the gateroom and throws her hat in the air, I'm moving back to Earth."
"We are never going back there again," Rodney said once the team was back on the gate platform, miserable and covered in wet mud. He leaned in and took a big sniff of John. "You smell like a toilet."
Rodney smelled like a toilet too, so John was not enjoying being sniffed by him. Much.
Rodney pulled away and squelched across the floor. "I'll be in the shower for the next week if anyone wants me. So don't want me."
Too late, supplied John's brain--which could never resist a good comeback, even if he could (mostly) control his mouth. John was instructing his brain to shut up when a whirling ball of fluff suddenly launched itself across the gateroom and into Rodney's knees.
"Uncle Mer!" it shouted.
"Wait. What?" Rodney looked terrified by the clinging blonde mass. "Jeannie! Where are you? You brought Madison?"
"You approved this?" Rodney waved vaguely toward the smelly, muddy little girl now playing on the rug in a corner of Sam's office. "Hello? Dangerous expedition? War zone?"
"Rodney." Sam sighed. "You know as well as I do that the Replicator and Wraith threats have been nearly neutralized. And there's always the Intergalactic Bridge if--"
Jeannie McKay--who John had been informed was reverting to her maiden name--sat up straighter. "Meredith Rodney McKay, I hope you are not in any way implying that I would put my child at unnecessary risk."
She stared at him steadily. Rodney turned white. John tried to give him a smile of support. He was pretty sure Rodney didn't see it though; Jeannie was still burning holes into him with her eyes. She was really scary; why hadn't John ever noticed that?
In her corner Madison sniffed a patch of mud on her finger then took a lick. She made a sour face, then cautiously licked again before nodding firmly. Repeatable results, thought John. Rodney would approve.
"Oh my God." Jeannie took a big bite of something on a bun. "Do you have any idea how long I've wanted a hamburger?"
"Umm." John watched her chew. "I'm not entirely sure that's a hamburger. That thing on our last mission wasn't really all that much like a cow."
"Close enough." Jeannie closed her eyes. She made noises when she ate. It was just like Rodney, except not sexy.
"Focus," John said, just before he knocked Rodney to the pads again.
"Oh, please." Rodney extended a hand to be helped up. "You're enjoying this. You only want to spar with me when Teyla and Ronon make you feel inadequate."
John couldn't argue with the truth. He shrugged and let Rodney get up by himself.
He feinted left, then came at Rodney from the right. Would Rodney never stop falling for that? For a genius, he was pretty dumb. "Okay, then what's the problem?"
"So now we talk about our feelings?" Rodney said from underneath him on the mat.
We could. Shut up, brain, John told it, and reluctantly stood.
"Jeannie solved our crystal energy displacement problem."
"Good?" John said cautiously.
"She solved it," Rodney repeated. "Before I did."
"You'll get the next one, tiger."
John thought he'd spoken in a helpful, supportive manner, but Rodney just glared. John heard someone enter the gym; the time he'd signed it out for was just about over. Whoever it was would just have to wait. Rodney looked so sad. John wondered if he could get away with a hug.
"She's seven years younger than me. And she solved the energy displacement problem. And I think Radek likes her better."
Yeah. Definitely hug time. John was just opening his arms when something with curly hair ran past him and Rodney's arms were suddenly full.
"Oh, Mer!" Jeannie said, and really she was going to crack Rodney's ribs if she wasn't careful. "I can't believe it! You think I'm smarter than you! You're worried I'm going to take your job!" She hugged him even tighter. "That's the nicest thing you've ever said to me."
He didn't say it to you, John thought meanly and backed out of the room before she started to cry or something.
Madison had to be home-schooled, of course--or Atlantis-schooled, thought John hilariously. He had thought it was going pretty well--John had her up to long division, Radek had volunteered to teach her Czech (and Spanish, who knew?), and Teyla was turning her into some kind of ninja or something--until he passed by the botany lab one afternoon and heard Rodney's raised voice.
"What kind of idiocy are you trying to foist on my niece?" And whoa, Rodney was really tearing Katie Brown a new one. No way she'd sleep with him after this. John settled in a corner to watch.
"Jeannie asked me to--" Katie began timidly.
"Botany is enough of a pseudo-science." Rodney steamrolled right over her. "But English Lit? What," he continued, waving a book so hard John could hear the pages flapping. "Is this?"
"Little Women." John heard a distinct squeak in Katie's voice.
"Madison doesn't have time for this nonsense. She's learning wave mechanics."
He seemed to think that settled matters and was turning to go when Katie cleared her throat with more resolve than John knew she had in her.
"Rodney." Katie's voice was ice. "Jeannie has asked me to give Madison a course in English literature. We'll be reading Black Beauty next. You're welcome to attend."
Rodney stared at her. She smiled back sweetly. Oh yeah, that relationship was over.
John was in a good mood for the rest of the day.
"You can't date my sister."
"Okay," John said agreeably and took a mouthful of what the mess cooks were calling "Atlantis Surprise." He was trying not to think too hard about what the "surprise" could be.
"I'm serious." Rodney sat at the table. "It's the first anniversary of her divorce today. She's in a fragile state. She may look for comfort."
John doubted that any McKay could ever be in a fragile state, and since when was Rodney sensitive? His world-view was in danger of taking a serious hit.
"Anyway." Rodney pointed his fork at John and spoke without bothering to swallow the food in his mouth; John's world-view shifted back into place. "You are not allowed to date her."
"I don't want to date her, Rodney." John raised his eyebrows and stared meaningfully.
Rodney just looked puzzled. John sighed and went back to his food. Maybe the "surprise" was love.
Nah. It was probably those squid-things from PF7-952.
"I need you to date my sister."
"What?" John nearly choked on his cereal. They were real Cheerios; he didn't want to waste them. "I'm not dating your sister, McKay."
"I mean it," Rodney said earnestly. Earnest looked really cute on him. "I saw her looking at Ronon in the gym."
"Everyone looks at Ronon in the gym."
"The expression on her face was not one I ever wish to see on my little sister again. You have to date her. Otherwise she'll date Ronon and they'll get married and give Madison little alien brothers and sisters and--" Rodney stopped himself and took a breath. "And I'd much rather be related to you."
Aw. That was sweet. Still: "I'm not going to date your sister, Rodney."
"Why not? She's brilliant. She's a McKay. Why wouldn't you date a McKay?"
He tapped the table impatiently, but John had been asking himself that for the last five years; he doubted he was going to find the answer now.
Jeannie didn't have her first accident in the lab for almost twenty-eight months. It resulted in her, two chemists, and one wayward Marine turning blue.
Rodney waited until she was declared otherwise healthy by Keller before laughing hysterically, which John considered pretty thoughtful. He knew Rodney had been pretty worried, at first. He thought Jeannie probably understood too.
The blue lasted two weeks then faded to a lovely aquamarine for another month after that. During this time Rodney and Jeannie worked so productively together that Rodney offered to let her have a researcher credit when he won his Nobel. Jeannie said she wanted a full share or she'd tell the Nobel committee how Rodney wore superhero pajamas until he was twenty-three. With feet. It was nice to see them getting along.
Ronon told them he'd heard Jeannie was planning to send Madison back to Earth for middle school. John wondered how Ronon knew what middle school was and also when he'd gotten higher in the gossip loop than John.
"No," Rodney said to Jeannie once he'd tracked her down in the chemistry lab. "You are not sending Madison to Earth. She's on the verge of a breakthrough in string cosmology."
"She's ten years old, Meredith." Jeannie sighed. "She needs to be with kids her own age. She needs a social life."
"I didn't have a social life."
"Exactly." Jeannie nodded.
"She may be on the verge of a discovery that will advance humankind's understanding of the universe, but you want her to have a social life. Fine. I can get her a social life." Rodney turned on his heel, leaving John and Jeannie staring after him.
"Her peers, Meredith," she called at his disappearing back. "No one with a Ph.D."
"How about the Marines?" John suggested. "They're like tall middle-schoolers with weapons."
Teyla and Rodney were huddled together at a table in the mess. They weren't eating. That was probably a good idea.
"What about the children of Basthia?" Teyla was saying as John sat down.
"MS5-778?" Rodney shook his head. "Bronze Age at best."
"All right," Teyla said. John could tell her patience was wearing thin. "Ithros."
Rodney snorted. "They don't even have indoor plumbing. They'd probably worship Madison as a god. Or try to eat her."
"Whatcha doing?" John asked.
"Rodney is attempting to put together an invitation list for the party he wishes to give Madison. So far he has rejected all my suggestions."
"Madison needs to meet kids from technologically-advanced civilizations. Not hick worlds like Athos, no offense."
"None taken," she said through her teeth. "Will you be joining me for our training session in the gym later? I think perhaps the bantos rods today."
Ouch. John made a note to be there, with bandages. "You're throwing Madison a party?" he asked. Wait. "You're throwing Madison a party?"
"She needs to meet other kids."
"So you're throwing her a party." This couldn't end well.
"Yup," said Rodney. He looked John over with a considering eye. "What do you know about puppet shows?"
To John's surprise, Rodney's party turned out to be the event of the Pegasus season.
It turned out people in the Pegasus Galaxy were as big snobs as the people back on Earth, and once the word spread, most planets with a gate were eager to be on Doctor McKay's list. They got so many requests for invitations that Carter started to think the whole thing was a good idea and gave Rodney permission to hold it in the gateroom, saying it would be a good opportunity to learn about other cultures and to strengthen relationships with Atlantis' trading partners--which was something John would have expected from Elizabeth; he'd have thought Colonel Carter could keep a cooler head. Command did strange things to a person.
Rodney had located streamers from somewhere, and the mess had made a chocolate cake. Telya had hung up a traditional Athosian children's game--Pin the Tentacle on the F'hrigora--and John had to admit the gateroom looked pretty festive. Lab Six had been making extra latex for weeks, so there were even balloons. They'd decorated the gate with them.
Carter had made Rodney invite children from all of Atlantis' friendly contacts, so the room was teeming with small people running to and fro, touching things with their grubby hands and smearing sticky messes all over the place. Carter wouldn't let John post armed men, so he was reduced to glaring at those children who stuffed cake down their faces and then ran off to play in John's beautiful city without washing their hands. Teyla's kid--who was now what? Four? Nine?--was the worst offender. John sent an extra glare Teyla's way. She pretended not to see it, the faker.
"And hotovny! Where has the little polka-dot scarf gone? Prekvapeni, it is in Madison's pocket!"
Zelenka could do magic; that was unexpected. At least John had managed to talk Rodney out of having a clown.
The children--as kids always did given the opportunity--gravitated to Rodney. For once he was glad to see them, interrogating each one about their planet's technology--Do you have air travel? Have your people invented Calculus yet? Tell me about your village's infrastructure--while a few of the anthropologists hung around the background trying not to let Rodney spot them. John was pretty sure Rodney saw Doctor Mearsheimer. He was taking notes.
After one too many parents looked suspiciously at Rodney grilling their children, John put a stop to the questionings by bringing him a piece of cake. It was sweet that Rodney was trying to find friends for his niece, but they didn't need any interplanetary incidents.
In the end, Madison got called "princess" by the people of two civilizations, which kept her grinning for days--she might have been a genius, but she was still ten, and made play-dates with kids from seven different planets.
John got to watch Rodney eat cake, and Rodney got to make the anthropologists clean up. So everyone was happy.
When Madison was twelve, she informed Jeannie she was "stifling" her and demanded her own living quarters. Jeannie told Madison that she didn't own her; Madison was her own person and was free to live wherever she wanted as long as it was next door to Rodney.
Rodney complained loud and long to Jeannie, and when that didn't work he went to John's quarters and complained loud and long to him. He probably had several good points, but John was distracted by a little saliva bubble on Rodney's lower lip. However--
"I don't think you can call Child Protective Services in Atlantis, Rodney."
"Why not? Madison is clearly being neglected."
John didn't think five hours of coursework followed by two hours as a lab assistant followed by an after-school job of baby-sitting Teyla's kid--who had to be what, eleven by now? Eight?--could be called "being neglected." Besides he was pretty sure Jeannie was a good mother.
"I'll help you," John said.
"Help? Help me what?" The saliva bubble glinted in the lights. How had it not broken by now?
"Help you take care of Madison."
"Oh my God." Rodney sat down hard on John's bed. "Is that why Jeannie made her move next to me?"
"It won't be so bad." John patted Rodney's shoulder.
Rodney pressed his head into his hands. "I'm not ready to be a father."
John left his hand on Rodney's shoulder and rubbed little circles. "I'll help. I'll read to her at night."
"She's twelve years old, Sheppard. She doesn't want to be read to."
John shrugged and sat on the bed beside him. "I'll do voices. You're never too old for voices."
When Parrish broke his leg in three places running away from the mobile (and vicious) trees of MXG-757, Jeannie was assigned indefinitely to Lorne's team. She came back from her first mission with her eyes shining, full of "Oh, Mer! Now I understand why you love it."
Rodney sighed. "Pure research loses yet another not-completely-incompetent mind to fieldwork."
Jeannie was so busy telling stories about the energy signature that got away that John didn't think she'd heard. It was too bad; Rodney didn't dole out compliments like that very often.
Ronon--who had not been on the mission--informed John that Jeannie had met a guy on PX3-998. His name was G'frsu. John thought it best not to tell Rodney.
John broke out his dress blues for Jeannie's wedding. He was pretty sure he caught Rodney checking out his ass.
Teyla had found Madison some kind of traditional Athosian bridal attendant's robe. It was a sort of wilted-green color, and John could only assume the Athosians had designed it that ugly on purpose so as not to draw attention away from the bride.
Madison looked really happy anyway, even ten minutes before the ceremony when John saw her fixing Rodney's tie.
"Don't be so Earth-elitist, Uncle Mer. G'frsu is cool. He makes Mom happy."
"I thought your mother was past all this. I thought she was finally ready to devote her life to science." His sigh was so sad it made John's heart clench. "Don't you go throwing your life away on alien boys."
Madison laughed and patted him on the arm. "We all need someone to love, Uncle Mer."
John had no idea why she raised her eyebrows significantly at him as she walked away.
Jeannie and G'frsu had opted for a traditional Kalarian binding ceremony in the gateroom rather than an Earth wedding. The anthropologists had practically wet themselves in raptures. John saw Doctor Mearsheimer in the front row with a tape recorder.
"I offer you this dead flower to show you my soul before we met. I offer you this rock to show you the worth of my life without you. I offer you this curdled Frka milk to show you my heart if we should ever part. I offer you this dirt..."
G'frsu had been going on like that for the last ten minutes with no signs of slowing down. John zoned out and watched Rodney standing uncomfortably at the altar. As the bride's older relative he was responsible for taking the "gifts" from G'rfsu. He got to keep them too, although John wasn't sure what Rodney was going to do with dirt and rocks and the skeleton of a small Kalarian rodent. Apparently throwing the stuff away was a deadly insult. Rodney would be expected to produce G'frsu's gifts on Kalarian feast days.
Poor Rodney. His mouth was a thin line. Jeannie looked really happy, though.
At least Kalarian binding ceremonies involved plenty of alcohol afterwards. During the traditional Women's Dance, John poured two stiff shots and went in search of Rodney. He found him backing G'frsu into a corner, poking him with his index finger.
"You." Rodney had apparently already had a few drinks. "You better realize right now that Jeannie is a scientist."
G'frsu, who was almost as big as Ronon, had the good sense to look scared. That's my Rodney, John thought affectionately.
"You." Rodney poked harder. "Better not have any ideas about patriarchal power structures or keeping her from her work or sublimating a hair on her head, do you understand?"
G'frsu caught Rodney's hand but dropped it immediately at his glare. "My people do not believe marriage implies ownership." He spoke soothingly, although John could hear a squeak of fear just below the surface. "I would never try to keep Jeannie from anything she needs to complete herself."
"Good. That's good." Rodney sounded mollified.
John thought now would be a good time to get him away from his sister's new husband before he caused some kind of Shakespearean tragedy. "C'mon, Rodney," he said, walking up to them and slinking his hips in a way he knew looked almost criminal in the dress blues. "Let's dance."
Jeannie gave Rodney a quick kiss before heading through the gate for her honeymoon.
"You'll love G'frsu once you get to know him." John heard her whisper. "His people have had calculus for centuries."
An hour after it was all over, Rodney was sitting alone at one of the folding tables, still staring morosely at the gate. John pulled up a chair.
"It'll be okay, buddy," he said.
Rodney still looked sad, so John thought what the hell, and took his hand, squeezing tightly.
Rodney stared down at their interlaced fingers for a moment, then looked up at John. "Oh, you have got to be kidding me," he said. "Please do not tell me that you have been pining away all this time, and we could have been having sex from the beginning."
"Um." John swallowed. "No. You just--uh--look really good today. In the tuxedo."
"Good," Rodney said. "My bed is bigger. Let's go."
When Madison was fifteen, they waved good-bye as she walked through the gate on her way to Earth.
"I hate to see her go." Rodney sighed. "But when we get declassified an MIT degree will look good on the papers she'll publish. Although I still think Cal Tech would have been better for her undergrad."
"She needs to make her own decisions, Mer. She'll be fine," Jeannie said firmly, although John saw her holding G'frsu's hand so tight she had white knuckles.
Jeannie and G'frsu dealt with their empty-nest syndrome by getting a tllosi, which was sort of a cat crossed with a snake. They named her Meredith. John liked the purring, but the lack of legs freaked him out.
Rodney missed Madison too, John could tell. He dealt with it by working up a storm.
And having a lot of sex with John. That helped too.
After declassification, when Rodney and Jeannie won the Nobel Prize, Rodney was sure she insisted on using her Kalarian last name--which had no vowels--in their theory's name on the official citation just to annoy him. John privately agreed, but kept silent in the interest of sibling harmony.