Word count: ~5300
Summary: Following an "oops" with an Ancient device, Rodney contemplates fatherhood and John. Set around late season 2/early 3.
A/N: Among the things darkmoore wanted were mpreg, fluffy and a side of Lorne/Zelenka. It opens not-fluffy but that doesn't last long, and the side of Lorne/Zelenka is really more of an amuse bouche. But, it ends happily and I hope it's enjoyable!
Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera, sera
A baby, heavy in his small arms, so tiny and trusting and nearly unfathomable. He's just a child himself, but compared to her he feels like a giant. It wasn't so long ago they were a family of three, but now she's here. Changing his world, making everything different. He wants to show her the tree, the lights, the presents; to share with her the stockings and garland, the wreath that's bigger than she is. But all she looks at is him, all she sees is him.
He also wants to protect her, to clothe them both in something pure and certain. Safety and rescue and peace. The air above his shoulders becomes heavy, pushing him down, but he stands firm and holds her close.
All the presents are open. He sits in the shadow of the tree, surrounded by torn wrapping, ribbons, bows and boxes. Glittering lights dance around the windows, sparkling globes bounce on branches over his head. Shouts from another room, thunder rumbling and lightning cracking. He hunches forward, hiding from the storm like a hundred other tempests he's endured, and spreads himself over her, making a shelter of his form.
A bubble grows around them. Long strands of numbers and letters, like veins in marble, swirl around its perimeter. Tendrils of equations grow off the veins and weave cloaks that envelop the small bodies, him crouching over her.
She's watching him; smooth brow, sprawled body, deep eyes. He's going to fail her, he sees it through the cobweb of her blinking lashes. Not in this, not in shielding her from these storms. But in other things, other ways that he struggles to understand.
She knows he will fail her, and she is watching him.
Rodney jerked awake feeling shredded and exposed, as if he had just been observed doing something shameful. He confirmed that he was alone in the room and shook off the feelings, chalking them up to more of the creepy shit that this city seemed to come up with as a matter of course. It certainly wouldn't be the first time he got the feeling that the city itself was watching him, keeping track of him as he moved through its corridors and open spaces.
Today would be a good day for Atlantis to keep an eye out. He and Sheppard would be venturing into an unexplored section of her vast real estate, on a search for space lasers or a shield modifier or a room filled with shiny, fully charged ZPMs. Of course, they were more likely to find corrupt data and mystery devices that turned out to be Ancient nose hair trimmers, along with the usual abundance of dead plants. Rodney figured those could all be counted as plusses, though, if they were the worst of what the pair stumbled across.
This was a good time for an excursion, too. The city was quiet and they had the better part of a day to just knock around and look for cool things. Rodney was equally lured by the possibility (however slim) of finding something of real scientific value, as well as having Sheppard to himself for a few hours. It's true that they spent quite a bit of time together as it was, between the obligations of their jobs and hanging out when they had time to unwind. But this kind of adventure-into-the-unknown thing, with just the two of them, was like the perfect date.
Of course, he'd never tell Sheppard that.
As soon as the senior staff meeting wrapped up, they set off for the depths of the city. Like so many areas that had flooded, the section they'd chosen to explore had not fared well. Though engineers had okayed it structurally, there'd been no clean-up detail through here yet and the halls were strewn with Ancient detritus. The city's pumping system had cleared out most of the water, but they still stepped through puddles and dodged small floods when they opened cabinets or moved furniture.
Halfway down a dirty hallway, McKay stopped in front of a closed door and studied the tablet in his hands, his brows drawn together.
"There's something in here," he said.
Sheppard snorted. "More water?"
"Yes, very likely," McKay said. "But something else. I'm getting a faint energy reading."
Sheppard went to swipe his hand over the door control and noticed that all three crystals were blackened and one of them was cracked. He stepped aside and winced a little as the crystal broke apart in McKay's hand when he tried to pull it out. McKay's next effort involved connecting his tablet to the door control, which ended in a small shower of sparks and a yelp as he disconnected the cables.
"So much for that," he said, stepping back. "Your turn."
Sheppard raised an eyebrow.
"Come on, come on," McKay directed with a hand wave. "Brute force."
The doors were stubborn and it took both of them putting serious muscle behind it, but they finally managed to part them enough for Sheppard to barely squeeze through. Though the door controls were fried, the lights came on as soon as he entered the room, and after a quick look around, he helped McKay widen the gap in the door.
A cursory perusal revealed a little about the room's intended use. It was a medical lab, with several semi-private alcoves around the room, each one with an exam table, an egg shaped pod about three feet long, and several compact, shiny pieces of equipment. As they checked things out, network stations came to life and a soft electrical hum filled the room. Set into the far wall of the room was a small bay with what McKay guessed was a main control console. Sheppard stepped up to it cautiously. At the scientist's "just wait a second," Sheppard waved him off and assured him he wouldn't touch anything.
"If none of this was on before we came in," Sheppard said, "what was that energy signature you picked up?"
Indicating the console, McKay said, "I'm still reading it, very faint, coming from behind this. Just inside the wall." He stepped up next to Sheppard and poked at his tablet a few times.
"I'm reading a power source," he said. "It seems to be on stand-by."
That's when it happened. As they stood side by side, a series of beams shot out of the wall behind the console and rapidly scanned the men. They were both already retreating when a single beam wrapped around Sheppard like a rigid lasso and held him still. McKay reached for him, but before he could make contact, the beam withdrew and Sheppard dropped to the floor.
As McKay shouted "Medical emergency!" into his headset, a screen on the console lit up, scrolling line upon line of text. Had Sheppard been conscious or McKay been less distracted by Sheppard's lack of consciousness, one of them might have noticed that the display was showing an image that looked like a human male, and that it seemed to be relaying a great deal of information about a tiny flashing blob in the midsection of the image.
"That," said Carson, pointing to a highlighted area of the screen, "is where the colonel is carrying the baby."
More was said after that – much more, by many people – but Rodney didn't hear most of it. Oh, he'd heard the part a little earlier when Carson had explained that he and Sheppard had contributed genetic material to a mass of cells that was now growing in the colonel and would eventually become a child. But even for Rodney, that was a lot to absorb, so most of what was said after that didn't really register.
He finally snapped out of it when Carson thrust a penlight in his face and said something about going into shock.
"I am not in shock!" he insisted. He put his hands up to block the doctor and demanded, "Get away from me!"
Carson made noises about having another look at Rodney, but he did step back. "Well, I wouldn't be too surprised if you were," he said.
Rodney closed his eyes for a moment, keeping his hands up as he mustered his thoughts. "Can I just get the cut and dried version of how the hell this happened, and is there some way to, to stop it?" he asked.
Sheppard winced a little, but he didn't look surprised or stricken. Rodney figured he had to be wondering the same thing. To call the situation off-the-charts wacky would be an understatement, and the notion that the male military commander of the lost city of Atlantis could be pregnant, pushed absurdity to its limits.
But, absurd or not, there didn't seem to be any handy "fix" for this.
What it boiled down to was that Sheppard had no options. Carson and Elizabeth had been poring over the spotty amount of information in the database, about the lab, the console with the beams, and the procedure itself. What they found indicated that there were changes taking place in Sheppard that would alter him enough to endure a pregnancy, and that attempts to remove the embryo or interfere with the pregnancy were likely to have detrimental effects on the colonel's body. Even if the embryo were aborted, Sheppard would still continue changing, and there was no information about how that would effect him.
On the plus side, the Ancients had really made some efforts to ensure that this line of research netted successes. Because male bodies weren't made for childbearing, the lab was equipped with incubators that would take over gestation at around six months (these were the pods in each exam area), following a process involving the growth of a temporary opening through which the fetus would be delivered. Rodney thought it all sounded very unpleasant.
There was some more discussion, wherein Sheppard agreed that he was grounded for the foreseeable future. There was even brief mention of sending him back to Earth, but they decided that it was probably safer and definitely more practical to keep him near the Ancient lab. Even if the fetus could be safely removed back on Earth, none of them liked the idea. They also tabled making any decisions about reporting the situation to Earth; how could they explain this one to the IOA?
Once Carson was satisfied that Rodney was suffering no ill effects from his encounter with the Ancient device, he, Teyla and Ronon would be temporarily assigned to other teams. As for the moment, Carson wanted Rodney in the infirmary overnight, John there indefinitely, and Elizabeth finally suggested it was time to let the men get some rest.
They were left alone with the lights turned down and the soft hum of monitors. Rodney laid on his side for awhile, looking at Sheppard and trying to untangle his thoughts.
Apparently, this was actually happening, and there weren't enough words in the language to describe the varieties of anxiety Rodney was feeling. Did he even want a kid? Eventually, sure, in a future that involved fewer days of singlehandedly saving the galaxy and more Nobel nominations. But now? In the Pegasus galaxy? With John Sheppard?
Of course not. Ridiculous.
And yet, amid the gravity and the absurdity of the situation, Rodney cradled a small but brilliant spark of joy.
Quietly, little more than a soft breath in the air, Rodney said, "Wow."
He watched for a moment longer as the corner of Sheppard's mouth curled into a smile, then he closed his eyes and dropped off to sleep.
She's all sticky cheeks and grabby hands; a gooey, messy whirlwind oblivious to everything in her path. She bounces off things and shoots away like a pinball. Dining room chair *10 points!* kitchen door jamb *20 points!* Uncle Mer *30 points!* Bells, loud and insistent, blare around him as she collides with the entire room.
Jeanie is singing in the background, her voice carrying from another room.
"When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother what will I be?"
Madison is all egg dye and melting chocolate and runny marshmallow filling, under every step he takes. His shoes stick to the floor until finally he's wading through a river of candy slime with bare feet. She's on all sides of him, pulling at his sleeve; leading him here, there and everywhere, and she doesn't stick to anything but him.
"Will I be pretty? Will I be rich? Here's what she said to me...."
She's brought him to a feast laid out in his honour. Each serving plate is sloppier than the last; food drips off edges and seeps into the tablecloth. He thinks it looks as if the plates were set on the floor and their contents dropped from a great height. This makes it hard to tell what each dish was intended to hold, but he recognizes coloured eggs embedded in a mound of potatoes, a glazed ham wrapped with a stained yellow ribbon, a bowl of shredded cabbage peppered with jelly beans. One entire half of the table is covered with dishes containing artfully placed chocolate rabbits, each with its head bitten off.
"I asked my sweetheart, what lies ahead? Will there be rainbows day after day?" Jeanie's voice has been joined by the brittle strains of a harpsichord, and the headless rabbits have started a synchronized dance around the plates of food.
The triumph of the meal casts a golden glow over the room. His niece stands next to his chair and exalts, "Look what I made!"
The plate in front of him holds a huge colourless lump of tofu carved into the shape of a rabbit.
"I made it for you," she offers gleefully. "You have to eat all of it!"
Rodney brooded over his eggs at breakfast, pushing them around on the plate and frowning at them distastefully. He was agitated this morning, short-tempered and hyper-critical. When he finally gave up on the eggs, opting instead for the bland comfort of a power bar, he went to one of the labs and spent a satisfying morning browbeating underlings. Radek finally dragged him away with the lure of pudding.
They were sitting across from each other in the mess, Rodney hunched over his tray and grumbling about screwed up supply requisitions, when Radek said, "So, you and the colonel."
Rodney glared. "Yes, the colonel and I are having a baby. The news is over two weeks old; I can't imagine there isn't more interesting gossip around here."
Radek met his glare with a smirk and said, "Next you will want a white picket fence in front of your quarters."
The image actually struck Rodney as funny and he relaxed his mouth into not-quite-a-frown. "As long as no one expects me to trim any hedges."
"But you will be sharing quarters soon, yes?" Radek asked.
Rodney actually dropped his fork. "What? Of course not! Are you insane?"
"With a baby in your future, it just seems like a very convenient opportunity," Radek said with a shrug. "Unless you are not ready. Perhaps I shouldn't pry. Nevermind."
"Now wait just a minute!" Rodney hissed, quickly glancing around them to confirm there was no one else nearby. "Whatever it is you're implying, you are wrong. I might not agree with the military's stupid rules, but what you're suggesting could get Sheppard court martialed." He stopped, then almost as an afterthought, he added, "Besides, there's nothing to be 'ready' for. The colonel and I are just friends!"
The words weren't even out of his mouth before he was giving himself a mental kick. Maybe Radek wouldn't pounce on the bitterness that Rodney was sure had seeped into that last sentence.
Radek did not take the opening, though; he just nodded amicably and said, "Perhaps you will be surprised to learn that not all of the American military agrees with their ridiculous policies." He paused for a moment and gave Rodney a significant look over his glasses. "Or chooses to observe them."
In a moment of weakness, Rodney let loose with a taste of his frustration as he said, "I really don't think – It's just – I'm not holding my breath, that's all."
He shook his head and thought he would chalk up the conversation to some kind of Czech lunacy, but an instant later Major Lorne joined them at the table, and something tumbled into place in Rodney's mind.
As he stood to go, he started adding things up. When Radek had turned to greet Lorne, his expression had transformed into something more than respect, more than friendly affection, and Lorne had returned the look with a small grin. Rodney realized that this wasn't the first time he'd seen such an exchange between them. He'd also noticed that they spent quite a bit of time together and when he thought about it, he wondered how much they had in common, for a scientist and a soldier. Did they have any of the same interests? Did they meet in their off time to play games or watch videos? Did Radek show Lorne "cool" Ancient devices they'd uncovered from labs and storage rooms around the city?
When Rodney finally added two and two together, he came up with what the hell?
With a blink-and-you'll-miss-it smile in Lorne's direction, Radek said, "You are in another galaxy, Rodney. Do not be too surprised by what you might discover."
Rodney shot his colleague a final glare, but it was more reflex than sentiment, and he walked away wondering about discovery.
What the hell?, indeed. Radek had blatantly been referring to some kind of thing between Rodney and John. And okay, Rodney might have occasional thoughts, entertain a fantasy here and there, but that wasn't something he advertised. Now he wondered what Radek saw, why he believed there was something going on between them.
And really, even if Radek saw something, even if Rodney wished for something, it was still damned unlikely that Sheppard shared those feelings.
John was eleven weeks into the pregnancy and according to the reports Rodney got from Carson, everything was progressing well. He did talk to John about it, though never anything too detailed. John wasn't one to volunteer much information, and Rodney didn't want to intrude. After all, he was still making his own adjustments to the prospect of parenthood and wasn't sure he wanted to know too much about what John was dealing with.
Yet, here he was, pacing John's room, bracing himself for a conversation that was already late in coming.
John emerged from the bathroom, having voided his lunch for the umpteenth day in a row, and dropped onto his bed with an unhappy groan. Slipping a pillow under his head, he said, "I thought this was supposed to happen in the morning."
Rodney stopped in the middle of the room and cloaked himself in lecture mode, with one hand dangling casually behind his back and a finger of the other hand raised to make a point. "You might be interested to know," he said, "that 'morning sickness,' as it is so erroneously termed, actually occurs much more commonly in the mid-afternoon."
John lifted his head just enough to glare at Rodney. "If you believe I can't have 'mid-afternoon sickness' and kick your ass at the same time, you're mistaken."
With a slight recoil, Rodney said, "Yes, well. So I, uh, thought we might talk about this... thing."
He said as much with his hands as he did with words, as they waved around in the air uncertainly, almost looking as if they could flap enough to carry him away before he actually had to do this.
John looked a different sort of queasy as he asked, "Talk about it?"
"Yeah." Rodney nodded confidently. Confirming what he had said was easy. Maybe this would go all right after all.
John pulled himself up so he was sitting on the edge of the bed and turned to look at Rodney. "Here's the thing – there is no way in this or any galaxy that I'm ready for this. But, it's happening, so I gotta deal with it." He paused and shifted his gaze before adding, "But you don't have to."
Rodney straightened his shoulders and demanded, "What's that supposed to mean?"
John looked back at him and said, "Come on, McKay, what are you going to do with a baby?"
"What are you going to do with a baby?" Rodney countered.
"Well, I don't exactly have a choice in the matter, now do I?!" John wasn't quite yelling at this point, but he had raised his voice and was tensing up all over.
Rodney tried to come up with a clever response, but he was having some trouble managing his own feelings of being trapped. Not just by this baby-to-be, but oddly, by John as well.
He took a deep breath. With his volume low and his tone weary, he admitted, "Well, I don't exactly feel like I do either."
John relaxed a bit and slid over on the bed, motioning for Rodney to sit down.
This was draining, and Rodney felt defeated before they'd even gotten anywhere. He sat on the bed and stared ahead kind of vacantly as he said, "I still can't quite believe this is happening."
John laughed and said, "Well, I'll tell ya, there's nothing like revisiting your lunch every day to make it feel real."
That got a chuckle out of Rodney. "Yeah, I guess so."
He thought for a few minutes then, while John sat quietly next to him. When he was finally ready to speak, he turned slightly and let their knees touch.
"This is not how I ever expected to become a father, but as you said, it's happening, and I believe I have certain responsibilities to you and the child." John raised his eyebrows, but Rodney continued with a shake of his head. "I am very serious about this. I will be there for whatever you need through this pregnancy, and whatever the baby needs once it... arrives." Like girding himself for a final surge, he lifted his chin and squared his shoulders. "I am ready to be a father."
Slouching a little, as if to poke fun at Rodney's stiffness, John said, "You're a terrible liar, you know."
Rodney couldn't deny that, but from the tone of John's voice, he also knew that John understood what he was trying to say. He let some of the tension out of his body and gave John a weak smile.
Resting a hand on Rodney's shoulder, John said, "Thanks, buddy."
Maybe there was something sad in John's expression, or maybe Rodney was just having trouble seeing through his own dissatisfaction. Whatever the case, the exchange put a little more weight on him. Being there for the baby was great, 'buddy' was great; he should be happy enough with those things instead of wanting more.
Eventually, he did become moderately happy. As the weeks ticked by, John's middle started visibly expanding, and Rodney ruminated on the role of expectant father. He attended many of John's check-ups with Carson, while also working closely with Radek as they studied the Ancient lab equipment in preparation for transferring the baby. He researched various child-rearing philosophies and discreetly solicited input from people who had more experience with children than he had (which was pretty much anyone). In between, he carried out his usual duties and saved the day during the inevitable crises.
He didn't sleep a lot, but with the Daedalus' supply runs keeping them in coffee, he stayed on top of everything about as well as usual.
He and John had not yet started discussing the day-to-day concerns of parenthood that awaited them, but they'd had a conversation or two about general parenting methods, ideal qualities in a babysitter, and what superhero would adorn the child's bed sheets. This was a bizarre and extraordinary adventure, and Rodney wasn't sure if he would ever fully believe it was real. But, what would be would be, and it was looking like things were going to be all right.
He's falling, falling through the air and into the ocean; so, so deep. He streaks through the water like a diving bird. Flying. Feeling the water like wind as it slides past his face, as it wraps around his body, trailing in his wake mercurial green flames that dance away as spastic footprints in the current. Deeper and deeper, passing long strands of green-black seaweed, brightly coloured fishes that look like ZPMs with fins, tiny floating particles of innumerable ocean lives. Diving down and down until the pressure should crush him but instead it is what holds him together.
The ocean floor is strange under his feet, solid but uncertain. Tiny crabs make sand eddies around his ankles as they flee on his approach. Scared of the movement, scared of him.
She's not scared, though, and he wonders if he should be. His mind jumps ahead months and years, trying to clear the fog from what's to come, but the future remains blurry.
She's small and magical and nestled in a clamshell, a pink treasure among sea stars and spiraled tritons. Tiny bubbles leave her lips and float upward; he hears soft, watery giggles as they pass his ears. His surroundings recede until it's just him, her, and an eternity full of wonderment. And she is perfect in his arms.
"Have I got things to show you," he whispers. He feels her share his excitement and awe, his joy and fear.
When he breaks the surface, tiny spark of life pressed to his chest, he's already reaching for John's hand before he even knows if John is there.
But of course John is there, waiting for him. Always waiting.
When Rodney woke, the visions of his sleep were almost instantly replaced by schematics for the Ancient incubator. The baby was being transferred today and he would spend his morning double and triple checking the stability of the Ancient technology. He went through his morning ritual and arrived at the mess hall poking at his tablet, engrossed in specifications and expectations. He filled a tray with a small mountain of eggs and the Pegasus version of bacon, and sat down opposite John, who'd just started into his own breakfast. For no reason he could articulate, Rodney said, "I hope you weren't waiting long."
John tilted his head in question. "We don't have to be there 'til this afternoon."
Returning John's uncertain expression, Rodney slowly said, "No, I don't suppose we do."
John went back to eating, and Rodney shrugged off whatever it was that had just happened and turned his attention to his food. They talked a little through breakfast, and made plans to meet at John's quarters shortly before they were due in the lab. Then they were off to spend the morning tending to their respective departmental concerns.
Rodney was early to John's room and when John didn't answer, he let himself in. As soon as he entered, he remembered the dream. Just flashes of it really, nothing concrete; green-blue and awe and giggling bubbles. Part of his brain tried to put the images together, to make sense of them, but most of his thought processes had been derailed by John.
John, who had just come out of the shower, his hair still dripping and a towel wrapped low around his hips, tucked just under his distended belly. During John's physical exams with Carson, Rodney waited on the other side of a curtain to give them privacy, so this was the first time he was really seeing what John looked like.
Rodney stared at that incongruous bump and was stunned for a moment. It didn't make any sense, this hairy, pregnant man. A baby, even when grown in the usual fashion, was pretty damned miraculous. But this, this was a miracle of spectacularly epic proportions.
But for all the novelty and wonder of the situation, John was breathtaking.
When Rodney came back to himself, he'd crossed the room and had placed both hands on John's tummy. The flesh was warm and firm, hard in a different way than he imagined John's stomach muscles were.
Rodney looked up, caught out in his awe. John's expression was relaxed, though, his eyes warm. When Rodney pulled his hands away, John took them and placed them back on his body. He kept one hand over Rodney's, flattened against his belly, and put the other on Rodney's shoulder. He didn't meet Rodney's eyes, but he gave his shoulder an encouraging squeeze.
Rodney let his hands slide over John's skin, imagining he could feel the shape of a tiny curled body underneath.
"Does – Does it move around much?" he wanted to know.
John nodded. "Some," he said, "but I think she's sleeping right now. She's more active in the morning."
Rodney's eyes widened. "She?"
John shrugged. "I go back and forth; sometimes she and sometimes he."
With a disapproving curl of his lip, Rodney asked, "You still haven't found out what it is?"
John looked at Rodney like he was mentally deficient. "It's a baby, genius. Besides, we're finding out today. Anyway, if you wanted to know, how come you never asked Beckett?"
Rodney felt a little embarrassed as he explained, "It just never came up."
John moved his thumb so it barely stroked the skin above Rodney's collar and spoke softly as he said, "Well, I like surprises sometimes."
"I guess I do, too," Rodney replied, a nervous smile forming on his lips.
Rodney was starting to get that stunned rabbit feeling (and why did images of rabbits make him uncomfortable like they never had before?), reminding him of his initial reaction to the news of John's pregnancy.
He was still kind of astounded by the magnitude of what was happening, but that spark of joy he'd felt back then had spent the past six months growing in him. With John's touch confirming his feelings, that spark was erupting into a nervous and eager little blaze.
They leaned in at the same time, slowly, giving each other space. But when John slid his hand around Rodney's neck, Rodney smiled a little crazily and whispered, "Okay then."
Though John initiated the kiss, Rodney held on like it was the one thing keeping him on his feet. He kept one hand pressed gently against John's belly, while the other had slid up John's arm and wrapped around his bare shoulders.
There was nothing like the hard bulge of a baby-to-be pushing against his stomach and John's mouth sliding against his own to make Rodney finally grasp the full reality of what was happening. Not only understand it, but embrace and celebrate it.
Rodney McKay, multiple Ph.D., most brilliant mind in two galaxies and reluctant hero, was father to the child of his best friend, John Sheppard, USAF officer, intergalactic flyboy and surfer. He was also more than a friend.
And that was all so very wonderful.
John squeezed Rodney's hand and as if on cue, Rodney felt a firm kick against his palm.
His voice full of awe, Rodney said, "I, I think she's awake."
"Or he," John said with a chuckle. "You wanna go find out?"
Rodney nodded and felt quite bold when he gave John a warm kiss. Then he stepped back and sat on the end of the bed, while John dressed.
As they walked from John's room to the lab, Rodney told him he was pretty sure the baby was a girl.
John quirked an eyebrow but he didn't object, just said, "It will be what it will be."
- end -