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Fic: Close to Home (Gen, PG)

Title: Close to Home
Author: lantean_breeze
Recipient: ceitie
Pairing: Gen
Rating: PG or K+
Word Count: ~ 3400
Disclaimer: I own nothing, oh but if I did... ;)
Author's Notes: This is one of those "warm domestic stories" Ceitie asked for. At least I hope it is... Pretty much all fluff. :)
Summary: The team makes a cute and cuddly find.

-o-

The puddle jumper soared back from the small planet near the Purple Nebula. Ronon dialed the DHD while Rodney and Teyla sat in the back gently holding soft, fluffy bundles.

"Well, Woolsey's gonna love this," said John as he piloted the jumper through the space gate.

"What else could we do! We couldn't just leave them there," Rodney said in hushed irritation.

"Why are you talking low," asked Ronon.

"Because, she prefers quiet. The least you two could do is keep it down," answered Rodney.

"Uh, okay, " said Ronon as he glanced over at a very quiet and impatient looking Teyla. She was cradling her bundle in the same protective way as Rodney, but it was her barely contained impatience that seemed so out of character to Ronon. He turned back facing forward in his seat as the puddle jumper landed in the gate room.

"C'mon-c'mon-c'mon! Make yourselves useful and open the hatch so we can get to Carson," said Rodney as he hopped up and rushed to the back of the jumper, Teyla following suit.

"Geez, hold your horses, McKay!" said John as he got up.

"Shh. Keep your voice down!" Rodney said after he rushed out of the back of the jumper right as the hatch opened.

He and Teyla sped past an inquiring Woolsey to the Infirmary where Carson was and gently sat the large cooing bundles down on his exam table. Carson immediately put down the tablet he was using to go over the latest results of a small medical trial he was running to counter the effects of Michael's augmented Hoffan drug. He grabbed his stethoscope and stepped in between Teyla and Rodney.

"Now what's this about?"

"Don't ask questions, Carson! Just help them!" snapped Rodney.

"Yes, please! I believe they are giving birth," said Teyla with a tremble in her voice.

"Birth!?" Carson slowly unwrapped the first bundle to see what looked like a very pregnant cross between a miniature yellow dog and yellow bear. The animal was clearly sick and in pain. Carson unwrapped the other bundle to find the same thing. He gently rolled the exam table underneath the scanner and was surprised that the system seemed to recognize their species.

He called for nurse Cho and told her to prepare to assist him as he ran the Ancient text through a translator to learn what he could about his new patients. He turned to his side to see Rodney and Teyla standing there with curious expressions on their faces.

"You two can go on now. We'll take it from here. I'll give you an update once we're done," he said in a way that snapped them both out of their thoughts.

"Oh, oh right," said Rodney as he headed for the exit. Teyla simply nodded and was on her way as well.

"And remember to be back here for your post mission check-ups before tomorrow!" Carson yelled as they both exited.

They both passed Woolsey on their way out of the Infirmary, but not before he said they would have some explaining to do later. Rodney tapped Teyla on her shoulder as she started to turn down a hallway leading to her room.

"Hey, do you feel different? Well not different from normal now, but different than you did a little while ago when we were holding, holding-the whatever those things are?"

"Yes, I do. While I was holding the animal, it was as if the only thing that mattered in the world was getting her the help that she needed. It was very... peculiar."

"Yeah, but now you feel fine, right? "

"Yes."

"Me too. "

"The scanning device Carson used seemed to have some information on them. Judging from his reaction, none of it seemed to be a cause for concern," said Teyla.

As they stood there, John and Ronon caught up with them and suggested they all watch a movie as they waited for news about the animals they brought in.

_~_

"A total waste of time," said Rodney.

"No it wasn't. That's like one of the best movies of all time," said John.

"Hmm, let's see. The movie's about an advanced piece of cybernetic artificial intelligence from the future, and instead of focusing on the sheer amount of scientific discovery behind that, the movie is all about a waitress running from bullets," countered Rodney.

"Did we even watch the same film? You are totally missing the point of it all!"

"Oh, yeah? And what would that be?"

"I don't know McKay, how about the future of the human race coming down to saving the life of an unborn child who'll lead the fight against machines taking over one day?"

"Well perhaps if sweet little miss and her soldier boyfriend had contacted a scientist or two, they wouldn't have had to do so much running. Brains over brawn wins out any day."

"Remember to remind me of that the next time you hide behind me when we're fighting the Wraith on a mission," said John.

"Or when you hide behind me," said Ronon.

"I think we can all agree that both intelligence and strength matter, and we all possess a measure of both," said Teyla.

Just as Rodney was about to reply, Carson radioed them to come to the infirmary to learn about Atlantis's newest visitors, which promptly ended their debate.

John got up and put on his sunglasses as he headed for the door. "I'll be baack," he said stiffly as they all walked out of the lounge area.

"We're all going to the same place. There's no one left to come back to here," said Ronon.

"It's an expression from the movie, a joke," John said. He looked at Teyla and Ronon's blank faces as Rodney moved past them. " Ah, never mind," John pouted as he walked past Ronon and Teyla's still questioning glances and led the way back to the Infirmary. Teyla and Ronon exchanged a look and shrugged and then followed behind him.

As soon as they arrived to meet Carson, they saw him wheeling a small baby bed up to them. Before they had much chance to look into the bed, Carson started handing each one of them a tiny pup.

"What they need most now, is touch," said Carson as he first handed Teyla a pup, then John, Ronon, and Rodney.

There were five total, and Carson held on to the last one until Woolsey arrived a moment later.

"You may notice that you feel a wee bit differently. Based on the information I've been able to gather so far, it's because they are touch-telepaths by nature. Obviously they don't speak our language, so what gets communicated most are emotions."

"That still doesn't explain why we need to be holding them," said Woolsey.

"Well, if you'd like I can take it back." Carson reached out for the pup and instinctively Richard drew back. Carson smiled. "That would be you reacting to your pup's need for security and protection. It seems as though you've connected quite nicely with it."

"So, what are they?" asked Rodney.

"The equivalent Ancient word used to describe them is "wholeness." I didn't get to read much about that because I was focused on the bits that had to do with their anatomy."

"And how are the parents?" asked Teyla.

"They survived and are in dire need of recuperation. Dr. Cole and I are supervising their recovery-"

"Wait, shouldn't you get someone more experienced in veterinary care for this?" asked Rodney.

"I have radioed Dr. Chestnut for help, but they've already taken to us, and they appear to be nurtured by touch and forming connections via their telepathic bonds. It seems to be a large factor in their physical improvement. "

"How strong are these connections gonna be?" asked Ronon. His little guy seemed determined to snuggle down under his shirt to lay flat against his chest.

"I can't say. Perhaps as strong as any connection someone could have with a pet. All I know is that so far, I don't see anything that says it's harmful to us."

"What about to them," asked John.

"Nothing on that either so far," said Carson. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got more work to do."

"Wait. You're leaving them with us?" asked John.

"Well someone has to care for them. The amniotic sac they were in protected them against whatever ailment their parents have, so there's no reason for them to be here. You brought them to Atlantis, Colonel Sheppard, so I'm sure you won't mind showing them a little hospitality until their parents are well enough to care for them and return to their home planet." Carson chuckled as he clapped John on his shoulder before walking away.

John looked down at the small little creature cradled in his arm. "Well, I guess it's just you and me for a little while, huh buddy?"

He watched as the tiny little pup curled up in his arm and snuggled against him. The pup was covered by a very thin layer of light-yellow fur. It looked more like a puppy than anything else, but there were some characteristics of a bear cub it had, like its ears and stumpy tail and legs, but its paws looked more like a dog's. John smiled as he looked at him, well John figured it was a him, and that was good enough for the moment.

_~_


Over the course of the next few weeks, the team grew very close to their wholeness pups, some even giving theirs names. Woolsey found that his pup had a great appreciation for the classical music he liked to play in his office, Beethoven in particular. He took to calling his pup Sonata because it wasn't ready for bed until he played Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata each night. John kept things simple by calling his pup Buddy. For a newborn, Buddy was quite frisky and always on the lookout for a new adventure. Teyla didn't name her pup, and neither did Ronon, but Rodney did. "Must be an Earth thing," Ronon said to Teyla one day as Rodney scolded his couldn't-care-less pup at the lunch table.

"Sprocket! Sprocket, no! That's my Jell-O!" said Rodney, but the damage had already been done. Sprocket had blue Jell-O all over his little paws and mouth. He happily licked them while Rodney complained to the rest of the table, much to their amusement. "Seriously, it's not like he doesn't eat six times a day! I just fed him before we came here so I could have lunch. At the rate he's going it's a wonder he's not three times his size now."

"Really?" said Ronon. It was more of a statement than a question. He looked down at Rodney's tray loaded with a large sandwich, a big bowl of beef stew, an apple, a brownie, and the less-than-firm blue Jell-O that Sprocket had commandeered. He shook his head and smiled as he looked away.

"Yes, really!" said Rodney, too focused on Sprocket to notice Ronon's tone or expression. He held up his little pup after turning him around to look at him and met the most innocent looking eyes he'd ever seen. He wasn't fooled. "Well, you know what this means, don't you mister? That's right. Back to the bathtub for you. That blue Jell-O's not coming out of your fur with a wet-wipe; I can tell you that. We haven't even tested to see if you can eat Jell-O yet." Rodney paused. "Wait-We haven't even tested to see if you can eat Jell-O yet!" He gave Sprocket a quick once over and then dashed out of the Commissary to have Carson run more tests in the Infirmary.

"That poor animal has been tested more than all of the patients in Carson's Hoffan trials combined," remarked John as he watched Rodney scurry away with Sprocket in tow, still happily licking his paws. As much as Rodney complained, it was very clear to everyone how much Sprocket meant to him. Teyla smiled as she serenely coddled her pup as if it were a baby, while a little head dipped back below Ronon's collar to rest itself against his chest.


_~_

"Okay, now take a deep breath," said Carson as he held a stethoscope to a patient's back.

Rodney ran past the staff in the Infirmary and made a beeline for Carson, almost knocking over a rolling curtain as he arrived.

"Look I know you're busy but I need you to check him again."

Carson listened to his patient exhale and then removed the stethoscope.

"Sounds good. If you don't mind, it'll be just one moment," he said to the young intern who was sitting there. He stepped away and turned towards Rodney who was holding up Sprocket. Carson saw the blue paws and mouth, catching a whiff of what could have been a blue raspberry scent, and tilted his head to the side.

"Well, first, Rodney, you know it's not a him because this species has no separate sexes. Each animal is nearly identical to the other. It's pretty fascinating, really-"

"But Carson-"

"And second, I was with a patient, Rodney. Unless it's an emergency, you really are going to have to wait."

"But Carson! He ate my Jell-O! Do you understand?"

"I think I do," said Carson as he turned to go back to his patient.

"No-no-no-no! We need to see what might be wrong with him. What if Jell-O will kill him if you don't do something right now to stop it?"

"Sprocket looks just fine, Rodney. But look at you," he said a little amused.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, go back to whatever it was you were doing. A happily panting pup is not a concern right now."

"You see panting? So you admit it could be asthma. What if it's the Jell-O that's causing it?"

Carson picked up the end of his stethoscope and put it on the other side of his patient's back. "He's fine-now you've got me saying he." Carson shook his head. "Sprocket's fine, Rodney. I'll talk to you later."

"So you're willing to have this on your conscience," Rodney said flatly, as if he were making a grave point. Carson signaled to one of the nurses nearby, and she appeared next to Rodney, taking hold of his arm to usher him out of the Infirmary with Sprocket.

"Goodbye, Rodney," said Carson.

_~_


As the pups grew past a month old, they became more adventurous, or in Buddy's case, more rambunctious. He loved the outdoors and trying new activities. John loved having what felt like a pet after his own heart. They were often seen playing catch with a soft throw toy that was a favorite of Buddy's. Sprocket, on the other hand, was very curious. He was constantly sniffing around and exploring things to see what they were, but Rodney had successfully trained him to behave when he took him to the lab. Sprocket had a little day bed in the corner where he would lay down and watch the ongoing bustle of scientists working, with Rodney as their centerpiece.

Ronon's pup was still very quiet and withdrawn, only leaving him when it had to for bathing and using its litter box, feeding, and bonding with its parents and siblings for short, but increasing, periods of time each day. It stayed very close to Ronon as much as it could, preferring to remain a growing little lump that Ronon held against his chest underneath his shirt. On occasion, it would poke its little head out of the opening of Ronon's shirt and rest its head against the side of his neck, usually to watch some bit of action or discussion when things got loud. After a few minutes, though, the tiny little head would disappear, and Ronon's pup would be resting flat against his bare chest again. When safely in Ronon's room, the pup would slide out from underneath his shirt to play until bedtime, then it would snuggle next to him and fall asleep. It's favorite game to play was tug of war. Ronon had a small piece of rope in his room that his pup would grab the end of with its mouth, trotting up to Ronon so he could take the other end and pull. After a few minutes of back and forth, Ronon would let his pup win, causing it to want to play all over again.

Teyla's pup loved resting against her pressed together bare feet while she meditated each morning and each night. During the meditative sessions she taught throughout the day, it often liked to assume something like a downward dog position while lying across her feet for support, and it would stay like that for the entire session. It was generally good natured and serene, but it sometimes displayed a fiercely independent streak as well, generally trying to do things without assistance but wisely accepting help when it was needed. Despite Teyla's refusal to name her pet, the regular attendees of one of her classes took to calling her pup Belle, and the name seemed to stick as Belle got used to responding to it.

_~_


As the six week mark came around, Carson let the team know that the pups' parents had finally recovered and that it was time for all of them to go back to their home planet, MX6-793. At first, the news was a little sad, but they had all known that the day would come. The pups were definitely going to be missed, but seeing them happy, healthy, and with their recovered parents had been the goal all along, and achieving this goal made the team happy in spite of their losses. So, one cool morning, the team loaded up the puddle jumper with the pups and their parents and took them back to the small planet just outside of the Purple Nebula. Before they left, both of the parents touched each member of the team, sending along a burst of deep gratitude. And then they were gone.

Not long after returning to Atlantis, John stumbled across Rodney looking at a holographic image of the pups' star system. His attention was focused on the little green planet on the outside of what looked like a large purple cloud. John stood next to him in the hologram room and spoke.

"They'll be okay," he said.

"I know," said Rodney. "I also know why the Ancients used the word "wholeness" to describe them. Sprocket's only been gone a few hours and already I feel like a piece of me is missing."

"Yeah, I know what you mean," said John. He didn't intend to make that admission; it just came out. "It is for the best, you know." He said this for his benefit as much as for Rodney's.

"Mmhmm," Rodney murmured with a small nod. "They say home is where the heart is," He recounted as he turned the hologram off. "And I can't help thinking that every time I think of that little green planet, my thoughts will always be close to home... I just wish we could visit."

"We can still visit," added John.

"You know what Carson and Dr. Chestnut said. They're going to need to assimilate to their culture and natural habitat, and us visiting could confuse them and disrupt that. If we do visit, it's going to be a good while before we can. By then, they may have forgotten us."

"Something tells me they won't," John said as they both headed for the door. He had a thought and smiled. Then he punched Rodney on the shoulder. "Hey, just remember next time we go out there to have some blue Jell-O ready for Sprocket. I don't think he'll forgive you if you forget to bring it."

Rodney laughed. "You know it gives him gas."

"Gas?" asked John.

"Yeah, but he still loves eating it..."

Both men continued their conversation as they walked to the lounge area. It was movie night for the team again. John had the Blu-Ray tucked under his harm, Ronon was bringing the beers, and Teyla would bring the popcorn. They all piled next to each other on the couch to watch Terminator 2. Things were going to be okay.


The end. :)


Another Author's Note: I hope you liked this, Ceitie. If you'd also like a bit of a visual as to what the pups look like, I've provided the picture I used for motivation (see below). Have a wonderful holiday season.

- Your Santa

Tags: genre: general
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