- Science Fiction
“I’ve got a small issue.”
Ronon raised an eyebrow and put what John was coming to know as his “get on with it” face on. “Okay.”
“We’re here to help, of course, John.” Teyla took a seat in his visitor chair, and Rodney frowned at him intensely.
“How small is this issue?” McKay asked. “I mean—if it’s a body we can probably move it around the city without getting caught after hours and those shark fish are always lingering around the pier three.”
Ronon nodded, and Teyla bit down on her lip.
John sighed. “It’s not a body.” He rubbed his head. “Well, actually, it is kind of part of a body.”
Teyla’s mouth dropped open. “Pardon me?”
“Sebastian brought a small urn of his mother’s ashes with him to Atlantis,” John clarified, and Teyla relaxed slightly in her chair. “He’d like to have some sort of memorial for her on the city, and I think it would help his grief process a lot. But I’m at a loss as to what to do, really, because he’s already done the funeral thing on Earth and I’d rather not have him regress. He’s come far already in processing her death.”
“Oh.” Rodney frowned. “I…have no idea. I mean…I’ll participate in whatever he needs, but I haven’t the first clue what would make him happy on this front.”
“I suggested that we plant a try in the city’s park which is currently utterly barren because botany hasn’t had the time to make it even some sort of hobby. But I figured as a team we could clean up the place.”
“Among my people, we are often forced to memorialize our losses without a body,” Teyla said. “We have various ceremonies depending on the needs of the family and also our circumstances.”
“We held feasts to honor the dead,” Ronon said. “We also cremated the bodies if we had them.”
“His mother was loved parks, forests, and a huge garden that she took care of herself,” John said. “So I thought we could plant some sort of tree for him. I don’t know if he’d want to spread her ashes or not. I’ll leave that up to him.”
“We can look on the mainland for a young tree to transplant,” Rodney suggested. “Something that will grow well. I’m sure Parrish would help pick something out that will work. He’s fond of Sebastian.”
“Great.” John exhaled and sat back in his chair. “I didn’t know he has the ashes until last night. I don’t know why he didn’t bring it up before. Maybe he just wasn’t ready to talk about it. Though he has mentioned the empty park a few times. I guess it bothers him that it’s dead.”
“We’ll need soil from the mainland,” Ronon said. “All of the plant areas in the park are empty. Some are deep enough for trees, but they’re empty. It has built-in irrigation, but it might need maintenance.”
“I’ll take care of that. It would be fed by the same system that feeds hydroponics so it wouldn’t be any increase in power usage. There are probably some food crops that botany or Chief Cooper would be interested in growing. I’ll get with them both about that,” Rodney murmured. “We should include him in the planning process.”
“I think he’s going to propose to Weir that we create a community garden in the park, so that’ll work. He needs some kind of community enrichment project on his homeschooling report. It’ll look good for the review,” John explained as he picked up a pen and flicked it through his fingers. “I haven’t told him about the physical education options we’ve been discussing, but I’ve cleared an hour or so every other day starting tomorrow for you get him out of the lab, Ronon.” He paused. “And you can send him Teyla’s way for lessons as well depending on what the two of you have planned.”
“We need to go off-world for some things,” Ronon said. “We’ll go this morning and be back for the mission. Unless we’re needed for body disposal.”
“There really isn’t a body,” John said roughly. “Unless Kavanagh continues to be a pain in the ass then there will definitely be a body.”
“We can go to New Athos first,” Teyla said. “And perhaps one of the trading markets next if we can’t get what need from my people.”
“I’ll get my coat,” Ronon said and left.
“And your sword,” Teyla called after him. “We can get it sharpened.” She stood. “If there is nothing else?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say no to some of that bread Halling makes if he has any for trade,” John said.
“I’ll see. We’ll be back before the afternoon mission.”
Rodney slid into the chair as Teyla left, the door slid shut at John’s mental prod. “Is he upset?”
“No, just opening up a little I guess,” John said. “He didn’t have a nightmare last night, and he ate normally at breakfast. He was pretty eager to go to his diplomacy lesson, so I think he’ll be all-in on getting Elizabeth on board with the community garden thing.”
Rodney nodded. “My mother died of cancer when I was working on my second doctorate. My parents had already divorced at that point, and Jeannie was just starting school. I barely remember the funeral, and that’s probably terrible.”
“I don’t remember much about my mom’s funeral either,” John admitted. “I was fourteen—mostly I remember being angry and I felt like my Dad had failed us because he didn’t save her. She died of a brain aneurysm, so it wasn’t like he had any ability to fight that, but I blamed him anyway.”
“Yes, well grief is irrational, and teenagers are irrational, so I can see how it would’ve sort of snowballed on you,” Rodney said. “I doubt your father resents you for it.”
“No, he resents me for a ton of other reasons,” John said and shrugged when Rodney raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t join his company, I didn’t stay married to the perfect corporate wife that he didn’t pick out but certainly would’ve given the opportunity, I joined the Air Force instead of the Navy, I got a degree in math instead of engineering, etc. I’m sure there are other things that I’ve either forgotten or wasn’t around to be told about.”
“Have you told him about Sebastian?”
“No, but I probably should since…well, I just should.”
“He’s your next of kin, right?”
“No, I mean, I don’t have anyone listed.”
That was probably deeply irresponsible considering his new circumstances. “I don’t have a will either. I feel like an idiot.”
“Yes, well, Weir can notarize a will for you,” Rodney said. “I have one on file.”
John nodded and frowned. He knew, deep in his bones, that Sebastian wasn’t safe on Earth as a minor and maybe not even as an adult. If he died, his father or one of his brothers would automatically get custody, but because of the program, they’d probably never be told about the real danger to his son.
“There are will templates on the staff server,” Rodney prodded.
“Would you…” John cleared his throat and focused on McKay. “Listen, I’m going to ask a big favor of you.”
“Sure.” Rodney raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure there isn’t a body?”
John laughed. “Seriously. It’s big, and you can say no, I won’t resent you for it. I promise.” He paused, and Rodney waved him on. “I’d like to name you as Sebastian’s guardian if I were to be killed in action.”
McKay’s mouth dropped open. “John.”
“He likes you a lot, and I know you’d take care of him. You’d also be able to keep him here on Atlantis because he’s not safe on Earth, McKay. I trust you to protect him and his rights.” John took a deep breath. “It’s big…so I get it if you ask to talk to Katie about it and think about it for a bit.”
“No, I mean…” Rodney huffed. “Of course, I’ll keep your kid if something happened to you. And no, I don’t need to ask Katie about it.” He rolled his eyes. “I’m honored and stuff though I’ll probably curse you a lot if you get killed in action, John. That’s not fair at all, and it certainly isn’t in my forty-year plan. Who’s gonna retire with me and bitch about stuff on my front porch if not you?”
“Whomever you end up married to?” John questioned with a laugh.
Rodney frowned at him like he’d said something really horrible. “You’re not allowed to die, Sheppard. We’re going to grow old and terrible then when we’re finished with that we’re going to ascend so we can keep an eye on your kid and whatever grandkids he gives you. If the Ancients don’t like it, we’ll kick their asses.”
“Sounds like a plan, buddy.”
“Plus Teyla and Ronon will probably have children with whomever they end up with, and we’ll have to keep an eye on them as well. Because we’re team and that’s what team does.” He pointed a finger at him. “I’m going to go send David Parrish an email about harvesting stupid trees from the mainland for Sebastian.”
“Wait,” John said as McKay started to stand. “I probably need to name you my next of kin officially—are you cool with that? So you can make decisions if I’m injured and be in charge of my kid if I’m in the infirmary.”
“Sure, I’ll make you my next of kin then,” Rodney said. “It’s currently Jeannie, but that would be crazy if I actually needed emergency surgery or something.”
Rodney stood and walked to the door then turned to point at John again. “Forty-year plan!”
“Forty years,” John repeated with a laugh. “Here’s hoping whomever you marry doesn’t hate my guts.”
“I’d never marry someone who hates my best friend’s guts,” Rodney declared and left.
John exhaled sharply and closed the door with a thought. He rubbed his face with both hands and repeated forty-year plan under his breath. The fact was, he wasn’t all that put off about growing old with McKay. Their friendship hadn’t been all roses but McKay was loyal, and John took great comfort in that.
He opened up his laptop and retrieved all the documents he’d need to get the ball rolling on making some kind of legal family with McKay. It didn’t feel weird at all.
– – – –
The third time Dr. Weir told someone she couldn’t meet with them because she was having a class with him, Sebastian realized she was using him as a geek-block. He didn’t know whether to be really amused or offended since he was pretty much a geek himself. His dad was probably going to laugh a lot about it. McKay probably didn’t need to know since he’d probably get really snarky about it.
“A community enrichment project would look good on your report for the state,” Weir mused. “And a public garden would be good for morale, so it’s a twofer.”
“Cool. I…drew up some plans. I was going to show them to Dr. Parrish this afternoon.”
“Email them to me,” she said and picked up her tablet. “Did you make room for food as well as flowers?”
“Mostly food and decorative options around the outside. Plus some trees. If we can get some fruit-bearing trees from the mainland that would be good. They’ll smell and look nice as well as provide supplemental food sources for the mess.” He paused. “Daddy said if you agreed that maybe we could plant a tree for my mom. In her memory.”
“I’d be really honored to be a part of that,” Elizabeth said. “Would she like something that flowered? What was her favorite color?”
“She had some pink dogwoods in our garden—she liked them a lot. I wonder if there’s something similar on the mainland?”
“We’ll ask Dr. Parrish,” Elizabeth assured. “I’m not sure we could get away with planting a flowering tree from Earth even on the city. The sciences are serious about not contaminating the native environment of this planet with our own plants.”
“Seed contamination shouldn’t be too much of an issue this far at sea but maybe birds…” He trailed off. “Not that I see many birds on the city—mostly sea-fowl. I mean there is that penguin looking thing that keeps trying to climb up on pier six. I’ve been considering helping him.”
Elizabeth laughed. “No.”
“He’s really serious about checking us out,” Sebastian said. “Curiosity should be rewarded.”
“Not for wild creature it shouldn’t.”
“Maybe we can talk to biology about helping him,” Sebastian suggested.
“I’m pretty sure they’re the reason he keeps trying to come onto the city,” she said wryly. “They feed him.”
“He is interesting—penguins on Earth don’t have gills. He’s clearly capable of breathing on land and under the water. I’m not allowed to have a dog, so I think a little penguin creature might be just the best I can do on the pet front.” He shot her a look, and she grinned at him. “What do you think Daddy would do?”
“Lecture you a lot,” she said with a laugh. “Then probably get you a bed for it.”
“He’s not very big—probably only about three pounds,” Sebastian said. “He’s like fairy penguin size. I saw some of those in a zoo in Australia once.”
“What’s his name?” she asked wearily.
“Well. I wasn’t sure if he was actually really a ‘he’ so I went with something gender neutral.” He paused and flushed. “Avery. I call him Avery.”
She rubbed her face. “Please don’t tell your father I approved of this.”
He laughed. “Oh, come on. He’s adorable.”
“He really is,” Dr. Weir admitted with a sigh. “Good luck with Operation Penguin-like Creature Pet.” She checked her watch. “I was going to keep you through your lesson with Dr. Parrish to avoid Dr. Beckett, but I think you should pitch him your community garden project. I’ll email him my approval now so you guys can work on planning it.”
“Cool.” He gathered up his stuff and packed his backpack. “You could come with me and avoid Dr. Beckett by not being in your office.”
“He’d just follow us both. There’s no need for everyone to suffer. It’s lunchtime though so eat before you go to botany.”
He shouldered his bag and passed Beckett on the stairs. The man looked really irritated, so Sebastian just headed toward the transporter without a greeting. He wasn’t sure what to think about Beckett, but he knew he was a source of stress for both Dr. Weir and his daddy which meant he was probably up to something dangerous or dumb or both. Probably both.
In the mess, he picked pizza for lunch and stocked a few fruit options for snacking later. When he went to sit, he was waved over to a table where Dr. Porter was having lunch with Major Teldy. Teldy had her broken leg up across the bench one side, so he sat down next to Dr. Porter.
“I heard you told Kavanagh off,” Porter said as soon as he got settled.
“I…that’s not how I remember it,” he said and flushed when she laughed. “I just told him that I’m not allowed to work with him because he’s a thief.”
“Wow,” Teldy said. “Is he?”
“Yeah,” Porter murmured. “At Area 51 he was known for it. None of us will work on him on personal research projects as a result. It’s a pain in the butt as far as scheduling goes since McKay doesn’t force us to work with Peter at all. He often ends up working alone which means he’s unsupervised which isn’t great because he’s also lazy.”
“I’d never want to work with anyway,” Sebastian admitted. “I’d have to spend half my time explaining things to him, and I don’t get paid to educate people.” He paused. “I don’t get paid at all.”
Anne laughed. “Sometimes it doesn’t feel like any of us do.”
“Because you can’t spend the money out here,” Sebastian said. “It’s weird, right? Living in a bartering community. I think we spend a lot of time on Earth learning the value of money versus the value of people and their actual effort.”
“Your dad’s off-world this afternoon, who’s your schedule keeper?” Allison asked.
“Officially, Dr. Weir,” Sebastian said. “I’m to go to botany after lunch. Daddy will pick me up after that since he isn’t supposed to be gone long. But Dr. Kusanagi will collect me if the mission runs long and make sure I get dinner. I won’t even have time to find some weird panel today.”
Allison laughed. “That weird panel you found earlier in the week has already solved a lot of issues we were having with energy loss. You easily added another five years to the ZPM we currently have in place just by finding that.”
“I rewarded myself with cookies,” Sebastian said. “I probably should get more cookies.”
“Definitely,” Anne said. “Five years of operation is worth a lot of cookies.”
“Or pie,” Allison interjected. “They have apple pie up there.”
“Ha, sold.” Sebastian shot up and trotted off to get pie.
– – – –
Dr. Brown didn’t like the idea of devoting any time to the city park which was disappointing, but Dr. Parrish was thrilled and had already responded several times to Dr. Weir’s single email. They’d worked on the plans most of the afternoon, but Sebastian was getting distracted. His daddy was more than an hour late, and in another thirty minutes, it would be time for dinner.
“Did you want me to call the gate room? Get an update on the mission?”
Sebastian blushed. “No, I mean. I don’t want anyone to think I’m a whiner or whatever.”
“Being concerned isn’t whining,” David said mildly and looked up as the door to his office opened. “Ah, Teyla, here to rescue him from my clutches?”
“Yes,” Teyla said with a smile.
Sebastian grabbed his bag and tried to ignore the way his stomach was knotting. Teyla had never retrieved him at the end of the day. She was really busy with her people and working with Dr. Weir that he didn’t see much of her at all which was disappointing since she was cool. She offered him her hand, and he took it.
“Is something wrong?”
“Your father is in the infirmary,” Teyla said as she led him to the transporter. “He has a very minor injury, but it is a stab wound, so those have to be treated quickly and thoroughly to the possible infection and alien germs.”
“Right.” Sebastian swallowed hard. “Minor, you said?”
“It was a small blade,” Teyla assured. “We have healing devices—he won’t even have stitches. He’s more irritated than anything since the blade punctured his body armor and we were told that was impossible. We kept the blade so we can determine the composition. We’ll need to file a report regarding the equipment failure with the SGC.”
“Some government contractor is going to be utterly baffled by that,” Sebastian said as they exited the transporter next to the infirmary.
“Ronon was injured as well,” Teyla explained. “He took an arrow in the thigh, so he’s quite cross.”
Sebastian frowned. “I thought this was supposed to be a trading mission.”
“It was, unfortunately, we chose to trade with a group of people who are in a very hostile conflict with another tribe on their planet. A tribe we didn’t know about until they attacked the village. We defended our new friends, of course, and that sealed a lucrative trade deal for the city.”
“Is Dr. McKay hurt?”
“No, we were both deeper into the village when the attack began, and the village leader compelled us to shelter with him.”
“Compelled?” Sebastian questioned.
“Yes, Dr. McKay called him a pansy.”
Sebastian snorted. “Wow.”
They entered the infirmary, and she guided him through the large room right to the bed where his Dad was. Dr. Biro was using some kind of Ancient healing wand on a small puncture wound in his Dad’s side.
Sebastian frowned. “Does it hurt?”
“It did,” John admitted. “But now I’m mostly just pissed off. Did you have a good day?”
“Dr. Weir said we can do the garden thing,” Sebastian leaned forward slightly. “It didn’t hit your kidney?”
“No, buddy, the blade wasn’t long enough. It barely made it past my tac vest.”
John watched his son’s face while Biro did the healing. The kid wasn’t doing a great job keeping his worry to himself. He reached out and brushed a lock of hair from Sebastian’s forehead. “You need a hair cut.”
“I’m not in the Marines,” Sebastian protested and ran a hand through his hair as Teyla laughed. “I’m considering Mr. Dex’s hairstyle.”
“No,” John said firmly. “I don’t have the patience for that.”
He shifted as Biro shifted the Ancient device around and there was weird tugging on his insides. He’d been tempted to say no to the device, but he hadn’t wanted the kid more upset. The injury was bad enough—moving around like an old man for a week would be another.
“Yeah, kind of like she’s tugging on my insides,” John admitted and found his kid leaning forward in fascination. “But the device numbs you before it starts healing, so it’s just this dull sensation.”
“It’s very Star Trek,” Sebastian decided. “The only thing this place is missing is replicators.”
“That’s kind of a dirty word around here,” Biro said as she worked.
“You mean the little bug robots that made themselves human?” Sebastian questioned. “Yeah, I read all about them. I have to admit to being pretty interested in the whole thing. Dr. McKay already told me I’m not allowed to make one.”
John shuddered. “Yes, please, no bug robots. Actually, no robots at all. It’s just not a good idea.”
“I think Terminator made people a little too afraid of technology,” Sebastian said.
John frowned. “You watched Terminator? Really?”
“Well, mom made me cover my eyes during the stuff. Which considering part two of that franchise turned out to be baby-making stuff.” Sebastian shrugged. “Mom said I couldn’t watch that movie uncensored until I was sixteen.”
“Eighteen,” John corrected.
Sebastian laughed. “Dad.”
“Thirty!” Rodney called out as he left the infirmary showers dressed in scrubs.
“You’re both ridiculous,” Teyla said. “He’s already very mature for his age. I’m sure sixteen will be an appropriate age to discuss such topics as baby making.”
John glared at her, and she laughed.
“Daddy, since you’re kind of stuck here for a moment I think it’s a good a time as any to tell you that Dr. Weir said I could have the little alien penguin thing as a pet if I can catch it.”
John raised an eyebrow. “Pardon me?”
Sebastian grinned. “Daddy, I think considering today’s events and my stress level that I really need an emotional support alien penguin.”
“You’re transparent as hell,” John said.
“He’s a wild alien creature.”
Sebastian raised an eyebrow. “He’s a three-pound penguin who already eats out of my hand and tries to climb up the wall of the pier to be with me.”
“Well, Elizabeth did let us keep Ronon,” Teyla said dryly.
“I’m not deaf you know.” The curtain for the other bed swung open, and Ronon stared at them all pointedly then focused on Sebastian. “I’ll help you catch him.”
Sebastian grinned. “I named him Avery.”
Biro snorted as John just sighed and relaxed on the bed. “I think you’re going to lose the emotional support alien penguin battle, Colonel.”
He sighed. “We do have one of those big bathtubs.”
– – – –
John got comfortable on the sofa and just murmured his thanks as McKay pulled off his boots for him. Sebastian was hovering nearby, his hand wrapped tightly around the strap of his backpack. “Why don’t you take a shower? By the time you get done, Teyla should be here with dinner.”
“Mr. Dex didn’t look happy about being kept overnight,” Sebastian said.
“He doesn’t like confinement,” Rodney said. “Teyla and I will sit with him tonight until he sleeps.” He turned to Sebastian. “Are you old enough to shower alone?”
Sebastian stared at him, half horror and all scorn. “I’m not a baby, Dr. McKay.”
John snorted as his kid stomped off muttering under his breath. McKay just grinned and walked away with the boots. A few moments later he returned with a clean pair of socks which John took gladly.
“Did you want a blanket?”
“Nah, I’m good, thanks.” John pulled the socks on and took a deep breath. “You’re being weird.”
“You got stabbed,” Rodney muttered. “I wasn’t…There was a lot of blood, and I wasn’t…it freaked me out I guess. You haven’t really taken an injury in a while.” He wet his lips. “I…” He huffed and sat down on the sofa beside him. “I need to break up with Katie.”
“You like her a lot,” John pointed out.
“We don’t have a lot in common, and I have some stuff to work out in my head. It’s not fair to string her along. I mean I have some feelings to work on.”
“You have feelings?” John questioned.
“Yes, Sheppard, I have feelings,” Rodney repeated sarcastically. “And I need to work them out in my head because they’re unexpected and I don’t know where they came from and they aren’t about Katie, so there’s that.” He stood abruptly. “I’m going to go sit with Ronon and eat my own dinner. I’ll keep my radio on so if you need anything, let me know.”
John watched him leave with a small frown on his face. He really wasn’t quite sure what to do with Rodney’s unexpected feelings. The scientist had sort of flitted from crushing on one woman to the next since he’d known him, so there was no telling who was next on McKay’s agenda.
He hit his radio. “Hey, McKay.”
“Did you fall or something? I’ll be right back.”
“No, I haven’t moved. Listen, about Brown, the kid doesn’t like to be around her because she tries to mother him. I was going to talk to her about it but if you’re going to dump her…” He sighed. “I don’t want to add insult to injury.”
“Did you want me to tell her? I was kind of hoping to start an argument with her so she’d dump me.”
“No, I’ll just send out a general email on the staff server. You’re such an asshole by the way,” John said wryly, and McKay laughed. He turned off his radio and picked up his laptop from the coffee table.
He fired off a simple email to the whole city and since he was injured he figured he could get away with being kind of blunt about it. He outlawed “mothering” whatever that was exactly and reminded every single person on the city that his kid wasn’t required to spend time with anyone and that they needed to all respect his space.
Then with a sigh, he sent an email to the head of biology to ask about the alien penguin. He didn’t think it was dangerous but getting the expert opinion was for the best. Also, they’d need someone to take care of in case it got sick or whatever which meant that biology had to be on board with Avery making himself at home on the city.