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Physics of the Spin

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Summary: Rory Gilmore always thought she was Christopher Hayden's daughter, but things are a little more complicated than that... (Gilmore Girls/Stargate xover)

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Gilmore Girls
Stargate > Non-BtVS/AtS Stories > Crossover: Other
(Past Donor)MhalachaiFR1321125,802149701186,2822 Jan 0812 Oct 09No

Freud Would Have A Field Day

John Sheppard was not pouting.

Military commanders of secret alien bases in far-off galaxies did not pout and they did not sulk and they did not hide in Puddlejumpers to avoid the prying eyes of subordinates as they tried to figure out how to get the base's most annoying scientist to speak to them again.

And because John Sheppard was the military commander of Atlantis, he was obviously not pouting as he sat in Jumper Five, mentally bemoaning the fact that Rodney McKay hadn't spoken to him in over a week. Because if he was, that would be embarrassing and pathetic.

And you'd know all about pathetic, John thought in disgust.

The Jumper's tiny proximity alarm went off, signaling the entrance of someone in the Jumper Bay. John mentally told the Jumper to pull up the flight log schematics, to give any potential interloper the impression that Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard was engaged in serious military commander business.

After all, he was a busy man.

A hesitant tap sounded at the end of the Jumper ramp. Before John could wonder which of the city's residents would actually knock on a Jumper, someone spoke. "Excuse me?"

John fought very hard to keep his shoulders straight. Of all the people he did not want to see, Rory Gilmore was high on the list. Near the top, even. Still, John had an image to maintain, especially in the face of sundry McKays. Plastering a smile onto his face, he swiveled the chair around. "Hey," he said. "Can I help you?"

Rory stood on the ramp, one hand clutching a tablet computer to her chest like a shield. "I'm supposed to find someone to show me a Puddlejumper, but there's no one else around," she said. Her obvious reluctance couldn't mask her curiosity as she looked around the inside of the Jumper. "You look busy. I'll come back later."

John should have let her go, but then he'd be forced to return to his sulk, and he wasn't sure he'd be able to deal with that level of self-pity. "Don't worry about it," he said. Rodney might be avoiding him, but that was no reason for John to take out his irritation on Rory.

"Thanks," she said. As she walked into the cabin, her fingers reached out to brush the delicate inscriptions on the wall. "Dr. McKay gave me a to-do list for today, and this is the last thing."

John settled back into the pilot's seat, trying to see something of McKay in his daughter. Rory had McKay's blue eyes and his chin, poor kid. The dark brown hair that hung down her back in a long braid might have come from McKay, or maybe the girl's mother, John wasn't sure.

But Rory was slender to the point of delicacy, while both McKay and Jeannie were more stocky without being large. Jeannie, anyway. Rodney had put on a few pounds since they'd arrived in Atlantis, John thought uncharitably.

Fully aware of how petty he was being, John focused on Rory's last words. "Is he actually making you call him Dr. McKay?"

Rory pulled her attention away from the side console. "Oh no, that's just habit. At the SGC, familiarity was not encouraged between the juniors and the scientists." She quirked her eyebrows and wrinkled her nose as if to show how much she cared for that rule. "After one lecture of 'addressing the esteemed scientists with the gravitas of their superior years and education'," she mimicked in a querulous voice, "It's just easier to call everyone by their title."

John smiled at her tone. How many times had he gotten that particular dressing-down from his superior officers over the years? "Who did you have to piss off to get that talk?" he asked, gesturing Rory to the co-pilot seat.

The girl sat obediently, placing her computer across her knees in a way that reminded John of the girls in high school holding their books over their uniform kilts, white knee-socks up high and knees pressed demurely together and Jesus Christ, he was not going to think like that about Rodney McKay's daughter.

"One of the older engineers," Rory was saying. "Daniel told me to ignore him." She smiled and ducked her eyes for a moment. "But Cam said that he was just saying that because if we called Daniel by all his titles, he'd be 'Dr. Dr. Jackson'."

And you call SG-1 by their first names with almost as much familiarity as Carter, John thought. "We're not really like that here," he said. "Besides, it's kind of weird to call your father by an honorific."

"I know, but it's strange to call him Rodney, and I can't really call him Dad yet," she confessed.

John shrugged. "You could always call him Meredith," he said without thinking. When his mind caught up with his mouth, he wanted to kick himself.

"Why would I call him Meredith?" she asked with a frown.

John wondered if Rory would do if he started banging his head against the console. Instead, he put on his most brilliant smile and tried to deflect. "Never mind. You said you needed to look around a Jumper?"

The hard look in her eye told John that she saw through his pathetic attempt to change the subject, but blessedly, she let it go. "I'm supposed to get an understanding of the power relays in the Jumper control circuits," she said, glancing down at her computer. "But I'm not supposed to touch anything."

"The ATA gene therapy worked on you, right?"

"Enough for me to be deafened by that power-sucking drone thing last week," Rory replied. "But I haven't had a chance to test it yet on anything else. Dr. Zelenka told me that none of the new people are allowed near Ancient technology for the first month, until Dr. McKay-- until Rodney can be sure that they won't accidentally blow up the city or something equally catastrophic."

Something like showing up Rodney McKay, John supplied internally. "There's no time like now."

"What do you mean?"

John stood and gestured at the pilot's chair. "You're supposed to learn about the Jumper. This is the best place to do it."

But aren't there missiles on the Jumper?" Rory asked. "Rodney was very specific about telling me how very dangerous the missiles are."

John rolled his eyes. "He should also have told you that the Jumpers are programmed to not arm missiles in the Jumper Bay unless you have the override codes. Come on. You'll never know unless you try."

Rory look at John for a long moment before slipping into the pilot's chair, looking surprised at her own daring.

John plunked himself down in the co-pilot's chair, mentally telling the Jumper to transfer control to the new arrival. The slight pressure in his mind eased, and Rory jumped as if stung. The controls lit up as screen after screen of diagnostics appeared on the monitor. John had only ever seen a Jumper react so extremely to Major Lorne, who had the ATA gene naturally. "Easy," John cautioned. "Don't let the Jumper overwhelm you. It's just trying to be helpful."

Rory took a shaky breath, hands gripping the armrests. One by one, the diagnostics closed down, until they were left with only the general overview on the monitor. John knew from personal experience that this screen was the loudest of the Jumper's programs. If Rory had been able to respond to that pull so soon, she had good control indeed.

"Well done," John said in praise. "That's the one you'll need the most at first. Have you ever flown before?"

"Flown?" Rory squeaked. Everything went dark. "You didn't say anything about flying!"

"We're not going anywhere now," John reassured her. Memories echoed in his head of teaching his brother Dave to drive the stable-master's old pickup, when Dave was ten and John was old enough to know better. "Before I let you up in any of my Jumpers, you need to know them inside out."

Rory slowly nodded. "I guess that's fair," she said. The cabin lights came back on, along with the overview screen. "What does this all mean?"

John had only meant to spend a few minutes with Rory, to show her a few things before he manufactured an escape from the Jumper Bay. After all, he was the military commander of Atlantis and he was supposed to be a busy man. So he wasn't really sure why, two hours later, he was sprawled on the Jumper floor with Rory, wall panels resting against the seats as they picked over the control crystals.

Rory's insatiable curiosity made John feel old and a little stupid. She wanted to know everything about the Jumper, and when John had to admit he didn't know something, she'd dive into the Atlantis database on her computer and make him wait until she figured it out.

"Would a power surge affect the life support systems?" Rory asked, never looking up from the glowing blue crystals, her knee bumping against John's boot as she shifted her position. He moved away after a minute when it occurred to him that it was the polite thing to do.

"It depends on the source of the surge," John said, pleased that he could answer this one. His correct-answer-ratio was sadly low at the moment. "If you're talking about outside weapons, then only if they get past the shield, but by then you're pretty much dead so it doesn't matter. Otherwise, life support is kept separate from navigation and shield for obvious reasons. It's the Jumper's primary system."

Rory frowned. "What if you need to re-route power from life support for emergency navigation?" she asked.

As she leaned forward, her braid slithered down over her shoulder. John absently moved the silky plait back over her shoulder, out of danger of being caught on the crystals. "If you're at the point where you only have life support and no navigation, you stay put and wait for another Jumper to come rescue you."

Rory looked at him, a smile ghosting over her lips. "I thought you of all people would advocate self-sufficiency in rescuing one's self in this galaxy."

"What are you talking about?" John asked, uncomfortable and not quite sure why.

"Everyone says you're the reason Atlantis is still standing."

John's jaw clenched. "That's bullshit," he muttered, shifting back to give himself enough space to pull his legs up to his chest, arms held loosely around his knees. "My team did a lot of that." He hesitated before he went on, mostly because he was still really irritated at Rodney, but that didn't make his next statement any less true. "McKay's the one who usually saves the city in the nick of time. You know. With science."

A brilliant smile spread across Rory's face, chasing away all of John's doubts about speaking. "He is?"

"Yeah, all the time," John said. Whatever was going on between Rodney and John, John wasn't enough of an asshole to denigrate the man's accomplishments to his new daughter. "We wouldn't have made it through the first few weeks in Pegasus without McKay."

Rory hugged her knees to her chest in excitement. "Most people don't like to talk about Rodney," she said.

John shrugged. "He doesn't exactly make a lot of friends."

"I see that. What about you?"

Too late, John realized he'd fallen into that inevitable trap of talking about it. And it was too late to manufacture an escape now. "McKay and I get along fine."

Rory looked at him with those brilliant McKay eyes and it was getting a little hard to breathe in the Jumper. But she didn't press him, didn't ask him about relationships and feelings and for that alone, John could have kissed her. "We should put the Jumper back together before Dr. Zelenka comes in to yell at us in Czech," she said.

John jumped at the suggestion. "I see you've learned the first rule of Atlantis."

"Don't talk about Atlantis?" Rory guessed, slipped a panel into place.

"No, don't piss off the man who controls the temperature of the showers." John reached over to steady the next panel as Rory moved it back. "Or the man who knows there they store the coffee."

Rory giggled. "Vala told me what you guys had to do for coffee when the drones had the city," she said. "How did you make it?"

"Barely," John said with a shudder. "Although considering some of the sludge I drank at McMurdo, I was better prepared than the rest."

The last panel went back into place with a clink. "Does Rodney like coffee?" Rory asked. "I mean good coffee, not just whatever comes along?"

John got to his feet and held his hand out to help Rory stand. Her palm felt curiously delicate in his grip in the moment before he let her go. "The scariest I've ever seen Rodney is when someone tried to take his last cup of coffee during the siege," he said, lifting his eyebrows to show Rory he was kidding. Even thought he really wasn't. "It might be a Canadian thing. Why?"

"Just curious," Rory said. "Thanks for showing me the Puddlejumper. You didn't have to."

John waved the gratitude away. "Don't worry about it. We need all the pilots we can get for these things." He hesitated as something occurred to him. "If you've never flown before, you'll need a lesson in the basics before you can take a Jumper off-world."

Rory fumbled with her computer. "Is there someone I can talk to about that?" she asked.

"I could do it," John said without thinking.

Rory's hand stilled on the screen. "You?"

John shoved his hands into his pockets. "Sure, why not?" he said. "If I can teach one McKay to fly, why not the other?"

"Oh." Rory bit her lower lip as she stared at John. "If you have time. I mean, I don't want to impose upon your schedule, Colonel Sheppard."

"It's not imposing," John said, even thought his mind was screaming at him to back out of the offer now. "We'll figure something out over the next few weeks. And you can call me John."

Wait.

What?

"Sure," Rory said. "That'd be nice. I mean, learning to fly." She backed out of the Jumper, more than a little flustered, then vanished around the corner at the end of the ramp with one quick backwards glance.

John stood staring after her. What the hell had just happened? Had he really just suggested teaching McKay's daughter how to fly a Jumper?

What was he thinking?

Reluctantly, John went back to the pilot's seat to run one final diagnostic to ensure he hadn't accidentally jimmied something loose. He'd get out of it somehow. He'd say he was busy and have Lorne teach Rory how to handle the Jumper's controls. It wasn't that hard; the Ancients had made these things almost idiot-proof. As long as someone had the Ancient gene, they could fly a Jumper.

It must have had something to do with how Rory had been looking at him with McKay's eyes. John must have been doing that transference thing his mom's therapist always talked about, projecting his issues with one person onto another. John's issues with Rodney had to be mucking up his head when it came to Rory Gilmore.

Because John Sheppard didn't spend two hours dismantling a Jumper with the new scientists, or offer to teach them to fly, or touch their hair and tell them to call him John.

If Rodney ever found out, John wouldn't have to worry about the Wraith killing him, because Rodney would get there first.

What the hell was he doing?

~~~

Going off-world with his team had been a mistake. John should have seen that before they left, but now they were on P5Z-3M4 and it was far too late.

John adjusted his P-90 on his vest as he watched Teyla negotiate with Ladren, head trader of a small group of people called the Kreddea. John wasn't sure where they came from, but they always used P5Z-3M4 as a trading ground.

"You will again consider the quality of the grain," Ladren cajoled Teyla as the woman took samples from every bag and handed them to Rodney for testing. "Such quality is not easy to come by in our Wraith-plagued galaxy."

"As you will consider the quality and prestige of the Earth footwear we offer in trade," Teyla replied easily, her smile equal to Ladren's.

The Kreddea excelled at being middle-men, getting whatever you needed from any number of sources. For a price. On the way over in the Jumper, John had tried to make a crack about the planet being some kind of "Middle Earth" but Rodney refused to acknowledge his existence. The resulting silence was painful. Now, John kept thinking of the wisecracks he couldn't make and it was making him cranky.

Ronon kept look-out at the foot of the Jumper, John alone at the other end of the field, watching the trading banter go back and forth. Finally, after John had made one too many "Sole food" jokes to himself, Teyla and Ladren shook hands on the deal. Ladren waved at his two boys to load the grain sacks into the Jumper under Ronon's watchful eye.

John sauntered across the field, nodding at the man and woman gathering the excess boots and shoes from Atlantis into traveling bundles. Teyla and Ladren concluded their quiet conversation as John approached.

"Colonel Sheppard!" Ladren exclaimed, his arms wide. John winced. He'd forgotten Ladren was a hugger. "As always, you receive the better end of the bargain."

"That's open to interpretation," John hedged. "We appreciate you trading with us today." Teyla had made him memorize certain catchphrases for when she was trading, to avoid a repeat of the 'Being chased through the Stargate with pitchforks' incident of 2006.

Ladren shrugged. "Life and business must carry on, even in the most difficult times." He placed one hand on Teyla's arm. "As always, we will listen for word of the Athosian people."

Teyla nodded an acceptance. "I thank you."

As Ladren wandered away to yell at the boys to hurry up. John made the mistake of glancing down at Teyla. She was staring at the boys, years younger than Jinto or Wex or their friends, but still achingly similar.

"We'll find them," John said quietly. Teyla shook herself out of her thoughts and looked up at him. "We'll find Michael and find out what happened to your people."

"We may," Teyla corrected him. She straightened her back and took a moment to compose herself before she walked across the field to collect Rodney.

Ladren and the Kreddea headed off to the Stargate with their bags of shoes. John ducked into the jumper, wading past the sacks of grain to the cabin. He waited for everyone else to get in, then closed the ramp and cloaked the ship out of habit while they waited for the wormhole to disengage.

"Why aren't we going?" Ronon asked.

"I want to check the stabilizers," John replied. The Jumper had flown funny on the way here, and John didn't feel like taking any chances at having to explain to Rodney why he had dismantled a Jumper with Rodney's daughter.

There should have been some kind of comment from Rodney, something like What have you done now or Let me do that or else we'll be here all day but there was nothing from the back seat. John clenched his jaw as he pulled up the screens and made the modifications.

"I can do this no longer," Teyla suddenly announced. John turned to look at her in the co-pilot seat. Her spine was ramrod straight as she stared out the front view screen.

"Can't do what?" John asked, a flutter of confusion in his stomach.

Teyla let out a slow breath. "I will no longer be going through the Stargate with this team," she said. "I will speak with Colonel Carter on this matter when we return to Atlantis."

"What? Why not?" Rodney demanded. "What's wrong? Is there something wrong with Torren?"

As the words tumbled out of Rodney's mouth, John could only stare at Teyla, his whole body going cold. She was the first person in this whole galaxy who had believed in him, stood by him no matter what. And now she was leaving?

John tried to come up with intelligent and reasonable to say, anything to make Teyla change her mind about leaving, when something hit the back of his chair. "What did you do?" Rodney demanded.

"Me?" John swung around, his panic coalescing into anger at a much more available target. "You're the one who usually messes things up--"

"Hey!" Ronon's voice boomed in the small cabin, startling everyone to silence. He sat forward, giving Sheppard a what the hell is wrong with you? glare. "The Gate's free. We should go."

Sheppard turned back to the controls, punching and poking the controls to lift the Jumper into the air. If his hands shook a little, no one called him on it.

Teyla was leaving.

In the oppressive silence, John took the Jumper through the Stargate to the midway point, a space Gate above a deserted world. There, he set the Jumper into a steady orbit to wait for the wormhole to disengage before dialing Atlantis.

Rodney, inevitably, was the first to speak. "Why are you leaving?"

In her profile, John could see the twitch of Teyla's jaw before she opened her mouth. "My people are missing--"

"I said we'd find them," John interrupted.

She did not seem to hear him. "Which means that I am all my son has. If I were to die or be injured, he would be alone in the universe."

"He isn't alone," Rodney interjected. "He's got us."

"Yes, Rodney." Teyla finally turned around to face the group. John was surprised to see the pain on her face. "Everyone who would care for my son as his own, is in this Jumper."

Ronon made a rumble of discontent in his throat. "My people used to have a saying," he said. "A squad at odds walks openly into the Hive."

"What does that mean?" Rodney asked, blinking.

"It means if you can't trust the people you walk through the gate with to have your back, you're dead," Ronon clarified. "You're angry at Sheppard for not telling you about your kid."

"What does that have to do with trust?" Rodney demanded. Sheppard stared out the front window, watching the sun rise over the curve of the silent planet below.

"You're not listening to him and he's not telling you anything," Ronon continued, and seriously, who could have thought that Ronon would become the voice of reason? "You're both being stupid, and if Teyla walks out now I wouldn't stop her."

"I am not walking out," Teyla protested with a hint of her usual fire. "I have responsibilities to my son--"

"You've got responsibilities to your people too," Ronon interrupted. He met her glare with aplomb. "If I knew a group of my people were out there, I wouldn't stop until I found them. Didn't think you would, either."

Teyla sat up, eyes snapping and ready to do battle, but John had officially had enough Satedan group therapy for the day. He slapped the controls to open the wormhole to Atlantis, sent through the IDC and sent the Jumper flying home before anyone else could draw verbal blood.

Back in Atlantis, the Jumper and its contents were sent through a complete decontamination. The botanists rolled the grain off to the scanning room to examine every single kernel for signs of poison or genetic tampering, while a medical team gave Sheppard's team an extensive exam. Normally, John hated this part of the new Gate travel routine, but today he milked it for every second he could. He was so compliant that Dr. Keller was a little worried when she gave him the final okay to leave.

Ronon was waiting for him in the hall. "Fix this," was all he said.

John threw his hands into the air. "What the hell am I supposed to do?" he demanded.

"Don't care." Ronon pushed off the wall to loom over Sheppard. "If Teyla doesn't keep looking for her people, she's never going to forgive herself."

"Ronon--"

"Like you can't forgive yourself for not going after Elizabeth when it might have made a difference."

Cold adrenaline shot through John, curling his hands into fists and setting his shoulders as if his body expected Ronon's words to be followed by a punch. When no further attack came, John made himself unclench his fists before he could find the breath to speak. "This is nothing like that."

Ronon didn't move, but even standing still he was a threat. "Yeah. You at least know what happened to Elizabeth."

John walked away. He had to, because if he heard one more word from Ronon about abandoning Elizabeth or losing Teyla or any of it, he would do something he regretted.

Even more than he regretted every single part of this day.

He went to his quarters to change, but the stillness soon drove him out. Lorne was on the track with a handful of officers, and John didn't feel like stilted conversation with the new Marines in the control room. Going near firearms when he was this angry seemed like a bad idea, too.

Which didn't really explain why he ended up outside Teyla's quarters.

She answered his knock quickly, ushering him into the room and closing the door on the noise from the hallway. John saw the reason at once. "How long has Torren been asleep?" he whispered.

"Since shortly before we returned, Alice tells me," Teyla replied softly. She sat on the bed beside her sleeping son, pulling the blanket up to cover his chest. The baby stirred, his long eyelashes fluttering against his round cheeks, but after a brief smacking of the lips he fell even deeper into slumber.

"Is he still waking up twice a night?" John asked, sitting on the edge of the bed beside Teyla.

Teyla shook her head, letting her head fall forward to rest on her hands. "He sleeps almost through the night now." She paused, and John wasn't sure if he heard a shiver in her voice. "He takes after his father in that. My mother once said that I did not sleep the night until I was old enough to climb out of my bed and run free by the fires."

"Lucky you, then," John said. He had no idea what to say to Teyla, but he needed to say something. Promise her that things would get better, that he and Rodney would work it out, that they'd find the Athosians some day, not to worry.

Far from taking any comfort in his words, Teyla let out a strangled sob. She covered her mouth with her hands as another sob shook her shoulders.

John's mind went blank. Teyla, who faced down Wraith without flinching, who could quell the most unruly of Marines with a glare, who'd almost literally been to hell and back in the protection of her unborn son, was crying.

John put an arm tentatively around her shoulders, pulling her close against him. She pressed her cheek against his chest as the silent sobs shook her slender body. "We'll find a way to fix this," John said against her hair, trying desperately to come up with a way to get Teyla to stop crying. "We'll find your people and we'll bring them home and I'll fix this thing with Rodney and everything will be good, I promise."

He stroked her hair as she buried her face in his shirt, her distress noiseless so she wouldn't disturb her sleeping son. Gradually, after what felt like hours but must really have been only seconds, Teyla released her death-grip on John's shirt and pulled slightly away. She wiped her hand across her face. "I am sorry," she said quietly, managing a wan smile. "Some days I find that this is all... It is sometimes hard to cope."

"Don't worry about it," John said, even though he still wasn't sure how to react. He wasn't comfortable with emotional women. His ex-wife had said so. Repeatedly. "I'd be freaking out too."

Teyla pressed her hand over her eyes, visibly drawing herself back together. "What if we do not find them?"

John laid his hand on Teyla's back, waiting until she looked at him. "We'll find your people," he said. "I told you. They have to be somewhere in this galaxy. We'll find them and we'll bring them back. Not one of us is going to stop until we do."

Teyla shifted her attention to Torren. She smoothed his fine dark hair off his forehead, smiling slightly as he settled under her touch.

"Are you really going to be able to stop going through the Gate to look for them?" John pressed.

Some of the tension went out of Teyla's shoulders. "I do not wish for that to happen, but I cannot continue as we have been, with you and Rodney at odds."

"So I'll fix that too," John said, refusing to think of exactly how he would pull that off. "If I can do that, will you stay on the team?"

Teyla shifted around to give John the full weight of her gaze. "If you and Rodney can truly settle your animosity, I will consider it."

It wasn't a yes, but it was as close as John knew he could get.

~~~

Rodney was in the ZPM room again, and the similarities to the last time they'd been here did nothing for John's nerves.

Rodney looked up to see who was blocking the doorway, and scowled when he saw John. "Haven't you ruined enough things for one day?" he demanded, turning back to the panel.

John rested his shoulder against the door frame, settling in for the long haul. Nothing with Rodney was ever easy, he knew from experience. "Teyla was crying."

That spun Rodney all the way around and to his feet. "What? Teyla? Crying?"

John nodded, feeling only a tiny twinge of conscience at betraying Teyla's confidence. It wasn't like Rodney would tell anyone. "Yep."

"Why? What did you do?"

John ignored the jibe. "Think about how hard this is for her. Her people are missing, she's a single mother, and she has to deal with us." He was careful to not look at Rodney as he said that last.

After a minute, Rodney asked, "Is she going to be all right?"

"Probably."

"Is she still going to quit the team?"

"It's a possibility," John acknowledged. "If we can't get our act together."

Rodney dropped his scanner with a clatter. "If we can't get our act together?" he repeated loudly. "None of this is my fault!"

"You're the one who won't talk to me!"

"You knew about Rory three years ago and you didn't tell me!"

"The hell I did!" John shouted, taking one step into the small room. "I ran into a kid on the street who looked like you, and she was from a small town that you'd been in for two hours in 1984! How the hell did that translate to a long-lost McKay?"

"Why, because obviously Rodney McKay would never get a girl to like him in high school?" Rodney exclaimed, his color rising.

This wasn't going exactly as John had planned. "No! It never occurred to me that you'd knocked up the cheerleader on a school trip!"

"Why is everyone so convinced I was a social misfit in high school?"

This was a disaster. John should have had the good sense to walk away, but McKay knew how to push every one of his goddamn buttons. "First off, probably because they've met you," John counted. "Second, what's with the past tense?"

"Oh, yes, I'm so glad you came down here to insult me more!" Rodney shouted. "I have a daughter I didn't know about until a few weeks ago and you just had to come down here to twist the knife a little more!"

"Fuck, McKay! Teyla is going to leave the team!" John raked his hands through his hair, wanting to kick something, rather than have this conversation. "She is going to leave us if we can't make up!"

"Make up? When did we turn into ten-year-old girls?" Rodney demanded. "You didn't tell me about Rory--"

"And you won't shut up long enough for me to apologize for that!"

John's shout echoed around the power room. Rodney blinked at him for a ludicrously long minute.

Knowing enough to take any opening he could get with Rodney, John swallowed his pride and said, "Look, I'm sorry I didn't tell you what I found out about Rory when we were on Earth."

Rodney looked away, bluster fading away. After a moment, he sank onto the chair in front of the control panel. John waited.

"She's smart," Rodney finally said.

"What?"

"Rory. She's really smart."

For Rodney to admit that without prodding was certainly something. "Carter said something like that."

"I mean, she's like me smart."

"Really?"

Rodney fiddled with the scanner absently. "Sort of. She's only been doing this for a year, so her work is sloppy and her reasoning is sloppy--"

"Please stop saying 'sloppy'."

"My point is, she knows a lot about ZPMs, almost nothing about anything else. But she learns quickly." There was that pride again, something John had only ever heard hinted at when Rodney spoke of Jeannie's accomplishments. "Some of her ideas are completely insane, but that's what happens with a liberal arts degree, I suppose."

John felt a small smile pull at the corner of his mouth. "You two are getting along?"

"Yeah, I suppose we are," Rodney said, surprised. "We can talk about all kinds of stuff. Except..."

John wanted to sigh. When had he signed up to be the team shrink? "Except what?" John prodded.

"She doesn't really talk about her mother."

"Maybe they don't get along?"

"No, they get along," Rodney said quickly. "I just... Rory doesn't seem to want to talk much about her mother.”

John had nothing to say to that, so he kept his mouth shut.

Rodney ran his finger along the edge of the console. "You saved her life," he said suddenly.

"What?"

"In New York. You pulled Rory out of the street before she was hit by a car."

John squirmed. "I didn't know it was her. I'd have done that for anyone."

"But you did it for Rory." Rodney's intense blue gaze was set on John. "You saved her before I even knew about her."

John met Rodney's stare. "It was just a coincidence we were there," he said, trying to deflect.

"Maybe." Rodney gripped the edge of the console, and he turned away. "Go tell Teyla we're all better and she has to stay on the team."

It was a dismissal, but the sting was gone from his words. John rolled his eyes and sighed, to hide the complete and utter relief at Rodney speaking with him again.

I am such a girl, John told himself, swinging back into the hallway. He'd made it about four steps when he pulled up short at the person blocking his path.

Rory Gilmore stood in the middle of the hall, two cups of coffee in her hands. Her eyes were wide and hollow. John's heart sank. How much of that had she just heard?

Rory swallowed convulsively. "She wasn't a cheerleader," Rory said quickly, voice too low to carry into the ZPM room. "My mother. Wasn't a cheerleader."

"Okay," John said.

"And she doesn't know Rodney's my father."

It was on the tip of John's tongue to ask how her mother could not have seen what an odd changeling child Rory must have been, but the emptiness in Rory's eyes stopped the words in his throat.

"You could have told him,” John said. “When you found out, last year, instead of springing this on him when you got to Atlantis.”

Rory flushed red, the coffee cups trembling in her hands. “You don't know anything about what was going on!”

"Maybe not, but Rodney still deserved better than not knowing.”

The word were out of his mouth before he could realize what an absolute hypocritical asshole he was being. Before he could or do something even stupider than what he'd just said, John ducked around Rory and continued off down the hall.

John wasn't sure what was worse, his own blazing hypocrisy, or taking out his anger on Rory.

When it came to McKays, he couldn't do anything right.

~~~

John spent most of the next two days hiding in a herd of soldiers. At least they would be very unlikely to talk back to him, or start crying on his shoulder.

At the end of the two days, Teyla appeared, dragged John into the training room and proceeded to beat the crap out of him with sticks. She left smiling, and once the aspirin kicked in, John didn't really mind the bruises.

Much.

He limped into the cafeteria the next day to find his team at their usual table by the window. As Teyla ate, Ronon held Torren on his lap, thwarting the baby's continual attempts at freedom.

And there was an open chair beside Rodney.

Ever so casually, John sauntered across the cafeteria and dropped into the seat beside Rodney. No one objected or stalked away, which was a vast improvement on the other days of the last two weeks.

"Good morning, John," Teyla greeted him with a sunny smile. "Rodney was telling us of the continued efforts to determine if there were any more drones within the city."

"Sounds exciting," John drawled.

"You're just jealous because I saved the city without you," Rodney said through a mouthful of pancakes.

"You mean your daughter saved the city," John said, sneaking the apple off Rodney's tray.

Rodney gave him the evil eye. "Fine, that the scientists saved the city without you."

"I'll make up for it next time." John crunched into the apple to hide a grin. It seemed as if Rodney was finally learning, or perhaps willing, to share credit. "Hey, you get anything in the mail from last night's dial-up?"

"No." Rodney reached for his coffee. "I'm not sure I like spending the energy to dial Earth for the mail."

"We didn't dial Earth for the mail; we dialed for an important hardware upgrade and vital medical supplies," John reminded him. "The SGC just tossed the mailbag on top of the pile."

"Still, it's probably for the best that we're only allowing incoming matter transfers for the time being," Rodney mused. "Until we can confirm that all the drones are destroyed."

"How long's that going to take?" Ronon asked as he hoisted Torren into the air with one hand, the baby cackling with delight.

"Maybe a few more days, a week. Why?"

Ronon shrugged, nearly sending Torren flying. Teyla reached out to rescue her son from mid-air. "I'm just bored."

"I thought you were training with the new Marines," John said, pausing mid-chew.

Ronon shrugged again, this time with the slight twitch in the corner of his mouth that meant something wasn't quite right. John lifted his eyebrow, but Ronon only glanced away, then back again, so it wasn't a real problem, not yet.

John made a mental note to corner Ronon about the issue later.

"Good morning," came a bubbly voice. Rory Gilmore appeared at Rodney's side, clutching a small box to her chest. "Are you busy?"

"Of course not," Rodney said quickly. He pushed at John's shoulder. "Go get a chair."

"Why me?"

"You're closest."

"I'm not--" John gave up. He stood, gallantly offered his seat to Rory, then pulled over a chair from another table as Rory sat down and began speaking to Rodney.

"I didn't want to interrupt the team bonding breakfast thing but the mail came and I think this is what I asked my friend Lane to get for me as soon as she could," Rory said. John marveled how she had apparently inherited McKay's ability to speak at twice the speed of a normal person.

"What is it?" Rodney asked.

Rory tried to pick at the tape around the box, to no avail. Ronon whipped a nine-inch knife out of somewhere and offered it to Rory, who took the thing rather gingerly. No fingers were lost in the opening of the box, however, and Rory soon had the lid off to spill a handful of photographs onto the table.

"These are all you?" Rodney asked. He had a curious expression of trepidation on his face.

"Probably," Rory said, reading the small note that had been taped to the top of the box. "Lane says she borrowed these from my mother with the promise to scan them."

John was close enough to read over Rory's shoulder, especially the line that was underlined in big bold strokes, Why didn't you want me to tell Lorelai you wanted these?

Rodney hadn't moved. "Maybe, um, we don't want to bore everyone else."

The other three members of his team stopped what they were doing to stare, because since when was Rodney McKay worried about boring them?

John recovered first. "Don't worry about it, Rodney." He gave Rory a wink. "We're good."

Rodney might have come up with a retort, but at that exact moment Rory let out a sudden gleeful shriek. She grabbed a small book out of the bottom of the box. "Oh my God, Jess wrote another book!" she exclaimed, flipping through the pages quickly before going back to the front cover.

"Who's Jess?" Rodney asked, looking confused and totally out of his depth again.

"He's a friend of mine," Rory said. "An ex-boyfriend, really, but we're still good friends. He's a writer and this is his second book!"

Rodney's face scrunched up in a strange way. "Boyfriend?"

Rory turned her head to glare at him. "Seriously?"

"It's just that you're only--"

"Twenty-five. Are you really going to try to pull the Shotgun-Dad card after one week?"

Rodney looked helplessly at John, who put his hands up and figuratively backed away from the situation. He was so not getting involved in this.

"He's a good friend of mine. Focus on that part." Rory turned back to her book. Craning to look over her shoulder, John could see that inside the front cover was a handwritten inscription that read,

Rory: You never stop surprising me. Thanks for always believing in me when I didn't even believe in myself.
-Jess


Someone kicked him under the table. John glanced up to see Teyla giving him a stern glare. He wasn't sure it mattered, as Rory hadn't paid him any attention, but he leaned back in his chair and pretended to be interested in the remains of his apple.

"I'll read this later," Rory said, easing the book gently back into the box. "But first, picture time."

Rodney shot to his feet. "I, um, I need more coffee," he announced, then stumbled off to the coffee station.

"You forgot your cup," Rory called after him. He didn't seem to hear her. She turned to John, frowning slightly. "Does he not want to do this now?"

John shook his head as he reached for Rodney's half-empty mug. "Trust me, he'd tell you. This is indecisive Rodney, that's all."

"He may not express it, but he is glad you are here, " Teyla added, her smile sincere and warm.

Rory blushed and smiled back, gathering the pictures into a tidy pile.

John took a deep breath. "Look, about the other day," he started, wincing at how weak that sounded. "I'm sorry. About what I said."

Rory shrugged, her hair sliding over her shoulder in a cascade. John's fingers twitched with the memory of how Rory's hair had felt in the Jumper. "You weren't wrong," Rory said quietly.

"I'm still sorry."

She smiled at him then, a small private smile that had nothing of McKay in it. "It's okay," she said. In her voice, John heard the same layers of guilt he'd been wrestling with himself over the past week, and he felt both better and worse at the same time.

Rodney came back then, holding two coffee cups. He set one down beside the pile of pictures and held the other with both hands, like a shield between him and the world.

Rory shoved the first picture at him. "Proof that I, in fact, did not spring fully formed from the head of Zeus."

The toddler in the photograph had blonde curls and a rather mulish expression on her face. "Wow, you look just like Jeannie," Rodney said, confusion giving way to recognition. John hid his smile behind the stolen coffee cup. McKay might actually be able to pull this father gig off after all.

"You look like a dandelion," John said. He caught sight of a photo that slipped out of the pile, of a teenage Rory in an honest-to-god plaid skirt and knee-high white socks, and he almost choked on his coffee.

"Are you doing to be okay?" Rory asked in concern, handing him a napkin from Rodney's tray.

John managed to nod. "I'm fine," he wheezed. "It's just this pesky drinking problem I've got."

Rodney didn't even spare John a glance, he was so engrossed in the photographs. Rory gave John a smile, which was probably pity at his inability to drink liquid, before turning back to her father.

Because Rory was McKay's daughter, and John was not going to think about her in a schoolgirl uniform with white knee socks, even if she had the photographic evidence to prove it. Because that would just be wrong. And possibly illegal.

Christ. McKay was going to kill him.
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