It's A Skywalker Thing
"Maddie?" Jeannie Miller called up the stairs. The noise level in her daughter's room had fallen considerably in the last ten minutes. "Everything okay?"
"I'm reading a book to Frank the Tiger!" Madison shouted.
"Okay," Jeannie replied. "Come downstairs if you want a snack."
There was no reply, but Jeannie hadn't expected one. Once Madison got into her books, there was no prying her away. Just like her dad.
Satisfied that Madison was occupied for the moment, Jeannie returned to her computer. The math paper on inter-dimensional neutrino cross-flow wasn't going to write itself, no matter how hard she wished it would.
Thinking about math made Jeannie think about her brother. She'd known that her brother Meredith and Atlantis had gone on radio silence for six months, thanks to her security clearance, but that communications had since been restored. Three weeks before, she had received an email from Meredith that had read, "We're alive, thanks to me. Is that proof you were working on done yet?"
His acerbic email did much to cheer Jeannie. Meredith Rodney McKay at his sarcastic best was just like old times.
With a sigh, Jeannie went back to her calculations.
A few minutes later, her SGC inbox pinged with the arrival of a new message. To Jeannie's surprise, it wasn't from her brother or Samantha Carter or any of the scientists she'd met in Colorado or Atlantis. Curious, she opened the message.To: Jeannie Miller [J.Miller@cheyenne.af.mil]
From: Rory Gilmore [R.Gilmore@cheyenne.af.mil]
Subject: Rodney McKay's birthday
Hello. I work with your brother, and I recently learned that his birthday is coming up in a few weeks, and I'm arranging a party for him. I know it might be short notice, but I was hoping that you might be able to send a present for him. Perhaps something coffee related? There was a recent coffee shortage here, and Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard tells me that he's never seen Rodney so close to violence as when the coffee ran out.
Jeannie laughed out loud. That sounded like Meredith, all right.If you would be able to do this, please address the package to Lt.Col. Cameron Mitchell at Cheyenne Mountain. I'm not sure how frequently the mail will be delivered to our location, so I wanted to write with time to spare.
Thank you very much.
Jeannie sat back, mind whirling. She hadn't met this woman on Atlantis, and Meredith hadn't mentioned her, so she must be new. And she was organizing a birthday party for Meredith? He hated birthday parties... although that might have been because no one ever came to them. Jeannie vividly remembered Mer's twelfth birthday, where Dad had decorated the house and Meredith had sat in the front foyer, waiting in vain for anyone from school to show up to his party. That was the last time Meredith had let anyone make a fuss over his birthday.
Was this woman was trying to make nice with the boss? Or was she really interested in having a birthday party for Mer? In any case, Jeannie felt an instant gratitude to her. Everyone's forty-first birthday should be a good one.
"Madison!" Jeannie called, closing her computer. "Maddie, honey, get your rain jacket, we're going shopping!"
A few moments later, footsteps pounded down the steps and Madison tore into the kitchen, clutching a book in one hand. "Where are we going, mommy?" she asked.
"I thought we'd catch the Skytrain to go downtown, what do you think?"
Madison let out a cheer. "Can I ride in the front?" she asked, dashing into the hall. "And I want to pay for the tickets and ride the escalators and everything!"
Jeannie dashed off a quick note to Caleb, telling him where they were going, then merrily wrestled her daughter into her rubber boots. It didn't matter that it was a Vancouver day in January and that the rain was pounding down fit to wash away the roads. Someone wanted to make her brother's birthday a special one, and Jeannie was going to help.~~~
Jeannie and Madison hopped onto a nearly empty Skytrain. Madison stood at the front window and kept up a monologue about how much she liked the Skytrain and her Uncle Meredith and birthday parties. Jeannie kept one hand on Madison's back, telling herself it was to make sure the girl didn't fall over if the train stopped suddenly.
Meredith hadn't understood why Jeannie had left academia when she got pregnant, and Jeannie didn't know if she could ever explain it to him, but here, now, riding on a humid Skytrain on a grey January day with her little girl bubbly and happy and so totally alive, Jeannie would do it all over again without a second thought.
They got off at Commercial to make a run down to a little Italian coffee roaster Jeannie had discovered in her third year of grad school. Five pounds of coffee beans for Meredith and a hot chocolate for Madison later, they got back on the Skytrain and continued downtown. They swung through the tourist district on the waterfront, and Jeannie let Madison pick out as much Canadian kitsch as she could carry; flags and maple sugar and a little stuffed Olympic mascot for Meredith's desk.
Then, as the coup de grâce, Jeannie found a Tim Horton's and bought their biggest tin of ground coffee, wishing she would be able to see Meredith’s face when he opened the box. He hated Timmy’s. The cost of overnighting the package to Colorado made her eyes pop, but she gritted her teeth and handed over her debit card. It wasn’t every day she got to send an intergalactic care package, after all.
By that point, Madison was starting to fade, so Jeannie called Caleb to meet them at a restaurant after he was done classes. It had been a marvelous day.~~~
Meredith's birthday came and went, but Jeannie didn't have time to wonder if he had received her package because Madison had fallen off the swings at kindergarten and broke her arm. Between hospital visits and doctors' appointments and the occasional freak-out, Jeannie had her hands full.
Eventually, things calmed down. Madison was back on her feet, sporting a neon pink cast with stickers all over it, and Jeannie was working through the panic attacks of her little girl having an accident.
Into this situation, an email fell.
Late on an inconsequential Thursday, Caleb finished up the dinner dishes while an excited Madison explained how her class's pet gecko could climb the glass walls of its terrarium. Jeannie, who had heard the story twice on the way home from school, took a moment to check her email.
The speakers pinged as a large email began to download. Jeannie sighed as she swung the computer around. Meredith must be back at work. If this was another dissertation on how her latest calculations were completely off-base, she was going to write to John Sheppard to tell him to take Mer's birthday coffee away.
To Jeannie's mild surprise, a video file was attached to the email. Since Mer sometimes let his mouth run away with him, Jeannie took the laptop into the living room, away from Madison’s impressionable ears. Settling onto the couch, she opened the file to see Mer's face filled the screen. He cleared his throat and sat up straight. Jeannie's heart sank. She wasn't really sure she wanted to hear whatever had put that expression on her brother's face. Had the birthday party been a disaster?
"Jeannie, hello." Mer hesitated. "I have something I need to tell you."
Forget worry. Jeannie was heading straight towards panic. Was Meredith okay? Was he sick? Had something happened to John or Ronon or Teyla?
"Um, thanks for the coffee," he said, his shoulders hunching forward slightly. "It was nice. The, um, gift concept thing. Madison's card was cute. Atrocious spelling, but she'd only five, so I guess that's not an academic disaster quite yet."
Jeannie let out a little growl. Honestly, if he didn't get to the point soon...
"I had something I wanted to say to you," Meredith continued. "I'm not exactly sure how to say this, but I figured I should tell you now instead of waiting until I see you next, which might not be for a while and I'd rather you weren't in slapping distance when you found out."
Jeannie frowned at the screen. Seriously, what was Meredith talking about?
"First of all, I need to..." Meredith drew a deep breath. "Apologize again for how I overreacted when you left school because you were pregnant. I really could have.... you know." He made a pushing gesture with his hands. "Handled that better."
Just as Jeannie was considering tearing her hair out if Meredith didn't get to the point,
he looked directly into the camera and said, "I have a daughter."
"Oh my god!" Jeannie exclaimed, accidentally hitting the pause button.
Caleb poked his head out of the kitchen. "You okay?" he asked.
"I'm fine," Jeannie said distantly, realizing too late that it was a complete lie. What had Meredith done now? He must have gotten someone pregnant! But who...
Jeannie clapped her hands to her mouth. Before Atlantis went into the six-month radio silence, Mer had sent her an email saying that his teammate Teyla was pregnant. He hadn't meant... He couldn't
"Jeannie?" Caleb said again.
She lowered her hands. "It's fine," she said, more firmly this time. "I need to watch the rest of this, can you keep Maddie in there?"
"If you want," Caleb said, his curiosity showing as he withdrew.
Jeannie lowered a shaking hand to the keyboard. If Meredith told her that he and Teyla had just had a baby, Jeannie was going to need a drink. A big one.
The video resumed with Meredith talking. "... and I knew that if I didn't tell you right away you'd probably kill me."
"You got that right, buster," Jeannie muttered.
"I just found out a month ago. Or over a month ago. She's... she's really smart. Smarter than you, probably."
That confused Jeannie. It would have been a poor taste insult, but it didn't seem like a dig.
"She's here, now, working with me." Meredith smiled absently. "It's kind of funny, because you had a kid in grad school, and now so do I, although she's actually in grad school. But you might not find that entertaining. She's the one who organized that birthday thing. Rory Gilmore."
" Jeannie asked incredulously, but Mer just kept going.
"This is a funny story, actually," Meredith said, making it sound like anything but. "Remember when I was sixteen and I went to Hartford, Connecticut, for that exchange program?"
"No," Jeannie breathed, horrified suspicions dawning.
"I met this girl down there, and it, um, turns out that she got pregnant."
"Meredith!" Jeannie exclaimed.
His face a mix of embarrassment and defiance, Meredith went on. "I didn't know until recently, when Rory got to Atlantis. But she's here, and she's really smart." He coughed. "So that's the apology. About the kid thing."
Jeannie sank back against the cushions, completely blown away. This couldn't be some kind of prank, could it? She couldn’t see the military releasing this video to her if Meredith had gone crazy. But a daughter?
The video fuzzed for a moment, then the camera came back into focus showing Meredith walking down a hallway. "I knew if I wrote you an email, you wouldn’t believe me--"
"Really?" Jeannie bit out.
"--so I'm going to show you. It's weird, how much Rory looks like Mom. Back when we were young. Before the cancer thing." He turned into a room where raised voices could be heard in the background. "She's always in the labs, working on important science, you'll see, it's..." His face fell as he looked over the camera. "Seriously?"
From the background came a small cheer. "Ha! I totally sunk your battleship, Herrera!" said a young woman's voice.
"You're cheating!" said a man.
"Then you can see what I'm doing!"
"Just great," Meredith muttered. He cleared his throat. "Rory?"
"Hold on!" After a moment, a soldier slipped past Meredith, muttering to himself, then the female voice came again, much closer to the microphone. "Yes?"
The camera swung and settled on a flat surface. Meredith backed away to reveal a young woman dressed in the dark grey of the Atlantis science teams. Jeannie's stomach dropped. The blue eyes, the narrow nose... the girl looked so much like Meredith it was disturbing.
This was his grown-up daughter
In the meantime, the girl had spotted the camera. "What are you doing?" she asked Meredith. "Is this some kind of set-up for 'Rory Gilmore, this is your life'?"
"I'm making a video message for Jeannie," Mer said as he attempted to straighten his jacket.
The girl glared at Mer. "Why are you doing that?" she demanded. Her hand flew up to her hair. "You're supposed to tell people when you're filming them!"
"We can cut this part out in editing--"
"No, seriously, I think there's a law!" Rory ran a hand over her hair as she faced the camera, colour in her cheeks. She smiled hesitantly, and Jeannie's heart sank even lower. There was just a little bit of Meredith in that smile, a happiness she'd seldom seen in her brother, and it made her heart ache.
"So say hi," Rodney said after a moment.
"I'm working up to it," Rory hissed, before addressing herself to the camera. "Hello, Mrs. Miller."
"You can call her Jeannie," Meredith interrupted.
Rory whipped around to give him a look. "Are we talking to your new relations, or are we talking to mine?" When Mer opened his mouth to reply, Rory turned back to the camera. "Sorry, Mrs. Miller, or, um, Jeannie. I hope you don't mind if I call you Jeannie."
"You could call her Jean if you're being sticky about it," Meredith suggested.
Rory frowned at him. "I'm all about people not being called by their full first names."
"What are you talking about?"
Rory pointed at herself. "Hello? Lorelai Leigh Gilmore here."
"Oh." Meredith squirmed. "I guess we're all like that."
Rory stared at him, camera momentarily forgotten. "Okay, now what are you
Meredith let out a long-suffering sigh, and Jeannie found herself muttering say it
under her breath. "My... well, Rodney is my middle name."
"What's your first name?"
Meredith looked at the camera and mouthed, This is your fault
. "It might be Meredith."
A wide smile broke out across Rory's face. "Is that why John suggested I call you Meredith?"
"He did what
?" Meredith exclaimed, going red. "Why would he do something like that?"
Still grinning, Rory faced the camera once again. "Jeannie, thank you very much for sending that present for Rodney, he was really very touched." Meredith tried to muscle his way back in front of the camera, but Rory held him off. "I'm making a video for my aunt," she said. "Stop it."
"It was my idea!"
"And a brilliant one at that, now stop it."
As Meredith paused to sort that one, Rory grabbed the camera and carried it over to the desk, the background bouncing as she went. After a few moments the camera settled and Rory seated herself. Meredith was still visible in the background, throwing his hands into the air.
"So you don't know about me," Rory said. "My name is Rory, obviously. I grew up in a place called Stars Hollow in Connecticut, and I graduated from Yale University with an undergraduate degree in journalism."
"Journalism?" Jeannie repeated. Not that there was anything wrong with J-school, but even Caleb and the other English students had little time for the kids who went through journalism school at university.
"And I started working on physics in my spare time--"
Meredith popped into frame. "She's been working on math for less than a year and already she's smarter than you--" Rory walloped him on the arm. "Ow!"
"Stop being rude!"
"It's not rude, it's true--"
"It's not true and it's rude and you shouldn't be rude to someone who can't talk back to you."
Rubbing his arm, Meredith sulked his way out of the shot.
Rory resumed her story. "It's been very interesting working here, as I'm sure you know." She ducked her head, almost shyly. "I really enjoyed reading your preliminary paper on the neutrino cross-flow, the one we got last month, the idea about the effect of beta decay on the gravitational effects. I'm wondering, though, if you had thought about wrapping that into the concept of vacuum energy..."
The girl continued along purely scientific lines for several minutes.
When she wound down, Jeannie was having a hard time keeping up with her own thoughts. Half the things Rory mentioned had never even occurred
to Jeannie. And this kid had come up with them after working on physics for less than a year?
Meredith drifted back into the shot. "I told you she was good," he said, smugness exuding from every pore.
"You have to admit the background was there in Jeannie's work, though," Rory said.
Meredith rolled his eyes. "Yes, the background was there, however--"
Rory leaned against Rodney and squeezed his arm, which caused him to stutter into silence. "If we're not careful, the McKays might take over the world," Rory teased.
Meredith lifted his chin, considering. "A scientific dynasty, I'd never thought of that."
Rory laughed. It made her look years younger, and in that very moment, Jeannie saw so much of her mother in the girl's face. "Don't tell John, he won't let you near the control chair for weeks." She looked at the camera again, drawing Jeannie into the family picture across the galaxies. "I look forward to meeting you soon, Mrs. Miller."
Meredith sighed. "Goodbye, Jeannie."
As he reached for the camera, Rory asked, "Is the military going to let any of that through?"
"Maybe, she's got a higher security clearance than you did when you came through the Gate--" and the screen went dark.
Jeannie could only stare at the blank screen. The scientific ideas the girl had so casually thrown out were rushing around Jeannie's head, twisting and whirling with so much possibility
, but pushing that away for the time being was the fact of Rory herself.
The couch dipped as someone sat down. Jeannie looked up to see Caleb, his forehead furrowed in a frown. "Is everything okay?" he asked quietly.
Really, what could Jeannie say? "My brother has a daughter," was the best way to start.
The surprise on Caleb's face was almost comical. "Really? Who's the mother?"
"Someone he met in high school." Jeannie took a deep breath to stave off the hysteria rising in her head. "She's twenty-five."
"Your brother got a twenty-five-year-old pregnant?"
"No." Jeannie pressed her hands to her face. "His daughter is twenty-five. He got her mother pregnant in high school."
"And now she's working with Meredith." A giggle slipped through Jeannie's resolve. "God, she's even smarter than he is."
The giggling continued. "After all the crap we went through when I left school, and he had a kid in high school?"
"Mommy?" Madison trailed into the living room, climbing onto Jeannie's lap. "What's funny?"
Jeannie managed to calm herself. Madison didn't need to hear the confusion in her voice right then. "I just heard from your Uncle Meredith," she said, pulling Maddie into a hug. "He says thank you very much for your birthday card."
"Good!" Madison kissed her mother on the cheek, then squirmed off the couch and took off for the stairs.
Caleb watched Jeannie warily. "Are you going to be okay?" he asked.
"I have no idea," Jeannie said, burying her face in her hands. "Can you give me a few minutes?"
"Sure. I'll go help Madison brush her teeth." Caleb pressed a kiss against Jeannie's hair. "Come up when you're ready."
When Caleb had vanished upstairs, Jeannie randomly opened the video and paused the screen on Rory's face. Carefully setting the laptop aside, Jeannie went to the cabinet by the TV and pulled a photo album from its dusty box. After returning to the couch, she opened the album to a worn photograph of her mother, holding baby Jeannie and trying to corral a recalcitrant Meredith. The woman's expression was bemused and happy.
Jeannie set the photo album beside her computer and looked between her dead mother and her new niece. The side-by-side comparison was disquieting.
"Oh, Meredith, what have you done?" Jeannie murmured.~~~To: 'Dr. Rodney McKay' [R.Mckay@cheyenne.af.mil]
From: Jeannie Miller [J.Miller@cheyenne.af.mil]
Subject: Re: Video message
There are no words for how much I'm going to kill you.
Maybe I can supplement this with the words HYPOCRITE or IDIOT or my personal favourite, "what the hell were you doing having unprotected sex with some strange American teenager in the 80s??"
For someone who says he's smart, you can be such a DUNCE.
In summation: OH MY GOD.
... I feel better now.
Okay, Mer, what really happened? Rory's not some kind of genetic experiment or clone or alternate!universe!daughter, is she? I'm not sure if that would be more or less disconcerting. Why didn't her mother ever tell you about her?
I've been looking at old pictures of Mom and you're right about that similarity. What does Rory's mother look like?
I googled her writing, and it's pretty interesting. She was editor of the Yale school newspaper for a while, and her editorials aren't quite as dire as a lot of the school newspapers up here. She also did press reporting on the Obama campaign for a while, I found some of her stuff that was picked up by AP. Pretty cool.
Of course, when I went to see if she's published anything, I found only one paper out of U.Colorado. How long has she been in grad school? Can I get the stuff she's been working on with you so we can, I don't know, actually *collaborate*???
I'm tempted to not send you the paper I've been working on in principle, but you'll only mope. Happy belated birthday, big brother.
PS: Seriously, this isn't some kind of joke, right?
Rodney stared glumly at his computer. His sister had found out more about Rory in ten minutes on Google than Rodney had thought to ask the girl herself in over a month. This was so totally unfair.
Rodney glanced over Jeannie's paper with little enthusiasm. She was, as usual, brilliant beyond belief, and he saw that she had worked some of Rory's ideas into the equations. It wasn't fair that Rodney was being shown up by every single female relation he had. Except five-year-old Madison, which was a bit of a relief because if that happened, Rodney might consider going to bed and never getting up.
The lab door rolled open and in bounced Rodney's daughter, hair done up in braided pigtails and coffee cup in hand. She looked young and vibrant and terribly happy. Rodney just glared.
"Hey there," Rory bubbled, coming to a standstill across the desk from Rodney. "How are you?"
"Because you look like someone put orange juice in your coffee."
Rory was not deterred. "I got an email from your sister today," she said, unable to keep from smiling. "She's really nice."
Rodney had to admit that yes, Jeannie could be a pleasant person at times.
"And have you read her paper?" Rory gushed, going over to her desk to plug in her computer. "She actually thought some of my ideas were useful for the equations!"
"That's because you're not a complete moron," Rodney said grumpily, reaching into his desk for a granola bar. That might lighten his mood.
Rory raised her eyebrow in his general direction. "That's the nicest thing anyone's said to me in days. Thanks, Dad."
"You’re welcome." Rodney tore open the wrapper on the granola bar and took a bite, wishing he had some coffee, when Rory's words finally percolated into his stream of consciousness. He stopped chewing. "Did you just call me 'Dad'?"
"Yes," Rory said after a moment. "I mean, since you are. If that's okay."
Email from Jeannie temporarily forgotten, Rodney sat stock still as he tried to figure out what that pressing sensation in his chest might be. Was he having an emotional reaction?
Was it a heart attack?
"You don't have to call me that," Rodney said, his heartbeat fluttering in his throat. It was either an emotional reaction or a panic attack, and either way Rodney wished it would go away. "I mean, you can if you want but you don't have to. Rodney works. Or Dr. McKay, but that's probably only going to be okay during lab meetings because sometimes I don't listen to everything other people say when I'm thinking about important problems."
Rory smiled at Rodney, happy and open, and something of the panic in Rodney's chest eased. She just hit a key on her computer to bring up Jeannie's paper onto the big lab screen. "So," she began, settling into her straightforward academic mode. "What do you think about the possibility of that equation working in real life situations?"
"It might work," Rodney said. "For very large values of 'if'."
Rory stared at him. "Did you just make a joke?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"You did! You cracked a joke! I knew Canadians weren't completely humorless after all."
"Oh, ha ha."
"I'm adorable. Now, Dr. McKay, back to the math."
"Yes, ma'am," Rodney said, unable to even muster any sarcasm. Something about this girl just threw off all his carefully honed snarking skills. He made a mental note to redouble his efforts in future, and went back to work.to be continued