Brothers Of The Heart
SUMMARY: Rodney’s natural curiosity gets someone else in a spot of bother.
NOTES: Many, many thanks to Annie for her encouragement, cajoling and usual stellar beta. Love you lots, sis!
Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.
“Oh, come on! How is this my fault?” Rodney McKay waved a hand in the air then let it drop back at his side.
“You touched the damn device, McKay,” Sheppard growled. “How could it be not your fault?”
“I would have thought you’d have learned your lesson after your experience with the Ancient shield,” Elizabeth Weir admonished.
Teyla Emmagen merely sighed and smiled sweetly down at the boy standing beside her who glared up at Rodney with a baleful, wounded expression in his teary eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Rodney said, for what seemed like the thousandth time, “besides, he touched it too!” He pointed at the boy who poked him back, none too gently, in the stomach.
“If I hadn’t, it would have been you turned into a… kid.” The little boy tugged on his dreadlocks and groaned. “I’m never gonna live this down.” He looked imploringly up at Elizabeth. “You have to confine me to quarters until Beckett can figure out how to grow me up again!”
“It’ll be fine, Ronon,” Elizabeth said soothingly with what looked like a less than confident smile. “I’m sure Carson will have you back to your normal self in no time.”
“Um, don’t you think I should be the one doing that?” Rodney put in. “I mean, I am the chief scientist on Atlantis—“
“You’re also the one who got me shrunk,” Ronon growled though it sounded rather comical coming from the mouth of a seven year old boy. “No way do I want you going near that machine, especially not with me in mind.”
“I’d like you to take Ronon to be checked out by Doctor Beckett,” Elizabeth said firmly. “I’ll ask Radek to take a look at the device and see what he can find out.”
“Zelenka?” Rodney sputtered. “He wouldn’t know an Ancient device from his—“
“Uh-uh,” Sheppard interrupted, covering Ronon’s ears with his hands. “Youngster present, remember?”
Ronon shook free of Sheppard’s hold. “I know what he was gonna say,” he said. “I’m not really a kid. I just look like one.” He stomped to the door. “I’m going to see Beckett.”
“Go with him, Rodney,” Elizabeth said.
“I know the way, and I don’t want him anywhere near me.” Ronon shot Rodney a mutinous glare that had Rodney wondering if the pint-sized version of a Satedan could be just as deadly as the full-grown one.
“He’s right,” he said. “He knows the way.”
“I want Carson to check you out too,” Elizabeth said. “Make sure you’re 100%.”
“Fine!” Rodney and Ronon said at the same time.
“Just don’t touch me,” Ronon grouched as he headed out the door.
“Oh, trust me,” Rodney sniped back. “Definitely not planning on it.”
Sheppard looked at Elizabeth and Teyla in turn. “I have a feeling this is going to get ugly.”
Rodney waited anxiously while Carson scanned the CT results. “Well,” he asked impatiently, resting a hand on Ronon’s thin shoulder, “is he okay?”
Ronon shrugged off Rodney’s hand. “Why don’t you ask me, McKay?”
“Now, now, laddie,” Carson interrupted quickly, ruffling Ronon’s dreadlocks, “Rodney’s just worried about you, as we all are.”
“I’m not really a kid,” Ronon grumbled but he allowed Carson to pat his head gently.
Rodney sighed. Carson and Ronon had pretty much hit it off from the moment they’d met, despite their obvious differences in personality and size. If Carson had accidentally shrunk him, Ronon probably wouldn’t have batted an eye.
“It’s hard not to think of you as one,” Carson said, obviously trying to stifle a smile, “and a darn cute one you are at that.” That earned him a glare and he hurried on. “He’s just fine… well, as fine as he can be for suddenly having been turned into a munchkin.” He chuckled heartily at that and turned to add to his notes. “Doctor Zelenka is working on the machine right now. I’m sure he’ll have good news for us soon.”
“I should be doing that,” Rodney said. “I’m the Chief Science Officer.”
“And also the one who caused the damage in the first place,” Carson reminded him, and that got Rodney another dig in the stomach from Ronon. “Anyway, Elizabeth said she’s put you in charge of Ronon for now. We should keep an eye on you too, just in case there’s any delayed reaction.”
Ronon snorted and Rodney rolled his eyes. “Oh, you’d love that, wouldn’t you?” He sighed forlornly and looked at Carson. “I haven’t checked in a mirror but do I look any younger to you? I mean, I wouldn’t mind shaving a year or two off.”
“You don’t look any different, Rodney,” Carson said. “Now off with the both of you so I can take another look at these tests.”
“Couldn’t I stay here with you?” Ronon asked as he swung his legs over the side of the examination table and jumped to the ground.
“I’m going to be flat out, laddie,” Carson said.
“What about Teyla?” Rodney asked hopefully. “She’s used to… kids.”
“Teyla had to go to the mainland.” Carson replied, “One of her relatives is quite ill. She’ll be gone for a few days at least. Go on wi’ ye,” he ordered, shooing them out of the infirmary. He looked pointedly at Rodney. “I’m sure you’ll find something to do to keep Ronon amused and his mind off things.”
“We could spar?” Ronon suggested.
“Oh, I don’t think that would be a good idea,” Rodney replied, reluctantly shepherding Ronon toward the door.
“Why not? Scared a little kid will kick your butt?”
“I thought you weren’t really a kid,” Rodney snapped back.
“How about a game or something?” Carson interjected.
“Actually, I do recall packing Monopoly,” Rodney said thoughtfully.
“Right! There you are!” Carson said cheerfully though Rodney was certain there was a note of strain in his voice. “Monopoly it is! Off ye go then! Have fun!”
Rodney couldn’t resist throwing the good doctor a murderous glare over his shoulder as they left, just before the doors whooshed shut behind them, leaving him at the mercy of his pint-sized Satedan warrior… child.
“How come I’ve only got this much money and you have all that?” Ronon asked. He kicked at the table leg a few times and smirked as several of Rodney’s neatly stacked play banknotes drifted to the floor.
“Will you stop doing that?” Rodney griped.
“Well?” Ronon prompted. He took a noisy slurp of his soda and surreptitiously kicked the table again, grinning when more of Rodney’s money fell on the floor.
“What?” Rodney straightened and whacked his head on the edge of the table. “Ouch!”
Ronon merely picked up the paltry amount of money in his possession and waved it in the air.
“Oh. Didn’t I mention I was Monopoly champion in school?” Rodney said.
“No.” Ronon tossed his own money on the floor and climbed off his chair. “This is boring. Why can’t we go spar?”
“Because I don’t want to hurt you. I mean, I’m a lot bigger than you are… now.”
“I’m still a better fighter than you,” Ronon shot back. “I could still beat you with both hands tied behind my back.”
“You couldn’t reach farther than my knees,” Rodney snapped.
Ronon opened his mouth to send back a suitable retort and found to his mortification that tears were stinging his eyes… again. He fought to control his quivering mouth and took a few deep breaths, that didn’t help at all. “I hate you, McKay,” he finally managed to get out though his throat closed up and he felt like he could hardly breathe. With that, he turned and ran out the door before his sobs broke free and totally embarrassed him.
Elizabeth Weir had her head buried in her latest report, wondering how the heck she was going to explain Ronon’s downsizing, and considered just delaying typing up the darn thing in the hopes that Zelenka and his team would come up with a successful solution and perhaps she could just pretend it never happened. She suddenly had the uncanny feeling she was being watched and looked up to see Ronon staring back at her. She bit her lip to stop from laughing at the incongruous sight of the very typical Dex scowl on such a young face. “Ronon! What are you doing here? I thought you were with Rodney.”
Ronon sniffed and wiped a hand across his nose. “I hate him!” he said vehemently. “This is all his fault and now he won’t spar with me ‘cos he’s scared of being beaten up by a kid – not that I really am one – and he cheats at Monopoly.”
Elizabeth nodded sympathetically at the verbal onslaught. “Rodney can be pretty competitive, I know,” she smiled gently at him, “a lot like you, just in a different way.”
“Can’t I stay here with you?” Ronon asked, slumping into the chair opposite her and swinging his legs back and forth, tapping the desk leg monotonously as he did so.
“I’m kind of busy with these reports,” Elizabeth said, finding her rapidly developing headache keeping time with Ronon’s kicking feet. She thought a moment then stood and held out her hand, then dropped it quickly to her side when Ronon stared at it with a look of open horror. “Sorry,” she said, “I forgot.”
“Elizabeth!” John looked down at the child at her side. “Ronon! Hey buddy, how you doing?”
“How do you think?” Ronon said in a not-quite growl as he stomped past John and into his quarters.
“Not so good, I’m guessing,” John said, raising his eyebrows at Elizabeth.
“He and Rodney had a few problems—“ Elizabeth began.
“He’s a cheat and he won’t let me spar and I hate him!” Ronon interjected.
“You know,” John said, settling down on the end of his bed, “Rodney’s feeling really bad about what happened.”
“He’s just glad it wasn’t him,” Ronon said hotly, “and it would have been if I hadn’t knocked him out of the way.”
“And that’s exactly what he’s feeling guilty about,” Elizabeth put in. “In fact, I think I’ll get him to work with Radek, see if things will go quicker with them both working on it.”
“What about me?” Ronon asked.
“You busy, John?” Elizabeth said.
“Nothing to do till we get this sorted,” John said. “How about you and me kick back and watch some football?” he suggested to Ronon. “Maybe get some popcorn…”
“And beer?” Ronon asked with a hopeful expression.
“Root beer for you,” John replied. He looked at Elizabeth and waved her off. “Go, we’ll be fine.”
“Thank you,” she said with a heartfelt sigh.
“You owe me,” John called after her as she left.
“Hey buddy, you might want to slow down on the popcorn,” John cautioned as Ronon shoveled another handful into his mouth.
“’m starving!” Ronon complained, slapping John’s restraining hand away. “Do you have any more root beer? I like it!”
“I think three’s the limit,” John said with a chuckle, settling back on the bed and pressing the replay button. He’d missed the last play due to Ronon’s constant questions.
Ronon stood up suddenly. “I need to go to the bathroom,” he said.
“I told you three root beers were enough,” John chided.
Ronon shook his head and John suddenly realized how pale he looked. “Think I’m gonna—“
“I’m sorry about your shoes,” Ronon said miserably as John carried him into the infirmary.
“S’okay, buddy,” John replied, patting the little guy’s back… gently. “My fault for letting you pig out like that.”
“Mm-hmm,” Ronon replied and sniffled wetly into John’s shirt.
“What’s happened?” Carson asked, racing over, taking Ronon from John’s arms and laying him on the nearest bed. Motioning for John to speak, he lifted Ronon’s arm and checked his pulse.
“Too much root beer and popcorn, I think,” John replied.
“Coupled with the excitement of the day, I’m not surprised you’re feeling poorly, laddie.” Carson smiled reassuringly at Ronon. “I have just the thing to settle that upset stomach of yours, and,” he shook his head at John, “I’m thinking you might be safer here in the infirmary after all.”
Ronon just nodded and burped.
John backed away. “I’m gonna go, Doc,” he said hurriedly. “They might need me in the Gateroom or something.”
“Aye.” Carson sighed and smoothed Ronon’s dreadlocks out of his eyes.
“This is all McKay’s fault,” Ronon muttered miserably.
“Well, it’s not entirely, you know,” Carson said. He opened the medicine cupboard and poured a small amount of liquid into a paper cup. Handing it to Ronon, he ordered, “Drink up.”
Ronon did so then screwed up his face. “Tastes awful,” he grumbled.
Carson chuckled. “It’s good for what ails you.”
“What did you mean that it’s not entirely McKay’s fault?” Ronon asked, settling back on the pillows and rubbing his stomach.
Carson sat down in the chair beside the bed. “There’s still an awful lot we don’t know about Atlantis,” he replied, “and if it wasn’t for Rodney and his team, we could have been dead the first day we arrived.”
“When he raised the city,” Ronon said, nodding. “He’s discovered some good things, hasn’t he?”
“Aye, and put himself in danger as often as the rest of the brave souls here. I’m not saying every decision he’s made has been the right one and I’m not saying there aren’t times when I wished he’d be a little more cautious about just touching things but he’s a scientist and more often than not, the risks he’s taken have been to our benefit.”
“Except this time,” Ronon said. He gave a sigh that morphed into a yawn and turned onto his side, facing away from Carson. “I’m tired.”
“Do you feel better?” Carson asked. Ronon nodded but didn’t speak. “All right then.” Carson stood and patted the boy’s shoulder. “You get some sleep and I’m sure when you wake up, Rodney and Radek will have learned something to get you out of this wee spot of bother.”
Rodney backed out of the infirmary doorway. He hadn’t intended to eavesdrop. He’d met John in the hallway on his way to the room that contained the blasted machine that had downsized Ronon. “Hope you did better with him than I did,” he said wryly.
“Not exactly,” Sheppard said. “He kinda pigged out and next thing I knew he was barfing on my shoes.”
“He’s all right, isn’t he?” Rodney asked, his concern notching up. “I mean, it could be a side effect from the machine and not what he ate.”
“He’s fine,” Sheppard said, patting Rodney’s shoulder. “Upset stomach, that’s all. Carson’s looking after him. How’s it going with the machine?”
“I’m on my way there now. Maybe I’ll drop by the infirmary and see how the kid… Ronon’s doing.”
“I wouldn’t if I were you,” Sheppard said. He shrugged. “He’ll get over it once you reverse it but he’s still pretty steamed.”
“Right. Of course.” Rodney felt his face heat with uncharacteristic shame. “I’d better go.” He hadn’t been able to resist though, just wanting to peek in and reassure himself that Ronon really was okay.
“Zelenka, how’s it going?” Rodney asked as he strode into the room.
Zelenka shot him a sour look. “How do you think? I would have let you know if we’d had success.” He glared at Rodney. “Why are you here? We do better without you, I think.” He rolled his eyes and got a nervous round of chuckles from his support staff.
“Thank you all for your faith in my abilities,” Rodney said. “As a matter of fact, Elizabeth felt that you probably need my guidance on this, since I was the one to discover it.”
“Perhaps Ronon could help,” someone in the far corner said just loud enough to be heard, “if he could reach the controls.”
There was another round of hushed laughter and Rodney decided he’d had enough. “All right, now you’ve all had your jollies at my expense, can we get back to the matter at hand? Everyone out!”
“Sorry?” Zelenka looked at him curiously. He shook his head vehemently. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea, Rodney. Someone should be here with you for back up, in case something else happens.”
Rodney didn’t waste time arguing. “Fine, you can stay, Radek. The rest of you, go check out the mainframe. I want to know if anything we do causes any anomalies, surges… you know the drill.”
There was a moment of silence then Radek’s team walked out, talking quietly amongst themselves.
“Good!” Rodney rubbed his hands together. “Let’s fix this, shall we?”
“We haven’t actually touched any of the controls yet,” Radek said. “We’re still taking readings…”
“Let me see that.” Rodney snatched Zelenka’s pad out of his hands and scrutinized it. “Okay. I think if I simply do what I did in reverse, it should work.”
“You’re not planning on experimenting on the kid, are you?” Zelenka asked.
“Of course not! I’m just going to run a simulation. That should give us a clue if it’s workable. I just need to refresh my memory.” Rodney lifted his hands and held them above the console, his fingers twitching as he tried to remember the correct sequence.
A glow shot out from the control panel, streaming upward like a shining stream of light, encircling first Rodney’s hands, then his entire body. He heard Radek yell a warning and tried to pull away but couldn’t break free. He managed to gasp out a warning though his throat seemed to have closed up. “Don’t touch me!”
The light engulfed his entire being, seeping into his very pores, suffusing him until he felt he was one with it then a flash of lightning exploded inside his skull, obliterating his consciousness.
“This is all my fault,” Radek said glumly.
“There was nothing you could have done,” Elizabeth replied.
“I should have pulled him out of there,” Radek objected, “but after what happened to Ronon….” He dropped his head. “I was worried it could have been both of us.”
“You did the right thing, Radek,” John interjected. “I can’t believe he would have been so stupid!”
“It’s my fault.” Ronon looked up at the others. “I made him feel so bad about what happened to me. He was just trying to help.”
“And look where that got him!” Sheppard replied. He sighed and scrubbed a hand through his hair. “You say he doesn’t remember anything, Doc?”
Carson shook his head. “Not a thing, I’m afraid.”
“How is he, physically?” Elizabeth asked.
“Physically, he’s fine, apart from a raging headache. Emotionally, he’s confused, upset… frightened,” Carson said. He looked over his shoulder as a groan came from the bed behind them. “He’s waking up, I’d best go check on him.”
“I’ll go,” Ronon offered.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” John put in.
“Actually, I think it’s an excellent idea,” Carson interjected. “At the moment, surprisingly, the laddie’s probably the least intimidating of the lot of you.”
Ronon approached the bed slowly, suddenly unsure of what to say or do. A head poked up from beneath the bedcovers, two big blue eyes examined him warily. Ronon lifted a hand and waved. “Hi.”
“Hi. Who are you?”
“I’m Rodney, that’s what the doctor said. I don’t actually remember.”
Ronon nodded. “That’s your name.”
“He said I had an accident but hopefully I’ll remember everything one day soon – Oh! I remember one thing, two actually. I’m 6 years old and I’m really, really smart!”
“Good for you, and yes, you are really smart.” Feeling less ill at ease, Ronon sat down in the chair beside the bed and swung his legs back and forth. “You just do what Carson – that’s the doctor – tells you and you’ll be good as new in no time.”
Rodney leaned forward and whispered, “He talks funny.”
Ronon laughed. “He sure does, but he’s a good person and a great doctor.”
“So, you know me?” Rodney asked.
“Sure, I do.”
“Who are they?” Rodney indicated the others who stood, ‘pretending’ not to watch the byplay between the two boys.
“That’s… our family,” Ronon said after a long pause. “You see, we were kinda lost and on our own, and I guess, they adopted us.”
Rodney gaped. “All of them?”
Ronon nodded. “That’s what family is about. When you don’t have anyone else, your friends are your family.” He sighed. “It’s a long story and I’ll tell you the rest when you’re feeling better.” He grinned, suddenly feeling as though things weren’t quite so bad as they had been before. At least he wasn’t the only one in this predicament anymore. “It’s pretty weird actually… but not so bad. There’s Teyla too but she’s not here right now.” He shook his head. “Boy, is she gonna get a surprise when she gets back.”
“So, you’re my brother?” Rodney asked slowly. At Ronon’s nod, he continued, “How come you have that shaggy hair and I don’t?” He scrubbed a small hand over his head.
Ronon rolled his eyes. “For someone so smart, you’re not very bright sometimes.” Tears filled Rodney’s eyes and he felt instant remorse. “Sorry, I didn’t mean that. I know you’re sick and all. We have different mothers and fathers but now we’re brothers because we’re all a family.” He waved a hand, encompassing Sheppard, Elizabeth, Radek and Carson.
Rodney nodded but still looked thoroughly miserable.
Ronon shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “How about we play a game?” he suggested.
Rodney shrugged. “Like what?”
Ronon’s mouth turned up in a smile. “How about Monopoly? And later, when you’re feeling better, I’ll teach you to spar.”