Prompt: Ronon needs Rodney's help.
From Rodney's point of view, the whole thing started when Ronon lumbered up to him in the hallway at seven o'clock in the morning and said, "McKay. I need your help."
"With what?" Rodney said fuzzily. The one cup of coffee he'd had had barely kicked in yet. Then he actually looked at Ronon, and said, "Is that a cat?"
The cat Ronon was holding flicked an ear at Rodney in greeting.
"Where the hell did you get a cat?" Rodney asked.
Ronon inspected it critically. "That's what he is? I thought they were supposed to be dangerous."
"Only if they're big." And if you scratch in the wrong place. Then, because it bore repeating: "Where did you get a cat?"
"It's Sheppard," Ronon said gruffly, handing it to him.
Ordinarily, Rodney would have said something like, "Of course it is," or, "Isn't this taking the creepy hero-worship a little too far?" or even, "What? What?" But there was a helpless crack in Ronon's voice, a sincere look in his eyes that Rodney didn't think could be feigned, and when he looked down at the long-boned, tufty-headed tabby cat, it looked directly at him with its slitted hazel eyes and flicked its ears again, looking bored and amiable as it slouched in his arms.
Nevertheless, Rodney said, "What? What?" because seriously, he had to say something.
Elizabeth looked like she might cry, which was the first thing that had made sense to Rodney all morning.
"Was much like when you nearly ascended, McKay," Zelenka said, laptop on his knees. "Secluded lab, bright flash of light, and - poof!"
"Actual poof?" Rodney said, staring at the traitorous Ancient platform.
"No," Zelenka admitted. "But, a bright light and suddenly... he is a cat. It makes no sense," he said in despair, and dear God, understatement.
The cat purred like a very small thunderstorm in Rodney's arms, apparently content where it was. "What was he even doing down here?" He turned to Ronon accusingly. "What were you doing here?"
Ronon glowered, but Radek answered, “Thompson and Von Braun found it last night. This morning, I radioed the Colonel for assistance when he was not busy, and it turned out he and Ronon,” Zelenka gestured distractedly, “were going for a run, and very close by, so they dropped in.”
Rodney looked at Ronon. Ronon folded his arms, slouching against the wall and pouting, yes, pouting in a way that was entirely too reminiscent of Sheppard, who chose that moment to struggle out of Rodney's arms and leap to the floor.
“Ugh, you're a shedder,” Rodney said, swiping ineffectually at the hundreds of tabby hairs stuck to his t-shirt. “Why am I not surprised?”
The cat – Sheppard; no, no, Rodney's amazing brain still creaked – ignored this, ambling over the the platform and circling it, sniffing delicately in places, tail flicking. Rodney looked over Zelenka's shoulder at his laptop, one eye on the Colonel, but Radek didn't have anything that looked remotely promising. What schematics Thompson and Von Braun had managed to get him were incomplete and baffling, and there didn't seem to be anything built into the device like, oh, a control panel. Elizabeth joined him, huffing a sigh.
“I can't make out much of use, I'm afraid.” Her eyes were on the cat, who was resting his front paws on the edge of the platform, still sniffing. “There's just something about transformation, concentration, a soul knowing itself...”
Ignoring, for the moment, the idea that the Ancients had developed a magical kitten-ray and what they were going to tell Stargate Command, he said in despair, “So why is he a cat?”
Elizabeth rubbed her eyebrow in that way that said Five minutes more of your whining and I will choke you with the power of the Force alone to anyone who knew her. “I don't know. Maybe it was the default setting. Maybe it's personal preference. Do you have any idea how to reverse it?”
“Strangely, no, not right off the bat,” Rodney snapped, and then made an effort to moderate his tone. “Look, clearly none of us have had breakfast or coffee yet, and he's not in any immediate danger—” he was gesturing to the cat, who had wandered back over towards Rodney and was now looking at them from a comfortable distance.
“How do we know?” Elizabeth said sharply.
“What? Oh, look, we'll wake a biologist with some veterinary experience, I'm sure we've got one somewhere. Seriously, though, coffee first.”
Elizabeth nodded, looking less homicidal already. “That sounds fair. I'll radio Dr. West. And, Rodney? I don't see any way we can keep this quiet, but try to keep him from becoming a fairground attraction, will you please?”
Rodney said, “What, me? Why?” But Elizabeth was already gone, Zelenka following, laptop in his hands.
Ronon bumped his shoulder, nearly sending him into the wall. “Hey. Thanks for helping.”
“Oh, uh— wait, was that sarcasm?”
Ronon walked past him. “Breakfast, McKay.”
“Yes, coming.” Waving at him to go on, Rodney looked back at the cat – at Sheppard – who had wandered back to the Ancient platform, and leapt up into the centre of it. Panels started to glow.
“Huh,” said Rodney. “At least you still have the gene. And how does that work? I mean, you're a completely different species now—”
There was a sudden, bright flash of light; it winked out just as abruptly, and when it did—
“Oh,” Rodney said, disappointed. Sheppard's fur was standing on end, but other than that, there was no change. “Well, at least you didn't turn into a dolphin or something.”
Sheppard stepped gingerly down from the platform, shaking out each of his legs as he walked, ears flattened. Without really thinking about it, Rodney scooped him up and petted his head until his muscles stopped quivering and he relaxed against Rodney's chest, and that's how they walked to the commissary.
Teyla seemed to have succumbed the urge to pet Sheppard, and was lightly stroking his back while he looked vaguely uncomfortable. Rodney could sympathise with her, though. Sure, it was Sheppard, but he was all cute and fuzzy now.
“It is strange how the creature resembles him,” Teyla said, looking equal parts awed and disturbed. Sheppard paused in eating nearly-bacon off Rodney's tray to give her a cat-stare. She smiled helplessly at him, and scritched his ears.
“Huh,” Ronon said, as Sheppard turned boneless and listed, slit-eyed, into Teyla's hand. “Is that meant to happen?”
“Yeah, there's always a spot that does that.” Rodney pointed his spoon. “If that goes on for much longer he'll fall over, watch him.” Sheppard opened an eye and glared at him, managing to contain it to an undignified wobble.
Ronon got a smack on the hand with an unsheathed paw when he tried it, and Sheppard just growled at Rodney. “Eat your bacon,” Rodney said, ignoring him.
They were attracting stares from the growing breakfast crowd; people kept stopping near their table and staring. There was whispering going on, and incredulous expressions that didn't fit with just “hey, look, a cat.” Rodney's mood darkened. Clearly, someone had already blabbed.
Sheppard was huddling in the middle of the table between Rodney and Teyla, tail curled around himself, looking small and miserable. Rodney was torn between the urge to cuddle him, and the knowledge that the Colonel, once he stopped being a cat, would make him pay for it dearly. Then Major Lorne approached them with a carefully neutral expression, Cadman behind him with a slightly gleeful one, at which point Sheppard stopped looking sorry for himself, sat up and started washing his ears.
“McKay,” Lorne said, inclining his head. “Uh, I'm hearing...” He didn't seem to be able to get the words out.
“Yes, he got turned into a cat,” Rodney said, taking slight pity on him. “No, we don't know why. Yes, we're working on it.”
Sheppard flicked an ear at him, and then looked Lorne in the eye, tail twitching restlessly.
“Huh,” said Lorne, transfixed. Then, “So, is this officially the weirdest thing that's happened here?”
“I really think it's a moot point,” Rodney said sincerely.
Lorne stared a bit more, then said, “Well, I guess this means I've got more paperwork to do,” and saluted Sheppard crisply before he left.
Cadman lingered, looking fascinated. “So, do you think he'll remember this once he's changed back?”
“How the hell should I know?” Rodney snapped, not thinking about the horrible possibility that Sheppard might not.
“Can I—” she said hopefully, already reaching a slutty, slutty hand.
“No!” Rodney yelped, shielding Sheppard with his body, and then he got Ronon to growl threateningly at anyone else who approached.
The meeting with Dr. West was exactly like every trip to the vet he'd ever taken, even with Carson hovering in the background: she was an incompetent quack with a highly suspect degree and no respect for cats, trying to manhandle Sheppard and looking frustrated that it wasn't working; also, Sheppard refused to let Rodney carry him without a struggle because apparently he chose now to have pride.
By the end of the session, Sheppard hadn't bitten or scratched her, which Rodney would have been compelled to, if a giant person was trying to feel him up like that, but he was growling a low, hoarse cat-growl, claws latched to the padded surface of the infirmary table. “Well,” said West, wiping her face with the back of her hand and struggling to look professional. “From what I can tell, he's a perfectly healthy adult male cat. All scans seem clean. You can take him.” Far, far away, her hurt expression said.
“I'm sure he's fine, Rodney,” Carson added reassuringly, as West flounced into a nearby office, but Rodney ignored them both and scooped Sheppard up, petting fiercely and muttering about idiots and incompetents and the worst brand of voodoo practitioners, and didn't even mind the claws sinking into his arms because he understood, he really, really did.
The rest of the day was frustrating and unproductive. He ran scans and tests on the platform with Zelenka in between the rest of their incredibly vital projects, but they barely turned up anything except that it was, structurally, very similar to the one that had almost killed Rodney, plus some more mumbo-jumbo in the Ancient database about transformation and knowing oneself, and Rodney wanted to kill someone, preferably an Ancient, because clearly they were the source of all evil in at least two galaxies.
Sheppard hung around throughout all of it, looking pathetic and taking turns to nap, explore, and bother Rodney for a look at a laptop, though Rodney explained to him each time that they hadn't found anything helpful. Rodney shared fish with him for lunch, and gave him the meat course from his MRE when they worked through dinner.
By the time Elizabeth showed up at midnight, they were the last people there, Rodney running another slightly-tweaked scan while Sheppard lay by his knee. “Rodney,” she said softly. “Call it a night.”
For once, Rodney couldn't think of a decent reason to argue with her.
Sheppard had made it clear that his gene was still operational, so there was no reason for Rodney to take him home or anything; he could make his way around his quarters just fine. Rodney walked alone to his own room, wondering how much it would suck to be suddenly a foot tall, without a voice or opposable thumbs.
It took Rodney almost an hour to settle into a light, fitful sleep, and when he woke up to a distinct scraping on his door he had a bewildering moment where he couldn't remember where he was, because the last time he'd heard that sound—
The scraping stopped a few seconds before he got to the door, but when he opened it to Atlantis' empty, courteously dimmed hallway, Sheppard was still standing there, head and tail drooped, staring at the ground. “Maow,” he said, low and hoarse.
“Hey,” Rodney said back, and then he picked him up gently and carried him to bed, where Sheppard slept in a tight ball on the pillow all night long.
The next day followed much the same, and the day after that, and the day after that. Teyla and Ronon went out with Major Lorne's team, had a minor adventure, came back in one piece with a bunch of promising new friends. Rodney stayed at home with the cat, and both of them commiserated silently with Elizabeth through one of the more hair-raising reports.
They were lucky that the Daedalus was on it's way back to Earth; it gave them plenty of time to figure out what to do with Sheppard. Unfortunately, right now there didn't seem to be many options beyond 'keep him on as expedition mascot.' Rodney was really glad it was Carson who said that and not him, because the look Sheppard gave him was horrible.
They settled into a routine or sorts. Teyla liked having Sheppard around when she meditated, and didn't seem to mind that he spent most of the time napping or sniffing her things. Ronon liked trying to sprint as fast as Sheppard could and then mocking his endurance abilities, and Rodney was there to witness the time when Sheppard pounced on Ronon's dreadlocks in revenge, and all the flailing that immediately followed. Sheppard ate with at least one of them at every meal, though Rodney started leaving bits of jerky around for him to chew on in the spaces between, because he knew three squares just wasn't how cats ate.
At night, Rodney would crawl into bed to find Sheppard already there, or else Sheppard would think his door open at some mysterious hour and settle next to him on the pillow or in the crook of his arm. Either way, they woke up together in the morning.
One night, maybe a few weeks after the transformation – when the work on the device was still going nowhere, but the surprise had worn off, and people no more commented on their military leader being turned into a cat than they did on the galaxy they were in or the mutant vampire bug-people who existed to kill and eat them – it was one o'clock in the morning, and Rodney was staring at the ceiling, half-asleep and rueful, Sheppard a warm, purring presence next to his face, and Rodney said, “You know, this was never exactly how I pictured us sleeping together night after night.” And then he thought nothing more of it, and went to sleep.
In the morning, he woke up and went, “Gah!” because Sheppard was human-shaped and fully-clothed and really close to him, and Sheppard opened his eyes and also went “Gah!” and fell out of bed with a thud that rattled the floor.
“Hey!” Rodney said, meaning, You're human again! And wow, your breath is bad.
“Uh,” Sheppard said, looking at his hands and arms and legs, and then, “Hey.” And, “Hey! Rodney!”
Rodney pinched himself, and then crawled out of bed and pinched Sheppard a few times – “Rodney, knock it off,” – and then radioed Elizabeth, who radioed John, who actually hugged Rodney before hijacking Rodney's bathroom to brush his teeth and tell him about all the coffee and vegetable matter he was going to ingest as soon as humanly possible.
“You're welcome,” Rodney said fuzzily, and then found his mocha pot and retook the bathroom because he needed to pee, dammit, and Sheppard had perfectly good facilities of his own right down the hall, including a toothbrush, was nothing sacred? And over the course of the day Sheppard was hugged by practically everyone who saw him, including, Rodney was certain, some very butch Marines; Teyla actually squeezed him, and Rodney had never seen Teyla do that to anyone, not even adorable Athosian children.
He felt a little out of sorts. There wasn't really any reason to - Sheppard was human again! Everything was okay! They could go on missions again, which, God, Rodney refused to believe he'd missed. He just... didn't feel like he had the right to manhandle Sheppard in public. If you didn't count what he'd been doing for the last couple of weeks, that is.
“I still don't understand why they built a stupid cat-ray,” Rodney groused, watching grunts and minions clear their preciously useless research out of the platform lab. Transformation, concentration, know oneself. Bah.
“Who knows the minds of the Ancients, Rodney?” Elizabeth said happily, deliberately not seeing his point of view, and walked away humming while Rodney hung a big sign on the door saying, 'Stupid and Dangerous. Do not touch – McKay.'
That night, he went to bed and slept alone. And the next night, and the night after that.
The night after that, he was nudged awake at a mysterious hour. Someone said, "Hey. Move over," and he made room without thinking.
In the morning, they woke up together.
I'm going to bed now.
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