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Author’s Notes: Written for Trish to say thanks for the wonderful pictures and happy birthday. I see Torren with a head full of curly hair here. Think Charlie Eps from the first season of Numb3rs. I just realized I forgot to post this here.



Rodney’s POV:


"Rodney?" Teyla’s dulcet tones combined with her touch on my arm alert me to the fact that I’m not alone in the lab anymore.

"Busy," I give her my standard 'do not disturb' answer without even looking up from the computer I’m currently working on.

"I need your assistance." She doesn’t even blink at my brush off; none of my team does anymore.

"I said…" I begin with a sigh of frustration, still not looking at her.

"I need a babysitter," she talks over me.

"Excuse me?" I demand, turning to blink at her in disbelief.

"Ronon and Colonel Sheppard are on the mainland running drills with some Marines. Kanaan and I would like some alone time."

"Surely you can find someone, anyone, else." My voice did not just go up an octave in panic.

"Torren is… picky… about whom he will allow to watch him. Plus he truly enjoys your company and you are his godfather." She uses guilt like a pro.

"I don’t know…" I hedge. I’ve never been good with kids but Torren is different. I delivered him, watched him take his first steps, say his first word.

A tug on my pants leg has me looking down into the face of a mini-Teyla. "No!" he says loudly with a cute little baby giggle.

When I continue to hesitate, Teyla picks him up and holds him out to me. "No!" he says again, kicking his legs, his tiny face alight with amusement.

"I see 'no' is the word of the day," I sigh, gingerly taking him from his mother, making sure to keep his kicking feet away from the important areas of my anatomy.

Teyla heaves a huge sigh of relief. "Thank you, Rodney." She places her hands on my shoulders and we do the forehead touch thing as well as we can with Torren hanging from my grip between us. "Here's his bag with a change of clothes, some diapers and his favorite snacks. I'll try to come back for him before his bed time." She sets the Air Force duffle bag John got her for a baby gift on the floor and turns to leave. Just before she reaches the door, she spins back around to inform me "'No' is the only word he will say. It has been that way for a week now." Then she turns on her heel again and all but runs from the lab.

"So, little man, what shall we do today, hm?" I ask the child in my arms, tucking him against one hip so I can shut down my laptop. Luckily I'm quite used to doing things one-handed because I have a feeling Torren won't take too kindly to my setting him down to gather my stuff before we can head off to my quarters.

Picking up the duffle, I sling it over my right shoulder since Torren's on my left hip, then tuck my laptop under the same arm.

Torren, being the typical two-year-old he is, begins to squirm. Normally I'd let him walk because carrying him isn't good for my sciatica but today I want to get to my quarters before anyone can stop us with an emergency because I know I'd be of little to no use with Torren tagging along.

"Stop squirming," I mutter, hitching him up higher on my hip one-handed.

We're about halfway to my quarters when I realize that I won't be able to maintain my hold on the wiggling body, not while carrying my laptop, too. Setting the bag and laptop down I toss Torren in the air a bit then sling him over my shoulder with his head hanging down my back. His squeal of laughter tells me he's loving this. I never understood why people, Torren in particular, like this position, what with the blood rushing to one's brain and all. But the child in my arms loves it, especially when Ronon or John carries him this way. As soon as he's upside down, he grabs the waistband of my pants and gives a little tug, his signal that I can move now.

Rolling my eyes, knowing he can't see and imitate the gesture until he's dizzy, I pick up the bag and laptop before continuing on my way. "You'll be the death of us all," I grumble with an affectionate squeeze to the legs in my hand so that he knows I don't really mean it. Another giggle is my answer, not that I was expecting anything else.

We manage to make it to my quarters without being stopped for anything more than a couple of female Marines to fawn over Torren. If I was in the market for a serious relationship I'd certainly make use of my godson's ability to make even the toughest feminist realize she has a biological clock that is ticking louder than she'd like.

When Torren was born John, Ronon, Teyla and I found new quarters closer to each other since we figured us three guys would be assisting our team mate in raising her son. Especially since we weren't sure if Kanaan would be able to fulfill his role as the boy's father. All four of us found identical quarters; each has two living areas, a small kitchen, three bedrooms, two bathrooms and all four are connected by a private balcony. In my quarters, the smaller of the two living rooms is set up for Torren and his things.

Dropping the laptop and duffle on the couch as we pass, I carry my burden into the playroom and set him on his feet.

"No!" he giggles, jumping up and down. "Nonononono," he turns it into a song and begins to spin in circles.

Knowing that if he keeps this up I'll be cleaning up a mess I'd much rather leave to his mother, I reach out and stop him. "How about we play a game?" He nods his head so vigorously that I'm afraid he'll be seeing double. "Great. So, Hi-Ho! Cherry-O," he shakes his head, "or Candyland?" He nods again, not as energetically as before, thank God. "Excellent choice," I say in a haughty voice that always makes him laugh. Pulling the game from the cabinet, we settle at the table and begin to play.

I used to stack the deck so that Torren would win, more so that the game would end faster than so I wouldn't have to listen to his childish cries when he lost, but Teyla caught me and insisted I not do that so that he could learn that he won't always win and would then learn how to lose with grace. So I give the cards a couple of shuffles so that the order isn't the same as the last time we played and set up the board while sparing half a thought that it'll go quickly. That's not to say I don't love spending time with my godson, because I do, it's just that I have some very time-sensitive experiments running at the moment.

It comes as a big surprise when I actually lose; there for a while it looked like I might win. Torren crows his victory just like John would. Keeping in mind that Teyla wants him to learn to lose with grace I put on a small pout and then congratulate him on his win.

"Alrighty, then," I say, clapping my hands. "How about a snack?" When he nods his agreement, we clean up the game then head to the kitchen.

Torren climbs up into his chair while I unpack the food Teyla sent for his snack. Chuckling at the fact that Teyla packed enough for two, I set it out on the table. At the moment Teyla has Torren on a strict vegan diet. Normally I would protest this as cruel and unusual but I have since learned how beneficial it is to my overall health. Somehow in the four years between our arrival and Torren's birth I managed to gain some weight. In the two years since Torren's been around, more so since he started eating solid food, I've lost enough weight to wear my uniform from that first year, since the dear child tends to not eat much unless he shares with someone.

I try to engage Torren in conversation while we eat our snack. "So…" I falter to a stop when I realize I really don't know what to say to him. I've never been in this position before. Usually the boy chatters non-stop and all the adults in the room have to do is make noises of agreement to let him know we're listening.

He tilts his head to one side then reaches over the table to pat my hand. "Goo' gam', Unca Wodney. Sowwy you lose."

My eyebrows climb my forehead and I'm too stunned to correct his grammar. "Your mother said you refuse to say anything other than 'no'." He gives a little boy shrug and turns his attention back to devouring the fruit before him. "Oh, I get it. You were doing it because you know how much it irritates her." He looks up at me through his lashes, a mischievous grin on his face. I chuckle at his genius. "You smart little brat, you. You annoyed her just enough so she'd insist on someone watching you, didn't you?" He nods, his smug expression ruined by a yawn so big I can see where he's starting to cut a new molar. "Naptime, I'm thinking."

He nods again and clambers down from his chair, holding one hand out to me. "Com' Unca Wodney. Tim' to 'leep."

"You really need to learn how to enunciate, young man." I know he's only two but I'm pretty sure I spoke much more clearly when I was his age. It must be John and Ronon's influences that have him holding on to the baby-speak. The look he throws me over his shoulder is all John Sheppard, which just reinforces my deduction.

We go to his room and the door closes behind us, locking automatically. I've coded the doors in all our rooms to open only to a person over a certain height. While Torren isn't a true child of Atlantis, the city does love him because he's the first to live within her walls in over ten thousand years. This means that she opens doors whenever he approaches one. A three-hour frantic search for him when he was ten months old taught us that we can't rely on the city to help keep him safe.

Despite struggling to keep his little eyes open, Torren puts up a mini fight when I try to tuck him into bed. He doesn't give in until I agree to lie down with him. Lying down on the bed, I tuck the sweet body next to mine so that he's using my arm as a pillow. Before I know it, I slip into slumber.

Sometime later I wake to find myself alone in Torren's bed. Panic flares for a moment before I remember the security codes I installed on his bedroom door. A quick look around, it's a very small room, has alarm rushing through me. "Torren!" I call, getting out of bed with a speed I haven't managed to achieve in years. "Torren!" I rush from his room and skid to a halt in the living room when I see Ronon reclining on my couch like he owns the place and snacking on a bowl of potato chips.

"Hey, McKay. I was beginning to think you were gonna sleep all day," he comments, popping a chip into his mouth.

His nonchalant attitude takes me back a moment. "What are you doing here?" I snap, then realize it's not that important. "Never mind," I sigh, waving one hand to stop him from answering. "Have you seen Torren?"

"You telling me you lost Teyla's kid?" he asks with a chuckle.

"This isn't funny!" I yell. "Teyla's gonna kill me."

"Yeah, she is. Unless you find her kid before she comes back." Something in his voice gives me pause.

"You know where he is, Dex?" I demand, narrowing my eyes on his face.

He gives an indifferent shrug. "I might."

"Now's not the time!" I'm getting really frantic now.

Something in my voice or face must tell him just how much I'm not enjoying his little joke. "I know where the kid is."

"Where?" I growl, not even caring that he can snap me with one hand.

"How about we play that game Sheppard likes? Cold or colder?"

"You mean 'Hot or cold'?"

"Yeah," he snaps his fingers in a dead-on impersonation of me and points at me, "that one."

Giving a tiny grunt of frustration, I begin to stalk around the apartment. He yells "Cold!" and "You're freezing now, McKay!" when I head toward the bedrooms. When I approach the door to the corridor he informs me "Getting much warmer now". So, Torren has left my rooms, huh? I can handle that.

"You coming or what?" I demand, walking out the door.

"Getting cold again, McKay," he says when I turn to the right; toward Teyla's rooms. "Warmer." Is the clue when I do an about face and head off down the corridor in the direction of the rest of the city.

I pause at the first intersection and look back at him. He just raises one brow at me. "Okay, how about this; I'll point in each direction when we come to an intersection and you tell me 'hot or cold'. Same goes for any rooms we come to."

"Fine with me."

"Great." I point off to my right and get "cold". Pointing to my left gets the same response so I start moving again in the same direction as before.

We've almost reached the end of 'our' wing and every corridor and room we've passed has gotten me the same reply. "Enough of this, Ronon!" I snap, spinning on him in agitation. "Just tell me where he is!"

Ronon just laughs at my frustration. "You're getting warmer, McKay."

"Warmer, my foot," I mutter, stalking off in the direction of the atrium that marks the beginning of the next wing of apartments.

"You're getting cold now, McKay!" he calls when I march across the area without stopping to check the corridors leading off it. I halt mid-step and spin to face him, narrowing my eyes on his face.

"Which way?" I demand, stepping up to him. Both his eyebrows climb his forehead. I realize that he's starting to get angry but I'm too worried about Torren's safety to really care. "Which. Way?" I point to the three corridors to my right and get "cold" so I point to the three to the left and get "warmer". Grumbling under my breath, I stomp over to the other side of the room. "Which one Conan?" I wave my arm in the direction of all three corridors.

"You know the rules of this game, McKay."

"What?" I snap. "Oh, right." I point at the one on my left, the one that leads to my labs. He says "colder" so I point at the one to the right, the one that leads to the gym and other communal areas and get the same answer. "Right. Forward it is, then," I mumble. I take a couple of steps before I realize this corridor leads to the gateroom, the infirmary, armory and other places that are vital to the running of the city. The infirmary… My heart skips a beat at that one and I turn on my heel to face Ronon, one hand coming to rest in the middle of his chest to keep him from running me over. "Tell me he's not in the infirmary," I beg quietly.

He steps back and tilts his head to one side. "Torren's not in the infirmary," he soothes my fear.

Closing my eyes in relief, I swallow thickly and thank every deity I can think of that he didn't lie or tell me to just play the game.

"Teyla will be coming for her son soon, McKay." Ronon's half amused, half annoyed voice reminds me. "Think we should continue our game?"

"You mean your game!?" I snap, my eyes popping open to glare up at him while I plot varied methods of seeking my revenge. Crossing my arms over my chest, I shift my weight to one foot and try to keep my rising ire out of my voice as I inform him "I'm not moving another step until you tell me how it is you know where Torren is."

Ronon has the good grace to look chagrined. He rubs his hand over the back of his neck in a very John Sheppard-ish manner. "Because I was there when he was let out."

"What!?" I squawk. "You didn't think to wake me?"

He shrugs. "You were sleeping so peacefully."

"And Torren?"

"Was awake. Just sitting in the bed trying to be quiet."

"Just…" I sputter unable to wrap my head around the bundle of energy that is my godson just calmly sitting on my bed waiting for me to wake up.

"He was rubbing his eyes so I'm thinking he had just woken up. He did try to wake you but I told him to let you sleep."

"What would possess you to do something like that?"

He gives another one-shouldered shrug. "Sheppard said it would be funny to watch you run around looking for the kid."

His statement has me gaping at him. For the first time in a really long time, I'm speechless. After several minutes my brain kicks back in and with a blink I stutter "Shep… Sheppard… thought…? Why?"

"Dunno, McKay but if you finish the game and find the kid, you can ask him."

"So, Torren's with Sheppard?"

"Yep."

Swallowing a frustrated growl, I spin stiffly on my heel to resume my march down the corridor. "Fine. By all means let's continue to torture me," I mutter, doing my level best to ignore the chuckle my little tirade pulls from Ronon.

Stopping at the edge of the gateroom with the armory to my right and a corridor that loops around behind the gateroom to the infirmary to my left, I take a moment to get my heart rate and breathing under control. When Ronon comes to stand at my shoulder, I point off to my right. "Cold," he answers. He's already told me that Torren's not in the infirmary so I enter the gateroom and turn to my left; to the stairs leading up to the control room. Pausing at the bottom my brows lower in a frown of momentary confusion. Could Torren be in Woolsey's office? Surely not.

"McKay?" Ronon nudges me in the back and I stomp up the stairs, turning to my right at the top and slowly making my way across the control room, bending down to look under the consoles, ignoring the curious glances from the techs. "Getting warmer." I throw a glare over my shoulder and continue on. When I draw level with the stairs leading up to the jumper bay Ronon says "Really hot now, McKay," with the enthusiasm he usually reserves for a really great fight.

I look up the stairs, then return my attention to Ronon, narrowing my eyes on his face. "In the jumper bay? Really."

Ronon tucks his thumbs into the waistband of his pants and rocks back on his heels, a very smug smile on his face. "Yep."

"Of course," I mutter under my breath, turning to jog up the stairs, Ronon hot on my heels. When I hit the landing at the top, I break into a run and end up skidding into the jumper bay where I can see Torren and John behind the view screen of a jumper that's hovering several inches off the floor. "Colonel!" I yell, pointing an accusatory finger at the military commander of Atlantis. Sheppard just grins at me and Torren waves, his little face shining with glee. "Land that jumper, now!" When he does as I order, I march around behind and bang on the hatch until he opens it.

"Unca Wodney!" Torren shouts, squirming down out of John's lap and running through the jumper to jump up into my arms. "Unca John say you like this gam'. Di' you ha' fun huntin' fo' me?" What can I say to that? 'No, I didn't and it was terribly irresponsible of your uncle John to do that to me'?

With a death glare over Torren's head at John that has his grin getting even wider, I rub noses with my godson and assure him "Oh, yeah. It was a ton of fun." Not! "We should play 'Hide-n-seek' more often." Raising my head, I meet John's gaze, letting my anger show through but keeping it from my voice for Torren's sake. "Next time tell me first, okay?"

"Do' tha' make it funner?" Torren asks, wriggling to get down.

"Not really," John answers before I have a chance to even open my mouth, his voice heavy with repressed humor. "Don't let your uncle Rodney tell you otherwise, Torren John." I grit my teeth at his use of Torren's full name. He only uses it when he knows I can hear because he knows how much it bothers me that Teyla didn't name the boy after me. Torren grabs two of my fingers and tugs me toward the cockpit where John's still standing and I decide to let it go. I was made the child's godfather and he wasn't; I have been tasked with the responsibility of caring for him should something happen to Teyla and Kanaan. Me, not John Sheppard.

"Unca John say we cou' go see Mama and Da."

John and I share a look when Torren tries to push John back into the pilot's seat. "Uh, little man, I think we should wait here, in Uncle Rodney's rooms until your mom and dad come for you."

"Bu' why?" Torren's little face falls and his lower lip begins to tremble. John shoots me a 'help me out here, McKay' look. I find that I'm totally unsympathetic to his plight and just widen my eyes in a 'what do you think I can do?' look.

"McKay," John growls awkwardly patting Torren's back when he starts to sniffle.

"What? You're the one who promised him a ride in the jumper."

"Your mom and dad are spending some time alone together right now," John tries to soothe Torren but he's not buying it.

"I want my mama!" Torren wails, the sound of his pitiful cries echoing shrilly in the close confines of the jumper and causing Ronon to come bounding up the ramp.

"What'd you do to the kid, Sheppard?" Ronon demands, scooping Torren up into his arms, patting his back and making soothing noises in his ear.

"Unca John say we no go see Mama and Da," Torren hiccups, wiping his nose on his sleeve.

John sighs and tries to explain. "I'm not real sure exactly where they are."

"I want my mama!" John's explanation means nothing to the inconsolable child in Ronon's arms.

"Sheppard!" the former Runner growls menacingly. God forbid anyone threaten or even upset the boy in his presence.

"Fine!" John throws his hands in the air and turns to the controls. "We'll take a quick trip to the mainland and back." He puts his hand to his ear to activate his earpiece. "Control, this is Jumper Four. We're going to take a little joy-ride to the mainland real quick."

"Colonel, is there a reason you're taking a jumper to the mainland without prior authorization?" Woolsey's voice comes over the comm.

"Torren is missing Teyla and we thought we'd take him for a ride to get his mind off it," I beat Sheppard to the punch

"And just where is the boy's mother?"

"Enjoying some personal adult time with the kid's father," Ronon almost snarls. It's obvious from his tone that he objects to Woolsey's question.

There's a sound like Woolsey's huffed out an exasperated breath before he says in a tone that shows how much he really doesn't want to allow this "Fine, Colonel. Be careful."

"Always. Jumper Four out," John replies. "Everyone ready?" He turns to look at where Ronon has settled into the chair behind the co-pilot's seat, Torren curled up on his lap still sniffing every so often. "How about it, kiddo? Wanna go into space and do some tricks during re-entry?"

Torren gives a sad little nod, rubbing his eyes with one fist. "Sit do'n Unca Wodney so we can fly."

I slide into the seat I think of as mine. "Of course, far be it for me to keep us from doing some death-defying tricks," I snark with a look at John out of the corner of my eye.

John smirks and sets the jumper into motion. He keeps our speed slow until we're over the horizon from Atlantis then he pulls the jumper into a sharp climb that shoots us through the atmosphere until the blue of the sky gives way to the black of space.

"Thank God for inertial dampeners," I mumble glancing over my shoulder to see how Torren's doing. "Can you really see anything back there?"

"No. I sit in yo'r lap, Unca Wodney?"

"Of course." I smile at the wondrous expression on his face and hold out one hand.

He clambers down from Ronon's lap and up into mine where he settles back against my chest with a thump of his head to my sternum that has me grunting a little in pain.

"Colonel, I don't recall giving you permission to leave the planet." Woolsey's voice interrupts before John can even bring the jumper to a complete stop.

John and I share a look. "Sorry, sir," John sighs. "Torren wanted to go into space real quick."

"It is unbecoming for you to blame a toddler, Colonel," Woolsey scolds. "Return to Atlantis at once."

A pout settles on John's face but he replies "Yes, sir" anyway and puts the jumper into a nosedive on the same steep angle as our exit had been, adding a tight barrel roll that has the child on my lap whooping in delight.

Despite the inertial dampeners I fight a small bout of nausea before John brings the jumper out of the roll and nose dive just feet from the surface of the ocean. John then shows off a bit by skimming the jumper mere inches above the water. Torren leans forward to see better and his reflection in the view screen shows just how much he's enjoying the impromptu trip. When we reach the city, John spirals up around the outside until we get to the top of the central tower where the jumper automatically lowers itself into the bay.

We all remain seated even once John has landed the jumper in its proper spot. It's almost as if we're waiting for Woolsey to come and chastise us. When he doesn't appear, Torren flops back against my chest with a loud, and far too grown-up, sigh and says 'Gu'ss we shou' go ba'k yo'r room, Unca Wodney since Mama say you to see me."

"You really should try to speak properly," I admonish gently. He huffs at this and shakes his head so that his curly hair tickles my nose. I make a big production of spitting his hair out of my mouth earning myself a giggle. "At any rate, you're correct. Come. Off to my rooms." The four of us make our way back to 'our' wing of the east tower with John carrying Torren under his arm like a sack of potatoes, which the child found just as exciting as our trip into space.

Once in my room, we settle down on the couch with John on one end, Ronon on the other and I in the middle with Torren on my lap to watch Wall-E on the widescreen plasma that John bribed Caldwell into letting him bring back from Earth.

Giving into impulse, I squeeze the tiny body in my arms briefly and bury a kiss in his hair. Swallowing the lump that rises, I give into a fantasy that Torren is my son. A fantasy that until he was born I didn't even really realize I wanted. I mean, sure, I want to pass my genius genes on because the world shouldn't be deprived of my brilliance, but I never really thought about it. Not even with Katie and Jennifer. About half-way through the movie I roughly push the distressing thoughts aside when it becomes obvious that unless Atlantis holds some artificial means of becoming a father, I won't be realizing that particular dream.

By the end of the movie, Torren has taken what we all know is his sleepy pose; sucking his thumb with the other hand clutching the earlobe of the person holding him. He usually only does that with his mother and none of us, not even Teyla, know why he does it but we all know that when he assumes this position he'll be asleep within minutes.

Teyla and Kanaan come in just as I shift Torren in my arms in preparation of carrying him to his bedroom. "Oh, Rodney," Teyla sighs reaching to take Torren from me when I come to stand in front of her. "I really meant to return before now."

"No worries," I reassure her. "We had a wonderful day." I tenderly hand my burden over to his mother, caressing his head lightly as I pull my hands back.

"I hope he behaved."

"Of course he did." A discreet cough reminds me of the other occupants of the room. Turning to glare over my shoulder at them, I point at them and tell Teyla "Now, the two of them on the other hand…"

Ronon turns his head and coughs into the back of his hand, John ducks his head, and then surprisingly Teyla just gives a knowing smile. "I hope that nothing has happened that would upset Torren’s godfather," she says smoothly, and looks at the two culprits. "Ronon, John, we are still scheduled to spar tomorrow afternoon, are we not?" And without giving them time to answer, she, Torren and Kanaan breeze out the door.

John and Ronon still don’t look at me. That’s just fine. I sit down on the couch, lean back and fold my hands behind my head with a smug smile.

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