Just to clarify from the beginning, this is not slash and at no point will it become slash. It is a McKay Sheppard friendship piece. I know there is one or two years age difference between David Hewlett and Joe Flannigan, but for the purposes of this fic, Rodney is only two months older than John. It makes more sense this way.

Oh my god! I just realised something. Does Kavanaugh remind anyone else of the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons? My sister is watching the Simpsons now and I'm seeing the similarities. Especially the pony tail. Freaky or what?

Note: I'm not American, so I am basing the foster system on the one we have here. Also, I'm making up the small town of New Hope and putting it in California. If there is a real town of New Hope in California… cool!

Summary: Anna and Andrew Sheppard love being foster parents, and their son John has always supported them. However, they face a challenge in the form of a young orphan named Rodney McKay.

Category: McKay Sheppard friendship fic.

Responses: Yes please!

Archive: Yes to and to Wraithbait. Anyone else please ask.

This first chapter is a little talkey, but I just need to establish a bit of back story, ok?

Rated for a little bit of language.

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New Hope, California. August, 1982.

There were sometimes when she really, truly hated her job.

Tracey Richardson rubbed her tired eyes in frustration. Usually, she loved working as a social worker in the Child Services Department in the relatively small town of New Hope. She got to help people, to make their lives better, more fulfilling. She helped find homes for kids who needed her help, and she loved watching them settle in to new foster families. It was challenging, yet rewarding.

And then there were times when her job just plain sucked.

Like now for example.

Two nights ago, a drunken father had driven into a wall, killing himself, his wife Jennifer, his seventeen year old daughter Jeanie and injuring his twelve year old son Rodney. Rodney had escaped with a broken arm, severe bruising and a concussion, and though his injuries weren't life threatening, they had warranted a few days in the hospital. That meant that that Child Services a few days more to figure out what to do with him.

Tracey looked at the report of the family that lay on the desk in front of her. Unfortunately, it was thick. She sighed in frustration. This family had clearly needed help and intervention, but, like too many others, had slipped through the cracks. Chalk up another success for Social Services. Her spirits sank lower as she read file after file on the family; everything from police statements and hospital visits to neighbours testimonies and school assessments.

From all accounts, Michael McKay had been a drunk, and a mean drunk at that. He had moved his family to California from Canada two years before when he lost his job as a car salesman and couldn't find another. Since their arrival, his wife, Jennifer, had been admitted to hospital several times with 'unexplained' bruising and broken bones. Tracey winced as she read the hospital reports because she knew that they had been the most severe injuries, and she shuddered to think what had happened that hadn't warranted a hospital visit.

Jeanie had been a rebellious, wild child, and had several run-ins with the law. She had been arrested several times for under-age drinking and for driving under the influence in an unlicensed car. There were also notes in her file of hospital visits, and Tracey heart sank saw they almost always co-incided with her being arrested.

And Rodney? Well, the boy was a genius… literally. His abilities had been discovered at the tender age of six by a teacher in Canada, but his parents had made no move to help their son develop his mind. Tracey read the reports from his school, and saw that Rodney spent tremendous amounts of extra time in the library there, working on assignments and expanding his knowledge, basically doing everything he could to avoid going home.

All in all, it seemed that the McKay family was the cornerstone for familial dysfunction. Tracey allowed herself a brief spurt of anger and disgust directed at the man who had screwed up the lives of those he should have protected. Those he had eventually killed and injured by selfishly driving while drunk.

As horrible as it was to say, perhaps Rodney would have a better chance without his immediate family. He needed a safe, nurturing environment where he could develop his mind and heal his soul. But where to place him? He had almost no family to speak of. Both his parents had been only children. His mother's parents were dead, and his paternal grandparents in Canada hadn't been too welcoming of the idea of taking in Rodney when Tracey had spoken to them. They said that they were 'distraught' over 'beloved Michael's' death and felt that they needed 'time to cope with the loss' before they considered taking Rodney into their home.

Bullshit.

Tracey could tell from the tones of their voices that, even though they were his legal guardians now, they would never welcome the boy into their home. They didn't want to be saddled with the burden of raising a child. Tracey felt like shaking them. They were his family for Christ's sake! They were supposed to be fighting to keep him, instead of blithely handing him over to Child Services in a different country. But, Tracey couldn't force them to take him. (Not that she would. There was no point placing Rodney somewhere he wasn't wanted and would be miserable) He had no where to go, and it fell to her department to find him a home.

She had met him only once. He was in the hospital after the accident, and he had been rude, arrogant and dismissive of her. Despite this, Tracey liked him. She knew it was all a front; a way of protecting himself from the world. His family life had sucked, so he had kept people at bay, hiding his insecurities and fears behind a brusque front and an arrogance of his intelligence. It was basic psychology.

Also basic psychology was the fact that with the right amount of love and care, most people can be reached. And she knew just the people.

Tracey smiled as she pulled out a file from her desk. The Sheppard's would be perfect to foster Rodney, at least for the time being. Andrew Sheppard was a policeman and Anna was a housewife. Tracey knew though that her real job was looking after the kids that they fostered. Usually, they took in small children who were in care for short periods of time due to familial circumstances, but Tracey was confident that they would make an exception for Rodney, once they knew the facts. Besides, it stated in the file that they had no foster children at the moment, because Anna had hurt her back, and couldn't bend and lift. They had one son of their own, John, who was also twelve, so maybe that would help Rodney come out of his shell.

The one downside was that they lived on the other side of town from where Rodney had lived before. School was starting again in a few weeks, and he would have to enroll in a new one. She had asked Rodney if he would mind changing schools, and for a second, Tracey could have sworn she saw relief in the twelve-year olds eyes before the walls came crashing up again. She flicked through the file again and… Yes, there it was. Several teachers had come forward with the suspicion that Rodney was being targeted by several of the older boys as a punching bag, but they could not prove it. Rodney had refused to talk about it, but Tracey had a feeling that changing schools wouldn't be a problem.

She wanted this to work out… so much. She felt guilty and responsible for the boy as his family hadn't been identified as needing help, and now it was too late. The next stop for Rodney after foster care was an orphanage, and she fervently didn't want it to come to that.

With renewed determination in her eyes, Tracey picked up the phone and dialed the number on the Sheppard's file.

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"Hey Sweetheart," Andrew Sheppard called out as he opened the door to his home. He shrugged out of his jacket and wandered though the house, finding his wife in the kitchen chopping vegetables. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her nose playfully. Anna grinned up at her tall husband, hugging him back. His dark hair stuck up at unruly angles, and his hazel eyes were alive with humour. They had been married for fifteen years, and still hadn't tired of each other. She doubted they ever would.

For all intents and purposes, they had the perfect life. Their son, John, was (in her opinion anyway) beyond perfect, and she adored fostering. Andrew worked hard as a cop, but he always made time for his family, including whatever child they were fostering at the moment.

"How was your day?" Andrew asked as he reached around his wife and snagged a piece of carrot from the chopping board in front of his wife. She slapped his hand lightly, and he moved out of reach, grinning cheekily.

"It was ok. It is weird though having the house so quiet. John was at Ritchie's house for most of the day, so it was just me. I got a call from Tracey in Child Services though."

"Oh? They have another kid for us? I thought we were taking a break for a while because of your back." Andrew felt a brief flash of anger at Child Services. They knew his Anna wasn't up to running around after young kids at the moment, and yet they called her? His wife cared too much, that was her problem. She could never turn down a child in need.

"Before you get all angry and jump to conclusions, they don't want us to take on a baby. Two nights ago, a man drove into a wall, killing himself and his wife and daughter. He was drunk as hell at the time. His son Rodney escaped with relatively minor injuries. They want us to take him in."

"Rodney huh? How old his he?" Andrew asked, truly interested. He was disgusted at the man who had killed most of his family, and wanted to help the kid.

"He's twelve, like John. It seems his home life was pretty crappy. His father was an abusive drunk, so he buried himself in schoolwork. He was targeted by bullies though in school, so he really wasn't safe anywhere. He goes to Roosevelt, you know, on the west side of town. There would be no problem though for him to move to Jefferson with John"

"Sounds like you have it all planned out," Andrew put in mildly. "It also seems like this will be a long term thing. Do you think we are up to it?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, up to now, we've only taken in small kids, and only in the short term. We're talking about taking on another teenager for a long time. Where will he sleep? Are we ready for it?"

"He can sleep in the spare room. As to the rest, I don't know," Anna answered honestly. "But Andrew, we've got to try. There is just something about how Tracey described him. We have to at least try to help him." Anna's eyes were glistening with tears, and sending pleading looks towards her husband.

Andrew sighed deeply, conceding defeat. He knew he could not deny Anna what she needed to do.

"Alright, we'll do it. At least, we'll give it a shot." Anna beamed at him, and hugged him tightly.

"Thank you," she whispered. "I've got to go call Tracy and tell her we'll do it. Rodney is still in the hospital at the moment. He will be out in two days, and I want to go see him tomorrow so I won't be a complete stranger to him."

"Did you tell John about this?" Andrew asked her retreating back.

"Not yet," she called back. "I'm sure he won't mind though. I mean, John gets on with everyone, right?"

"Just one last thing!" Andrew called as Anna dialed the phone. "What is his full name?"

"He's McKay. Rodney McKay."

"Right, McKay."

Andrew made a mental note to check up on any McKay's' that were in the police file. If they were going to do this thing, they were going to do it right.

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