It wasn't that he didn't want to do it. It was just that he had more important things to work on, things that required his precious time and energy, things that did not involve sitting on a bench and watching seven little rug rats as they wrecked havoc on the poor, defenseless room. Odd toys littered the area, some looking scarier than any sane child had reason to own. Others looked more normal, if there were such a thing. A toy was a toy, which ultimately meant it was nothing more than a noise machine, and after an hour of hearing the same repetitive pounding noises, he'd had enough. Ten minutes of playing "keep away" from the youngest set didn't help his temper, because if they banged on that metal can one more time he was going to ram it up their collective skinny white asses and string them up as food for the wraith. He found himself spent and sulking in the corner, nursing a growing knot on his shin.

To say that Dr. Rodney McKay had no patience for kids was the understatement of the millennium. They talked too much. Asked too many questions, then asked questions about those questions and made his head spin faster than a frog in a blender. It wasn't their curiosity that got to him. It was the fact that, dammit, they should already know this stuff, and he therefore had no patience to explain to these kids what, for him, had been a simple concept at age eight. These were smart kids, sure. The way they outfoxed him and stole back their can to beat upon proved that. But educated?

Who the hell thought a school would be a good idea anyway?

It was in fact Teyla's idea. Get the kids together once a week, spend a few hours with a member of the Atlantean team, and learn tidbits about science, diplomacy, and literacy. Expand their horizons, since the gate was active and they were gradually being exposed to more and more outside influences. The exposure was unavoidable, even on the mainland. Sure the Athosians knew of other cultures. But their small universe was expanding in ways that kept Teyla in late night conferences with Elizabeth. Still, it was a poor excuse for dragging him on board. And the tall dark-haired kid, who was more intelligent than Rodney liked, had been giving him more grief than Colonel Sheppard could have dreamed of handing out. He had made a mental note after first seeing the glint in the child's eye not to have them introduced.

The problem was, this was turning into a longer schooling process than he cared for, because these kids hadn't left yet. He totally blamed Teyla and her bureaucracy.

Rodney sighed and made another attempt at contact. He stood and limped to the center of the room. "Okay, munchkins, you've had your fun. Now can I finally demonstrate?" He reached down and swiped the can from the oldest boy, keeping his shins from kicking distance. "Where's the other one?" It narrowly missed his head, and the kids laughed. "Oh, very funny." He picked it up, cautiously, and faced the rowdy group. "Now listen up. What I am about to demonstrate may seem impossible, but believe me, it's going to do a lot to protect my sanity. Now pay attention." He held up one can, and reached for a string from his pocket.

"What we have here," he muttered, searching his pockets, "is a failure to. . .failure t – crap I know I had some. . ." laughter erupted again as his young, dark-haired nemesis produced a long string from his sleeve.

"Ah, yes. Well. . .thank you." Rodney snatched it away, glared for a moment, then knotted the end. He passed the string through the bottom of the can and gave an experimental tug. "What we have here, is a failure to communicate. Therefore I've come up with a solution, which is to be expected."

"My dad says you're weird," nemesis boy chirped.

"Oh, which dad would that be, hm? The one with four rings in his nose or the one whose head looks like a disfigured armadillo?" Rodney looked up sharply, then realized he may have gone too far, because the kid did look a bit hurt. Damn him. He could solve this, he wasn't Rodney McKay for nothing.

He thrust a can into the kid's hand. "Here. You hold this." Rodney secured the string to the bottom of the other can and backed away, pulling the string taut. He raised the can to his mouth, and motioned with his finger. "Put that one to your ear." He demonstrated.

The boy did as he was told, and Rodney, very clearly, said "Hello?" through the makeshift wire.

The boy's eyes widened. Rodney waved his hand encouragingly and put the can to his ear.

Hesitantly, the boy brought the can to his lips. "HELLO?"

"CHRIST!" Rodney yanked the can away just as the door behind him opened. "Teyla! Oh thank god."

"Are you making any progress, Rodney?" She smiled at the kids, who were suddenly the poster children for model behavior.

"Oh, loads." A false smile pasted itself to his lips. "Can't wait to do this again."

"Would tomorrow at the same time be convenient?"

His heart actually stopped. "No! I mean, not really, I have a uh. . .a meeting. . .thing. . .that I have to uh. . .no, no tomorrow isn't good, I'm sorry. Maybe Carson. Or Radek, you know he loves kids. How long are they here for, anyway?"

"Three days until their settlement is reinstated. Then they return to the mainland."

"That's politics for you. Don't know why we got involved in the first place." Rodney sighed as he watched the kids run in circles, dragging the can like a dog on a leash. It clanged noisily along the floor, and that was the last straw. "I have to go now."

"Of course. I appreciate your help, I know they can be a bit trying at times."

"Don't be silly. I'm Mr. Helpful. Nothing but help, all day, all the time." He forced one more smile for her benefit and turned abruptly. He nearly made it to the door before the can hit him on the back of the head.

He merely stopped, didn't turn, and walked out.

The lab was sane compared to the din he'd just left. Rodney sighed gratefully and sat on his stool, rubbing his pained leg and pulling his papers to him. He flipped through them absently. Four projects, one of which he was falling desperately behind on, sat before him, each one obstinately demanding his attention. He couldn't concentrate. Damn kids. Maybe it was his blood sugar, he did have to exert himself more than was humanly necessary. A quick snack, then back to work.

He stood and heard a sickening crunch underneath his boot, like stepping on a hundred egg shells at once. His eyes closed, and he swallowed carefully before taking the time to look down at what would certainly be a gruesome sight. There was a mashed mess the size of a small brick on the floor, oozing from the side of his boot. "Aw. . .disgusting!" His appetite gone and balancing on one foot, he cast his eyes about for something to clean the mess with. He spied his colleague as he entered, his expression hidden as he bent over his datapad. "Radek! Come here a minute, will you?"

"What is it, Rod. . .what the devil is that?" The datapad dropped to his side, forgotten.

Rodney was balancing on one foot. It hadn't occurred to him to brace himself on the desk. "A very big, very disgusting, very dead bug." His face was screwed tight in distaste. "I don't suppose you've got something in here to clean this up with?"

"What did you do?"

Rodney rolled his eyes, and that was when he discovered holding on to the desk was in fact a good idea. "I would think the situation was obvious!"

Radek remembered his pad and set it down, his eyes glued to the mess on Rodney's boot. "How could you not see that? It looks the size of a cat!" He knelt down, adjusting his glasses as he studied the goo.

"Hardly, now would you please get something to clean this off with? Come on, my leg's cramping."

"Right, right." Radek hurried off and returned with a workman's towel.

Rodney winced as he cleaned his boot the best he could. The bowels strung from his boot to the towel as he pulled it away. "Aw . . .this is disgusting, this is . . .I'd almost rather be with the kids . . ." The remnants of the creature was stuck to the floor, and there was no way in hell he was cleaning that up. His boot was bad enough. He keyed his radio. "Hey, Burns?"

There was a faint hiss, and a sharp voice. "Yeah?"

"You still need an alien specimen?"

"I need loads of them, watcha got?"

Rodney raised the towel and watched the blue goo drip from it. "Does it have to be in one piece?"

There was a hesitation. "Ideally. You got one?"

"I have . . . some of one."

"I'll send Robert up with a bag."

"Thanks." Rodney grimaced and flung the towel down. "There. No harm, no foul."

"And no dirty hands," Radek responded with a huff. He snorted as Rodney tried to pawn the towel off on him for disposal, and returned to his own work station.

"Yeah, well, I'm going to get something to eat now, believe it or not. See what you can do about these while I'm gone." He snatched up a handful of random papers and tossed them onto Radek's desk, and ducked as they flew into the air behind him.

No appreciation.

Radek watched as Rodney limped around the corner, apparently all too aware of what had been on his boot, and called it vindication.