Disclaimer: As always I do not own Stargate Atlantis.
Rodney McKay knocked lightly on the door of his niece's bedroom, silently praying that the little girl was asleep. After all, four year olds need their rest. Especially, if they spent the entire night jumping all over their extremely tired…no scratch that…absolutely exhausted uncle. He made a mental note never to listen to his brother-in-law ever again. Rodney almost balked when Caleb suggested that he say goodnight to Madison before he left because "kid's like to say goodbye." Rodney made a face. He couldn't believe he was doing this.
He knocked on the door a little louder this time. Surely, she must have heard that. After all, she is most certainly not deaf. She proved that tonight by asking incessant questions about the most inane things and then following every answer up with "why?" His sister surely must have gotten a kick out of that; watching her self-proclaimed genius brother being talked to death by a four year old motor mouth. Surely Caleb must have found it amusing as well, but then again he is an English major. There's no accounting for taste or a sense of humor for that matter.
Rodney laughed to himself, wondering if bouncy four year old girls with pigtails would be considered an effective weapon against the Wraith? He took a deep breath and knocked one more time. If she didn't answer him this time, he was going to leave and go back to wherever it was that he was supposed to go. Having not been on Earth for so long, he wasn't even sure where that was.
"Come in," a little girl voice said happily from inside her bedroom.
Rodney cringed. It was now or never. He contemplating leaving, but realizing that not only had he missed the first four years of her life, but would probably miss the next four, he decided that now was the best option.
He took a deep breath and opened the bedroom door carefully to see his four year old niece sitting on her bed in her pajamas, hair still in pigtails drawing. She must have been so engrossed with what she was doing that she hadn't heard him knock. Rodney wondered where she got that from. "I just wanted to say goodnight," he said shifting his feet uncomfortably in her doorway.
"Goodnight!" Madison said cheerily.
Rodney gave a sharp nod. That was easy. In and out. No annoying four year old questions, no grubby little organic peanut butter and jelly hands mussing up his clothing. Just goodnight and goodbye. That was easy enough, right? 'Right, of course it was,' Rodney reasoned. That, however, didn't explain to him that twinge of sadness he felt when he turned to leave. 'It must have been the tofu chicken,' Rodney thought. Then again, he didn't eat the tofu chicken. Was he actually hoping for the little girl to give him a hug?
"Wait! Don't go!"
"What! Why?" Rodney exclaimed.
"Tell me a story."
"I don't know any stories."
"Yes, you do. Everyone knows stories."
"Well, I'm not everyone."
"Please?" Madison pouted giving him the puppy dog eyes.
"Must you pout?" Rodney asked crossing his arms over his chest.
"If it'll get you to tell me a story, yes."
"Pouting doesn't work," Rodney told her.
"How about crying?" Madison asked brightly.
"You're not going to cry are you?" Rodney asked worriedly. The last thing he needed right now was a crying kid.
"I won't if you tell me a story," she said smiling.
McKay frowned. He hated crying kids. He had no choice but to give in. Outplayed by a four year old! What would Sheppard think of that? "Sit on the bed," McKay instructed.
The little girl bounced eagerly on the bed waiting excitedly for her uncle to tell her a story.
Rodney sat on a chair in the corner of the room. The chair was covered with stuffed animals: teddy bears, beanie babies, a furry little critter in a frilly dress, and lot of bunnies. In fact, now that he had given Madison's room a more careful look, the place seemed to be filled with those annoying, happy little bunnies. Rodney filed this little tidbit away in the back of his brain in folder called Information I Will Most Certainly Never Use…Ever. Also, in this file were things like amount of words left in Sheppard's copy of War and Peace…too many to count and Carson's mother's shoe size. Rodney looked over at Madison smiling that little girl smile at him that almost made him wish he liked kids…almost. Surely, is little niece's choice of stuffed animal didn't belong in the same file as Carson's mother's shoe size. He instead decided to file this little tidbit of information in a folder called. Information I Will Probably Never Use.
He was broken out of his revelry by an annoying little girl voice that might have sounded cute if he liked kids, but he didn't, so it was annoying…kind of.
"Why are you sitting so far away?" Madison giggled. "Come closer, silly."
"I'm fine over here," Rodney said, "and if you want a story, I suggest you stay over there."
Rodney rolled his eyes, "And don't pout. Pouting doesn't work."
She pouted more.
"Look, do you want a story or not?"
"Please Uncle Rodney?" This time she pouted and gave him the puppy dog eyes. Man, was he in trouble!
"Okay. There once a little girl who lived in a shoe. She had seven annoying little brothers and if they were anything like your mother, she probably wanted to hang them by their toes, which isn't very much fun by the way. She had two very ugly stepsisters with that were so large, there shoes would always fall off and a little black dog who could fly. One day, there was a giant windstorm and the girl's house blew away. She was kinda happy because her annoying brothers and ugly stepsisters blew away with her shoe house. All that was left was her and her flying dog, BoBo. They walked and walked and walked and walked and walked along a yellow road with orange bunny stickers on it. They walked and walked some more until they felt really tired. They decided to take a rest under a large tree and fell fast asleep. They were so tired that they slept for twenty years and would have slept for twenty more had she not been awoken by the kiss of a handsome prince with onion breath. The prince whisked her and her flying dog away on his magic dragon. The girl didn't care so much about the onion breath because his ride was so much cooler than hers, plus the dragon sang Pink Floyd. And the rockin' dragon, flying dog, girl, and onion-ey prince lived happily ever after, until the evil queen told the girl that she had to sign a pre-nup or she couldn't marry the prince and then all of that happily ever after crap went out the window. The end. Goodnight!" Rodney got up to leave.
"Wait! Where are you going?" Madison asked.
"I told you a story. Now I'm leaving."
"But that story was dumb and mommy said that you have to go back to work and I won't see you for a really long time. So tell me a better story. Please?"
"Madison, I have to go."
"But Uncle Rodney!"
"I'll cry," Madison warned and this time he believed her.
He saw the tears forming in her little eyes. "Look, you know I have to go."
"It's okay," she said as a few tears rolled down her little cheeks.
Rodney's heart broke when he saw the little girl's tears. Not sure of what had come over him, whether it was instinct or just to avoid another crying kid, he did the unthinkable. He picked the little girl up and hugged her. He marveled at how tiny she still was. He always thought that four year olds were bigger. It must be all the tofu chicken. "Shh," he soothed rubbing her back. "Don't cry."
She wrapped her arms around her uncle's neck and buried her face in his shoulder and sobbed.
Rodney had never spent much time with children and he wasn't exactly a people person, but he sensed there was something else wrong other then the fact he told her he wouldn't give her another story. He didn't know whether or not it was because she was tired or something was wrong at home, but something told him that this was not normal behavior for a little girl. He made a mental note to ask her about it later if he got the chance.
"You want to hear another story?"
"Yes," she sniffled.
"Okay. Good," Rodney said noticing that she still had her arms wrapped tightly around his neck. "Do you plan on letting me go anytime soon?"
"Nope. And tell me a real story."
"A real story?"
Rodney sat down on Madison's bed careful not to disturb her drawings. He settled her next to him and leaned back against the headboard. "What do you want to hear?"
"A story, silly," she giggled.
"You're funny," Rodney said sarcastically. "I meant what sort of story did you want to hear."
"A better one than you told," she said matter-of-factly.
"Ooh! You said a bad world."
"Don't look like that. You face could freeze."
"You are your mother," Rodney chuckled.
"Are you gonna tell me a story or what?"
"And you're bossy," Rodney teased.
She giggled. "Tell me a story, please?" She looked at him with those little girl eyes that she was quickly learning her uncle had great difficulty resisting.
Rodney grimaced. He known the girl for four hours and she already had him wrapped around her little finger. That was not cool! "Fine!"
"Good!" The little girl looked at him expectantly.
"I'm waiting," she grinned. She turned her bright blue eyes up at him and pouted.
Rodney rolled his eyes. "What kind of a story do you want to hear?"
"A good one."
"I don't know any good ones."
"Mommy says that you're really smart. Make one up."
"Mommy says that I'm really smart?" Rodney repeated incredulously. "You may not know this Madison, but I am not just really smart. I am a genius."
"What's a genius?"
"Someone who is really, really, fantastically, incredibly smart."
"Let me put it to you this way, Madison. If you were to look up the word genius in a dictionary, you would see my picture."
"Really?" Madison asked excitedly.
"What's a dictionary?"
"A big book with a lot of words in it. Look, do you want a story or not?" He was starting to get annoyed. This is why he didn't like kids. They were dumb.
"Who's bossy now?"
Although, this one did have some kick to her. Maybe she wasn't so bad after all. "Brat!"
"You started it," she told him.
She stuck her tongue out at him.
He made a face.
She made a face back.
"Be careful or your face will freeze like that," Rodney teased.
"You're a dork," Madison pouted.
"Such harsh words from such a little girl," Rodney teased. "Maybe you are my niece after all."
"Well, you are a dork."
"I'm gonna get you for that."
"What are you gonna do?"
"Hmm, I don't know…tickle you."
"I'm not ticklish," she said stubbornly, folding her arms over her chest.
"Really? So if I were to do this," Rodney reached over and tickled the little girl's sides earning him a happy squeal from his niece.
"Stop!" she said laughing.
"So are you ticklish??"
"Maybe a little," she admitted. "But don't tell anyone. It's a secret."
"Okay. Now you said that you wanted to hear a story, right?"
The little girl nodded her head.
"Well, I'm going to tell you the story of 'The Princess and the Scientist.'"
"I've never heard that one."
Well, be quiet and you will," Rodney said.
"Okay," she giggled. She waited for the beginning of the story. "Well, are you gonna start the story or what?"
"Again with the bossiness," Rodney teased.
"I'm not bossy!" she said crossing her arms over her chest and making her mad face.
"Whatever you say small fry."
"And don't call me small fry," she growled.
"Okay, short stuff. Now on with the story," Rodney said trying to suppress a grin. There was no doubt about it, she was definitely his niece.
"I don't like that one."
"Short stuff. I don't like it."
"Okay. How about pumpkin?"
Madison crinkled her nose. Rodney crinkled his as well. Maybe not pumpkin.
She crinkled her nose again.
Again with the nose crinkling! This girl was impossible. Rodney thought for a moment and thought of the perfect nickname. "How about munchkin?" he said snapping his fingers.
Madison thought for a moment. "I like it."
"Okay, munchkin, are you ready for the story?"
"Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who went to live in a mystical city. She had red-gold hair and loved to blow things up. She could also kill you with her words. There was only one other person in the mystical city who could do that. He was The Scientist. The Scientist was mean and yelled a lot, but he could also be nice when he wanted. He was an absolute genius who could fix almost anything. The Scientist didn't like The Princess, which was a good thing because The Princess didn't like The Scientist. She liked The Sheep-Sheering-Witchdoctor-Girly-Man who talked funny."
The little girl giggled, "Was he handsome?"
"The Sheep-Sheering-Witchdoctor-Girly-Man? I guess you could say that he was handsome. He had dark hair and blue eyes, but he had this annoying voice and he cried a lot, so you kind of have to balance the looks with the girly-ness. I'm not sure why The Princess even liked him. I guess it was because he was really nice and girls like nice guys."
"Are you a nice guy?"
"The situation." The little girl looked at him with confusion. Rodney could tell that she didn't understand. "It depends on who I'm talking to and whether or not they piss me off."
"You said another bad word," she grinned.
"Don't tell your mother. She's already gonna kill me for showing up here, keeping you up so late, and possibly even for global-warming, so try and keep mum on the whole Uncle Rodney says bad words thing."
"Okay. I promise." She held up her hand and stuck out her pinky-finger.
Rodney looked at her with confusion.
Rodney looked bewildered.
"You've never done pinky-swear? This is what you do. You cross your pinkie over mine like this," she said linking her pinky with his. "And then you shake. You got it?"
"I promise not to tell Mommy that you said bad words. Pinky-swear."
"Pinky-swear," Rodney said with a smile. "Now where were we?"
"You were telling me about The Sheep-Sheering-Witchdoctor-Girly-Man."
"Ah, yes. Well, I guess you could say that The Sheep-Sheering-Witchdoctor-Girly-Man
was handsome…if you like that sort of thing. So does that answer your question?"
"Why not? You asked if The Sheep-Sheering-Witchdoctor-Girly-Man was handsome and I told you."
"I didn't mean him."
"Who did you mean?"
"The Scientist, silly," she giggled.
"Oh! You want to know if The Scientist was handsome?" Rodney asked pulling this his niece onto his lap. "Well, I suppose so. I mean he's not as handsome as The Knight or The Caveman, at least according to all of the women in the mystical city, but I guess he was okay."
"There's a knight and a caveman?"
"And a zen-mistress-warrior-lady," Rodney added.
"You still didn't tell me what The Scientist looked like, Uncle Rodney."
"Well, he had dark hair and blue eyes."
"So like the witch doctor?"
"Yeah, except his hair was shorter than the witchdoctor's. The witchdoctor had chipmunk hair. Have you ever seen Alvin & the Chipmunks? They sing the Christmas song."
"Mommy has the dolls."
"Well, he looks like Theodore from Alvin & the Chipmunks."
"What about the Knight? What does he look like?"
"He looks like Alvin. He has the hair and the skateboard to boot."
"Chewbacca from Star Wars."
"What about The Zen-Mistress-Warrior-Lady?"
"Xena, Warrior Princess," Rodney told her. "Now, can I continue with the story?"
"Where was I?"
"The Princess like The Sheep-Sheering-Witchdoctor-Girly-Man and not The Scientist," Madison reminded him.
"Oh, right. Well, The Scientist was okay with that because he didn't really like The Princess all that much. He liked The Plant Lady. She was very nice and sweet. It took him a long time to ask her on a date and he finally does and she says yes, but the date goes horribly wrong. The Princess is there, but not, and she The Scientist get into a fight. The fight was so bad that they wound up in the hospital. Once they're both better, he goes out with The Plant Lady again and realizes that he doesn't like her as much as he thought he did. He realizes that he likes The Princess, but doesn't do anything about it."
"Because he was scared."
"Why was he scared?"
"Because he was afraid that she wouldn't like him. Anyway, something bad happens and his best friend stops being his best friend."
"Who was his best friend?"
"Why The Knight of course."
"The Knight stopped being his best friend?" Madison asked sadly.
"Yes, but it was The Scientist's fault, but he never expected to lose his best friend. Everyone hated him because of what he did. He thought about leaving the mystic city many times and going somewhere else to live, but he wasn't sure where he where would go. The mystical city was the only home he ever had."
"Did The Knight and The Scientist ever make up?"
"No, not really. Nothing The Scientist did was ever good enough and The Knight did nothing but make fun of him."
"And it hurt his feeling?"
"Sometimes, but that's not the point. The thing that kept The Scientist in the mystical city was The Princess. He really liked her and was working up the courage to tell her when she began dating The Witchdoctor. The Scientist started being mean to her and then started to ignore her whenever she came around. The Princess broke up with The Witchdoctor and tried to make friends with The Scientist. He was about to tell The Princess that he liked her when she had to leave the mystical city and he never saw her again."
"Don't be sad Uncle Rodney," Madison said touching his cheek. "It'll get better."
"Really? How do you know?"
"Because I do and if The Knight doesn't want to be your best friend, then you don't need him."
"Such wise words from such a little girl," he said.
"I am a genius's niece."
"Yes, you are," Rodney said kissing her on the forehead.
"Okay, story's over," he said trying to extract himself from the little girl's grip.
"Wait! You have to get me a drink of water."
"I don't know where the cups are."
"I'll show you." She hopped off the bed and grabbed her uncle's and dragged him to the bathroom.
"You have to get me a cup."
'Where are the cups?"
"In the medicine cabinet," she told him. He opened the cabinet and handed a cup to his niece. "Here."
"You have to fill it with water," she told him.
He turned on the faucet and filled the cup to three-quarters of the way up with water. He figured that if he filled it up too much, then she might spill it all over her pajamas.
"You have to put your hand under the water to see if it's the right temperature."
"How will I know if it's the right temperature?"
"Not too hot. Not too cold."
"Okay, Goldilocks." He filled it up again and did as she instructed. He handed her the cup. "Better?"
"Much." She finished her cup of water and looked up at her uncle.
'I have to go to the bathroom."
"Sorry," he said walking out of the bathroom. Caleb walked by and saw Rodney standing outside the bathroom door. "Bathroom," he said pointing to the door.
"Ah," Caleb said shaking his head and walking towards his office.
"I'm done," Madison said coming out from the bathroom.
Rodney followed the little girl back to her bedroom. She hopped on her bed and asked for another story.
"You know I can't tell you another story. It's too late."
"No buts, Madison and no pouting or crying."
Rodney started taking all of the crayons and papers off of her bed so she could go to sleep. He picked up one of the drawings that had caught his eye. He decided that it must be one of her and her mother. The drawing was of what he thought was a woman with curly blonde hair and a little girl with blonde pigtails holding a bunny rabbit. "Did you draw all of these pictures?"
"Yes. I like to draw."
"Whose this one of?" he asked.
Madison leaned over and looked at the picture in Rodney's hand. "That's me and my mom."
He picked up another picture this one of the woman and girl at the beach. "And this one?"
"That's me and Mommy at the beach. We built a sandcastle."
"Where's your bunny?"
"We had to leave her home. She doesn't like the water."
Rodney smiled. He looked at the rest of the pictures on her bed and noticed that there was not one picture of Caleb. All of the pictures were of her and her mother.
"Nothing. I was just thinking that you look just like your mother when she was your age."
"Really. You sound like her too."
Madison gave him a big little girl smile. "Uncle Rodney, will you tuck me in?"
He picked her up and pulled away the covers. He sat her on the bed and asked her if she needed anything else before he tucked her in.
Madison said no and reached up and gave Rodney a hug.
"Now you have to tuck me in…so tight that I can't get out." She grabbed one of her bunny rabbits and slid under the covers.
Rodney bent down to tuck her in and got a good look at the stuffed animal in her hand. It was a raggedly looking bunny with one eye missing and half of its left ear chewed off. It looked like it had been around the block a few times. Still, he felt like he had seen it somewhere before.
"Madison, where did you get the bunny?"
"From Mommy. She said it was hers when she was little and that she got it from you."
Rodney thought about it for a moment and smiled. He remembered. The bunny had originally been his, but when Jeannie was born, he thought that he was too old to have a stuffed bunny so he had given it to her instead. He couldn't believe that she had kept it.
"Why'd you stop tucking me in? Are you gonna tell me another story?" she asked hopefully.
"I'll tell you a little one," Rodney said as he finished tucking her in. "Is that tight enough?"
He folded his arms on the bed and rested his chin atop them. "Do you know where your mom got the bunny from?"
"She said she got it from you."
"Well, yeah. See the bunny originally belonged to me. He was given to me by my grandmother when I was born. My grandmother said that I carried that thing everywhere with me until I was three. Then, when your mother was born, I decided that carrying around a stuffed rabbit was girly and I gave it to her. She carried that rabbit around with her wherever she went. She made little clothes for it and changed its name and everything," he laughed a little at the memory. "The eye that's missing was eaten by the family dog and the ear ripped when your mother and I were having a tug-of-war."
"Why don't you ever come to visit?"
Rodney took a deep breath. This was the one question that he was hoping she didn't ask. "Well, Madison, my work is far away and I live there, so it's hard for me to come back. Maybe I could make more of an effort to come visit. Would you like that?"
"Good. So would I. Now it's time for you to go to sleep. Goodnight," he said softly.
"Goodnight," she said sleepily. "I love you, Uncle Rodney."
"Me too, munchkin." Rodney bent down and placed a kiss on her head. He turned on her nightlight and shut the bedroom light . He watched her close her eyes and stayed a few moments just to watch her sleep. She looked so much like his sister it was unbelievable.
"I was thinking. Maybe you could draw me a picture so I could put it in my office at work?"