Disclaimer: Don't own Stargate Atlantis or any of it's characters. That honour goes to MGM and a whole host of other people that aren't me, I'm sure. Don't own Rapunzel either - it was written by the Brothers Grimm. Not making profit, don't sue, yada yada yada, y'all know the drill.
Dr Rodney McKay sighed as the rest of his team lagged behind him on the path.
"C'mon! Hurry up!" he hissed, annoyed at their reluctance to go through this with him. "It's a four-year old-girl and an English major. We've faced worse."
His sister, Jeannie, had insisted on her daughter Madison and husband Kaleb meeting "Mer's" friends. This meant Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, Satedan Specialist Ronon Dex, Athosian native Teyla Emmagan, Dr Katie Brown (a botanist and Rodney's some-time girlfriend) and Dr Carson Beckett – a son of Scotland and physicianextraordinnaire.
"Aye," agreed Carson warily. "We have." His eyes went wide as the door opened behind Rodney.
"Uncle Meredith!" squealed a high pitch voice, and little blonde Madison Miller flung herself delightedly at an uncomfortable Rodney.
"Hi, Madison," he managed to get out as she wrapped her arms around his stomach and held on with surprising strength.
Behind him, he could tell that his so-called friends instantly perked up. Watching Rodney squirm was definitely a favourite pastime of theirs – even if Katie and Teyla were too polite to admit it. Swearing revenge, he turned his attention to his new anchor.
"You know, you could call me 'Uncle Rodney'. I'd like that."
"Really?" Madison looked as though she were considering it. She leaned sideways to look at Rodney's companions, and John shook his head slightly. Grinning, Madison shook her own head far more enthusiastically. "Nah! Did you bring me a present this time?"
Laughing, Jeannie and Kaleb came down the path to rescue him, while he promised even more revenge on John. He didn't need to see him to know who had just told Madison "no".
"Come on, Maddy," said Kaleb, picking up his daughter. "Let's let Uncle … Meredith … and his friends come inside."
Jeannie was still laughing as she hugged her brother, and waved brightly at the people she'd met during her time on Atlantis. "Hi Mer. Hey, everyone. Come on in."
"These are for you," Carson said, smiling charmingly and presenting a beautiful bouquet. "From all of us."
"Oh, that's so sweet," beamed Jeannie, ushering them up the path and into the house.
After a dinner even Rodney enjoyed (Kaleb had – for one night only – agreed to serve actual meat in the face of so many meat-eaters), everyone sat in the living room to catch up. Madison was thrilled because everyone – not just Rodney – had bought her something nice (and cheap, but she didn't need to know that).
"Uncle Meredith! Read me a story!" she demanded after a while.
"Madison!" Jeannie scolded. "Have some manners!"
"Sorry.PleaseUncle Meredith? Please read me a story?"
Rodney looked down into her pleading face and ... smiled.
Everyone was still – no one believing what they'd just heard. Katie beamed with pride as she realised Rodney's sincerity.
"In fact," Rodney continued, his smile becoming slightly more devious, "with so many people here, why don't we act out a story for you?"
The expedition members fought a sudden urge to run, while Kaleb and Jeannie watched on warily.
"My favourite story is Rapunzel!" Madison informed Rodney. "It's in this book!" She lugged over an absolutely HUGE blue volume of Grimms Fairy Tales.
"Is that a fact?" Rodney grinned, accepting the book and finding the story. "Well, then. Do you want Mummy and Daddy to help?"
Madison considered this for a second. "Nah. They can watch."
"OK. Well, this is fortunate. It seems we have enough people to play out all the parts without Jeannie and Kaleb." Rodney shot hisfriends an innocent smile. "You guys don't mind doing this for Madison ... do you?"
Defeatedly, all but Ronon shook their heads. It took a glare from Jeannie and an elbow from John to get him to agree.
"Excellent. Kaleb, you have a photocopier here, right? We're gonna need enough copies for everyone to follow on with."
Kaleb, a small smile tugging at his lips, took the book and vanished into his study to copy the few pages of the story. Bringing them back, he handed them out – one copy between two people. He handed the book back to Rodney, and joined his wife on the sofa.
"Right, now I'm the narrator," said Rodney.
"Wait," interrupted John. "Why you?"
"Because Madison asked me to read, didn't you?"
Madison nodded solemnly, her blonde hair bopping up and down. John scowled a scowl worthy of Ronon, but said nothing more.
"OK. I'll change to names of the roles a bit so you know where you all come in." Rodney cleared his throat, grinned again at his friends and began.
There was once a man named Carson who lived with his wife, Katie. They had long wished in vain for a child, when at last they were given reason to hope that Heaven would grant their wish. There was a little window at the back of their house which overlooked a beautiful garden, full of lovely flowers and shrubs. It was, however, surrounded by a high wall, and nobody dared to enter it, because it belonged to a powerful witch named Teyla, who was feared by everybody.
"Why must I be the witch?" asked Teyla, looking highly insulted.
Rodney grinned nervously. "Uh... she's not evil ... as such..." he tried. Teyla narrowed her eyes at him but allowed him to continue.
One day Katie, who was standing by this window and looking into the garden, saw a bed planted with beautiful rampion.
"What's rampion?" asked Ronon.
"It's a plant," replied Katie. "It's flowers are mostly purple and it has edible roots."
"Ahem!" Rodney said, tilting his head slightly towards Madison, who was starting to look a bit cranky at the interruptions to her story. "If I may?"
Anyway, as I was saying, one day Katie saw this garden bed planted with beautiful rampion. It looked so fresh and green that she longed to eat some of it. This longing increased every day, and as she knew it could never be satisfied, she began to look pale and miserable, and to pine away. Then Carson was alarmed, and said:
"We should get you to the infirmary, m'dear –"
"What ails you, my dear wife?"
"Alas! If I cannot get any of the rampion from the garden behind our house to eat, I shall die."
Her husband, who loved her, thought:
"If she keeps up her regular intake of ... er, sorry again, Rodney. I mean, sooner than let her die, I'll fetch some of that rampion, whatever it costs me."
So in the twilight he climbed over the wall into the witch's garden, hastily picked a handful of rampion and took it back to his wife. She immediately dressed it –
"– Loved it and called it Susan," broke in John. Kaleb snorted and Jeannie bit her lip, trying desperately not to laugh, as Rodney looked so affronted.
She immediately dressed it and ate it up very eagerly. It was so very, very good, that the next day her longing for it increased threefold. Katie could have no peace unless Carson fetched her some more. So in the twilight he set out again; but when he got over the wall he was terrified to see the witch before him, looking furious.
"How dare you come into my garden like a thief and steal my rampion? It shall be the worse for you!"
"Alas! Be merciful to me, love; I am only here from necessity. M'wife can see your rampion from the window, and she felt such a longing for it that she would have died if she couldn't get some. Well, not died as such, if she kept up a nutritious diet and saw Heightmeyer regularly and ... sorry, Rodney."
The anger of the witch abated, and she said to him:
"If it is as you say, I shall allow you to take away as much rampion as you like, but on one condition. You must give me the child which your wife is about to bring into the world. –
"What a horrible thing to ask!" Teyla exclaimed, looking at Rodney in horror.
"It'll be OK," Madison said, patting Teyla's arm gently. "I promise."
Teyla smiled at the child before taking up her part again.
"I will care for it like a mother and all will be well."
In his fear, Carson consented to everything, and when the baby was born, Teyla appeared, gave it the name Ronunzel –
Everyone but Ronon and Teyla burst out laughing. Even Rodney – knowing this moment of fun would cost him – couldn't contain his mirth. Still, he calmed down enough to continue his slightly twisted narration.
Gave it the name Ronunzel and took it away with her.
Ronunzel was the most beautiful child under the sun.
There was more laughter, and even Teyla joined in this time. The glare Ronon directed towards Rodney promised so many sparring sessions when they got back home.
When she – yes, Ronon, she – was twelve years old, Teyla shut her up in a tower which stood in a wood. It had neither staircase nor doors, and only a little window quite high up in the wall. When Teyla wanted to enter the tower, she stood at the foot of it and cried:
"Ronunzel, Ronunzel, let down your hair."
Ronunzel had splendid long hair, as fine as spun gold. Or, in this case, stronger than a rope bridge. As soon as she heard the witch's voice, she unfastened her plaits and twisted them round a hook by the window. They fell twenty ells – that's just under 62 feet – and Teyla used them to climb up.
A couple of years later – so Ronunzel is fourteen, now – it happened that the King's son, Prince John, rode –
"What?!" John, who had been quite enjoying this, had forgotten he too had a part to play. He didn't feel comforted by the evil smirk Rodney sent his way.
Prince John rode through the forest, and came close to the tower. From there he heard a song so lovely that he stopped to listen.
Here, Rodney had to stop because the combined laughter of Kaleb, Jeannie, Carson and Katie was beginning to drown him out. Teyla looked incredibly amused, Madison a little confused as to what was so funny, and John looked like he was caught between wanting to laugh or cry as he remembered what his part entailed. Ronon's glare had intensified, but there was a slight twinkle in his eye that gave away his amusement.
"Quiet, everyone, please," Rodney said, grinning like a fiend. "I'd like to finish this."
It was Ronunzel, who in her loneliness made her sweet voice pour out music to pass away the time. Prince John wanted to join her and he sought for the door of the tower, but there was none to find.
He rode home, but the song had touched his heart so deeply that he went into the forest every day to listen to it. Once, when he was hidden behind a tree, he saw Teyla come to the tower and call out:
"Ronunzel, Ronunzel, let down your hair."
Then Ronunzel lowered her plaits of hair and the witch climbed up to her. The Prince thought to himself:
"If that's the ladder by which one ascends ... well, I was never good with Ascension, think I'll go home."
"Colonel Sheppard!" scolded Madison. "That's not how it goes!"
"... Right," sighed John. He continued woodenly:
"If that's the ladder by which one ascends, I will try my luck myself."
And the next day, when it began to grow dark, he went to the tower and cried –
"Ronunzel, Ronunzel, let down your hair."
The hair fell down at once, and Prince John climbed up by it.
At first, Ronunzel was terrified, for she had never set eyes on a man before –
"She's in for a rude awakening in that case," muttered John, unaware that he'd just insulted himself. Rodney couldn't get annoyed at him for that, and merely snorted while Ronon glowered more fiercely at them both.
She had never set eyes on a man before, but Prince John talked to her kindly, and told her his heart had been so deeply touched (not to mention his head) –
"Hey!" John launched a cushion at Rodney, to Madison's delight. Kaleb, Jeannie, Carson and Katie and buried their faces in cushions of their own in a brave attempt to quiet their laughter.
"Should we not continue?" Teyla said, trying to end this as soon as possible.
"Right," Rodney said.
Um... yeah. His heart had been so deeply touched by her song that he had no peace and he had felt obliged to see her. Then Ronunzel lost her fear; and when he asked if she would have him for her husband –
"She pushed him out the window?" growled Ronon hopefully.
"No, silly! She said yes!" squealed Madison. Jeannie buried her head in Kaleb's shoulder, averting her eyes from the hilarious horror settling in on John and Ronon's faces.
Ronunzel saw that he was young(ish) and not too much of a lost cause looks-wise, and she thought:
"Not sayin' it."
"Come on! You gotta! Please?" whined Madison, tears welling up. Ronon cringed. He was tough, but he wasn't cold-hearted.
"He will love me better than old Mother Teyla."
So she said "yes" and laid her hand in his. She added:
"I'll be happy to go with you, but I can't get down. Every time you come, will you bring some silk with you? I'll twist it into a ladder, and when it's long enough, I'll climb down and you can take me away on your horse.
"Why doesn't she just ask him to bring a rope?" Ronon demanded. "She could get away quicker."
"In fairy tales, the women don't have much sense," explained John.
"Or taste," piped up Rodney, receiving another cushion to the head for his contribution, this one thrown by Ronon.
She arranged with him that he should come and see her every evening, for Teyla came in the daytime.
Teyla discovered nothing, 'til suddenly one day Ronunzel said to her:
"Tell me, Mother Teyla, why are you so much heavier to draw up than the Prince who will be here before long?"
"Are you calling me fat, Ronon?" Teyla asked, her eyes narrowing to a dangerous point.
Rodney quickly motioned for Teyla to continue with the story before war could break out. He didn't think Jeannie would thank him for exposing Madison to that level of violence at such a young age – even if this evening was her idea to begin with.
"Oh, you wicked child, what do you say? I thought I had separated you from all the world and yet you have deceived me."
In her rage she seized Ronunzel's beautiful hair, twisted it twist round her left hand, snatched up a pair of shears and cut off the plaits, which fell to the ground. She was so merciless that she took poor Ronunzel away into a wilderness, where she forced her to live in the greatest grief and misery.
The evening of the day on which she had banished Ronunzel, Teyla fastened the plaits which she had cut off to the hook by the window, and when Prince John came and called out for Ronunzel to let him up, she lowered the hair. The Prince climbed up, but there he found – not his beloved Ronunzel – but the witch, who looked at him with angry and wicked eyes.
"Ah! You have come to fetch your ladylove, but the pretty bird is no longer in her nest; she can sing no more for the cat has seized her, and it will scratch your own eyes out too. Ronunzel is lost to you; you will never see her again!"
The Prince was beside himself with grief, and in his despair he forgot his rank and that there were plenty of fish in the sea –
In his despair he sprang out the window. He was not killed – go figure – but his eyes were scratched out by the thorns among which he fell. He wandered about blind in the wood, and had nothing but roots and berries to eat. He did nothing but weep and lament over the loss of his beloved wife Ronunzel. In this way he wandered about for some years, 'til at last he reached the wilderness where Ronunzel had been living in great poverty with the twins who had been born to here, a boy and a girl.
"Ouch," winced Ronon. "And it's about time!" He grabbed Katie's cushion and beat it around John's head a couple of times before returning it.
"I'm more concerned about the fact that she's married and impregnated at fourteen," John said, horror crossing his face at what his character had just done. He smoothed his hair unconsciously as another thought occurred to him. "Hang on! This guy's a prince! Why weren't his parents out looking for him?!"
"Maybe they didn't like him," ventured Katie.
"Aye," agreed Carson. "He did go out and ruin that poor lass."
Rolling his eyes, Rodney quickly finished off the story, trying not to let on how disturbing he found it now that he thought about it.
Prince John heard a voice which seemed very familiar to him, and he went towards it. Ronunzel knew him at once and fell weeping upon his neck. Two of her tears fell upon his eyes, which immediately grew quite clear so he could see as well as ever.
He took her to his kingdom, where he was received with joy, and they lived long and happily together. The End.
"Wait," Teyla said. "I am confused. I thought the Prince's eyes were scratched out? How is it he got them back?"
"From a medical standpoint, fairy tales make no sense, love," admitted Carson. "That's why they're for children."
"This was ... a children's tale?" she asked doubtfully. Looking between John and Rodney, she smiled slightly in amusement. "This does go far to explain things," she said, her smile serene now.
"Wow!" said Madison, her face shining as she ignored the discussion behind her and hugged Rodney. "Can we do this every time you come over, Uncle Meredith? Pretty please?"
Rodney cast a nervous glance at the thunderous expressions on his colleagues' faces, then back at Madison's eager face.
"Sure!" he smiled. "As long as I get to read."
Author's Note: This fic was written as a contest entryon deviantART for crimson-diablo. She in turn wrote a response called "I Will Have My Reh-Weng-Eh" (http:// crimson-diablo. /art/ I-Will-Have-My-Reh-Weng-Eh- 79684153) and turned it into a challenge, so now I'm in the middle of a response to THAT response, so expect that up pretty soon.