"Colonel, I need you to do me a favor," Rodney announced as he stepped inside John’s office followed closely by Rover, who was carrying something on his tray covered by a military issue blanket.
"Those words usually precede disaster... or Radek’s head exploding," John said warily, watching the two. "What are you up to this time?"
"Celebrating Rover’s impending fatherhood," Rodney answered before smirking and whisking away the blanket to reveal half a dozen six-inch-long carts.
"Fath—" John burst into laughter. "Oh yeah, Radek is so going to kill you," he chuckled when he could speak again. "But they’re damn cute," he said, peering down at the baby carts.
"Aren’t they?" Rodney asked while Rover somehow managed to radiate smugness without doing a thing. "And watch this." He picked up one of the mini-carts and pressed a recessed panel in its side. The little cart’s sensor array instantly lit up, and its wheels whirred in the air until he set it on the floor where it whirled in a circle, aimed at John, and scooted over to his foot, nudging his boot.
"Active little things, aren’t they?" John bent down to pat its sensor array. "So are they going to imprint on people or just follow Rover, Reza and Ciora around?"
"The second," Rodney chuckled, watching as the tiny cart wiggled under John’s touch. "I didn’t want them causing havoc by running all over the city; they’re more limited than even the normal carts as far as functionality—ow!" The last was said as Rover prodded his leg. "Yes, Rover, I’m not making fun of your children. As I was saying, they’re somewhat limited, but they will recognize Rover, Reza and Ciora, and they’re easy enough to turn off when there’s work to be done."
"They could even be helpful," John straightened and was startled when the little cart floated up to eye level, sensors flashing. "Demanding too," he chuckled, catching hold of it and stroking the smooth metal casing again.
"Yes, they remind me of you in that way."
"And here I thought they reminded me of you." John leaned over to kiss Rodney.
Rover bumped into them both, and Rodney chuckled. "I think he’s telling us they get that from him."
"No wonder we all get along so well," John grinned, patting Rover with his free hand while continuing to cradle the mini cart in the crook of the other arm.
"I call it good taste," Rodney chuckled before growing serious. "So, we need to keep Carson and Radek out of their room for a while tonight without the girls. Rover can introduce them to the babies there and voila! When they come back, it’ll be too late to do anything about the litter."
"And I’ll make sure to keep a couple spare clips on me at all times for a while," John snorted. "Carson’s going to have to sedate Radek."
"I know." Rodney’s grin grew. "And he deserves it for what he did to my coffee!"
"You know, Rodney, not everyone considers decaf to be the end of the world," John pointed out.
"Are you agreeing with him that I was more likable that way?" Rodney demanded, causing Rover to scoot over to the coffeemaker and pour him a mug—after scanning it to make sure it contained caffeine.
"Naw, I like you wired and focused. Especially on me. Or on saving all our asses."
"Actually, I prefer the first," Rodney sniffed, accepting the coffee from Rover after giving him a pat, then giving John a kiss.
"Me too, but the second lets us keep doing the first."
"And forces everyone to appreciate my genius."
"Which I then reward you for."
Rodney chuckled and patted John’s shoulder. "Just like I reward you when you save us all through your acts of manly machismo."
Rover bumped their legs, and John grinned down at him. "And we both get you souvenirs to thank you for saving us both all the time."
"Which you then share with your groupies," Rodney chuckled before looking at John again. "So, ideas for keeping the two of them out and unsuspecting tonight?"
"Sic Cadman on ‘em. Even now that she and O’Neill are an item, Radek still gets nuts if she’s around Carson."
"Excellent idea, Colonel! Do we want to tell them in person?"
"Since I don’t even want to think about having that conversation over channels, hell, yes. We could have them over for drinks?"
"Works for me; Rover and Jaffa can keep each other busy in the meantime."
"Let’s hope Jaffa doesn’t have any paternal instincts."
"He’d have to find a woman first, and I don’t think Rover’s sharing any of his." Rodney chuckled when Rover whirred his wheels and clacked his pincers aggressively.
"I never doubted that for a moment. And I know Maemi’s not interested in anyone but Lunchmeat, so he’s out of luck till there’s another girl." John shook his head, chuckling. "Only in Atlantis."
Rodney nodded ruefully. "Yes, matchmaking carts... terrifying!"
"Never mind matchmaking, you’re their midwife!"
"I prefer the term facilitator, thank you—and are you going to call Cadman and O’Neill?"
Still chuckling, John called the two lieutenants, and a few minutes later they arrived with Jaffa, all of them looking curious.
"Lieutenants," Rodney said cheerfully, "we have a job for you."
"Involving what, Rodney?" Laura asked.
"Stealth, mayhem, and baby carts," John said before Rodney could reply.
Jack stared at him. "I hope it’s not contagious."
"Only if you can make them yourself."
"There really are baby carts? I want a drink," Jack groaned.
"I had a similar reaction," John chuckled as Rover brought beers for all of them.
Rodney smirked and picked up one of the little carts from the floor where he and Rover had set them earlier. "A litter of them for Reza and Ciora."
"Oh, they’re adorable," Laura exclaimed, reaching for the cart.
"Dr. Z’s going to have a seizure, isn’t he?" Jack shook his head, smirking.
"Yup. And it’s up to Cadman to distract them long enough for us to introduce the babies to Reza and Ciora."
"If I distract them, Radek will have a seizure even before he sees the babies," she laughed.
"Trust me, he’ll survive that," Rodney smirked.
"And then I’ll have to stake my claim afterward, so we’ll all be happy," Jack put in.
Laura nodded at that. "Sounds like a perfect plan to me; just when do you need this distraction to take place?"
"We thought at dinner would work. Wait till they’re nearly done, then distract them. That should give the mad scientist time to complete his evil plan."
Rodney nodded. "It won’t take long to get them in their quarters; we just need to give the girls time to bond with them."
"Which I’m sure Rover will help with. He’s definitely a proud papa."
"Forget it, Jaffa!" Jack said warningly, watching his cart inspect the babies.
"He’s not going to steal them, Rover," Rodney chuckled as the cart darted forward to smack Jaffa’s pincer away from his brood.
"Are these baby carts going to imprint on people like the full-sized ones do?" Laura asked.
"Military mindset," John chuckled in response to Rodney’s expression. "That’s one of the first things I asked too. And the answer was no."
"Thank God!" Jack’s exclamation was heartfelt.
Rodney snorted out a laugh at their obvious relief. "Remember who built them, people!" Rover waved a pincer, and he chuckled. "Yes, Rover, you were a great help."
"Rodney’s a grandfather now," John said, managing to keep a straight face though Cadman immediately burst into laughter.
"That means you’re the grandmother!" Rodney shot back, shuddering at the thought.
"Nope, two granddads," John replied instantly. "I look like hell in a dress."
Laura gave up trying to control her laughter and leaned against Jack’s side, holding her sides as tears rolled down her face, but Rodney only glanced at the colonel, his eyebrows raised. "And you know this, how?"
"Halloween, Rodney. You may have heard of it?"
"I usually went as Einstein—except for the year Jeannie talked me into being Adam Ant."
All three soldiers stared at him.
"What?" Rodney exclaimed, frowning at them all. "It was 1984!"
"I would pay good money to see a picture of that," Laura finally commented.
"Me too!" John and Jack chorused. "Please tell me that there are pictures?" John added.
"No, no pictures at all!" Rodney said quickly. "And if there were, I burned them years ago!"
Jack and John exchanged grins. That protest was too vehement and too fast, and both men knew that they were going to make it their mission to track down the pictures.
Laura was chuckling as she got to her feet and held out a hand to Jack. "So let’s go torment Dr. Z."
"Please, go," Rodney groaned as the two lieutenants left, Jaffa trailing after them.
"They’re helping you," John pointed out.
"And your excuse?"
"I love you," John said, unleashing the puppy dog eyes, making Rodney cover his eyes and moan. "And you love me," the colonel continued smugly.
"At times I wonder why."
"Because you’re a genius and know a great thing when you see it."
"Because I’m a pushover who has a soft spot for crazy flyboys with mix-master hair," Rodney sighed before looking down when Rover nudged him. "And genius carts."
"Then I’m glad I’m equally a pushover for cranky geniuses and carts."
Rodney grinned at that and started to gather up the baby carts, setting them back in Rover’s tray and covering them with the blanket again. "You simply have good taste," he said before kissing John.
"I’ll have to give you that one," John agreed, sliding an arm around Rodney’s shoulders to hug him.
"And I do as well; now let’s get these babies home."
Rover whirled in a circle, making John chuckle. "I think Daddy’s looking forward to introducing the kids to their moms."
"We really need to get a camera to record this," Rodney laughed as they headed out of John’s office.
"Hell yes, this is one for posterity."
"So then, a quick stop by the lab and we’ll be set to go."
John nodded. "And then we’ll enjoy the girls getting to know the kids and then sit back to enjoy the show."
"I think we’ll stop by the armory and get weapons as well."
Rover rubbed against the wall, making a rude noise.
"And yes, we know that you’ll protect us, Rover," John said soothingly.
A short time later, they arrived at Radek and Carson’s quarters, the door opening for Rover to reveal Reza and Ciora inside, and he scooted forward to greet them.
John and Rodney followed him inside, letting the door shut behind them. "They really are cute together," John murmured.
"I feel like I’m watching some perverse version of The Brady Bunch," Rodney whispered back as the three carts patted each other. "Hey ladies," he called, reaching for the blanket, "Rover has something for you..." With that, he pulled away the blanket.
There was a moment of stillness, then Ciora moved forward, reaching out with a pincer to pat one of the babies. It activated and floated off of Rover to hover before her, its sensor lights flashing brightly.
Seeing the reaction, Reza prodded at another of the tiny carts, backing up slightly when it came to life as well.
"Are you getting all of this?" Rodney muttered.
"Of course! And we won’t even have to ignore lack of dignity, blood and curses," John murmured with a grin.
Rodney shuddered at the thought. "No making me nauseous!"
"Concentrate on the bonding," John suggested, his smile widening.
"Good idea, and my god, Ciora is the little mother, isn’t she?"
"This surprises you? So’s Carson."
"I wouldn’t call him a little mother to his face though," Rodney snickered, as he watched the cart gently stroke each of the babies as they zipped around her, from time to time making forays over to Reza and Rover.
"No, I’d really rather not have my next physical turn into a torture session. And Radek may be the one to freak about this, but Ciora’s going to be the one mothering them."
"True, it looks as if Reza is contemplating running for the door."
"I guess she’s not the maternal type. Though one of the babies seems to like her best." John watched it nudge her repeatedly.
Rodney chuckled as he watched Reza back up each time the baby cart rolled forward. "We should make it a little spiked collar."
John snickered. "It would be cute. And would make Radek’s blood pressure climb even higher."
"Though if we kill him, Carson’s going to torture us to death..."
"Well, we’re not going to kill him!"
"No, just torture him and make him pull his hair out." Rodney looked supremely pleased with that.
"You’re enjoying that idea far too much."
"One word, Colonel, decaf."
John laughed. "You’re a vengeful man, Rodney."
"Just remember that if any Ancient women come sniffing around you again," Rodney sniffed.
"Mmm, you can remind me why I’m not interested when we get back to our quarters."
"I think I can manage to do that." Rodney watched Reza turn toward the door, ‘her’ baby scooting along next to her. "And I think they’re coming."
"Gee, what was your first clue? The yelling in Czech?" John snorted, leaning back on the sofa where he had a clear view of the door and the carts.
"I think we owe Cadman and O’Neill a bottle of good wine," Rodney murmured, moving to sit next to him.
"Och, Radek, the woman is involved with Lt. O’Neill; she is nae interested in me!"
"Then why does she always hover around you?" Radek growled. "I still think—" He stopped, his eyes widening as he saw first Ciora and her little cluster of mini carts and then Reza and another little cart.
"Ye think what?" Carson began, almost running into Radek’s back as he stopped in the doorway. "And why are ye stopping?" He peered over Radek’s shoulder and frowned. "What the bloody hell?"
At the raised voices, Rover zipped in front of the other carts.
"It’s okay, Rover, they’re not going to hurt your kids," John said soothingly.
"WHAT?!?" Radek shrieked.
"Don’t yell, Radek; you’ll upset the new mothers!" Rodney snickered.
"Rodney, what have ye done," Carson groaned, closing a hand around Radek’s arm to keep him from leaping at the other men.
"You have to admit they’re cute," John said, moving between Radek and Rodney protectively.
As if on cue, Ciora rolled forward, herding five of the little carts before her and stopping in front of Radek and Carson, plainly showing them off. Carson dropped down to one knee, holding out a hand and smiling when the boldest of the little carts investigated his fingers with tiny pincers.
"They are darling, Radek," he murmured.
"Well, yes, but, but," Radek sputtered.
The little cart that had been by Reza’s side rolled over to him and rose into the air, hovering at eye-height, examining him.
"I need a drink," Radek groaned, sinking down and holding up a hand to catch the small cart.
"We should have brought champagne and cigars!" Rodney exclaimed.
"I think ye’ve done quite enough, Rodney," Carson sighed.
"Are you saying you don’t like them?" John’s eyes dared either man to say that while Rover and Ciora were hovering anxiously over the little ones.
"Of course not," Radek growled. "That’s not the point."
"Ye’ve turned our rooms into a nursery," Carson sighed, though he was petting the baby carts who were crowding around him.
"Well, I’m sure they’ll spend part of their time in our rooms with their proud papa," John said.
Radek snorted, casting an eloquent look at Ciora.
"I’m sure she’ll go along too, and John and Rodney can look after all of them," Carson stated, daring either of the other two to argue.
John shrugged. "It’s not like they need feeding or to have their diapers changed. They just need some attention and affection."
"Exactly," Rodney nodded as some of the baby carts that had been clustered around Carson and Ciora headed over to investigate Radek and Reza, and John tried not to laugh as Radek and Reza each tried to get behind the other.
"Come on, you have to admit they’re cute."
Carson stood, one of the little carts in his hand, and slid his free hand over Radek’s back. "I hate ta agree with the troublemakers, but they are little loves."
Radek sighed. "Yes, yes, very cute."
Ciora and Rover both spun in a quick circle at hearing this, being careful not to topple the little carts, who then copied their actions—all except the one that was staying at Reza’s side.
Watching them, Radek sighed again. "I think we will always have at least one."
"Naw," John said, trying not to laugh. "Reza’s satellite will follow when she’s spending time with Rover and Ciora. Though grandparents may have to watch the little ones to give the parents some time for a date," he added, unable to resist.
"Argh!" Radek glared wildly at Rodney.
"Well, if you don’t want them, we can always deactivate them."
Rover, Reza and Ciora immediately put themselves between the babies and the men.
"I never said that!"
"Relax, lasses—and lad—" Carson said soothingly. "No one will be turning off yer little ones."
Rover still hovered protectively close to the mini carts, and Reza especially seemed jittery, making Radek crouch to pat her sensor array.
"You know I would never do that, love," he said soothingly. "Rodney just makes me crazy sometimes. But your children are very sweet."
"The camera’s still running, right?" Rodney muttered to John as Ciora slowly relaxed and let the other baby carts come out from behind her.
John nodded emphatically, grinning wickedly as they watched Radek and Carson play with all the carts.
"Excellent; this is going up on the intranet as soon as we leave."
"Definitely stocking up on ammo."
"Putting your life at risk for me, Colonel? I find that very arousing..."
"Time to go!" John announced, getting to his feet.
Neither Carson or Radek noticed as by now they were engrossed with the little carts.
"Okay, we’re safe for now," Rodney hissed. "Go!"
John caught hold of Rodney’s hand, and they quietly left the room, breaking into a jog as soon as they were in the hall. "Radek is going to kill you if you post this," John warned laughingly as they burst into the transporter.
"Which is why you’re getting those extra ammo clips!" Rodney announced before collapsing against John’s side, howling with laughter.
"Evil genius," John said fondly, supporting Rodney to keep him from falling to the floor.
"And my loyal minions—well, one of them anyway."
"Yeah, the other one’s bonding with his family," John chuckled.
"Just as well," Rodney snickered, finally straightening up. "He’s my devious lab assistant while you’re my sex-slave."
"Works for me," John replied cheerfully. "I like the fringe benefits."
"Shall we try some of those out now?"
"You have to ask?" John nearly yanked Rodney out of the transporter and down the hall to their quarters, the other man’s laughter trailing after them as they vanished into their room.
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