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Summary: For the 2006 Undermistletoe "Crack and Cliches Week: Someone gets turned into an animal (day 20)". Spoilers up to season 3's Tao of Rodney. You'd have thought Rodney would have learned his lesson by now.

Categories: Bitextual
Characters: Elizabeth Weir, John Sheppard, Major Lorne, Other, Radek Zelenka, Rodney McKay, Ronon Dex, Teyla Emmagan
Genres: Action/Adventure, Challenge, Friendship, Humour, Pre-relationship, Team
Warnings: None
Chapters: 2 [Table of Contents]
Series: None

Word count: 5328; Completed: Yes
Updated: 27 Feb 2007; Published: 30 Dec 2006

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Spoilers: References to The Return part II, Tao of Rodney. I'm pretending Irresponsible never happened and I make smaller references to various S2 and S3 episodes that have aired in Canada so far but not the States.

Ana and Jedoch are to blame for a lot of this. Jedoch originally made an icon of John holding out a cat like a weapon and Ana and I blathered mini!fic about it for about two days straight. When this came up as an option on Undermistletoe ( http://community.livejournal.com/undermistletoe ) I pretty much had to write something inspired by those conversations and that icon.

Pairings-wise this is gen and season-two+ team love, but if you want to, there are hints of pre-Sheppard/McKay, pre-Ronon/Rodney, and pre-Teyla/Rodney.

*

You'd have thought Rodney would have learned his lesson by now about weird machines that the science team uncovered in the no-longer flooded sections of the city. You'd even have thought that after experiencing first hand the psychological effects of one of those machines that Rodney would be more sympathetic to the plight of someone who had been adversely affected by ancient technology.

But Rodney didn't really see the affects as adverse. He didn't even see them as negative in any way at all because when you got right down to it—Ronon made an awesome cat.

Awesome in just about every sense of the word. One minute the science team had been continuing their work at manually cataloguing and shutting down rogue ancient tech with Ronon as the Muscle just-in-case and the next their Muscle had claws. And fur. And a really, really cute little black spot on one side of his massive, dark brown neck.

Elizabeth wasn't happy.

"I thought we decided," she said, carefully spacing out her words to emphasize how displeased she was, "to shut down any ancient devices and then look them up in the data base. Especially after your recent experience, Rodney."

Rodney waved this aside as unimportant (which it was). "That's not important, Elizabeth. What is important is the possible uses for this machine! It re-sequences matter! We could convert junk into food or weapons or—"

"—Wraith into humans!"

"---or cats," Zelenka rolled his eyes. "This is stupid discussion. So far, all machine does is turn large man into large cat."

It was true. Aside from the being-a-cat thing, Ronon hadn't really changed. He was roughly the size of a tiger but patterned brown and gold and black like a common (if incredibly massive) house cat. And he still brought his gun with him everywhere.

Ronon made a low rumbling noise and at least two people in the room had the grace to look chastised. Rodney was not one of them.
"I want the science teams to follow procedure from now on when they're working with ancient devices. That means you too, Rodney." Rodney rolled his eyes. "But in the meantime, I want you doing everything you can to restore Ronon to his original shape. The secondary team can head up shutting off miscellaneous devices. Let's get on this, people!"


*



They didn't make much headway. The ancient database was still a sketchy resource at best—only partially translated and so massive as to make the Alexandrian Library look tiny by comparison. Finding something without knowing the (incredibly stupid) Ancient name for it was almost impossible. Rodney could have taught them a thing or two about search mechanisms.

Ronon didn't seem to have any problems with spending the day napping in the labs while Rodney huffed and scowled at his computer, or with napping at the scene of the crime while Rodney very cautiously pored over the console looking for a hint, a clue. The only thing Ronon did have a problem with was the power bars Rodney had brought with him as work-snacks.

Mess food was always infinitely preferable to power bars, but Rodney didn't like getting deep into an idea and being forced to stop and run halfway across the city because he was hungry. Ronon, on the other hand, seemed to schedule his day around his meals. At first it might have been because he thought everything about Terran meals was hilarious, weird, and overcomplicated but eventually he had settled down into a deep enjoyment of dinner.

And again, Cat-Ronon was not much different from Human-Ronon. He liked red meat. And he had no qualms about using his massive size, paws and sharp claws to persuade McKay to take a lunch break.

Well, you try glancing up to see four hundred pounds of cat staring down at you. Ronon was very persuasive.


*



In the evening, tired and frustrated, Rodney didn't even question Ronon following him back to his room. Who knew? Maybe he couldn't work the doors like this. Maybe if he tried the control panel would be smashed under the weight of Ronon's massive front paws. Rodney wasn't willing to take the chance.

And, okay, Ronon purring as he fell asleep on the floor next to Rodney's bed didn't hurt, either.


*



Being a cat couldn't be all that bad. Fur to keep you warm, all the naps and red meat you could crave, and the mathematical precision of a cat's brain. Rodney really didn't see why everyone was so pissed off when Teyla got hit in the first tentative attempt to fix the original problem.

Besides, Teyla made a very pretty tiger—all gold and pale brown stripes. And obviously Rodney would fix the problem, sooner or later, so everyone should really have just relaxed and stopped fussing.

"Maybe I should talk to them," Heightmeyer had suggested, eyebrows closing in on each other with concern.

"Why?" Rodney had sneered, "It's not as if they can talk back." Teyla had flicked her tail at him for that comment, but Ronon just lolled on his back so Rodney could rub his belly.

Teyla was only okay with belly rubs when no one else was around. She was kind of endearing like that, reserved in comparison to Ronon's blatant bids for scratches or long strokes down his back with one hand while Rodney typed with the other. They both liked having the base of their tail scratched maybe a little too much.


*



The next morning, Rodney crawled out of bed half suffocated with fur and weight and stumbled all the way to the mess with Ronon and Teyla. He drank two cups of coffee and ate half his breakfast before he realized that he was covered in cat hair.

"Jeez, McKay. You do remember that they're still people, right? And that sexually harassing animals is wrong?" Sheppard was one of those people who was obnoxious every morning regardless of what they said or did, just because they had been up since five and gone for a run. Running. At five in the morning.

"They like my mattress," he mumbled around eggs and potatoes. "And they weigh a ton. The SGC is going to have to ship me a new one after they warp it out of shape and my bed frame snaps in half. Maybe a queen size."

"Your mattress."

"Yes. My prescription mattress. Luckily, it's subsidized by health care."

"....Is this one of those weird Canadian things?" Teyla was making a move on Rodney's bacon and he swatted her paw aside.

"The basic human right of free health care? Yes. Your backward country is actually breaking one of the United Nations standards of human rights. Cats liking my mattress? How should I know?"

It wasn't the last stupid question of the day, but it was probably the least annoying. The most annoying was about Zelenka, and asked over and over again by various members of the expedition, including Major Lorne.

"You're serious? This is Dr. Z?"

In his hand, Rodney held a tiny, fuzzy orange kitten. Zelenka made a tiny hissing sound at Lorne, small teeth bared.

"For the last time, yes, and if you keep aggravating him he's going to claw my arm to death in an attempt to eviscerate you with his tiny, tiny claws."

Zelenka didn't sleep with Rodney and Teyla and Ronon. Mostly, he hid out with a laptop and made small, adorably angry sounds at anyone who even tried to ruffle his already incredibly fluffy fur.

"Well, I still say we could probably turn the Wraith into cats," one of the marines muttered, peevish after Zelenka had swatted at him with full claws.

"Yes," Rodney had sneered, "Life-sucking cats."



*



Rodney liked cats. He liked cats a whole lot, but John Sheppard was the most unhelpful cat he had ever met. John liked naps even more than Ronon did and being touched even less than Zelenka. He had discovered that the monitors, computers and various large pieces of Terran equipment in the labs generated heat and he had been there ever since. Napping. On Miko's monitor.

And Miko had made things worse by taking photos of Cat-John and putting them up as her desktop so that her whole work station was like some cat-crazy suburban woman's homage to her only offspring (albeit not genetic)—a housecat.

John was black all over but his eyes were the same and it was disconcerting to wake up in the middle of the night to John purring and wrapped around his neck, his one concession to touch.

And that, of course, was when the shit hit the fan.



*



Kolya. Rodney still had nightmares about Kolya sometimes. Sometimes it was Kolya's knife biting into the skin of his arm and severing one section of skin from another where they should have been seamless; sawing through to the muscle beneath so that his red insides could gape open at the world outside and see how horrible life really was at that particular moment. Sometimes he was John, tied to an old wooden chair, gagged, and being incrementally drained of his life before being bodily thrown into prison with the very monster that was feeding off him. Sometimes he was just watching John die, bit by bit, on a plain monitor in the control room, unable to do anything.

Sometimes, he drowned in Kolya; his brain flooded over with KolyaKolyaKolya and Rodney woke up to dry-heaves if he was lucky and the acid burn of vomit if he wasn't.

This time, though, he wasn't asleep. He was awake, horrifyingly awake, and face to face with his most common nightmare. The Wraith were scary, but they weren't human. They were like vicious animals that had learned how to speak and walk on two legs. The replicators and their Pegasus-equivalent were every Borg episode of TNG Rodney had ever seen – computers with hands and bad programming. Kolya was human.

"Dr. McKay! Has Sheppard finally kicked you off the team? I see you've replaced your friends with small, fuzzy animals." The only reason Kolya said small was that Ronon and Teyla were somewhere else, but Rodney had been taking Zelenka and John with him to see Elizabeth.

"How did you get here, Kolya?" He scooped up Sheppard, who was about to make a mad dash at Kolya's pants, and Zelenka, who was about to crawl up Rodney's.

"That's not important, Dr. McKay. What is important is that your Dr. Weir give me exactly what I want, and you're going to help me with that. Aren't you ...indispensable?"

Sheppard kicked back with his hind legs, finally making that angry leap and Rodney could only grasp wildly for him, half bent and falling in his attempt to keep him from what would only be another suicide mission.

And that was when Kolya got shot.



*



"But he uh—"
"Doesn't have opposable thumbs? I know." Rodney was only paying half-attention to the meeting—John was draped across the back of his neck and Ronon and Teyla sat tall on either side of him getting their ears massaged. Zelenka sat nearby but with his back to Rodney. "I think he used his teeth."



*



They threw Kolya's body through the wormhole after his men. Aside from that deadly first shot to the chest, his arms and legs had bite marks from where Teyla and Ronon had bodily dragged his dead form to the control room, and scratch marks from John and Zelenka. It had been half horrifying to see these people-turned-cats go postal and half relief; some huge weight had lifted off his shoulders.

You don't come back from those injuries. Not even with medical voodoo, and certainly not with the Genii-equivalent.


*



Two weeks later, Rodney woke up because he couldn't breathe and pushed John, Ronon and Teyla off the bed.

"Go back to your own rooms," he told them. If they weren't going to purr, they didn't get the bed. And John weighed a lot more as a human, anyway.