The day the McKays moved into Eureka Jack got approximately a dozen phone calls from Fargo, who was hiding under a desk in his office at Global Dynamics.
"Do you know when I last saw Rodney McKay?" Fargo whispered through the telephone line. "I last saw Rodney McKay when he was threatening to kill me using a protractor during a seminar he was leading in graduate school! This was before he started to lose his hair! Can you just imagine what a safety threat he is by now?"
"I see," Jack said sympathetically. "He might have graduated to using a compass by now."
"You--! Oh my God, I think I hear him coming down the hall. Send help," Fargo whispered, terrified, and hung up with a long, solid beep.
Jack was still rolling his eyes and tucking away his phone when Vincent walked over to top off his coffee.
"I swear to God," Jack sighed, wrapping his hands around the mug. "I think Fargo gets crazier every day."
"It's the pressure," Vincent said sympathetically. " And it probably doesn't help that rumor has it Rodney McKay's moving into town."
"Okay," Jack said, setting down his mug and frowning. "Now I'm curious."
"No!" was the first thing Jack heard when he got out of the car, parked in front of an enormous, three-story Victorian mansion on the edge of town, on the lake, where the trees were thick and there was almost no traffic.
"Why not? I checked: It's not against the neighborhood guidelines," came the answering whine. "Come on, you wouldn't let me have one back on Atlantis--"
"Right, because you desperately needed a helipad on a city surrounded by water!"
"--and you promised we could get one if I agreed to move to Freakville with you," the voice finished resolutely. "It's either that or you let me pick up waterskiing."
Nobody answered when Jack knocked on the enormous double-doors, so he walked around the side of the house along the wrap-around porch until he saw two men standing on the back steps, looking disheveled and out of breath, surrounded by boxes marked things like, DANGEROUS and REALLY REALLY DANGEROUS and LEGOS.
"Gentlemen," Jack said,and they both turned around to stare at him. He wished he had a hat he could tip at them or something. "Hey, sorry to interrupt."
"No problems at all," the dark haired one said smoothly, smiling and taking a few slow, slightly uneven steps forward with an outstretched arm to catch Jack in a handshake. "John Sheppard."
Jack smiled back and said, "Nice to meet you, John--I'm Jack Carter, the local sheriff."
John gave the other man a dirty look. "Congratulations: we've been in town less than a day and somebody already called the sheriff on you," he said accusingly, and turning back to Jack, he said, "I'm sorry. But in Rodney's defense, I think at least some of the accusations made against him are exagerrated."
Jack raised his brows at the blond one, cheeks spotted red in what appeared to be a combination of impotent rage and embarrassment. "Let me guess," Jack said, "Rodney McKay?"
Rolling his eyes, Rodney said, "Yes, in the flesh--what scurrilous lies have people been telling you about me?"
John's expression was part indulgent amusement and part curiosity.
"Nothing specific," Jack admitted. "But I've gotten at least a dozen calls this morning from Douglas Fargo claiming you're out to eat his soul."
John made a noise that sounded suspiciously like cracking up and Rodney gave him a look that could have killed a man before grinding out, "Douglas Fargo is as much a hopeless waste of oxygen today as he was when he was TA-ing for my intro physics class at Berkley and almost put out my eye trying to show undergrads how to use the right hand rule."
"I'll just go inside and put on some coffee," John volunteered, and walked into the house through the back door, limping slightly, and Jack tracked his motions until Rodney started snapping urgently in his face, saying, "Hey, hey! Eyes up front and center, buddy!"
"Hey," Jack said, putting up his hands in a universal peacekeeping gesture, "no encroachment intended. It's just that he was limping."
And as soon as Jack said it, Rodney's face got tight and fierce and a little cold, and Rodney nodded and said, "War injury," and "You might as well come in. He's going to sulk about me being antisocial if you don't stay and talk for a while."
"Do all newcomers warrant a visit from the sheriff or is Rodney just special?" John asked, blowing across his mug of coffee while Rodney fussed at the movers--who all looked suspiciously like marines--in the living room, shouting things like, "No not there you idiot!" and "Oh my God, look, I know for a fact not all jarheads are this stupid!" while John appeared serene and unconcerned.
"It's a small, small, strange town," Jack said easily. "You're the first new people to have moved in since I got here." He waited a beat. "You're not worried they're...you know, going to kill him?"
John smirked, eyes flicking toward the doorway to the other room. "Rodney's bark is much worse than his bite--and he's saved their asses dozens of times," he said demurely. "They know that."
"Sir," came a strangled cry from the other room, "I'm seriously considering killing Dr. McKay."
"Find your zen place, Lieuntenant," John yelled back. "Consider this on the ground officer training."
Jack grinned. "Do I want to know?" he asked.
"Not really," John admitted, and setting down his mug, he leaned forward across the kitchen counter and said, "Hey, so, in the moving materials, nobody said much about what to do in this town aside from have an IQ of 160 and higher and I was wondering..."
Jack made a pained expression.
"That bad," John said sadly.
"Worse," Jack muttered. "I finally cobbled together a baseball league and they digitized the sport. They wouldn't even let us use real balls in case anybody got a head injury."
Jack and John shared a long, pained sigh, cut short when Rodney barrelled back into the room, holding a battered pair of Air Force Academy sweatpants and shaking them in John's face. "What are these?" he demanded. "I"ve thrown these away three separate times."
By noon the next day, the entire town was talking about Rodney McKay, and most of the gossip filtered in through Vincent's, so out of totally professional curiosity, Jack brought his mountain of paperwork in and camped at the counter, eavesdropping like crazy.
Taggart heard from Beverly at the market who heard from one of the kids who came in to see her weekly sessions that Rodney had once blown up three-quarters of a solar system, had a brain that rivaled Nathan Stark's, had kidnapped a male model on his way into town--"He's actually there of his own free will," Jack had interrupted--and also that he'd only agreed to work in Eureka in exchange for the total focus of some of the greatest minds in Global Dynamics' medical research labs.
"All of it's totally true," Taggart insisted. "God's honest."
Jack rolled his eyes and filled in another E34-1b form--Accidental launch of a small, nonballistic missile without the injury rider--and said, "Well, that solar system thing has to be made up."
And after the initial rush of gossip died down, stories started filtering in. It turned out almost every serious brain in Eureka had a One Time, Rodney McKay story. Henry had about a dozen. "I mean, kept kept Area 51 from being boring, that's for sure," Henry had mused over lunch, picking at the last of his egg fried rice while Vincent had listened, rapt. "Don't even get me started on the time somebody accidentally wiped his game of Sims."
"So what's the deal with John Sheppard, anyway?" Jack asked, trying not to think about Area 51 or aliens or any number of disturbing allusions that had been made to space travel and extraterrestrials since Rodney had moved into town.
Fargo rushed into the diner, shaking and looking on the verge of a nervous breakdown. "I need three coffees to go, one for me and two for Satan." He glanced at Jack and Henry balefully. "He's making me engineer his boyfriend a helicopter with a force field around it," he said poisonously, and ran out of the diner again as soon as the coffees appeared.
Henry looked thoughtful. "I guess that sort of explains it," he said awkwardly.
"Watch," Jack said grimly. "Zoe will decide she's madly in love with him now."
"I'm madly in love with him," Zoe sighed later, dreamily staring out of the window of the SUV at the sidewalk in front of Eureka's only school, where John was standing and chatting with the principal. "They say technically he's the kindergarten teacher--but that he'll be picking up a few of the higher level math classes."
Jack rolled his eyes. "Are you even in any of the higher level math classes?" he asked, deciding to keep the "taken" and "gay" and "crazy, crazy boyfriend" cards for later, when he needed true satisfaction as a parent.
Zoe glared at him. "I could be," she said defensively.
"Yeah, you and what microchip," Jack muttered, and stepped on the gas.
The first time Jack saw McKay at work was three weeks later, when he was following Allison around Global Dynamics trying to get her to explain to him what exactly was that unidentified thing that had been flying around the town for the last three days and followed her right into the medical research ward, where Rodney was throwing what could generously be called a tantrum.
"When I agreed to sign on for your Scientific Stepford I was promised the full and undivided attention of your staff until such time the issue was resolved," Rodney snarled, and three of the researchers in the room actually tried to hide behind Nathan Stark, who at least was standing his ground.
"You know what your problem is, Rodney?" Nathan started calmly.
"You?" Rodney spat out. "Your incompetence?"
"You're too impatient," Nathan said soothingly. "I'm a man of my word and when I said we were devoting our resources I meant it--but even genius needs time."
"Time," Rodney ground out, "I have. Time for mistakes, I don't. If anything like what happened today ever goes down again, the deal's off--do you understand?"
Stark rolled his eyes. "I see you haven't grown out of your dramatics."
"No, I've grown into them," Rodney snapped back. "And you can put up a brave front as much as you'd like: you need me here. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be taking the rest of the day off to go home and make sure he doesn't bleed to death on our floor," he finished, and stormed right out of the room, past Allison and past Jack, who parted to make way for his warpath.
"Nathan," Allison said, clearly amused.
"I don't want to talk about it," Stark growled, and turned on the researchers, saying, "What the hell were you thinking?"
"God," Jack said later, tackling a lawn gnome with a fission-based propulsion pack on, "I really hate this town."
After a while, things normalized, and John and Rodney just turned into another odd fixture in Eureka: the handyman slash kindergarten teacher and the town's latest resident genius, who was frequently seen entering and exiting Vincent's cafe covered in what looked a lot like tar. "What the hell?" Jack had asked once, and Vincent had only smirked and said, "Let's just say he's kind of whipped."
Three days later, Jack got a call from John saying that if he saw an unidentified but totally cool object zipping around the skies of Eureka, not to bother trying to tackle it since it was just John and his insanely awesome new helicopter.
"I'm never going to understand this place," Jack said later, over dinner to Zoe, who was face down at the table despite SARAH's worried, maternal noises, which sounded a lot like a dial-up modem with better harmonics.
"I can't even deal today," Zoe muttered into the wood. "Mr. Sheppard is gay. My whole life is a festering pit."
When baseball season started, John volunteered immediately, but said regretfully that given the current state of his leg, he was only going to be able to manage the catcher's position. "You shouldn't be managing any position!" Rodney wailed from the bleachers. "Oh my God, what are you doing? You still have to do physical therapy and you want to chase balls."
"Have you ever thought about having him see a professional?" Jack wondered out loud between innings.
"I don't know," John said speculatively, pulling off his catcher's mask and tucking it under one arm to brush his sweaty bangs out of his face--a move which inspired Zoe to clutch feverishly at the chain link fence that separated her from making her romantic approach. "I kinda like him this way."
"Yeah," Jack said, smirking. "You seem to."
"And they got the bullet out," John continued, grinning. "So I know it's not just the lead poisoning talking."
Which was about the time Rodney started throwing homemade Gatorade at them, yelling for John to keep hydrated, to watch his electrolytes, to stop bending over like that because some of the female engineers in the stands were beginning to look dangerously like they were ready to actually talk to a man face to face.
"I can see why," Jack said earnestly while John purposefully dropped a quarter and took a small geologic era to pick it up while Rodney sputtered in the background. "He's really amazingly charming."
A few months after that, the town meeting was appended with a note from John, smilingly inviting everybody over for a Superbowl party. He promised there'd be copious beer and buffalo wings, and at the lack of RSVP's other than Jack's enthused, "Hell yeah!" John had sighed and said, "Oh, and Rodney's also hosting a robotics race the same day," which had elicited a lot more agreement.
"Eureka," John had said when he'd opened the door, wearing a pink KISS THE CHEF apron.
"Eureka," Jack agreed, holding up a six-pack and holding back his daughter, who had almost but not quite worked through her tragic love for John, who apparently had six year olds proposing to him day in and day out.
"Hi, Mr. Sheppard," Zoe said fatuously.
John smiled at her warmly. "Hey, Zoe, did you do something to your hair?"
She touched her green braids self-consciously. "Yeah, you know, just yesterday."
"Well, it's great," John told her, and waved them into the house. "Very mossy."
Zoe turned a nearly supernatural color red, and she squeaked, "Thank you," even as John said, "Hey, all the people under thirty are upstairs with the Playstation, if you felt like joining them."
"She's a nice kid," John said as she shot up the stairs and Jack rolled his eyes. "Now," John said, rubbing his hands together, "I've got all the geeks corralled onto the side yard to race robots--I think you and I have an appointment with a football game."
And when Jack saw the TV--it wasn't really a TV as much as a wall of such incredibly beautiful high definition that he nearly started to cry--he said, "God bless you, Sheppard."
"I know," John agreed. "It was emotional for me, too."
"Okay, this is kind of emotional for me, too," John said, sitting at the counter in Jack's kitchen and smiling soppily at the walls. "It's been a long time since my house talked back to me."
Jack tried not to think about that too hard but couldn't help it. "You lived in a talking house, too?"
"Well, talking city," John amended, and beamed when SARAH said, "Your beer is ready, John." He plucked it from the fridge and said, "Why thank you, Sarah, you're a doll."
All the lights warmed for a moment in pleasure, and Jack muttered, "Floozy."
John spent the whole rest of the night cracking up when the sink spurted water all of Jack, or the beer soaked him, or the chair tipped him off of the cushion--all while UNC played Duke at Cameron in the background, 78-76 with coaches breaking clipboards on both sides of the court.
"So you're clearly still new at this talking house thing," John said, delighted, feet kicked up on the coffee table.
Jack growled, "Little help here, Casanova?"
John just lipped his beer. "No thanks, Atlantis can tell when I come home smelling like differently recyled air."
"I don't even want to know," Jack muttered, and got tipped onto the floor again.
Exactly 18 months after the moving trucks had rolling into town, a small caravan of black SUVs rode into Eureka, making a beeline for the McKay property, and by lunch Vincent was earnestly redistributing all the dependably corroborated information he had.
"It was definitely military, at least two people are voting for Air Force based on the uniforms, and all of them looked kind of pissed," Vincent said, businesslike to a small and nervous crowd. "As far as Torry can tell from the other shore of the lake with her telescope and long range mikes, it sounds like McKay's being recalled to wherever he was before he came to Eureka."
"Wait," said somebody in the crowd, alarmed. "Does that mean they're actually leaving?"
"Well, McKay might," said another voice, "but Sheppard's treatment's still only half-completed at best. It'll be months more before we can even tell if it's had any permanent theraputic effect."
Vincent and Jack shared a look. "Then I guess they're not leaving," Vincent said.
"Really?" Fargo asked, sounding crushed. "I mean, really?"
"I don't know if you've noticed this," Jack said conspiratorially, "but McKay's kind of whipped."
Exactly 18 months and one day after the SUV's rode into Eureka, they rolled back out again, Rodney determinely standing on his front porch and glaring at their fading tail lights.
"You know, I think Fargo's turning into an alcoholic," Jack said conversationally the next morning, when Rodney breezed into the diner for his usual breakfast of a pot of coffee, two eggs, a waffle and some insistent shouting into his cell phone.
Rodney snorted. "Well, tell him that we're blowing this popsicle stand just as soon as John's fit to pass their draconian medical exam." Then, knocking on the counter, he said, "Hurry hurry hurry! I have a serious suspicion that Stark's been taking advantage of the fact that I'm always predictably five minutes late waiting for breakfast to start sabotaging my priceless work!"
"I'll pass along the message," Jack said, and turned back to his newspaper.
It was the dead of winter when John and Rodney finally did blow out of Eureka, although they left with considerably less than they'd come with, stopping off at the diner for one last meal before driving out of town to God knows where with only John's cherry red Mustang--"Penis extension," Rodney snapped--and two duffle bags thrown in the back.
"So are you sending more long-suffering marines to come get the rest of your stuff later?" Jack asked when Rodney slipped off for one last shouting match via cell phone in the back of the diner.
John grinned at him over the coffee. "Don't let this get around, but Rodney actually likes it here."
Jack turned to glance at Rodney, kicking a wall while Vincent looked on, distressed. "That so?"
"He's a subtle, subtle man," John said, totally deadpan. "We're leaving most of the stuff at the house, because even if he doesn't, I kind of like it here." He grinned. "We get about two months leave a year--we'll be back."
"You should time it," Jack said, too casually. "To line up with certain sports events."
"Trust me," John said seriously, "it's a date."
"Excuse me?" Rodney said, stomping back up to the table and giving Jack a thoroughly unamused glare. "I thought I told you about eyes front and center, sheriff."
Jack smirked. "Yes, you did. My eternal apologies."
Rodney sniffed, affronted, and John, laughing, got up and tugged his coat back on over the dress blues that had been distracting the entire diner and taking Rodney by the elbow, saying, "Come on, we better head out," and when he left, waving, he wasn't limping at all.
Zoe spent most of the rest of the week devastated, lying on the floor, reading Dylan Thomas, listening to some band called Bright Eyes. She dyed her hair black, and Jack figured that was at least a win in the "natural haircolor--even if it's not her natural haircolor" catagory.
"Do you really think they'll be back?" she said sadly.
"John said he liked it here," Jack said confidently, sipping his morning coffee.
"I mean, will his crazy crazy boyfriend let him come back?" she sniped.
Jack grinned into his mug, thinking about being invited in for coffee and the helipad he'd seen in the back yard and the force-field helicopter and, earlier that year, the waterskies John had been talking about buying while Rodney had shoveled food into his mouth depressively.
"Yeah," Jack said. "He's kind of whipped.