"How the hell did a pregnant cat get aboard the Daedalus?" Weir asked, staring in bafflement at the storage bin and the swollen slit-eyed creature that had nested inside it. It curled on its side on top of someone's donated shirt. It seemed to be pointedly looking away at this question.
"They're not...entirely sure," Sheppard said, tilting his head and folding his arms. Weir's arms were folded too, but she wore the pose like a straitjacket as if she might fly off the handle if she loosened up.
Ronon peered over Weir's shoulder, brows knitted. "Is it a rodent?" It wasn't clear to him how much distaste or interest was appropriate.
"A rodent?" McKay came up in a rush with an awkward armful of bowls and towels and jingling gewgaws that were probably toys of some kind. "You are looking at the Queen Slayer of all things rodentine. Felis catus, the domestic cat." He smiled widely and settled on the floor as if kneeling at worship.
Ronon tuned out McKay's words almost at once and watched his hands as he fussed over the animal. What people said could be revealing, and Ronon listened when it was useful, but he gave more weight to actions. In actions Rodney contradicted himself, often enough that Ronon couldn't dismiss him as a noisy handicap in the field. He bitched and moaned about the demands on his time when Sheppard made him take PT and arms practice, but met requirements; whined about the poor fit of military-issue boots, but trudged as far as anyone. He showered his people with insults, but defended them from attack--something that reminded Ronon of his old drill chief; or his task-master, if he'd still held Kell up for favorable comparison. And Rodney cared about people--the few he considered of value. Under the abrasive surface was loyalty; under the chittering fear something approaching bravery.
"She's due soon," Rodney said. He was palming the animal's stomach. "She's in her eighth, maybe ninth week."
"Know a lot about pregnant cats, do you?" Sheppard asked, staring down at the top of Rodney's head with dry amusement.
"My mother collected strays. We always had three or four around the house and an uncanny number of them seemed to arrive expecting. Within a few weeks, the place would be crawling with kittens." Rodney stroked the cat's side gently. "The neighbors started hiding when they saw my mother with a basket."
Weir shifted her weight. "I thought you had allergies."
"Yes, they were much worse then. I spent my first twelve years generating snot in alarming volumes."
"I *so* didn't need to know that," Sheppard said with a wince.
"But cats are worth it. You're worth it, aren't you, Hypatia?" He chucked the cat under her chin. It lifted its head and made a loud thrumming sound.
"Hypatia?" Sheppard slid a sidelong look at Weir, who dipped her head and observed Rodney with an indulgent smile.
"Oh, and what do you want to name her--Britney? Angelina?" His tone was scathing, but mild for him.
"Ex-girlfriends?" Ronon asked Sheppard, who shot him back a pained look when Rodney crowed with laughter.
"He only wishes."
"Pop stars," Weir said, as if that explained everything. Ronon didn't press for more. He'd heard the Atlantis people use the words separately and could put them together in a way that made enough sense to get by. He stored the term away for reference.
"Anyway, why do you get to name her?" Sheppard asked. Ronon could tell he was just being contrary.
"Owner's prerogative. Though I must admit I feel rather disloyal--cats are incredibly sensitive. I wouldn't be surprised if Hubble was getting some kind of intergalactic vibe that I might be transferring my affections. He's probably desolate, baseless though it is. By the way, I realize that whole vibe theory is scientifically unsound. You won't repeat that, will you?" He glanced up at them.
"Back up," Weir said, raising her brows. "What makes you think you're her owner?"
"Of course I'm her owner. Who's taking care of her?" Me, his tone said.
Miko and Radek hurried up at that moment. Miko was holding a fuzzy item that Ronon couldn't identify. He could tell it was knitting though. Every time he'd seen her she was working on something with her needles and yarn.
"I have made sweater," Miko said, her voice a soft, pleasing lilt. She smiled and held up a blue tube for everyone to see. Weir made an appreciative noise.
"Oh, please." Rodney projected outrage. "This is a patented attempt to curry favor with my pet and steal her from me."
Miko looked alarmed.
"Rodney!" Weir said, dander up. "The cat is not *yours*. She's everyone's."
Rodney's mouth turned down and his jaw set. "Fine," he snapped, petulant as a toddler but not as unappealing as he should have been. "But I have dibs on my choice of kitten."
"No, you don't." Weir was firm. "I've had twelve people in my office already this morning calling 'dibs'. We're holding a lottery."
Shock at this injustice wrote itself across Rodney's face. "That's preposterous. That's a completely arbitrary system of distribution. Kittens should be granted on the basis of rank and seniority."
"Kittens will be *granted*, Rodney, by lottery." Weir drove her decree home with an authoritative look and then left, probably for one of her many meetings.
"This is so unfair." Rodney gazed unhappily at Hypatia.