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A Nice Quiet Dinner At Home

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"Hey," Rodney says as he walks into his family's quarters. 

John looks up from the math tests he's grading, pulling Rodney down onto the couch with him before stealing a quick kiss.  They're interrupted a few seconds later by Merra's "Oh jeez, Dads!" outburst from a nearby overstuffed chair.

"Whatever," Rodney says as he turns to wink at his daughter.  "You're almost fourteen, Meredith.  One of these days you'll understand."

"Yeah, well after the Academy," Merra replies.  "Until then, boys can wait." 

The room quiets for a beat, broken by Zachary's, "You're only saying that because Callum said he wouldn't go surfing with you."

Merra quickly turns her head, whining an incriminating "Zeus!", her fathers doing a comical double-take before turning their attention back to her.  (Merra had picked up calling her brother after the Greek God soon after taking Chuck's mythology class, when she'd realized Zachary's full name - Zachariah Eugene Sheppard - easily lent itself to the deity.  It was a nickname the boy carried around Atlantis, and was picked up by most of the colony.)

"Callum?" John asks, while Rodney mutters, "I knew Cadman was still trying to get at me."

"Seriously, Rodney?" John asks, turning to Rodney, then running a teasing hand through his hair.  "You think she intentionally married Carson and had a kid just so he could refuse to go out with our daughter?"

Rodney juts his chin out defiantly before giving in to John's cheeky grin.  "Yeah, well, you could still court martial her."

"I'll get right on that," John snarks, then leans in for another quick kiss.  "And you, young lady, can't go surfing until that ligament tear is sufficiently healed."  Merra was certainly John's daughter, "Another generation of Sheppard daredevils," Rodney always groaned whenever their daughter came home with another injury.  John gets up from the sofa to start dinner, then notices Merra isn't wearing the compression cuff that Carson had insisted she wear to speed up healing. 

Merra obviously catches on, because she quickly pulls her leg under the blanket she has draped over her lap, repositioning her Algebra II textbook as she hides her injury.  She looks up, John staring down at her with one eyebrow cocked high towards his hairline.

"Fine," she says without John uttering a single word.  She gets up and disappears into her room to retrieve the compression cuff as John heads into the kitchen.

"Chops and rice and salad okay for dinner?" he asks his family, answered by vague murmurs a second later.  When the kids hit their teens, John had insisted on the family eating at home more often than in the Mess for their evening meal, because he knew when he was their age he'd started disappearing more and more - mostly as a means to get away from his alcoholic father.  As a consequence of eating at home more, he'd become quite the cook, easily able to throw together a quick, tasty, and above all else, hearty, meal.

John goes through their pantry and fridge, pulling out what he needs for dinner.  He measures out a few cups of Athosian rice - a soft, white grain that was so similar to the one found on Earth that Atlantis had stopped requesting it in their supply runs - then puts it in a pot to boil with a few spices before turning his attention to the meat.

"What're you working on?" he hears Rodney ask Zachary before Rodney gets up from the couch and walks over to the desk where their son is sitting, surrounded by school texts and psychology journals.

Zachary turns the screen so Rodney can see.  "An independent study paper on the quantitative differences of sociological development for children raised in industrial-type communities from those raised in rural communities."  John can just imagine Rodney resisting the urge to roll his eyes.  Ever since Zachary had brushed off physics journals and asked for psychological and sociological based ones, Rodney had held hope that one day he would "come back to his senses" (Rodney's words - muttered often). 

"What's that?" Rodney asks.  John looks up to find Rodney pointing at a bright-white spot on the screen, big enough for even him to see from across the room.

"It's just a clump of pixels that won't paint right," Zachary responds as Rodney taps the monitor.

Rodney does a lot of 'hmms', then starts asking, "Did you-"

"Yes, Poppa, I ran the diagnostic."

"Well what about-"

"And I checked the firmware already."

John watches as his son tries to work on his paper, Rodney hovering over him wanting to help, but not wanting to interrupt his son's schoolwork.  Zachary turns to John for a second, rolling his eyes a beat later before asking Rodney, "Did you want to check it out, Poppa?"

"Yes, yes, yes..." Rodney says, heaving out a sigh.  "As long as-"

"No worries.  Dad?  Can I use your laptop?" Zachary asks as he grabs his texts and stands up, giving his seat over to Rodney.

John motions with his knife, pointing to his and Rodney's bedroom.  "'s on my bedside table."

"Thanks, Dad," Zachary says, disappearing into the back of the apartment.

John puts the pork chops on the grill pan, then pours Rodney a cup of coffee, taking is to his husband.  "Things okay?"

"Yeah," Rodney says as he takes a sip from the coffee cup John hands him.  "Thanks."  After another sip, John turns to go back mind their meal when Rodney says, "I need to replace his monitor," then gets up and heads for the door.

"Rodney," John warns.  He knows that if Rodney disappears into the stores, he's likely to also stop by his lab - and can easily get sidetracked.  "Dinner's almost ready; you can do that later."

"Yes, but," Rodney says, pointing to the door.

"Hold on, lemme ask," John hears.  His and Rodney's attention is drawn to their daughter, bounding back into the room with a smile on her face.  John notices she's still not wearing the compression sleeve.  "Can I go have dinner at Callum's?" she asks.  He smiles when she mouths, "Please?" to both John and Rodney, obviously so Callum doesn't hear her through the radio.

John and Rodney turn to each other, discussing the situation with just a look.  When Rodney turns back to her, he appears like he's about to give her the go-ahead when John hits the radio in his ear.  "Sheppard to Carson," he calls.

"Carson here," comes the reply.

"How 'bout you gather your troops and come on over to our place for dinner?  We've got chops and rice, and I was just about to send Merra to the mess for some stuff for a salad."  Merra shoots John a look that only an angsty fourteen-year-old girl can get away with; the kind of look that says, 'Thanks for ruining my life, Dad!'

"I'm on duty tonight.  Brawnwin's out sick with the flu, I'm afraid.  But I can let Laura and Callum know; extend your invitation to them."

"That's okay," John says.  "I'll send Merra over."  With a smile, he adds, "Maybe Merra and Callum can stop by the Mess together and he can help her carry some stuff."

Merra's look instantly changes from angst to horror at what must be the realization that her father is actively trying to set her up.  John just smiles sweetly in response.  "Thanks, Carson," he says.  "Sheppard out," he says, then taps his radio.

John looks up in time to see looks of horror on both his partner and his daughter's faces, effectively mirroring each other.  "What?" he asks, ignoring the sudden outburst of "Daddy!" and "Sheppard!" that is immediately tossed back to him. 

As he sets a few more pork chops on the grill, John turns to his daughter, "Go on," he says with an impish grin.  "Go get Laura and your friend for dinner.  And don't forget the salad!"  He keeps himself from laughing out loud until Merra is safely out of the apartment and the door closes behind her.

"I don't know what's so funny," Rodney complains.  "Cadman?  Really?" he asks.  "And setting up our daughter?  With her son?"  Rodney lets out a groan, then mutters, "Why can't you be a real dad?  You know - like meeting the boy our little princess is going out with while holding a shotgun?"

With a smirk, John says, "She stopped being our little princess," - the air quotes hanging there between the men - "when she stole jumper six on her thirteenth birthday to go surfing."  As he tends to the meal, he adds, "Why don't you go get a bottle of wine from the stash?" he asks, giving Rodney something to do.

Rodney nods his head, then aims for the apartment's adjoining storage closet.  "And remember," John calls after him, "Laura likes reds."

Rodney stops in his tracks and looks back at John, then hangs his head, muttering something under his breath before continuing on with his task.

Peeking around the corner from their bedroom, Zachary smiles at his father and says, "Really, Dad?"

"Sure, why not?" John asks.  "Gives me something to do until you decide you want to start dating, Zeus."  He laughs as he watches his son's eyes get big, then quickly retreats back into their bedroom.

"Yeah," John says quietly as he stirs the rice, "just another nice, quiet dinner at home."