Everybody Wants To Be A Cat
Not for the first time, John wondered if the Ancients were out to get him.
He hid in a corner until he was certain that the big people with the stompy feet were gone. He had no idea who they were- their legs looked kinda familiar, but he was having trouble figuring out how to look up for some reason. Besides, nobody that big could possibly be up to any good.
He really wished he knew what was going on. They were in one of the lower levels checking out a new lab Zelenka had found. The lights were going haywire, the lab was doing something really loud that was draining power, Rodney wouldn't stop pestering him- it was one minor crisis after another, and all John wanted in that fleeting moment was, for just a little while, not to have everything be his problem all the time.
Human, right? Perfectly fine thing to thing as long as he didn't think it too much. Nothing anybody wouldn't think in his shoes. Certainly didn't justify what came next.
He remembered leaning back against the wall- must have not just been wall, must have been some kind of panel- and then he was looking at the world from about a foot off the ground.
Instincts he didn't even know he had kicked in, and he hauled ass down the corridor. That was interesting, because suddenly he could run really, really fast on all fours, though it kind of felt like his legs were on wrong.
And so here he was, alone, in what was probably Atlantis but not definitely. It was presumably better than nothing.
"Hey, little guy," a voice said, and oh, thank god, it was Ford. He tried to speak up, but his throat wasn't working right either. Everything he said came out as this weird high-pitched sound.
"Easy, buddy," Ford said, putting his hands around John's midsection. Then Ford was picking him up, and holy crap, that was scary. "Control?" he said into his headset.
"Weir. Did you find Sheppard?"
Oh thank god, they knew what was up-
"Negative, ma'am. I have something though."
There was tension in Weir's voice. "What is it?"
"Looks like a housecat." Wait, what? "Black and grey shorthair, about two feet long plus tail." Ford held John up by his armpits. "Definitely a tomcat." Did he just look at- oh, dammit-
"Keep it there. I'll send a team to check it out."
"Affirmative. Ford out." Ford crouched back down, setting John on the floor, and John fought the urge to run away again. "It's okay, bud. We'll take care of you."
After a lot of poking and prodding that, from John's perspective, was really more invasive than it needed to be, he found himself sitting on the conference table
"I don't know what you want me to say," Beckett told them. "It's a cat. It's healthy, it's about five years old- I'm really not a veterinarian."
"Tell them the other thing," Rodney prompted.
"Oh, right- it has the Ancient gene."
Dr. Weir looked positively startled. "What?"
Ford shook his head in confusion. “You tested the cat?”
“I didn't,” Carson protested. “But when he kept hopping up on things and turning them on, it was sort of obvious.”
"There could have been Ancient cats," Rodney offered. "I mean, think about it- if they had the gene, you wouldn't need cat doors, because they could let themselves out."
She raised an eyebrow at him. "Out to where? The ocean?"
"If you could teach them not to fall over the side-"
Ford kept scratching his ears in a way that felt incredibly good and that he probably shouldn't be doing to his commanding officer. "What if it's John?"
Rodney made an annoyed little snorting sound. "Why in the hell would the Ancients build a machine to turn people into cats? They didn't even have cats."
"You just said there were," he rejoined.
"I said 'could.' That's hardly a ringing endorsement."
"Gentlemen," Dr. Weir said sharply.
"Can we keep him?" Ford asked, and if John had been able to, he'd have laughed.
She looked to Beckett, who shrugged. "It doesn't appear to be dangerous, as long as he's not allowed to go wandering around by himself. We've quite a few people with allergies."
"Well, I'm not going to throw him into the ocean," Dr. Weir said, holding up her hands in a gesture of capitulation.
"Dibs!" Rodney shouted, scooping John up before she had even finished speaking.
"That's not fair!" Ford argued.
"Tell you what, Lieutenant, you can have the next cat we find."
"Where are we gonna find another cat?"
"Sounds like a personal problem," he said, stroking John's fur.
"All Stargate operations are suspended until we find Major Sheppard," Dr. Weir said quietly, and a definite chill fell on the room.
"The search teams are still working.”
Rodney's grip tightened. "We're preparing to examine the area. There's a lot of stuff down there we haven't seen before, so it could take a while."
"Do it," she told them.
John padded around the lab, trying to find somewhere to curl up and take a nap. He really felt like he should be doing more to help- but he could activate something with any false move. He settled for jumping up to the top of a Pelican case in the corner- okay, yeah, the jumping thing was really cool- and watching Rodney work.
He sat in front of a console not unlike the DHD, examining something that John couldn't really see. "Schrödinger? No, too obvious. Snowball? No, that's gotta be bad luck." He chewed thoughtfully on the end of his screwdriver. "Too bad Blofield's cat doesn't have a name. Major?" John meowed pitifully, trying to give Rodney the best pleading feline expression he could muster. "Nah, that'd be pretty cruel, wouldn't it? Wait, wait, I know." On that note, Rodney put the screwdriver back in his mouth, which sucked, because John'd just gotten interested.
His hackles raised automatically when the door slid open, any thought of a nice peaceful nap forgotten. "You startled Thomas," Rodney admonished Zelenka as he stepped in.
He stopped in his tracks. "Who?"
"Thomas O'Malley, the alley cat," Rodney replied, indicating John.
"The cat has a surname?"
Rodney sighed in irritation. "It's from a movie, The Aristocats- Nevermind. Billion dollar mission and nobody brings the classics."
Rodney launched off into a long explanation for Zelenka, catching him up to speed- what John understood of it, he'd already heard. He curled his tail around himself- that was weird, having a tail; sometimes he caught it looking at him funny out of the corner of his eye- settling down for a nap.
The name kind of suited him, really.
"John," Ford said quietly. "I know it's you."
He purred in gratitude- not his first choice of expression, but he was getting the hang of it.
"Lieutenant, are you filling my cat's head with nonsense?"
"You're going to make him delusional." Rodney turned to John, waving a finger at him. "Don't encourage him."
“McKay, even if the cat was delusional, how could you tell?”
“It's my cat. I think I'd know.”
[[This sort of cat thing was going to go on for several days. Then, what was going to happen here is that Rodney and Sheppard were in bed, and Sheppard was going to think to himself how he'd kinda rather be all curled up with Rodney while he was a human, cause, like, he'd have thumbs and all. The idea was that the Ancient device was supposed to give him whatever he wanted; so when he thought that, he changed back.]]
"Sheppard, get back in bed," Rodney said sleepily.
"You son of a bitch," he replied, in an impressed tone. "You knew-"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever, we can have a denouement in the morning, but I'm cold right now, so could you just get back up here?"
Screw it. He stripped off his jacket, boots, and gear- he was incredibly grateful that they'd come for the ride, but it was a little much for bed- and climbed back in next to Rodney, not knowing exactly what the hell he was doing. Rodney had an idea though- he pulled John close, his face in John's hair, and promptly fell asleep again.
It probably should have felt a lot less comfortable and a lot more weird than it did.
John decided he could worry about it in the morning.