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The oh-so talented mific did a lovely art piece, The Geek with the Dragon Tattoo that I just adored.

And then I started wondering -



What's the Story Behind That Tattoo?
By shaddyr

At the tender age of 14 years old, Rodney McKay and his sister Jeannie officially became orphans and wards of the state. Or, province really. He remembers the police showing up at the door and telling him there had been an accident, but after that it got kind of blurry for a while. The next time he really became aware of his surroundings, he and his sister had been shuffled off to a temporary placement group home.

Jeannie cried inconsolably, pressed up against his chest. Rodney just held her, stroking her hair while he stared at the wall.


"Mer, what'll we do? What'll we do? Mer, I'm so scared, and I miss mommy and daddy so much!"


The social worker had explained to them that there were no placements available for a pair of siblings right now. She was very sorry, but they would have to be placed in separate homes. They would be able to see each other at least once a month, and could talk on the phone several times a week, depending on the house rules wherever they were place.



"Many of the group homes have strict rules around telephone usage, so you must be sure that you are allowed to use the phone."

"But I would only want to call my sister," he said desperately. "They can't tell me I can't talk to Jeannie!"

"Meredith,"

"My NAME is Rodney!"

"Yes, Rodney, I'm sorry. Rodney, some of these homes have 5 or 6 children staying there, so they may have rules such as telephone use is restricted to between 7-8 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, things like that. You just need to talk to the house parents, I'm sure they will be happy to make sure you stay in contact with Jeannie."




And, no, Rodney would not be able to continue doing his special courses at the university, she was very sorry about that too. He'd have to be placed in regular classes at his new school until he was assessed. Yes, she understood that he was supposed to go to MIT next fall. That he had scholarships. She was very sorry about that too, but since he wasn't of legal age, that wouldn't happen this year. She rattled on about wills and probate and outstanding debts. Next year, after everything was settled she assured him.


"Now, I know it's disappointing, but you will be going to new schools."

"But I'm in a special school!" Jeannie cried. "I like my school, and my friends, and my teachers, I don't want to leave!"

"I know, sweetie," the worker said. "I understand that you are both very gifted and in special programs, but your old schools are too far away from your new homes to be bused in every day. And this is just for right now. This is just a temporary placement until we find you something permanent. Everything will be okay," she assured them with a plastic smile. "You'll both make new friends, and the classes will sort themselves out. I'm sure there will be special programs at the new school you could be enrolled in. After all, you are both geniuses," she said with saccharine cheeriness, "and I'm sure that you will blossom wherever you're planted."



Rodney kissed the top of Jeannie's head. He couldn't let them take her away. He felt a calm descend on him, everything muted like soft sounds during a thick, fluffy snowfall. He thought about running, where they could go, what they would do. He thought about money, how they would get it, how they would live. He considered all the angles and possibilities, then made a choice.


"Jeannie?"

She sniffled, then pulled away to look up at him.

"Go get your bag," he instructed quietly. "Pack a change of clothes, your toothbrush, and grab your bunny." Jeannie's eyes went wide and he shushed her before she could say a word.

"Don't say anything. Don't talk to anyone. Just do it very quietly and then come back to my room. Okay?"

She nodded and scampered off to do as he bid. He grabbed his own bag and shoved a pair of jeans and a couple tee-shirts into it. He'd bee dammed if he let them take Jeannie away from him – or him away from Jeannie. She needed him, and if they were going to be ripped apart and tossed into an uncaring foster care system, he was taking matters into his own hands. They weren't staying with these idiots one second longer than they had to.



Rodney finds it ridiculously easy to fake the records they need to change identities. It's not a piece of cake, but it's really not a challenge either. For about 6 months they live in hotels on fake credit cards, attend excellent school with special programs, and have the finest of everything. Rodney figures the universe owes them one after taking their parents away, and relentlessly beats back the tendrils of guilt that entwine him. And then comes the knock on the hotel door that brings the police, only this time, it's with handcuffs and the reading of rights and Jeannie screaming in the background.

Juvie was not a good place to be. Rodney had never thought seriously about a life of crime, but after being left beaten and bloody in a dark corner for the third time, his anger burned hotter than his fear and all he could feel was the desire for revenge. Shortly after that, his tormentors started having accidents – Randy, leader of gang who had been tormenting him, suddenly tripped on nothing while going down the stairs. He suffered multiple compound fractures from his spill down the unforgiving metal steps and the hard landing on concrete. A few days later, Brent, the boy who always kicked him in the ribs, started screaming in the shower. It was later determined that there was caustic soda in his shampoo. While the burns to his skin were likely to heal without any scarring, the doctor was unsure he would ever see again.

The next time gang of bullies cornered Rodney to use him as a punching bag, he gives them an eerie smile.

"So, which one of you wants to be next?"

Bobby, the new de facto gang leader, shoved him up against the wall. He wrapped a big meaty, hand around Rodney's throat, pinning him in place.

"What the fuck are you talking about, Braintrust?" he demands as the other boys snicker. "And who gave you permission to talk anyway, you faggy little pansy?" He slaps Rodney roughly across the face, leaving a lurid red mark. Rodney knows by the intensity of the sting he'll be bruised tomorrow. He licks at the blood trickling down from his now split lip.

"Okay, Bobby, I guess it's you," he managed to choke out, grinning with bared teeth. "Do you want broken bones or chemical burns? I didn't give Randy or Brent a choice, but you get to pick."

Bobby laughed in his face and gave him a shake. "You expect me to believe that your pansy ass had anything to do with that?" he scoffed.

"Believe what you want," Rodney ground out. "But you might want to watch for trip wires and slick steps from now on. I think a little break might be just what you need."


The other boy stared down at him for a few more seconds. Something in Rodney's expression must have scared him because as Rodney watched, Bobby's face, slowly going from disbelief to wariness, finally settling into fear. He dropped Rodney who slid down the wall, gasping for breath. By the time he'd recovered, they were long gone.

They never bothered him again.

A couple days later, Joseph De Luca unexpectedly sat next to him at lunch time. Rodney glanced at the other boy before returning his attention to his food. Joseph was dangerous. Everyone knew that he'd already killed another boy, but no one had been able to prove it. He was part of the Dragon Gang, sporting an intricate dragon tattoo that ran the length of his arm. Rodney didn't know why Joseph had chosen to sit with him, but nothing good could possibly come of it.


"Heard you took care of the goon squad," Joseph said quietly as he dipped his bread in his soup.

Rodney just shrugged. He hadn't done it to get noticed - he preferred to be invisible. He'd been pushed beyond human endurance, tired of being in so much pain he could hardly move or sleep. He just wanted to be left alone.

"I also heard a rumour that you're good with credit cards and numbers," Joseph continued.

Rodney's head whipped around and he glared at Joseph. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Ah, but you should," he said, taking a bite of his bread. He chewed and swallowed. "See, I heard it wasn't for the money. I heard it was for your little sister."

"Don't you talk about my little sister!" Rodney hissed. He was starting to get that feeling again, where the anger was bigger than the fear, and if Joseph didn't shut up, he might end up doing something that would get him in serious trouble.

Joseph just smirked at him. "You're out of here in a couple months, BrainTrust," he said, using the juvie nickname Rodney had come to despise. "But they're going to put you in a halfway house. You're going to be on probation. You'll never be able to get custody of your sister or look after her with your record-"

"Tell me something I don't already know!" Rodney snapped at him, then grabbed his tray. He'd had enough. Joseph's hand shot out, grip like steel around his wrist.

"I could fix it for you," he said, like Rodney hadn't even spoken. "My uncle needs someone good with numbers. Someone smart. Someone like you. And he's got friends, good, respectable friends who would make great foster parents, friends who would love to take in a sweet , innocent girl-"

Rodney saw red, reached out to grab Joseph by the front of his shirt and smash his face in. Joseph was faster, and pinned his hands to table.

"Stop it, don't be an idiot!" he snarled, then shoved Rodney's hand away, glancing around to see if the guards had noticed. "I meant, you would be able to see her anytime, you could virtually live in the same house. She would have everything she could ever need." He picked up his spoon and stirred his soup. "All it would take was a little help from you, Rodney."

Rodney frowned. "I'm not a criminal. I'm a scientist." He looked down at his tray. "Or, I was going to be."

"You still could be a scientist," Joseph said then took a bite of soup. "But school's expensive. No reason you couldn't take a year or two and earn some good money, spend some time with the sister you haven't seen for almost a year. School will still be waiting for you when you know your sister is taken care of and you can afford to pay for it, n'est-ce pas?"

Rodney thought about it. Thought about how he'd lost his scholarship. Thought about how unlikely it was he'd get another one. Thought of Jeannie, growing up bouncing from foster family to foster family, shunted around from group home to group home, thought about all the indignities he'd suffered while 'paying for his crime' in juvie, and thought about how violence had been perpetrated against him constantly and nothing had been done –

"I guess you're right," he agreed. Joseph glanced over and Rodney took a deep breath before giving him a sharp nod.



Rodney did many of things for the Dragon Gang. These things were typically done with computers and often involved numbers and money. He tried to stay on the periphery, tried not to know too much, but he would hear things. All too often, things that he did had a direct impact on other people, and more than once he discovered that things he'd done with computers and numbers and ultimately translated into guns and death for someone else. Whenever he felt it clawing away at him, he thought of Jeannie, living happily with the Mr. and Mrs. Snow, how they doted on her and loved her fiercely, and he pushed the guilt and shame back into a corner.

As all gang members did, he got a dragon tattoo. Initially, it started simply as a gang affiliation, but as time went on, it became more. With every crime he committed, Rodney had another embellishment added to the tattoo. More scales, more colour, more spines down the back. With the exception of the initial black and white body of the dragon, every bit that had been added had significance and meaning. There are dark stories there, hidden in that tattoo.

He'd always been very careful to make sure everything he did was untraceable to him. He saved no copies, kept no records, and signed no documents. He didn't go to public gatherings where the Dragons would be noted as a group. After Jeannie graduated, he began to carefully disengage himself from them. When Joseph made ominous noises about his leaving, he said he was ready for school now, it was time to get his degree and after all, it's not like the Dragons couldn't wait till he got his PhD. Joseph grudgingly agree, and Rodney finally made it to MIT and the life he'd thought he'd never be able to have when he was sitting in juvie all those years ago.

During his third year, while fast tracking his way to his first PhD, the Toronto VICE squad made the biggest bust of their collective careers, finding reams and reams of incriminated information about the Dragons after an anonymous tip led them to a surprise cache of money, guns and records. Rodney smiles when he reads the headlines, then called Jeannie.


"Hey Jeannie,"

"Mer!"

He can hear the delight in her voice, and it always make him feel warm. Sometimes, he thinks that the only time he ever really feels warm is when he's talking to Jeannie. The rest of his life is just varying degrees of frozen. He can hear loud music in the background, and voices laughing.

"Still in the dorm?"

"I like living in the dorm, Mer! I have great roommates!" Her voices suddenly drops low, speaking in confidence. "Oh my god, Mer, did you hear?"

He plays dumb. "Hear what?"

"Oh, Mer!" There's anguish in her tone as she relates the story that their dear friend Joseph has been arrested for involvement with organized crime, and not just him, the whole De Luca family. She is shocked, stunned, can't believe it's true. He listens to her for a while, and offers what comfort he can, then steels himself to ask the question he's been dreading.

"So how are the Snows? I know they were good friends with the De Lucas." He's proud of how casual it sounds.

"Well, obviously Mama and Papa Snow are very upset," she confides. "They said the police came and asked them some questions, but that was all."


Rodney sighs with relief. He wasn't sure if he'd adequately shielded them. He didn't want Jeannie to suffer the loss of another set of parents. And as much as they may have been heavily involved in the paper side of the Dragon operation, they'd never killed anyone as far as he knew. And they had always been good to Jeannie. That was all he really cared about.

Two years later, while working on his PhD in engineering, Rodney is approached by the US military. After a complicated song and dance about security, trustworthiness and a heart stopping moment when they indicated they knew more about his involvement with the Dragons than the Toronto VICE squad did, he signed the 4 inch thick non-disclosure agreement they dropped in front of him. And learned about Stargates.

After getting over the rage that this had all been there and he hadn't known about it, that he'd been learning things that were all wrong, that he had to un-learn and re-learn his entire field, Rodney threw himself into the Stargate program and the research at Area 51 with a gleeful abandon. He was fully aware that he was being watched at all times – the government obviously knew everything about his past, from juvie through his tenure with Dragons, but had decided his brilliance made him worth the risk. They would have him watched until he proved himself. Which he planned to do repeatedly.

When he was younger, Rodney would have verbally cut someone he thought was stupid down to quick. He had a wickedly sharp tongue, but he'd become more cautious over the years. In juvie, the combination of a sharp tongue and geekiness got him beaten within an inch of his life; in the Dragons, he'd made the mistake of insulting some enforcers who were just intelligent enough to realize it. Joseph had literally saved his life that night, but he'd spent a week in the hospital afterward. He's a lot more careful about what he says these days. The arrogance is still there, the disdain for other people's idiocy; it's just that he's not as vocal about it. If someone really irks him or makes him want to blow a gasket, it's quite likely their laptop will turn to slag at an inopportune moment, or the project they've spent 6 months working on will *poof* into nothing but a corrupted, inaccessible mess. People who earn his ire learn very quickly that screaming accusations at him for the revenge he wreaks on them will simply result in more unexplained misfortunes of varying types that serve to make their existence utterly miserable.

After several years of one amazing discovery after another, he ends up in Antarctica. One random encounter between an Airforce major and ancient technology later, the Atlantis expedition ends up with a super ATA gene carrier on board.

Those first days are crazy – waking up the city, encountering the Wraith, meeting the Athosians, losing Sumner – but crazy gradually becomes modus operandi for the expedition, nothing remarkable at all.

When Rodney stops to think about it – which, really, he tries not to, because who needs the headache – he never imagined having a life like this, and being where he is today. From a troubled youth a criminal history, he's become a respected scientist, CSO of an expedition to another galaxy. And a remember of Sheppard's team to boot.

Rodney knows that people misjudge him. He likes it that way – there's been many times over the years where other people's assumptions about him have worked very well in his favour. And so, he greatly enjoys surprising the Major by being a decent shot; Joseph had insisted he learned how to fire a variety of firearms to protect himself. But even better is the utter shock in Sheppard's face when he sees Rodney hold his own against Teyla and her bantos rods a helluva a lot longer than John did.

It's during that first work out that it finally happens. Rodney was feeling a little cocky – after he nearly died, Joseph had insisted he learn to fight. He'd studied eskrima for several years - none of the enforcers ever so much as looked at him sideways once he got really good with the sticks – and the bantos rods felt very comfortable in his hands. He and Teyla start sparring in earnest, testing each other out, and he feels himself falling into the head space where nothing matters but anticipating the next blow, and scoring the next hit. Time goes by and he starts to warm up, sweat trickling down his back, and without thinking about it, he whips his shirt off over his head and tosses it to the side.

A shocked gasp startles him out of his reverie, and he can't help glancing over to find Sheppard staring, open-mouthed, gaping like an idiot. Teyla takes advantage of the lapse in Rodney's attention to sweep his legs out from under him, knocking him on his ass.

"Your tattoo is quite beautiful, Dr. McKay," she says, and he's grateful she doesn't put voice to the questions he can see in her eyes. "Your form with the Bantos rods is exemplary," she comments as she backs away, circling gracefully around him on the mat. "However, I think your concentration requires work."

He curses himself for six kinds of fool as he rolls to his feet and retrieves the rods. He'd been so careful to keep it covered up. He's not interested in sharing his story, and certainly doesn't want to explain anything to the crazy-haired flyboy who is now his team leader – Team leader! When did his life get so strange? But it's pretty obvious that there are going to be a lot of questions in his near future and it's making him feel a little cranky. He turns his gaze back to Teyla and frowns. Her expression tells him she's up to something, but he doesn't know her well enough to discern if that's good or bad.

"If we are going into the field together, I should know more about your fighting styles," she says, her voice serious, but her Mona Lisa smile tells Rodney she's about to make mischief. "I have sparred with both of you, but I would like the chance to study how you move. Perhaps, Major Sheppard, you could join Dr. McKay on the mat so I could watch you spar? This would give me a greater understanding of your strengths and weaknesses."

Sheppard makes a face. "I, ah, already worked out earlier with Ford, and hey, look at the time! It's almost dinner! Raincheck?"

Rodney feels his lip curling into a smile as he shares a look with Teyla. "Major, you're certainly not too worn out to spar with me - are you?"

Sheppard scowls at him for a moment, then pulls his own shirt off as he stomps over to take Teyla's bantos rods. He steps onto the mat and squares off against Rodney, his jaw clenched, holding the sticks awkwardly in front of him.

Rodney can see that his eyes keep flitting down to the tattoo, distracted by it. He waits a few more moments, just long enough for Sheppard's grasp to loosen ever so slightly, and for his eyes to be fixed on Rodney's chest, then he strikes.

*crack*

The rod in Sheppard's right hand goes flying.

*crack*

Sheppard drops the rod he's using to block with a gasp as Rodney brings his Bantos rod down hard on Sheppard's wrist.

*smack*

"Ow! Jesus, fuck!" Sheppard yelps, dancing away from the vicious strike Rodney landed on his thigh.

Rodney smirks and twirls the sticks in his hands as he watches Sheppard limping back and forth, muttering and glaring at him. Sheppard's going to have a bright red mark on his leg that will sting like hell for the next couple hours. There will be a nasty bruise tomorrow.

"Very good, Dr. McKay," Teyla says approvingly, and he can't help but preen a little. It's not every day that an alien princess tells him he's doing a good job kicking ass. He's going to enjoy it.

"So, Sheppard," he says when the other man finally picks up the rods and gets back on the mat. "I think you need a little work on your concentration."

He can barely keep from laughing at the fire in Sheppard's glare. Rodney's very interested to see if Sheppard will manage to stay focused or if his eyes will wander again. But if he has to tell the story of the tattoo, he's going to make Sheppard earn every chapter of it.

Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
em_kellesvig
Jan. 25th, 2012 12:49 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is an interesting Rodney McKay! Love the "explanation"! Would love to see more of this AU.
shaddyr
Jan. 26th, 2012 02:38 am (UTC)
I am glad that you liked it!

I think there are a lot of stories left in that tattoo, so... we shall see!
londonsabre
Jan. 25th, 2012 01:29 pm (UTC)
This was great! Would love a sequel!!
shaddyr
Jan. 26th, 2012 02:39 am (UTC)
Thank you! I am considering what stories there are yet to be told about the tattoo, so it might happen!
zoemathemata
Jan. 25th, 2012 01:40 pm (UTC)
Loved the explanation! Fantastic!
shaddyr
Jan. 26th, 2012 02:39 am (UTC)
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed!
sexycazzy
Jan. 25th, 2012 02:40 pm (UTC)
I like this AU!Rodney! :) and would love to read more from this lovely universe! :D
shaddyr
Jan. 26th, 2012 02:40 am (UTC)
It's interesting how many people found it that interesting! I may just have to tell a few more stories in this 'verse.
enigmaticblues
Jan. 25th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
What a fantastic AU! I love this harder, sharper version of Rodney.
shaddyr
Jan. 26th, 2012 02:41 am (UTC)
Thanks, darlin'!

I've not written anything about Rodney quite like this before. I think there are a few stories to be told about that tattoo. And about things that happened that added layers and colours.
wolfshark
Jan. 25th, 2012 04:56 pm (UTC)
This was great!
shaddyr
Jan. 26th, 2012 02:42 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!
esteefee
Jan. 25th, 2012 05:50 pm (UTC)
what a fascinating AU and terrific backstory. invisible wires and caustic liquids FTW to protect Jeannie! \o/
shaddyr
Jan. 26th, 2012 02:43 am (UTC)
Yis, Rodney would not allow harm to come to Jeannie. He can kick some serious butt!

I am glad you enjoyed!
lar_laughs
Jan. 25th, 2012 09:30 pm (UTC)
THAT is a great story of a great picture! I love a look at how his life might have been and how those circumstances changed him in the slightest of ways. Love it! Great job!
shaddyr
Jan. 26th, 2012 02:43 am (UTC)
Aww, thanks! I am glad that you liked it!
ozsaur
Jan. 26th, 2012 04:25 am (UTC)
Fascinating, and rather chilling backstory for Rodney. I kind of like this harder version of him.
outsideth3box
Jan. 26th, 2012 08:39 am (UTC)
Excellent story! I love it. I enjoy a darker Rodney sometimes. Very well done!
helenkacan
Jan. 27th, 2012 02:42 am (UTC)
Whoa!!!
You write a very believable hell for Rodney and Jeannie. It's no wonder he'd do anything to make sure she was safe.

And it's also fascinating to think of Rodney as already being proficient in shooting (how utterly unCanadian!) and stick-fighting. Yay for upsetting John's preconceived notions.
goddess47
Jan. 28th, 2012 09:07 pm (UTC)
It's not every day that an alien princess tells him he's doing a good job kicking ass. He's going to enjoy it.

Oohhhh.... yup.... John's going to be looking for answers....

Love this Rodney!
trillingstar
Jan. 29th, 2012 10:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, very interesting backstory for the tattoo. I particularly like the last few lines of this, the idea of making Sheppard work for the privilege of learning Rodney's life story.
squidgiepdx
Apr. 10th, 2012 06:30 am (UTC)
Wow
I cannot believe I never commented on this before... It's bloody brilliant, and perfect backstory for Rodney. Damn well done!
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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