Genre: Character Study, gen.
Spoilers: None, set pre-Atlantis.
Rating: PG/K+, gen.
Summary: Rodney during graduate school. Oh, and there's a cat.
Originally written for the school challenge on LJ's sga_flashfic.

A/N: I'm going with the Rodney attended Northeastern theory, based off the screencap from Duet. Any references to Boston are accurate; I live there myself, and even work in an University in the area (not Northeastern, but am not unfamiliar with it) in a science department and work with graduate students :).

He wasn't sure why he chose Northeastern. No, actually that was a lie. He knew exactly why he chose Northeastern. The fact that Northeastern was the birthplace of super gravity grand unified models was something he couldn't ignore and Boston appealed to him, the city, the cold winters and deep history. He'd already decided to pursue his higher education in the U.S. and the other frontrunner, Cal Tech, was in a place far too sunny for both his disposition and his complexion.

No, Boston suited him, the dreary winter matching his moods of late. The snow didn't bother him, like it did to some of the other students. Whenever someone else came into the lab while he was working, they talked about how much they all wanted the winter to end. Frankly, Rodney started to tune them out; they just interrupted his train of thought. He had been yelling at them at first and of course that earned him no new friends, but he wasn't in school to make friends. He was here to earn his PhD and nothing more.

Previous years had taught him it was a waste of time to think of anything else.

At twenty-one, Rodney was one of the younger grad students, especially considering he was entering year three of his research. His advisor was a bastard, yet brilliant, or so that's what the student population told him when he'd arrived. Rodney and he managed just fine, never looking for more beyond the very basics. Henerson signed his paperwork, Henerson reviewed his findings, Henerson came to his committee meetings. Henerson littered his research notes with red pen and harsh comments, but Rodney didn't mind. Henerson never apologized and never used tact.

That was fine; neither did Rodney.

Rodney, like every other physics graduate student, lived in the lab, and only returned to his apartment now and then. The fridge was always empty, but the lab bench was always covered in candy bar wrappers from the vending machine down the hall.

Sometimes he was lonely, yes, and sometimes he lingered in the hallway just outside the graduate lounge, thought about attending one of weekly grad student breakfasts. But he never did and perhaps he was better off. He was light years ahead of his peers, and quickly got annoyed when they couldn't follow his train of thought. He had no patience for stupidity and apparently that made him an ass.

Oh well. He was an ass that would go places and that was far more important than tightening up his social skills. Opening up and playing nice only led heartbreak later. His parents taught him that, the kids at school reinforced it, and his one somewhat serious girlfriend threw it back in his face.

No, lonely was fine. And in Boston, at Northeastern, lonely was easy.

He lived in a studio. A tiny cramped room with all the necessities and a window that overlooked the edge of the T tracks. Close enough to campus that he could walk and he did. The T was unreliable and crowded, filled to the brim with commuters and students and a tad too claustrophobic for his taste.

It was on one of his walks that he found her.

She wasn't anything special and he almost walked right on by without giving her a second glance. It had snowed the night before and he had trudged through six inches of white when he heard a sound just a few steps away from his apartment building.

Small, strangled, pitiful.


Hungry was something he could relate to. And because of that, and only that, did he turn towards the noise. He approached the dumpster on the side of the building with caution, well aware of the dangers of the city.

She blinked up at him, her eyes wide, and mewed.

Rodney was glued to his spot.

She was a cat, a kitten actually, brown and white and skinny. She had wedged herself into a cardboard box and was unable to crawl out.

She blinked and mewed again, the hungry and lost call that Rodney had heard before, but somehow it was much more real now that he was mere inches away from the creature making it.

For a brief moment, he remembered waking one morning when he was five, and finding no one at home. For hours, no one came, and he'd been unsure of what to do. All he knew was he was alone and hungry and he couldn't reach the box of cereal on top of the fridge, even when he had pulled a chair over to stand on.

He picked up the box, kitten and all, and trudged up the four flights of stairs to his apartment. Once inside, he placed the box on the table and got a bowl. Only after he had filled it with milk, did he reach in and pull the kitten out.

It licked him, a sensation Rodney found disgusting at first. But she persisted and he slowly found the sensation somewhat comforting, even a bit endearing. A moment after that thought, she spied the bowl and dove into it, her little body almost tipping it.

And he smiled - a small, satisfied, genuine smile that he reserved for special moments. He reached out and stroked her fur. When she'd had enough, she looked at him.

He nodded and she blinked.

Rodney gained a roommate.

He called her Coco, though he never ever mentioned her or her name in the presence of any other human being. He actually despised the name Coco, but she liked it, and he liked that she liked it. She liked that when he said it, or even whispered it, she'd pop out of her hiding place and rub herself against his ankles, purring up a storm, settling his nerves.

He was frustrated a lot lately, and she seemed to know it.

His research was taking longer than he'd hoped, the semester was ending, and next semester he'd have to teach, something he hated the first time he'd done and had hoped he never have to again. But money was money and a teaching fellowship paid and let him continue his research. And eat.

Coco liked that part, he was sure. A cat, he learned, was the perfect friend. They didn't talk part, they did their own thing, and they fit so well on a person's lap that often he'd sit on the couch with a project he'd dragged home and not even notice her until he heard a purr under his papers. Coco didn't pressure and Coco liked him despite his abrasive attitude and countless other flaws.

When he finally finished his research, defended his thesis and had his PhD in his hands, he looked out the window at the snow, at the T, and felt fur circle his ankles.

He looked down.

Yep, Boston, Northeastern, Coco, they had suited him just fine.