More than anything else in his life, all he wanted was to fit in.
This year it was worse than ever. His parents had just had a little girl, he'd begun a new school, and he was the youngest in his class.
To fit in, he allowed the abuse heaped on him at school to continue unremarked on. He did everything he was asked to, without complaint, no matter the personal humiliation.
Trying to find a way to make his son smile, his father took him to the theatre to see a new movie – "A Christmas Story". But instead of finding it funny, he recognised himself in the hapless boy onscreen. He couldn't even finish the movie - -he ran out of the theatre in tears when the cruel Santa kicked the boy down the slide.
He cried in his father's arms until he made himself sick in the theatre lobby. Management refunded their money, but it hadn't mattered.
He'd had enough.
At school the next Monday, when the bullies began, he struck back. He told them in precise and descriptive terms exactly what he thought of them.
And Rodney never tried to fit in again. It just wasn't worth it.
Which was why it was such a shock to find himself not only fitting in, but thriving in Atlantis.
He was back on Atlantis when it hit him.
The mercy killing had put him in charge of the military.
The misfit now had a place.
He'd never belonged. Never. He'd always been the odd one.
At school, he was the terminally cool kid nobody really could get to know who was scarily good at math. He was obsessed with the military to the point of near-madness.
At home, he was the ultimate square peg. He didn't agree with his parents on anything – especially his dad. He was rich, but insisted on living like a pauper.
Then in the military, his innate sense of justice and fairness was at direct odds with what his superiors required of him. He kept racking up demerits and, ultimately, a huge black mark.
But he was always true to himself. And that seemed to make him the ultimate outsider.
Only now, he was in charge of the entire military contingent of Atlantis.
He just hoped he could do right by them.
The ultimate outsider was now the ultimate insider.
This felt like the ultimate effed-up Christmas gift.
The first year she'd been with them, these Earth people had confused her.
She'd made the mistake of asking one of the anthropologists the meaning of the holiday they were getting ready to celebrate.
She'd been told of the birthday of a baby who'd been brutally murdered but was still alive and of special trees that grew presents and coloured lights and plants that compelled you to kiss toes under a mistle and fat men in carts pulled by flying deer made of rain in the snow that threw presents down into the fires of well-behaved children and left precious fire-starting fuel for wicked children and of a creature called Nog made of eggs whose cakes were made of fruit that nobody liked.....
She'd become hopelessly confused.
Just when she was about to think the entire expedition was mad, John had found her and she'd asked him to explain this strange holiday.
He'd told her that this Christmas was a holiday to celebrate family and survival and to show those you love how much they meant to you. "It started as a birthday party," he told her. "Celebrating the birth of one of the major figures in our world's religions. The fat man, the mistletoe, the food – none of that's important. That's all 'trappings' – symbols that show this is this time of year. What's important is celebrating family and survival."
Those were sentiments Teyla could completely agree with.
She'd introduced some Athosian winter rituals to her Team, and now they celebrated together as a fusion of cultures.
And they're all the richer for it.
When he first arrived, it was close to the celebration they called "Christmas".
He saw the finery and the light attitudes of the people – and judged them weak. Vulnerable.
But then – he got to know them. He got to really know his Team. There was no logical reason why the four of them should be able to work smoothly together.
But they did.
Their differences should have been too great.
But they weren't.
These people confused him. Amused him. Frustrated him. Made him immeasurably proud.
By the next Christmas – by the time he had been there an entire year – Ronon knew the whys of it.
These people had become a family, and had – sometimes without his realising it – drawn Ronon into it until he was now an integral part of it.
It truly was as simple as that.