When You Say You Love Me- Part Three

– – – –

“Food should be here soon.”

Patrick Sheppard nodded. “I hope us being here hasn’t made McKay retreat to his office?”

John shook his head. “He always spends an hour in there before dinner, it’s a ritual of sorts.” He kicked Matthew who was on the end of the couch. “How you doin’ kid?”

“I thought we agreed when I hit thirty you’d stop calling me kid?”

“Yeah, well, you still look way younger than me… so still kid.” John stood from the couch as the doorbell rang and pulled out his service piece as he moved out into the foyer. He felt a presence at his back and wasn’t surprised to see Matt standing there a gun resting casually on his thigh. “Okay, so maybe I’ll stop calling you kid.”

Matt grinned. “Who knew it would take a gun?”

John checked the door, confirmed the delivery person and put his weapon back in the holster. “Steve. Thank God you’re here—McKay threatened cannibalism if you didn’t get here soon.”

The kid grinned. “Lot of food tonight.”

“Just a little family over.” John took the bags and signed the credit card slip. He pulled a twenty out of his pocket for the tip. “How’d you do your test flight last week?”

“Captain Eliason says I’ll be ready for my solo flight next month.” Steve pocketed the money with a grin. “Saw you on TV. Told all of my friends that I knew you and McKay and they totally didn’t believe me.”

“Then you need better friends.”

“Yeah, I think I do.” He grinned then and as he backed off the porch he yelled for Rodney’s benefit. “Tell McKay not to blow a gasket I made sure there was no lemon anywhere in any of the food.”

“Thanks and don’t drive like an idiot.” John shut the door with one foot and reset security. He turned to Matt. “You want to check to see if Dave is up and hungry?”

“Yeah.”

By the time he had the food out on the table everyone but McKay was seated with beer in hand. He started to go get him but Rodney strolled in attached to his cell phone. He went to the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of water and set it down beside his beer and plate.

“I hope you realize I’m going to have to go back to work so I can develop a scale so I can accurately measure exactly how much I don’t give a fuck what you think. I told you no two years ago and again five months ago. You really making me regret my dual citizenship. Keep this up and I’ll renounce all of my ties to your very cold country and buy myself the last ten years of the NFL on DVD.” He turned off his cell phone and tossed it on the table as he sat down, and then he muttered in French for a full three minutes.

“Please tell me that was not the Prime Minister of Canada.”

Rodney finished arranging his silverware and napkin and met John’s gaze. “I thought we agreed not to lie to each other.”

“You—You cannot talk to the leaders of countries that way!”

“It’s my country and he’s my prime minister and he’s an idiot. He threatened to take me into protective custody. And for the record you’ve threatened to dismember three different federal agents in the past four months so really… no lectures.” He turned to the other people at the table and wasn’t surprised to find them staring. “Hello again. I take it the food is working out for you?”

“Yes.” Matthew leaned back in his chair and tipped up his beer. “Seriously? The Prime Minister of Canada?”

“He’s an idiot. He’d have to have a brain transplant to even be remotely interesting much less impressive. The only reason he’s in office is his wife’s money. I’m not even convinced he’s from Earth much less my beloved nearly former country.” He tilted his head and looked at Matt hard. “So, John, if you let your hair grow out would it do that sexy sticking up thing he’s got going on over there?”

John choked on his beer and glared at Rodney. “McKay.”

“Seriously.”

“It’s a family curse,” Patrick finally said. “Matt just likes to embrace it. The rest of us hide in terror of it.”

“You can’t possible think that’s attractive,” John snapped.

“Oh, but I do. I think I’ll take him around the SGC tomorrow and do a survey.” Rodney grinned when Matt started laughing. “I’ll just have to make sure to keep him away from the really militant women. He might get captured.”

“I’m not above being captured by hot women,” Matt promised with a grin.

“It’s sort of overrated,” John admitted. “It starts out all nice and maybe there are some smiles and giggles and the next thing you know you’ve got a face full of fist and you’re being drugged for a fertility rite.”

Rodney laughed. “I read that report. I didn’t even feel sorry for you at the time. It must have been horrific. You’re just lucky your men came in and time and saved your virtue.”

“Fuck you,” John muttered under his breath and then looked around the kitchen. “Where is your crazy cat?”

“He’s in the office. I think he’s mad that we left him and you know the service never plays with him.”

“That’s because those women are afraid that he’s not even really a cat. I heard one of them say that’s convinced you cloned a lion.”

“He’s actually the perfect size for his breed. Maine Coons can weigh upwards of thirty-five pounds and be perfectly healthy. His vet says he’s in great shape to have been a stray.” Rodney glared at him. “And the fact that someone feeds him junk food.”

“Cheese puffs are a cat’s God given right.”

“Whatever.”

“So, Rodney, my dad says you have three doctorates.” Dave pushed his empty plate away a little. “Why?”

“I was in college by the time I was twelve and had my masters degree by the time I was fourteen. I honestly couldn’t chose so I double majored in Engineering and Astrophysics and wrote my dissertations within a few months of each other. The third came later when I decided that I wanted to build planes and eventually space craft. I’ve only had the Aeronautical Engineering doctorate for about seven years.”

“Must have been tough to be away from home so young.”

“Not really. My mother had bailed by that point and my father was a drunk. It was much easier when I managed to escape. My mother had taken my sister with her and it was no picnic at home. I emancipated myself at thirteen and never went back.”

“At thirteen,” Patrick Sheppard repeated. “You’ve been on your own since you were thirteen?”

“Yes. I had a small trust fund from my mother’s side of the family which I used for expenses and scholarships took care of college. By that point I’d already been recruited by the CIA and made a little money on the side now and again with them. Mostly code work. I developed several algorithms for coded messages and encryptions for computer communications. I still do side work for them occasionally but it’s mostly consult work on communications they pick up in the Middle East.”

“Who else?” Matt asked. “Who else have you worked for?”

“The Army, the Navy, CIA, NID, NSA, Secret Service, FBI, MI-5 and MI-6, and about two years ago I helped Interpol develop a world wide communications network for tracking terrorists and their money. The CIA got a piece of that pie eventually and I got a lecture about playing for the home team. It’s not my fault they didn’t ask first. I don’t build weapons unless they are for Stargate Command and I only consult for private companies as long as it has no military purpose.”

“Who’s trying to kill you?”

“Really? No clue. I’ve certainly made enemies throughout the years. I’ve never pretended to like someone when I didn’t, and people don’t really appreciate that they way they should.” He frowned when his cell phone buzzed and after a moment picked it up. Disgruntled he handed it to John. “It’s that jerk again. I really don’t want to talk to him.”

John sighed and took it. “This is Colonel Sheppard.” He offered Rodney a glare. “It’s a pleasure to hear your voice as well Prime Minister. I understand you had a conversation with Dr. McKay earlier.” He slumped in his seat a little and reached for his beer. He took a long drag and then set it down. “Well, you know he’s had a difficult day and men of his intelligence can’t really be expected to deal with such adversity well. He’s very fragile in some ways.”

He grinned when Rodney poked him with his fork. “Thank you. It was all in a day’s work. Yes, I totally agree that he’s irreplaceable, and I’m sure that in the morning he’ll feel much better. You know stress isn’t good for his disposition. No, I’m sure General O’Neill told you that we have Dr. McKay’s security well in hand. You have my word he will not travel without an armed escort until this situation is resolved.” John’s mouth dropped open briefly. “Well, yes, I’m sure if we ever get married we’d be happy to have you at the ceremony.” He glared openly at Rodney who was staring at him in shock. “Yes, of course, I know it’s perfectly legal in your country. Dr. McKay and I are honored that you would think to host such a thing for us, and if we ever come to such a decision we’ll certainly consider Ottawa. I’m sure it’s beautiful in the fall.”

He swallowed hard and was silent for several minutes. “Yes, the President did mention something like that to General O’Neill but I hardly expected to be awarded a medal for doing my job.” He fell back against the chair a little and let his head tilt back. “Of course, I’ll let Dr. McKay know. Have a good evening.” He disconnected the call and then purposely turned the phone off completely. “I hate you more than normal right now.”

Rodney snatched his phone back. “Even if by some stroke of astronomical luck on your part that I agreed to marry you—that asshole would not be invited.”

John laughed and picked up his beer. “I think he killed some of my brain cells.”

“If you would learn to be rude you would spend less time on the phone with idiots.” He gathered up his dishes and then John’s. “Rena will be in the morning to take care of the dishes. I called and asked her to get groceries and prepare a few things for meals this week.”

“Don’t you think you should go to bed?”

“No, I’ve got about three hours of work.” He grabbed his cell phone from the table and then went and filled a coffee cup. “I’ll sleep later. I want to do a risk assessment on rushing the Phoenix through testing and I promised Zelenka I would check his math on the energy transfer in the Jumper Bay. Did you call the airport and take care of the plane?”

“Yes. It’s in your hanger.” John rolled his eyes. “Didn’t even realize you had your own.”

“Well, of course, I do.” Rodney frowned at him. “I told you I had that other plane and I don’t like renting space that I have to share with other people.” He turned to the other Sheppards in the room. “Please feel free to make yourselves at home. The pool is heated and the Jacuzzi was filled yesterday.” He motioned towards a pair of double doors that lead out to a deck. “There is a gym down in the basement. If you have anything, like guns, that you’d like put in the safe John can help you with that.”

“Thanks.” Patrick glanced towards the coffee cup. “Awful late for that much caffeine.”

“I have more coffee in my body than I do blood.”

“McKay, two hours.”

“Bah, two hours,” he agreed over his shoulder.

“So can we talk?”

John frowned and ripped at the label on his beer bottle. “Want to start with you calling me a fag and disowning me, or should we back up to the point where I forced myself to marry a woman to make you happy? Maybe, we can move right up the part where you let my mother die without ever telling me she was sick.”

“Okay then.” Dave stood. “We need another beer each.”

“Not for me.” John shook his head. “I want to keep my head for…” He glanced up. “I don’t want to be unfocused in case something happens.”

“Water all around then,” Matt stretched his arms over his head and cracked his back. “It isn’t like we’d sit back and let you take on an intruder by yourself. We might as well all be sober for it.”

John took the water Dave offered and glanced towards his father surprised to find him pale with his hands shaking a little. “Are you sick?”

Patrick laughed sadly. “Not physically. I thought I had plenty of time to make things up to you, John. I thought I’d had all the time in the world to be a man about apologizing to you and then today…” He waved his hand. “Christ, I read your file on the way to the mountain. You could have died no less than twenty times in the past five years alone and I would have let you go thinking what you think about me.”

“I don’t really think about you much. You cut me off and it was much easier to push you all to the back of my head rather than deal with it.” He glanced briefly at his brothers who were both looking at him stricken. “Don’t. It isn’t like either one of you tried to make it right with me either. The two of you have always towed his line. Fifteen years is a long fucking time.”

“Your mother wasn’t sick long. I know you’ve always thought that—but it wasn’t true. One day she was berating me and telling me what a sorry bastard I was for the way I’d treated you – something she did every day until the day she passed– and the next she was in coma. She died two days later and by the time I’d found out where you were stationed it was too late. She was gone. The doctors said she had a brain aneurysm and felt very little pain in the end. Not inviting you to her funeral was petty and letting you find out more than six months after the fact was cruel. All I can do is apologize for it.”

John stared for a moment. “Then I suppose I can apologize for punching you in the face that day and thanks for making sure I didn’t end up in the brig over it.”

Patrick laughed. “It was a near thing. Your CO was none to pleased with you.”

“He never was pleased with me,” John admitted.

“Now.” Patrick cleared his throat. “About Nancy.”

“Yeah, the bitter ex-wife lesson. All men need at least one of those.” John drank deeply from his water bottle. “She was my fault. I shouldn’t have done it. I was confused as hell about what I wanted, and what I was supposed to want. I figured if I was married I wouldn’t even think about men because I took my vows seriously. I never cheated on her. It was a very misguided attempt at protecting my relationship with you and the Air Force.”

“So, how long have you known that you were gay?” Dave finally asked.

John sucked in a breath. “Well, let’s see. Probably around the time I went to bed with Jake Richardson from across the street. So, seventeen?”

“Our next door neighbor seduced you?” Patrick asked shocked. “That son of a bitch.”

“Actually I’m pretty sure it was the other way around,” John grinned when his father’s mouth dropped open. “And he was only twenty-five.”

“It was illegal, probably.” Patrick frowned. “So, huh, really.”

“Yeah. Really. There have been a few women along the way but honestly they weren’t great experiences for me.” The door swung open and the cat strolled in. “Hungry?” The cat stopped beside him and raised up on its hind legs. “You’re very lucky he likes you because I’m not convinced you aren’t an alien.” The cat batted his leg. “I’m serious. I’ve considered taking you and getting you examined.” He got hit again for his smart mouth. “You know you’re his cat/alien invader. That means he’s supposed to feed you.” Another smack. “Fine.” He went to the frig and pulled out the food. “You want to eat out of his good crystal? It’s what he gets for not doing this himself.”

“Yeah, I don’t think that’s a cat,” Dave muttered. “At least, not a domestic one. Maybe a stunted mountain lion?”

John laughed. “Rodney loves this horrible thing.” He came back to the table. “So, ya know.”

“And you love him.”

“Yes.” John nodded. “More than is even reasonable. At first I was pretty positive I just wanted to fuck him until he shut up. Because God all he did was talk and talk and talk. Then you know I started paying attention with both heads.” He shrugged and looked out the French doors. “I feel like I’m in over my head with him. He has a ridiculous amount of money, three doctorates, and head’s of state call his cell phone. He bought me a plane on Monday because I didn’t want to be a passenger on the private jet he chartered for the trip to Chicago. He bought me a fucking Learjet in like a two minute phone call.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah.” John shook his head. “I watched him make a three million dollar contract deal in a couple of minutes with a guy he barely knows. Money doesn’t even seem real to him.”

“Maybe it isn’t. I understand he’s one of the wealthiest men in the country.” Patrick raised an eyebrow when John looked his way. “I read the man’s file.”

“Probably in the top twenty for the US.” John grimaced. “And he lives in a pretty regular house despite its insane creature comforts. No live in staff. Total opposite from what you would expect for a man of his wealth. So, how long will you be here?”

“We’d like to stick around a while and be on hand for this thing with McKay,” Patrick admitted.

John inclined his head and looked at him. “Why?”

“Because he’s yours and that makes him family,” Dave said quietly. “Whether he likes it or not.”

– – – –

“John says you don’t sleep enough.”

Rodney looked up from his drafting board and raised one eyebrow at Patrick Sheppard. “Do they teach that sneaking up thing in the Navy, too?”

“Yeah, it’s a pretty standard skill.” He came fully into the office and shut the door. “You seem like a man who has no problem speaking the truth.”

“Very few people would consider it a favorable trait.”

“I like blunt people. I suppose John gets that from me. His mother was blunt to the point of vicious a lot of the time. She never pulled her punches.” Patrick walked to the white board. “Are you uncomfortable with us being in your house?”

“No.” Rodney waited until he turned around to speak further. “He’s mine and he comes with a Navy Admiral and a Navy pilot and a Navy SEAL. It’s an unusual situation to be sure, as I’ve always avoided men in the Navy on general ‘Village People’ type principal.”

“John and I have a hard past but I’m going to do the best I can to fix that.”

“It’s all any man can do.”

“Does your father know your gay?”

“Yeah, he found out.” Rodney’s jaw clenched briefly. “I was eighteen and he came to my apartment uninvited and unannounced. He caught me with another man and beat me until one of the neighbors called the police. I haven’t seen him since.”

“The other man?”

“He was a casual friend and he left before things got violent. Wasn’t really his scene or his situation to deal with, you know.” Rodney looked down at the schematic he was working with and frowned. “I try not to think about him much because when I do I wonder how much of my life I have because of me and how much of it was just to spite him.”

“Either way you earned it.”

“Yes.”

“So, focus on that and don’t worry about the rest. As you said in your lecture this morning: life is too short to think otherwise.”

“You watched that?”

“Yes, I have to admit I didn’t understand a tenth of what you said. When I got my Masters things were very different.”

“Yeah.” Rodney nodded. “It’s changed so much in the past ten years for me that at times I can barely keep it all in the right place. What’s your degree in?”

“Aeronautical engineering.”

“Oh, well then come and look at this.” Rodney waved him over. “This is John’s ship.” He spread out several different drawings. “We’re calling her Phoenix. She is a hybrid of Ancient, Asgard, and Earth technologies on a level we’ve never done before. Her engines are theoretical but if they work correctly she’ll literally fold hyperspace. We’ll be able to travel to different galaxies in a matter of days rather than weeks if we have the power to run her that way. She’ll hold a crew of one hundred and fifty comfortably with a payload of sixty tons.”

“Christ.” Patrick moved closer. “What is this?”

“Those are her X-302 bays. She’ll be able to carry a full squadron of X-302s and they will be launchable from these tubes or out on the cargo bay. The shields are the most advanced we’ve ever made – I patterned them after some Go’uld technology, but they are Ancient in implementation. It’ll allow for six hours of constant bombardment. And we’ll be able to cloak and shield at the same time.”

“Weapons?”

“Lasers cannons, Ancient drones, four rail guns, and sixty tactical nukes.” Rodney smiled then. “John likes to go into situations armed to teeth.”

“That I do.” They both looked up and John was leaning in the doorway. “It’s been two hours.”

Rodney frowned. “I’m not really tired.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

He turned to Patrick. “If I promise to show you the build site for this tomorrow, would you make your son leave me alone?”

Patrick laughed. “Don’t get me involved in your little domestic issues, Rodney; I’m on probation around here as it is.”

– – – –

“I’m really not tired,” Rodney claimed around a yawn.

“Yeah, I can tell.” John pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it in the direction of the clothes hamper. “Strip and get in the bed or I’m going to beam your cat to Area 51 for testing.”

“That’s evil,” Rodney muttered. “Really evil. I think your father really liked the Phoenix.”

“It’s a wet dream, Rodney.” John kissed his forehead. “Everyone really likes it.”

“It’s all for you, you know.”

“I know.”

“I would have totally named it after you but then that would have been sappy.” Rodney crawled between the covers and snuggled down. “Get my cat.”

John sighed, went to the door, and opened it. “Quark, come.” He snapped his fingers twice and the cat bounded into the room. “Insane. No cat should come on command.”

Rodney laughed and patted the bed; the cat gamely hopped up and settled down. “You’re not coming to bed?”

“In a little while, Matt is still up and I guess I owe him a conversation or two. I haven’t spoken to him in fifteen years either.” John leaned down and kissed Rodney’s mouth carefully. “You and I haven’t had a lot of alone time today.”

“It’s okay.”

“It’s not.” John sat down on the bed. “I know you’re really freaked out about what happened and probably still a little angry. I don’t know how to fix either.”

“I’m normally a little freaked out and pissed off. It’s practically my standard operating procedure. I’ll be fine.” Rodney patted his leg. “I’m not a girl, you know, so don’t treat me like I’m fragile. I’m not going to fall to pieces on you.”

“I’m well aware of your non-girlness. It’s one of the more attractive aspects of you being you.” He leaned down and kissed him again. “I’d very much like to crawl into this bed with you but I promised Matt I’d come back down.”

“I’m almost asleep anyways.”

John touched his face and then stood. “I’ll be up soon.”

He did a check of the windows in the room and then made his way back downstairs. Matt and Dave were in the den with TV turned down low.

“I thought you’d have crashed by now.”

“I slept a lot on the plane. You know I have a hard time staying awake on anything with wings.” Dave offered a grin. “It’s a good thing I didn’t have the urge to fly like you and Matt.”

John slouched down in his favorite chair. “So, how much do you know about the program?”

“Dad got us up to speed in the car. Well, wormholes, other planets, alien wars, you went to another fucking galaxy and found Atlantis, and more aliens.” Matt frowned. “Seriously. Space vampires?”

“That look like Marilyn Manson. I couldn’t make that shit up.” John looked down at his feet. “It’s going to get bad, you know. We’re pretty sure they’ll breach our galaxy in the next four years and they’ll feed like locusts. The more the feed, the fuller their hives will get, and even after they glut themselves they’ll still be a threat to anyone that would stand in their way.”

“Is this why McKay is such… why everyone is so concerned about him?”

“The Ancients had the most advanced technology our race has ever known and they lost it all. They lost their city, their world, their entire galaxy and had to run. No matter what we do we have to remember that. Rodney is a brilliant man and he surrounds himself with truly brilliant people. If we have any hope of survival it is with him and people like him.”

“Then what makes him a target? Who would want to kill him?”

“There are factions on Earth and in our galaxy that aren’t comfortable with the level of technology that we have. We’ve amassed a great deal of knowledge, tech, and ability in one place and in many ways the whole thing pivots on McKay. There are specialists within the SGC that branch out underneath him but he’s the lynch pin of the scientific exploration being done. Plenty of organizations would like to have him, but if they can’t have him they don’t want us to have him either.”

“Dad said he was kidnapped a few weeks back?”

“Yes.” John’s jaw tightened in anger. “We still don’t know who was really behind it and I have some of the best investigators on the planet looking. Everything always seems to lead to a dead end.”

“And the guys responsible aren’t talking?” Matt asked.

John glanced his way. “There all dead.”

“Oh. How many?”

“Seventeen, total. I took out ten. I was in a very bad mood when I got there.”

“I bet,” Dave smirked. “Too bad I wasn’t around for the party.”

“Looks like you might be around for the next one. O’Neill is pretty happy with your service record and so I think he has a crush on our whole family.” He looked over at Matt. He had a relaxed smile on his face and his posture was relaxed, but his tensed shoulders and hands told another story. “You want to get it off your chest?”

“I didn’t know why you and Dad fought until after Mom died,” Matt finally said. “I just thought you bailed on us over something stupid and that was pretty fucked up. Then I find out you’re just gay and dad’s being an asshole about it. I kept waiting for you to come home and make it right with him.”

John’s jaw clenched. “He told me I wasn’t welcome and he told me that he didn’t want me near either one of you.”

“We know that now,” Dave muttered. “We’ve both tried to keep up with where you were stationed and all that stuff but it got difficult about four years ago. I guess that’s when you entered the Stargate Program?”

“Yeah.”

“We left you alone because we figured that’s what you wanted. It wasn’t because of Dad.” Matt stretched in his chair and let his head fall back a little. “I thought if you wanted to contact us you would, regardless of what Dad wanted.”

“I was pissed for a while and then I tried to be indifferent. Then I pretty much tried to get myself killed. Before I went to Atlantis I was pretty fucking close to giving the entire world the finger. I think O’Neill knew that. I guess when it comes down to it; he saved my life.” He lifted his head and sighed as piano music filled the bottom half of the house. “Looks like I’ve got someone to tuck back into bed.”

“That’s him playing?”

“Yeah.”

“Is there anything he can’t do?”

“He’s a crappy driver,” John chuckled. “I should get combat pay whenever I let him drive.” John stood up. “Come on then, you can watch for a while if you want.”

The piano was in the library and dominated the room with its beauty and when it was played with the clarity of its sound.

“Did sleep prove difficult?”

Rodney glanced up from the sheet music in front of him. “Yes, I have to finish this piece for the stupid Science channel thing anyway.”

“Finish?”

Rodney flushed. “They want to believe that I’m well-rounded or some such non-sense. When they found out I used to write music to relax, they insisted that I do a piece for the special.”

“Can I hear it?”

“Huh.” Rodney inclined his head. “Yeah, sure. It’s nearly done.” He motioned them in. “You can all tell me if it sucks.”

“It’s not going to suck.”

And it most certainly didn’t. John felt like he’d been punched in the gut. It was haunting, sweeping, and the notes almost seemed to breathe life and light into the room. He’d listened to McKay play for hours at a time in the past, but he had never heard him put so much of himself into the music before. Music written by others soared when he played it—but the music that he wrote was so much more than that. It was like that moment when the Earth became the expanse of space. It was Atlantis rising from the ocean. It was like flying. When he finished, the last of the notes echoed through the room and he lifted his hands away from the keyboard.

“Well? There will be lyrics but I haven’t finished those yet. The interview will just get the music.”

John cleared his throat. “It is totally okay that you can’t drive.”

Rodney stared at him for a few seconds and then laughed. “Good to know.”

– – – –

John was in his office when Major Lorne dropped off this father and brothers. They all three looked like they’d had the time of their lives and he figured they had, since Lorne had taken them for a joy ride in a Jumper. He regretted that he couldn’t do it personally but he’d spent the morning in a meeting with the FBI. And something pretty horrific had happened in the early afternoon, which had put most of the base in a foul mood.

“Have fun?”

“I’ve got to do that, John.” Matt leaned forward. “Lorne said I have the gene. The ship lit right up when I touched it. God, tell me how do I get into this?”

John glanced towards his father who only smiled. “I can’t get you into the SGC immediately. There is a waiting list a mile long, but there is a spot in the X-302 squadron in Nevada. It’s a foot in the door. Your gene will get you a higher placement on the waiting list because natural genes are coveted. If your gene is as powerful as mine; it’ll be a different kind of conversation.”

“That works.”

“It’s subject to O’Neill’s oversight,” John reminded. “I’ll be a total asshole to you, by the way. I can’t afford to play favorites.”

“Understood.” Matt grinned. “You could kick my ass every day. I seriously wouldn’t care.”

“It’s an amazing ride.” John checked his watch and glanced to the doorway. “Sergeant Stills, do come in.”

The soldier entered, shut the door, and halted in front of John’s desk with a stiff salute. “Sir.”

“How long have you been in my mountain, Sergeant?”

“Six months, Sir.”

“And in the six months you’ve been here have you ever known me to tolerate the mistreatment of a civilian on this base?”

“No, Sir.”

“And what is your job in this mountain?”

“Defend the gate; protect the civilians.”

“Protect the civilians.” John repeated. “Would you like to explain to me how you protected Dr. Brown this morning?”

“Sir, I had nothing to do with what happened to Dr. Brown.”

“No?” John stood up. “So, you didn’t stand by why one of the men on this base crowded her into a fucking supply closet? You didn’t stand outside the goddamned door while she screamed for help? Think carefully, soldier, because I’ve got a video camera in the hallway of section 45-D that says that’s exactly what you did. It also shows you running like hell when security was activated.”

“She wasn’t hurt and Lt. Simpson was under the influence of some kind of drug he got dosed up with off world.”

“But you weren’t and you did nothing to help her. You would have stood by while she was sexually assaulted.”

“She’s been flirting with him for weeks,” Sills muttered.

John pushed the intercom on his phone. “Major Lorne.”

Lorne strolled in, offered John a cheerful salute, and cast a glare at the Sergeant. “Sir. We have three options.”

“I’m listening.”

“General O’Neill has suggested we dial the space gate and toss him through.”

“Walking the plank- SGC style.” John sat down. “I can get behind that.”

“Dr. Jackson thinks we should tie him up in the gym and let all the women on base take a swing at him. Vala volunteered to organize the event. She promised popcorn.”

“I love popcorn. McKay likes popcorn. Dad, how do you feel about popcorn?”

“I love popcorn,” Patrick Sheppard responded dryly. “I vote for the space gate.”

“Or we can court martial him and throw him in Leavenworth for forty years for conduct unbecoming, dereliction of duty, failure to render assistance, accessory to attempted rape, accessory to assault and battery, and generally being a poor human being. Of course, he’ll go into solitary, since we obviously can’t trust him to do his duty.”

John inclined his head. “Leavenworth it is.”

“Sir. You can’t do this.”

John glared at him. “You’re lucky to even be alive, soldier. Major Lorne is going to escort you up and into the custody of a JAG officer. Your presence in my mountain is no longer tolerable.”

“You fucking—”

Lorne smacked in the back of the head. “Don’t give me a reason, soldier. Or they’ll wheel your ass out of here on a gurney. Tell the Colonel thank you like a good little Sergeant.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Stills glared, his body vibrating with pent up rage.

“Dismissed.”

Evan shoved him out of the door with a wave.

“Is the woman all right?” Dave asked with a frown.

“She had been testing out a personal emergency system that we’re fitting all the scientists on the base with. She activated hers. It saved her a pretty horrific ordeal and it saved a good man from doing something he had absolutely no control over. He was dosed with a mind altering drug. It was like a very bad acid trip for him. They are both in pretty poor mental shape.” John pinched his nose. “Now I’ve got a base full of men who are going to have to go through sensitivity training and the women are looking at us all like we’re monsters. It’s a fucking nightmare.”

“Stuff happen like this a lot?”

“No, most of the time if someone comes back drugged or under the influence the infirmary catches it pretty much immediately. We have a lot of safety protocols in place for this kind of thing. He slipped through—got by a new doctor who didn’t notice he wasn’t himself. They came in hot with an injury so the rest of the team had been released pretty much immediately. Now the whole team is isolated.” John glanced towards the General’s office. “It’s hit a little close to home because his wife is a female scientist on this base. It could have easily been her pushed into that closet. The doctor who cleared him is probably going to suffer the worst of it. Her career with the military is over.”

The connecting door swung open and O’Neill leaned in the doorway. “John.”

“Sir.”

“They’ve put Simpson on a suicide watch. It doesn’t look good and Dr. Brown is requesting to be transferred to a civilian facility. Dr. McKay is seeing to the arrangements and a private room for her.” Jack’s face tightened a little. “I understand you’ve dealt with Stills?”

“Yes. If the Major doesn’t kill him before they get topside.”

“No loss,” Jack said coolly. “I still vote for spacing the bastard.” He crossed his arms and sighed. “And McKay has fired half of his staff and most of the soldiers today so you might want to go get him. He fired me, too.”

John laughed in spite of himself. “I tried to get him to stay home.”

“Well, he’s good for tension relief. It’s really hard to stay angry with impotent rage when you can be mad at McKay for being an asshole.” Jack smirked. “He fired my wife, too. From her job here and apparently from our marriage.”

John’s mouth dropped open. “Did she kick his ass?”

“No, she made disparaging comments about his Unification Theory and told him there were thirty-six errors in his math. He was stupefied.”

“It’s kind of hitting below the belt,” John admitted.

“She giggled all the way to Neiman-Marcus.” Jack checked his watch. “Speaking of, I’m meeting her for dinner. Take your astrophysicist home, John, before someone spaces him.”

– – – –

He was in Lab 4. He knew it even before he noticed Jimmy and Ian standing on either side of the door. They both winced when they saw him and saluted smartly.

“Gentlemen.”

“He’s…” Jimmy took a deep breath. “Sir. Really. I’ve tried to take him to the infirmary twice today. He needs a happy pill really bad.”

John laughed. “You’re both dismissed.”

He pushed open the door and leaned on the door frame. Rodney was at a white board and six scientists were huddled behind him. John figured they were probably the only six in the building who hadn’t been fired for the day. Rodney actually rarely fired anyone permanently from the project but he did have habit of sending people home when they were being stupid.

Rodney turned and snapped his fingers in that quick way that told John someone was about to get their ass handed to them. “You, if you have a single brain cell left in your head you will leave this room immediately.”

“Dr. McKay, my calculations are sound for a test phase. We won’t know energy consumption and heat resistance until we get into building and testing.”

“I see. So, you think it’s perfectly acceptable to put a pilot up in the X-309 with experimental engines, untested shielding, and questionable energy consumption based on shoddy math you’ve done exactly once in your whole fucking life? Is that what you’re telling me? Exactly how many men do you think you’ll kill before you get the math right, Dr. Drake? Let me tell you right now—it’ll be fucking zero. You are really very fired. Clean out your desk and report to the Warrant Officer upstairs for processing out of this facility.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“I’m so serious that if you don’t get out of my fucking face right now I’m going to call security and have you escorted out of my sight.” He turned without another word and focused on the board. “Radek, call the contract office and let them know that Dr. Drake no longer works here. Have the Warrant Officer search him for data and devices before he’s allowed to leave. Full cavity search please.”

“You unforgivable bastard.” Drake seethed. “No wonder someone is trying to kill you.”

“Are you threatening him?” John asked coolly. “I put a bullet in the head of the last guy who did that.”

“Colonel. No. I was just leaving.” Drake sent Rodney another glare and stomped out of the room.

John hit his radio. “Lt. Nelson, locate Dr. Drake—he’ll be in his office. He’s leaving our employment today. Make sure he doesn’t take anything that belongs to us and escort him to Major Jordan’s office for processing.” He turned off the radio and stared at the rigid line of McKay’s back. “Mer, it’s time to go home.”

“Yeah.” Rodney tossed aside the marker and went to his station. “Zelenka, finish that jerk-off’s math and figure out what is wrong with it because something is very very wrong with it. Get Kelton to help you with it if needed. Dr. Carter is gone for the day but go ahead and send the proof to her. Phillips owes me a report on…” He trailed off.

“Rodney.” Zelenka frowned. “I will take care of all of this. Go home, pet your cat, pet your Colonel – just leave before someone gets maimed by your attitude.”

“Fine. Fine. For the record I liked you better when your English was limited.” He shoved his laptop into its bag and shouldered it. “At least when you were insulting me in Czech I barely understood it.”

“It is no fun cutting someone to pieces with my stunning mind if they do not understand.”

Rodney smirked. “Sleep.”

“Far more than you will.”

John watched them for a moment and shook his head. “Zelenka, I’m going to have security check on you. I expect you in a bed at a decent hour tonight.”

“There is a warm body in my bed right this minute, Colonel, trust me I won’t have a problem finding it in a few minutes.”

“Good.”

“I want to see Jeannie before I leave.” Rodney frowned. “She was with me most of the morning but then was gone with the rest of the women after the thing with Dr. Brown.”

“I heard you’re arranging for her care.”

“Yeah. You know she had a crush on me when I first hired her? Very nice woman, quite pretty, and obviously she has broken gaydar. Very fragile, much like the flowers she studies. How is Simpson?”

“On a suicide watch.”

“I hope we sent that planet a sternly worded surface to air missile.”

“You are surprisingly militant for a scientist.”

“Dog tag fever,” Rodney announced and grinned when Patrick laughed. “It gets us all in the end.”

“Smartass. Let’s go find your sister, I think I like her more than you right this minute.”

Jeannie McKay-Miller was an engineer, a brilliant one and in many ways she outshined her brother in that respect. Rodney pointed this out to anyone that would listen. She’d joined the SGC reluctantly, but had earned a place fairly quickly.

“How is my favorite person?” John asked as soon as they saw her.

“You say that because I’m building you a space gun.”

“Well, yes, actually you’re building me three giant space guns. It’s the stuff of love I swear.”

She shot him the patented, never to be duplicated McKay glare and then glanced over at his brothers and father. “Wow, Mer, you were totally right. Do they all have the gene?”

“Looks like Matt and John. The other two might have latent genes we can turn on with the gene therapy.” Rodney put down his laptop and stared at his sister’s computer for a second. “You’ve got a — yeah. There.”

She slapped his hand. “I see. Have you come to fire me too?”

“Oh well you know I only actually fired one person today.”

“Please say it was Drake. I hate that fucktard.”

“Yeah it was Drake.” Rodney frowned. “Was he mean to you or something?”

“That depends, did you notice him missing an arm?” Jeanie swung around on her stool. “Because if he’d been mean to me, I would have jerked one off to beat him with. Seriously, I’m not one of those little mousy women you hire around here. Speaking of, how is Dr. Brown?”

“They’re going to move her to a civilian hospital.” Rodney frowned. “She’s not mousy.”

“Oh my God.” Jeannie rolled her eyes. “She’s almost bad as the Kusanagi. At least Brown didn’t bow at you before she left the room. I do feel bad for her though—must have been a pretty scary experience for her. She actually liked Lt. Simpson a lot; they’d had several lunch dates.”

All the men in the room winced and Jeannie turned back to her computer. “Go away, Mer, you look like shit.”

“You’re not staying long?”

“No, I’ve got to get on a plane in a hour. Madi is ready to come home from her grandparents and you know I don’t let her fly alone.”

“You’re not flying commercial.” Rodney frowned. “Seriously, why would you do that?” He pulled out his phone. “I’ll get Mark to take you and bring you home.”

“I thought the plane was in Orlando.”

“Oh, I have another.” He waved her off. “I’ll get Mark to pick you up at your house. Give me two hours.”

“Sure, Mer, whatever you say.” She shared a glance with John who shrugged. “Wait is Mark that hot guy with the big arms or that flaming guy who criticized my shoes?”

“Muscles, nice ass,” Rodney muttered as he dialed. “Christopher is the flamer who said you had ugly shoes.” He looked down at her feet. “He was right. You wear grandma shoes. I don’t know how you ever expect to get laid in shoes like that.”

She shot him the bird. “Straight men don’t care about shoes.”

“Straight, intelligent men certainly care. You should try that. And remember McKay rule number sixteen.”

“I know. I know.” Jeannie waved him off. “Since these jerks aren’t going to introduce you. I’m Dr. Jeannie McKay-Miller.” She offered her hand and Patrick Sheppard took it.

“Patrick, my sons Matthew and David.”

She shook each hand in turn and then looked at John. “Hey, would your hair do this sexy sticking up thing if you didn’t cut it all off?”

John glared at her and Rodney laughed as he pocketed his phone. “I swear to whatever god you like, that I did not put her up to that.” Rodney gathered up his bag. “Mark, your house, two hours.”

“Thanks.” She kissed his cheek. “Be careful and get some sleep, you look like shit.”

“Love you, too.” He yanked her hair. “There’s a mistake on line six.”

“Oh there is…” She sighed. “Bastard.”

In the elevator, Matthew asked what McKay rule number sixteen was and Rodney answered in front of three marines. “Never fuck a vegetarian.”

“It’s a good rule.” Patrick Sheppard decided. “Can’t trust a man or woman that doesn’t eat meat.”

“Christ, save me,” John pleaded as the Marines started to snicker.

– – – –

There was a reporter on the front porch when they got home. John turned off the Humve with a twist of his wrist. “Gun or flash grenade?”

“Both,” Rodney decided.

“Stay in the vehicle.”

“Not a problem.” Rodney promised. “Make sure he didn’t go through my mail. I hate that.”

“I’ll add it to your list,” John promised as he swung out of the vehicle and strolled up to the front porch, 9mm all bright and shiny in the late afternoon sun.

“Colonel Sheppard, just the man I wanted to… my name is Davis Holt, I’m from the New York Times and… uh gun.”

“Yeah, this is a gun.” John tapped his thigh with it as he stared at the reporter. “Not the same gun, if you’re curious, the Feds have that one.”

The reporter paled. “I see.”

“You’re on private property and you have thirty seconds to leave.”

“I should make an appointment.” He gathered up his stuff and started to scramble.

“You should pretty much never come here again,” John corrected coolly. “After all, an intruder on the property might be mistaken for another attempt on my astrophysist’s life.”

“I – yes—I see your point.” He hurried down the steps, to the curb, and into his car without another word.

Once in the house, Rodney made over his huge cat, put a lasagna the housekeeper left in the oven to bake, and got on the phone with someone named Jeff. John figured it was the ‘financial guy’ that had arranged for the plane.

“Yes, Jeff, I know I already have some of that done but I’d like to get all settled. Can’t be too careful these days. No, absolutely not, I’ve not changed my mind about any of it. Just get the papers ready—especially power of attorney and all that medical stuff. No, no courier, you’ll have to bring it to me personally. Yes, well that’s why I pay you stupid amounts of money. If you’d rather I pay someone else stupidly, just let me know and I’ll start looking.” He clicked off his phone and tossed it on the counter. “Bastard.”

“Please tell me you are not preparing a fucking will,” John snapped through clenched teeth.

Rodney frowned. “Of course not, don’t be an idiot. I’ve had a will for years. I am setting up a few things for you though.”

“Excuse me?”

“Okay, well we’ll just be upstairs.” Patrick shooed both of his sons out of the room and pulled the kitchen door closed behind him.

“If I’d been shot yesterday you would have had no access to me in the hospital because you’re not family. You wouldn’t have been able to make decisions for me or even have the right to know what my condition was.” He reached out and touched John’s arm. “I’m not prepping myself for death, John. This is about living our life and stuff, okay.”

“It’s… it’s bad luck to plan for shit like this.”

“It’s stupid not to plan at all. I’ve set up trust funds for Jeannie and Madison in case I’m killed. Prepared papers for Last Wishes so it can be separated from my estate and the executor, which is you by the way, will distribute my money to various universities, scholarship funds, and charities as you see fit. It’s been like that for months, before I was even kidnapped, before I ever even kissed you.”

“What?” John frowned. “Why?”

“I trust you. I trust you’ll do good things with my money; probably more than I ever have. But I’m not planning on dying. I’d like to pretty much live forever, and I figure in thirty or so years I might seriously look into Ascension. Daniel’s done it a few times and thinks it’s pretty freaking cool.”

“Yeah, from what he remembers.” John leaned into him a little. “Just don’t do this shit in front of me, okay.”

“Okay, I get that.”

“I’ll get you listed on my stuff at the SGC so you’ll have the same rights… so you can make those choices for me.”

“Right, like anyone in the SGC would stop me.” He patted John’s arm. “Seriously, do what you’re comfortable with.”

“This is pretty damn close to married, huh.”

“Yeah, about as close we can get in this state but that part isn’t important to me. You know I don’t need that.”

“Yeah.”

“Besides, you’re a total caveman. You’d totally expect me to take your name.”

“What’s wrong with my name?” John tugged him closer. “You could hyphenate like your sister.”

“Oh, because that wouldn’t look ridiculous.”

John laughed. “C’mere.”

“Should we throw some stuff around? I think they expect us to be having a huge fight down here.” Rodney pressed one hand against John’s chest. “How are the bruises?”

“Not so sore today,” John promised as he brushed a soft kiss over McKay’s mouth. “If we never have a proper fight how are we going to have make-up sex?”

Rodney laughed. “You are so not getting laid while your father is here.”

“Wanna bet?” John grinned.

The oven timer went off and Rodney shoved him a little. “Go rescue your family from exile so we can eat.”

– – – –

“So, they do this once a week?” Matt asked leaning forward so he can get a good view of the sparring room below.

“Sometimes more. It depends on mission schedules. There is training every day, of course, but John doesn’t participate daily. The room is always more crowded when he is there.” Rodney closed his laptop and sat back with his coffee. “Jack says this is some commanding-officer-soldier-follow-him-into-hell bonding thing. To me, it’s an exercise in controlled violence, where he makes sure everyone knows he’s the big dog in the yard.”

David laughed. “Right.”

Rodney watched John move around the sparring ring with a staff. “He’s trained off-world with the Jaffa and with several other alien cultures. Apparently it’s his goal in life to be a killing machine on practically any planet on which he lands.”

“Not a bad goal considering his mission,” Patrick Sheppard murmured. “I’m not sure I approve, you know.”

Rodney snorted. “I know I don’t. I’d talk to him about retiring if it wouldn’t put me in the dog house. The last time I mentioned him sitting out a mission out I didn’t get any for two weeks. He’s like a woman that way, you know.”

Matt laughed and shook his head. “You know we’re going to tell him you said that.”

“It isn’t like I didn’t say it to his face,” Rodney leaned forward and pointed. “See the big guy? That’s Ronon Dex, he’s from a different world. His planet was culled to extinction by the Wraith and he spent six years on the run from them before he and John met up. When he first got here, he barely spoke at all. Just carried around a lot of knives and glared at people. The other big guy with the gold on his forehead, that’s Teal’c. He’s been with the program for about eleven years and he’s a Jaffa. His race used to be slaves to the Go’uld but that war has been over for a few years. He is over one hundred years old.”

– – – –

John tossed the staff weapon away and offered Major Lorne a hand up. “Much better. Before long you might actually be a challenge.”

Evan laughed and winced. “Yeah, whatever, Sir.” He rubbed his side. “The whole squadron is on hand as you requested so if you want to do the lecture part now, it would give me time to recover my dignity.”

John nodded and Lorne called the ranks to attention. “As all of you are aware we had an incident yesterday that caused great harm not only to a civilian on this base but one of your fellow soldiers. What many of you don’t know is that there was another soldier involved who could have saved both parties but instead chose to stand by and do nothing. He chose to end his career. He chose to allow a woman on this base to be mistreated and he chose to allow a good man in a profoundly poor mental state due to drug intervention, to do something that he will have to live with the rest of his life.”

“Two people on this base were hurt by this soldier’s inaction and I’m sure all of you realize the damage it has done to the civilian morale on this base. If you haven’t noticed the women on this base are looking at the men on this base like we are all monsters then you simply aren’t paying attention.” His gaze darted to several of the women in the room, all in uniform except for Vala. “The civilians on this base are our best hope for survival. They are brilliant, often in their own little worlds, and are worth their weight in weapons grade naquadah. Unlike you and me, they are not trained for war. They do not understand and don’t even pretend to understand the violence that we indulge in even when we are not in the field.”

“It is your job to see to their protection. From our enemies and if need be from each other. We lost one of them yesterday. I don’t believe for a minute she’ll ever step back into this facility of her own freewill. Her trust in us has been destroyed and there is no recovering it.”

“In the following weeks every man, military and civilian, on this base will be put through a mental evaluation and all of us will be going through an intensive training program on ethics, threat assessment, and gender sensitivity. If you fail in any of these situations you are out of my mountain and you don’t ever get to come back.”

“The Master Chief will be handling your assignments to classes. Do not fuck with him because he has my permission to break anyone in half, who even pretends to complain about it. Am I understood?”

“Yes, Sir.”

– – – –

“So do I have to attend gender sensitivity training?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, come on.” Rodney frowned as he buckled his seat belt. “That sucks.”

“I can’t play favorites, Mer. Everyone. Besides it’s a good example for the men in your department because they have to do it, too.”

“Everyone knows I’m your favorite,” Rodney muttered somewhat smug. “I’m a national treasure. Are you sure I don’t get a pass?”

“Positive.”

“Let’s go to my bar. They haven’t seen it, yet.”

Dave leaned in from the back seat. “You have a bar, McKay?”

“Yeah, it’s a great bar even if there is too much Johnny Cash on the jukebox.”

“We can’t,” John stopped at the gate to exit the mountain. “We have an appointment with the FBI, remember?”

Rodney sighed. “I hate them. Can’t you threaten them some more or something?”

“Yeah, no. I was told to behave.”

“I don’t want them in my house.”

“Well they couldn’t come to the SGC, they aren’t cleared for it and the only other option was a hotel room. I’d rather it be somewhere I know the security and the layout.” He reached out and took his hand. “Look, they have jobs to do and they’ve spent the last two days working on this. They have a few questions, that’s all.”

The front of the house was full of news vans and it wasn’t much of a surprise. Rodney had figured he wouldn’t be able to hide the house under a dummy business name for long, especially not after the reporter from the day before. There were four FBI agents on the front porch. John grabbed his cell phone and made a phone call requesting a security team.

“Is that necessary?”

John glanced at him as he ended the call. “Yes, because the reporters provide too much cover for something a little more sinister. When we get in the house I want you to call the locals and complain about the press vans. I’m sure your neighbors are already complaining. I’m going to have a team land in the front yard armed to the teeth and see if we can’t scare them off.”

“That’s kind of hot.”

All four Sheppard men laughed.

“Dog tag fever?” John questioned softly.

“Yeah, probably. I think I have a terminal case.”

John touched him then, rubbing his thumb over the mouth he loved so much. “Dad, if you’ll run point? Matt, to the right and check the front windows for cameras. Dave on our six.”

“And me?” Rodney asked, clearly amused.

John smiled then. “You’re with me.”

“That’s my favorite place to be.”

The shouts from the curb where overwhelming, but he noticed that John shielded him nearly completely from the views of the camera as they moved quickly up the walk-way to the porch. The FBI agents parted like the Red Sea for Patrick Sheppard and they were all quickly in the house. The agents even helped with the security sweep of the house.

Rodney found himself in his favorite chair in the den with his cat sprawled like a guardian lion at his feet. John was standing near a window, alternating between looking at him and glaring at the press. David and Matthew were in other parts of the house, he assumed doing the same thing, and John’s father was sitting on the couch looking at the FBI agents like they were very naughty sailors and needed to be put on KP duty. It was also, he found, kind of hot. He was pretty much in trouble on the entire Sheppard front.

“Dr. McKay, the Bureau would like to thank you for agreeing today’s meeting. We realize that this situation has been very stressful for you.” Special Agent Keith Sellers smiled, but it was thin and definitely insincere.

Rodney rolled his eyes. “Someone told you to kiss my ass, right? Well, skip it and get to the part where you tell me what is going on and what you’re doing about it.”

“The man Colonel Sheppard killed has yet to be identified though there are several rumors in the international community that a heavy hitter was recently taken out. There are four names circulating but our money is on Jamison Kilroy. An Irish national who worked for the IRA for years and in the past ten years started selling himself to the highest bidder. He’s been on Interpol’s most wanted list for fifteen years.”

“So he was a hit man.”

“Yes.”

“How much do you think he was paid to do it?”

“Why?”

“Certainly the more he costs, then the fewer candidates you have for who hired him. Practically anyone could pay a man a couple of thousand dollars but a few million would be out of the realm of possibilities for most.”

“I think we can safely say that it was at least twenty million. A man of his skill wouldn’t get on a plane for less.”

Rodney frowned. “I think I’m insulted. I’m worth far more than that.”

“Mer. Focus please.”

Rodney looked at John briefly, frowned, but then turned back to the FBI agent. “Okay, so say it was this Kilroy guy, how do you trace his money and find out who did this?”

“We have our people on it. What we need from you is a list of people who have threatened you in the past.”

“The past what?” Rodney frowned. “Year? You do realize that there have been a lot, right? I mean probably ten in the last fifteen months alone. I had this anti-technology terrorist group six months ago try to send me bomb in the mail.”

“Yes, we are aware of that incident.”

“It was very Unabomber of them. I sent the guy they caught a letter complaining about his lack of imagination.”

John couldn’t help but laugh.

“Tell us about the people you interacted with at the conference.”

Rodney quickly went through a list of people he had dealt with personally and his various opinions about each, none of which were very flattering.

“And this is the first time you’ve presented in years, correct?”

“Yes. My work keeps me busy and I find conferences boring. As a rule, I avoid attending them and I’ve only presented a handful of times in my life. I’d much rather do the work, than talk about the work.”

“What can you tell us about your work?”

“Nothing. It’s classified.”

“But you do work for the Air Force.”

Rodney glanced at John who only nodded. “After a fashion, yes.”

“Out of Cheyenne Mountain.”

“Yes, and I work at home as well.” Rodney paused. “I realize not knowing what I do might cripple your investigation and make it more difficult for you to find the person responsible, but I really can’t tell you anything more. I also do contract work on the side for various private companies—mostly engineering work. I don’t build weapons for companies and I don’t do theoretical research for anyone but the government. Everything else is just off-limits.”

“And you work with Colonel Sheppard?”

“We work in the same facility.”

“And he provides your security?”

“It’s a side benefit of fucking him,” Rodney said bluntly. John smirked and his father laughed.

“Oh.” Sellers sat back a little. “I see. Well, in that case have you received any death threats from hate groups or pro-military groups that opposed the change of policy regarding homosexuals serving in the military?”

“Not yet, but I’m sure they’ll be adding to the list soon enough.” Rodney glanced towards John’s father and then back to the FBI agent. “The work I do is important and everyone I work with is pretty convinced that’s why I was a target.”

“We met with the President this morning before we got on a plane to come here. Trust me when I tell you that we are very aware of that. The President implied that you were integral to national security.”

“After a fashion.”

“Is there anyone within your work environment who might benefit from your death?”

“We are working that angle,” John responded neutrally. “If we could tell you more we would.”

“Understood, Colonel.”

“When it comes to your personal or even work research is there someone outside of your life that is in competition with you? Who would stand to benefit professionally?”

“The only people who have a hope of competing with me are working with me. I like to keep really smart people close by just in case they do something stupid and try to blow up the planet.”

The FBI agent laughed briefly but stopped when Rodney didn’t even smile. “I see. What about financial concerns?”

“John is the executor of my estate in the event that anything happens to me. Money has already been set aside in trust funds for my sister and her child. I don’t invest in companies or fund outside research outside of the Last Wishes Foundation which I started two years ago. They do cancer research.”

“Yes. We’re aware. We’ve vetted all of the staff involved in the charity just in case. You have nothing to worry about there.”

“No, they are all good people.”

“You have ten people on staff.”

“Yes.”

“Two pilots, and a eight person staff in your other home.”

“Yes.”

“When is the last time you were in your home in Washington state?”

“It’s been more than a year since I’ve had reason to travel to Seattle. My sister uses the house often as it’s close to her former in-laws. The General and his wife used it for a vacation a few months back.”

“Has your staff reported any problems with the home?”

“The houseman reported repeated attempts by various reporters to gain access through the front gate over the past two days but nothing more or less than they have before. It’s my official residence and has always been a target for various reporters, photographers, and the like.”

“And you have a third undisclosed residence.”

“Yes.” Rodney frowned at him. “It’s undisclosed for a reason.”

“Dr. McKay.”

“No.” Rodney shook his head. He snapped his fingers, the cat stood and hopped up on his lap. “It’s private. It will remain private as long as it doesn’t get written in a report and talked about people that I don’t even know.”

“Have you had any contact with your father recently?”

Rodney flinched. “I paid my father to go away a long time ago, Agent Sellers. I pay him well to leave me and my sister alone. As far as I know he’s done that. The last time I had him checked on he was living in France.”

“Do you have that checked on often?”

“I like to know where he is.”

“Because he tried to kill you.”

“Yes, because he tried to kill me.” Rodney shot a look at John who was staring. That was certainly going to be a conversation. He wondered if the other houses were more of a shock or the homicidal parent. “He’s not a threat to me. He knows if he violates our agreement or attempts to come into physical contact with us that he will lose his yearly stipend.”

“At this point we’d like you to reconsider protective custody.”

“As I told your boss, the President, and the leader of my own country—I prefer to stay here. I prefer to stay with John and I don’t need nor do I want a bunch of Feds carting me around the country in a vain attempt to keep me safe. The fact is that you barely have the clearance to read my heavily edited FBI file.” He buried both hands in Quark’s fur and the cat started purring. “And besides if whoever is trying to kill me sends someone than can get through John—they’d cut through you and anyone you brought with you like butter. I’ll be dead either way.”

Keira Marcos

In my spare time I write fan fiction and lead a cult of cock worshippers on Facebook. It’s not the usual kind of hobby for a “domestic engineer” in her 30’s but we live in a modern world and I like fucking with people’s expectations.

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