When You Say You Love Me – Part Two

– – – –

John stood slightly behind Rodney off stage, several feet away and watched him work a room full of very smart people with the kind of charisma and eloquence that was quite unexpected. By the end of his presentation, a full hour long, the entire audience was actually leaning forward. It was disconcerting and it made him want to palm his weapon just to be safe. A glance at Ian and Jimmy confirmed that they were also feeling a little unnerved by the rapt attention being paid to McKay.

He concluded his presentation and turned off the overhead projector that had demonstrated several models of theoretical wormholes. Half the room raised their hands but McKay shook his head. “I’ll be available for questions after tomorrow’s presentation. Thank you.”

And five hundred people got to their feet, talking, and clapping at the same time. It was quite a thing and John stepped forward immediately, tucked one hand around McKay’s elbow, and got him off stage. A few hands signals to Wilkes and Martinson got him a path to the side exit they’d already chosen with hotel security. It would lead them to an elevator and to the sanctuary of the suite until it was time for the dinner.

In the elevator, Jimmy leaned against the wall. “Geeks are kind of scary when they concentrate.”

John laughed aloud.

“It was like watching sharks circle,” Ian muttered. “Dr. McKay, maybe you should just stay in the mountain. You know.”

It was Rodney’s turn to laugh. “You should watch, Dr. Carter present. It’s all that, plus a heavy layer of very geeky lust. O’Neill brings a ten man team when she lectures or presents at conference. Ten of those big bastards—the ones that look like they bench press trucks for a workout.”

“Well, good, no one should be lusting after the general’s wife.” Ian stepped out into the hall, did a check, and nodded to John. “Clear, Sir.”

In the room, they all shrugged out of Jackets and tossed them in a haphazard pile across the back of the couch. “How long?”

“Half hour.” Rodney sat down at his desk and flipped open his laptop. “I’ll have to stay for several hours, you know.”

“I know.” John grimaced. “I suppose we can expect more offers?”

“Yes.” Rodney looked at him then. “The no touching thing is a good rule. They always serve way too much citrus at these things. If someone touched me after handling a fruit cup or something it could be… bad.”

“Understood.” He inclined his head. “Speaking of, where is your epi-pen?”

Rodney plucked it out of his front pocket and waved it. “Always on me. Dr. Lam insists. I also have a few back-ups in my shaving kit.”

“Mind if I grab one to carry?”

Rodney turned and looked a small smile on his crooked mouth. “No, that would be fine, John.”

– – – –

“No way. You’re totally making that up.”

Rodney chuckled. “I swear. She earned her Master’s degree on her knees.”

Ian flushed blood red. “That’s… you’re horrible.”

“You’re in the Air Force; you need to get over that blushing thing.” Rodney patted his cheek and took the wine that John brought to him. “The world is going to eat you alive, Ian.”

John glanced across the room at Jimmy. The soldier looked alert, his gaze traveling over the crowd with the kind of attention to detail that served well in the field. “Stop picking on my soldiers, McKay.”

“He makes it too easy.”

“So, McKay, I was really surprised to see you on the conference program.” The big man that had come to abrupt stop in front of them frowned. “I heard that you were working for the government and weren’t allowed to present.”

“I work for a lot of people, Dr. Mills.”

“You have a lot of people excited.”

“Yes, well, that’s how amazing I am.” Rodney moved closer to John and Sheppard cupped his elbow gently. “I understand your developing a series of laser based weapons.”

“Yes, we bid it on. Once Evers R&D folded we had no one competing against us for the contract that could really compete.” Mills smiled at him then, thin and insincere. “Have you heard from Evers?”

“Can’t say that I have.”

“Funny how he just disappeared. No one has seen him. He apparently violated a bunch of private contracts as well and owes many people a lot of money. I guess we’ll never see that lousy bastard again.”

“He’s always been good at getting away with things no one should get away with.” Rodney passed his full wine glass to Ian and offered a fake smile. “Go ahead and make your offer so you can move on.”

Mills chuckled but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Yes, well, I could use your help on a project. Why don’t I send you a proposal package?”

“You know I don’t make weapons for private companies. I never have. I never will.”

“Everyone has their price.”

Rodney grinned then. “Yes, but you don’t stand a chance in hell of meeting mine. You should check with Dr. Janice, I understand he just finished a contract and is at loose ends. He’d be a good choice.”

“Yes, but he’s not you.”

“Sadly, for everyone, no one else is me but me.” Rodney motioned him away. “Go on before someone snatches him up.”

“So, do you plan to treat all of these people like children?” John asked as the man walked away, back stiff with suppressed anger.

“If I didn’t they would think I was dying or something.” Rodney offered him a smile. “Seriously, everyone knows I’m horrible and vicious.”

“Rodney?”

He turned to the sound of the voice, a voice he’d known a long time ago and tried to put a sincere smile on his face. He figured he failed miserably. “Jason.” Rodney offered his hand. “I didn’t realize you were going to be here.”

“Oh, seriously?” Jason pulled him for a hug. “Old friends don’t shake hands.”

Rodney cleared his throat. “Yeah, well if old friends want to live they’ll let go before my security team shoots them.”

Jason’s head jerked up and he abruptly let go when he encountered John. “Ah, well, I see.”

Rodney glanced back at John and swallowed. “Dr. Jason Morrow this is Colonel John Sheppard.”

Morrow offered his hand. “A pleasure, Colonel.”

John shook his hand and then gently pulled Rodney back from the man completely. It was a neat maneuver but Morrow didn’t miss it. His gaze narrowed and then he nodded. “Ah.” He smiled. “Rodney, your presentation was stunning. Christ, if even half of your theory could ever be proved it could change a thousand things and influence the sciences on an extreme level. When you get together your research team I’d like to be a part of it.”

“I’ve already chosen my team,” Rodney flushed a little at Morrow’s frown. “Just two others actually.”

“Let me guess… Carter and Zelenka?” Morrow frowned. “You know it’s interesting that when you have published in the past ten years that you tend to publish with them or the three of you publish companion papers.”

“They are a good team to be a part of.”

“You should spread your wings a little, working with the same people over and over again could cause you to stagnate.”

Rodney lifted his chin. “I only work with people that can keep with me. Unfortunately that means my peer group is somewhat small.”

“I’ve never had a problem keeping up with you.” Jason smiled then. “In fact, I have pretty fond memories of keeping up with you.”

“Yes, and you also had no problem keeping up with my research assistant.” Rodney raised one eyebrow when Morrow flushed. “But then you always did like to corrupt the young and mostly innocent.”

“It was good to see you again. Perhaps we can have dinner sometime?”

“I doubt it,” John said with a smile. “I don’t let him hang out with people that are a bad influence on the young and innocent.”

“Well, huh, it was good to see you.” He hurried away and Rodney relaxed.

“Ex?”

“Yeah. We were in grad school together but I had this funny thing about needing a faithful lover and he had a thing about fucking anyone that would sit still long enough for it. He also wasn’t nearly as smart as he thought he was and I knew eventually he would start to use me and my research to get ahead. I dumped him as a lover and a research partner on the same day. He took neither well.”

“I could go shoot him,” Ian offered under his breath. “Just a flesh wound.”

Rodney laughed and patted him. “Thanks, but it was years ago.”

“There is no statute of limitations on disrespect,” John put his hand on Rodney’s back. “Black suit, to your left, staring at you like you’re the anti-Christ.”

Rodney glanced in the direction that John indicated. “Ah, Joseph Vincent. He’s the CEO of Pantheon, Inc. They are a high-end weapons manufacturer with contracts with the Army and Navy.”

“So why does he hate you?”

“I stood in the way of getting several contracts last year with the Air Force; contracts that would have let him deal directly with projects that a man like him should never have access to.”

“He knew it was you?”

“I was part of the committee he presented to and I ripped apart his proposals pretty harshly. So, yeah, he knows. O’Neill pretty much let me run the entire process; I guess I made more than a few enemies during that.” Rodney shrugged. “He’s an idiot and his proposal was unrealistic. He figured he’d be able to run circles around some government type and not have to explain himself.”

John frowned. “If he doesn’t stop staring I’m going to visit him.”

“It’ll be fine. Most of the people in this room hate my guts but then they’d all bend over backwards to work with me or have me work for them. It’s the nature of the sciences. Academics are the most cutthroat sons of bitches on the planet; little honor among them.”

“Is this why you pretty much left this stuff behind?”

“Yes. Working for the government is an isolation of sorts and while I do some contract work I tend to avoid conferences and university environments.”

“Dr. McKay.” A young woman approached and offered her hand with a smile. “Julia Kastor.”

Rodney looked at her hand after a second’s hesitation took it. “Ah, yes, I saw you last year in Arizona. You presented a paper on stellar drift and the effects of a singularity. I understand you work for NASA.”

“Yes.” She blushed prettily. “I’m pleased you remembered.”

“It would be hard to forget.” Rodney pulled his hand free and shoved it in his pocket. “Your concept is interesting but your math is sloppy and does your premise no favors. You should pick up a research partner who could do your math for you.”

Her eyes hardened a little but she continued to smile. “Perhaps you and I could work together. I believe we’d make a good team in a lot of areas.”

“Huh.” Rodney tilted his head. “It’s been a while since a woman propositioned me… I didn’t realize women still tried to sleep their way into better positions.”

John caught her hand before the slap landed, but he held her wrist in a gentle but firm grip. “That would be a mistake. I would suggest you turn and walk away before you cause a bigger scene than you already have. If you know anything about this man, you’ll know that it’s in your best interests to cut your losses and maybe by the time he gets home he’ll have forgotten about complaining about you to everyone who will listen. People like the director of NASA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

“Fine.”

“Okay, fine, you are a vicious person,” John admitted with a smile. He shook his head. “You don’t cut anyone any slack do you?”

“If these people want someone to blow sunshine up their ass they’ll have to look elsewhere.” Rodney rolled his eyes. “I would have thought it was pretty damn obvious that I’m gay.”

“Oh, it is.” Ian promised.

“Yeah, whatever, farm boy. Let me know when you want out of your closet I’ll come take the door off the hinges.” Rodney took his wine back and downed half the contents while the young soldier stared at him. “What? Did you think we didn’t know?”

Ian sputtered. “Sir.”

John laughed. “Stop picking on him, Rodney, and leave his closet door alone.”

– – – –

They left the hotel for dinner and the restaurant wasn’t as pretentious as John had feared it would be. They were pandered to but the atmosphere was nice and the staff non-obtrusive. Rodney had told Ian and Jimmy to order what ever they wanted and both men took him at his word.

John just shook his head. “Looks like you found a few guys to play sugar daddy to after all.”

Rodney laughed. “Fucker. I’d break them both and you know it.”

Jimmy frowned. “Hey, I’m not breakable. I mean… not that … you suck, Dr. McKay.”

“Just ignore him, Jimmy.” John leaned back in his chair and ran his hand down the back of Rodney’s neck. “If he’s not picking on someone he’s not happy.”

“So what are you presenting tomorrow?” Ian asked nudging Jimmy and pointing towards the dessert cart that was being rolled by.

“I’ll do an in-depth session on the physics of wormholes and open the floor to questions. Only one hundred people will be let in the door for that session and there will be moderators on the floor to keep it running smoothly. The only difference is that I’ll be filmed tomorrow.”

“Filmed?”

“Yeah, the Science Channel is doing a profile on me and they wanted to film the second session part for it.” Rodney flushed a little. “I have to do an interview pretty soon. They want to do a two part series.”

“That’s cool, right?” Ian asked. “I mean, I hated watching that stuff in school…”

“You and me both,” Rodney sighed. “But, yes, it’s pretty cool. I’ve turned them down for the last five years but I was rather pressured into it this time. So, I’m doing the stupid interviews and I think they are going to interview my sister as well.”

“And the Colonel?” Jimmy asked.

Rodney’s mouth dropped open and then looked at John. “I… huh. I have no clue. Has the General mentioned it to you?”

John nodded. “Yeah, they are on the fence about permission. The Pentagon wants to review all the questions they might ask me before they agree.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I figured you already knew.” John tilted his head. “Does it bother you?”

“No, of course not. I just didn’t know how you’d feel about it. It isn’t like you make a habit of advertising…” He stopped and looked towards the Ian and Jimmy. “Well, you know.”

“Hey.” John covered his hand and curled his fingers around his. “I’ve never had a problem with being gay, Mer. It just conflicted with my career and flying. When it came down to it, it was a really hard choice. You don’t know how many times I nearly resigned. Living a lie is pretty exhausting.”

“Yeah.” Rodney nodded.

“When did you know?”

Rodney raised an eyebrow at Ian. “The colonel told me to leave your closet door alone, Airman.”

Ian laughed. “Come on.”

“I was fifteen.” Rodney shrugged. “I’d just finished my second year of college and my roommate was exceptionally hot. I’d noticed men before but I don’t think I realized until then that I wanted to be with one. I still managed to avoid that whole thing until grad school. My first experience was with a woman.”

“I was seventeen when I admitted to myself.” John leaned back in his seat and released Rodney’s hand. “My first sexual experience was with a man. I ended up married to a woman to make my father happy. That lasted long enough for us both to be miserable and then it was over. My father found out that I wanted out of the marriage because I was gay and lost his fucking mind. He hasn’t willingly spoken to me since the divorce and I have one very bitter ex-wife to show for it. I don’t recommend it.”

“Sucks, Sir.” Jimmy frowned. “I was sixteen the first time I slept with a girl and nineteen the first time I hooked up with a guy. I find a like both pretty equally.”

“Any hole in a storm?” Rodney asked with a raised eyebrow.

Jimmy lifted his glass in toast. “Hell yeah.”

“Slut,” Rodney admonished. He looked towards John. “Is that why you picked him?”

John raised an eyebrow. “Because I knew he was bisexual, yes. I had no idea he was a slut. I wanted someone I could trust wouldn’t let something happen to you because of…” He waved his hand. “I know there are men on the base that don’t approve of me or my relationship with you. And Ian volunteered and I figured I’d let him kiss your ass for a while.”

Ian blushed. “My parents taught me that you make amends with actions.”

“It’s a good practice.” Jimmy patted him. “What about you? We’ve all shared, it’s your turn.”

“I had the same girlfriend all through high school and when she tried to get me to marry her before basic; I ended that fast and just thanked God I hadn’t gotten her pregnant.” Ian shrugged. “Which I think was dumb luck on my part. At any rate, I’ve pretty much avoided all of that since. Relationships are a lot of work.”

“Sex doesn’t have to be a relationship.”

“Shut up.” Rodney pointed his finger at Jimmy. “You’ll turn him into a slut like you.”

Jimmy laughed. “I’ll behave.”

– – – –

“You don’t think Jimmy’s going to make a move on Ian do you?”

John sighed. “I think they are friends.”

“Because I really I don’t think Ian is ready for a man like him… he’ll take it seriously and get hurt.” Rodney turned on his side. “I’m serious.”

“I think Jimmy knows better to play fast and loose in his own work environment and anyone that spends anytime with Ian knows he’s pretty vulnerable emotionally. But if it’ll make you feel better I’ll talk to him and make sure he keeps his hands to himself.”

“His dick, too.”

John laughed. “Yeah, his dick, too.” He leaned forward and kissed Rodney gently. “I’m not ashamed of our relationship, Mer. Not remotely. I don’t care who knows I’m gay. I don’t care what anyone thinks about it. I love you and I’m very proud to be a part of your life.”

Rodney ran his fingertips across John’s lips. “You’re the love of my life. I really can’t imagine living a single day without you.”

John leaned in and kissed him again. “Have I ever told you how I feel when I fly?”

“No.”

“The first time… it was like the entire world stood still for me. The thrill of it rushed over my mind and my chest got tight with so much emotion that I couldn’t breathe for a minute. My instructor thought I was getting sick—he almost took over. Even now when I take a plane up it’s like I’ve got the world at my feet – standing still while I soar above it.” He leaned forward and rested his forehead against Rodney’s. “The first time I kissed you – it felt the same way. When you say you love me – the world is at my feet again and I’m flying. I never want to know another day without you. Not ever, Mer.”

Rodney ran his hand over the back of John’s head. “I can be very quiet.”

John laughed and brushed his lips against McKay’s full mouth and sighed. “Can you?”

“Very.”

“Absolutely no one would believe that about you,” John murmured. “Not too quiet. I really love it when you babble and tell me how amazing I am.”

“You know you’re a sex god, right?”

John laughed out loud. “You are too much. Strip.”

Rodney quickly dispensed with his t-shirt and boxers and watched amused as John did the same. “A beautiful sex god.”

John crawled to him, slid on top with practiced ease, and sucked in a breath when his cock brushed against Rodney’s. “You know some men would be offended to be called beautiful.”

“You’re not one of them.” He spread his legs wide and ran both hands down John’s back to cup his ass. “Move. I want you to come on me.”

John groaned softly. “If you keep talking to me like that… they’ll hear me.”

Rodney laughed then, full and rich with amusement. “Relax, and forget about them. This is about you and me.”

– – – –

“So, huh.” Jimmy glanced towards the door. “We should totally ignore that right?”

“Yeah.” Ian nodded his gaze focused on the television. “Totally and completely. I mean it could be anything.”

Jimmy chuckled. “Yeah, anything. You’d think a hotel this nice would have beds that didn’t squeak like that.”

Ian laughed. “Shut up. Christ. We’re ignoring it.”

“Yep, totally ignoring our hot CO is in there doing his sexy too smart for his own good boyfriend.” Jimmy leaned back on the couch. “I need headphones.”

“They have a good relationship, don’t they?”

“Yeah.” Jimmy swallowed then and nodded. “It’s obvious they love each other. I’ve never had that—not with a man or a woman. I’d like to say that it doesn’t exist but then you look at those two and even the General and his wife and you know that it does exist and you just haven’t been lucky enough to find it.”

“I thought I loved Sara but I didn’t. I mean if I’d loved her, I sure as hell couldn’t have left her behind when I went off to basic. I would have married her, right?”

“Right.” Jimmy nodded and glanced towards the door again. “If I have that kind of stamina when I’m forty I’ll be really happy with myself.”

Ian plucked a pillow from the couch and covered his face. “Shut up.”

“Right, we’re ignoring the hot sex that’s taking place in the next room.” Jimmy grinned. “So you’ve never kissed a guy or anything?”

“Well,” Ian began with a sigh. “There was a guy in basic. Just a few times and it was just blow jobs. It was four times better than anything I’d ever done with Sara and that’s when I figured I was in trouble.”

“Bates?”

“It’s easier to ignore what I want when there is someone around to tell me how horrible it is.” Ian’s fist clutched in the pillow. “That’s cowardly, right?”

“Cut yourself some slack. I mean a lot of people have trouble coming to terms with what they want and how they are going to live their life. Life and sex is complicated.”

Ian glanced towards the door. “It seems pretty easy for them. You see how they are together. I mean, they aren’t like that on the base so I really had no idea.”

“Yeah.” Jimmy nodded. “I get what you’re saying but all couples fight and have problems. They just aren’t doing it in front of us. The Colonel is way too level headed to loose his cool in front of an audience.”

“Yeah, but McKay isn’t.”

Jimmy laughed and then shook his head. “No obviously, McKay can’t ever keep quiet.”

“We’re ignoring it!” Ian muttered.

“Yeah, but I bet the Colonel is the best fucking thing ever. I mean, McKay’s the smartest man on the planet so I guess he’d know.”

– – – –

“Coffee.” John offered his own cup and Rodney took it immediately. “Is there more?”

“Yeah, room service brought a pot.” John jerked his head towards Ian and Jimmy who were eating and focused on their plates.

Rodney smirked and slid into his own seat. “Do you think I should apologize?”

John shook his head and turned his attention back to his PDA. “SG4 thinks they’ve located some naquadria.”

“Teasing bastards. I seriously doubt it.” McKay filled up the plate in front of him from the platters of food room service and brought and then refilled the coffee cup he was sharing with John. “Did you call the airport?”

“Yes, dear.”

“Is that your way of telling me that I nag?”

“Nope.” John grinned, and started to thumb through his in box. “Pentagon approved the interview thing with the Science Channel. Set up it up for next week. They want to do it at your house.”

“Nice. Are we supposed to pretend you live there? If so, we should rearrange a few things.”

John sighed. “Yeah, probably so. I guess if we’re going to be the big gay poster couple for the Pentagon…”

Rodney snorted. “Christ, you’re right. That’s exactly what we’ll be. Won’t that be grand.”

“You aren’t upset that they are using your personal life to further the current government leader’s agenda?” Ian asked.

John shrugged and Rodney laughed. “It’s so charming when he’s innocent like this.” Rodney relaxed in his chair and plucked up a piece of bacon. “We could say no, sure. We’d pay for it other ways. Budget cuts, more reviews, suddenly John is stationed at the Ancient Outpost again or I end up at Area 51.”

“General O’Neill wouldn’t let that happen.”

“There are people that even General O’Neill must answer to,” John said quietly. “And that is exactly what would happen. So, we take one for the team. It isn’t like we have anything to hide and they aren’t asking us to lie about our relationship. It’s an invasion of privacy but it’s a controlled one. They certainly not going to make us answer sex questions or anything—it’s not HBO.”

– – – –

The presentation was just as smooth and apparently enthralling as the first one and the smaller crowd was rapt in their attention. John seriously wondered how O’Neill let his wife do this so often. It was disconcerting and if he had to watch people lust after Rodney he’d probably be a little homicidal by the end of the first conference.

Well, some of them were lusting… he made a note of the men and women who were looking a little too hard. He’d keep an eye on them. He scanned the back of the room, checked the doors and then the side door. Ian was on the other end of the stage and Jimmy was moving around the back of the crowd.

They had the room basically covered and conference security and approved each person who had entered the room. Yet, John felt something deep in his gut that had put him on edge. It had, in turn, put both of his soldiers on edge.

“Dr. McKay, your theory makes the assumption that matter can only travel one way through a wormhole. What about data? Say, communications?”

“Theoretically, once a wormhole between two points is established communication would be possible.” Rodney inclined his head. “Your name?”

“Stephanie Peters.”

Rodney plucked a card out of his pocket and scribbled on the back of it. “When you finish your dissertation, I want you to call me.” The young woman immediately slid out into the aisle, up to the stage and grabbed the card. “The very day, Ms. Peters.”

“Yes, sir.” She smiled, her eyes a little wide with hero worship.

“Don’t get your hopes up; I’m a real bastard to the people who work for me.”

“I know,” she called over her shoulder and the rest of the crowd laughed.

“Next question?”

“Do you think we’ll be able to travel using wormholes in our life time?”

Rodney paused and inclined his head. “Yes.”

“Where we would we go?”

“Seriously?” Rodney asked and then laughed. “Where wouldn’t we go? The universe would be our playground. Life is too short to think anything else.”

John saw the flash of metal out of the corner of his eye and then a thin horrific red line of a laser sight. It was the last thing he’d expected. He was moving before it even fully registered. He felt the impact of the first round as he spun Rodney around and leveled his own gun at the man on the front row. The second round hit him as he fired, Ian and Jimmy were on the stage seconds after he and McKay hit the ground.

“Martinsen, secure the weapon,” John snapped out between clenched teeth. “Wilkes, the door!”

Jimmy immediately went to the gunman and took the weapon. The crowd, a mixture of screaming and stunned silence, were packed into one corner of the room with security and the camera crew was still in the same spot filming. He wanted to yell at them to cut it off but turned instead and went back to the stage.

“Sir?”

“I’m fine,” John sucked in a breath. “Vest or no vest, that fucking hurt.”

Rodney clutched at him briefly and then helped him out of his jacket. “I can’t fucking believe you.”

“Yeah, well, I can’t fucking believe someone shot at you.” John glared at the dead man. “Jimmy search that bastard before locals get here. Check for identification.” He shrugged out of his shirt and then unbuckled the bullet proof vest. “Then call the General. We’re going to need him. I want to be in the air within the hour.”

Rodney ran his hands down John’s chest, underneath the vest. “You’re okay.”

“Yeah, Mer, I’m fine.” He sucked in a breath. “Well, mostly fine. It just stings.”

Rodney helped him pull the vest off and tossed it aside. “Can you stand?”

“Yeah.” John took a deep breath and leaned forward. “Give me a minute.” He looked towards Ian who was standing beside the dead man. “Anything?”

“No. Doesn’t even have labels in his clothes.”

John rolled to his feet, his gun still in his hand, and looked around the room. His gaze flicked towards the camera crew once and he sighed. “Well, won’t that be fantastic in your two part interview series.”

Rodney’s mouth dropped open. “Oh.”

John let his gun rest against his thigh and used his free hand to pull McKay close. “I didn’t hurt you, did I? We hit the ground pretty hard.”

“No, I’m fine.” He tucked his face against John’s neck. “I’m fine. I want to go home.”

– – – –

“We were informed that you’d like to leave as soon as possible.”

John glanced back towards the bedroom where Rodney was packing them both. “We are leaving. You have ten minutes.”

“Colonel Sheppard.” The detective frowned. “I’ve got a dead man downstairs.”

“I’ve got a man in the other room who was nearly killed today by that dead man downstairs and the FBI is waiting downstairs to escort us to the airport. You have a copy of the video from the camera crew, and statements to take from one hundred people. I did my job today; it’s that simple.”

The detective paused then. “So the Feds will take this from us right?”

“Any minute and be grateful, gentlemen. You don’t even want to stick your finger in this mess given a choice.” John stood as Ian and Jimmy left their room both in uniform, complete with tac vests and P-90s. “I fired one round and it’s in the gun man’s head.” John pulled his gun out of the holster. “You can have the weapon for evidence.”

“Thanks.” He watched as Ian handed John another weapon. “So, this guy in the other room… he’s a big deal?”

John paused. “Yes.” The door opened and Rodney came out.

“I’m ready. Should I ask the front desk….”

“No. Ian and Jimmy will handle the luggage. I don’t want to give anyone a chance to mess with it.”

Rodney paled and nodded. “Of course. I’ll get my computers.”

– – – –

An armored vehicle to the airport, a very terse conversation with two FBI agents, and then all four were on the plane home. Rodney hid behind his computer the entire trip, his hands shaking only slightly as he moved them over the keyboard. A vehicle from the SGC met them at the airport and John bundled Rodney into the Humve without much conversation. They all figured that McKay was only a few short words from a nuclear meltdown. John had never actually witnessed him such a state but he’d heard enough about to know that he’d prefer it was a private thing.

He prodded McKay into his room at the SGC and dropped their bags by the door. With a nod to Ian and Jimmy, he shut and locked the door. “Mer.”

Rodney sat down on the bed. “I told you, John. I told you I’d never be able to take it if you died for me.”

“Hey, whoa.” John went to him and slid down on his knees in front of him. “I’m not dead. I’m not even bleeding. I’ve just got a few bruises, a bad attitude, and a few irritated FBI agents to deal with.” He took Rodney’s hands in his and closed his eyes briefly. “Look, there is never going to be a day when I don’t come for you, when I don’t do my damnedest to keep you safe, when I don’t put myself between you and whatever the fuck the universe throws at us. I want to live for you but I could never live with myself if I didn’t do everything to keep you from harm. Everything.”

Rodney shuddered when John placed a soft kiss against the top of his hand. “It happened so fast and I keep hearing the gun off. Your body jerked and jerked.” He swallowed hard. “That seriously sucked, John. I mean… seriously.”

“I know.” He wrapped his arms around him and rubbed his face against McKay’s heart briefly. “I’m sorry. I can’t believe I didn’t check with security to make sure they were keeping weapons out of the fucking hall.”

“Why would that cross their minds?” Rodney asked softly. “It was supposed to be a bunch of geeks. Do you think it’s connected to the kidnapping? I mean…”

“I think it’s entirely likely. We’ve yet to figure out who Evers was working for or why he felt compelled to destroy his whole company to do it. None of that makes sense and he had to have incentives that just aren’t clear to us right now.” He stood reluctantly. “The General needs me upstairs.”

“I know.” Rodney stood as well. “So, let’s go.”

John smiled then and shook his head. “No, you rest.” He leaned and kissed his mouth softly and for a moment let himself get lost there in the taste of coffee and McKay. “We’ll call you up when we need you. I’d really feel better if you stayed here for a while. Jimmy and Ian are going to stay on the door.”

“I need security in the SGC?” Rodney asked with a frown.

“For now, yes.” John leaned in a little closer and sucked a breath. “Just indulge me a little here.”

– – – –

John entered the conference room and almost turned around and left immediately. Only years of training made him step forward. The last person he expected to see was his father. “Admiral.”

Admiral Patrick Sheppard shot his son an amused smile. “John. General O’Neill has been filling me on your mission here.”

“I wasn’t aware you had clearance for it.” John’s back ached he was so tight and after a moment he flowed into parade rest which he knew amused O’Neill to no end. He could see the smile cracking around the man’s mouth.

“He didn’t until about three hours ago.” Jack motioned to a chair at the table. “Sit, John.”

John sat, his back still ramrod straight.

“How is McKay?”

John swallowed hard. “Unnerved, a little irritated with me, and I figure he’s going to explode pretty soon. His temper is like another person in the room.”

Jack laughed. “Yes, it is. How is your chest? Two rounds from a Glock even with a vest can’t feel too great.”

“Bruised. Very bruised. I haven’t hurt like that since that Wraith fed on me.” John rubbed his chest at the thought. “Other than, we’re both fine. The locals made a show of questioning me, but they obviously wanted to question Rodney so I brushed them off with the help of the Feds. The Feds wanted to keep me on the ground, too.”

“I know.” Jack inclined his head. “You really have to stop threatening them, John. Pretty soon none of them will want to play with you and I’ll have to start bribing them to even come over to the house.”

John snorted. “Yes, Sir.”

“The local FBI confiscated the body and all the evidence shortly after you left the hotel. They’ve promised me access at the highest level; mostly because if they didn’t I was going to call in a favor and get NCIS to investigate it instead. The jurisdiction could be a little blurred because one of the men on the scene is a Marine and McKay does have contracts with the Navy.” Jack leaned back in his chair. “The footage of the attempt is all over the news… I mean ALL over the news. It’s the story of the day. You’ve both been identified and the Pentagon is torn between some weird ass glee at the publicity of one our soldiers at the top of his game and dismay that it even happened at all. You know how much they love/hate McKay.”

“Yes. Any word from his government?”

“Oh yes. The Prime Minister has been on the phone with the President twice in the last hour alone demanding to know why we didn’t have more security at the hotel and why he only had a three man team with him. Then I had to explain to the President that McKay has never had a personal security detail while working with us and he’d sent Secret Service packing three years ago when he came to Colorado permanently.” Jack frowned. “He’s not happy with McKay, mostly unhappy with me, but he thinks you make the Sun shine.”

John spread his fingers out on the table. “Rodney is my responsibility and I realize that I made some mistakes on this trip…”

“John.” Jack shook his head. “You put yourself between McKay and a bullet. No one expected someone to take a shot at him… hell there are governments all over this planet and some off-planet that would pay a King’s ransom to have him in hand but they’d prefer him to be very much alive. As an asset, there are few people on this planet who are more valuable. I’ve had other worlds offer to fucking buy the man. The people of PY2-X45 offered me a Go’uld mother ship for him.”

John laughed.

“I declined; of course, Go’uld ships are always so fussy and pretentious.” Jack picked up his PDA. “Not that you really care, but the President has made noise about another medal and it will probably be a very public ceremony.”

“Great.” John sucked in a breath and then he looked at his father. He hadn’t seen the man in a very long time and he was oddly pleased to see that time had treated him well. Far better than John had expected. “I’ll be all shiny and patriotic on TV, Sir.”

“I have faith.” Jack stood and walked to the large window that showed off the gateroom. “They’ll make a media circus out of this, John, far worse than it would have been otherwise. You know that.”

“I do.”

“Probably didn’t help that the entire thing got out… I mean the part where you know he was all concerned, checking you for bullet holes, and patting you and you were all huggy and protective. It was very romantic.”

John groaned. “Christ, Sir, you promised me you were going to stop saying things like that.”

Jack laughed. “Not me. I’m just repeating my wife.” Jack walked to the door. “I’m going to leave you two alone for a few minutes and then I’ll be back with the team and McKay.”

“Thank you,” Patrick Sheppard murmured.

John lifted his head as the door shut. “This is a surprise.”

“Seeing you take a bullet on CNN was a bit of a surprise as well.” Patrick stood from the table and took a moment to smooth his dress uniform as if it gave him some power in the conversation. “O’Neill told me about your job here and about … Christ, son, you left the fucking planet on a suicide mission and didn’t even tell me?”

John’s jaw tightened. “You made it pretty clear where we stood, Sir. What was left to say?”

“Okay.” Patrick forced himself to sit back down. “I’ve made mistakes. I said things on that day that I regret. I mean really regret. I don’t even know how much I regretted until I was sitting there in my office in Virginia watching that fucking video on TV for the tenth time. My oldest son taking two bullets in the chest is not an image I ever wanted to see and the first time I saw it—the first time I thought you were dead for a second and it was fucking ridiculous how incredible stupid and petty I felt in that moment.”

“I’m still gay.”

“I noticed,” Patrick said with a small laugh. “I read about him on the way here… and watched the entire lecture before the shooting. He’s a very smart man.”

“Yes.”

“He’s saved the planet a few times.”

“Yes.”

“So have you.”

“Once or twice,” John met his father’s gaze and was stunned to remember they had the same eyes. “Where are David and Matthew?”

“They are both on their way here. David was in California and Matthew was on leave. I’ve pulled them both here for an indefinite amount of time.”

“Pays to have a daddy as an Admiral?” John asked, unwillingly amused.

Patrick nodded. “At times. Is that why you picked the Air Force? It wasn’t for the planes—you could have flown in the Navy. You wanted out of my world?”

“I wanted to go into space. NASA has always favored Air Force pilots for the space program. But it turned out I was too much of a soldier for them.”

“You still managed to get into space.”

“Yes.” John glanced towards the Stargate. “Which the General thinks is going to be public knowledge soon enough. I’m not sure I’m ready for that.” There was a brisk knock at the door and then it swung open.

Radek and Rodney came through first and took over the end of the table nearest John talking to themselves. Between them they had brought two laptops, one tablet pc, and a pot of coffee.

“You do realize that there is coffee here already.”

Radek wrinkled his nose. “That’s crap. We do not drink crap. Crap is for people who do not care where their coffee comes from. Crap is for degreasing the engines in the motor pool.” He looked down the table and caught sight of the other person in the room. “Good afternoon.” Radek stood and offered his hand across the table. “Dr. Radek Zelenka.”

“Admiral Patrick Sheppard.” He took Radek’s hand and offered a smile. “I’ve read about you this morning, Dr. Zelenka, I look forward to seeing the X-302. I understand you built the engines.”

“Ah, well it is an impressive plane. Rodney does nothing by half.”

Rodney looked at Patrick Sheppard over the rim of his cup, his eyes dark with questions and a fair amount of temper. “Are you here to make things worse for him because frankly after our day I think I might have to really ruin your life if you are.”

“No.”

Rodney stood and offered his hand. “Dr. Rodney McKay. You can call me Rodney. I’m sure you’ve read my file, don’t ever call me Meredith I hate it.”

Patrick took his hand gave him a smile that he’d always seen on John’s face. “Rodney then.”

“Do your other two sons look so much like you?”

“Yes.”

“Then I must congratulate you on the successful dispersal of your genetic material.” Rodney pulled his hand free. “Though I’m not sure what the world did to deserve four of you.”

John rubbed his face with both hands in frustration. “Did you call your sister?”

“Yes, of course. You know it’s all over the news right?”

“Yes.”

Rodney patted his arm as he sat back down. “Relax, being a hero is your job.”

Before John could respond the room filled with people. Sergeant Stackhouse slid into a seat in front of him and smirked.

“Stackhouse.”

“That was some damn fine soldiering, Colonel.”

“Well, you know my day isn’t complete unless I have a body count.” He motioned down the table. “Sergeant Marcus Stackhouse meet my father Admiral Patrick Sheppard.”

Every uniform in the room lurched to their feet in attention and John shared a smirk with his father that made Rodney laugh while John finished naming off the people in the room, ending with Major Evan Lorne who was standing just left of John’s chair.

“At ease, everyone. My visit here is very unofficial.” Patrick shared a glance with O’Neill has he returned. “Though your General has made some noise about requesting a SEAL team or two.”

“John always likes new people to beat up,” Jack said with a smile as he slid into his chair. “He already broke the Army Rangers I brought in last week so I figured a SEAL team or two might keep him busy for a while. When he’s not playing hero on national TV that is.” He motioned to the large TV on the wall. “Show me the footage again, Radek, and John let me know when you notice the gunman.”

John watched silently through the last statement McKay had made to the room, the angle of the camera had both of them in the frame. He hadn’t been aware of that; he’d honestly figured they would concentrate entirely on Rodney. “There.”

Radek paused the footage.

“Do we know who he is?”

“Facial recognition software is still running and Lam is on her way to Chicago to oversee the autopsy so we’ll get results faster,” Radek responded as he moved to Rodney’s computer and then back to his own.

“He’s a pro,” John finally said. “He expected a room full of academics and barely trained security. He knew if he took his shot that the crowd would go nuts and he’d have no problem escaping. He probably spent days in the hotel before we even arrived scouting the place out, preparing his exits.”

“Because that’s what you would have done.”

John turned and looked at Rodney, found his expression unreadable. “Yes. It’s what I would have done. He just didn’t prepare for me.”

“I don’t know how anyone could,” Rodney said with a small smile that went all the way to his eyes.

– – – –

Rodney had called ahead and got the maid service to prepare guestrooms and now he had a house full of Sheppards. It was a little unnerving to think that they were all in there, probably sitting in stony silence that John was famous for when he really didn’t want to talk at all. He glanced at Jimmy as the Humve pulled into the drive. “So, coming in?”

Jimmy laughed. “Ha, no way in hell. Sorry, Doc, you’re on your own. Look at it this way—they were only thirty minutes ahead of us so I doubt they’ve declared war in there, yet.”

Rodney nodded. He’d only gotten a glimpse of Matthew and David before John had ushered the lot of them out of the mountain. John had wanted to force McKay into the SUV too and they’d had a little ‘eye’ argument over it but Rodney had won.

“I’m asking for a new guard.”

Jimmy grinned. “You know you’d miss me. I’ll help you carry your stuff in.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Jimmy abandoned him at the front door and he set the security with a sigh only to turn and find John standing there. “Hey.”

“Hey.” John frowned. “You suck you know.”

“I think we’ve already discussed how much you like that so I don’t know why you treat it like an insult.”

John leaned against the wall and stared. “You manipulated me into leaving you in the mountain when you knew damn well I didn’t want to.”

“You’ll deal with it.”

“The answering machine is full of reporters and a few people who think your boyfriend is hot and wanted to call you and congratulate you.”

Rodney laughed. “Great. Where are they?”

“Upstairs getting settled. David did some serious traveling today so he’s probably in the shower or unconscious.” He frowned. “You didn’t have to do that either—I could have put them in a hotel. They are quite used to it.”

“Whether you are willing to admit it or not—this is your home and your family is welcome here.”

John reached out and touched his face with gentle fingers. “You’re my home.” He pulled Rodney close. “I know today was fucked up. But I’m going to get to the bottom of this if I have to take a part this whole fucking planet to do it.”

“That’s my man… always ready to make a big mess.” Rodney ran his thumb over John’s mouth and sighed. “We need to figure out something for dinner. Maybe order from that steak place that delivers?”

“Yeah.” John leaned and kissed him. “Meat always goes over well in my family.”

Rodney laughed. “Well, you know I have a rule about that.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Never ever fuck a vegetarian.”

“It’s a good rule,” John murmured as he moved closer and kissed him again. “They can’t have a lot of stamina.”

“Right. Iron deficiency and I bet they taste funny.”

John laughed. “Food. I don’t think they’d appreciate it if we went off to bed and left them to fend for themselves.”

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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