– – – –
“Oh, because that’s so reasonable.” Rodney tucked a headset into his ear as he jerked off his tie and tossed it aside. “Look, I fucking told you when I left that you were absolutely not to do this experiment until Radek and I both were on hand. Since I know Radek is on a goddamned plane to Nevada, and I am actually in Nevada… it is impossible for either of us to be in the motherfucking gateroom with you right now!”
Sebastian was staring wide-eyed with something close to hero worship in his eyes and John was very worried.
“Hell, no you can’t ask Dr. Carter to come in and help you. In case you missed, you idiot, she’s nearly eight months pregnant with twins and has been on mandatory bed rest for the last fucking month!” He pulled off his jacket, tossed it aside and shot Sean a look who was busily opening several laptops onto a table.
“Send me the goddamned program immediately. We’ve got four teams off-world, by the way, one of them being lead by the Colonel’s brother and the Admiral is off world with the Orion. You know damn well how imperative it is to have a functioning gate when the Director of Homeworld Security is off the fucking planet! I can assure you that if you’ve stranded anyone off world and their circumstances are less than vacation perfect I’m going to make you beg to die.” Rodney jerked the blue tooth headset out of his ear and tossed it. “Sean!”
“Got it.” Sean jumped up from the chair. “Your link up with the SGC satellite is half way—we are not in line of sight so it’s slow as fuck. I don’t think it’s strong enough to work with. I’ve contacted Walter in the gateroom and he is on standby to do any tests you need done.”
Rodney jerked his dress shirt from his pants and worked it off. The bullet proof vest was next leaving him in a t-shirt. John collected all of his discarded clothes without saying anything and folded them over the back of the couch. They’d left before chocolate cake was served so McKay was even a little more pissed off than he normally would be.
“Jenkins broke the gate?”
McKay nodded abruptly. “He asked to run an experiment on the new location program that Radek and I created to find you. I told him that he could not do it without us there but he put it on the experimentation schedule while we were in California and I missed the email.”
“You were a bit busy.”
“He used a personal distraction to disobey me.”
“So, he’s fired.”
“He’s so fired that he might have to seek future employment on a different planet.”
Sean dropped the hotel phone on the table beside him and hit the intercom button. “I have Dr. McKay for you, sir.”
“General, how dare you let Jenkins break my gate.”
“He forged your digital signature on the schedule change,” O’Neill said obviously tired. “Look, can you fix this or do I need to redirect the Apollo from its mission to retrieve any off-world teams?”
“I’m working. Is Jeannie in the mountain?”
“No, she took the flight out with Zelenka. She wants to meet the newest member of the family.”
“Get Dr. Peters, the new hire and send her up to the control room. She’s still so new that she follows instructions without trying to show off.”
“Understood. I’m going to put you on hold and transfer this call to Walter.”
Rodney nodded and went back to his laptop. “Okay. Sean, I need my headset.” He fished his phone out and started dialing. “This is Sir Rodney McKay. Authorization – Alpha Delta Zulu Alpha Omega Charlie Alpha Omega.”
He tucked in the headset in his ear and put aside the phone in favor of his keyboard. “Move S-3248Z three thousand kilometers upward from it’s current location. Yes, Master of the Bleeding Obvious, I know exactly where that is. Just do it. Move S-9845J to sector six, quadrant four. Move S-Y3499 to sector eight, quadrant three. Keep this configuration for the next hour and then return all assets to assigned locations.”
He hung up, picked up his phone and dialed again. “This is Dr. Rodney McKay. Authorization -Charlie Alpha Zulu 8 Omega Charlie Charlie 9. I need immediate control of SGC-98T67. Transfer control to my laptop. I will release control within the hour.” He pulled the headset out and rubbed his face. “Walter?”
“I’m ready, Dr. McKay. We’ve had two attempts at dial-in both unscheduled. Commander Sheppard’s team is the only one on a first contact mission.”
“Understood. I’ve had to take control of several communication satellites so that I could achieve line of sight with the SGC. I am one minute from connection. The encryption cycle will take ten minutes. Please inform the General.”
“Colonel Mitchell and I are here, Rodney.” Jack O’Neill’s voice was tight. “I’ve had Jenkins put in a cell, by the way.”
“You can leave him there until I get back if you wish.” Rodney snapped his fingers at Sean and Sean grabbed his tablet PC and forked it over. “I’ve reviewed the code that he put into the system. This is.. Jack.. this is my fault.”
“The hell it is McKay.”
“Look, I stripped out a hell of lot protocols when I did the search program. One of them would have prevented this from even happening.”
“Having staff that you can trust to obey you would have prevented it, too.” O’Neill returned. “I agreed with every single protocol you removed from the system. So, not your fault and not my fault.”
Rodney frowned at the phone. “Sean, could you get me some coffee?”
“It’s almost finished brewing.”
“Dr. Peters is here, Rodney.”
“Stephanie, I need you to go down to the gateroom and manually interface with the gate. I’m going to link up with your computer in three minutes. Be ready for me.”
“We have an incoming worm hole—failure to engage the first chevron.” Walter stated. “Dr. Peters has given me a thumbs up, Dr. McKay.”
“Make sure she can hear me, Walter.” Rodney started working. “Stephanie, I need you to monitor the power fluctuations on the gate. There is a small possibility of a feedback charge. If it starts, your singular task will be getting your ass as far from the gate possible. You won’t have long to respond so do not hesitate. Walter how far apart are the dial ins?”
“Five minute intervals.”
Rodney glanced briefly at John who was standing utterly still several feet away. No matter who was on the other end of the gate trying to get home—he knew that John felt the guilt of not being there for them. He worked through the code quickly, slashing and burning the changes that had been made and restoring it from memory.
“Stephanie, I need you to do a hard reboot of the system.” He lifted his hands away and waited. “Yes, good. Okay, start a diagnostic and watch for incoming wormholes.” He accepted the coffee that Sean brought and glared at his screen in silence. “Yes, see that—back up and reconfigure—good, good. You’ve just been promoted to Senior Scientist for the stargate. You’ll answer directly to Dr. Carter upon her return to work. Congratulations.”
“She got decidedly pale just now, McKay.” O’Neill offered.
“Could be because that position has the highest turn over rate of any in the mountain,” Walter muttered. “Between McKay and Carter—they have made grown men weep and run for cover.”
“Well, there is no crying in science,” Rodney snapped. “Okay, yes, just like that, Stephanie. Reactivate the iris system. See, you don’t even need me. Okay, see that surge—that’s the beginnings of an incoming wormhole. The gate has a small reaction before the first chevron encodes. Wait for the wormhole to establish.”
“McKay should we let them come through?”
“We’ll need to see how the gate responds to the wormhole. Give it a second. Okay, we have a stable wormhole. Yes, accept inbound travelers at will. Stephanie—get out of the way.”
John walked to stand beside him. “Mitchell report, please.”
“SG3 is incoming. IDC confirmed.”
“Are they all on their feet?”
“Yes sir. Everyone appears to be pissed but no one is bleeding.” Cameron answered. “I’ll have the Commander call you after his medical.”
“Stephanie, finish the diagnostic and send the results to my email.” He hung up the phone without another word and drained his coffee cup. “Stupid son of a bitch.”
“Look, Rodney, there are plenty of scientists on the base who think it’s somehow their job to get the better of you. They always fail and you’re always there to fix it.”
“Yes, well a failure like this could have killed…” He stopped and shook his head. “It’s unfucking forgivable to risk the lives of a single one of you. Men like Jenkins have no fucking clue what it’s like to be cut off from Earth and not have a way home while some asshole unloads an alien weapon at their back.”
“Maybe they should.” Sebastian sat down in a chair beside him. “You should find some empty planet and send all the assholes there and teach them a lesson.”
Rodney grinned. “I tried last year, the Pentagon wouldn’t let me. They said it wasn’t a productive training method.”
“You say fuck a lot.”
“When do I get to say it without getting dirty looks?”
“After basic training or your first degree—which ever comes first.” Rodney sighed. “We missed chocolate cake.”
“No way, I asked the lady to send us up a whole cake on my way out. She said she would.” He grinned. “You know the one that kept looking at Dad and falling over her own feet?”
Rodney laughed. “That is… you used a woman’s attraction to your father to get us chocolate cake?”
“Yep. It’s a dog eat dog world you know. Can’t be afraid to pimp out your own father for cake.”
“Christ.” David Sheppard laughed.
“Say, on that first call you called yourself ‘sir’ instead of ‘doctor’.” Jennifer raised an eyebrow. “What’s up with that?”
“I sort of got knighted by the Queen of England a few years ago.” Rodney blushed and stood up from the table. “They treat me like an asshole over there if I don’t use it when I talk to them.”
“Which class?” Sebastian asked leaning in to look at Rodney’s laptop.
“Knight Grand Cross. Order of the British Empire.”
“Huh.” Sebastian grinned suddenly. “So, when you and Dad get married he’ll technically be a ‘lord of the order’.”
Rodney laughed. “Ha. Yes, as a matter of fact he would. Of course, you’re already a member of the Order because of the adoption proceedings. No title though.”
– – – –
Jeannie McKay-Miller, Radek Zelenka, and Madison Miller made an appearance in the middle of breakfast. They were quickly squeezed into the table. Where Rodney told them both in a ferous tone what Jenkins had done and berated them both for not noticing the schedule change. Then he’d introduced them to Sebastian who had stared throughout the lecture in what John could only call amused reverence.
After breakfast, John took Sebastian aside and Rodney followed aware that the group was eyeing all three of them with confusion.
John sat him down in a chair and squatted down in front of him. “Okay, the SGC has a bunch of Ancient tech at this thing and while you will be compelled to touch it. I need your promise that you will leave all of it alone. I’d rather no one know that you can use it.”
“Because I was taken off the planet because of the gene you and I share. Jennifer confirmed that your gene is as pure as mine and that makes us very rare. Even your Uncle Matt doesn’t have a strong gene like you and me. The technology will connect with you—like it did that first night when Jennifer handed you that scanner. It will seek you out and make you want to touch it.”
“The likelihood of finding someone with a gene as strong as ours is ten billion to one. Right now, I’d very much like to keep it a secret. The public doesn’t know about the gene but there are people within the government that do, and frankly I don’t trust them. People at the SGC will know—but the fewer people know, the safer you will be. Do you understand?”
“Yes, no touching. Even if it asks really nicely.”
John laughed. “Yes, and it will. Some of the devices will practically beg you. It makes you think that they are alive or have some kind of AI but they don’t.”
“But Atlantis does,” Sebastian said. “Atlantis is alive.”
John paused and cleared his throat. “Yes. Atlantis is sentient. Did you pick that up from the scanner?”
“An echo of her, maybe?”
“I’ll take you up in a Jumper after we get back to the SGC. The echo in them is very pronounced for me.”
– – – –
Sebastian and Madison were ensconced in a chair in the living room of the suite, and he was reading her The Hobbit. He obviously had no problem with the language and moved smoothly through the reading though he’d confirmed when they’d bought the book that he’d never read it before.
“We should get him tested.”
“He’s already been tested. Couldn’t get into Mensa without one.” John responded neutrally and shot both McKays a look when they both opened their mouths to speak. “He’s not even ten years old. I don’t even know what I’m going to do about school. I can’t put him in public and I don’t know that a there is a private school in the area that would be secure enough for him to attend.”
“We can hire private teachers and he can come to the SGC with me for stuff. We have every discipline worth learning in the mountain. Lots of room to explore and educate himself.” Rodney frowned. “We should keep him from spending any time with Dr. Jackson.”
John laughed. “Maybe.”
“There was a report on his mother last night on one of the night time news shows. Single mom, marine biologist, pretty popular in her field, killed in a car accident six months ago. They got a hold of his birth certificate, by the way, and a copy of her will.” Jeannie frowned. “It sucks but he seems to be adjusting.”
“The last six months haven’t been great.” Rodney looked at Sebastian and frowned. “I think in his place I would have been so fucking grateful to be safe that I would have done nothing to rock the boat. Give it a few months and I’m sure we’ll find out exactly what kind of temper he has.”
John nodded and ignored the ache that simple statement caused. He didn’t want to think about the bruises that Sebastian had or the bruises that Rodney had probably lived with most of his childhood. “Madison is out like a light.”
Jeannie smiled. “Reading always does it.”
“I’ll get her. I’ll put her in the room that Sebastian had. He’ll bunk with us and the two of you can have that room. We have a room for Radek… but you’re a surprise.” Rodney stood.
“That works. Thanks.”
Three hours later, John and Rodney had a sleeping kid in the middle of their bed. It was… disturbing to say the least. They stared at each other a little shocked for a minute and then laid down to sleep.
“Yeah.” John laughed. “It is.”
– – – –
The crowd for the X-302 demonstration was standing room only. The conference had ended up taking up a small airfield used for shows but the public had gotten wind of the demo and they hadn’t been able to stop the people from showing up. John pulled on his helmet and tested his mic.
“We good, McKay?”
“Good.” Rodney confirmed. “Did you still want the second helmet?”
John grinned. “Yeah, I really can’t resist. You know my dad took me in an F-16 when I was six.”
“Let’s just hope he doesn’t have the reaction the rest of the Sheppard men have had sitting in the X-302,” Rodney returned dryly.
John snorted and tried to remember if he’d gotten erections at ten. “Link my mic with the PA.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, before you is the X-302. It is both an air and space craft designed for defense. A unique blend of human, Go’uld, and Asgard technology – its top speed is Mach 15 and it is only survivable due to inertial dampeners from the Asgard. For those of you attending the conference, specs for the craft are available within your conference materials.” He swung the helmet. “Sebastian, wanna take a ride?”
“Language.” John chided as Sebastian slid out of Jeannie’s grasp and the audience laughed. “Granted, when I asked that question at the tender age of six I’m pretty sure ‘hell yes’ came out of my mouth, too.” He motioned him up the ladder. “Back seat.”
Sebastian slid down into the back seat and grinned when a helmet was dropped on his head and he watched his father put the harness together and strap him in tight. “Cool.”
“Rodney thinks this is going to dash all his hopes of a PhD.”
He ran his hands along the sides of the ship as John slid into the seat in front of him. “I could build them and fly them.”
“Hear that Rodney?”
“Loud and clear,” Rodney waved them off amused. “I’ll be lucky to get a Masters out of him after this.”
The audience laughed.
“Rule number one for riding in the X-302: There is absolutely no throwing up.”
John laughed. “Second rule: Anything under Mach 10 is for pansies.”
“No pansies in the X-302.” Sebastian laughed. “Let’s go. Come on!”
John went through pre-flight with Rodney, confirmed the air space above the field was a no fly zone for commercial aircraft, established his hard deck, and engaged the engine. “Flight, do I have a go?”
“You have a go.” Rodney shoved his hands into his pockets. “Bring the kid back in one piece I think I like him more than I like you.”
“Roger that.” John offered him a salute, lifted off the ground to three hundred feet, and broke the sound barrier at as he accelerated.
“Holy shit!” Sebastian breathed.
“Language!” Rodney called out over the radio.
“Trust me, Dad; there are NUNS who would say that sitting in this seat.” Sebastian declared much to the crowd’s amusement. “Oh. My. God. Do that again!”
Rodney shook his head and swallowed hard at the realization that he’d just been called Dad for the first time ever. The X-302 flipped over and then swung upward at an angle that had been impossible for any air craft before it. “Folks, as you can see the X-302 is the most fluid and flexible combat craft of its kind. This is a second generation craft designed to be both a formidable weapon in the atmosphere and in space. It is equipped with rail guns, Asgard lasers, and four tactical nukes normally. The demonstration craft is unarmed, so please no worries.”
“And it’s made of awesome!” Sebastian summed up. “This is the best thing ever!”
– – – –
John slid down the ladder and laughed as Sebastian scrambled half way down and launched himself forward. He caught him easily. “Have a good time?”
“Amazing. That was amazing!”
John ignored the flashing cameras and took a deep breath. “Actually, I think you’re pretty amazing. Go say hello to the crowd.” He set him down and watched him dart off to wave to the crowd. Then he turned toward the pilot who would return the X-302 to Area 51.
“You just won the Father of the Year award.” Major Norris grinned as he started up the ladder.
John waved him off and walked to the outdoor stage where Rodney was starting to discuss the puddle jumper. He dropped into a chair beside Sebastian. Major Lorne was going to do the puddle jumper demonstration. Mostly, because John wanted to wait until he could take Rodney and him both up in a jumper, and they figured after the X-302 the kid would expect to get to ride in the jumper if John was the pilot.
The public briefing on how the jumper worked was literally one third of the truth as the public had no idea you had to have a special gene to fly it. That information opened up a can of worms that he did not want opened—especially now that Sebastian was in the picture. The crowd was giddy by the time the jumper left the ground and Lorne ran it through its paces and even hovered over the crowd that wasn’t officially supposed to be there.
“So, they’ve taken my picture like five thousand times.”
“Yeah.” John nodded. “Sorry about that.”
“Not your fault we look so good,” Sebastian assured. “They like Rodney a lot. He’s like a geek god or something.”
“Yeah, he really is.”
Sebastian frowned. “He’s not going to say no to that warrior bonding thing now that I’m here, right? I mean we’re still getting married on Mars and stuff?”
“Yeah, we’re still getting married on Mars.” John chuckled. “You called him Dad earlier.”
“Is that okay?”
“Only if you mean it. Don’t use it against him to get what you want. That would be… pretty fucked up.”
“Agreed.” Sebastian frowned. “Besides, you guys are spoiling me rotten. I haven’t even had to resort to pouting.”
John laughed softly. “Guilt, kid, will get you everything.”
“I’m not above helping you sooth your guilty conscience.” Sebastian nudged him. “That pretty girl is flirting with you.”
“Pretty but silly. I couldn’t be more gay and everyone knows it.” John nudged him back. “Maybe she’s flirting with you.”
“We should tell her I won’t be legal for eight years.” Sebastian shook his head. “Nah, obviously she’s not very bright and I’ve got standards.”
John laughed aloud and straightened when Rodney stopped mid-sentence to turn and stare at them. “Sorry!”
Rodney just looked at them amused, his gaze affectionate and unguarded. He shook his head and turned back to the crowd. “While the puddle jumpers design remains top secret. The conference packet does contain a detailed explanation of the technology that has been released by the Air Force. This is just one of the many things we were able to bring back from Atlantis and it’s technology like this that we hope to revitalize with the return of Atlantis to this galaxy. Thank you all for coming and some of you can expect emails from me in the next few weeks.”
– – – –
“I think my sister is sleeping with Zelenka.” Rodney leaned against the bathroom counter and watched John shave. “I don’t know who to be more worried about—him or her. She’s a real man-eater since that crap with her husband dying on the day she found him with another woman.”
“She could be entitled to be something of a ball buster. Radek is a grown man. He can handle it.” They both turned as there was a small knock on the door. “Did you brush your teeth?”
Sebastian opened the door. “Yeah. Do we have time to hit the skate park before the flight?”
“The beauty of owning your own plane is that it goes when you want it to,” Rodney reminded. “I’ll call the airport and change our departure time.”
“We won’t be late to the next thing?”
“The next thing starts tomorrow afternoon and they’ll wait all day for me.” Rodney walked out of the bathroom in search of his phone.
Sebastian leaned on the counter. “Mom’s last boyfriend used an electric razor.”
“Yeah, my beard is too thick for that. It’s a Sheppard trait so I doubt you’ll escape it. Your granddad was shaving at fifteen.”
“He’ll be there tomorrow, right?”
“Yeah, along with your Uncle Matt and Colonel Mitchell.”
“What should I call the Colonel?”
John paused. “That is kinda tricky, actually. I don’t know how serious they are but Cameron is a good friend of mine—so you could probably get away with Uncle which pretty much guarantees another person to spoil your little ass rotten.”
“Rodney’s dad is pretty horrible right?”
“Yeah.” John looked at him. “I take it you watched the Iris March interview?”
“Yeah. My last foster home wasn’t the most structured.”
“Did you ask your mom if you could meet me?”
“No, well not in the last year or so. I asked when I was younger – like five. I came home from school and asked about Father’s Day. She was upset for weeks so I never asked again. She told me who you were last year. We looked you up but there wasn’t much on you until Chicago and then the Stargate program came out—and then I had tons of information.” Sebastian shrugged. “So, about his Dad. He isn’t going to come around is he?”
“No.” John shook his head. “Why?”
“Madi is worried about it. She’s afraid to ask her mom.”
“So Madi saw the March interview, too?”
“Yeah, her grandparents in Canada let her watch it.”
“Yeah.” Sebastian nodded. “She’s too little for that.”
“Frankly, son, I wish you hadn’t seen it either. It was a painful thing for Rodney to do but we had little choice when the press released that story.”
“I could tell he was uncomfortable and even miserable near the end of it.”
John nodded and rinsed his face. “Okay, go get your skates and unpack mine. I’m going to talk to Madi.”
Madison was lying on her stomach in front of the television, her bright blue eyes focused on a sponge with pants. John knew next to nothing about kid TV. He glanced briefly at Jeannie and Rodney who were bickering softly at each other on the couch. John lay down on the floor beside Madi and propped his head one hand.
“So, I understand you have some concerns.”
Madison glanced at him. “Sebastian told?”
“Yeah, but don’t be mad at him.” John pushed a lock of her hair from her face and placed it behind her ear. “Listen, there are lots of ugly things in this world but you don’t have to worry about any of them.”
“Not the Wraith?”
“No, never the Wraith. They’ll never touch you.”
“Not mommy’s daddy?”
“I’d never let that happen, Madison. I promise you. I know where he is and if he even tries to buy a plane ticket to leave the place where he lives I’ll be notified. He can’t get here without a plane because he lives so far away.” He looked at her face, saw the relief there and the sadness in her eyes. “You know, what you saw on TV about your Uncle Mer is all in the past. I know watching him talk about that must have been upsetting but he learned to deal with what happened between him and his dad a long time ago.”
“She asked a lot of questions.”
“Yeah but you know how the press follows me and your uncle around? Well, the press had a story about the time when your mom and Uncle Mer were very young, and they said some things that needed to be explained so that people would know the truth and stop asking about it.”
“Like when Susie Marks had to explain what diabetes was to my class?”
“Yes, like that. She gave you information up front so you wouldn’t ask questions later.” John watched her think that over. “I need you to make me a promise.”
“The next time you see me or your Uncle Mer on TV and you have questions—you have to promise to come to one of us and ask. There is nothing, Madison, absolutely nothing that you can’t ask us that we won’t try to answer honestly. You don’t need to worry about that, ever. Okay?”
“Yeah. I promise.”
“Good.” John turned to the TV. “Now, seriously, why is the sponge wearing pants?”
– – – –
Rodney pulled his sister out onto the bedroom he’d been sharing with John and closed the door. “Take a few deep breaths.”
Jeannie nodded. “Yeah, deep breaths.” She rubbed her face and brushed tears from her eyes. “Fuck. I told them… I told Kaleb’s parents to make sure she didn’t see that stupid interview. They promised me, Mer, they promised me they wouldn’t. Then lied to me! And the Wraith? Where the hell did she hear about the Wraith?”
“There is no telling.”
“Yeah.” Jeannie sat down on the bed and hugged herself tightly. “It’s—just damn.” She bit down on her lip. “He was good with her.”
“Yeah, he always is. He and Madi get along like thieves. He’s been known to even play tea party with her—but he told me he’d never sleep with me again if I repeated that so you didn’t hear that.”
Jeannie laughed softly despite the tears streaming down her face and nodded. “Yeah, okay. It would totally ruin the warrior thing he has going on if people know he played tea party.”
“Yeah, apparently Zuri and Quark were guests.” He shuddered at the thought of his cat dressed up in a baby doll dress and then sighed. “I’m still sorry she saw that. I didn’t want her to know about him at all. But I couldn’t let the world think that our mom abandoned me when I made it impossible for her to get custody of me.”
“You didn’t have to do it, Mer, but I was really proud of you when you did.” Her mouth trembled a little. “Really proud. I know how much it hurt you to say those things and to talk about how horrible he was to you.”
– – – –
“You are much better on these things than me.” John relaxed against the wall and watched Rodney roll past.
“I grew up on the ice. Rollerblades are practically a walk in the park compared.” His gaze drifted to Sebastian who was playing on a half-pipe, Jimmy Martinson was on the side in skates of his own giving advice which was producing a mixture of laughs and snarky comments.
“Did Jeannie and Radek get into the air?”
“Yeah, I sent them back on the Lear40.” Rodney circled around him. “I didn’t get a chance to ask her if she was sleeping with him. I should leave that alone right?”
“Yeah, at least until you find him huddled in a ball in a lab somewhere crying like a third grade girl.”
Rodney laughed and rolled away. He raced past the half-pipe and shouted a challenge that both had Sebastian and Jimmy scrambling after him at a break neck pace to the largest structure in the park. With a sigh John pushed away from the wall and followed. This had dangerous and stupid written all over it so he might as well be involved.
– – – –
Chicago. He wasn’t exactly thrilled to be back in the city but Rodney had decided that the only way to conquer that fear was to face it head on. The flight in had been without incident and they’d managed to get into the hotel without a single photographer showing up.
John had requested that their suite in Chicago just be the three of them and Sean had quickly rearranged everyone so it was possible and the added privacy helped calm him down. Not so much that he wasn’t currently pacing a hole in the floor – from the closed balcony doors to the mini-bar. Sebastian was in a chair with his newly arrived Amazon Kindle downloading books to his heart’s content and sighing dramatically when he was forced to add another title to his ‘get in print’ list.
“Hey Dads, can I buy ‘Life with Homosexual Parents’?”
John snorted and Rodney’s mouth dropped open. He stopped pacing and stared.
“Did someone with a PhD write it?”
“Yeah, with chapters written by his kid, too.”
“Look him up and see where he went to school.”
Sebastian smirked. “I already did. He went to Harvard.”
“It doesn’t explain gay sex or anything does it?”
The kid laughed and shook his head. “My mom already explained homosexual sex to me. There were drawings and a book and everything.”
“Seriously?” Rodney frowned.
“Yeah, I mean. I asked and my mom was pretty convinced if I was old enough to ask a question I was old enough to get an honest answer.” He shrugged. “She was a scientist you know, information is gold and she wanted me to be filthy rich in that respect.”
“So we don’t need to have the sex talk?” John asked neutrally.
“Well, no. I mean—she was pretty blunt about that stuff. Lock the door when you masturbate, always wear a condom, never trust a girl with birth control unless you’re prepared to be a father, don’t do anyone in a bar, be honest about what you expect out of an encounter, and always get yours first when it comes to other guys because they can be selfish.”
John sprayed the beer he was drinking all over the carpet in front of him. “Your mother… Jesus.”
Rodney laughed and dropped on the couch beside John. “I think I would have liked her.”
“She was great.” Sebastian went back to his shopping. “My social worker never did send me the pictures. She promised I could have the personal stuff out of the house—but that never happened.”
He could fix that. If it was fixable. If the stuff hadn’t been thrown away—he could find it. Rodney pulled out his phone and sent Sean a text message. Then relaxed against John’s side. “What else have you bought?”
“All three of your books, Dr. Carter’s book on thermal dynamics, and Dr. Z’s book on the mechanical engineering of the Ancients. I’ve read your books before… I bought them as soon as they came out. About one hundred fiction books that I’ve already read but I like a lot. I had a lot of books – but they only let me take five when I left home.” He frowned. “But, I think I’ve managed to replace most of them between the Kindle and the bookstore trip the other day. You said Sean sent them home?”
“Yeah. They’ll be on a shelf in your room when you get there. Along with half the crap you bought at the mall, and we shipped home.”
Sebastian nodded. “I need another SD card for this. 5gig.”
“I have an extra in my computer bag. Remind Sean to buy us a couple dozen tomorrow. I fill them up like crazy anyway.”
He looked up. “So, when is this dinner thing?”
“I don’t have to wear the suit and tie again, right?”
“No, but slacks and nice shirt. No jeans.” John put aside his beer and wrapped an arm around Rodney. “You don’t have to go.”
“People sort of expect it, right?”
“Yeah, probably, but…” Rodney frowned.
“I knew what I was getting into when I broke into that hotel.” Sebastian kept his gaze focused on the Kindle. “If I didn’t think I could handle the stupid stuff you two come with—I would have stayed in foster care and maybe tried to meet my dad when I was grown up.” He grinned then. “Besides, the toys more than make up for crap like dinners with the presidents of colleges.”
– – – –
“No, ma’am, but thank you.” Sebastian sat back and stared at the cookies. “I’m allergic to peanuts.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t informed.” She immediately stood and removed the platter from the table. “It’s not inhalation is it?”
“Yes, but I’ve only ever had reactions while stuff is being made not after the fact.”
But John couldn’t help but notice that he looked relieved when the cookies disappeared back into the kitchen. He shared a glance with Rodney who was on his phone sending a text message. He looked very upset and John figured his expression was no different. They hadn’t really discussed Sebastian’s medical history at all and he felt like an asshole for not knowing even the basics.
The President of Northwestern, Dr. Edward Bradley, was in his fifties and had spent most of the evening chatting with Sebastian – preferring him to the other adults at the table. John was relieved to find the kid’s manners to be impeccable. Not that he’d expected differently. His mother had been cultured, educated, and entirely too sophisticated for him.
“So, Sebastian, I read in the paper that you got to ride in an X-302 over the weekend.”
He grinned. “Yeah, it was awesome. We went Mach 15. I’m the only kid on the whole planet who has gone that fast.”
“Have you thought about a career?”
“I’m nine.” Sebastian responded and then smiled. “But, yeah. I think I want to be an aeronautical engineer. By the time I’m an adult the space program will have been redesigned – NASA won’t have a choice with all the changes the SGC has made in space travel. So, I think I’d like to be an astronaut and design space ships. Of course, since a lot of our future technology will be built on Ancient and Asgard tech – I’ll probably need a degree in astrophysics as well. I can’t very well build space ships if I don’t know how hyperspace works.”
Rodney chuckled. “He’s my favorite Sheppard.”
– – – –
The lecture hall was huge, and it was full to the brim with students and faculty. An audience of nearly five hundred people, and they had to be cleared through a metal detector to even get in the door. The Chicago PD had loaned the university thirty officers who had all given themselves over to Major Lorne’s authority as soon as they stepped into the building. John had watched them be organized by Lorne and Declan while his brother David had been tasked with keeping up with Sebastian.
“It’s good to see you again, Colonel.”
John shot Dr. Jason Morrow a look that clearly said he did not agree. “Today is going to be very stressful for him, Morrow; I suggest you be on your best behavior.” He glanced towards the room where Rodney was currently going over the structure of his lecture with the moderators that would help with the discussion.
“Rodney’s assistant made it very clear what was expected.”
“Dr. McKay.” John corrected. “That’s how you’ll address him. You’ll give him all the respect he is due or I’ll see you tossed out of your own lecture hall.”
“You have no reason to believe I’m a threat to your relationship with McKay.”
John laughed. “Have you looked at me?” Ian Wilkes who was standing on John’s left snickered. “That’s the last thing I’m worried about. Go away and do something useful.”
– – – –
“He looks like John.” Patrick Sheppard watched the grandchild he’d never met swing his feet in the chair he’d been put in. His gaze focused on McKay. “The pictures don’t really…” He sighed. “Shit.”
“Yeah.” Matt nodded. The best picture they’d seen of Sebastian had been one taken after the X-302 demonstration. He’d jumped from the ladder and right into John’s arms. They’d stood there, forehead to forehead obviously having some small conversation. The picture said a million things at once—and the most important one of all was that John had fallen absolutely in love with his kid. “They saved us some seats.”
“We should wait until Rodney takes a break, that way we won’t be a distraction.” Cameron guided both men away from the door, so they could stand along the back wall.
Rodney was walking the stage with a microphone in hand, discussing wormholes on a level that none of them had ever heard but the crowd was different. He was clearly talking to the students and not to anyone else who might be in the room. Several times he paused, asked questions of the audience and called on students to answer. Six white boards on the stage were already full of math, the contents of which were being reflected on walls around the room.
“The worst case scenerio for human travel through the gate is having the wormhole disengage during travel. The second would be getting half way though the gate and having it turned off. Matter travels through a wormhole in discrete packages. The result being is that if half an object goes through the gate—the gate expects to get the other half. When it doesn’t – the object fails to materialize at the destination. For instance—if I shoved a pencil into the event horizon of a wormhole and asked that it be closed. One half of the pencil would remain in my hand the half already behind the event horizon would cease to exist. The implications for the human body are obvious and a little horrific so please don’t try to picture it.” Rodney checked his watch. “We’ll take a twenty minute break while I drink a pot of coffee. I expect butts in the seats on time people. We have a lot of ground to cover for the second hour.”
He left the stage and about ten students climbed up with cameras to take pictures of the white boards.
Patrick lead the way through the crowd to the section where security had his family shielded from the rest of the room. David immediately came forward and got them through the line and into the roped off section and lead the over to where Sebastian and Rodney were talking.
Sebastian turned and offered a small smile his grandfather. “Hey wow, we all really do look like you.”
Rodney chuckled. “Good genetics.”
John watched his son greet Matt and Cameron then turn to his grandfather with patented, couldn’t be duplicated Sheppard smirk and offer his hand. Patrick laughed and pulled him right off the floor for a hug. He felt himself relax and he didn’t even know why he was nervous about the two of them meeting. Sebastian had pretty much charmed the socks off every single person he’d met.
Rodney was back on stage a few minutes later, he took his coffee with him. He flipped three white boards over so he would have room to write and wrote out a proof in silence. “What I would have you come away from today with is a profound sense of how fucking brilliant I am so you’ll know what you should aspire to.” He turned and offered a smirk at the giggles he received. “That being said—there is something wrong with this proof and if there is a student in this room that can figure it out they will get a summer internship with me at the SGC. Provided, of course, you’ve haven’t been stupid and ruined your chances at a government clearance.”
He walked to the next clean white board and moved on with his discussion on the physics of harnessing subspace. It was the elementary work he’d done for the ZPM project but no one in the room but John knew it. The energy changed in the room as he spoke not because he gave anything away, but because it was obvious that the work was hundreds of years ahead of them.
At the end of the lecture not a single student had offered the right solution to the problem on the board and several professors had tried once the students had given up. John found their frustration amusing.
“Do you know what’s wrong with it?” Matt asked.
“Hell no and I have a degree in math.” John shook his head. “It looks perfect.”
“No.” Sebastian shook his head. “Not perfect.”
John turned and looked at him. “You know what’s wrong with it?”
“Yes, it’s a calculation for half-life of an exotic element. Probably that mineral that Naquadria? The unstable version of Naquadah? I read an article about it that Dr. Carter wrote.”
John frowned at the board again and leaned forward. “Okay, I see that.”
“I’ll show you after they are done.”
“Cool.” John glanced at Matt and then his father. Hoping they wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. Both of them relaxed.
The moderators dismissed the students and the auditorium was quickly vacated leaving behind a few faculty that had questions. John figured one of them would be about the math problem no one had solved. He strolled up onto the stage with Sebastian as Dr. Morrow started demanding the answer.
Rodney rolled his eyes. “I didn’t come here to teach you basic physics, Jason and really I’d like to know who the hell is teaching the kids at this school basic physics?” He glared at the half-circle of academics that were staring at the board. “Seriously.”
“The good news is that they all think you are fucking brilliant and a big meanie for not giving them a hint.” Cameron grinned which made several of the female teachers smile in his direction.
John laughed. “So show me.”
Sebastian raised one eyebrow. “Now?”
“Unless you want to wait?”
“No, I’m cool.” He pulled John over to the white board and picked up the marker. “The problem isn’t that the numbers are wrong – it’s the sequence. That article I read that Dr. Carter wrote said that Naquadria doesn’t decay like carbon based elements. Its exotic make-up creates an instability that makes it stupidly dangerous to handle – but it’s decay rate is predictably unpredictable. It will slow down and then make dramatic leaps in its decay. That’s why it’s not an energy source we can readily utilize, of course the thing is that elements like this just make for really sexy math.”
He brushed several lines away with little fingers and wrote the corrections in with big block letters and numbers similar to McKay’s. “The end result is that while you can not determine the intervals by which Naquadria will degrade—you can definitely determine how long the whole process will take in total.”
John stared. “You got all of that out of an article?”
“No. The rest came out of Dad’s book on Naquadah energy potential. He didn’t show the math but he did outline the principal in so much detail that it’s kind of horrific that no one in this room got it. I mean I would think every student and professor coming into this lecture today would have prepped for today by reading the three books he currently has in print.”
“See!” McKay snapped. “Look.”
Morrow sputtered. “Did you coach him?”
“Hell, no, I had no idea he could do that.” Rodney was sending Sebastian that look he normally reserved for really cool pieces of alien technology and John was tempted to put himself in the way of it. “Huh.”
“Stop looking at our kid like he’s a science experiment, McKay.”
– – – –
John nodded. “Yeah, what did you find out?”
Rodney motioned to the files in front of him. “His full school records, medicals, a psychological examination performed by the state after he was put in foster care. I got everything I could and I contacted the person who bought his mother’s house. She packed up all of the clearly personal stuff and put it aside because she figured someone would eventually come for it. I’m having my lawyer pick it all up and bring it back to Colorado personally. It’s a lot—pictures, home movies, school awards, and his mother’s research.”
John nodded. “Okay.” He looked at his father who was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee. “I didn’t have any childhood allergies that I outgrew, right?”
“Actually, you were allergic to soy and peanuts until around the age of four. You and Matt both. You outgrew them and to the best of my knowledge that was it. David was breast fed which apparently made the difference because he never had any allergies to speak off beyond occasional hay fever.”
Rodney was reading one of the files in silence and then he cleared his throat. “Okay, Jesus, we should sue the state of California for not telling us this.”
“What?” John demanded.
“The last time he was exposed to peanuts he nearly died. He spent a week in the hospital on a ventilator. Anaphylaxis, hives, and rash. His allergy to peanuts is as severe and as deadly as my allergy to citrus. I didn’t notice an epi-pen among his things.”
“No, me neither.” John swallowed hard. “Anything else?”
“He’s had all of his immunizations—some that you don’t get unless you leave the country. He had his appendix removed two years ago, his tonsils three years ago.” Rodney paused, flipped open a file and tossed John a passport from it.
John flipped it open. “Australia, South Africa, Great Britian, Russia, Japan, and New Zealand. We’ll have to get this updated with his new legal name. When will his social security paper work come through?”
“I was promised it would be home by the time we got there.”
“What name did you go with?”
John paused and looked at his father. “John Sebastian Sheppard, Jr. His choice. His mother gave him as much of my name as I guess she could get away without naming me the birth father.”
“Speaking of.” Rodney sighed and opened another folder. “I have the will and there is a letter for you.” He put the envelope on the table in front of John. “It’s still sealed so no one has read it but probably her lawyer when she did the will.”
John picked up the plain white envelope with his name on it with a frown. Did he really want to know what Karen had to say? He stood and walked away from the table. He dropped into a chair near the doors that lead out to a large balcony and opened the envelope. The letter was written on heavy ivory stationary and it had her lawyer’s letter head on it.
He checked the date and closed his eyes briefly. “She wrote this a month before she was killed.” He folded it carefully and put it away. “It’d be really nice if I could be pissed at her.”
“Yeah, I know.” Rodney relaxed in his chair. “The psychological profile is pretty harsh. The social worker said that he was maladjusted, angry, was suffering from PTSD having been in the car accident that killed his mother and soon to be step-father. They said he was clearly delusional and was probably at risk. Then they dumped him in a group home.” He stared at it for a minute and then shook his head. “Also, I’ve gotten the FBI file on his phone calls. He called seven times, John, and the last time they sent an NID agent to his school and threatened him with federal charges.”
John tossed the letter from Karen on the table. “How the hell could anyone look at him and not see that he fucking looks just like me?”
“I think the FBI did believe him,” Rodney responded neutrally. “Why else would they bother sending an agent to threaten a nine year old? They had to suspect that he had the ATA gene. Matt has it and David responded very well to the gene therapy. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the original social worker was paid to bury the will and treat him like an orphan.”
“There are people within the government who find the control that the Air Force has over the Stargate program and Ancient technology a threat. Keeping him off the radar and within their reach guaranteed them a gene carrier for their own use.” Patrick shrugged when his son looked at him. “Look, before we mended fences and I got involved in the SGC – I was privy to a lot of conversations about O’Neill’s iron fist of Cheyenne Mountain. I understand why now, but there are a lot of people in Washington who would like to see someone a little more controllable in his place. Barring that, they would like to find some way of taking the military aspect out of the SGC and controlling it themselves. It will only get worse when you retrieve Atlantis.”
“She mentioned a trust fund?”
“Yeah, she put a lot of her income and some insurance money she received from her mother’s passing into it. It’s tied up tight until he turns eighteen which is good—because neither the state or various bill collectors could touch it.” Rodney pushed a file in his direction. “We’ll let him decide what he wants to do with it when he’s older. By the time he’s eighteen it should be close to five hundred thousand dollars with accrued interest.” He sighed then. “And there are his full academic records.”
“John, what is your IQ?”
John blew out air and sighed. “McKay.”
“Look, stop evading. Seriously, what is it?”
“195.” John crossed his arms. “Happy?”
“Ecstatic.” Rodney returned evenly and dropped a piece of paper in front of John. “Congratulations, it’s a baby genius. The kid is almost as smart as me.”
“What?” John demanded. He picked up the paper and read it. 227. “Holy shit. Huh. You know his mom was really smart.”
“Yes.” Rodney looked down at the file. “212. She had two PhDs by the way—marine biology and oceanography. What do you have some kind of hard on for smart people?”
John laughed. “Yeah, actually. Blue eyes and genius. It’s a killer combination.”
– – – –
“Euclid Prime.” Sebastian shot Rodney a look over his laptop screen. “Seriously?”
“Just checking.” Rodney went back to his computer. “I’m still pissed.”
“It’s not my responsibility to educate you, Dr. McKay.”
Rodney snorted. “You’re lucky, young man, that I really like smart mouthed people.”
“Yeah, there are many gifts in my life,” Sebastian responded. “Can I have a dog?”
“We’ve got five.”
“Seriously? I figured that was just press stuff.”
“Yes, seriously, four pit bulls and a Siberian husky. She’s just a baby really—I got her for your father’s birthday. We also have a cat. Well, I have a cat. I’ll share him as long as you treat him with the dignity he deserves.”
“Is that the cat that attends Madi’s tea parties?” Sebastian asked with one raised eyebrow.
“Yes,” Rodney hissed. “And you are required to rescue him if it ever happens again.”
Sebastian chuckled and looked outside to the balcony. “So, what are they doing?”
“Hammering out chain of custody.”
Rodney sighed. “Look, your dad and I have some pretty dangerous things on the agenda for the next year or so. We’re making sure that everything is agreed upon and legal when it comes to your care. Since we all have pretty dangerous jobs—we’re doing a hierarchy of care. My sister is not a blood relative to you—she’s last on the list but she’s okay with that. We just want to make sure that you never end up in the custody of the state again.”
Sebastain was silent for a minute. “So, it sucks that you guys have to plan for stuff like that but thanks—really. That makes me feel a lot better.” He paused. “Is Aunt Jeannie going to marry Dr. Z?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because I caught them kissing before they left. And if he isn’t serious about her—he should just you know—not date her at all. And Madi would really like a Dad. She said it wasn’t fair that I had two and she didn’t have any.”
– – – –
“Son, I really…” Patrick sighed. “This is a fucked up conversation to having on the same day I get to meet my first grandchild.”
John laughed weakly. “It isn’t. Look, Dad, he’s worn long sleeves since we met him because he’s covered in bruises from getting hit and mistreated by other kids in foster care. A seventeen year old apparently made it his business to educate my son in a variety of proposed sex games that makes me want to find him and kill him. If Sebastian hadn’t bashed him in the face with an encyclopedia while he was asleep—I’d probably have already found him and made him regret ever setting eyes on my kid.” He glanced at Matt who really looked like he didn’t want to be a part of the conversation. “So Rodney and I talked about it and – it’s going to like this. Dad, David, Matt, Jeannie, and God help us all if it goes that far down the list—General O’Neill and his wife. Rodney had his will updated to reflect Sebastian surviving us both—he’ll get everything.”
He looked up and let his gaze flick across the few stars he could see. “Also, I need you all to promise me that if it’s just me that goes that you won’t ever try to take Sebastian from Rodney. He’ll need… I think they’ll need each other.”
“Rodney is ours, son. We won’t let him go and we won’t let him push us away again. He’s stuck with us.” Patrick rubbed his face. “So, can we never talk about this again?”
“Yeah. That works.”
– – – –
“So, you said they didn’t let you keep your life.”
Sebastian shrugged. “It happened. Things are better now.”
“Yeah.” Rodney nodded. “Anything missing that I can get? I know I can’t bring back the most important part and trust me if I could—I would.”
“She thought you were funny and hot.” Sebastian chuckled. “I think she might have liked you more than Dad actually. Smart being sexy and all of that.”
Rodney snorted. “Okay, so seriously?”
“I play the violin. Mine was sold in the estate auction.” Sebastian shrugged and started settling down in his blankets. “My mom bought it for me for my last birthday. We took the money out of my trust fund. The one she started with my grandma’s insurance money.”
“Do you want that one or a new one?”
“It was a Stradivarius. I’d really like it back.” Sebastian frowned. “It probably sold for a lot. My mom bought it from an old friend of my grandmothers. If you can’t get it back I’ll understand.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Rodney muttered. “Which one?”
“The Jupiter, 1722.”
“I’ll try to find it.” Rodney stood up from the bed. “Now, sleep. We have to leave early in the morning.”
– – – –
“Yeah, well, price is really not an issue.” Rodney tucked his cell phone against his shoulder and poured himself more coffee. “Look, I’m getting on a plane in two hours and we’ll be in New York by mid-afternoon. I want it, Jared, and I really couldn’t care less how much it costs me. Granted, I’d prefer you to try to bargain but I won’t be told no.”
He snorted and sat down at the table. “No, no other one will do. I want that one. Promise him whatever it takes. If he wants a ride on the Apollo, I’ll arrange it. If he wants a villa in the south of France, I’ll buy it. If he wants a blow job every day for the rest of his life—find an escort service and set up daily service. Just get it.”
Rodney paused and nodded to himself. “And put Paul on retainer and have him dig up everything he can on the current owner. If I can’t buy it nicely, I’m not above blackmailing him into taking my money.” He put the phone down and stared down at the plate John had shoved under his nose. “Food.”
“Yeah, breakfast. Eat.” John relaxed back in his chair. “What or who are you buying?”
Rodney snorted but shook his head when Sebastian drug himself out of his bedroom. “Not now.”
John glanced at Sebastian but nodded. “Hey kiddo, your Granddad wants to know if you want to go back to Colorado with him or if you want to finish the trip with us?”
“I’ll stay with you if that’s cool.” He dropped down in a chair. “Cause, you know it isn’t like shopping in every major city in the country is a hardship and I haven’t been to New York since I was six.”
John shared a look with his father who only grinned and shook his head. “You ready to eat?”
“No, I want a shower first.” He finished off a glass of apple juice and then left the table. “Jeans or stupid slacks?”
“Jeans are fine- decent shirt please- none of those t-shirts.”
“Should I remind you that you helped me pick them out or that you’ve got adult versions?”
“No,” John called after him amused. He waited until Sebastian was gone and then looked at his father. “Of course, I don’t know which is better ‘Galileo Got Hosed’ or ‘I’ll Big Bang Your Theory’.”
Rodney groaned. “You did not.”
“I did to,” John immediately returned. “Don’t worry; I bought you some, too. Including one that says ‘I’m with Genuis’ and it has an arrow pointing up.” He grinned when Rodney laughed. “What are you buying that might require daily blow jobs for some guy we don’t even know on your dime?”
“A two-hundred eighty six year old Stradivarius.” Rodney reached for the coffee pot. “It belongs to Sebastian. The state sold it in his mother’s estate and I found it an hour ago in the hands of a collector who doesn’t even play. I’m trying to buy it anonymously but if that doesn’t work Jared has my permission to bring out whatever it takes to get it.”
John’s cleared his throat. “How much did it sell for?”
“It was a surprise in the auction and wasn’t announced. It sold for 1.4 million. His mother bought it from a collector for his birthday last year for six hundred thousand which was an absolute steal. I figure I’ll have to pay at least five million to get it back.”
“Rodney. No. That’s…”
“It’s the last thing his mother bought him, John and they took it. I’m buying it.” He waved his fork. “Besides an instrument of that quality doesn’t deserve to languish in a glass case in some collector’s house. It should be loved and played.”
“Can he play it?” John asked amused.
“John, you don’t buy a Stradivarius for a kid that takes a lesson once a week. It’s like buying a Lamborghini for a fifteen year old with a learner’s permit. If she bought him a Stradivarius at nine years old it’s because…” Rodney trailed off. “It’s because he’s brilliant at it.”
“And if he isn’t?”
“What is the last thing your mother gave you, John?”
John jerked a little at the thought aware that his father and brothers had all turned to look at him. “She sent me a care package to North Korea. I’d been there four months—it was after my divorce became most sincerely final so I was pretty well fucked up. Anyways—she sent me a signed copy of War and Peace, a silver dollar that had belonged to her father, and so much junk food I nearly made myself sick.”
“The same book that is sitting on your night stand at home? And the silver dollar you put in your pocket every morning?”
“Yes.” John frowned at him. “Okay, I get it.”
“What is the last thing your mother gave you?”
“Her forgiveness.” Rodney stood up abruptly and grabbed his phone. “I should check my email.”
– – – –
Sebastian was on the phone when John and Jennifer entered the room. He was personally getting tired of hotel rooms but Rodney and Sebastian seemed to take it all in stride.
“No, Tommy, seriously. It was the best thing ever.” He propped his feet on the table in front of him. “Huh, no but I can give you a number so that you can be routed to my phone. I’m not allowed to give out my personal number. Sorry. Did you get my email? You have to email back so my Dad’s personal business manager can get you on the list of people allowed to email me.” He grimaced. “No, way, I don’t want her emailing me. You know she’s a jerk. Besides, she’s the one who stopped talking to me because I was in foster care and it freaked her mom out. So now that I have famous, rich, fashionably gay parents that her mom could brag about knowing to all of her neo-liberal friends it’s all right for her to talk to me again? Well, she can kiss my ass.”
“Language,” John muttered as he walked by but he figured the little girl and her mom could kiss his ass, too.
“I gotta go, Tommy, I’ll call back later. I’ll send you that central number in an email but when you call it you have to be very polite and answer all the questions or they’ll hang up on you.” He laughed. “Yeah, okay. I’ll ask.” He ended the call and turned to John. “Where is Dad?”
“Downstairs having a meeting with someone. He should be up soon.” John checked his watch and frowned. “Pretty soon anyways and then we can go out to dinner.”
“No, I’ve arranged private dining downstairs.” He sat down on the coffee table in front of him. “Jennifer is here to put in your subcutaneous transmitter so I can keep track of you.”
Sebastian eyed him. “Am I the only kid that will have a personal Lojack?”
John chuckled. “No. Actually, all of the children of parents who work in the SGC have a transmitter. There are about fifty of you. Kids of scientists and various soldiers that are permanent members of the Stargate Command. It’s just a security precaution.”
“It’s going to hurt right?”
“Yeah, Jennifer is going to give you a local for when she inserts it but it’ll hurt later while it’s healing.” John glanced towards Jennifer who as setting up at the table. “I wouldn’t ask this of you if it wasn’t important.”
“Good, go put on some shorts. She wants to put it in your leg.”
– – – –
“I was surprised by your interest in the instrument, Dr. McKay. I’ve only ever heard that you play the piano.”
“I actually play five instruments.” Rodney offered a small smile. “But this is not for me. I trust the payment arrangements are to your satisfaction?”
“Yes.” He hesitated. “Who is it for?”
“The child I’ve seen on TV?” He frowned. “You’re giving a Stradivarius to a nine year old? Dr. McKay, I’m not sure I can sell the instrument to you in good conscience if that is your intention. The Jupiter, 1722 is a work of art.”
“It also belonged to him. It was sold in his deceased mother’s estate auction. I’m just doing my level best to restore it to him, Mr. Sandoval.”
Sandoval shook his head. “I don’t…”
“Why don’t you listen to him play it before you finish that sentence. If you still have a problem we can discuss it further.”
Rodney stood and nodded. “Fine, he’s upstairs.”
They made the trip in silence with Declan and Sean exchanging looks the entire time. Rodney figured it was obvious that he was irritated and insulted by Sandoval’s reluctance to part with the instrument. When they entered the suite John and Sebastian were playing Halo 3. Rodney made note of the small bandage on his thigh, Jennifer had implanted the transmitter. He was both relieved and saddened by that. It sucked that they had to worry about someone taking him.
Sebastian turned and his gaze caught on the red leather cased instrument Sandoval carried. He smiled. “Oh.”
“Mr. Sandoval would like to hear you play, Sebastian.”
He abandoned his game and stood. “Okay. I should wash my hands first. I’ll be right back.”
Sandoval’s gaze narrowed but he nodded. He sat the instrument down on the table. “I don’t have any sheet music with me.”
Sebastian returned with a towel in hands, wiping vigorously. “I won’t need music.” He put the towel over the back of a chair and opened the case casually. “Do you have a preference?”
“Then how about O mio babbino from Gianni Schicchi?” Sebastian asked as he carefully checked the strings and rosined the bow with a practiced hand.
Sandoval sat down abruptly. “Yes, that would be lovely.”
He offered the man a shrewd look and then took several steps back from the table. “It was my grandmother’s favorite.” He tucked the violin carefully and began.
The song was from an Italian opera, one that Rodney enjoyed playing himself so the first stirrings of the strings pulled at his heart. He glanced at John who was staring at his son in wonder. It was a heart-wrenching piece, both romantic and devastating with notes that were deceptively simple on paper but were so full and robust in the playing that he’d seen grown men cry during performances. Sebastian coaxed love and passion out of the violin in such a way that somewhere in the final notes Rodney actually forgot to breathe.
He lifted the bow away and looked toward Rodney. “You should breathe, Dad. Brain damage doesn’t look good on a genius.”
“Mr. Sandoval?” Rodney asked dryly.
“I–.” Sandoval shook his head. “I’ll accept exactly what I paid for it and not a penny more, Dr. McKay. Your buyer can contact me for payment.” He stood and nodded at Sebastian. “Thank you, young man, that was truly a pleasure.” Sandoval left without another word.
Sebastian inclined his head. “He didn’t think I could play?”
“He might have had his doubts.” Rodney crossed his arms. “Who taught you?”
“My grandmother.” He offered the instrument. “I know you play.”
Rodney accepted the instrument with a little glare. “Do you have a preference?”
“Do you know Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orfeo ed Euridice?”
“There is no need to be insulting.” He tucked the instrument. “You have a long reach for a nine year old.”
“I wanted a grown up instrument. I adapted.” He crossed his arms.
“I know; it’s the least you can do for your species,” Rodney responded dryly.
Sebastian grinned and by the sixth note had walked to stand with John. “An instrument like that should be played.”
“Yes.” John agreed.
He watched Rodney move through the song with a maturity that his son hinted at but hadn’t quite achieved. It was the difference, he thought between a nine year old genius and thirty-six year old genius.
Rodney lowered the bow and smiled. “It has a great sound but I prefer my own.”
“Which one do you have?” Sebastian asked with a raised eyebrow.
“The Titian, 1715.”
“Awesome, can I play it?”
“Yes,” Rodney answered immediately and handed the instrument over. “I’m starving.”
Sebastian put it away carefully and closed the case. “Should… my mom had it insured.”
“Sean will take care of adding it to my policy.”
– – – –
“So two more stops and we can go home?”
“Yeah.” Rodney rolled on his side. “Did you see what I saw?”
“Listen, remember a long time ago when I told you that my piano teacher said I had no passion for music?”
“Yeah, we agreed he was a fucking idiot.”
“No.” Rodney chuckled. “You said he was an idiot and I was charmed. Not the same thing. Listen, I hid in music. It was one place in my life where I could lose myself and push everything back. That’s what my teacher meant. When I played then—as a child it was about taking all the emotion out of my mind and finding the precision of the music I was playing. It took me a long time to change that about myself. To let myself feel again when I played.”
“Okay.” John frowned. “I think I understand.”
“Our son,” John corrected. “Our son, Rodney.”
“Our son,” Rodney agreed. “He pours his soul into music. He’s still trying to find his style but his form and his poise is outstanding. I just wanted you to know that no matter what he’s experienced since his mother died that he escaped it before it really damaged him.”
“Karen did a good job with him.”
“Yeah, she really did so we’ll have to make sure not to fuck the kid up and turn him into a sociopath.” Rodney grinned at John’s pained expression. “Don’t tell me it hasn’t crossed your mind.”
“Well, yeah. A lot.” John relaxed on the bed and sighed. “Did you see his face when he saw the case? You were right—it meant a lot to him. How much did you offer that man in the end?”
“He got on a plane and came here with the expectation that he would leave with ten million dollars. Instead, he left with what he paid for it. I tried to make him take at least two, but he refused.”
“Because Sebastian broke his heart. That’s what beautiful music does—it moves through your soul like a wild and wicked wind. It rips you open and leaves you hoping for more of everything.”
“When I look at the two of you I don’t know how I could ever need anything more,” John admitted. He turned his head at a knock on the door. “Come in.”
Sebastian slid through the door and closed it behind him. “I wanted…” He blew air out and sighed. “To say thank you. My mom was really proud of finding me the violin that I wanted and it was the only thing I wanted to take with me when I left.”
“Wanna sleep in here?” Rodney asked.
“Yeah.” He nodded and crawled up right between them. “We can go home soon, right?”
“Yeah, soon.” John pressed a kiss to his forehead. “You’ve got a ton of people to meet, a pool to swim in, dogs to run ragged, a cat to harass, a puddle jumper to ride in, and a whole solar system to visit.”
“Awesome.” Sebastian stole a pillow, burrowed under the covers, and closed his eyes. “Being me is the best gig on the planet.”
John and Rodney exchanged looks and grinned.
Read the Next Story in the series
My Wish For You
If you are curious about the songs Sebastian and Rodney played:
(performance by Joshua Bell)