More Than Words – Part Four

­ – – – –

“There isn’t a reality in the multiverse where that question is appropriate.” Sebastian scuffed the carpet in front of him with one shoe while Kate Heightmeyer hid a smile behind her hand. “Look, Dr. Marlow, I realize you have a job to do here and while it’s not my intention to make things difficult for you—I am not, under any circumstances, discussing my ‘burgeoning sexuality’ with you. That’s absolutely none of your business. I don’t even discuss my ‘burgeoning sexuality’ with myself. I’m not even sure I have a ‘burgeoning sexuality’, I turned ten three days ago.”

The state psychologist clicked his ink pen several times and cleared his throat. “Yes, I understand that the plans for your birthday party on Rodney’s private island were cancelled.”

That earned him a glare. “Yeah, because of this crap with my ex-step Aunt. She filed some kind of injunction about my leaving the country or even the planet which ruined my field trip to Uranus. I had to write a research paper on that planet to earn a spot on the observation team and then they went without me because of that stupid injunction.” Which he was ashamed to admit had resulted him in throwing his first temper tantrum, ever, in front of his Dads. They’d been no more amused than he had been and his throwing things hadn’t helped. He was still grounded over that crap. “And you’re to refer to him as Dr. McKay. It’s inappropriate to for you to discuss him as if you know him.”

The psychologist flushed and Kate cleared her throat.

“What would you have done on your field trip to Uranus?”

“That part is classified. I’ll have to report that you asked that question. You aren’t allowed to question me about the SGC or the work my parents do.” He swung his feet and held back a smile as the man fidgeted a little more. “General O’Neill says that adults might try to trick me into talking about the SGC because they think I’m just a stupid little kid. Do you think I’m a stupid little kid, Dr. Marlow?”

“Far from it,” Marlow murmured. “What is your relationship with Dr. McKay like?”

“I learn a lot from him and he’s never impatient with me when I ask questions. He handles that part of me a lot better than my mom did. She got frustrated some times that I… well that there was always a question. I understood that. I mean, it must be hard to be a single parent much less be a single parent to a genius.”

“You call yourself a genius?”

“No, someone else did. I just accepted it as a fact and moved on.”

“You didn’t accept it immediately. Why is that?” Marlow asked with a raised eyebrow.

Sebastian flushed. “How did you know about that? I thought you didn’t have access to Dr. Kate’s records.”

“I don’t. Your Aunt Susan has a copy of your school records from the state of California.”

“She’s not my Aunt. She was just my mom’s step-sister for less than a year.” Sebastian picked at the seam of his jeans and shrugged. “I wanted to be normal. I figured being normal would be enough.”

“But it wasn’t.”

“No, not in the least. My mom understood that before I did. She understood that being normal wasn’t going to be enough for my mind. I started talking before I was a year old, I taught myself to read by the time I was four, and by the time I was six… well let’s just say the first grade wasn’t on the agenda. But by that time I was trying not to be a freak so my school put me in the second grade. They said I was too small for the other classes and I needed the socialization of peers.”

“Did you agree?”

“I was six. I spent most of time trying to make my remote controlled cars go faster than they were designed to go.” Sebastian shrugged. “There were special classes after school and in the summers I got to go seminars and stuff.”

“But you fought being tested.”

“Yes.”

“Until?”

“My mother was worried about me and I didn’t like seeing her upset. So, I stopped messing up on purpose and took one for real. Then I had to take four more because they didn’t believe the results at first. I think she was really freaked out when the final tests came through. She didn’t know what to do with me after that.”

“But, Dr. McKay does know what to do with you?”

“He treats me with respect, makes me use my mind, and doesn’t let me be intellectually lazy. He’s the smartest man on the planet, you know.”

“I do know,” Dr. Marlow responded. “Does that intimidate you? I understand from past co-workers that Dr. McKay can be verbally abusive to those he finds inferior.”

“It must suck to be them,” Sebastian returned evenly. “I’m not inferior to anyone.”

“And what about General Sheppard, what is your relationship like with him?”

“I thought I’d be just one more responsibility for him. Everybody just piles crap on him; expects so much from him. People on the street stop him and thank him for saving them from the Wraith and the Wraith haven’t even gotten here, yet. So, I was more than prepared to be in his life but not really be a part of his life.” He frowned. “It was really surprising that it didn’t work out that way. He rearranged everything for me—brought me into his life and carved out a hole that was shaped like me. Sometimes it’s like we’ve always been this way—like my mother told him from the beginning that I was going to be here.”

“How is discipline handled in the home?”

“Are you asking me if they hit me?” Sebastian frowned. “No, I get lectured if I do something stupid and then I get grounded. Currently I’m grounded for a month—I lost all of my game systems, again, and because I threw a fit about Uranus I lost my computer, too unless it’s for educational purposes.”

“Do you feel that was fair?”

“Hell no.” He frowned at him. “It wouldn’t be a punishment if I thought it was fair, right?”

“Well, some children are taught to understand that their punishments are for their own good.”

“You mean some children are pacified with the concept that really aren’t being punished—their being taught a life skill instead. Well, that’s crap. I accept that I did something wrong and that I’m being punished for it. As a result, I won’t do that thing I did again because the punishment sucks. Neither one of my parents treat me like I’m an infant that needs to be coddled and lied to.”

“And that appeals to you?”

“I’m not interested in being sheltered from life.”

“How do you feel about the homosexual relationship your parents engage in?”

“They love each other. How they chose to express than love physically is none of my business.”

“So it doesn’t bother you?”

“Why would it?” Sebastian asked with a glare.

“In one of your Foster Care situations, you attacked another child in the home when he expressed a personal interest in you. Some might see that has an expression of homophobia.”

“He was not another child. He was seventeen years old and he told me he wanted to ‘fuck me’!” Sebastian spat. “And if you’d bothered to look at that situation yourself, instead of being fed the information by someone else you would know that he’s currently in jail for raping another child in that house.” He took another breath and then another rapid one.

“Sebastian.” Kate stood abruptly and went to him. “Calm down.” She knelt down in front of him. “Look at me, Sebastian.” She touched his face with careful fingers and tilted his head until their eyes met. “It’s okay.”

“I’m not homophobic, I’m not.” He clutched at her arm, his fingers biting into her skin and tears welled up in his eyes. “He can’t say that in court can he?”

Kate brushed away a tear from his cheek. “I’ll be there, too. There will be things said in court that are upsetting and that we don’t agree with but that’s why there are two sides to each court case so we can present the whole picture to the judge. This is nothing you need to worry about, I promise.”

“I don’t even know this woman. I don’t why she wants me.” He closed his eyes. “People just using me as a weapon against them. That’s all this. I’m just a weapon to hurt my Dads and that’s so unfair.”

Kate patted his hand and then stood from the floor. “Dr. Marlow, this interview is over.”

“I have another thirty minutes.”

“My patient is very upset and he’s finished for the day. Should you find you have more questions we can schedule something for a later date. As it stands, I’m going to have to report to the base command that you questioned Sebastian about SGC operations. It may result in you being removed the case. The Pentagon wasn’t exactly pleased with your background check as it was.” She helped Sebastian stand, picked up his backpack and her purse, and then clicked her radio twice. “Phoenix, this is Dr. Heightmeyer. Sebastian and I are ready to return to base.”

– – – –

John watched Kate Heightmeyer pace her office in silence. She was agitated and since he’d seen the woman face down a Wraith with a half empty 9mm without blinking it was a little unnerving for him. “Kate?”

“They are going to say that his attacking Corey Stephenson means he’s homophobic.”

“He was defending himself from a sexual predator!” John snapped.

“The judge is still going to hear that he attacked an older boy who expressed a sexual interest in him instead of seeking out an adult for help.” Kate dropped down in her desk chair. “He also questioned Sebastian about his own sexuality and grew very irritated when Sebastian refused to answer.”

“He refused to answer?” Rodney frowned from his place on the couch and sat up abruptly. “What do you mean he refused to answer?”

“He told the man that it was an inappropriate question and that he wasn’t old enough to even discuss his sexuality with himself much less with others,” Kate offered a little smile as she spoke. “I have to say that Dr. Marlow really had no idea how to deal with Sebastian.”

“And that means?”

“Well, it certainly explains why he was labeled a difficult child by Social Services in California. Most adults have a hard time dealing with children smarter than them and Sebastian can talk circles around you if you don’t pay attention to him and treat him with the idea that he’s really like a very short adult.”

“Is that how you handle him?” John asked.

“I had years of training dealing with the grown up versions of Sebastian before he came along and started to run circles around me.” Kate shrugged when they both frowned at her. “He really is the two of you combined. Too smart for his own good, prone to self-sacrifice, sarcastic, occasionally mean-spirited, and he’ll grow up to be an amazing man.”

“Self-sacrifice?” John questioned.

“He hid his nightmares from you so you wouldn’t worry,” Kate reminded. “He suffered through all of that alone rather than bother you.”

“I should have pushed him on that from the beginning,” John murmured.

“No,” Rodney disagreed and shook his head. “I don’t like how long it festered before we started talking about it but if we’d pushed him before he was ready it would have been horrible. He would have shut down on us and earning his trust would have taken a lot longer. Sebastian is like you in that respect. You shut down when someone pushes you for something you’re not ready to give.”

“Did you talk about what your father did to you?”

“Yeah, with a few therapist here and there,” Rodney admitted. “I had no choice, really. There were people who felt I was too smart and too fragile to take care of myself. I had to prove more than once that I didn’t need a legal guardian even after I was over the age of eighteen. I faced two different competency hearings before I was twenty-five years old. In fact, the Canadian government was responsible for one. They wanted to control me and the figured the best way to do that was to declare me incapable of handling my own affairs. One psychologist tried to paint the picture that I was nearly an idiot savant. He said I was emotionally retarded and due to childhood abuse would never be an adult mentally.”

John’s mouth dropped open. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, after that attempt failed I ruined his life.” Rodney grimaced at the look that got him from Kate. “What? He was paid by off by the military in my country to ruin my life—I just returned the favor but no one paid me.”

“You were in here with Sebastian for more than an hour after you returned from the interview.” John tilted his head and watched Kate Heightmeyer straighten up in her chair and school her expression. “He was upset?”

“Very.” Kate sighed. “Sebastian is under a lot of pressure to be something special, to be more than just who he is. He grew very agitated at the idea that Dr. Marlow was going to say he was homophobic in a court setting. The accusation upset him so much he nearly had a panic attack. The last thing he wants anyone to say or think is that he somehow disapproves of the two of you or the life you lead.”

“Christ, Kate, he’s ten years old. How the hell can a ten year old be called homophobic?” Rodney demanded. “It’s stupid.”

“Such beliefs are rooted in childhood teachings. If his mother had been a different kind of person—there is no telling what kind of man Sebastian could have grown up to be. She’d already shaped the person he will become by the time she died. Thankfully, she was a brilliant, dedicated, hard working woman who loved her son beyond reason and encouraged him to learn and explore the world. She thought life was precious and tolerance was her duty as a citizen in the modern world.” Kate shrugged when they both looked at her. “He talks about her a lot in our sessions.”

“Not surprising,” John murmured. “I almost requested a different base psychologist for him.” He paused when Rodney and Kate both turned to look at him. “You’re a great deal like his mother, Kate. I think that’s also the reason he favors Jennifer Keller. Karen, when I knew her, wore her hair long, was a natural blond and had bright blue eyes. I didn’t know if it was a good idea for him to spend time with you.”

“He has a special affection for Jennifer but I think it’s more because she’s one of the few females in your family more than anything else. He likes the woman that manages your house but she doesn’t interact with him on any serious level. He adored his mother and he misses her a great deal but he isn’t remotely interested in seeing her replaced or having her position in his life filled. Sebastian is quite content with two fathers.”

– – – –

Kim Dawson, Sebastian’s social worker, met them in the hotel lobby. If she had a problem with the security personnel, she didn’t let on. John watched her evaluate Declan and the two men they’d brought for the meeting with Susan Manning and her husband. “General Sheppard.”

“Ms. Dawson,” John murmured and then glanced around the hotel lobby. “Due to the public venue, we decided not to bring Dr. McKay and a full security team. Be aware that Sebastian is equipped with a panic button and if at any time during this meeting he feels threatened or gets upset I’ve authorized him to use it.”

“And if he does?” She asked with a raised eyebrow.

“He will beamed from this hotel immediately and delivered to Dr. McKay’s home office.”

“General…” Her eyes widened. “Allowing your son to beam out of the court ordered meeting with Ms. Manning is a violation…”

“Providing my son an escape route in case there is a problem is my responsibility as a parent. None of you understand how big of a threat he’s under just by existing,” John snapped. “Do you know how many people would snatch him off the street for money or worse? How many people on this planet alone that would want me at their mercy? He keeps his panic button or he does not leave my sight.”

She nodded and took a deep breath. “Fine, the room is upstairs. I’ve booked the adjoining room in your name as requested and the door connecting the two rooms will remain unlocked but closed during the visit. I should warn you that Ms. Manning protested this arrangement vehemently. She did not want you in the building at all.”

“That’s her problem.” He glanced towards Sebastian, who was staring at a large wall painting of the Grand Canyon.

Sebastian didn’t pull his ear buds out until they were in the elevator. He glanced towards the social worker and sighed heavily. “An hour?”

“An hour is what the court ordered, yes, but you may feel free to stay as long as you like.”

He snorted. “Yeah, right. If we were doing what I wanted—I would be at home reading or maybe playing with our dog.”

John touched his shoulder and he relaxed a little. “I’ll be next door the whole time, Sebastian.”

“Right.” Sebastian nodded. “It’s fine, Dad.”

He fiddled with his iPod and glanced towards Declan, Rico, and Banks. All three security men gave a brief nod and John squeezed gently to let him know it was working. He relaxed a little more; his Dad had spent the evening modifying his iPod so it would transmit an audio signal on a small range so that he wouldn’t be alone during the meeting. They figured the Trust might have something in place to prevent a standard transmitter. So, McKay had gotten creative.

Ms. Dawson lead the way into a hotel room and then to a connected door that was partially ajar already. “Ready, Sebastian?”

He wasn’t but he just shrugged. The longer he stalled, the longer the ordeal would last. There were three people in the room when he entered, two men and one woman. The social worker stepped forward to introduce them. “Sebastian, this is Dr. Susan Manning, your mother’s step-sister, her husband Carl Manning, and their attorney Mr. Colm. I’m going to sit in that chair on the other side of the room and if you get uncomfortable just let me know.”

Sebastian eyed the three of them and dropped down on the end of the couch. “My grandma dumped your Dad and married two different men before she died so calling yourself my mom’s step-sister is something of a stretch, Dr. Manning.”

“Your mother might have felt our relationship ended when our parents divorced but I always considered her a sister.” She sat down in a chair right across from him and touched her dark brown hair as if she were nervous about a single hair escaping the ball she’d trapped it all in. Sebastian thought it looked rather insane and somewhat painful. He’d never get women who put their hair up like that. It had to be a torture of some kind.

“She said you were a intellectual snob whose stupid but pretty trophy husband couldn’t father children so you wanted me as a consolation prize and when she refused you told her to go away and never come back.” He held back a smirk when she blanched. “So, I really don’t think holding sisterly affection hostage is anything more than emotional blackmail. Hardly the kind of glowing family relationship I’d want to see in practice every day.”

“You won’t talk to me that way.”

“I can’t really see how you plan to prevent it,” Sebastian relaxed back on the couch and propped one foot up on his knee. “This custody thing isn’t going to work you know. You can’t use a non-existent relationship with my mother to take me from a biological parent. You’d have to prove his unfit and you don’t stand a chance in hell of that.”

“I’ve yet to see any proof that he is your biological parent.”

“There won’t be any money, you know. The money I won for the math thing—that’s already legally obligated to UNICEF. My Dad signed papers on it yesterday and the check is going to be cut directly to them instead of being awarded to me at the awards thing. My trust fund is sealed tight until I turn eighteen and I can’t imagine how you’d get child support out of my Dad if you can somehow prove that the adoption isn’t valid. If you prove he can’t be my parent he certainly wouldn’t owe you support.”

“This isn’t about money. This is about providing you with a moral, stable home life.”

Sebastian rolled his eyes and tapped his fingers on his leg. “I’ve got two uncles and a grandfather—all of them blood related who are going to line up and sue for custody if you manage to take me from my father. My uncle David is about to marry a prominent trauma surgeon, she was a prodigy herself. The court would have a hard time finding them unfit to have legal custody of me. My granddad is dating a doctor, she’s an eight year veteran of the Stargate program and he’s the Director of Home World Security.” He watched her flush with anger. “By the time we get out of court, I’ll be eighteen years old and you still won’t have seen a dime of my Dads money.”

“You’re just like your mother. Willful and disrespectful. I knew I should have taken her to court when you were an infant before she had a chance to ruin you.” She motioned towards her lawyer. “Mr. Colm, get the DNA kit.” She offered Sebastian a little smile. “We’ll be running our own DNA tests.”

He stood up. “Our lawyer said there was nothing in the court order that would allow you take blood from me.” Sebastian shot his social worker, who had stood up when he had, a look. “That’s not happening.”

“Dr. Manning, this is outside the perimeters outlined by the court and I can’t allow you to take a sample of his DNA in any form.”

Sebastian glared at the lawyer when he pulled out a kit and offered it to Susan Manning. “My Dad and three armed to the teeth security guys are in the next room. They are all listening to this conversation. If you do not sit down immediately I’m going to say my safe word.” Colm put away the kit and said down without a word. “It would do you no good to take a sample from me unless you had someone’s DNA to match it against and I doubt seriously you’ll get a sample of Dad’s DNA. You’ve already been told that the Pentagon said no.”

“We’ll be comparing it to your real father’s DNA profile. Your mother enjoyed the company of a lot of men that summer, Sebastian, there were easily three men who could have fathered you. Two of which bear a striking resemblance to you. One is, of course, John Sheppard and the other is a man named Mark Williams. They all lied to you, Sebastian. Your mother lied to you because she wanted your father to be a hero instead of some loser who can’t even keep a job and God knows why Sheppard lied to you.”

“This conversation is over,” Sebastian murmured. “I won’t consent to another meeting.”

“We have weekly visitation until the hearing,” Susan informed him.

“I don’t care.” Sebastian’s hand tightened into a fist. “This is the last time I’m ever speaking to you.” He turned to the social worker. “Ms. Dawson, I’m very uncomfortable.”

– – – –

John ignored Kim Dawson’s complaints about the radio device Sebastian had worn for the meeting and within minutes ushered his son back into the SUV that had brought them to the hotel. After Sebastian was settled, he shut the door and tapped the roof of the vehicle. It glided away from the curb leaving him on the sidewalk with Declan and a shocked social worker. “What just happened in that room will never happen again. I don’t care what you say or what power you think the courts have over me. I’ve been playing along because it was requested of me by someone I respect. But, you’ve all reached my breaking point on the subject of my son. He will not ever be forced meet with that woman without me or McKay again and I don’t give a fuck what the judge says.”

“General Sheppard, you realize that the public would see your behavior as an abuse of your position. You aren’t above the law.”

John leaned forward a little. “As I said, I’ve been playing along but that time has passed. McKay has a team of lawyers and we’re going to bury your office and her legal team in so much paperwork that by the time you get out from underneath it all she’ll be bankrupt and on social security and I’ll be a grandfather.” Another SUV pulled up the curb and two Marines exited. “Be lucky I let McKay take the next level in our defensive plan. He likes to use lawyers—I favor C4 and P-90s.”

Declan chuckled and opened the door for John. “That’s explosives and automatic weapons, Ms. Dawson.” He prodded Sheppard into the vehicle as the woman paled.

An hour later, John found Sebastian in the gym dressed in a pair of track pants, a T-shirt, and socked feet. He had on a pair of boxing gloves just his size and was learning to throw a punch with Jimmy Martinson holding the cushioned target. Ian Wilkes was sitting in a lotus position a foot away calling out instructions which Sebastian was following to the letter. It was a little unnerving.

Jimmy shot him a glance. “He’s got your Dad’s form, sir.”

John nodded, he’d noticed. Long reach and a sharp, jabbing impact. That was his father through and through. He sat down on the mat a few feet away and observed for a few minutes. “You ready to talk to me, kid?”

“No, sir,” Sebastian muttered. “Granddad sent me down here to calm down but I’ll be honest—I think this is just winding me up even more.”

“He used to make me do it, too. Give it another thirty minutes; you’ll be so tired you’ll forget you’re pissed off.”

“I doubt it,” Sebastian muttered. “She’s lucky I’m grounded from the computer or I’d be online ruining her credit rating right now and signing her up for gay porn sites.” He threw a couple of punches. “Didn’t this just teach you to be violent when you were pissed off?”

“Do you feel violent?” John asked.

“No, not really.” He slowed down and gave the cushion a half hearted punch with a frown. “I feel… just angry.” He lifted his shoulder at Ian’s instruction and brought his other hand up to guard his face. “But it’s not all that relieving like Granddad said it would be.”

“That’s because you aren’t doing the visualization part of it.”

“I can’t imagine hitting a woman,” Sebastian muttered. “I could probably get behind smacking her smug husband or her stupid lawyer.” He shot his father a miserable look. “She could put me off women for life, you know that right? I mean, if I had to spend any time with her at all she’d make me entirely gay.”

John bit down on his bottom lip. “You think?”

“I know it.” Sebastian sighed. “This is a little more impact that I get from Teyla and the judo stuff.”

“You know McKay isn’t going to let you take boxing lessons for real. Any sport that involves you getting hit repeatedly in the head on purpose is going to give him reason to have a complete melt down. I don’t want to have that argument with him.”

“Me, either. Besides… I’m not all that interested in getting into a sport where someone has permission to hit me in the face,” Sebastian muttered.

John rolled to his feet. “Okay, you finish up here and I’m going to do a session on a treadmill. Then you and I are hitting the showers before McKay comes searching for us.”

– – – –

They found a table away from everyone in the mess hall and John tried to ignore the amount of fried food and sugar that ended up on Sebastian’s tray as they got comfortable. “Ask me.”

“Do you know who she was talking about?”

“I vaguely remember a guy named Mark but Sebastian, you have to know that I spent the entire summer with your mother and we were rarely apart. Karen was not the kind of woman to string along several guys at the same time.”

“Then why this whole story? What’s really going on? Why does she want my DNA?”

“I think they were instructed to get your DNA by the Trust. The NID has seen a computer file containing your DNA profile and it has finally filtered out to the Trust. They want an actual sample of your DNA to work with.”

“Cloning?” Sebastian asked.

“You’re too smart for your own good, kid. That’s Jennifer’s thought. Due to my past medical history she doesn’t think anyone could successfully clone me and you’re the next best thing. I can’t pass on my genetics to another child and the O’Neill twins are way out of their reach.”

“So they find a semi-relative to try to claim custody of me and force a paternity test so you can prove you’re my bio Dad. They’ll have samples from both of us—and it won’t matter how the custody hearing turns out.”

“Exactly.”

He frowned. “You won’t let them keep my clone if they get one will you?”

John’s mouth dropped open. “Oh, well, no. Of course not, if they managed to get your DNA and clone you—he would be my child technically. I wouldn’t let them keep him.”

“Okay, that’s good.” Sebastian nodded and contented himself with French fries for a few minutes. “I wouldn’t want me in their hands, you know. I mean, it would be horrible. There is no telling who they’d have raise him or what they would do with his abilities with Ancient tech or whatever. It would be bad.”

“Yeah, it has that potential.”

“You said they can’t clone you. Can you fix it so they can’t clone me either?”

“No, it’s too dangerous. What happened to me almost killed me and the whole thing was an accident. I wouldn’t risk you that way and besides it also made me unable to have more children and I think I’d like grandkids some day.” He laughed when Sebastian made a face. “Unless of course repeated exposure to Susan Manning makes you most sincerely gay.”

Sebastian just grinned and then glanced towards the doors as Rodney came in with four scientists trailing along behind him looking equal parts furious and horrified. “His minions were hoping his honeymoon with you would put him in a better mood for at least a month. They are sort of pissed at you that it didn’t work out that way.”

John leaned back in his chair and waved a little at the scientists who scowled at him briefly before they all hesitantly smiled. “They can’t help but like me.”

“That’s because even the straight ones have a crush on you,” Sebastian returned around a mouthful of fries. “They’ll eventually forgive you everything as long you don’t follow through on your threat to buy bad government coffee.”

“You want to talk about what Marlow questioned you about during the session.”

“Not particularly but I know you got a full report from Dr. Kate.”

“I did,” John confirmed and then sighed as McKay came his way with his row of shell-shocked scientists trailing behind him in his wake. “How about when we get home?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I know the last two days haven’t been cool.”

“I’m not going to fall to pieces, Dad,” Sebastian promised just before McKay sat down.

“Sit.” McKay pointed at four chairs. “And don’t contaminate my son with your utter stupidity.”

Sebastian snickered. “No worries, Dad, I got a ton of inoculations before I went to Costa Rica three years ago… surely one of them covered that.”

The only female in the group sat down beside Sebastian with a small smile. “What did you do in Costa Rica?”

“My mother was doing a study on dolphin communication within pods. She theorized and proved that pod groups have their own unique language and that when they merge with other pods for socialization they use a different set of communications for outsiders. It’s not unlike humans in that respect.”

“Like regional dialects?”

“More specific like the language that friends and family create—social cues, inside jokes, body language, and the like. Or, like an SG team that has been going through the gate for a long time. You’re with SG12, right?”

“Yes, I’m a linguist.”

“I know. I read your article on the impact of Ancient civilization on Earth’s language development. Anyway—your team has been together for a few years so you probably have a language set within your team that you don’t even recognize because it’s all done at a subconscious level.” He inclined his head. “Or, like when my Dad comes into the room and you all try to look extra busy even when you were already working because you don’t want to be the one he singles out to make an example of nor do you want to be the one that has to report first. Little do you know that you’re all gazelle and he’s a lion. He immediately separates the weakest from the herd first. So, if you were aware of your group dynamics you’d strive to look busy but confident that you are right and doing your job correctly. Because the more you hide and the more you fear—the more likely he is to take a bite out of you. That’s all body language and pack communication at work. In fact, it’s likely with study that you’d find that your fellow scientists contribute to his choice with their own physical and mental cues.”

McKay groaned. “Sebastian.”

“Could be worse,” John sat back and grinned. “He could have called you a hyena.”

“Your mother involved you in her work, then?”

“Yeah, it was fun and the summers were always full of travel. I’ve swam in almost every major body of water on this planet including the Arctic Sea. She did a two week run with a deep sea diving expedition there when I was seven. I got to go down in full gear, my air tank weighed as much as I did.”

“You know what?” Rodney asked suddenly. “I’m going to stop worrying that I’m exposing you to things that are too adult for you.”

“It was all in fun, Dad.”

“Yeah.” Rodney shared a glance with John.

John fought back a shudder at the idea of his son in a tiny dive suit in the Arctic Sea and then sighed. “Right, agreed. Obviously, nothing we could come up with could be as dangerous as what your mother already let you do.”

“Well, I think space flight pretty much trumps anything I ever did on Earth.” Sebastian grinned when John laughed reluctantly. “Besides, life is about living and doing.” He offered his father a sly grin. “You wouldn’t want to hold back my intellectual development, would you?”

– – – –

“Mark Williams.” Sean dropped a file a half inch think on Rodney’s desk and then dropped a USB drive on top of it. “He was living and working in Santa Barbara around the same time that the General was there with Karen Reilly. I’ve found no proof that he even knew Karen in passing much less on an intimate level. It took me a while but I found some people who did hang out with the General and Dr. Reilly during the time period. A woman by the name of Jane Howard said that Williams was very interested in Karen but she only had eyes for a man she called John, she didn’t remember his last name until she saw him with Sebastian on TV.”

Rodney relaxed in his chair. “What do we know about him?”

“Never finished high school and has held a variety of jobs but never anything for very long. Is basically a professional surf bum. He’s won a few competitions but nothing really big or even national. He’s a certified life guard but has been fired from several organizations because he can’t bother to show up to work.” Sean flipped open the folder. “And he’s moderately attractive.”

Rodney snorted and glared down at the picture. Black hair, green eyes, perfect teeth, a long leanly muscled body. Yeah, he was moderately attractive. He wasn’t beautiful like John but Rodney figured that was his own bias at work. If Sean’s recent conquest was any reflection on his usual preference for men—he preferred his men tall, pretty, and with a little mean built in. “Where is he now?”

“He’s staying in the same hotel in Denver that Dr. Manning is in. Williams’ lawyer filed an action this morning stating that he believes himself to be Sebastian’s father and it broke on CNN two hours ago.”

“Great.” Rodney tilted back in his chair. “Where is Sebastian?”

“Out by the pool, reading.”

“And John?”

“In a situation meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the President, and the Secretary of Defense in Washington, DC.”

“Have security raise the shield and make sure to let John we’ve taken that measure,” Rodney murmured. “I need a conversation with Radek Zelenka ASAP and do you know if O’Neill went with him to Washington?”

“I’m not aware of that no. I received a message from General Sheppard’s XO concerning his travel.” Sean leaned on the desk and frowned. “Why don’t we just send Declan over to this guy’s room?”

McKay glared at the stranger’s face and then sighed. “Because he would kill him and then I would have to dispose of a body and deal with lots of people asking me questions I’d rather no one ask.”

– – – –

“It’s too late to slam the door shut on this operation, Patrick. It’s in the public now and the only way to get it to die down is for us to allow the court proceedings to continue.” Henry Hayes endured the combined fury of two Sheppards for a few seconds before he glanced around the room. John hadn’t said a word since he’d beamed into the room with his father and Jack O’Neill. No one thought that was a good thing. “Someone talk to me, give me options that doesn’t look like a government conspiracy.”

“We can’t release a sample of Sebastian’s DNA. If it falls into the hands of the Trust it will be a real problem. They’ve already proven they’re capable of cloning—they cloned an Asgard a few years ago and through their resources the Goa’uld Ball managed to make himself over upwards of fifty times. Not only could they create a clone of Sebastian Sheppard—they could create an adult version of him. An adult version with his intelligence and ATA gene except his moral compass would have been shaped by someone else’s ambition and greed,” Jack O’Neill murmured. “They’ve proven in the past they aren’t above using children for their own purposes. They’ve tried to physically take Sebastian in the past and engineered the birth of my children to see if the ATA gene was transmitted from parent to child.”

“How big of a threat do you think that is?”

“I had my son Charlie’s remains exhumed, cremated, and then reburied seven months ago to prevent someone from taking him and getting DNA from his teeth,” Jack O’Neill replied. “That’s how big of a threat I consider this issue to be. The clone that was made of me by that rogue Asgard… He requested a consult with Thor and he emerged from that conversation with a drastically changed physical appearance a few years ago to hide from the NID. He goes by an entirely different name now. All of you have known me for years but you wouldn’t know the twenty-three year old clone version of me if he sat in your lap.”

“This idiot, Williams, the one on TV claiming that Sebastian is his biological child. He’s the key. He was obviously paid to do this.” President Hayes leaned forward as he spoke as if he could make his point better if he was in their faces literally. “How do we get rid of him without this turning into a clusterfuck?”

John focused on the tip of his combat boot as he listened to them plot and work out all the angles like a bunch of pacifist civilians. He wondered, vaguely, when they’d all stopped being soldiers. Even Hayes had served. It was a little horrified by his father and O’Neill, both of whom he thought were beyond such political games. Fifteen different ideas immediately popped out of various mouths ranging from the use of the Patriot Act to government sanctioned blackmail.

“McKay could pay him off,” John said dryly. “Or, I can go kill him.” His father laughed, O’Neill smirked, and everyone else in the room looked at him like he’d grown a second head. John sighed. “What? I’m really tired of the Trust and their crap. I’m tired of playing by the rules while they get to flit around the country making everyone’s life hell. They are endangering my son with their idiotic games and plotting. I’ve had enough.”

“General Sheppard, you can’t kill him.”

“Oh, but I could, Admiral Morrison,” John returned evenly.

“He’s too public a figure to die or disappear,” O’Neill murmured. “The last thing we need is for people to get the idea that anyone that challenges us is asking for a death sentence.”

John was actually pretty comfortable with people thinking that way about him when it came to his family. “Your children aren’t any safer than Sebastian is, sir.”

“I’m aware, John. There is a reason neither my wife nor children have been off the base since they were born. It’s pretty damn bad when I consider taking my family on a picnic to a different planet because it would be safer.” O’Neill stood up and walked away from the grouping of chairs. “I’ve got an idea actually.”

“Let’s hear it then,” Hayes murmured.

“First, we need to discredit Williams in the press without it looking like we had anything to do with it. Public support of the program is important to our future goals and I don’t want anything interfering with our ability to retrieve Atlantis and defend this galaxy from the Wraith.” Jack turned and propped against the window seal. “So, the best way to do that is to prove he isn’t Sebastian’s father.”

“Without forking over his DNA,” John murmured. “I won’t have my son face that, General, the questions he’s been asking about cloning… he made me promise if they succeeded in cloning him that I would take the child away from them. He’s afraid they’ll succeed and make a monster out of him.”

“We have to expect they have someone set up to falsify results to say that he’s not John’s,” Patrick murmured. “It won’t take much and then there will be conflicting lab reports for the judge to consider and then the court will order more paternity tests.”

“I think it’s time that people meet Sebastian for real,” Jack murmured. “An in-depth interview, national prime time sort of thing, so they can see he is a person and not just…” He waved his hand. “Not something to be fought over in the courts. Once we turn public opinion in our favor; then we offer Williams a deal he can’t refuse to go public with a denial.”

John wanted to say no. He wanted, desperately, to punch O’Neill in the face for even suggesting they do such a thing. He forced himself to relax his hands from the fists that had immediately formed, and took a deep breath as the irrational anger that had snapped into place so suddenly started to bleed away. “Only if he agrees. I won’t force him to do it. You all have to know that I will take him and hide him before I allow anyone to force him into doing something he doesn’t want. No one in this room has the right or the ability to make me do otherwise.”

Hayes stood, looked at John for a long moment, and then nodded. “Fatherhood agrees with you, John. Family agrees with you.”

– – – –

“You mean someone like Iris March?” Sebastian sighed. “Seriously? She almost made the two of you cry on national television.”

Rodney laughed. “I did not almost cry.”

“I came pretty close,” John muttered. “Which would have totally fucked up my badassness for the rest of time. I would’ve never forgiven her.”

“Wasn’t that thing on Ellen enough? I mean—that was kind of fun.”

Rodney cleared his throat. “That isn’t the kind of thing we’re suggesting Sebastian. It would have to be personal. You would have to talk about your mother and us. You’d have to answer questions that you’d probably not want to answer.”

“I don’t have to do this, right?”

“No, you don’t.” John took a deep breath. “I won’t force this on you.”

“It would make things easier?”

“I don’t know but it could turn public opinion in our favor and make this guy Williams back off enough that we could deal with him in private,” John explained. “I’m not going to let anyone take you from us, Sebastian.”

Sebastian nodded. “I’m yours, right? You didn’t lie to me because I have this super ATA gene?”

John sat back in his chair, stunned and so hurt that it made his breath catch and curl into a tight ball in his chest. “God, no, Sebastian. I didn’t lie to you. We would have never lied to you about that. I told you, the moment I saw you that I knew you were mine. And your mother—she would have never done that to you. I didn’t know her long but I knew Karen to be a good and honest person.”

“If I hadn’t been your biological kid?”

“I’d have still worked hard to keep you because that’s obviously what Karen wanted and your mom is a very important part of my past.”

Sebastian bit down on his lip and then tears slid down his cheeks. He left the couch, crawled into John’s lap with a shudder, and buried his face against John’s neck. “I’m sorry I asked, Daddy. I know you didn’t lie to me.”

John wrapped his arms around Sebastian and started to rub a circle on his back with one hand. He looked toward McKay, his eyes burning. “We need to make this go away, Mer.”

Rodney nodded, his eyes dark with fury. “Yes.”

– – – –

PART FIVE

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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