Human Nature

Title: Human Nature
Author: Keira Marcos
Pairing: Sheppard/McKay, O’Neill/Jackson
Rating: R for language, violence, and adult situations
Word Count: 17,500
Challenge: DADT (McSheplets)
Betas: Ladyholder & Chris King
Status: Completed One Shot (and not series related)
Disclaimer: I don’t own them. Don’t pretend to. If I did own them the show would’ve been on Showtime!

Summary: John faces some hard changes after Atlantis is returned to Pegasus.

Content: DADT!fic, slash, some background McKay/Keller, a little a lot of Keller bashing, eyebrow snark courtesy of Jack O’Neill, Marines with too much time on their hands.

Author’s Note: I started this story right after the show was canceled and I was quite furious over being stabbed in the chest repeatedly by the stupid writers. Seriously. I was so mad. Then I calmed down and shoved it in my unfinished folder. I pulled it out, finished it, and did some editing in response to the McSheplets Challenge this week. It could be the biggest piece of crack I’ve ever exposed my readers to. And yes, I absolutely did title this fic in honor of the Michael Jackson song. 🙂

 

– – – – –

The day that 10 U.S.C. § 654 made like the dodo bird, John suffered through ten meetings in three hours. The SGC had sent General Jack O’Neill, Dr. Daniel Jackson, three psychologists, one cultural anthropologist, and a new liaison officer to deal with the fallout. After all, Atlantis was a base of made up of two hundred and fifty soldiers, and nearly two hundred civilians at the ass end of space. There was sure to be fallout. John, being himself, assembled the entire military company in one of the big rooms they used for group training, strolled to the front of the crowd and made himself crystal clear.

“Good afternoon!”

“Good afternoon, sir!”

“The President of the United States has, in his infinite wisdom, strived to make our government a work environment free of all discrimination by removing 10 U.S.C. § 654 from the Uniform Code of Military Justice. As we are all enlightened, forward thinking intelligent people who spend our days going to other planets; I believe we will accept this change with all of the maturity and grace required of us. You have all received the new UCMJ in your email. After this meeting, you will go your quarters and read, understand, and accept it. Over the next few weeks, you may find that some of your fellow soldiers are comfortable enough to tell you that they are homosexual. You will be tolerant and grateful for the trust your fellow soldier has placed in you. If you fail to be intelligent, tolerant, forward thinking people – I will space you and report you AWOL.” He paused, looked them all over. “Dismissed.”

Jack O’Neill walked out to meet John as the Marines and various Air Force personnel scurried from the room. “That was truly inspired, John.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“It wasn’t exactly what we discussed, Colonel Sheppard.”

John looked at the psychologist, Dr. Frank Marshall, with hard eyes. “I’m in a war zone, Doctor. I send these men and women through a wormhole everyday and they stand a fifteen percent chance of coming back hurt or dead. I don’t have the time or the inclination to pander to stupidity. I have to put up with your little counseling sessions and your gender sensitivity classes but I don’t have to treat these people like children.”

“If you have a problem with the new regulations, Colonel, then we should discuss this before your attitude spreads to the rest of the military personnel on the base.”

John snorted. “I don’t have a problem with the new policies, Doctor. In fact, it makes my job easier. Because I can’t tell you how many times in the past six months, I’ve had to lecture men under my command for being indiscreet about where they spend the night. I thought the original policy was offensive and abusive the day I joined the Air Force and DADT was just as insulting and offensive when it was put into place. I’m pleased to see the end of it.”

“Your men may get the idea…”

“Marines aren’t allowed to have ideas, Dr. Marshall, they have orders.” John checked his watch and looked at Jackson and O’Neill. “Lunch? I’m always starving after I threaten people.”

“How exactly does someone get spaced on Atlantis?” Jackson asked as he followed O’Neill and Sheppard out of the room. “You’re in the middle of an ocean.”

“There are two hundred and twenty known space gates in the Pegasus galaxy,” John responded with a genuine smile. “I personally favor SX4-23Y. It’s orbiting a gas giant—great view.”

– – – –

Meeting number eleven happened after lunch and McKay graced them with his presence… his stupid girlfriend came, too. John had tried really hard not to resent Jennifer Keller and that had worked for all of twenty minutes when he’d found out that she was dating McKay and he’d felt like a grown up the entire time. Being an adult was clearly very overrated.

The worst part was that during the entire meeting, O’Neill kept sending him looks – looks that clearly said things like… ‘what the fuck, I thought he was your geek?’, ’you’re not really going to let Dr. Barbie keep your geek are you?’, ‘okay, really, grow a set—she’s like 12’ and ’seriously, Sheppard, you need to man up and take your astrophysicist back’. Obviously, Jack O’Neill was fluent in eyebrow trash-talk.

“I agree with Colonel Sheppard. I believe all the personnel on the city would benefit from the gender sensitivity courses.” Woolsey folded his hands on the desk. “So, everyone will just have to make time for them.”

“Mr. Woolsey, the infirmary is already understaffed.” Jennifer looked up from her tablet PC as she spoke. “We have very little down time as it is, and I don’t feel comfortable ordering my staff to participate in gender sensitivity courses just because the military has changed their polices. It doesn’t affect us.”

“I disagree,” John responded coolly. “This is a change that affects the entire base and I’m sure there are plenty of civilians who have hidden their sexuality due to the military regulations. In addition, we all work very closely together so it’s important that everyone be on the same page. Rodney, don’t you agree?”

Jennifer laughed. “Of course, he doesn’t. Like he wants to spend his free time in a class being told how to act around other people.”

Rodney cleared his throat and looked up from his laptop. “Actually, I do agree with Colonel Sheppard. It’s important that everyone in the city understands the circumstances that this new policy will create for the soldiers. There are more military personnel on this base than civilian, to be frank, and whatever affects them—certainly affects us. If they are all angry, upset, and difficult to be around all of our jobs will be more difficult. Also, I’ve got a few assholes on my staff that could benefit from learning not to call women ‘baby’ and ‘darling’ like they don’t have real names or something.”

She glared at him. “McKay, it is a waste of time.”

He frowned back at her. “I have an IQ of 230. I know perfectly well when my time is being wasted and when it isn’t. It’s been literally months since I was stupid enough to tolerate someone talking to me like I’m a child, Keller.”

John winced. He certainly needed no reminders of how close they’d come to losing Rodney and his great big brain to an alien parasite.

“You just don’t want to argue with Sheppard.”

“I argue with Sheppard every day. It’s practically our favorite thing to do.” Rodney waved her off. “I just actually happen to agree with him at this very moment. It probably won’t happen again for weeks. Now, as the Chief Scientist for Atlantis I agree with Mr. Woolsey and Colonel Sheppard regarding the gender sensitivity training. Which means this discussion is over—because the last time I checked, the infirmary is actually under my authority as I’ve been told repeatedly over the years that medicine is a science of some sort.” He went back to his laptop and pointedly ignored her glare, and everyone else’s shock.

“Okay then,” O’Neill said with a bright smile. “Since that’s all settled—I think I’m going to go find a pier and do some fishing.”

John leaned back in his chair. “Stop by the armory and sign out a Wraith stunner… some of the fish on this planet are a bit… large. There is a deep sea fishing set up on the northeast pier. If you catch one of those big swordfish like things—call the mess and we’ll have it for dinner. It’ll feed the whole city, easily.”

“How big, exactly?” Jackson asked glaring at Jack as he stood up to follow.

“Record is four hundred and twenty-two pounds,” Richard Woolsey said cheerfully. “Ronon and I spent an hour bringing that beautiful girl in. Excellent steaky type filet. We made several meals out of it.”

Jack grinned and rubbed his hands together. “Four hundred pounds, huh? I should have brought Teal’c.”

“If you get a bite, put out an all call.” John stood and picked up his tablet PC that he hadn’t bothered to consult during the meeting. “A few Marines will trot out to help you get it out of the water.” He glanced briefly at Jennifer and Rodney who were on the far side of the room talking in hushed, snippy tones. He managed to hold his smirk in all the way to the gate room.

– – – – –

“So.” Rodney dropped down in a chair near John’s bed and snagged a beer. “Jennifer has been unreasonable the whole day. I don’t know what her problem is.”

“Did you forget her birthday, the anniversary of your first date?”

Rodney snorted. “We’ve been dating six months, John. Anniversaries?” He rolled his eyes and drank half the beer in one uncouth swallow. “You know, I’m beginning to see that there are limitations on how far pretty and blonde will take a woman.”

John choked on his beer. “Jesus, McKay.”

“And when she found out I was coming over here to watch movies, like I’ve done every Tuesday since forever, she got pissy and told me that I should spend my time in the lab or in my quarters thinking about our relationship and where I see it going.” Rodney waved one hand, finished off his beer, and rolled his eyes. “Can you fucking imagine? Like I’d waste my brain cells on that.”

“Well, she’s probably heard about Katie Brown and the near engagement.” John shrugged. “Maybe she’s thinking it’s time you pull out a ring.”

“She said I had commitment issues and that I couldn’t maintain a healthy relationship with an adult,” Rodney grabbed another beer. “She even threw up Katie as an example.”

“What did you say?”

“I told her that I was perfectly capable of committing myself to a relationship—after all you and I have been best friends for five years and while I haven’t been the best person that whole time and you’re still here.”

“So, you, huh, brought me up in comparison to your relationship with Katie Brown?” John chuckled. “Really?”

Rodney flushed. “Okay, so that wasn’t the best example but really—you are the longest relationship I’ve ever had. We’ve got this friends thing down. I trust you with everything, John.”

“Thanks.” John cleared his throat and picked at the seam of his lounge pants for a few seconds in silence. “I trust you the same way. You’re a great person, McKay, and a loyal friend—if Keller can’t see that than well—that’s her loss.”

Rodney stared for a moment. “You don’t like her.”

“What?” John frowned and shrugged. “What’s not to like, McKay? She’s smart, attractive, and loves you—that’s all that I could want for my best friend.”

“And yet, you hate her.” Rodney pointed at finger at him like he always did when he’s stumbled across some great, epic truth.

“I don’t hate her.” He despised her actually—her silly laugh, stupid little smiles and her ridiculous flirty eyelashes. He sort of regretted rescuing her when she turned into a plant. Maybe a well-placed drone would have worked just as well. “I don’t even really know her. Teyla seems to like her.”

Rodney snorted. “Teyla told me that I should be myself around Jennifer.”

“Well, that would be a mistake. Unless you’re finished fucking her.” John snapped his mouth shut and looked away. He really hadn’t meant to say that.

“John Sheppard!” Rodney shook his head. “Christ, you really hate her, huh? I mean, you were always super nice to Katie. How am I supposed to be serious about a woman you hate? How would that work?”

John sighed. “Look, Rodney, it doesn’t really matter. I mean in a year or two, Keller is going to want to go back to Earth and have kids anyway. You’ll get a position at a university or maybe even work in the mountain. There will be brats—I mean babies and stuff.”

Babies?” Rodney repeated, completely horrified. “Are you smoking crack, Sheppard? I’m not going back to Earth. Like I’d leave the city of the Ancients to live on that cesspool of stupidity. Fuck. She can’t possible think I’d want to go back to Earth and breed.” Rodney grimaced. “I donated sperm to one of those genius sperm bank things—several women have purchased. I have plenty of progeny in the world.”

John sat up abruptly. “What?”

“Well, it’s important when you are smart as I am to make sure those genes are passed along.” Rodney defended. “I donated about six months after the Katie thing. While I don’t know their names or anything—I did leave instructions that if any of the children want my name they can have it when they get older.”

“How many have purchased?” John demanded.

“Four.” Rodney shrugged. “It’s not a big deal, John. I helped some woman have a really smart kid without the hassle of actually being in her life and my genes were passed along. Everyone is happy. They all know if their child wants to meet me they can when they are legally adult.”

“Jesus, McKay.” John frowned. “That’s so… clinical.”

“Well, in case you missed it, Sheppard, I don’t even like kids.”

“You seem to like Torren, okay.”

“Yeah, well, I can send him home when I’m tired of him,” Rodney snapped. “Look, I had a passing interest in that whole family thing but really—Katie Brown cured me of that. I would have destroyed her if I’d married her. She would have never been…” He sighed. “Jesus, I need to start being myself around Jennifer.”

“You did a pretty good job during the meeting today.”

Rodney snorted. “She came down to my lab shortly after the Daedalus entered orbit and we received the good news about DADT…” He trailed off. “Whatever. What are we going to watch?”

“I have the new Batman, Iron Man, and Hancock.”

– – – – –

The eyebrow trash talk had taken on epic proportions at breakfast as their all guy meal had been invaded by Jennifer. She’d tucked in right beside McKay and offered the whole table a smile that John distinctly remembered he’d seen on a Wraith Queen once. It made his feeding scar hurt a little.

Daniel had engaged Jennifer in conversation while O’Neill had shoveled back the Fruit Loops he’d brought with him and looked at Sheppard like he wanted to demote him for ‘failing to properly secure his geek’. It was almost as unnerving as Keller’s smug Wraith Queen smile.

Then three engineers stopped at the table and set Rodney’s hair on fire with their utter ignorance. John hid a grin behind his milk glass as McKay proceeded to rip all three of them bright, shiny new assholes for existing in his reality. He continued to berate them about power consumption and the structural integrity of the grounding stations as he tucked his tablet PC under his arm and picked up his tray. He paused mid-tirade and looked back at John. “Sheppard, are you coming? You promised to spend the day playing light switch for me.”

John popped his last piece of bacon in and grabbed his tray. “We’re supposed to be giving O’Neill and Jackson a tour. Remember?”

Rodney sighed. “Yes, okay, fine. A tour. Though I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first time they’ve been on Atlantis.”

“Yeah, but no one has ever showed them the cool parts.”

Rodney raised an eyebrow. “Did you charge the extra cars?

“Of course, what kind of man do you take me for?”

Rodney chuckled. “Easy and suicidal. Come along then—we can start with the labs. I think Jackson might find a few things to play with. See you later, Jennifer.”

“Nothing with Janus’ name on it,” O’Neill admonished. “I mean it.”

– – – – –

“So, Keller, huh?” Jackson fiddled with an Ancient device on Rodney’s worktable and just grinned when McKay reached out to snatch it. “Blonde, pretty, intelligent—I guess she’s your type. You always had a thing for Sam.”

“Not always,” Rodney shrugged. “After working with her for a year, I realized that she’s really out of my league. In fact, I can’t think of a single man I’ve ever met that is in her league. I’m personally too much of an asshole.”

Daniel laughed. “Well, I think we all are, to be honest. Sam is brilliant and a pleasure to work with. I really miss working with her sometimes but her responsibilities at the SGC sort of eclipse everything else these days.”

“Do you miss being a part of a field team?”

“Not so much. I like the research and the slower pace,” Daniel admitted. “I’m also really not in the mood to get a gun shoved in my face on a regular basis.”

“You should stay on Atlantis for a while—explore the Ancient database to your heart’s content. Translate all the crap that our linguists can’t handle. It could keep you busy for years.”

“It’s crossed my mind. Things are slower at home now and the Wraith threat looms large. Being out here searching for the technology of the Ancients appeals—even if I did have to go into the field sometimes.”

“Only if you wanted to,” Rodney shrugged. “Let’s go find the flyboys before John starts cheating. Last week he altered the suspension on my car while I was getting dinner. The fucker.”

“So you really built a remote control car racing track?”

“Yep.”

“You know that’s… very cool.”

“Well, we live in trying times, Daniel. A man needs a little diversion ever once in a while.”

“Is that what Keller is?”

Rodney groaned. “Can we seriously not talk about her?”

– – – – –

“All I’m saying, Sheppard, is that when you let a man like McKay get distracted by a woman that the mission is likely to suffer. What if he wants to move back to Earth with her? I mean, seriously?”

John banged his head against the wall near the transporter and wished, just once, that he could just let loose and tell O’Neill how he really felt about the whole thing. “It isn’t my place to tell McKay how to live his life, sir.”

Jack snorted. “What the fuck ever.” He scuffed the floor with his combat boot. “Besides she’s just going to try to change him. Nothing good can come that – nothing good at all.”

“Are you going home on the Apollo, sir?” John asked with a strained smile.

Jack just chuckled. “You wish, Sheppard. After the Apollo leaves, Jackson and I are on vacation for the next six weeks and the fishing here is outstanding.”

– – – – –

“So, Jennifer wants me to have dinner with her in her quarters tonight.”
John stored the last car in the crate they’d confiscated for storage and then shoved it into the supply closet only he and Rodney could open without a serious amount of effort. The track wasn’t a secret but everyone had to bring their own cars. By the time he’d stood up and faced Rodney he was fairly certain that he wasn’t grimacing or looking like he had a hernia.

“Look, Rodney, you like the woman. You’ve been dating her for months and despite what you think I really don’t dislike her.”

“Whatever.” Rodney crossed his arms. “And she accused me of ignoring her at breakfast.”

“You ignored us all at breakfast, that’s what you do at meals unless the food is really bad and then you bitch about the food instead of working.” John leaned against the wall beside the closet and watched amused as Rodney’s eyes widened fractionally. The leaning thing always did the trick. He’d figured that out at thirteen and God help the world after that. No one had been immune to John Sheppard and his seemingly poor posture from that point forward. “Besides, I thought you were going to start acting like yourself around her to see if she could handle it.”

“Obviously she can’t,” Rodney muttered his eyes drifting over John’s lean form with undisguised interest.

“Well, she did seem to like you when you were on her level and flirting with her.” John winced. Just when, he thought, had he developed a terminal case of verbal diarrhea?

“What do you mean by that?” Rodney demanded.

“I just mean, she likes it when you give her attention and aren’t being distracted by…” John sighed. “Look, McKay, you’re a brilliant man and a lot of people have a hard time keeping up with you.”

“Yes, but what the hell does that have to do with her liking me?” Rodney snapped. “Stop being evasive and tell me what the fuck you just meant.”

John flinched and straightened up from the wall. “Didn’t you wonder why it took her so long to diagnose that you had an alien parasite in your brain?” He demanded fiercely and then winced as the color drained out of Rodney’s face. “Your drastic personality change didn’t even register on her radar for fuck’s sake!”

“But it did with you?” Rodney asked softly.

“I asked her if your fever had… I asked her if when you got sick on the planet if that hadn’t affected you somehow and she said you were fine.” John’s voice cracked a little. “A week later you forgot where your own lab was and called me on the radio so upset you could barely speak.”

“John.” Rodney swallowed hard. “You’re saying that she liked me so much better with that parasite in my head that she didn’t want to notice I was sick?”

“She found you quite charming,” John muttered.

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me?” His voice hoarse with horror and incredulity.

“You said you loved her. That you’d been in love with her for a while. You’ve seen the goddamned videos she recorded; you know what you said to her.” John kicked the wall and grimaced when Atlantis brightened around him in an obvious expression of ire at the abuse. “Sorry, baby.” He patted the wall and walked away so he wouldn’t be tempted to do it again. “I didn’t want to ruin your good thing because you seemed happy with her. In fact, up until yesterday I was pretty much convinced I was going to get the best man question again—any fucking day.”

“I can’t believe…”

“Ask Jeannie,” John interrupted. “She admitted it to her—me I had to figure it out for myself. But Jeanie and I talked…”

“Jeannie has been sending me fucking screen captures from online jewelry stores!” Rodney straightened up. “Well, thanks for finally being honest with me.”

John groaned. “I just… damnit… Rodney she’s not a bad person, okay. And she does care about you and you said you loved her. I just wanted you to be happy, for fuck’s sake.”

“Do you hate her?”

John sucked in a breath and responded in a rush before he could change his mind, “Like hell burning.” He paused and winced at how relieved he was to say it aloud. “Sorry.”

Rodney snorted. “Were you going to tell me eventually? I mean, hell, John – this is a lot to keep down, even for you.”

“You deserve to be happy,” John finally said. “Look, I need to go… so I’m going to go, okay?”

“Yeah, okay.”

“And we’re okay?”

“Yeah, John, I… I understand wanting… I want the same for you, you know.” Rodney waved him off one hand. “Go ahead. This conversation must have seriously tested your stoic reserve to the maximum. I wouldn’t want you to explode from the angst right here in the hallway.”

– – – – –

Three days later, McKay was still doing his level best to ignore everyone. Jennifer had taken to glaring at John whenever they were in the same room together so he figured she thought he was responsible for Rodney’s bad mood and John couldn’t even pretend he wasn’t. He knew they hadn’t had the discussion, yet. If they had, he wasn’t sure if glaring would be enough for the impossibly young doctor.

“So McKay is pissy.” O’Neill dropped his spoon into his empty cereal bowl and John wondered briefly how the almost-goat milk was working out for him on the Fruit Loop front.

“Yeah.”

“Your fault?”

“Why would you ask that?”

“Because the girlfriend is glaring at you instead of at him.” Jack raised an eyebrow. “So fess up, Colonel.”

“Is that an order, sir?” John asked with a raised eyebrow.

Jack grinned. “Only if it has to be.”

“I might have told Rodney that Jennifer liked him better when he was getting his brain killed by a parasite because he was easier to get along with.”

Daniel Jackson snorted his coffee and then groaned in pain. “Fuck, Sheppard. Couldn’t you have waited a few seconds?”

“Apparently not,” John tossed him a napkin. “He didn’t take it well, either. You know how fond he is of his big brain. I think he’s more proud of it than he is his dick.”

“I can’t imagine how that’s possible—he has a very nice dick,” Jackson muttered and then flushed when he looked up and found both Jack and John glaring at him, furious. “What? Antarctica was a very cold, lonely place.” John stopped glaring and started frowning. Jack kept on glaring. “Don’t look at me like that, Jack, you were dating that woman from the Pentagon at the time.”

“So it wasn’t while I was frozen down there?” Jack demanded.  “Because that would be…”

“What?” Daniel asked, amused. “It isn’t like we would have made out in front of the stasis pod or anything.”

“You need to stop talking about that,” John snapped. “I didn’t even know he was bi for fuck’s sake.” At least, not until McKay had started checking him out. John frowned. Had McKay been checking him out all along and he just missed it?

“Then you have to be the most clueless man in the universe,” Daniel gathered up his computer and the two books he’d brought with him to breakfast. “Does high altitude flying break gaydar or something?”

Jack continued to glare at Jackson walked away. “I can’t believe…”

“You?” John hissed. “Jesus. What about me? I figured I would be the…” He broke off and blushed. He’d always assumed that if he’d ever gotten McKay into bed that he would be the first man. Now he knew differently and that sort of pissed him off.

Jack laughed softly. “Oh, I see.”

“Sir, please don’t make me say something rude to you,” John ground out through clenched teeth. He rubbed his face with both hands. “Want to go knock golf balls off a balcony?”

“Hell yeah.”

– – – – –

“This is a sweet setup, Sheppard.”

John grinned. “Yeah, every few months McKay uses the transporter from the Apollo to retrieve the balls for me. They all have microscopic sensor dots on them so they can be located. Then I toss them in one of the Ancient washing machines and they are all good to go.”

Jack notched another ball into place and lined up his swing. “Did she really miss figuring out he was sick because she liked him better that way?”

“Yeah.”

Jack shook his head. “That’s… that’s really fucked up, Sheppard. Considering how important McKay is to the continued survival of this mission it’s the kind of thing I would have liked to have been informed of officially.”

“Mr. Woolsey is aware of it.”

“I always thought she was too fucking young to the CMO but Weir and then Carter both agreed that she could do it.” O’Neill sighed. “I didn’t want to come off like some misogynist by disagreeing with them and Carter – well Carter and I really weren’t speaking by the time she got assigned to Atlantis.”

“How long will she be in charge of the SGC?”

“It’ll probably be permanent to be honest. They were going to give her the George Hammond but things have changed a lot since then. The IOA and the President both were really happy with her work out here and now that Atlantis is back where it belongs in Pegasus, the Wraith threat is temporarily slowed down, and Landry is looking to retire. The only other option that works for the IOA is for me to come back and I’m not interested… hell I’m ready to retire myself.” Jack whistled. “Easily five hundred yards.”

“Slightly different gravity,” John grinned. “It makes for a nice range. I’ve been trying to get the engineers to build me a golf course but they aren’t playing along.”

“Well, it would be good for base morale if we had some activities…” Jack chuckled. “I’ve been trying to sneak you guys some pool tables onto the Apollo for a year. I think with Sam in charge at the SGC I’ll probably finally get my way on that front.”

“So what’s up with you and Carter?”

Jack paused and then frowned. “Well… she was disappointed in me for a while and I let a situation get out of hand because I was an idiot.”

“We all have our moments, sir.” John crossed his arms. “Something to do with Jackson?”

“You could say that,” Jack lined up another ball and sighed. “Yeah, exactly that. I made a few mistakes on that front across the board and I paid for them in a couple of major ways. Hurt them both before it was all said and done. I like to think I’ve made things right.”

“It’s kind of hard imagining you being a fuck up, sir.”

Jack chuckled. “You know that so-called black mark on your jacket, Sheppard? If George Hammond had been a hardass like your CO in Afghanistan my jacket would be riddled with so many black marks I wouldn’t have made General if I’d saved the planet a couple hundred times.” Jack sighed. “And for the record, if I’d been there—I’d have been sitting in the passenger seat of the helicopter disobeying orders right along with you. Some people get so tied up in money and politics that they forget what it’s like to be out there—and what it would be like if no one came for them.”

John grimaced. “Didn’t make much of a difference, sir. I only brought home bodies.”

Jack snorted. “It made all the difference in the world, John, and it still does. The men on this base don’t look at you like you make the sun rise and set because you’re hot. They look at you that way because they know you won’t leave them behind if you have a single choice—no matter how much it might cost you.”

John grinned. “You think I’m hot, sir?”

“Who doesn’t, Sheppard?” Jack asked dryly. “You do look in the mirror, right?”

“Well, may I say the same, sir. I hope I look half as good when I’m fifty.”

Jack snorted, they both knew he’d been waving goodbye to fifty for more than few years. “Kiss ass.”

– – – – –

John swung the bag of sandwiches, chips, and sodas that he’d begged off the cook as he turned down the hallway towards Rodney’s private lab. He figured he’d let the man wallow in misery for long enough and it was time for an intervention. Food always went great with a McKay shaped intervention.

“So you’re saying you didn’t like me better when I was sort of retarded?”

John jerked to stop just outside of Rodney’s lab at the shouted question. McKay’s voice could carry a country mile he was pissed and he was most certainly pissed.

“You were sick, Rodney, you were never retarded.”

Brain damaged,” Rodney returned. “I had the functioning IQ of a two year old, Jennifer before it was all said done. In fact, I was smarter when I was two then I was near the end of that clusterfuck. I was so fucking stupid I’d forgotten just how miserable I was supposed to be. When did it stop being attractive for you? When I started to forget my friends? When I started to forget practically every thing I ever knew? How about when I still knew enough to know I wasn’t smart anymore? Was it still okay for you when I was clinging to you and miserable because I knew what I was losing?”

John winced.

“It wasn’t like that!” Jennifer shouted. “It wasn’t like that at all. Okay, so fine! When you first came home and you woke up—when I just thought you’d had an infection—you were funny and charming. I was really attracted to that part of you.”

“And it didn’t seem funny to you that I wasn’t my usual self? I was easier to deal with, right? I wasn’t bitching about being in the infirmary; I wasn’t trying to get you to release me early. I was easy to deal with so you ignored that something was wrong with me.”

“I didn’t ignore it!”

“I think you did. I think you liked the new me so much that maybe deep down, whether it was a conscious decision or not, you decided not to care how or why I was so different.”

“No.” Jennifer’s voice broke a little. “You aren’t being fair, Rodney. It wasn’t like that at all. Do you know what it was doing to me to see you go through that? I wanted to save you; I tried so hard to save you.”

“Yeah, right. If Jeannie hadn’t come out here and insisted I go to Ronon’s shrine thing, I’d be dead right now. You’d already given up on me! That was obvious. Hell, you didn’t even bring a full medical kit with you. You drilled a whole in my head with a goddamned DeWalt for fuck’s sake! Carson would have never made such an assumption—Carson would have come prepared for anything.”

“I’m not Carson Beckett!”

“No, that much is obvious. Because Carson would have known immediately that something was wrong with me. He would have found it earlier and I wouldn’t have to live with the knowledge that a parasite got in my head and slowly destroyed me and everything I am in a matter of weeks. I wouldn’t have those memories. I wouldn’t have forgotten everyone.”

“You didn’t forget everyone!” Jennifer shouted. “You never forgot John!”

John flinched. If he thought about it, he could still hear Rodney yelling for him—his voice full of panic and fear.

“What?” Rodney demanded.

“You never forgot John Sheppard!” Jennifer laughed bitterly. “Even when you forgot your own name—you remembered him. When you were scared, you went searching for him. When you got confused and forgot what you were doing—he was the one you needed. He was the only one you wanted. It was always John you called out for. The rest of us—we stopped mattering by the end of the third week. As long as you had John, nothing else mattered.”

“He’s my best friend,” Rodney said in a quiet voice. “The best friend I’ve ever had in my life. I trust him.”

“It would be nice if you could trust me.”

“I can’t imagine how I could do that after this.”

“You said you loved me.”

“When I was dying!”

John’s mouth dropped open in shock but before he could move away and find a spot to hide Jennifer came out of the lab with Rodney not far behind her.

“How could you tell him?” She demanded, tears welling in her eyes.

“How could you not?” John asked in return.

She stared for a few seconds and then slapped his face. “Everyone thinks you’re so nice. They don’t have a clue how cruel you can be.”

“I could say the same about you.”

She tried to hit him again but Rodney grabbed her and pulled her away from John. He shook her a little. “Don’t you dare hit him again! He won’t hit you back—but if you ever put your hands on John again—I’ll make you wish he had.”

Jennifer jerked free of Rodney’s grasp and stumbled a little. “You’re really choosing him over me? That’s the choice you’re making?”

Rodney frowned at her. “We’re done here, Jennifer. I think we’ve been done for a while and neither one of us noticed.”

John watched her walk away with a sigh and stinging cheek. “I was just… bringing you lunch.”

Rodney snorted. “And stayed for the show?”

“It was like a train wreck,” John confided. “I haven’t been here very long. Just a minute or so. I know I should have left… but I just couldn’t make myself.”

Rodney took the bag. “Well come on then—you might as well feed me since you came all this way.”

John followed him into the lab and didn’t say anything when the door shut behind him. He glanced back only briefly when he heard the locks engage. “So, what started that?”

“New data burst this morning. She’s been offered a partnership in a medical practice near her Dad on Earth. Her contract with the IOA is up for renewal in six months. She came down here all excited because her Dad had forwarded her some listings for houses in the area for us to look at and decide on. He also, thoughtfully, included a listing of job openings at several universities in the area.” Rodney unwrapped his sandwich and wrinkled his nose. “Is this almost ham?”

“No, the mostly roast beef.”

“Oh.” Rodney smiled happily. “Excellent. Okay, so anyways—she got really upset when I told her that I wasn’t interested in leaving Atlantis and going back to Earth.”

“Why would she think you would be?”

Rodney flushed. “I might have said something like that on our trip, you know. But I was distracted because she kept smiling at me and she kissed me and stuff.”

“So basically you lied to get laid,” John summed up. He popped open Rodney’s can of soda and set it in front of him. “So…what brought up the other stuff?”

“She told me she loved me and thought we wanted the same things. She thought I was ready to go back to Earth and have a family.”

“And you told her about the sperm donation stuff, right?”

Rodney groaned. “Oh, god, she did not take that well at all. She acted like it was the worst thing ever and told me she wanted me to call the firm and have the rest of my donation destroyed so other women couldn’t buy.”

John snorted. “Okay.”

“And she said I should try to find out who the women were so I could get visitation rights to see my children because I was an irresponsible parent.” Rodney rolled his eyes. “I told her that I was a sperm donor and if those women had wanted a man in their lives they wouldn’t have bought sperm. So anyway, she said that her future children had a right to know their siblings and that’s when I told her that I wasn’t interested in having children of my own.”

Rodney sighed. “Then—she said that she didn’t think she could continue to have a relationship with me if I was going to be on your team and hang out with you so much. She said that considering your life style choices and the new regulations—she didn’t trust us to be alone together. That you might as well be another woman.”

John’s mouth dropped open. “She said what?”

“I believe I was speaking English,” Rodney snapped. “I might have laughed at her when she said that by the way. I mean, no one looks at you and sees ‘woman’.”

“No, I would hope not.” John crumbled up his sandwich wrapper. “Look, McKay, I…”

“Stop, John, she had no business saying anything about your personal life to me. She’s your doctor and clearly she was using information she’d gained as your doctor and that is so far out of line that it isn’t even funny.” Rodney’s hands shook a little as he spoke. “I’m going to speak to Mr. Woolsey when we finish up here and demand she be sent back to immediately Earth for it. I’m your best friend but even I don’t have the right to know such things about you.”

“Like what?” John demanded. “What else did she say?”

Rodney flushed. “She said that she’d treated you for an injury that you’d obviously gotten from anal sex a few months back.” He closed his eyes. “So I told her that her telling me that was unethical but considering her history I wasn’t exactly surprised by her lack of professionalism.”

“And that’s what started the argument I heard about the parasite thing?”

“Yeah.”

John busied himself by putting their garbage in the bag he’d used to carry the food in and then finished off his coke in one swallow. “Okay. So. Fuck.”

Rodney reached out and grabbed his hand. “John?”

“I’m…” He closed his eyes briefly. “Jesus, how the fuck could she say that to you?”

“I’m very sorry,” Rodney murmured.

“There wasn’t… it wasn’t…” John took a deep breath, his face scarlet with anger and embarrassment. “I haven’t had sex with another person two years, Rodney. Yes, she did treat me for a problem—but it was self-inflicted. I got a little carried away with a toy… Jesus. I can’t believe I said that. It was a small thing but it sort of freaked me out. I trusted her…” He stood up from the stool. “I trusted her.”

“She’ll be gone on the Apollo, John. I won’t let her stay on our city.”

“I trusted her with a lot of things, Rodney. I trusted her with my people—with my best friend and that was a huge mistake.” John ran his fingers through his hair. “I need some space.”

“John, I know I’ve been a jerk and ignoring everyone these last few days but please don’t use this as excuse to do the same.”

“No.” John looked away. “I won’t. I just need some air and some space before I lose it and go find her.”

– – – – –

“Do you want to file charges against her?”

John looked up from the beer bottle he’d been staring at but not drinking and looked at Jack O’Neill. “Excuse me, sir?”

“Mr. Woolsey called me into his office when McKay explained that he and Keller had been fighting and she divulged some very sensitive medical information about you in the course of the fight. She was called in and didn’t deny it.” Jack slid down the wall and looked around the balcony. “Nice bolt hole, by the way. Took McKay twenty minutes with the sensors to find you.”

“Well, Atlantis really doesn’t have any ugly parts—at least from this perspective. She isn’t the best looking lady under the skirt but sitting on an ocean will do that.” John pulled a bottle of beer out of his cooler and passed it to Jack. “You’re going to retire out here, aren’t you?”

“Unless you can’t deal with it, yeah. Daniel wants to live on Atlantis and all I need is a place to fish and maybe fly around in a cool ship occasionally. Atlantis fits the bill.”

“Are you going to replace Mr. Woolsey?”

Jack sighed. “That’s what the IOA wants. They could use him on Earth and if I’m going to retire from the Air Force…”

“Right.” John nodded. “No charges. She’s young and stupid—I just never want to set eyes on her again.”

“She’s already been beamed up to the Apollo. Officially she’s transferring back to Earth of her own freewill—unless you want differently.”

“No, we don’t need the rumors.”

“Granted.” Jack cleared his throat. “But, John, I’ll nail her little ass to the wall if you want it. You have to know that.”

“I do, sir.” John closed his eyes. “She told Rodney that was I gay and that…” He flushed. “She told him.”

“I always figured you were bi.”

“Nah, a few Ascended women and guys.” John chuckled. “And there was a space pirate once—but she was so butch she might as well have been a man.”

Jack groaned. “Christ, Sheppard. Seriously?”

“Leather and a left hook that would make Tyson envious,” John said. “My hand to God.”

“Ha.” Jack plucked at the label of the beer bottle. “So you okay with me and Jackson hanging out here?”

“I can’t believe you’re asking me that.”

“This is your city, John. The IOA, the SGC… they can all think and say what they want but we know who she works for. She certainly knows who she works for. You really don’t see it, do you? You don’t see how rooms get brighter when you walk in them? How the walls in the hallways hum when you run your hand down them as you walk?”

“It’s just the gene, sir.”

“My gene isn’t all that different than yours, John and while she responds to me beautifully—I’m like a step child around here compared to you.”

“I want Carson back as the CMO.”

“The IOA might fight that because he’s…”

“I don’t care. I want Carson.” John closed his eyes. “I don’t think I could trust anyone else for a while and Carson is family. I know the people on Earth just think he’s a clone—but in every way that matters to us—he’s Carson Beckett. And, in case those assholes missed it—he helped save Earth.”

“Agreed. I’ll talk to Mr. Woolsey. In the meantime, Biro has been tapped to handle the administrative side of stuff. She’s a little wigged out but she’ll be okay.”

“She’s a good doctor. She was part of the first expedition.” John murmured. “What would you do out here?”

“Boss you around, fish, fly a Jumper sometimes, and maybe work on my dissertation. Don’t tell anyone but I’m ABD in political science.”

John spit beer out in front of him and laughed. “Don’t ever tell Rodney he would just die. Seriously?”

“Yeah.” Jack laughed. “I got bored in DC. I started out taking a few classes in anthropology but that got old quickly. Jackson would be so disappointed if he knew.”

“What does Daniel think?”

“Daniel… he’s wanted to be on Atlantis since the very beginning. He was so damned angry that he didn’t get to come out here originally that I was afraid he’d never forgive me.”

“You and he?”

“Yeah. Him and me.”

“Holy shit.” John chuckled. “I mean, you know the rumors have always been there. There must be people in two galaxies collecting money on that bet.”

“You okay with that?”

John snorted. “Yeah, I’m okay with it. Besides – he’s hot. Great job, sir.”

Jack laughed. “Yeah, he is. I mean—really.” He sobered up. “It could be you, you know. The IOA would accept you as the leader of the expedition if you really wanted it.”

John snorted. “I’d start spacing people inside a week. After about the third meeting on the nutritional value of the green potatoes from PR8-X31, I would just lose my fucking mind. Besides, it should be you. You deserve a cushy job at the ass end of space with a bunch of crazy soldiers and wackass scientists who make it their life’s mission to tear a hole in the space-time continuum. You did save the planet a few times after all.”

“I could come to hate you, Sheppard.”

“I won’t hold it against you, sir.”

– – – – –

“Rodney said I could have my own lab and I could find work here to do for the rest of my life, Jack. It would be great.”

Jack relaxed on his bed and watched Daniel move around the guest quarters he’d been assigned. “I kicked Keller off the city about three hours ago—while you were on New Athos with Teyla.”

Daniel stopped moving and turned to stare. “What?”

“She… she had a huge argument with McKay and apparently blurted out that Sheppard was gay and provided a few choice details that she knew because she was his doctor.”

Daniel sat down abruptly. “Jesus. What did McKay say?”

“He was the one up in Woolsey’s office asking that she be removed from her job. And apparently, she hit Sheppard. McKay was livid and wouldn’t even look at her when we brought her into Woolsey’s office.”

“Is Sheppard filing a formal complaint?”

“No, he just wants her to fucking disappear.”

Daniel pulled off his glasses. “Well, who else knows? I mean, did anyone overhear her and McKay fighting?”

“Besides Sheppard? No, I don’t think so. It was in his private lab on the other side of the city. The one where he goes to sulk apparently.” Jack watched Daniel for a few seconds. “I had the talk with Sheppard. He seems cool with me taking Woolsey’s place.”

“Why did you even have to have that conversation with him? He hasn’t fought anyone’s placement as leader—as much as he appeared to be attached to Weir—he doesn’t seem to care who sits in her chair now.”

“Oh, he cares. If he’d had a problem with Carter or Woolsey—he would have retired his commission and gone home. I know this—the IOA sure as hell knows this. No one likes to say it, Daniel, but this expedition wouldn’t survive very well without Sheppard. If he’s gone for more than a few weeks—the city starts to malfunction in ways that no one can explain. Power problems are usually the first sign. Atlantis doesn’t exist for him but she certainly continues to function because he’s here. I don’t know how long she would work for us if he left and there wasn’t a very strong gene carrier to take his place.”

“Like you?”

Jack shook his head. “No. I don’t think I’m enough. She seems to respond to me well enough but I’m not John.”

“How is he?”

“Upset. Very hurt though he isn’t going to admit it.”

“McKay?”

“Furious. If Keller were alone on the Apollo I would be worried about McKay blowing the thing up.”

Daniel took a deep breath. “Wow, that’s what I get for going off-world. I miss all the—horribleness.”

“How did you like the Athosians?”

“Loved them.” Daniel smiled. “Amazing culture—and the family groups are stunning. They agreed to tell me their oral history—I’m going to make them a digital archive for historical purposes. Teyla says that I could become the archivist for the galaxy—we could bring in people to tell the stories of their people. To keep them from being lost time or the Wraith.”

“Like Alexandria.” Jack tilted his head. “You can build this galaxy a library.”

“Yes. Just like.” Daniel nodded. “After all that I’ve done, Jack, it would be nice to preserve the histories of these people. It would feel good to do that for them.”

“Daniel.”

“I committed genocide, Jack.” Daniel took a deep breath. “Yes, the Ori were… Jesus they were fucked up. But I committed genocide—no matter how it gets sliced or analyzed. That’s what I did and there is nothing I can do to change that.”

“You weren’t alone in that, Daniel.”

“No, but I built the device that destroyed the Ori. I sent it to their galaxy. I activated it. I did all of that. It was my idea, my choice, and my actions that lead to the destruction of an entire race of beings. I live with that. That’s all I can do. But what disturbs me—what keeps me up at night sometimes is that somewhere along the way, I forgot how to talk to people and I forgot how to listen. I don’t think it ever even occurred to me to try to reason with the Ori. Not really. There was a time in my life when I would have done everything I could to reach out to them and the people who followed them before I resorted to what I did.”

“The circumstances…”

“Yeah. The circumstances.” Daniel paused. “I brought the Ori to Earth’s door, Jack. I did that. I caught their attention and in the end, I killed them all. That’s the price my curiosity exacted.”

“Daniel.”

“I’m okay. I just need to do something positive and something great for someone besides myself. I need to do this for these people.”

“Then that’s what you’ll do.” Jack smiled. “We’ll have to go back to Earth to settle some things but then we’ll come back out here and you can do that. I’ll help in any way I can.”

“Thank you.”

– – – – –

“Sir.”

John looked up from his tablet PC and waved Lorne into his office. “What’s up?”

Evan cleared his throat. “The… shit… you’re not going to like this.”

John closed his eyes. “It hasn’t even been forty-eight hours… surely.”

“It’s pretty bad, sir. Three civilians, four soldiers, and two of them are in the infirmary.” Evan took a deep breath. “As far as I can tell, it started with Master Sergeant Branson – who found out that Lt. Davis is gay and has been dating a guy in the math department for over a year. He decided to ‘school’ Davis on how to be a proper soldier. Lt. Wilkes and Lt. Harris interfered around the same time Drs Cole, Harrison, and James came upon the scene—realized that Davis was being bashed and jumped right in the middle of it. Cole has a concussion and Davis is unconscious. Biro sent me to get you immediately.”

John clicked his radio. “Mr. Woolsey, I need you to meet me in the infirmary. We’ve had an incident.” He clicked off after Woolsey agreed and looked at Evan. “Go to the General’s quarters and notify him in person that we’ve had a problem. Give him any details he requests and tell him that Mr. Woolsey and I are in the infirmary.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Wait… is Cole the math guy that Davis was dating?”

“Yeah.”

“Well shit.” He hit his headset again. “McKay, I need you in the infirmary.”

“I’m already on my way, Colonel.”

The infirmary was almost too quiet but John figured that would change as soon as McKay arrived. Cole was sitting up in a bed doing his best to see what was going on the other side of the room. Davis still appeared to be unconscious.

“Wilkes, Harris—haul ass over here.” The Air Force Officer and his usual partner in crime, a Marine, rushed across the infirmary and snapped to attention in front of John so fast that under other circumstances John might have laughed.

“Wilkes.” John tilted his head. “I thought you promised me no more brawling.”

The Air Force officer blushed. “Sir.”

“Tell me what happened and don’t bullshit me.”

“Chase and I were coming back from the gym. We came out of a transporter just off the living quarters where we encountered Lt. Davis and Sergeant Branson in an altercation. Davis was already down on the ground and Branson was kicking him.” Ian Wilkes paused. “And calling him a ‘fucking fag’, Sir.”

“And you responded?”

“Chase grabbed Branson and I tried to check on Davis—but Branson was so worked up that…”

“I lost control of him, sir.” Chase Harris sighed and then blushed. “And he kicked Ian and I hit him as hard as I could. Then he tried to hit me and then… out of nowhere, sir, we had three civilians jump into the middle of it. Branson hit Dr. Cole but Dr. Harrison and Dr. James helped us finally subdue him. We called for assistance and medical.”

John shot a look at Harrison and James who were lingering next to Dr. Michael Cole’s bed. They all looked a little roughed up. “I want all of you checked out for injuries—Ian where did you get kicked?”

“Side, sir.”

“Make sure you get an x-ray. He might have done some damage.” John turned as McKay came in—he was shouting on his radio at Zelenka and he looked just about as furious as he had looked the last time John had seen him.

“Whatever, Radek, just do something. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He clicked off his radio and surveyed the infirmary. “For the love all things holy, John, please tell me my people weren’t involved in a bashing.”

“They weren’t involved—exactly. They were just trying to help.” John motioned to the three of them and found them all studiously looking way from their boss. He laughed a little. “Seriously, they weren’t really at fault. I was just about to go get their point of view. Maybe you can join me?”

“Sure, sure.” McKay huffed out a breath. He motioned John ahead of him. “Beauty before brains.”

“Fucker,” John muttered as Harris and Wilkes both snickered. “Harris, Wilkes—you’ll be on guard duty for Davis until this matter is resolved. Make sure you get checked out—both of you.”

“Yes, sir.”

Dr. Cole had an ice pack to his face and his uniform was torn. Harrison and James looked ruffled but they had at least tried to straighten themselves up.

“Gentlemen.” John tucked his hands behind his back. “Dr. Cole, are you seeing Lt. Davis on a personal, intimate level?”

The man took a deep breath as if to steel himself and then nodded abruptly. “Yes, Colonel Sheppard.”

“Were you aware that he’d told anyone about your relationship?”

“No, we’d definitely decided not to be the first ones to be ‘out’.” Cole flushed. “We were sort of… well we were waiting for someone of a higher rank to take that plunge.”

“I see.” John pressed his lips into a thin line. “Tell me what happened today.”

“I was going to meet Jacob in the main hall of the soldiers living quarters. To make it seem less personal I asked Dr. James and Dr. Harrison to walk with me. They agreed. We transported over to that section and upon leaving the transporter we saw Chase struggling with Branson and Jacob was on the ground apparently unconscious. Before we could get there—Branson got loose and kicked Ian Wilkes in the side and tried to get to Jacob again. He was screaming the entire time… saying some pretty horrible stuff. I’d never seen anyone that angry before.” Cole took a breath. “Do you know if Jacob is okay?”

“I’ll make sure Dr. Biro keeps you informed.” John started to move away and then stopped. “Why were you meeting him?”

“Oh.” Michael flushed and then pulled a set of dog tags from his pocket. “He left them in my quarters and radioed me. He said he felt weird without them and asked if I would bring them to him. I agreed.”

John reached out but then stopped short of taking them. “Why don’t you keep them until you can return them personally?”

“Thank you.” His hand curled around the tags and tried to smile. “And thank you for not being an asshole about this. He wasn’t sure how… he just wasn’t sure.”

“He doesn’t have anything to worry about,” John assured. “I promise.”

“Yeah, okay.” Michael smiled and then hazarded a look at McKay and flinched. “Dr. McKay…”

McKay sighed as John walked away to talk to Biro. “I’m not going to jump on you, Cole, so shut the fuck up. You just stay in this bed until you are released and you have as much time as you need to take care of your… partner.” He pinned James and Harrison. “The two of you—will sign up for sparring lessons with Ronon. If you are going to run around jumping ass first into fist fights with soldiers you need to learn your defend yourselves. We certainly wouldn’t want you to be a liability in such a situation in the future. Go do something productive and let Cole rest.”

– – – – –

Jack O’Neill, Richard Woolsey, and Daniel Jackson were waiting outside the infirmary with Lorne when John came out with Rodney trailing along behind him muttering under his breath.

“How is he?”

“Biro says he has four broken ribs, a severe concussion, and a skull fracture. He’s out of commission for no less than a month but it could be longer. We won’t know until he wakes up. Dr. Cole has a mild concussion. Wilkes has a cracked rib.” John turned to Lorne. “Branson?”

“I have him in the cage. He saw a medic but most of his injuries are self-inflicted.”

“Self-inflicted?”

“Scrapped knuckles, four dislocated fingers and he strained both his knee and his shoulder while trying to get away from Harris to quote ‘finish the job’.”

John’s eyes darkened. “This is… ‘finish the job’?”

“Yes, his words.” Lorne frowned. “He’s been ranting since he got put in the cell. I ordered blood work on the off chance that he’s under some kind of influence. I just… it just seems really odd that he would go off like this. He came on the Apollo but this will be his second tour on Atlantis. Colonel Ellis confirmed that he had no problems with Branson during the trip out here—so I think we have more going on here than we realize.”

“You think it’s personal.”

“Yes. Very personal.”

“What else he saying?”

“He threatened Dr. Cole – said he was going to rip his throat out. He wants a piece of Wilkes and Harris for interfering.” Lorne crossed his arms. “And he’s rushed the cage wall a few times. It stuns him and he’s back on his feet in a few minutes. I had Ronon stand in the cell with him while the nurse took care of his injuries. Ronon is currently on guard with four others I pulled for the job.”

John held up his hand. “Just give me a minute.”

Lorne nodded and took a step back. “Yes, sir.”

John nodded and took a deep breath. “I’ll be right back.” He walked into a storage closet just off the infirmary and locked the door behind him. The space was small and not as well isolated as he would have preferred but he could hardly do anything about that. He took a few calming breaths and leaned back against a wall. Atlantis warmed against him and he patted the wall. “Thanks.”

The day had been the most fucked up thing ever in the history of fucked up things. John had been present at a lot of fucked upness but this… this took the cake. This day was the thing nightmares were made of. He slid down the wall and let his head fall between his knees. John knew, without a single doubt, that even with combat pay he wasn’t paid enough to put up with this bullshit. He sat back and let his head thump against the wall repeatedly. Today was not the day to have a fucking meltdown but hey—if he couldn’t hide out in a supply closet and lose his mind, just who could?

There was a firm knock on the door. It was definitely a Rodney sort of knock. He sighed.

“John, it’s been twenty minutes.” He paused. “And seriously no pun intended, but you really need to come out of the closet now.”

He checked his watch and then groaned. It had been twenty minutes. He got to his feet and opened the door. “That’s long enough for a mental break down, right?”

“It’s certainly your limit around here.” Rodney inclined his head. “O’Neill offered to take care of Branson for you.”

“My men, my problem.”

“Yeah, we figured you’d say that.” Rodney sighed. “They are in the infirmary checking on Davis. He woke up. You should come see him before you see Branson. I think you might find it enlightening.”

– – – –  –

They’d tossed Branson in the Wraith cage. The room still smelled like it had when Todd had been in it. That was enough to set John’s stomach rolling just a little. He strolled to the cage and stared at Branson who had slowly gotten to his feet and was glaring at him.

“Sergeant you have made my already difficult day—a nightmare.” John’s eyebrow twitched a little and he took a deep breath. “I’d like very much to take you out of this cage, drag you in front of the entire company and put a bullet in your head.” He ignored the hissed breath of the Marine guards and Ronon’s grunt of approval. “You assaulted three superior officers and injured a civilian. Then you proceeded to tell anyone that would listen how you’d like to get free so you can finish the job. You’re going to go home and be tried for attempted murder with special circumstances, conduct unbecoming, the assault of three superior officers, criminal assault against a non-combatant, stalking, menacing, attempted sexual assault, sexual harassment, and I’m going to attach hate crime stipulations to every single charge.”

“I didn’t sexually assault that little fag.”

“Is that so?” John leaned in. “You didn’t grab him in the showers this afternoon after the rest of your unit had left and demand that he bend over and take it up the ass for you? Then you attacked him in the hall because he managed to get away from you? Because I got news for you, Branson, I’d take the word of a Wraith before I’d believe a word that comes out of your mouth.”

“What the hell else is he good for? A fucking little queer like him has no business in the uniform—but since he’s here he might as well take it from his betters.”

“The only reason you’re still breathing, Branson, is that I know exactly what kind of life a rapist faces in a federal prison. Because you know what—bending over is all you’ll be good for in Leavenworth.”

“I’m not a rapist.”

“That’s just semantics, Branson, and the kind of men who get life sentences in federal prison… they don’t care so much for the details.”

“You can’t threaten me, Sheppard. You think I don’t have friends on this base?”

John looked him over. “I think the vast majority of the people on this base simply aren’t stupid enough to risk their own careers on a man like you. I think you are a waste of flesh and bone. Your belongings are being packed as we speak and you’ll be tossed through the wormhole as soon as possible. I would advise you to mind your manners when you get to the SGC.” John inclined his head. “Have you ever met Lt. Colonel Paul Davis? Might worry you to know that you just tried to murder his baby brother.”

– – – – –

“Since we are opening a wormhole to Earth after all, Dr. Keller has requested permission to go back through the gate.”

John frowned. “She beams directly into the gate room and steps right through the gate.”

“Agreed.” Richard sighed. “I’ll be… you spoke with O’Neill.”

“Yeah, you cool with it?”

Richard laughed. “Oddly enough I think I’ve done enough out here. I find that the Pegasus galaxy does not lend itself to an orderly life. I’m glad, however, that we were able to return Atlantis to Pegasus. I was worried that there would be some reason for the IOA to justify keeping her on Earth. It would have been difficult to keep her a secret to say the least.”

John laughed. “Yeah, but you gotta admit you had a good time out here.”

“I did, at times, enjoy myself. I may vacation here in the future. The fishing is a big draw.”

John nodded. “We still don’t know how Branson found out about Davis and he refused to say.”

“I think I can help with that, sir.”

John turned around on the balcony and found Lt. Laura Cadman standing in the doorway. Her posture was stiff; her eyes were red as if she’d been crying. “Meet me in my office in twenty minutes, Cadman.”

“Yes, sir.”

John clicked his radio. “Major Lorne, General O’Neill—could you please meet me in my office?” He listened for both confirmations before he turned to Woolsey. “This is a military thing, Richard, but if you want in I won’t deny you access.”

Richard considered it for a moment. “Take care of your people, Colonel, but I do expect a full report. The IOA will have a serious interest in this incident since one of the scientists was injured during the altercation. CC Dr. McKay on it as well.”

“Yeah, no problem.”

– – – – –

“Any idea what she’s going to say?” Lorne asked.

“No, but she looked really upset.” John looked up at the tone that signaled a new visitor and glanced only briefly at O’Neill as he called out for Cadman to enter. She stiffened as she entered and then saluted crisply. “Sit, Laura, and talk to me.”

She bit down on her lip and then took the chair in front of his desk. With a shaking hand, she held out a piece of folded paper and slumped a little when he took it. John unfolded the piece of paper and read the list of names with a neutral expression—he noted that he was first on the list and Davis was near the bottom with Evan Lorne. He spread it out on the desk and looked at her.

“What is this?”

“Exactly what you think it is, sir.”

“I need you to say it.”

Laura flushed. “It’s a list of all the men on this base who have never been personally or sexually involved with a woman on the base, excluding married men.”

“Where did it come from?” John demanded, his tone a lot more harsh than he intended.

“Poker night. Girls poker night, sir.” She blinked rapidly. “It started out—innocent enough. You know that game—Shag, Marry, or Push off A Cliff?”

John nodded. “I’m familiar.”

“Well, you’d be happy to know that most of the women on the base probably aren’t interested in tossing you off a cliff.”

He almost smiled. “Good to know.” He tapped the piece of paper. “The list.”

“Well, one night a few months ago—we started talking about the men on base and who didn’t…”

“You played a new game,” John said. “Straight or Most Sincerely Gay.”

“Yes.”

“And this list?”

“Was the result.” Cadman flushed at the vicious string of cursing that spilled in a low mutter out of O’Neill’s mouth. “I didn’t know… I didn’t know anyone besides the six of us knew about the list until this morning.”

“Do you know who gave this list to Branson?”

“Yes.” Laura looked away from him. “And you do, too.”

“Jennifer Keller played poker with you, didn’t she?”

“Yes.”

“She put my name on this list, didn’t she?”

“Yes.” Laura took another shuddering breath. “And Major Lorne and Lt. Davis. It wasn’t so much a game for her, you know. She added the names without—she just knew and later on Katie Brown told me she thought Keller was—that she put those names on the list because she knew things as your doctor.”

“Why didn’t you come to me when it happened?”

“Because I was afraid that it would get you court martialed. It only takes a rumor, sir, and your jacket isn’t the cleanest. I couldn’t be the cause—I couldn’t be the reason you were taken from Atlantis.” Tears spilled and she wiped at them hastily. “I should have come to you immediately, I know that. I was just… I didn’t know what to do and allegations of that kind were so dangerous before. So dangerous even five days ago.”

“Branson was part of Keller’s military escort while she packed her things to leave Atlantis?”

“Yes, him and Captain Wells.”

“And you don’t believe anyone else could have given him the list?”

“There are only two copies of the list that I’m aware of, sir. Keller had one and I had the other. Keller had the original. I did mine from memory—I needed—I just needed to know the names in case something happened because I was so afraid something would. It was so stupid to play that game but you really have to understand that there are women on this base that…”

“Resent him for being unavailable,” Evan Lorne finished for her. “Am I on that list?”

“Yes.” John raised one eyebrow at Lorne who just smirked. “Okay, then.” He frowned. “Cadman, women resent me for not…”

Cadman blushed. “You’re very attractive, sir.”

O’Neill snorted. “Told you, Sheppard.”

“I don’t know why you’re laughing, sir,” Cadman glanced his way as she spoke. “You’re very pretty yourself. The silver hair has been well received.”

John chuckled when O’Neill blushed. “Don’t look at me, sir, she’s a Marine. I just pretend to be in charge of them.”

“You’re lucky, Cadman, that I’ve always liked you.” O’Neill crossed his arms and sighed. “So, Keller gave this list to Branson. Do you know how far it’s spread?”

“No. I have no clue and the thing is that not all the names… sir, they probably aren’t all gay but that list is making the rounds people won’t…”
“I get it, Cadman.” John closed his eyes. “How many women were in on this game?”

“There were six us there that night. Myself, Captain Hailey from the Daedalus, Sergeant Mehra, Major Teldy, Dr. Brown and Dr. Keller.” She shrugged when John raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, I was surprised, sir. Brown had been ignoring Keller since she’d started dating Dr. McKay. I mean, Katie isn’t broken hearted over McKay or anything but, she didn’t have much to say to Jennifer. Mostly because Jennifer had a lot to say about everything concerning her relationship with McKay and what she expected to get. She wanted him on Earth being a big huge deal in the sciences so she could be the wife of a wealthy genius.” Cadman waved her hand. “She had her eye on the prize after that mess during that conference thing she attended with McKay. She said he was the smartest man on the planet and he should start acting like it and earning the money he deserves.”

O’Neill snorted. “You don’t think we keep McKay around here by paying him peanuts do you? He gets paid. Most of the scientists on Atlantis pull down the kind of money that would be ridiculous if they didn’t go around saving the universe and stuff. You really gotta bring it when you pull a man like McKay out of the private sector and into the government. He’ll never win a Nobel Prize at this rate—his work won’t be published in his life time unless the program gets accidentally outed.”

John clicked his radio. “Major Teldy, Sergeant Mehra, please report to my office immediately.” They both confirmed quickly and John focused on Cadman. “Your word no one has seen your list.”

“I put my list under the battery in my laptop and kept it there until twenty minutes ago when you told me to meet you here.” Cadman swallowed. “I don’t know if the others made a list of their own but I do know that neither Teldy nor Mehra have any problem… please don’t make me say this, sir.”

“Cadman,” Lorne said in a low tone. “Just spit out.”

“Keller had a real problem with you, Colonel. Your relationship with McKay—she said it was an unhealthy friendship and she tried to convince Katie Brown that you were the reason that McKay didn’t actually propose to her. She said you corrupted all of his relationships so he would stay with you.” Cadman flushed. “I told her she was stupid—because if you wanted him she wouldn’t stand a chance in hell. I mean… it would be sort of like choosing between a Volvo and Ferrari wouldn’t it?”

O’Neill snorted. “Jesus, Cadman.”

“Well.” Cadman shrugged. “I’ve been in McKay’s head. It gave me a unique perspective into the whole thing. Keller is like a seven. The Colonel is like a fifteen on McKay’s hotness scale.”

“Good to know,” John murmured and then straightened as his door signaled again. He pointed one finger at Cadman who stopped grinning and moved to a chair next to Lorne. “Enter.”

Major Ann Teldy surveyed the group of people in the room and slide into parade rest in front of John’s desk until John indicated that she sit. “Sir.”

“We are waiting on Sergeant Mehra,” John murmured.

“Yes, sir.” Teldy pulled a folded piece of paper out of her pocket and handed it to Sheppard without batting an eyelash. “I’ve already asked Dr. Brown and she swore to me that she didn’t make her own list.”

John took the paper and unfolded it. It was mostly identical to Cadman’s except that Teldy had ordered the men on the list in groups—military in one and civilians in another. She’d also listed ranks, departments, and who had speculated that they were gay. The door signaled again and Mehra entered with a brisk stride. She saluted and promptly presented a list. Hers was messy but no less complete and hadn’t broken them down in any specific order. All three lists had the same names on them.

“Major Teldy, as the ranking officer in this mess…” John shook his head. “Just what the fuck were you thinking, Ann?”

“I wasn’t, sir.” Teldy flushed and seemed to actively resist remaining seated. “There wasn’t enough beer for any of us to claim that as a defense. The next day I made my list and I knew that Mehra had kept one as well. I did not question as to whether or not Lt. Cadman had kept a list of her own. The original remained with Dr. Keller who promised it would never see the light of day.”

“That’s obviously not the case.”

“No, sir, it’s not.” She cleared her throat. “How is Davis, sir?”

“Severe concussion, broken ribs, skull fracture. His partner has a concussion for jumping into the fray. Wilkes ended up with one fractured rib himself.”

“Sir, I’m willing to accept full responsibility for this incident and will accept without protest any punishment you see fit to levy. I shouldn’t have participated in the conversation and I should have reported it to you immediately.” She grimaced. “In fact, up until the point Keller added your name to the list I was confident that I would be reporting the matter the next day.”

“I really don’t need to be protected, Major. I am capable of defending myself and my career.”

Teldy bit down on her lip. “Yes, sir, you’re totally bad ass, sir.”

John glared briefly and then looked at O’Neill who was trying to hold back his own laughter. “Sir.”

“Gossiping isn’t a crime, Sheppard. Hell, if it were I’d be in Leavenworth myself.” O’Neill sighed.

“Major Teldy, did you give Sergeant Branson a copy of your list?” John asked.

“No, sir, I did not.”

He turned to Dusty Mehra and raised an eyebrow. “Sergeant Mehra, did you give Branson a copy of your list?”

“I’m a lesbian, sir,” Mehra responded without a single hesitation. “If you give me a few minutes alone with Branson I can solve this problem for everyone.”

John smirked. “Congrats Mehra, you’re the first soldier under my command to officially come out to me.”

Mehra grinned. “Care to return the favor, sir?”

John chuckled. “Get the fuck out of my office.” Mehra stood and saluted smartly. “Go do some investigating and find out how many have seen the list and see if any copies were made.” He paused as she turned to leave. “And Mehra,” she turned and looked at him. “Don’t bother being nice about it. Pick up Captain Jordan for back up.”

At the door, she paused and turned to look at him. “Before I do that… I’d like permission to check on my partner, sir. I haven’t seen her since this mess started.”

“McKay has all the civilians confined to quarters or in their labs if they are on shift.” John raised an eyebrow. “I believe you’ll find all of the marine biologists out on pier four doing their best to catch one of those not-dolphin things.”

Mehra grinned. “Pure badass, sir.”

He shook his head as she left and then looked at Laura Cadman. “Cadman, I want you to go search Branson’s quarters and the boxes that have already been packed for him. Then if you don’t find it, go to brig and have him strip-searched. I want the list he was given.”

“Yes, sir.” Cadman hurried from the office with relief showing on every line of her body.

John shook his head but waited until the door had closed before he refocused his attention on Teldy. “Were you aware of Mehra’s relationship?”

“Officially? Not until after the new regulation had passed. She informed me of her relationship and left it at my discretion as to when or if I sent the information up the chain of command.” Teldy shrugged. “Unofficially, I suspected but never asked and was not told.”

“Is it going to be a problem?”

“There aren’t many on this base that can take Mehra in a fight on an individual basis and she’s vicious when she’s crossed. I don’t think she’ll personally have any problems. She is worried about Dr. Brandon but anyone messing with her would have hell to pay when Mehra found out. She’s isn’t going to care about regulations if things get mean, sir.”

John had already figured as much. Mehra hadn’t struck him as the type to take shit lying down or really at all. Dr. Lily Brandon had been on the city a few months but John had taken note of the relationship fairly quickly. Nothing much got past him on Atlantis—the city herself made sure of it. “I’ll speak with Dr. McKay and make sure he takes precautions with Dr. Brandon until things calm down. I don’t want more people in the brig or in the infirmary.”

“What can I do, sir?”

“You can sit beside Major Lorne and look pissed off.” John instructed. He clicked his radio. “Captain Wells, report to my office immediately.” He raised an eyebrow when the door chime rang less than ten seconds later. “Enter.”

Captain Eugene Wells entered. “Sir.”

“I hope I didn’t keep you waiting, Captain.” John inclined his head. “Been outside long?”

“No, sir, I… I checked on Lt. Davis and then came down. Since Major Lorne wasn’t in his office, I figured you would be asking for me soon. I stayed nearby.” He took the seat Sheppard pointed at. “Sergeant Branson was out of sorts after we helped Dr. Keller pack her belongings in a shipping crate. Shortly after she beamed up to the Apollo, he rejoined his unit for a two-hour mission off world. I heard there was an incident in the shower after the mission with Lt. Davis but by the time I located Lt. Davis to confirm the situation he was in the infirmary.”

“Did Dr. Keller speak with Branson during the packing of her things?”

“No. She was very quiet and only spoke when we asked her questions about what to pack and how to pack some of her pictures. We could tell she was upset and Branson did attempt to get her talk about why she was leaving. She didn’t say a word about it.”

“Did she give him anything?”

“Not that I recall but there was a time period when I was taking things out of the room and putting them in the crate. They did have time alone, sir.”

“Have you seen the list, Captain?” John asked.

“No.” He paused. “But, I’ve heard that there is a list of names circulating among the enlisted personnel. I don’t know who’s on it but I’ve been told that it’s a list of gay men on the base.” He flushed. “Do you know if I’m on the list, sir?”

John paused and then looked down at Teldy’s list since it was the most organized. “Nope. Should it be?”

“No, sir, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had an enlisted accuse me of it. They think if you don’t talk about your relationships—then you must be gay.”

“Actually, the list was made by a few women on the base.” John pinched his nose in a sign of frustration. “Captain, I want every officer on this city in the conference room in thirty minutes. Only Davis gets a pass; am I understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Dismissed.” John slouched back in his chair. “Sir, where is the transition team?”

O’Neill laughed. “Hiding in their quarters. You know they didn’t actually expect a gay bashing. They expected orderly little protests and formal complaints. They are fucking useless.”

McKay entered the office then without even bothering to knock or hit the chime. “Do you have a copy of the list?”

John picked up Teldy’s list and handed it over to McKay without a protest. “How did you hear?”

“David Parrish came to me—so upset he could barely fucking speak because some Marine called him a fag in the hallway. He said the enlisted men had a list of gay men on the base and he was on it.” McKay reviewed the list and took a deep breath. “Where did you get this?”

“The list came out of a girl’s poker night, Rodney. Major Teldy was kind of enough to provide her very orderly copy with all the details needed.”

Rodney pursed his lips. “So, Katie Brown outed Parrish? I would have never thought her capable of such a thing.”

“At the time, Dr. McKay, it didn’t seem malicious. She was tipsy and caught up in the moment.” Major Teldy took a deep breath. “That can’t be said for the rest of us. Dr. Brown is really a sweet and rather innocent woman who had no idea what kind of damage a list like that could do on a military base.”

McKay glanced at her briefly and then refocused on the list. “So, Keller?”

“Was stone cold sober.”

“John.” Rodney took a deep breath. “Jesus. I never thought for a minute she was this kind of person.”

“People are a mixture of good and bad, McKay. You know that. She’s a young, sheltered academic who wanted to be the wife of a rich, genius.”

“She’s a vicious little bitch,” McKay snapped back. “I can’t believe… she… is she responsible for what happened to Davis?”

“I imagine she thought Branson would go after me,” John responded, his voice subdued. “She couldn’t have known that Branson was fostering an unhealthy interest in Jacob Davis and she gave him at outlet for what he considered his misplaced physical urges.”

“Why?”

“Because she was jealous of me.” John sighed as he said it. It was too fucking ridiculous really. He would have never interfered in McKay’s relationship with Keller and they both knew it.

“Oh, well she’s stupid.” McKay tossed the list aside.  “Major Lorne come with me and calm down your botanist. He’s a nervous fucking wreck and I don’t have time to babysit people who study plants.”

Lorne sputtered. “McKay!”

“Oh, don’t bother. You do know that Atlantis tells Sheppard everything, right?” McKay motioned him out.

“McKay, I need him for a meeting.”

“I’ll be back very quickly, sir.”

John sighed and looked towards O’Neill. “You aren’t going to change your mind, are you, sir?”

“No.” Jack chuckled. “I’m not going to change my mind.”

– – – – –

Ten Lieutenants, seven captains, and three majors made up his officer corps. They were all crowded into the conference room save one—Lt. Jacob Davis. O’Neill, Woolsey, and Colonel Ellis from the Apollo were in the back of the room observing.

“Lt. Davis is in stable condition and Dr. Biro is confident he will make a full recovery. He’ll be down for a month and then light duty after that.” John nodded to Teldy who began passing out a typed list of names. They’d used her list to create the generic list and it contained only names and rank or professions. “This is the list you’ve heard about. It is exactly what you think it is and by now, there isn’t an enlisted person on this base that hasn’t seen it. I’m sure most of the civilians have seen this list. At this point, I’m not going to reveal how or who created it- it would serve no purpose and would only cause more anger in an already dangerous situation. I make absolutely no assumptions about anyone on this list. I don’t know if they are gay and I really, honestly don’t care.”

John paused and glanced briefly at O’Neill who only shrugged. “For my part, I am, in fact, gay. I’m not discussing my sex life with you people—so don’t even bother with the smirking or the questions about Ancient women. As you can see, Lt. Davis is on this list. Sergeant Branson was given a copy of this list by a civilian. What we have now, ladies and gentlemen, is a situation that can get very difficult very fast.” He looked them all over. “This is your one and only free pass, people. If you cannot serve under a gay commanding officer, I want you to report to Major Teldy’s office for immediate reassignment. You will go home on the Apollo and you will not be asked any questions. I’m not going to judge you or make your life difficult. I just don’t want you on my city if I can’t trust you.”

Captain Phillip Jordan lifted his chin. His name was on the list. “I can’t say anything for anyone else on the list but it’s… I’m gay.” He blushed. “I was pushed out here because of it. My former CO didn’t want to deal with it and gave me the choice of leaving his Air Force or assignment on Atlantis.”

“Understood, Captain.” John shared a glance with O’Neill. “I don’t expect anyone in this room that is on the list to confirm or deny the accusation. There are ten enlisted men on this list and I’ve already moved them out of harm’s way until I can determine how big the problem is.”

“I was sent out here for the same reason.” Ian Wilkes flushed when everyone turned to look at him. “Got the same speech as Captain Jordan.”

Chase Harris shrugged. “I requested the assignment—followed Ian rather than stay at the SGC where I was sure to get the speech sooner or later.”

Well, that covered all the officers that had been listed except for Evan Lorne. John didn’t look at his 2IC but he knew that most of the people in the room were.

Evan sighed. “Yeah, different year, same speech, same CO.”

O’Neill snorted. “Sure explains why Landry wasn’t all that keen on keeping you at the SGC, Sheppard.”

John groaned. “Yes, sir.” He looked around the room. “Anyone got a problem? Seriously, do us all the favor of leaving because if I find out you have a problem later I might just let Ronon hunt and kill you for sport on the mainland.” He stared at them all until each one met his gaze. Satisfied, he nodded and dismissed them.

– – – – –

“Did you want me to question Keller?”

“Yes.” John looked at Colonel Abraham Ellis and then sighed. “Yeah. We need to make sure it did come from her; otherwise I have another problem on this base and I’d like to know.”

“I’ll come up with you, Colonel.” O’Neill stood and looked around the empty conference room. “I need to have a very serious talk with Landry.”

“Yes, sir,” John and Abraham responded at the same time.

– – – – –

Jack O’Neill had never thought about hitting a woman before—unless he counted Hathor which he so didn’t. Every time he thought about that red headed bitch putting her hands on his Daniel he wanted to tear someone a new asshole.

Jennifer Keller was sitting in a small conference just off the bridge of the Apollo—her features pale and her eyes puffy from crying. He supposed he should feel sorry for her but that was the last thing he felt for her.

“I’m sure you heard already about the attempted murder on the city. Lt. Jacob Davis is in stable condition if you’re at all interested.” Jack twisted a cap off the bottle of water he’d brought with him and watched Keller absorb that bit of information with narrow eyes.

“I—I’d heard there was an incident, yes.” Jennifer knotted her fingers together. “I know him quite well.”

“Yes, you were his doctor of record and you put his name on a list of men you knew to be gay due to your role as a doctor on Atlantis. You violated Colonel Sheppard’s privacy by discussing the details of medical records with a third unauthorized party.”

“Dr. McKay is Colonel Sheppard’s next of kin and does hold his medical proxy,” Keller argued. “So, I seriously doubt you’d have a chance of making any kind of charge stick.”

“Are you completely unaware of who I am?” Jack snapped and Ellis, who had been silent the entire time, flinched visibly. “I never should’ve left you in Carson Beckett’s place out here no matter what Weir said or Carter thought. You lack the maturity and the ethics to be even in the Stargate program much less be in charge of the medical services of our most distant operation.”

“I told Elizabeth to pick someone else,” Jennifer exclaimed. “I came to Pegasus to research.”

“You think that excuses you from being a decent human being?” Jack questioned coolly. “And Dr. McKay is Colonel Sheppard’s medical proxy in an emergency not when you’re having a break up fight with your boyfriend.”

Ellis snorted and then shrugged when O’Neill raised an eyebrow at him.

Jennifer took a deep, impatient breath. “Rodney needed to know what Colonel Sheppard really is. He needed to know that the Colonel actively sabotaged his relationship with Katie Brown and tried to do it with me.”

“Seems like he succeeded,” Ellis offered and just grinned when they both looked at him. “I mean, you’re up here and Sheppard is down there consoling him or whatever as we speak.”

Jack took a long drink from his water bottle. “I like you so much Abraham.”

“I’m a great person, General.”

O’Neill couldn’t disagree with that so he turned his attention back to the stupidly young doctor in front of him. “I know you gave that list to Branson. Sheppard knows it. McKay knows it. Jacob Davis nearly died because of your petty bullshit and don’t think for a hot minute you’re going to get away with it.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“The rest of the women at your poker night fell all over themselves to confess the conversation, the making of the list, and the fact that you had the original,” Jack explained. “We’ll find the list you gave Branson and then I’ll have all the proof I need.”

“To do what?” Jennifer questioned. “File charges against me for outing Sheppard?”

“For attempted murder,” Jack responded. “You thought Branson would go for Sheppard—that much is obvious. You thought he’d be so incensed to have a gay CO that he would just lose it. It isn’t like you weren’t aware that Branson had an anger management problem. McKay is in the process of finding the medical records you deleted. Records that would’ve made it impossible for Branson to return to Atlantis or even remain in the Marines. He’s a head case and you covered for him. I don’t even know why because you’ve been doing it since you took over as CMO.”

Jennifer averted her gaze and cleared her throat. “I’m sure McKay won’t have a problem finding the records, you’re right. He begged me to help him because he wanted to rotate back to Atlantis. I didn’t ask why and I figured having someone of his ilk owe me a favor wasn’t a bad thing. I never intended to ask him to hurt anyone and I never asked him to hurt or attack Colonel Sheppard or Lt. Davis.”

“But you let the man return to duty when you knew he was unhinged and suffering from severe PTSD,” Jack snapped. “What’s wrong with the man?”

Jennifer took a deep breath. “He was raped off world in a prison and failed to report it. I let it slide. He said he would seek counseling while he was back on Earth. When he returned to Atlantis last week he seemed even-tempered and in control of himself. I assumed he’d done as requested and seen a counselor.”

Jack stood abruptly. “That’s yet another person you failed to help, Dr. Keller. Now he’s too damaged and too far gone for us to a damn thing for him. Now we’re going to have to put him in jail for attempted murder.” He took a deep breath. “You can be assured that you’ll never practice medicine again. I’ll make sure your license is pulled for life.”

Jack walked to the door and then turned back to look at her. “Additionally, I’d be careful who you speak to and what you say when you do speak to people for the rest of your life. If you ever breathe a word about the SGC or Atlantis I’ll put you in a hole so deep you’ll never see the light of day again.”

– – – – –

“So what are the results on this situation?” Daniel asked softly.

“I’m not going to be able to leave any time soon. Sheppard needs the support and Ellis can’t stay in orbit indefinitely. I want you to go back through the wormhole with Keller and Branson—deliver my report to Sam personally and my retirement package. I’ve also signed the contract with the IOA for the leadership role for Atlantis.” Jack held up an envelope. “It’s all in here. I’ll need you to close my house, the SGC will take care of my bills, and then I need your solemn promise that by the time the Apollo is ready to come back out here that you’ll be ready to get on board and come back to me.”

Daniel smiled then. “Yeah, I can do that.”

“No missions off world with the SGC while you’re home. You settle our stuff and come back. I’ve given you my power of attorney so you can handle anything that comes up. Neither the retirement or the IOA thing is unexpected so no one should complain.”

“Okay.”

“And try to get Teal’c to come out here with you for a visit. I miss the big guy.”

“I’ll do my best. I don’t think he wants to leave Vala and Cam in the field by themselves with a new team. The work they are doing on investigating the Lucian Alliance is going very well and Vala’s intelligence situation has really started to come together.”

“Yeah, they make a good team.”

“Once they got used to the idea—yeah they do.” Daniel smiled. “I think they are sleeping together but I can’t get either one of them to admit it. She still hits on me like crazy whenever anyone looks.”

Jack laughed. “Well, her best weapon is distraction and she’s very good at it.”

“You think Sheppard and McKay are going to hook up?”

“I think they are both too stressed out to even consider it at this point but I could be totally wrong. For all I know, they are holed up in some dark room doing absolutely filthy things to each other.”

“Well, here’s hoping because five years of unresolved sexual tension has got to be a real bitch.”

– – – – –

“Are you in love with me?”

John rolled his head and looked at McKay. They were both two beers into the conversation and flat on their back on McKay’s balcony. “Wow, does this make you a two beer queer?”

“Fuck you.” Rodney sighed. “I’m being serious.”

“I suppose Jennifer said something like that.”

“No, she said you were a selfish bastard and that you weren’t capable of loving me or anyone else more than yourself.”

“Why don’t you start with the easy questions?” John demanded.

“Well, okay—do you like me—yes, of course you do. You have to like me because I’m your best friend. Do you want to fuck me—well, yes, I’m sure you do. I’m very fuckable and I have the best ass on Atlantis. I know this.”

John groaned. “McKay.”

“What, those are very easy questions. I have the data to back up my answers but I get stuck on the love question. I know—I know that you would do anything to keep me safe. I know that if someone took me—you would come get me. I know you would die for me—hell you’d sacrifice yourself for just about anyone so that’s not saying much.”

“I would come for you,” John admitted. “I’d also—Rodney—I’d do my damnedest to live for you, too. You know that, right? I know you hate when I do something insane but I never make those choices lightly.”

“You rode another nuclear bomb, John.”

“Yeah, I did. I told Sam to tell you goodbye this time. I—if you’d been there I would have told you goodbye and I would have told you that you were the best friend I’ve ever had in my life.”

“But you aren’t in love with me.”

“I wouldn’t have told you that—no one should hear that from someone who is about to die. Talk about a huge fucking guilt trip that would have been.” He rubbed his face. “We had a shit day, McKay. Can I answer that question tomorrow?”

“No.”

“Oh, come on!”

“I need to hear it. I know that’s selfish because today has been one seriously horrible fucking day—but I need to hear it.” Rodney sat up and leaned on one hand. “Are you in love with me?”

“Yes.” John watched surprise and then amazement filter over McKay’s face. “And you really are very fuckable.” Rodney sighed and lay back down on the floor. “Look, I never expected… I thought you were straight, McKay.”

“I’m open to possibilities,” McKay murmured. “Didn’t Rod make a pass at you?”

John chuckled. “A pass? I wouldn’t call it a pass.”

“Oh,” Rodney responded and then frowned. “What would you call it?”

“A blow job.”

“You bastard.”

John snorted. “Come on, McKay, have you ever told someone not to suck your dick?”

“You’re still a bastard.”

“But you love me,” John murmured and turned his head so he could look at McKay.

“Yeah, I do,” Rodney admitted and sighed. “So much that I don’t know why I ever bothered to date Katie or Jennifer. I treated them both pretty badly in that respect.”

“Katie knew the score,” John said and then reached out to take McKay’s hand. He thread their fingers together carefully—almost shyly. “She cornered me a few months after you guys broke up and told me to stop being a bitch.”

Rodney chuckled. “You’d never know she had a cast iron backbone would you?”

It had been a surprise, John thought, but no more so that Jennifer’s all out military offensive on his friendship with McKay during their relationship. It had been clear pretty early on that she hated him as much he hated her. “And Jennifer just thought she could push me out of your life if it ever came right down to it. I’m sure she was honestly surprised you didn’t choose her.”

Rodney’s fingers tightened in his briefly and he took a deep breath. “There is nothing in my life more important than you, John, and I’m a fool for not realizing it sooner. I’m sorry if you were hurt by that bullshit with Keller.”

“Your relationship with her didn’t hurt me—I never expected to have you. I won’t lie and say her behavior didn’t cut pretty deep there at the end but I’m not wounded for life over her petty bullshit.” John rubbed his thumb over the top of McKay’s hand. “Are you going to let me have you, Rodney?”

“Yes, absolutely. As often as we possible can for the rest of our lives starting tomorrow because I’m exhausted.”

John grinned and nudged McKay gently. “Good.”

The End

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.

149 Comments:

  1. Thank you!!!!

    I’m on my third reading of both the stories you posted last week.

  2. Wow, Keller turned into a bitch. I kinda hoped the guy had stumbled across the list by accident.

    Anyway–loved the fic, esp how good the fishing is, Jack’s eyebrows, John being petty (He’s not the first! Woe!), and Mckay’s assessment of his assets.

  3. I seriously love you right now. Really. I just love reading your fic. As usual, you nailed everyone perfectly. You made the Atlantis I want to have: Carson’s there, Jack and Daniel are there, John and Rodney together, stupid DADT abolished. Thank you!

  4. Thank you! Keller is just so wrong for Rodney is so many ways. And while this was pretty extreme bashing – it was also supremely satisfying.

    You write Stargate like it should have been, with John as the awesome bad-ass adored by his men. With Rodney just as cool as he really is deep down. With Atlantis as she was meant to be dammit!!

    I’ve been meaning to say for a while how brilliant your website is as well. I access it through my iPhone a lot and it is set up so well, so wonderfully. I even have a little KeiraMarcos icon on my phone so I can jump straight to your stories.

    Thank you!

  5. Wow. You do dialogue so well girl. This story had such a great pace. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Michelle(Diva0789)

    Oh Wow!
    This just brought up my repressed epic hatred for the whole McKeller trainwreck.

    Seriously, when Jewel Staite first appeared (as Keller) I was kind of iffy, but I loved her on Firefly so I figured I’d give her a shot…..And then when it seemed as if the writers were going to go the Ronon/Keller route I was all ready with my fangirl squee…….And then it’s like the writers had a comlective fucking seizure right around the middle of season four and I was scrambling around goin WTF????………….

    In Fact, right after The Shrine I stopped watching….and when I watched the dvds later, I had my finger on the mute/fast forward button. Watching the mess was like nails on a chalkboard for me!

    Now, of course, I have all of this Mckeller angst that im going to have to get rid of!!!

    (And it goes without saying that I loved this! of course I did…you wrote it!)

  7. I know I am late for the party but I had some technical issues. *pats her new laptop* I loved this story. I think, what makes your writing so good is the fact that however you deside to show a char, be it good or bad like with Sam, I can always see it somehow rooted in canon. Sometimes it is harder, like with Carter, sometimes it is very, very easy. Keller on the show gave me the creeps. Someone that young who has dedicated most of her time to her craft has to have given up other parts of her life. I doubt that canon Keller had very much normal teenager time (if you know what I mean?), time to grow up. Canon Keller lacks the real world experience to emphasise with people, understand what makes them tick, what makes them hurt and why. She is a sheltered genius and very self centeres. Perfect for a research post but totally unsuited for dealing with patients. You showed that to us beautifully, thank you so much.

    The only point in the story that made me squirm was Branson. O’Neill had it right when he said that he is another person Keller failed and I really, really hope that this new information, about him being a untreated victim of rape, will be taken into account at his trial and that he will get help. I doubt that he can be held fully accoutable for his actions. Yeah, I know, it is just a story, not real life, but the system tends to fail people like him. That’s the way soziopaths are made 🙁

    I could go on and on about how much I loved your portrayal of John/Rodney and Jack/Daniel. loved it, loved it, loved it. Didn’t miss the sex. ^^

    So, now I have to take a look what else I have missed before going back to catching up with my own writing.

  8. I adore this story (so what else is new, I haven’t found one of your stories that wasn’t awesome). I hate Landry (an idiot, I can’t see how they had him in charge of the SGC) and Keller (boring and so not good for Rodney, period) so I thoroughly enjoyed what you used them for in this one. I also love the way you’ve included characters from your other stories, they are always delightful. Thank you for sharing this fascinating look at the end of DADT.

  9. I have come to expect quality writing from you, and this story just serves to prove me right in that expectation. This story was wonderful. I loved everything about it. I loved: that Landry was using Atlantis as a way to get rid of people he didn’t want, not knowing that he was giving away the best; that Jack is supportive; that there was truth involved in the loss of DADT (it wouldn’t be all sweet and easy); your Keller; and most of all that John and Rodney come together.
    Thank you for writing. I look forward to whatever you bring forth next!

  10. I loved this! I’m so glad you recced yourself on sgagenrefinders. Totally hit the spot. Now, I’m going to have to look for Keller bashing fics now! lol

  11. The eyebrow trash talk was priceless, as was Rodney being his wonderfully mean self. (: I also love how you dealt with Rodney telling Jennifer he wanted to go back to Earth. That never made sense to me and your explanation is so much more in character.

  12. I really wouldn’t consider this crack at all. It’s humorous in some places and made me laugh, yes, but definitely not crack.
    Am I a bad person for really liking the trashing Keller got? Well, if that is so, then so be it, because seriously. That part is awesome. Of course I hate her for doing that to John and the others; she’s a real vicious creature and deserves every punishment she’ll get and then some for abusing his and other people’s trust as a *doctor*. But still, I enjoyed how seriously downhill her life got.
    I quite enjoyed how you handled the DADT-repealed issue; that law is seriously fucked up and I love it every time when someone gets rid of it in a story, but I haven’t read anyone who elaborated on the issue like you did. It was wonderful; John’s speech, the general fallout, everything.
    The addition of Jack and Daniel was great too! The eyebrow-wriggling was hilarious, and it’s awesome that Jack gets to be leader of Atlantis. I quite enjoyed both their involvement in the Keller- and DADT-issue, and that you managed to give them enough screentime and depth without getting too far away from the core plot.
    Also? I would’ve loved to read the story of Rod and the blowjob, and even more of Katie telling John off. Especially that scene with Katie, that was a wonderful character addition; seriously, now I find her hot. Go Katie!
    (I’m not pouting about how John and Rodney didn’t even kiss, really.
    No seriously, the way this story ended was wonderful and fit perfectly; it probably would’ve been a little too much if they had done anything more than hold hands, which was, by the way, completely adorable.)

  13. Wow, I loved this. I felt so bad for John and everyone whose trust Keller betrayed, and you did a great job of showing John’s humiliation at having personal details revealed without his consent and to people whose good opinion he values. Also, the eyebrow trash-talking made me giggle so hard. And John knowing everything that goes on in Atlantis is just awesome. Great story!

  14. I was rec’d this story by my friend, which really fit after I watched the last episode of SGA. Keller just didn’t feel right to me. Pissed off after “The Shrine” because she was…just…wrong. Wrong herself, wrong for Rodney. Then I read this.

    WOW. This was absolutely perfect. I mean it made me happy reading this. Unreasonably happy. Happy that it ended McShep, and happy that Keller was put in her place. You did a great job on this – it’s shot to the top of my favorite SGA McShep stories list!

  15. I had to re read this to celebrate the coming repeal of DADT. I am now imagining Jack and the IOA preparing to go to Atlantis in order to give them the happy news and help them through the first shaky steps as they adjust to the news. I’ve always thought of this as “future fic” but now… it’s “almost here” fic. Or about to happen fic and that makes me happy.

  16. Keira, question :
    Are you a medium, because seriously i read the fic again today and with the repeal of the DADT i can say that you had a few months in advance.
    So, think hard and give me the lotterie numbers 🙂
    Feel amazing to read about the repeal when it’s true in the RL.

  17. I re-read this *again* and it’s still as wonderful as the first time I read it. I love the eyebrow trash-talk, the ‘space you’ speech is inspired and has me giggling away like a crazy woman, and yes, my god, Keller’s way too young and bitchy and self-absorbed to be CMO on Atlantis! lol In my head, this is the way the series *actually* went. 😀

    Thank you!

  18. Bingo you hit the nail right on the head picking out the very same faults I thought of about Keller> I didnt like what she was doing in The Shrine and when she tried the “talking about being humble” during Brainstorm then ooohhh I just wanted to smack her roung the chops. Also because they got rid of Carson for her and indirectly she was responsible for John turning into a blue bug. But for the writing itself. WOWOWOWEEE absolutely awesome. What took Rodney so long to figure it all out? I just love reading your fictions they are pure gems.

  19. Brilliant story! It was weighty, dramatic, angsty (not a word I know but I’m using it anyway lol) and clever. I just love Keller as a bitch, it works so well. I’d vote for more bitchy Keller over sweet, kind Keller any day, it adds a whole new dimension to the John/Rodney/Keller triangle.

    I adored the ending, Rodney making John admit ‘it’, and not letting him take the easy way out.

    Hell, I really enjoyed the whole story. Thanks for writing and sharing it.

  20. Atlantis_Jackson

    Ohh! I love this fic! I’ve never ever ever been a big fan of Keller! I’m not surprised that she’d pull something like that!
    Yay! They’re together in the end!!!
    Lovely! Very very lovely!
    I also loved jack in this fic. I adore jack anyway, but I think jack in this fic is probably my favorite!

    Very well done!!

  21. Only just got around to reading this for some reason. I thought that it was a very funny and thoughtful look at the sorts of things that are going to happen when DADT finally bites the big one. My son, recently out of the army says he is afraid that people are going to die. I told him, “Honey they are already dying. They always have been. And I guarantee people died when blacks were incorporated into unsegregated units. But it has to be done. Believe me, they know it. They live it every fucking day. Maybe your grandkids won’t have to.”

  22. Oh, and I wanted to say that “failing to secure your geek” may have replaced “I trust you sent them a strongly worded surface to air missile” as my favorite Kieraism.

  23. I just thought I’d leave a comment. Because this is, like, the fifth time I’ve read this.

    “I’ll space you and report you AWOL”

    And if TPTB gets their heads out of their asses and make a season 6 I think you should get to write at least half the episodes – would be interesting 😀

  24. i just re-read this fic again! and i have to say that i ADORE what you’ve done here.

    also, if your fics are crack, then i’m addicted and don’t want a cure, just another fix! and eagerly awaiting your next post of ANYTHING that you write.

  25. More!!! This story had everything I love, John/Rodney, Jack/Daniel and psycho Keller. Amazing as always! 😀

  26. My Perfect, to Me in My ever so humble opinion, SG fic EVER. GORGEOUS. 🙂 My ever favourite, and, always the one I keep coming back to at the end. (Also. SQUEE! Jack/Daniel is PRETTY PRETTY PRETTTTTY! And ties in side by side for OTP exactly the same as Mcshep. Could not pick a favourite pairing for SG fandom out of those two, so, a fic that has BOTH, done so beauti-fucking-fully, is just made of gold and silver and WIN.) But, then, that could be said for all your ficcies. All masterpieces. Especially the first I ever read, your K/S fic, AND your Jim/Blair fic, AND your Harry/Draco fic, ANNNND. Well. You get the picture. 🙂 Thank’s for writing. Might be Lesbian, but, proud to be one of your (FICTIONAL only. Otherwise, eww.) cockwoshippers. Slash/Femslash ALL the way, baby! Woo! You rock. I’ll stop rambling. Bye! Waves.

  27. I love the fact that you can get me to really like someone in one fic, and want to see them spaced in the next! When you bash someone, you really do a wonderful job of making me want to see them suffer for their assholery. Wonderfully done!!!

  28. I’ve only got a quarter of the way through, but I needed to comment…

    Fucking love it mate! It’s brilliant.

  29. spirit.seeker.60

    I think this is my favorite story by you. It’s got everything I love. Sarcastic Jack, Snarky Daniel, honest John (oh yeah, the spacing AWOL line) and Rodney being, well, Rodney. I never liked Keller after the parasite show and you put your finger on the reason. She is a Queen Bitch. Atlantis is well rid of her. And we know she and Sam had the same problem, the men they picked perferred a much better man then they were. So, after the 10th or so time reading this, thanks again from the bottom of my kinda cloudy heart. Awesome job.
    Debi C

  30. I love this story and have read it many times. You do their voices so well. Always been a fan of Lt Cadman and Maj Tedly and their actresses. So happy to imagine Jack and Daniel living with the Atlantis crew.

    I would be all in favor of spacing some people.

    Love the positive way you have most of the Atlantis crew accepting the end of DADT.

    Thanks for imagining, writing and sharing this story.

  31. I love this story. I so dearly, dearly love this story. For so many reasons. And that’s not to say that I didn’t like every other story you wrote in this category. Oh no. Not at at all. Because, oh my God, I’ve been reading your Stargate fanfic all weekend. Well. If Friday was included in the weekend. Reading to the ridiculous obsessive degree all weekend, as in I woke up at 3 am and said, “Meh, I’m awake. Four hours of sleep is enough… now where was I on the reading list?” I didn’t even LIKE Stargate Atlantis. And yet, I’m so hooked on your fic. BTW, I’m officially crushing on Rodney now. Good heavens, you are a writing genius.

  32. greywolfthewanderer

    mmm, mm, MM!  man, I do so love it when you git your Keller-bash on.

     

    Jewel Staite was completely wasted as Keller.  pffT!

    *grin*

  33. I so wanted to bash Keller’s skull in. I know she’s young and fairly naive, but she had to know that someone was going to end up physically hurt–that she was committing cold-blooded, premeditated murder. I hated her for that alone–and that’s not even touching on all her other bs in this fic.

    You probably hear this a lot, but I love your characterization of John and Rodney so much. That being said, my stand out favorite in this fic was O’Neill. Or maybe… John’s assumption of O’Neill’s eyebrow trash talk. The eyebrow trash talk! I loved that so much it’s probably unhealthy. You had me snorting and giggling at John’s internal monologue. The line about how O’Neill looked like he wanted to demote him for ‘failing to properly secure his geek’—I died. Half the time I wonder if the SGC might not have some super secret rules to that effect.

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